Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Story So Far...

Make a cuppa, grab a biscuit (or three) and take a seat, this is gonna be a long one!

So here we are, fully successful with the hunt for a new way of life and absolutely loving the changes. We are living the dream. I can’t quite believe just how different my life is now that we are living here. We are surrounded by nature’s purest beauty and the quietness is deafening. The darkness without streetlamps was quite unsettling at first but within days we grew accustomed and can’t believe that for over 6 years we didn’t have a blacked out bedroom due to the all-nighter streetlamp right outside our window, it had become our norm.

I think that it is safe to say we are pretty much plonked down in the middle of nowhere.   Admittedly, we have the security of a few other residences nearby which is reassuring, but other amenities are, well, shall we say…erm, a little on the thin side.  We have no access to public transport (the nearest bus stop is around 5 or 6 miles away at a guess and the closest train station is way further). The nearest shop is a small village store incorporating the post office located just over 3 miles away.  Travelling to the nearest town means a journey of around 9 miles.   This means that as we are a one car family and husband needs that one car for his commute to and from work, I am pretty much cut off during the week.  Dropping him off like I did before moving here just isn't a viable financial option.  I don't regret moving to somewhere so remote though, it's a real pleasure to be surrounded by such views and quietness, I could become quite the recluse here I think.

I don’t miss town life one little minuscule bit, although life without access to a reliable phone, internet connection, and close amenities such as a library or bank has been a little testing it has to be said.  We were meant to have been connected to a landline telephone and broadband internet on October 30th but the engineer failed to arrive.  We had been fully prepared to wait the 17 days necessary in the new house without such luxury, all of us thinking the break would do us good, but as time went by it became a real inconvenience.  Our mobile phones don’t receive reliable signals at home so we are unable to send or receive texts, phone calls, or emails.  When we moved in we had delayed paying bills that were due at the end of the month as we thought we would have internet access and could use internet banking as per usual – this was a mistake in hindsight, obviously, and the consequence was that Taisia’s second birthday on Halloween was spent rushing from bank to bank to pay rent and other bills, and a visit to the Post Office to tax the car (something that would also have been done online).

Still, nothing has dampened our spirits, despite numerous attempts from life to do so.  We are living our dream and loving it so very muchly, although it goes without saying we have been putting in a lot of hard work – some of it rather back breaking, but all of it done with happy hearts.  

In the short while we have lived here we have already had our fair share of adventures.  How about being locked out of the house the very first time we have gone out as a family? That particular saga ended up with us being extremely grateful that for once Callum hadn't listened to instructions and had left one of the top floor doors unlocked. Usually firmly locked and bolted, I have to admit it was quite amusing (although a little scary) watching Lee scale the tall ladders and launch himself in a rather unflattering bundling heap over the balcony.  Then there was the time that I decided to take a stroll with the children to the local village shop (a little over half an hour walk away) and we got hopelessly lost whilst attempting a detour home. We ambled around the maze of lanes, all looking the same as darkness began to beckon.  Remember we have no access to phones or internet at this point and had absolutely no idea where we were.  Well over four hours (!!!) later we finally found a sign that was (a) legible, and (b) pointing in the direction of a place we had heard of.  I don’t think I have ever been more relieved personally, and poor Taisia slept very well that night, as did the dog!

