New Years wild life challenges

January has arrived, time to wipe the slate clean and adopt a ‘start as I mean to go on’ attitude.

This year I haven’t made resolutions. Every year I try, listing the usual ; lose weight, eat healthily, be a better me….those sort of really bland promises that get broken within a week. This year I’ve decided to change my thinking. I’m the kind of person who likes challenges. In fact, I seem to really quite enjoy making my life difficult and doing things the hard way. I’ll moan about it at the time, but eventually when I can reflect I can see how I survived and thrived!

So I’ve set myself 12 challenges, one for every month. Yes, I know. Setting ‘challenges’ sounds an awful lot like making ‘resolutions’. But not quite the same. I’m hoping the change in wording will tap in to my competitive streak, meaning I’m less likely to give up on them! Here they are;

A reading challenge –

My ‘to read’ pile stands as tall as I do…and then some. A lot of that pile is nature related. For the past 2  years I’ve taken part in the Mumsnet 50 book challenge, and I’ve never reached the full 50 in a year. Pre children this would have been an exceptionally achievable goal, but nowadays when I get the chance to read I end up falling asleep shortly after!. This year I’ll take on another book challenge, but time I’m aiming for a more realistic 2 books a month.

A writing challenge-

‘Other new features include Down on the Farm, which highlights the vibrancy and diversity of UK farming’ – Mark Whittley, editor, The Countryman.

Reconnecting with writing has helped soothe my mind. I need to do more of it-especially as I now have deadlines to stick to for actual publications! I can’t wait to see my writing in print in the Countryman magazine, look out for it in the April edition!

A Walking challenge-

walk1000miles2017poster7

I love  walking. People always seem surprised when I saw I’m an outdoor type of person, mainly because I’m fat!! For some reason,for certain individuals anyway, fat people can’t possibly enjoy the great outdoors. I seriously beg to differ. I love being outdoors, it keeps me sane. It helps fight off the black dog days, days which trigger my retreat into my comfort zone (food & books) whilst simultaneously slipping into a sloth like state of torpor. This coming year I am going to challenge myself to walk myself back to health, both mental and physical.

Photography challenge-

picmonkey-photo

Life behind a lens is fun. My challenge to myself is to improve my photography and learn new techniques. I’ve set up the #naturenuturegrow photo challenge on Instagram and facebook. The instructions are simple. I hope it will leave me with a photographic record of my year, with at least one photo for every day!

Explore the county-

Pembrokeshire is a big county with a wealth of outdoor environments. I have certain spots I love going to, but I think I need to challenge myself to find more of the ‘hidden gems’ across Pembrokeshire. Time to get off the beaten track and explore!

Grow –

This past year has surprised me. I have learned a lot of things about myself that I didn’t know. I’ve found out that things I thought I couldn’t do (thanks to my anxiety disorder) I’m actually quite ok at. And I’ve learned that being ‘ok’ at things is just fine! Gardening is one of these things. I’ve grown from seed and rescued bedraggled plants from the sale rack at Homebase. This is a challenge I’m going to take forward into the new year. First challenge- grow a wildflower meadow this spring and summer!

A volunteer challenge- 

Anxiety is a bitch. Excuse my language, but it really is. That gnawing self doubt, that lurks all day  from the minute you open your eyes to the second you fall asleep. I’m stating to realise how much it has prevented me from doing.  The idea of doing a group based activity where I had to actually interact with strangers would have made me physically sick up. In the past few months  life is starting to get back on a more even keel. Now I’m quite looking forward to becoming part of something else, something bigger and something useful.

Challenge myself to connect more-

Over the past year I have come into contact with a lot of interesting people due to blogging. People, such as Dara , who writes a blog called Young Fermanagh Naturalist. He is really passionate about all aspects of nature, and writes eloquently and evocatively. Other  inspiring nature bloggers include LJ, Nicola, Tony, Chris and Nicky and Joshua. I’ve also enjoyed linking up with a few bloggers, including the lovely Rosie over at A green and Rosie life , Tamsin and Nature mum. I have also met a few farming mummies too, like Emma , whose blogs are an excellent reminder that its not just me battling against a tide of children’s toys, muddy boots and straw. I’m really looking forward to connecting with more like minded individuals in the new year

Become ‘greener’-

Since having children I’ve found myself caring more about the impact I make on their future environment. So far I’ve made several small changes- cloth nappies, not using a microwave, using eco friendly cleaning products, avoiding micro beads. I’m not saying I’m going to become a hemp wearing willow weaving yurt dwelling nomad (unfortunately, although I do like a bit of willow weaving) but I hope we can continue to challenge ourselves to be a bit more eco friendly in the next few months. If you fancy joining me, check out the Going Green Linky for lots of inspiration on how you can live a cleaner, greener, more ethical life!

