It's quite a long post so I won't be offended if you don't read it all!
Children & Family
Well what a year it's been on that front!
I think delivering our son on the bathroom floor with just my wife and I will forever be one of my most amazing memories of my life. It was a great start to the year and it's been amazing seeing him become such a little character.
My wife and I have had a good divide on the the child care this year as well, with my wife being on maternity leave for the first nine months and then me taking over again once she went back to work. It's funny though as the girls always expect one of us to work, even on Christmas day they couldn't understand that we were both going to spend all day together with them (even though neither of us tend to work away on Sundays, but they have some funny logic at that age)!
My eldest also started school so that has been a major change of pace for me, with the school run to deal with and a morning nursery for my youngest daughter two days a week I have become a taxi service that runs to the village quite a few times a day! She loves school though and has made lots of friends so it's a really positive thing.
very wet holiday to Wales!
I've also spent the most time with my dad since I've left home as he's been here a lot this year helping with the extension. My brother has helped loads as well and mum has been great for extra childcare so I can do some work to the extension in the week.
This is as well as the rebrand on the blog that my sister and brother inlaw did eariler in the year making this blog look a bit more professional in time for my talk at Hellens garden festival!
It's was my brother's wedding as well this year so that was a great family day.
I went back into full time work in January and I wasn't sure how it was going to go having only done part time for a couple of years before hand. But luckily word got out and I got booked up very quickly, I'd invested myself into being part of this village and the village supported me back. For the nine months I didn't have to travel very far for work (not more than 5 miles most of the time) and it was generally for people that I knew or were recommended by friends (so no risk on payments which was great). Playgroups provided lots of work - an untapped market! And I made lots of friends with other tradesmen locally, which can only be a good thing for work and for getting things done around here.
Since coming back into the stay-at-home parent role I've turned quite a bit of work down as I want to concentrate on jobs here and make it a better place for us to live.
Lots of homesteading skills practised this year! I've done some more canning with friends as well as lots of jam and chutney making. Doing it with friends seems to be the way forward as it's so much more fun with a few of you, you just need weird friends first and I seem to be blessed with that one!
I've also been baking like there's no tomorrow, from Chelsea buns to different breads and rolls. It's rare that I use the bread maker to bake a loaf these days, preferring to cook it free form instead. I've also had my measure of baking mistakes, I've forgotten the yeast more times than I'd care to admit!
We've eaten well this year as well, getting some meat and other produce in bulk and cooking from scratch to make sure we know what we're eating and where it's come from.
Anyone that knows me knows that food is important to me so I always make this a high priority!
GardenI haven't had the time I'd have like to give the garden this year but it's still produced quite well. I've got big plans for next year (I have big plans every year to be honest!).
The veg has been great quality but now our family has got bigger I need to grow loads more than I currently am. I could have planted 5 times the carrots I did and it still wouldn't have been enough, the same with beets. My brassicas weren't very good this year either and after I'd harvested my kohl rabbi I had cabbages that didn't heart up for instance and other thigns that didn't grow enough. I was much better at growing salad this year and gave over much more space to it. I sowed mustard's, mizunas and the like in rows and this seemed to work really well for us.
I also experimented with some more unusual fruits and veg, growing cucamelons outdoors was a good experiment (They fruited really well but a good couple of months behind), I also grew yacon which was really tasty and tried growing some things in different ways like one truss tomatoes through plastic.
I still need to be more organised and my small greenhouse wasn't used to it's full potential, each year I say I'm not going to keep seedlings in pots for months if I haven't planted them, and each year I do the same thing and chuck them out at the end! Next year I'll be more organised in my greenhouse!
I feel I learnt lots from this years gardening and I can't wait to put some of it into practice next year!
I think this year has been a good learning one on this front! Not all has gone to plan but it could have been much worse.
Chickens have been as easy as ever, I've kept my flock to certain age by culling old hens and we've hatched out a few more chicks for the children as well as buying some more ex commercial hens to keep numbers up. Selling the eggs covers feed costs but the Avian flu has been a bit of a pain as the hens have to be kept in a much smaller pen to keep the wild birds out.
Lambing didn't exactly go to plan but it still all worked out. I don't think I'd ever been as thin as was when I was lambing this year, I think I must have walked that field hundreds of times each week, lambing outside is not for the faint hearted! I'm going to do a post on lambing outside at some point with some tips I learnt along the way.
The lambs are all gone now and I'm already thinking about lambing next year and how I can improve. Hopefully numbers will be better and I seemed to have a run of bad luck where I basically had every illness that sheep or lambs could have one after the other, even the shepherds I ask for advice couldn't believe the run of luck I was having - hopefully that's the bad luck with sheep used up for now!
Field and Trees
Having sheep in the fields really improves the pasture and they all looked really good in the summer. I didn't make any hay this year, instead I rotated the sheep far more often and my neighbour topped the grass when it started to get leggy.
I didn't plant many tree this year, but what I have planted in the past four year (over 500 trees I'd guess at) are doing well. I have lots of apple trees to sell this year that I have grafted previously and my willow coppice is coming along slowly.
My brother undertook a big job on one of our big oak trees and removed all the dead wood as well as reducing the crown. This should mean that it lasts a lot longer than it was going to as large limbs are less likely to fall out of it and damage it further than it already has been.
I'm quite pleased with this one! Of course it could be much further on but the extension has moved on loads this year. It's a shame I haven't finished the roof completely - the frost the last few days has stopped me. And it's funny looking back to 2014 and seeing that I thought I was going to be doing it fairly soon!
I wasn't sure how far we'd get with this but once we got out the ground it seemed to go up quite quickly. I had many nights moving bricks by torch light but it was all worth it.
We also did loads to the patio and steps, as well as draining the field by the house. It's certainly made this winter far less muddy and depressing! Last year you could loose a boot if you stepped in the wrong place!
It's been an amazing year, it seems to have gone like a blur though! Both my wife and I have worked some long hours through it and had many a sleepless night but I think it's a year I'll look back on really fondly.
Having a blog has been amazing again this year. I've loved all the comments and advice I've got over the last 12 months, it really encourages me to do more and to know I'm not struggling alone! So another huge thank you to anyone that reads, follows, or comments on this blog and for the emails and messages I receive and the friendships I've forged!
As we get more and more infrastructure in place hopefully things will get easier as we go on here, although I'm always changing the goal posts and I don't think I ever want things to be too easy!
Here's to a great 2017!