I could also share with you the time when we all decided to go for a late afternoon walk with the dog. We set off well prepared with warm clothes, boots and torches *just in case*. We wandered up the lane and followed signage telling us of a public footpath. How nice we thought, a great place to walk the dog off road if no livestock were around. Oh my, oh my, oh my. Before we knew it we had lost the footpath, tried (and some of us failed) to jump over the fast flowing stream, and were knee high – no, thigh high at times – in mud. Trying to stay on your feet and help stuck fast children out of the mud is tough, don’t ever try it. I am happy to have learnt that lesson so you don’t have to. Mind you, I did continuously laugh (perhaps at times out of pure hysterical fear) at the sheer insanity of the situation. If only I had had the ability to film our experience I'm sure our antics would have been an absolute world wide video hit. Chelsea lost a wellie boot many times over, but on one particular occasion it got swiftly swallowed up by the mud bog. Joseph was able to come to the rescue, arm disappearing beneath the mud as he felt around for the boot whilst ungracefully losing his balance and pulling Chelsea over during the process. I myself was wearing a brand new pair(bought that day) of Mucker boots, and I was adamant that I was going to return home with both of them still on my feet, although the mud certainly put up a gritty fight and tried to prove otherwise on more than one occasion. The sucking, squelching and squidgy mass was a tough one to overcome but we eventually conquered all. At one point I remember carrying Taisia in my arms, losing my balance and thus toppling forward, knocking Callum off his feet and into the mud as I fought hard to keep Taisia safe and regain my composure. Poor Tazzy was shouting for help in her favourite over dramatic drama queen way, whilst I was holding her high above my head shouting “It’s ok Taz, mama has got you!” repeatedly, still fighting desperately to keep my face from being thrust within a big squelchy splodgy mud coloured wet mess and wondering how the hell I was going to get back to my feet without use of my hands. Callum and Tiegan almost appeared permanently stuck deep in the mud throughout our ‘walk’, I have certainly lost track at just how many times they were bailed out by a fireman’s lift or a tug-o-wall pull. What once was obviously a lush green meadow now clearly had drainage issues and had been churned over many times by numerous cattle. I can only shudder to imagine what any onlookers thought as they saw us wading our way through gaps in hedges in our now unrecognisable clothes, completely buried beneath the brown foul smelling muck, our faces camouflaged so well the army would have been proud. I can giggle now as I envisage the possibility of a farmer and his wife, alerted to our presence by their barking dogs, standing at the window ready to charge over and shout at us for trespassing on their land. They probably realised it would be far more entertaining to just pull up a chair and watch nature taking revenge on the ‘townies’ on their behalf. Again, much relief was felt when we survived the ordeal and were able to find the firm road underfoot once more, even though darkness had fallen by then. We headed for home, with Callum’s trousers falling down numerous times along the way due to them being heavily weighted with mud. Cue many more giggles.

We also had the case of the escaped hamster, having woken one morning to discover a fallen cage and a missing inhabitant. We searched and searched without any luck and I was beginning to resign myself to the fact that Harry cat may have been to blame and that Mickey hamster may have provided a rather tasty snack. I was debating with myself just how to explain this to the children when we heard a yelp. Joseph had found Mickey, or rather; Mickey had found Joseph and promptly bitten his toe. The hamster is now, I'm very happy to say, safely back in his humble abode and in a much safer place.

On top of all this we have had a dog the size of a small pony exploring our garden, and a car full of tourists clearly lost on route as they drove down the drive and into said garden – pausing briefly with red blushing flustered faces as they drove slowly past the lounge window and spotted us peering out wondering who our rather keen visitors were.  Their car was swiftly put into reverse as they rapidly retreated.  

I don’t know if I am brave enough to share with you the time when I got our car stuck fast – no, I mean seriously STUCK FAST as I failed hopelessly to turn it around in our drive. I had dropped Lee off at a service station as he was going to be working away for the night, and returned home proud that I had driven down the country lanes for the first time in many years and not got lost. I should mention that I hate driving down country lanes which is slightly ironic considering where we are now living. I used to be a very keen horse rider and have been witness to far too many lucky escapes and incidences created by speedy drivers using the lanes as a cut through. In one awful incident a horse was killed and rider seriously injured by a van travelling far too fast for the road conditions, something which has been firmly etched within my mind for many years. I digress. Back to my tale of woe – I knew that I had to turn the car around in order to pick Lee up again the next day. My reversing skills need practice so I didn't feel very confident about reversing into the drive, and I was sure that it was wide enough to enable a three point turn. What I didn't bargain for was the depth of the mud and the tree root that seemed clearly fixed on making my life as difficult as possible. I went back and to, back and to, with far too little progress being made. I got out of the car and walked around to view my predicament. There was a wooden wall within an inch at the front and a stone wall within an inch at the back. Oh dear, a flustering feeling was starting to build as the panic crept in. How on earth was I going to get Lee home again? It wasn't even as if I could ask a (brand new, not yet known at all well) neighbour for help; there was just no way of helping the car out of that mess!

So what did I do as my mind was racing with panic?

I woke Joe up.

Together we dug the wheels out of the mud, cut through and removed the tree root, and moved the wooden sleepers from the front – giving around an extra foot for manoeuvrability. I am happy to say that that was all I needed and the car was soon free once more and turned the right way for an easy exit. A mighty big sigh of relief followed that particular incident I can tell you!