Self sufficiency-

img_1444

This challenge goes hand in hand with the previous. April will hopefully see the beginning of the dairy goat herd, meaning I no longer have to buy goats milk for the mini farmers. I’m also challenging myself to use more of our own fruit and veg, and adding value to our produce through preserving, baking and cheese

A Switch off and Connect challenge-

2016 saw me join the ‘dark side’. I became an iPhone addict, purchasing that little block of precious metals that now forms an extension of me. I find myself loving and loathing it in equal measure. This year I challenge myself to cut the umbilical cord between me and my phone, and be more present, especially when with the mini farmers.

A business challenge-

The arrival of the goats marked the beginning of a long path towards running our own farm shop, stocking our own cheeses and goat’s milk as well as other produce from local Pembrokeshire farmers.I think it’ll take longer than 12 months to get up and running but the challenge is there!

Hopefully 2017 will be a good year, full of lots of fun, good health and happiness. If I get to fulfil a few of these challenges, then even better.

If you are taking part in any challenges this year, let me know, I’d love to here about them.

This house….

This house is old and crumbling. Every time I turn my back something else seems to be broken,cracked or falling apart. Today I noticed the skirting board in the living room has started to pull away from the wall , exposing the bare stone behind it. In the corner behind the television I notice a chunk of board has disappeared ,leaving a pile of amber dust in its place. Dry rot is creeping insidiously around the downstairs rooms. It has chewed its way through several of the parquet flooring blocks in the other downstairs room. I sigh,turn around and gently close the sitting room door behind me. Today has been a long day and I can’t face dealing with any more ‘problems’ today. After all, the living room has only been redecorated three years ago. When we lifted the carpet we found old fertiliser bags from the 1950s acting as underlay!

The story of our farmhouse will be familiar to many farming families. Contrary to the belief that seems to be held that all farmers live in mansions, quite a lot live in run down,dated farm accommodation. In recent times the financial struggle faced by many of us has lead to a tightening of farm purse strings. Indoor renovations come at the bottom of a very,very,VERY long ‘to do’ list. A lot of the properties are hundreds of years old. They are often quite large as previous generations have added extensions in a piecemeal fashion over the decades.

Our farmhouse is ancient.A dwelling has stood here, balanced on compacted earth with little or no foundations, for over 300 years. It probably started out quite simply, a two up two down flat fronted dwelling. over the years extensions were made, walls moved and bits added. When restoration work was carried out on the modern day kitchen, no fewer than 7 joins were found tacking on to the original 4 roomed structure.
It has had almost constant occupation, with 6 generations of one family having lived and died under its beams. As far as we know it has only been uninhabited for a period of 20 years, when Fs grandparents moved out. Before F moved in restoration work was carried out which kept a few key rooms functional, and the rest of the house remained locked up in a time warp.

Over the past few years we have started the Sisyphean task of making all of the house safe and comfortable to live in. We have so far managed to create a living room and a dining room downstairs, and have central heating in most of the house!Central heating has only just been put into the upstairs bedrooms, and two rooms are still awaiting this ‘mod con’. It is a frustrating task though, as with every one job we complete another two urgent repairs become apparent!

I have to keep reminding myself how much history is contained within these four walls and how privileged we are to live amongst it.In essence it is a living museum, housing 3 centuries worth of farming history.I suppose an estate agent would have a field day listing all the ‘original features’ that add to the ‘character’ of the property. I know many people dream of living in a farmhouse (I know I did once upon a time), but dreams don’t always meet up to reality. Hopefully one day we will get on top of the long ‘to do’ list and drag the house into the 21st century! Until then, let me show you some of the most remarkable features.

img_1317

The kitchen is a lasting part of the original dwelling. There is a recess on one corner were the hearth once stood, with a giant oak beam the only reminder of the vast chimney that once stood above it. It now contains an ikea kallax (a staple of all ‘modern’ homes with children under 5) and a play corner. The hooks that my children now hang their coats and bags on were originally added in the 1930’s. They were installed for the 3 little evacuees sent far from their city home and into the middle of working farm life.Their arrival created an instant family for the newly married farmer and his wife!

