Sunday 31 December 2023

Basket In A Basket

I should have released the last blog post after this one! But the video wasn't uploading very quickly (about 16 hours...). 

This was a basket I got asked to make in the run up to Christmas. Normally I'd say no as it's always a difficult time with time management then, but in a moment of weakness I agreed. It was unusual enough to be interesting. 

The lady wanted a basket for her husband and she wanted a basket within a basket with a divider. She also wanted it bigger than my usual baskets. 

Saturday 30 December 2023

Review of 2023

 A quick look back at the year. Lots of highs and lows this year, more than most. But everyone I love is still here, and that's the main thing. As I get older I think how lucky I am with that being the case. 

I'm going to do some different sections to normal, as our focus in life changes. 

Children & Family

It's been a hell of year. One where we have shown that we can pull together and handle what the world throws at us. It's not been one we would have picked, I think that's fair to say. And not the best way to start my 40th time around the sun. 

The one bit I feel you may be sick of hearing about is my Eldest daughters diagnoses of becoming a Type One Diabetic. 

Friday 29 December 2023

A Gift For His Mum

Our boy is a very driven young man. 

He gets an idea into his head and then does all he can to make it come to fruition. He came into the workshop the other day with a very detailed little drawing he'd made on a scrap of paper. He wanted to carve that for his mother for Christmas. This was a Saturday morning in November. 

 He would then come in for the odd hour here and there. I could tell he was going to put some effort into this, so I got him a thin piece of sycamore from my stockpile and let him sketch the design. 

He has a remarkable concentration for a child of his age, two hours is fine for him, normally his hands give out before his concentration. 

He used some of the skills he's practised the last few years. using hsi own V tool to outline the tree and create texture on the bark. A gouge as a stamp to mark out the leaves which there are hundreds of. 

He used my pyro pen to burn his name and age on it, not making a fuss when I made him practice on a bit of scrap wood first. 

He wanted to apply the finish himself. I suggested a dark wax to pick up all the chisel marks. I showed him how to apply it and he set too it (wearing protection). When I told him it was a little thick he was disappointed but wanted to know how to fix it, he then spent an hour with a toothbrush getting all the wax out the deep areas to give it a good finish. 

He is always fun to have in the workshop with me. Always makes me smile, never draws breath! 

The picture the carving is based on. 

The finished piece. This will take pride of place on the wall in the house somewhere. 

As he handed it over Christmas morning he was glowing with pride when his mother said how much she liked it. 

So was I. 

Thursday 28 December 2023

First Diabetic Christmas

Diabetes is a constant current in our life. It is always there, pinging up on our phone when levels hit low or high, or asking what her levels are before we eat. 

Injections 4 or more times a day. 

Christmas day it certainly hits a bit harder. 

Tuesday 26 December 2023

Here's Hoping You Had a Good Christmas

Thanks for the lovely comments on my last post. We had a lovely chilled out Christmas day, and I hope if you're reading this you did as well. 

The children enjoyed opening their gifts, our boy loved giving the gift he'd made to his mother (more on that in a later post). 

The day was spent with the children playing with their toys, mainly putting their Lego sets together. The youngest got a guitar, he's been having lessons like Middlest.

Saturday 23 December 2023

Still Some Christmas Spirit

 The children (and wife) finally broke up from school yesterday! 

Seems like such a late start to the Christmas break and I really haven't felt Christmassy at all until today having them all back. 

We went for "breakfast with Father Christmas" this morning. Where you get a fry up and then get to meet the big man himself. Knowing our children well my wife booked adult breakfasts for them all and there was only a few beans left on the plate when we were all finished. 

There is no hiding they're getting older but there's still a bit of unspoken magic there, maybe not as much as when they were younger though. But it still has a spark, the youngest has been making something for his mum in the workshop and the effort he's put in is incredible, I'm looking forward to sharing that with you all!  

It was good grub and a good father Christmas, we then went for a walk around the woods where it was located. A lovely morning. 

Friday wasn't so great! I spent the whole day, and I mean THE WHOLE DAY, deep cleaning the kitchen ready for Christmas day. Everything off the windowsills, my temporary office off the worktop, windows cleaned, I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the whole kitchen floor and the kitchen plinths. 

I felt very beaten by it by the end, but when I came back in the room it hadn't felt that clean and free from clutter (our main problem) since I finished building it! My wife thought we'd been burgled when she walked in from work that evening. Luckily my day got better as we went for a big Christmas meal with friends that evening which has become an annual tradition - 12 adults and 17 children in total! 