Speaking of cars, sadly our 7 seater died a death and we had to scramble together more than a few pounds to try to find a runaround that would get Lee to work and back.   I can't begin to tell you how frustrating it is trying to find a new car without access to the internet, a telephone, mobile connection, or indeed another car to view potential purchases!  I am very glad that that particular situation has been rectified and we have a 3 door Hyundai to keep us going until after Christmas.  We shall then try to save as much as possible to purchase a new desperately needed 7 seater so we can all venture out as a complete family again.
Despite all of these adventurous tales, alongside being without downstairs ceiling lights for 2 days, the sad passing over to rainbow bridge of three of our pets, and having no working oven for 10 days (even now we only have an intermittent, works when it feels like it oven) I can honestly say that I have loved every minute of living here.  I truly adore digging up the land and watching the transformation of the clearance.  I absolutely love hearing the twit-twooing of the owls we have living close by and the sight of the birds and bats visiting our garden.   In our previous home we used to be lucky to have a pair of wood-pigeons feasting on our bird feeder.  Here in the countryside we are visited thrice daily by Nuthatches, Blue Tits, Robins, Jays, Sparrows, Blackbirds, Pied Wagtails, Great Tits, Wrens, and Coal Tits, amongst others. We have a field at the bottom of our garden where the neighbour keeps large breed chickens, and a field running alongside our land which is host to three sheep who look on with curiosity as we work.

Just who wouldn't love looking out upon such scenes as these every day…


When we moved in, the land was very overgrown.  It has taken a lot of toil and strife to get to get it how it looks now and there is still a long way to go.  The greenhouse for example has been transformed from this…

 To this….

I don’t think there is any fret regarding its growth ability, after all, not many greenhouses can boast their very own well rooted tree – actually, not one, but two well rooted trees enclosed within…

Clearly we still have some internal work and window replacing to be done!

We are working on clearing the hen houses and fixing them up ready for use soon. They started off looking like this….

This area has been greatly cut back and cleared whilst the other house currently looks like this…

The whole of the land was just a flurry and fluster of shoulder high nettles and thick set brambles. They weren't going to give up their space without a tough feisty fight.  Oh and the mud, how can I forget the mud? This was on a very good day…
Thanks to Lee and Joseph’s hard toil, the mud is severely reduced and you can now see much of the concrete beneath.   Blissful to now be able to hang out my washing wearing slippers instead of donning wellies each trip, and the clear up has saved my lovely kitchen floor from much trauma.   It is laid with beautiful cream tiles. Imagine my disappointment though when I realised that these brown specs…

Aren’t part of the tile pattern and design as I first thought (hoped), but they are indeed specs of dirt ingrained within the dips and flecks of the tile. Once scrubbed with a toothbrush (yes really, I am that thorough!), they look like this…

Everywhere outside was so severely overgrown. Everywhere you looked just screamed needing work and it is a very daunting task when you stand in the middle of such a jungle and wonder where to begin.

It has been oh so very very worth it though, the transformation within a few short weeks is already amazing.

We love the fact that we no longer have traffic jams cluttering up our road ensuring that we nearly always add at least 20 minutes onto our journey home whichever direction we take. There may be the odd occasion where the lane here is blocked due to a tractor delivering water to livestock for example, but I'm sure you agree that it is far preferable to sit waiting here…

Tiegan is in absolute heaven and is already planning out a special fairy garden to enhance our very own small corner of woodland. The others have forecast tented sleepovers with friends and earmarked two trees perfect for hosting a hammock within the same area….

 With a lot of hard work and elbow grease, the patio area is now clean and easy on the eye. I can’t wait to get planting fragrant and colourful pots here and sitting out listening to bird song as I enjoy my breakfast in the spring sunshine…

We have adored finding hidden treasures such as these throughout our explorations…

The first nest was in the stable, whilst the one below was in the outside store.

Time washing pots at the sink goes quickly as we stand watching the many winged visitors to the garden.  I am very much awaiting the chance to photograph more as time goes by…


Once finances allow I am going to invest in a distance lens for my Nikon for this purpose.  There are many birds of prey around the area that we see sitting on fence posts and soaring the skies, a real test for my photography skills and one that I relish.  

