I feel I’ve finally found what I’ve wanted to do all my life, working outdoors, keeping chickens, creating a vegetable garden, a woodland area (of sorts) and writing about it all, in addition to writing about books and writing fiction, yet I feel a tiny nibble of guilt in my stomach when I’m working outside. I LOVE working outside, especially on a beautiful day like today. I love to feel the wind and the sun on my skin, love striding around in my wellies tending to the trees with my cardi pockets filled with tree ties, plant labels, string and scissors…It makes me happy. Complete, maybe. I’m teaching myself how to do it all, I’m learning on the job, making mistakes (sometimes with tears), delighting at successes however small, hoping that one day I’ll be able to get all this knowledge down on paper and, who knows, maybe write articles and create a book out of it. But all the time my subconsciousness is whispering should I be doing something else? Working in an office for example. After all, wasn’t that why I went to university – to have a high powered job?
What I’m doing now is completely at odds to how I imagined my life would be. I thought I’d be a career woman in the city, but once there, it didn’t feel like me. I felt fraudulent. Writing feels like me. Being outdoors feels like me. But getting my head around what I thought I should be and what I actually became is a teeny bit difficult.
And it is also very difficult to explain to people that I’m not just fannying about in the garden. That actually I’m creating experiences and projects to give myself article and book material. Many people don’t get that.
Edit: I hasten to add, on reading this through I’m not pitying or feeling sorry for myself. Merely frustrated at my inability to just get on with it and stop being so anxious.
Just a little update to let you know I haven’t been eaten by a chicken.
I launched my new website Hen Orchard a few weeks ago. It includes a blog about my ‘smallholding’ ambitions and adventures. Starting with the chickens and ducks then the fruit trees and so on, hopefully then leading into pigs and bees. The idea was to tie it in with courses through a particular company but I’m having second thoughts – about the company. I also want to run a hen hotel…but I’m hoping that will evolve naturally. For now I’m going to concentrate on the blog. Have a look! It’s henorchard.com.
I’ve also been writing fiction. Yes my Verity project has had some words added. Approximately 1500. I’m thinking it’s better if I do them first thing in the morning before the gardening, trees and chickens take over. I need to think seriously about a routine so I can combine writing with working outside. Otherwise I flit from one thing to another and feel I’ve not actually achieved anything.
So that’s where I am at the moment…
In the last few years I’ve written about cake, motherhood, writing and chickens. Writing fiction has been limited.
I’ve felt separated from a lot of writers I’ve got to know over the years through t’internet. Not because of them, but because I haven’t felt part of it. I didn’t feel like a writer. In fact, I don’t feel like a writer. When I first started writing and blogging a number of years ago now, I wrote a first draft of a novel. It was a cathartic experience for me and allowed me to get better after suffering somewhat from the birth of my first child. Then I had an idea for a proper novel. A novel not based on my experiences with PND but completely fictional. I called my character Verity. I wrote 50,000 or so words, had a plan, had pictures, maps and so on.
Then I stopped.
I didn’t have the confidence to finish it. I didn’t know how it was going to get to the end, whether it was going to be one book or it would come in two or three parts. I didn’t even know what genre of book it would fall into.
Maybe my distraction with the house move, the chickens, with cakes even was because I didn’t feel I could do this. I would think about Verity, quite a bit. I could visualise how the story ended, I could see her, I even knew what song would be appropriate and every time I heard the song I would see this picture, this final scene in my mind’s eye.
Yet I still couldn’t write it. And I felt less and less like a writer.
If this is writer’s block it has been going on for a long time. It’s not block but a year out. Longer than a year in fact.
Then a few things have happened lately that has made me want to write again. I’ve got a writing job writing two posts a week for Novelicious. This is a fabulous site for readers and writers and I’ve always loved the Writing Room series. I’ve also sorted some serious admin that has been sitting by my desk which subconsciously made me afraid to enter the room. (I didn’t realise this until I dealt with it.) And I’ve read a post about a writer who suggests you find a way to write that works for you. It doesn’t have to be an hour a day, 1000 words a day, or whatever some writers insist you should be doing. It has to suit you, otherwise the love for it goes away.
And I want to rediscover this love. This sense of achievement as the words mount up. This sense of pride (and frustration) because even though most of the words you are writing in the first draft are rubbish, at least you’re getting something down. And you can’t edit a blank page.
I still fear a massive amount of fear. But I’m going to try and do it anyway.
[And I'm going to write about it more, here on this blog. My chickens are going to another (blog) home. This is mainly going to be me and my writing.]
I’ve written 534 words today and I’m rather pleased with that. Jenny’s suggestion in my comments of 100 words a day (something we used to do when finding a writing routine hard to grasp) was a good one. I aimed for 100 and went over.