Tomorrow I need to go collect the turkeys from a farm near my fathers (I miss timed our meat chickens this year), one for Christmas day and one for an Alviti meet up later next week, I have a few gifts to wrap but very suddenly it's going to be Christmas! 

I hope wherever you are you are ready for the big day! 

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Last Lot Of Christmas Orders

I think I may have packed up the last few Christmas orders. Feels like time to step back and breath (once I've built up stock of one or two items again...) 

I'm sorry the blog has been so sporadic the last few weeks, it's been really busy (which is good)! 

I'm so thankful that people choose to buy from me and support me, either on my blog here, on social media, on YouTube, comments, shares, likes, it all helps. I feel very lucky that people are still willing to put up with me. 

Building this little business up so it works around the children has been great and it's especially hit home this year with our eldest and her diagnosis of Type One Diabetes.  Being able to drop everything and go get her from school should I need to, or stay up all night with her when levels have gone wrong, has been so essential to everything running smoothly. Making and selling my products in a super flexible way has been great. 

Thanks everyone! 

Thursday 14 December 2023

Last Garden Club Talk Of The Year

Last night I gave my last garden club talk of the year. 

It was in Bourton On The Water For Bourton Vale Horticultural Society and it was such fun! 

I knew it was going to be a good one straight away as everyone was laughing and joking before I'd started. I think it was a great fun evening, everyone laughed at the right points and hopefully came away with something they'd like to try (this talk was my preserving one so there's lots of information in there). I also sold quite a few items, which will always please me! My new bit - standing on one of my scoops to show how tough they are - goes down really well! 

Looking back on the year for my speaking engagements it's been brilliant. I have done 24 talks this year (plus one cancelation for snow and one where they double booked me but advertised the other guy) - 

25th Jan - Malvern Garden Club - Unusual Fruit and Veg I

8th Feb- Blakeney Garden Club - Preserving the Harvest

16th Feb - Southam (Gloucestershire) - Unusual Fruit And Veg I

8th March - St. Michaels - Tenbury Gardeners - Unusual Fruit And Veg I - Cancelled due to snow

13th March - Bishops Cleeve Gardening Group - Unusual Fruit And Veg I

6th April - Dymock diggers - Preserving The Harvest

10th April - Llanthony - Preserving The Harvest

15th April - Worcester black pear gardening club - Unusual Fruit And Veg I

19th April - Gothering - A Talk About Our Homestead & How We Got Here

20th April - Kington - Preserving The Harvest

1st May - Colwall - Unusual Fruit And Veg I

17th May - Winchcomb - Unusual Fruit And Veg I

31st May - Little Thorne - Unusual Fruit And Veg II

8th June - Alderton - Preserving The Harvest

10th June - Hellen's Garden Festival - Q&A Session

27th June - Hereford Fuchsia Society - Unusual Fruit And Veg I

18th July - Leominster - University of the Third Age - A Talk About Our Homestead & How We Got Here

12th September - Slimbridge - Preserving The Harvest

15th September - Lower wye Valley - Unusual Fruit and Veg

21st September - Newent - Preserving The Harvest

27th September - Severnside cottage gardening society - Unusual Fruit And Veg II

10th October - May Hill garden club - Preserving the Harvest

8th November - Wellington Heath Garden club - Preserving The Harvest

13th Novemeber - Dodford Gardening Club (B61 9DD) - Unusual Fruit and Veg I

14th November - Pudleston Gardening club - A Talk About Our Homestead & How We Got Here

13th December - Bourton Vale Horticultural Society - Preserving The Harvest

Some of these were the first time I'd spoken at a club and some were the second or third visit. 

As I'm quite a friendly chap who spends a lot of time on my own in my workshop I really enjoy going out to these clubs to meet people. It certainly strokes my ego when it goes well and I hope it makes an enjoyable evening for any that make the effort to come see me. 

I put a lot of effort into my talks and I'm always trying to improve them, altering bits or changing out slides. When I did a talk with Tasmin Westhorpe earlier in the year we had very much the same ethos and she even said a phrase I'd been using word for word - "I treat these talks like stand-up". Now that's not to say we're trying to get a laugh all the time, more that we look at how the talks went and constantly try to improve them, tweaking them each time, learning what works and what doesn't. 

I'm very aware that although I think all my facts are super interesting not everyone there will be into what I'm into. My first job is then is to entertain, to be positive, enthusiast, bring my "A" game, then to try to educate or describe whatever subject it is I'm teaching or talking about. I bounce about, I tell funny stories and I talk at 100 miles per hour, but that's 100% who I am anyway (hopefully this comes across in my YouTube videos as well). 

