Thursday, 31 March 2016

Bee heaven

This bee was having a wonderful time amongst our forget me nots. I've a huge patch of self seeded plants which I never got round to thinning out in the autumn and this bee was diving in and out of the tiny flowers. They aren't something I'd imagine provides much pollen but maybe at this time of year there is little else to tempt them.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Worried sheep ..

I feel the glum little sheep atop my simnel cake now feel that their fears were justified as they peer over the crevasse. At least unlike their cousins in the field I'm not planning on eating them!

Social ME-dia

Today I've been to the hairdresser and so while I still look smart I got Dave to take a photograph that I could use to update my Facebook profile (which to my horror required one). I've been having a really busy social media week and we are now live on Twitter and Facebook as well as being listed with Britain's Finest as you'll see from the logo on our website. Check our entry on their site to discover our exciting opening offer ....

Sleet, snow and a rainbow

Today the weather has thrown everything at us and places nearby have flooded onto the roads but up on the top of our hill we're fine (just blowing about!) This rainbow falls right where I thought Dave was digging out old bricks and hardcore but now I suspect he's been hunting for a pot of gold!

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Britain's next top model

As soon as I picked up the camera this freckle faced sheep decided to pose for me. Presumably she's practising for the sheep version of the catwalk ... the sheepwalk maybe. Strutting with attitude!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Traditions at Easter

These photographs are this year's take on two essential Easter traditions for me. The first is the arrangement of spring branches, hung with a selection of decorative eggs, which makes the perfect, if tricky, place to balance my fluffy little chicks. The second is my Simnel Cake; for years I used to make one for my mother every Mothering Sunday but now I make it for Easter Sunday instead. I was delighted to find these sheep, which with their black legs and faces exactly match the ones in the field outside (I just wish they looked more cheerful!)

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Tulips from ....

... well not from our garden, but I bought these to bring us some spring cheer on a wet and windy Easter Saturday. Late in the afternoon the sun briefly came out and as I walked into the kitchen the flowers were glowing.

Baking bunnies

I've been busy baking bunny biscuits today ready for our Easter Sunday lunch from a family recipe that my mother always used. I really wanted to turn them into hares by making their ears longer but thought that they'd probably fall off when I had to lift them on and off the baking sheet!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Naughty girls - again

We returned from the shops this morning to find that we had the entire flock of sheep back lazing about in our field. They looked very content so we didn't have the heart to shoo them back and we knew more work was being done on their fencing today. Some (male) tups were supposed to settle this lot down when they arrived yesterday but the escapees just brought the new boys with them!

Easter welcome

Our lovely Hill Farm very double daffodils arranged in our equally lovely Hill Farm mug. Although the hedges around here are still largely bare with buds tightly furled the daffodils are coming into flower quite suddenly and fill the lower part of the garden beneath the apple trees where they have naturalised over many decades.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Man-ual labour?

I don't think this can rightly be called 'manual' labour as I'm doing it! When you can't afford a mini digger what you need is a) a wife, b) an old wheelbarrow rescued from the builders skip and c) a spade; luckily for Dave he has all three. The task was to start again on the front garden as now the wall is rebuilt I can finally remove all the subsoil that came to the surface when the corner of the house was repaired and the foundations strengthened. I can't wait to plant it up properly as until now I've had to make do with sowing a mixture of annuals, very pretty in the summer but depressingly bare in the winter months.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Ironing and duvet flipping

I've washed and line dried all our bedding today, it smells lovely and although it hasn't been sunny there's been a definite breeze. When I get round to the less wonderful task of ironing it all I remember reading on the internet that you could put your duvet cover back onto your duvet by turning it inside out, laying it on top of the duvet and sort of flipping it inside out. It meant I got a much less crumpled finish than usual. If like me you normally battle with changing your bedding do try this method (or just come here to stay and let me do it for you!)

'Our' flock arrive

I almost have a flock of sheep somewhat earlier than expected. The naughty woolly neighbours managed to escape again and had a high old time exploring Somersal Herbert before being directed home across our Big Field. Hanging out the washing, I was in prime position to observe their antics.

Sunday, 20 March 2016


There is an amazing sunset here tonight. It is one of the many things I love about living on the top of our hill.


Today we planted our early potatoes, we're using 'Winston' again but need to make sure we don't let them get too large as that rather defeats the point of 'new' potatoes. After a week of no rain the soil is just right for sowing and we also put in a row of broad beans. Last year I put them in during the autumn but it didn't really work so this time I'm going for a spring sowing instead.

Hot air balloon

It's really cold this morning when I get up so I'm surprised to see a hot air balloon drifting over Doveridge. I reckon they must be grateful for the warmth from the burners.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Man-ual labour

Maybe I should have let Dave buy a chain saw! After all my hedge work there were some old, very dead branches of elder that needed removing. At much harder work this way, at least the jobs done and he still has all his limbs attached. After the incident which saw him singe off his hair and eyebrow with the bonfire I think he's best kept away from any hazards! Mind you the hairdresser charged him less as there was less left to cut!


From the kitchen, where I'm making my simnel cake, I here the buzzards calling. I love their wild sound as they circle above us.

