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. 
Someone said to me it's a bit like joining a club you would never want to join and I feel that is right. 

It has caused us so much worry and sleepless nights. Her life has changed completely, and there are moments when it hits really hard and moments where we barely notice it. Yes she can live a normal life, but to do that requires much more effort than everyone else around her. She's been totally amazing throughout though, she is controlled with what she eats, takes sensible steps to deal with highs and lows and has become very good at managing it.

In fact all the children have, we all understand a lot more about our food now. Our diet has changed slightly, but we also saw that we were in a good place with it anyway (the diabetes dietitian has left us alone pretty much). My wife and I have quickly schooled ourselves on diabetes and have an understanding of it I wish neither of us needed, nor our daughter. 

It's cast a shadow on the year, but one we've tried to pull ourselves out from under. I'm not ashamed to say it probably got me down more than it should have, but registering your child as disabled hits hard. I don't like to be reliant on anyone, I've built my whole skill set around that very thing, but now we are very reliant on insulin, and 4 or 5 injections a day, 

I feel like we've done lots together though, there's been a few adventures along the way. Scouts always provides a few for us, almost ready made. 

The children have done me proud with their love of scouting and willingness to get involved and their willingness to just get on and help when it's needed. We had a scout camp at the start of the summer where both girls were superstars, a jumble sale where I had a lot of people separately tell me that my children had been really helpful. They've all come and attended so many sessions it would really take some counting. 

I always said I was only going to stay beaver leader while my children were in beavers. Well my youngest finished beavers a few weeks before Christmas, so I'm not sure what the future holds when it comes to scouting. It is certainly a lot of work, it is pretty thankless a lot of the time, but it has made me a better parent and it has given me many memories with the children that I probably wouldn't of had otherwise. 

The other big shake up has been the eldest starting high school. I don't need to tell any adult what a big deal this is. I can still remember it very clearly. But she obviously has added complications and lets just say the school has had certain teething troubles when it comes to their diabetic student management. We're working through them but there has been a few things which have needed our attention. 

She's gone in smiling every day though and normally comes out smiling as well. It seems that she really enjoys it and it very much feel like the right "next step" for her. 

One part I thought was going to be a massive headache has turned out to be one of the best bits of the day. We have to get to the primary school by 8.05 for the eldest to get the bus (not that it's been on time yet), this means we either drive home again for 15 minutes or find some way to kill time until the primary school opens. 

So we go in the scout hut, the younger two and me, as well as their friend who sometimes joins us. He's dubbed it "Kev's Crime Club" and each morning we have 20 minutes where we learn different knots, lock picking and a bit of dodge ball for fun. Nice way to kill a bit of time with the younger two, they always enjoy it (unless I get too keen with the dodgeball!) 


I'm fairly sure if ten years ago I had told myself what I do now to make a living I probably wouldn't have believed it. It reminds of a bit in "The Guide To Self-Sufficiency" where he talks about smallholders often having multiple income streams, sometimes loosely linked to the land they work. Now unfortunately none of my income streams earn a huge amount, but I'm not the bread winner of this household so it's not essential that I bring in big bucks. I'm still support crew for my wife as one of my primary duties and childcare, so all that has to come first. 

My making and selling of potting trays and baskets has expanded this year. It's dangerously close to being a viable business. I think looking at the stats for this year I've made and sold well over 220 potting trays and over 100 baskets! Plus many other items, some I stock full time (like my tool boxes) some are just a one off I've made to develop my skills as a carpenter or for a magazine article. 

It means I'm constantly busy making, packing and shipping them. It has become the main thing that keeps me being able to work from home and work around the children. It hit home just how important that is with our eldest's diagnoses of Type 1 Diabetes. I never have to worry about her having a day off at home, I'm here anyway, so her care can always come first without worrying about work. Or if we've needed to go to hospital or check up. I'm fortunate to have good friends in the village that can pick up the other two should we get caught waiting at hospital as well! 

I've managed to increase the range of items I make this year as well. With my scoops selling really well and being a great addition to the potting trays. 
I've big plans for making a few more items to add to the range next year as well (I just need more hours in the day).

The talks have been great this year, with one I did for a school I think I've given 25 over the last 12 months. They're something I love doing, it gets me out of the workshop and I genuinely lovely entertaining people. It sometimes feels like there hasn't been a village hall in the three counties near where I live that I haven't visited, but I love that side of it also. 

It's a great opportunity to sell some of my products as well. I wish I'd bought a card reader sooner though as sales have only started to go up since then! I've never been a big fan of someone skimming 1.65% off of every transaction in the world, but I suppose I have to get with the times. 

The magazine work has continued to be a fun outlet for creativity, although it's easily the worst paying thing I do. Good for quiet times of the year, but I don't seem to get those anymore. It does let me explore bits of my craft I probably wouldn't give the time to otherwise, especially when it comes to carving. 

I suppose who knows what these articles could lead to, I think I have 99 published now in various magazines, getting to over a hundred will be a great milestone. One day I'll get a book published. 

Somehow I still squeeze in a bit of regular carpentry work, not quite sure how. I have a mate who manages a lot of properties and we pencil in days for us to do jobs together, either fixing roofs or sash windows usually! It keeps my hand in and he's fun to work with (also he has children at the same school so we work it around school hours when we have to). 


I'm getting better at this one. I still suffer with a lot of guilt when I'm not working but I have given more time over to doing things with the people I enjoy spending time with. 

We managed our first family festival (which my wife dubbed "diabetes on tour"), it was a great weekend with friends, and the first time I'd seen some good live music in a while. 

