Happy New Year! Welcome to 2017.
Oi, don’t run off to check how long you’ve been sleeping. I know it’s still 2016, but at FAoI 2016 has been pronounced dead. Time of death? 31 October 2016. Cause of death? Ineptitude and unrealistic expectations. Yep, it all sounds a bit idiotic, but what did you expect, self sufficiency at the drop of a hat? C’mon, we’ve come so far together; don’t start expecting things to work out well just yet.
So, after moving to FAoI in mid February of this year, I had somehow expected to unpack in a few days, prepare a few dozen vegetable beds, raise a polytunnel or two, fit out the brewery, convert an outbuilding into an office, extend the orchard, build a smokehouse, become proficient in hunting and be living off the land by midsummer’s day. All this while continuing to work and exploring the delights of rural Lincolnshire.
Firstly, it took around two months to unpack and work out where things should go. Having spoken to many people who admitted still having unopened boxes in their lofts or garages from a move many years previous, I was determined to make sure we emptied all the boxes, and we did. It took around 60 days, a mere 58 more than I had planned. In truth, there are still things in the wrong places. For example, there’s a knife block and a Magimix in the Den, various tools in the wardrobe of the guest bedroom, a Dyson (other shit vacuum cleaners are available) in the porch and a spare kitchen extractor fan behind the living room door.
The chaos has been further compounded by items from rooms being moved to other rooms in order to allow basic works to be carried out. I did decide that in order to minimise the impact, work would only be carried out on one room at a time. True to my word work has been simultaneously commenced in the kitchen, living room, den, three of the four bedrooms, the hallway, the utility room, the external office and the brewery.
Another plan that fell at the first fence was the idea of extending the orchard. One of my very first tasks once the broadband was connected was to order some Dabinet apple trees for cider production. Sadly, they were out of stock everywhere I looked. It seems that popular trees must be ordered in early September for delivery in early January. Pitching up in late February with a wish-list isn’t how things are done apparently. So you’d probably think I was on the ball enough to order the Dabinets for early next year? Think again. Anyway, I’ve decided I’d probably prefer Kingston Black!
The existing orchard has fruited, so there’s cider on the go. You’d think so, eh? Well, there isn’t! I didn’t have time to build a scrater and a press, so instead I’ve been piling the windfalls into a freezer. The act of freezing and thawing will break up the cellular structure thus eliminating the need for scrating before pressing. I have one chest freezer filled with whole fruit, and have just bought another via eBay to take the rest of the crop. My thinking is this: you can never have too many freezers!
So, on to the growing. Here’s the thing. I forgot what a load of faff preparing ground for successful growing was. The land was rough pasture, so I just cut it back hard, chucked down an area of fairly fresh manure and sowed some sweet corn, onions, squash and globe artichokes. They grew, as did weeds from the soil, wind-blown weeds from the fields next door, seeds from the various undergrowth surrounding the area and assorted other shit. The rabbits, squirrels, pigeons, crows, foxes, badgers and assorted other wildlife didn’t eat the weeds. They ate my stuff, which all planted a bit late anyway. The result was I ended up with a handful of half-formed corn cobs, a few miniature squash and some globe artichokes which didn’t produce heads. As a result I am going back to my roots and putting in raised beds! Polytunnels will follow…
I also learned that if you drive over a wild orchid meadow in a ride-on lawn tractor, they don’t grow back. To be fair, I didn’t know it was a wild orchid meadow, not until Farmer Giles’ wife said, ‘Oh, you’ve mowed down the wild orchid meadow’.
The brewery did produce a few brews including a very good IPA and a Saison flavoured with nettle tips. However, when the old kitchen units were ripped out they made their way into the brewery, but didn’t get fitted (yet). A number of other things ended up in there too, and beer production shuddered to a halt as the place became a dumping ground. So close, and yet so far!
The outbuilding that was changed into an office was insulated, had a new floor fitted, had power and telephony added and the interior was clad. I also purchased the stripwood to hide the joins and rough bits. I haven’t put that up yet. The place will also be the recipient of the good quality but much hated beige carpets from the house. Eventually. Presently they are rolled up in various rooms, creating a much loved trip-hazard!
With the nights drawing and a perceivable nip in the air, I have to admit that 2016 was – and continues to be – a year of transition. We’re getting there, slowly. In 2017 there will be no excuses. Okay, there might be a few, but with a little luck and a fair wind behind us, there might actually be some successes.
So, Happy New Year! At FAoI, 2017 starts today!