I did a talk in Wales earlier in the year and I was speaking to the chairperson (who I have met a few times) and she said that she'd rather someone was 80% good at speaking and 20% the authority on their subject, as that's really what people at these clubs want, to be entertained. Now hopefully I can be better than that on my subject...

I have a few highlights from my talks this year, Hellen's Garden Festival is always amazing and I feel semi well know having spoke there for years now, getting to hang out and have a special lunch with people like Terry Walton and Tasmin Westhorpe. 

I also gave a talk at a village somewhere (I can't remember which one now) where they funded the talks on a pay if you come basis and it was more like a social club. I was talking to an old lady afterwards and she told me she hadn't been out of her house for two weeks as has mobility issues, but she was really glad she made the effort! Gave me a warm feeling! 

Alderton Garden Club was great fun because the chairman was incredible and did his own gardening advice each month, but told with real wit and knowledge. He really could be on TV and would knock the spots off Monty "boring as plain porridge made with water instead of milk" Don. 

I also gave a talk (again can't remember where sorry) where they had to keep getting more and more seats out as they had so many guests turn up, I'd given a different talk a few weeks before at a village not too far away and people had decided to come to this one as well, plus some that had seen it on the internet. I was told afterwards that it was the largest number of non members they'd had turn up to a talk. It was the talk I give about our life and how we got where we are and that night I was on fire for some reason (some nights you just are it seems) and every joke and anecdote landed and I ended up with so many questions at the end. 

I'm looking forward to my "speaking season" next year (and 2025). So far I have 19 talks booked in front of me, hopefully I'll get a few more as the year goes on as well. It creates some real memories for me and connects me to people who are interested in the same type of things. 

Maybe I'll see you at one next year?

Monday 11 December 2023

Broody Coop/Chicken Tractor Build Part 2

The second part of the build is a bit more fiddly than the first. All the cladding, mesh and doors end up taking far longer than the frame. 

I used tanalised shiplap boards for the cladding, but it did add a lot of cost for to the build. And the weld mesh looks great, but there are cheaper options for the wire (rabbit wire would probably be the cheapest). 

Saturday 9 December 2023

Broody Coop/Chicken Tractor Build Part 1

This summer we could have really done with an extra broody coop. Chicks don't always hatch as plan and sometimes come along completely unexpected. 

We use the broody coop I built about 15 years ago all the time. It's the perfect safe place for a hen to hatch eggs and raise her young, also great as a sick pen. I know I've featured this old coop on here numerous times in the past, but it really is useful. 

Thursday 7 December 2023

Curved Fireplace

So last week I was working on some apartments and in the one we had to inspect the loft, in it there was this fireplace. 

Now I know it's not to everyone's taste, but I love it. Even with little the electric stove in there. 

I put it on social media and loved all the different responses. It's fair to say it's a bit marmite (you either love it or hate it). But with social media things are lost pretty quickly. Having it on here means it's searchable and maybe it'll help someone one day looking for a different style or doing a college report (if you are doing a college report in the future feel free to use this picture). 

So what do you think? Not what you expect to find in a 5th floor apartment. 

Do you like it? 

Or Loath it?

Tuesday 5 December 2023

Carved Bread Board - Woodcarving Raised Letters

 I love doing some carving projects, and I love sharing them almost as much as doing them.

This is a bread board for an upcoming magazine article in Woodcarving magazine. I wanted to make a bread board, but do it a little different to the norm, and have the lettering raised rather than sunk in. this is harder to do, but gives the board a really unique look. 

Sunday 3 December 2023

GREAT Achocha Relish/Pickle

I have found an incredible way to use up these achocha fruits.

 A few weeks back I posted about trying to make achocha jam. Which was tasty but still not quite what we were after when trying to find something t do with them (and had a weird consistency). 

Friday 1 December 2023

English Country Life

If you're on social media enough you make some good friends along the way (this blog is a perfect example of that. 

Two friends I have made are Hugh and Fiona, who run the YouTube channel English Country Life (almost as good as my own channel). Hugh and I chat frequently, you can even spot one of my baskets in some of their videos

They've just opened an online shop selling quality smallholder equipment from UK firms and I thought it deserved a share. They have a great range of poultry equipment as well as other tools and electric fencing, they're a lovely friendly couple who so happily share their knowledge with others, I hope the shop gets the support it deserves!

Go have a look and say Kev sent you! 

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