img_1314

Above the heads of the evacuees home made puddings would have dangled from strings balanced on iron hooks.These hooks are another ‘original’ feature leftover from the days of the open hearth. These hooks are still useful today- I use them to suspend muslins when making jams and preserves!

img_1318

In the hall stands a handsome coffer- dark wood with brass handles. It takes up an awful lot of room and, I’ll let you into a secret, I think it’s really quite ugly. But oh,if it could talk. It dates from the 18th century and has quite a story associated with it. It belonged to an elderly widow woman who found herself homeless, being the only personal possesion she had been able to keep.The man farming here at the time ,f’s great great great grandfather, took her in rather than see her carted off to the poorhouse. She lived the rest of her days on the farmyard in one of the barns.  You can still see the spot from her candles on the stones of the barn.

img_1313

Another living piece of history now serves as a step linking the patio and the garden. In a previous life it formed a part of a slop trough that stood in the passage between the old kitchen and the dairy. All edible waste went into it, where it was heated to turn it into pig swill.

If I listed all the special parts of the house I would be here for weeks , having no doubt written thousands of words and bored you all to tears!

Sometimes when I am alone in one of the older parts of the house I do like to sit and wonder how many souls have walked over the floorboards, or forgot to duck and smacked their heads off the oak beam over the fire. Countless babies have been born here, and no doubt  many people have drawn there last breath here too. This is a side of farming that seems to be forgotten- the generational legacy, things that have remained unchanged over time. Farmers are guardians of so much more than land and beast. After all not many people can say at least 7 generations of their family have lived in one house.

The lady and me #EndTheStigma

The other day I met a lady who reminded me of me.

She stood in front of me, shaking, scared, hyperventilating, trying to speak through a stream of tears and fear. She wanted help, but she didn’t have anyone to turn to.

Something small, probably trivial to you or any other onlooker, had made her think all of the worst things in the world were happening to her at once.

She was terrified.

And my heart imploded.

Because she is me.

stephen-fry-depression-quot

I know that fear. It follows me round too. A sickening dread, as if something terrible is about to happen and there is no way I will be able to stop it. Except there isn’t anything bad going to happen. Or if there is, it is something that to most people is so small and insignificant, something that can be rationalised and a likely outcome can be guessed. Something mundane and everyday.

Or if there is no fear there is a niggly doubt. A little gremliny thought that nibbles and worms its way around my head, goading me. Something I can’t put my finger on, although I do my best searching my mind for what it could be.  On good days, when my medication (yes that’s right, I have medication, lucky me!) is working the daemons fade, the dementors shrink and I can smile. My sense of humour, my ‘patronus’, can ward off the darkness and keep the anxiety at bay.

robin-williams

On bad days, throwaway comments or gentle teasing by others will hit me like daggers,stabbing at my insecurities. For most people, these comments would slide over their head like rain off a ducks back. But the lady and me, we aren’t like ‘most’ people. We are one of the ‘1 in 4’ mental health statistic that you might have heard about. Mental health practitioners (and society in general) like labels. My particular labels are ‘General Anxiety Disorder’ and ‘Depression’. I could probably have a small sticky label with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder too, but that one isn’t official yet.

thj9ops6ak

I don’t like labels. Labels define, pigeonhole and box people in. My problems are not well defined shades of black and white. They are grey. But society likes labels. They like to know what they are dealing with. They like to be able to categorise, and separate ‘normal’ from ‘not normal’. I guess to most , the lady and I would fall into ‘not normal’. I can’t speak for her, but I can speak for me, and I’m ok with that. I don’t want to be normal. But I don’t want to be ‘crazy’ either.

slide_396910_4880800_free

‘Crazy’ is how other people saw the lady. ‘She’s acting weird’ they said ‘She’s crazy’. No, I tried to explain. She has anxiety. Her brain works differently to yours, and she is scared. She thinks the worst thing is happening. She might even think she is going to die. You need to reassure her. You need to calm her. You don’t need pity her.  You don’t need to be afraid of her. Talk to her normally,don’t roll your eyes or snigger behind her back. Don’t say she is being silly, however silly or small or pointless you think her fear is. To her it is real. And that is all that matters.

thfa9n693h

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Kozi Kidz waterproofs

At the farm upon the hill we lead a very outdoor lifestyle. Come rain, sun, snow, whatever the weather C and JoJo usually go outside to play at least once a day. They behave better when they’ve had the chance to run,jump and scramble about in the fresh air. Living in Pembrokeshire also means we aren’t too far from the beach, and when the back garden gets a bit boring we can head off to one of our favourite sandy spots.

