Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Catching the Chimaera.

Five years ago I rekindled my lifelong dream of owning my own land and having my horses at home. It was a dream that had been wrapped up and deeply buried after developing severe and degenerative back problems that  resulted in the loss of my beloved nursing career in Critical Care and a complete change of lifestyle.
Surviving day to day became more of a focus and adapting to a very different routine of pain management, limited mobility and a variety of frustrating restrictions.Life became so much slower and everything was a challenge, sometimes even getting upright seemed beyond possibility.  But despite the difficulties the yearning for my own land and space persisted, refusing to be quelled. As time passed and the foreboding warnings of potential immobility failed to materialise despite regular falls and flare-ups I found different ways to do things. Having been told never to be on the same side of the fence as a horse, I found that by developing slow and roundabout methods that ensured no lifting was involved and that by adapting gadgets for moving bales, water, feed , muck etc it came to me that I could manage albeit not in the traditional way. After a short period of time having the horses at home on rented land I found I could manage as long as my set up meant that the horses could come and go as they pleased at those times when I couldn't. Then I lost my grazing and the horses went back to livery and the niggling dream sizzled out again until eventually  I decided that I had to at least try again. If I didn't try I'd never know and I've always preferred to regret things I've done rather than things I didn't do.
Back at the beginning I likened it to Chimaera hunting. The dictionary definition of Chimaera being 'a wild, fanciful dream'. I also decided to record the journey in a blog so started the Solway Scribbles blog .(Click here for that first post)

If you've followed the blog you'll know there have been ups and downs and quite a circuitous path towards my dream but then last year I managed to sell my house and the way was looking clearer. The Chimaera was in my sights.

Myself and my beasties had an interlude of nine or ten months in a lovely rented house with land and stables which was enjoyable, expensive and hugely beneficial in showing me what sort of set up worked and what I simply couldn't cope with. It set me in great stead for getting my own place and increased my confidence that done in a specific way, I'd be able to manage.

Well, towards the end of last year my Dearly Beloved and I decided to finally join forces after a leisurely 22 year courtship (it's important not to rush these things).  And having clubbed together we found our buying power greatly enhanced so we did what any couple in their fifties, half of whom has rather limited mobility and neither of whom are from farming backgrounds would do and we bought ourselves a small farm. It was an opportunity we couldn't miss and after great debate we decided to risk it. After all, should it prove too much for us we could sell it on and return to our status quo.
There was a clue a couple of posts ago when I was to photograph a landscape and I mentioned it was hopefully to become somewhere special..

It did. And in early spring we moved in.

I find it hard to articulate the joy I feel when I look around at our own farmyard. With real barns. And real byres.

 And an old milking parlour. And lamb pens. And a paddock. Not to mention the small wood. And over fifty acres of land. I'll just say that again because it refuses to sink in. Fifty acres. Fifty acres of our own land! 

No more worrying about losing the horses' grazing or my ability to provide for them. No more having to abide by the land owner's rules. No more having to travel to get to them and share fields with someone else's cattle/sheep/horses. No more paying rent and livery fees. Just the sweet security of having the horses at home, outside the back door on land that can't be taken away at a moment's notice.

Harkening back to my first post and my over optimistic and over ambitious dreams that included getting a tractor, along with the farm we have a very aged rusty tractor.

 Rather past it's prime like the farmhouse, many of the buildings and indeed ourselves. But still in working order of sorts with a bit of  persuasion and a lot of accompanying groaning and creaking. Again like ourselves.

We also acquired a matching aged rusty quad bike which has proved a great attraction for visiting family and friends...

but the best thing about it is that it enables me to get round the land with the dogs in tow even when walking doesn't feel like such a great idea. I thought my ride on grass cutter was a wonder gadget but this surpasses it! Just like with the mower Chico likes to join me on the seat and ride along. Who knows how many new gadgets I'll need for life on a smallholding! It's so true that necessity is the mother of invention. So far we've used it to move bales, fencing, wood etc. and I've discovered that although I can competently reverse a car towing a trailer or caravan, reversing the quad bike with a trailer on it is mission impossible! Even in a straight line! But practising is fun.

Every day I have to pinch myself. But it's true.
I get up and open the curtains onto the loveliest view.

