The week the winter started…

The spring never came, the summer never really got started, the autumn was wonderful throughout all of September and most of October but days before the clocks went back the wind and rain came back and now we have the dark nights too.

Going into our fourth winter we have learnt a thing or two. Lesson number one remains of course expect the unexpected and always be very aware that in the scheme of things you have way more still to learn…

A saying I am often to heard repeating to Davies and Scarlett (one of those ones they may one day say to their own children, or will certainly hear my voice echo through their memory saying to them for their whole lives) is to make today count, to ensure you do one thing every day that scares you, that is new, or worthwhile, or fun. Make today productive, do something you are proud of. These short Rum days of winter approaching make that advice all the more pertinent. You simply have to find value, to remind yourself why you are living this way.

For me and for Ady too, it is really important to get outside every single day. Of course with animals to feed and check on twice daily, firewood to bring in and often a ferry to meet to collect deliveries or post that happens most days for one or both of us anyway. We’re still in foraging season – for now it’s brambles, I’ve been out every day this week with a bag picking brambles. If it’s a day when I’ve been out anyway for some reason then I’ve tacked that on to already being outside getting wet, on days when I have a choice about my timing I have dodged the rain showers. I think we probably have a week or so of brambles left before they are over but that should coincide with the start of basket weaving materials being ready to cut and collect – willow, holly, brambles, dogwood, hazel and more should all be ready in the next week or two so I’ll be out gathering armfuls of that with my secateurs.

I’ve also been in the polytunnel this week, clearing out the failed crops and feeding them to the pigs, adding the spent compost to the raised beds, weeding and ensuring there are no cosy corners to attract mice and rats to snuggle into over winter. I’ve bought my seeds out to stocktake and look at plans for next year. The next job in there is a thorough weeding as I am planning to grow direct into the ground in there next year with the shelves used for starting seedlings. The polytunnel is a nice place to hang out on a rainy day but it does need to be still as the door can only be put on and off from the outside so on a windy day you’d be risking blowing everything around or damaging the polytunnel.

The raised beds are needing to be cleared now aside from those with root crops in and the single bed of strawberries. So I’ll be taking off the netting and we’ll feed the birds on the beds to get them to scratch up all the weeds and spent crops before covering them with mulch over winter. We need to collect some seaweed for mulch on both the raised beds and around the feet of the fruit trees and bushes in the fruit cage although they don’t need to be mulched until later in the season. Another job.

We still have three pigs to process – that will hopefully be a job for this week coming. We’ll get them ready for the freezer and plan a day of inside processing soon.

We need more firewood to get us through the winter, so a couple of days of cutting, chopping, splitting and stacking wood is also on the list.

The shed is waiting patiently for a coat of preserver and all the various latches, hooks and bolts on it outside, shelving and kitting out inside.

And then all those outdoor jobs which mean indoor finishing off are to be tackled. A day of sausage making, more jam making and jar labelling, seed sorting and planning, reading and researching ideas for next year, coming up with the 2016 masterplan, working out what did and didn’t work this year and what we want to get on with next. And then crafts – more knitting and crochet, candle making and drawing, model making, sign making, writing.

It’s almost a relief to finally have the winter here, to feel okay about lighting the fire and accepting what didn’t happen this year and transferring plans to next years calendar instead. Could probably do without quite so many gale force winds though…

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