2016_08_17_10.22.26__1471635692_34484__1471635692_16902.jpg

The seeeeeeaaa!

 

This week we had an impromptu visit to Newgale.

DSC_1032__1468879430_10152

Newgale on a nice day!

 

The girls were super excited, but when we pulled into the car park my heart sank. The waves were massive and the wind was driving sea spray right up the beach. Not much fun when the girls were dressed for sunny, warm weather. Then I realised that the bag of new Wet Wednesday waterproof gear I’d bought at the Pembrokeshire show was still in the car.

JoJo had a berry coloured Kozi Kidz Nalle Softpile Fleece All in One. C had a new striped Kozi Kidz Koster Unlined Rain Jacket . I was thrilled to also receive a pair of Kozi Kidz Dungarees from the Wet Wednesdays to team with the new jacket I’d bought C .

I really love the clothing stocked by Wet Wednesdays. The Scandinavian designs are bright, fun and highly practical. They really do let kids enjoy the outdoors whatever the weather has to offer.As a farm vet, lover of nature and mum of one puddle jumper and one mud seeking baby I know the importance of good quality waterproofs. I also know how awkward they can be to get on a baby or toddler. This really isn’t the case with the Kozi Kidz range .

JoJo’s all in one had built in hand and feet covers so no fighting to get it on. It also means avoiding the need for gloves in cold weather, and  hands can come out to get stuck into play when necessary!

2016_08_17_10.05.50__1471634514_33825__1471634514_99958.jpg

C’s jacket suits her personality perfectly! She loved putting her hood up, and doing up the poppers.The dungarees are also excellent. They slipped on easily over C’s clothes, with plenty of room for extra layers if needed. They are fully adjustable, with extremely easy to use braces and side poppers ensuring a perfect fit. C was wearing size 3-4, with plenty of room to grow into them. I can see them lasting long enough for JoJo to use them too!

Once the girls were bundled up we headed down to the beach.JoJo began practising her crawling as soon as I put her down. The suit worked perfectly, no material trailing behind her, an issue we often have with onesies.

2016_08_17_10.07.51__1471634846_58710.jpg

C had a great time, building castles and collecting shells. No worrying about sitting in the sand, the Dunga’s kept her nice and clean!

2016_08_17_10.08.58__1471635184_29369__1471635184_45337

Next up- wave jumping!

2016_08_17_10.23.09__1471635989_30809__1471635989_12967.jpgThe waterproof’s did their job amazingly, and they didn’t restrict C’s movement at all. I later found out that this is probably due to their design – they have ‘4 way stretch’ and were originally made for forest schools in Scandinavia. Lets face it,what the Scandi’s don’t know about outdoor living isn’t worth knowing! These are definitely an essential item for my fierce little adventurers. I will be buying more!

2016_08_17_10.25.51__1471636299_35336__1471636299_77806

JoJo was nice and snug up on my back in her wrap. I wish I’d bought a Kozi Kidz All-in-one sooner, as they are ideal for Baby wearing. WetWednesday also stock leg warmers and all in one waterproofs which will work well for Baby wearers.

After about an hour we said goodbye to the beach and headed home. Just in time for the girls to help fetch the cows in for milking. C was very pleased, she loves helping her Dad on the farm. Once the cows were all in, C performed one final test on her outfit. The all important ‘jumping-in-muddy-puddles’ test. The results are in – Kozi Kidz jackets and dungarees are fully muddy puddle proof!

DSC_0228__1471638250_99451__1471638250_11991.jpg

All in all the new gear receives a big thumbs up from us.

DSC_0177__1471639817_12318__1471639817_17915.jpg

If you’re looking for some new waterproof attire for your little puddle jumper, mini adventurer, rock-pooler, mud kitchen cook, miniature farmer or beach baby then why not check out the Wet Wednesdays outdoor clothing range.

Here’s a quick summary of the essential points;

C wears Kozi Kidz mix and match waterproof dungarees (dark lilac) and Koster rain jacket (striped)

JoJo wears Kozi Kidz All in one snuggle fleece (berry)

Child Friendly features:

  • 100% waterproof
  • Comfy
  • Reflective stripes/spots to increase child visibility.

Mum Friendly features:

  • Affordable
  • Scandi design – cute but highly practical!
  • Machine washable (already been through our machine once, looking great still!)
  • Generous sizing
  • Integral name label.
  • Toddler and Baby proof