How posh

Uttoxeter finally has a branch of Waitrose! It opened on Thursday and currently everyone seems to be going to have a look round. There were a huge number of staff to make sure parking and shopping was conducted in an orderly fashion. I'm excited to see lots of products that I've only previously read about and I finally find my 'panko' breadcrumbs (we lead sheltered rural lives these days!)

Friday, 18 March 2016


After a day with my sister I have finally bitten the bullet and set up a Twitter account for our B&B, you can find me @HillFarmBnB and I promise (possibly) that my future tweets won't all be sheep related!

A 'new' gate

Today we decided to re-attach two gates which were positioned near the posts but not actually attached. It would seem that baler twine has been used for years in place of an actual hinge! We dug the gates free from grass and hedge and hung them. Now if the neighbouring sheep escape again we can provide a second line of defence!

Thursday, 17 March 2016

More sheep

I escaped to London today to help my sister sell her wonderful 'ewenique' flock at the Country Living Spring Fair. Deciding to buy one of these amazing hand crafted footstools is the easy decision, the challenging part is working out which one to take home as all are individuals with faces carved from English Lime, fleeces that come from rare breed sheep and then there is the name .... . I also went to an excellent talk by Fiona Sloan about 'how to set up and manage a small flock of sheep' which sounds an attractive proposition despite everyone telling me that sheep are four legs looking for ways to kill themselves! If you feel a 'ewenique' sheep is an easier option the Fair is on until Sunday.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Red sky at night ..

... shepherdess's delight. At least I was happy once I finally sat down to supper ...
Someone stopped at the farm to say the sheep were out on the lane, when I went to investigate they turned out to be the newly arrived black headed ones and although they were standing obligingly next to their gate, once I opened it they decided to head off and explore. Their explorations left an easy to follow trail (!) and I found them in a neighbours field with her horses. Fortunately at that moment George drove by in his land rover so I was able to flag him down, he keeps the very well behaved sheep in the field opposite us. With his help we drove the sheep back home, but as we couldn't see any obvious escape route and as by now it was getting dark it is probably only a matter of time before they get out again.

Hedge maintenance

While Dave's been bricklaying I've been working on our hedging, new and old in the top field. The hedging we planted two years ago really benefits from weeding and I also check the guards, removing grass and slugs from the inside and retrieve any branches that have headed through the wire onto our neighbours side where they are at risk of being nibbled. Everything is starting to come into leaf which is encouraging and kneeling down I escape the cold wind, however after a morning on all fours I decided I needed to find an afternoon task I could do standing up. I began clearing a huge amount of dead bramble from the mature hedge that separates the top field from the big field and cut out dead branches too (oh I was so imaginative when I named them but I had to suddenly produce names for some farming paperwork and felt we'd remember these!)

Bricklayer Dave

The wall is now complete bar the pointing. We found an exactly matching piece of stone (to the one at the other end of the wall) to cap it with. It's been, as all our tasks are, difficult. First came the task of finding over 100 correctly sized and coloured bricks from all those we've dug up since we've been here. Then after cleaning they had to be laid to connect in with the rather awkward pattern that was already there, finally there was a hunt in our stone pile to find the right piece. Dave feels everything takes a long time but this is why! The result is excellent and now it's ready for him to experiment with lime mortar mixes to point with.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Washing and drying

Today, despite it being Sunday, it was a perfect drying day so I put a load of washing out to dry in the breeze. I love how it smells when it can have a blow outside.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Bird song

Working outside these last few days I've been surrounded by the sounds of birds calling. Earlier I heard a microlight overhead and when I looked up I spotted three buzzards wheeling high and silently way above it on the thermals.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Misty sun

Today began (top photograph) with the sun trying to break through the mist, and ended (bottom photograph) the same way. In between though we had what felt like a real taste of spring. I gardened, Dave brick laid and I ate my lunch outside. Down by the Dorset seaside my sister reported seeing people in shorts (which my father always used to say were tourists, which made us laugh as he lived there and also wore shorts!!)

Another project

After much brick cleaning and a delay when Dave hurt his back tipping sand out of a heavy bag to make the foundations, he is now back on track with mending the broken brick wall by the dairy. This has been in a parlous state since we bought the farm but adding even this relatively small repair required an awful lot of pre-laying thinking. Nothing in real life is ever simple or like the examples shown in the books and online! Progress feels slow but it will make a huge difference to the look of the front and it will mean I can finally get to work on the front garden using permanent rather than temporary planting.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Cat on a hot tin roof

Well maybe not hot, but Dave spotted our stray puss up on the roof of one of the old barns, heaven knows how she'd got up there but a few days ago we'd noticed birds flying in and out, presumably making a nest, I guess she felt this was the place to be to keep an eye on what was going on. Plus she could look down on us even more effectively than normal. She has really perfected the 'we are not amused' expression.

An audience

While planting the trees I was suddenly aware of a line of sheep advancing towards us in the next door field. It seemed unlikely that they were supposed to be there but after we rang the farmer it turned out his relative had moved them here for temporary grazing but hadn't realised that all the gates were open between his land and ours! Although I love watching the sheep (I think they are Suffolk sheep and they have lovely soft black wool on their heads and legs) I don't want them eating my newly planted trees. In the event they came and reached over and nibbled on my nicely sprouting hedge instead!