Yesterday saw the arrival of my new chicken coop. I’ve decided to go for an Omlet Eglu Go because of cleaning out purposes. During the winter it has been hard to clean the wooden coop and get it dry. And, with the hen hotel in mind, I wanted something I could clean out and disinfect in a quick turnaround time. It is a fabulous red and so far I love it.
Then this morning we went to Mini Meadows Farm and picked up three new chickens. I wanted one that laid a white or blue egg so we got another Coral (hybrid) and a Cream Legbar (pure breed) which lays white and blue respectively. We also got another ranger, a black tail one this time. For no other reason than because she was a beautiful red colour.
Who would have thought de-licing chickens would have made for such a lovely day? Of course, the weather was beautiful too, it wouldn’t have been as nice if it was cold and wet. But I have thoroughly enjoyed being outside with the children and the chickens today.
After panicking a little yesterday when we found lice around Dora’s vent during their regular treatment for red mite, I bought some de-lousing powder today. One of the chickens, Agatha, also had some egg yolk on her (!) so I thought a bath for all them, following the advice given on this website, would be in order.
After catching them all yesterday for the red mite treatment we had to do it again today. Twice. Once for the bathing and again once they’d dried off to apply various powders. The poor girls. They enjoyed their bath but they don’t like being caught. They did sulk for a while but the sun warmed them up and after lunch they were dry enough to be powdered. And how lovely and bright they looked afterwards.
It was like giving a mucky child a good bath and talcum powdering them afterwards so they looked clean, shiny and brand new. To get them to come out of their second sulk, I threw down some straw for them to scratch about in. Soon there were contented clucks coming from all of them. And in the dappled afternoon sunlight they were an absolute joy to watch.
It was worth it, examining vents and rubbing powder into bottoms, just for that.
This weekend we have planted twenty trees. Two Rowan, five apple (Sunrise, Lord Lambourne, Blenheim Orange, Ashmead’s Kernel and Bramley’s Seedling), two plum (Rivers Early Prolific and Early Transparent Gage), Sweet Chestnut, four Silver Birch, two Hawthorn (Crimson Cloud and Pauls Scarlet), Field Maple, Sycamore, Crab Apple and a Wild Cherry.
And this is just for starters.
Most of them have been planted in or around where the chickens are – in what is now named Hen Orchard.
We bought them as bare root trees. Most of them are whips so about a metre tall but there are a few standards too – the hawthorns and the crab apple.
It was exciting work, planting them. And when the trees went in the ground the tree and the area immediately felt happy. I’m really looking forward to seeing them grow.
As I’ve just overheard my husband say, it’s not every day you plant an orchard.
- I am an impatient person and can’t wait to see the trees I’ve chosen (once I’ve chosen and purchased) starting to grow.
- The time to buy and plant the bare-rooted trees is between November and March. Time is running out if I am going to plant a few at the beginning of the year.
- I like trees.
We do have a little bit of land so I’m finding that I need to divide it into sections so I don’t get overwhelmed. In addition to having the chicken area which I’d like to turn into an orchard we also have a paddock which is fairly exposed but has nothing but a straggling hedge to stop the northerly wind. Beyond that is a farmer’s field, plus a couple of pylons, then the dual carriageway.
So I have the orchard project and the paddock project. The paddock project I am envisaging lots of tall, evergreen trees which will provide a good wind break, hide the unsightly pylons and reduce the noise we occasionally get from the road in the winter. I’m quite keen on planting native trees too. There are some trees I like which aren’t native and which I’ll still put in, but the majority, say three-quarters, will ideally be native to this country. Plus, I want to encourage the birds and the bees. In my head the bottoms of the trees will be surrounded by wild flowers – a haven for the bee hive I’m thinking of installing there.
But. Wow. There is so much to choose from. I thought the fruit trees were difficult enough but I was lucky to find a fruit tree nursery website (Keepers Nursery) which tells you what will pollinate what. They will be delivering my fruit trees next week. I’ve been thinking though that I would like to put a few trees between the north wind and the fruit trees to protect them (the area isn’t that exposed as it’s in a little dip but I’m not taking any chances). So far I’m thinking of Rowan/Mountain Ash, Wild Cherry, and Crab Apple. All are native to this country.
With the paddock project I’m completely overwhelmed and I’m thinking this is something we’ll leave until November. But I do like the idea of Scots Pine. There are a number of these established in my village and they too are native.
And then we move onto hedging. But I can’t even think about that yet…
[The links I've provided are for Ashridge Nurseries. A fantastic nursery with a website full of advice including how to plant videos. Perfect for a novice like me. Darren has also emailed me some advice which is why I knew about the rowan, wild cherry and crab apple in the first place.]