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.


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!


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!


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.


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.

Day 1- Bee nice!

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_01

“Bumblebees are key factors in our wildlife. If they disappear many of our plants will not bear fruit. ”David Attenborough

A week ago I came home to find a large bumblebee curled up, crisp, on our garden path. The day had been exceptionally hot, and it must have become dehydrated. A few days before this I had opened the kitchen door to take out the rubbish, only to be met by another bee bumbling its way across the doormat towards me. It was moving quite slowly, so I popped back into the house and whipped up a ‘bee reviver’- sugar water. This is really easy to make ; 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar in one tablespoon of water (as suggested by the RSPB). I poured some onto a teaspoon and placed it carefully in front of the bee. It crawled towards it, antenna quivering, and promptly stuck its proboscis into the liquid. I watched the bee imbibing my concoction, with a (stupid, no doubt) grin on my face. It worked a treat, and the bee flew off a short while later.


I have read quite a few articles lately about how bee numbers are declining. This is mostly due to changes in farming practice.Traditional agricultural techniques that allowed bee friendly plants to thrive have been bypassed for more intensive methods of farming.

I want to support our bee population, and don’t want to find any more ‘crispy’ bees around the garden . I decided to create a ‘bee nice’ patch, made up of bee friendly plants  and a watering spot. This marks the first project to kick off our 30 days wild.


The ‘Meadow’

Most people can get bees to visit their patch by a bit of cunning gardening.The RHS has compiled several lists of plants that will provide nectar and pollen for bees. The Bumblebee conservation site  has a fun quiz that enables you to find out how bee friendly your plot is. We scored ok, but have plenty of room for improvement!

There are lots of bee friendly wildflowers in the meadow beside the farmhouse, including hawthorn, foxglove, honeysuckle and white clover. We decided to put the ‘bee café on the patio, adjacent to this patch. We already have a small herb garden on the here, where we grow rosemary, thyme and lavender (all attractive to bees).


C and her sign!

We added a new plant- a Scabious.  The bees will have to wait a bit as it isn’t flowering yet. Hopefully (after pay day!) we can add some more plants. Catmint might be next!


JoJo at work creating a water bar for the bees.

JoJo also helped with creating a ‘water bar’ for thirsty bees and other passing insects. If a 7 month old can do it, it must be easy! We placed some stones on an old plate (technically ‘vintage’, lucky bees!) so the bees had something to rest on, and topped up with a splash of water. This sits neatly next to the pots. It all looks quite smart at the moment, but we haven’t seen many bees. Hopefully things will pick up as we make the ‘menu’ at the cafe more appealing!


Work in progress!

If you spot a bee in need of a ‘pick me up’, please remember not to offer honey. Lots of brands of honey are imported and may not be suitable for our native bee species. In addition, only use granulated sugar to make sugar water and don’t put too much out – a teaspoonful is plenty as you don’t want to drown your bee!