My wife and I managed to get to another live gig this year as well (Gogol Bordello - one of my favourite bands) with friends, as well as seeing some comedians. 

We also managed to have our first "abroad" holiday since having children. Considering how much we used to travel this was great to get back into it and a real 40th birthday treat. 

Norway was incredible, the children were great company and it turned out to be a great holiday with loads of memories made.

There were a few low moments from it as well, one where I got stopped with my scout knife in an airport as I was stressing about carrying needles through (stupidity on my behalf). And one where I tried to keep a man a live using CPR  who had collapsed in a supermarket but was unfortunately  unsuccessful. From that I think that at least it showed my children I try to help if something serious happens. 

I try to be a proactive friend. I have lunch with friends when I can fit it in, we go to social things in the village as much as possible (we go to cricket on a Friday night in the summer- I hate the sport but love the social). One a month I try to put on a board game evening for a group of friends, and try to introduce friends that might not meet otherwise to each other. We even managed to have two weekends away with friends this year which was great fun. 

I carve out a time three times a week where I can swim. I still have my lesson, with a friend on a mid morning, this is great for technique and keeping my swimming at a good level, I also go two more times to push myself and keep fit. I've not been to the chiropractor since I started swimming properly. It makes me feel better and so long as I keep challenging myself it's not too boring. I do see it as the easiest way to do the most amount of exercise in the shortest amount of time, hitting the most muscles. So it's an efficient exercise for me in that respect. 


Sometimes it feels like just managing to keep everything ticking over on a smallholding is something! 

This year I feel like we've maintained what we've got, improved some areas, got some areas back from being overgrown. 

I managed to invest a bit of time and start learning hedge laying. A skill I've always wanted to have a go at and one that works in very well with my existing skill set. 

It gives me a real sense of pride as I walk past the hedge I've laid and I intend to try to lay a bit more this year as well. I managed to plant a few more trees and plan for a few more for next year as well. 

We didn't have bumper crops this year, in fact I cut the veg garden back a bit, but we had enough of the things we love. The children always enjoy running to grab some tomatoes or cucumbers, it brings me great pleasure to see the boy eating a dozen tomatoes like it's normal or eating a cuc like an apple. 

Some plans didn't happen, we didn't get pigs, we didn't breed many meat birds. We slowed up a bit, took stock of what we had and tried to get our heads around the changes to our lives. I've no regrets on doing that, it wasn't a step backwards, it was a good point to pause. 


I'm never going to be a great homemaker. I'm just rubbish at tidying up and cleaning. I'm a good cook though. I often wonder if I'm spoiling the children with fresh bread most days and meals cooked from scratch, but they thrive on it. 

Dried blueberries

I've adapted our diet to fit better with diabetes, with a little bit lower carb, swapping out some ingredients. I feel better for it I think, I think I've lost a tiny bit of weight from it as well coupled with swim training. 

All three of the children continue to be interested in what we create in the kitchen. I love that they are so into it (the Middlest gets a food magazine as her treat each month), often I'll come in from the workshop and they'll be creating something. Both girls have "playdates" where their friends come over and they do baking together, enjoying the freedom we give them in the kitchen (I'm not sure their friends parents give them quite such free reign). 

It's good to look back on what you've done in a year I think. This isn't one I'd repeat, but I've learnt a lot, and we've kept moving forward, maybe not in ways we were expecting. 

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog over the last 12 years I've been writing it. It's been a great way for me to remember what we've done, but I've also made some great friends along the way. 

The next 12 months are going to be fun - I've got some big plans...


  1. What a Year!
    Success all round -even with the tough stuff.
    Hope 2024 is equally adventurous

    1. Thanks Sue! Hope you have a good 2024 as well.

  2. Oh gosh, you do so much Kev. Just brilliant and what a way to bring up your family. You can be very proud of yourself, and them. Here's to a great 2024, may it bring you everything you need.

    1. Thank you! I don't think I do that much really. If I could cut down on my phone usage I'd be so much more productive.

  3. It is good to look back, your time management skills are brilliant, to fit so much in around your children/family, your are building wonderful memories for them, too many parents don't realise how quick they grow up and they want attention not presents.

    1. Funny as I think my time management is what needs work. I get distracted too easily. I think the one thing I have going for me is I work at a fair clip as soon as I start working.
      I've loved the time with the children, I have no regrets there. I kno wI could make a lot more money doing other things, but this all seems to fit around the children so well.

  4. I totally understand your concern about your eldest. Our son has autism, and it's been a wild ride so far. It's not easy, but we, like you, do the very best we can.
    Your kids are so dang lucky to be growing up the way they are. They may not realize it now, but they will later on. A loving home is not promised to everyone.

    Looks like you've reached some astonishing goals this past year. You seem to really focus on creating the balance in your life, and your family reaps the benefits of you realizing that family comes first. Bless you all in the New Year!

    1. A loving home is honestly such an under rated step up in life. Both my wife and I came from one and just havign that support and loving parents to speak to, even as an adult now, is something I could never put a price on. I'm lucky with the friends I have around me as well, many I treat like family and it just makes me feel warm when I know what they would do for me (and me for them).
      The balance is hard to get, I don't think I'm there yet (my wife tells me I work too much - but then she is a fine one to talk on that subject lol) but each year we figure out what is important.

  5. I love your year in review post and can't wait for this coming year's worth of posts!

    1. Thanks Ed, Hopefully I'll keep it interesting. I have a list of goals as long as my arm! Whether any of them will happen is another story!

  6. This is such a lovely end of year review. You seem to have accomplished so much. Great that all your children are thriving, even with diabetes. Happy New Year 2024


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