Sheds, Campers, Snakes and Dragons!

We turned around expecting there to be an old shoelace or a bit of seaweed or something and there it was, right in front of us, basking in the Sun

Sorry it’s been a little while since the last post.  As you can imagine, we’ve been pretty busy!  Honestly, our days have been busy from the crack of dawn till the end of the night pretty much every day so far!

penguins at the seal sanctuary
Sam watching the penguins on his birthday at the Seal Sanctuary at Gweek, on the Lizard

The boys have loved their first few months at the new pre-school and made some new friends already.   They’ve properly enjoyed being down here so far.  There’s just so much to do with them just on the doorstep, it’s lush.  Gert lush.  One particular highlight is the choice of local parks (particularly Kimberly Park in Falmouth, which is great!), as that’s generally their favourite thing to do at the moment.  We’ve got our first kids birthday party to go to in the village this weekend too, so it should be a good chance to meet some of the other parents and children and introduce ourselves properly.

Kimberley Park Play Area Opening
Kimberley Park in Falmouth. Pretty amazing landscaping and planting plus this awesome wooden playground

I’ve been a little unhapy with my working from home area, as nothing in the house has really given me the privacy or quiet that I really need.  I’m fine, but as soon as the kids come home, the inevitable noise begins, and whether it’s happy, playful noise, fighting and screaming, or they want to see me, it’s all a massive distraction from whatever I’m trying to do at the time, and I instantly lose my flow, so I’ve needed to find a solution.  With the summer holidays looming, I knew I had to do something fast too.  I took another look at the grubby garden shed and with a good few evenings’ worth of elbow grease, I’ve managed to convert it into my own humble little “amazing space”.  Ok, it’s still a shed, but I have a lovely, private space now with a good(ish) internet connection, insulation, power and light and a beautiful view.  I love it!  If you want to know more, I’m actually writing a separate blog about my shed

SHEDLIFE
My new office! – Due an exterior paintjob next!
From This
The Ultimate Shed Office
To This!  Love my new office! #SHEDLIFE

Just the exterior to do now… watch this space!

We’ve had a few visitors down since the last blog, including our first ever campers, Dan and Angie, with their lovely little girl, Maddison.  Given the choice of top, middle or bottom, they decided that the benefits of the view from the top field outweighed the downside of being really open to the windy elements up there.  I had camping envy right from the start!  They’ve got a lovely Dodge Ram American campervan and it made it up the grassy slope just fine.  Was lovely having them here, and the kids all get on really well.  They boys have really missed Maddison since she left!  We have no license for camping or any showers or anything like that yet, but we’ve got a site visit from the people that hand out the licenses coming up soon and we’ll have a better idea what we’ll be able to offer once they’ve been.  I’m hoping it will be pretty flexible, but we’ll see.

If Carlsberg made campers…

A few other friends and family have come to visit too, it’s been so nice to catch up with people and get their wise opinions and various ideas of what we could do here.

We’ve seen a few more bits of wildlife recently, tons of grasshoppers, moths, butterflies etc and sometimes more impressively, the huge Dragonfly.  I’ve seen reddy brown ones and actually got a snap or two of a lovely Golden Ringed Dragonfly before it buzzed off.  They are the largest species of Dragonfly in the UK and very impressive.  We’ve also seen plenty of frogs in our fields and when we were walking back up a path from the paradise that is Kynance Cove recently, Sam just casually says “there’s a snake” – We turned around expecting there to be an old shoelace or a bit of seaweed or something and there it was, right in front of us, basking in the Sun, a beautiful brown adder.  Never seen one before.  As soon as it noticed us give it any kind of attention, ie it’s cover was blown, it was off, so I didn’t have time to get the camera out, but it was a lovely sight.  I’ll get a pic next time 😉

Gold Banded Dragonfly
These dragonflies are such an amazing insect. Huge and such amazing flyers..
Frog at Fairview Farm
Kermit!

