One year on
So, it's nearly a year since we moved to Demelza and what a year it's been. Full of highs and lows. We arrived at the cottage full of excitement and anticipation for the lifestyle it would bring us. Little did we know that just around the corner, Stuart's cancer would catch up with him and he would become seriously ill. The help and support we got from friends and family was just amazing. There is no way we would have got this far without them.
Six months were spent nursing Stuart until finally in June he sadly passed away. Unable to fully enjoy everything he had worked a lifetime for, but he was able to enjoy the surroundings and for a while, we were able to get out and see some of Cornwall.
While we all wanted to live in the country, the self-sufficiency lifestyle has very much been Stuart's dream. I wanted a nice house with an annexe that could be rented out, for some residual income. Instead, I have the lot, so it has been a very steep learning curve and there is still lots more to learn. I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and it has been good for all of us to keep things going here, not only to keep us distracted, but to make Stuart proud and ensure that his dream becomes the reality he wanted for us.
Our kids have been amazing. My son has very much become the countryman, keeping the field and boundaries in good order and helping with the lawn and strimming. The addition of a tractor has made the whole experience far more rewarding.
My daughter helps with the apartment and has proved very able at keeping her pony in good health. She is studying hard at school to become a vet.
The garden is gradually being licked into shape. The fruits of our helpers' labour are starting to come through, with a good number of potatoes, tomatoes and some nice looking flower beds. We have found the veggie area is a little too shady for really good veg, so some additional treework has made a huge difference and I have found some local tradesmen to help lick the area into shape, so that I can transform it into a memorial garden for Stu. I suspect it is going to be another couple of years, before we really start to feel comfortable with the fruit and vegetable annual calendar, rotation etc, but I already have one year's worth of experience, so next year should be a bit easier.
The orchard was planted by my mum and sister last year and we received some fruit from them, albeit a small amount. I'm hoping they will survive the winter and strong winds, to provide a decent crop next year. We already have a couple of apple trees in the garden which have been reclaimed from weeds and shade, to hopefully produce an abundance of apples next year or the year after.
We haven't managed to kill any of the animals, so we're obviously doing something right there. The lambs have grown on well and the males will soon be off to 'you know where' to stock our freezer. A ram is due in next month, to begin the cycle again. We think we will require about 12 sheep to maintain grass length during the summer, reducing down to six for the winter and this is going to take us a few seasons, but then we should be able to start selling some of the meat and at least covering all our costs so far.
We have 3 new chicks that we are bringing on. One of our girls was so persistently broody, I dedided to let her have a clutch and she is now a very proud mummy. We should have more next year, for eggs and for the pot.
We have reduced the number of ducks, as we had far too many males and they were too much for our females. We enjoyed a few good meals of Crispy Duck and the girls are once again preening, happy and laughing. They produced an abundance of eggs earlier in the year, but are starting to slow down now. Their antics and clumsy behaviour is a pleasure to watch and I have spent quite a lot of time, just watching and observing them, they can't help but lift your spirits.
The dogs are also enjoying the country lifestyle. Whizzle has never been so relaxed and healthy looking - of course, becoming a pampered indoor pooch has probably helped and our younger dog has become accustomed to electric fencing, the hard way!
So that's the story so far, apart from to tell you, we also now have bees. I think Stuart sent them. Just after he died, a swarm decided to populate some of our beekeeping equipment in the garden. In typical Stuart style - we weren't ready! A lovely local beekeeper popped in to help me make sure the hive is set up right and I'm hoping the bees arrived early enough to ensure the colony is big enough to survive the winter. So, we've been thrown in to beekeeping too and I'm booking myself on a course. Here's hoping we can continue to sell honey next year.