We have a lot of work and a steep learning curve ahead. Managing land is very different to renting land and hay time is fast approaching. Fingers crossed we get it right and there is winter fodder for the horses.
We are lucky that one of our neighbouring farmers is a contractor, he's already done some muck spreading for us. His fleet of tractors and associated equipment are impressive and along with his experience make light work of things that we will be sure to get wrong as we learn. Fortunately should we become stuck he's happy to step in until we find our feet and assemble our own far more downmarket equipment.

The cat was equally impressed.

The farm - our farm (hehehehehehehe) - is inland and upland from the Solway shores, a steady climb to the border of North Cumbria. But we can see the silver slither of the Estuary catching the sun on a clear day way over on the south west horizon. To the south east  we can see my old friends the Lakeland Fells and Skiddaw, then the eye sweeps back across the distant Solway to Criffel and my old SW Scotland stomping ground.

So, the Chimaera has been caught. It's taken half a century in all and a resurrection but the wild, fanciful dream has come to fruition. It just shows that we should never give up on our dreams no matter how hopeless things can seem at times.

I thought about closing my Solway Scribbles blog and starting a new one to chart life on the farm but I think I'll just keep it going even though we are no longer on The Solway estuary so the blog's title isn't  really fitting but it'll have to do.

We could never be classed as farmers as we are simply too sentimental about animals to rear them for slaughter, hypocritical as that may be given that we are both meat eaters. I'd like to think I could but I know myself too well.  At the moment a farmer friend has some sheep and lambs on one of the fields which is great for learning about sheep management but I'm already talking myself out of taking some so they don't go for slaughter, particularly the sweet little black one that's way behind all the others... I have to keep away or I'm emotionally involved and I know I'll struggle when the lambs go. Much to the disgust of the real farmers. But that's the joy of it, we can do things our own way and conservation and environment are high on our list of priorities. We've had three pairs of curlews who have nested and raised young and we have hares and roe deer. We stumbled across a hare's form with three new leverets lying together early one morning. They were tiny, only about four inches long. Apparently the mother hare only visits to feed them at dawn and dusk and they soon disperse so we were lucky to get a glimpse of them all together. Not the best of photos as we didn't want to disturb them but it's nice that early rolling, harrowing and cutting haven't happened  so the ground nesting birds and hares etc have a chance.

We seem to have acquired some additional beasties along the way. I'll post about them soon. And there are hopes of Angora goats to come, maybe an alpaca or two. Some rare breed sheep and cattle on a small scale would be good. But we'll start in much the same way as I bump started my  archived dream, with hopeful hearts and small steps. Who knows how things will go on this new adventure but as I said in my very first post, you're welcome to tag along if you like.


  1. I am so thrilled for you - blog more often, please!! :-)

  2. Thanks Laura. I struggled to write for a while after a sad personal experience and got out of the way of blogging and keeping up with my favourite blogs. But hopefully I'll get back into the swing of it now. I was hoping to post pics of Davina and her accoutrements but sunstroke forced me home before she sold (wuss that I am) and someone else got her! :-)

  3. Loads of people said the same, I can't believe they left the tractors to last. She was a complete bargain, went on her reserve so I almost wonder if she was bought in and will turn up at the next sale?

    I am glad I have blogged all these years, now I can look back at all the photos I took and the memories we made but I do feel slightly caught at the moment, it is for our business so I have to remain positive and upbeat on it when sometimes I want to just say "f*ck our life turned to shit rather quickly didn't it?" ;-)

    1. I think everyone is astounded and full of admiration at your ability to keep going. I really don't know how you do it. It all makes your blog so precious so thank goodness you have it. So bittersweet. Life really does turn on a sixpence. {{hugs}} and I'm not really a huggy type :-)

  4. So pleased for you, Denise. Your DB is and has been a real brick. SO good to read your latest blog and such good news about the farm. You are clearly extreeeeeeeemely excited by it all coming together.

    Good luck! Looking forward to the next blog update.

    Bob Kent

  5. Hi Denise
    I'm just back from all my travels and it's great to read that you're settled in your lovely new place. Sending you lots of love

    1. Vee, have just found your comment and it's the end of November! Will catch up soon. x