Inside, we were fortunate that the house didn't need so much work, just a few bits and pieces here and there to paint and lots of back aching scrubbing and cleaning to be done as the property has been empty for so long. The kitchen had been two tones – yellow with a half painted white wall. The kitchen is now a beautiful clean looking duck-egg blue with cream woodwork, so pretty and a pleasure to bake in. I just need to decide what to do curtain wise and choose a bit of wall art and vintage pretty pieces to finish it off.  We have a Rayburn cooker that isn't in use yet as it needs a service but I am really looking forward to learning a few lessons and cooking with it. For now we have a high quality electric hob and (slightly temperamental) oven which we will use for quickness if necessary instead of the Rayburn once done. We arranged for a chimney sweep to visit and check and clear the chimney before we lit a real fire in the lounge - my first ever - I adore the cosy cottage farmhouse feeling as we read and craft beside the fire.  

I am also head over heels with adoration for our new home-ed / craft space / all purpose room… 

I can’t wait to get everywhere else sorted so we can plough on with doing our H.E project and craft work up there – handmade Christmas cards and decorations are high on the list of priorities. 

Up until recently we were making the most of every dry day to do some work outdoors, unsure of when the weather would turn.  But turn it did as many of you will be aware, and boy oh boy, I have never experienced anything quite like it so close to home!  

Yes, that is our drive and yes we were flooded.  Our garden couldn't be deciphered from a torrent of river-like water.  Thankfully only very little found its way within our four walls so no damage was done internally.  Fortunately I have two strong boys willing to help with operation clean-up whilst their father is out earning the pennies...

Even though we have been fortunate enough to remain within beautiful Devon, it is a totally new area to us and a place we need to find more about and explore.  I really don't know anywhere in this area and figuring out road layouts and locations is a challenge in itself.  That will be so much easier now that we have the trusty ol' internet again though.

One of our nearest towns is Tiverton and we have really enjoyed our visits there. 

It is a small market type town with lots of lovely individual stores as well as a couple of the bigger names – New Look and WH Smith for example. The town itself has a really nice feel to it, it doesn't appear to get overly busy and parking is cheap with the multi-storey offering 5 hours for just a pound.  There is a canal with one of the few remaining horse-pulled barges offering trips to visitors, and ducks and swans always willing to entertain a little person as long as that little person offers a plentiful supply of food…

Tiverton has an indoor and outdoor market space with some really nice stalls selling handcrafted items and local produce. I treated myself to these beautiful lined and cosy gloves that were for sale for a five.  I’ve definitely earmarked a few of the stalls for possible Christmas pressies this year.   I have also been knitting lots myself - a jumper for Taisia (completed, from start to finish, yay!), a knitted Christmas stocking for Tiegan and I'm in the middle of knitting one for Joseph now.  I have taught myself how to knit in stripes and am well impressed.  Nothing will ever be plain again!

Another place not so very far away is the beautiful Knighthayes Court, a delicious property owned by the National Trust.  I had never been there before but on one sunny but chilly weekend we all made the trek over there to explore.  Wow, what utter beauty!

It is definitely a place we will be visiting often.

I shall leave you with a few photos taken this morning as I opened up the windows and viewed the thick frost outside...

Oh it's soooooo good to be back!


  1. Oh Julia! Wonderful to hear you again. And Oh my- what a place of beauty- you are blessed! I too dislike country roads- not good when living in Devon! I have not yet visited Knightshayes...maybe I could meet up with you there one day as it is about 40 minutes from where we live. I have also done the 'car wedge' but mine was between two parked cars..oops!!

    1. Susanna, I would love to meet up with you at Knightshayes one day, that would be fab :)

  2. Anonymous9:03 pm

    Beautiful photos! Sounds like it's been hard work but what a wonderful dream to be living! Are you on Exmoor now then? If you ever come to the home-ed group in South Molton then we might bump into each other. :)

  3. Wow!! I'm loving the energy & buzz in this post. Sounds like it's been a real 'baptism of fire', but you sound really happy. It's good to see you back.

  4. Welcome to rural living Julia. You've dropped into it at the hardest time which means you have many jewels to come! Blessings on your new adventure. xx

  5. I enjoyed reading this post so much! Lovely, lovely pictures.

  6. It's so good to see you back and to know that you were successful in finding your way into this mad life we lead. Just been discussing this with Neil and when you have housing and fencing ready, we would like to make you a present of a goat to start your dairying life as well - if you would like one! It's kind of dependent on our being able to keep surplus girls long enough until you're ready and we will have to figure transport, but the offer is there if you are interested.

    1. Wow Jackie, that is such a kind and generous offer, thank you! Will have to see if it works logistically :)