So, we’ve also made a little progress finding out about renewable energies and the like.  Had a couple of companies around and a good friend, Rob, who’s very knowledgeable about these things came and cast his eye over it all.  It’s amazing what you can do and how many options there are, but I think this is how we want to end up eventually:

  • Solar Panels on the House.  Maybe larger than the usual 4Kw.  Probably a mix of West and East as this gives the most effective return.  We have the option of a bit of South facing for good measure too.  All on the roof, otherwise you need planning permission.
  • Battery storage. Essential to be able to store the energy you are generating during the sunny times.  Sending excess back into the grid at this point, is basically a “waste” to you, as you get the same feed in tariff regardless.  So what you can do is send all the excess into your batteries, so that when you are drawing more than you are generating, you can use up reserves.  I think a modular system for this is the way to go, so you can start with something and see how you get on and add to it later.  There are a few well known brands pimping their battery storage at the moment.  They are all very pricey!
  • Thermal Store.  To go one further, you can have a thermal store.  This replaces the hot water storage tank and is very efficient at holding hot water.  It’s heated by electric, and can be gas, or solid fuel as well, depending on the setup.  So you can now send any excess power you are generating to heat the water in the tank, which in turn runs the central heating.  Once the water is up to temperature, you then divert the power you’re generating into the battery, or if there’s a deficit, then the power stored in the batteries takes over and heats the water.  Following so far?  Clever, huh!
  • Wind Turbine – Seems to be a bit of an odd one this, but we have loads of wind! Apparently “you won’t get planning”, but permitted development does exist to stick a modest, single turbine on the roof of your house or an outbuilding, subject to several provisos without any planning required.  This is a great addition, but really requires battery storage to make the most use of the random generation from turbines.

I think the plan for now will be to fit a standard 4Kw solar pv system and inverter and just test and measure for a bit, to see what our requirements will really be and the best fit solution should present itself a little further down the line.  Technology is moving fast in this sector too right now.  Watch this space for more info on what we end up doing.

It’s also worth mentioning the spring water at this point too, we have done a little looking into and seems like we have a pretty good flow there so it’s worth persevering with.  I actually got a bit further down that field the other day and found a bit of a natural pond we never knew existed, that the spring feeds into 🙂 The next step on this I think is to arrange to have a sample collected and tested and then go from there.  I’d so love to be able to harness that spring for us to use and drink!

I’m going to sign off now, but before I do, I have to share some pics taken with my new, £9.95 iPhone Macro Lens.  I love it!  Some of the shots of Lichens are amazing!  enjoy and speak soon, as ever, comments, questions or just plain hellos very gratefully received below!…

Team S xx

Back to Nature

we’re already connecting with nature here and starting to really embrace the outdoor lifestyle…

Ok, so two or three weeks along and we’re starting to settle in a little bit now.  We’ve already seen some fairly extreme weather since we’ve been here.  (The kids’ trampoline is now anchored to the floor after a pretty mental bit of wind the other day!).  It’s been a real privilege to have had the recent heatwave here, although that extreme heat certainly made it hard getting much done over that week or so!  We’ve also had heavy rain and a good taste of that Cornish mist too!

Cornish Mist
The view gets completely obliterated by the mist but is quite magical

So I thought I’d write a little post about how we’re already connecting with nature here and starting to really embrace the outdoor lifestyle.  As you can see, we have a mole or two here that are already providing us with some lovely topsoil for future use, the kids love collecting it in their wheelbarrows and topping up the pile.  Keeps them busy anyway!

digging up those mole hills!
The boys settling into their new jobs harvesting mole-hills

Since we’ve been here, we’ve seen so many different birds, I’m pretty useless at naming them all, but the one’s I’ve recognised so far are gulls, buzzards, swallows, robins, tits, pigeons and blackbirds to name a few (plus the housemartin family in our barn that’s just had little chicks) and there’s been plenty of others I have no idea what they are yet.  Soon we will put up some feeders and get the twitcher book out and see if we can recognise any more and take some pics.

Big Fat Toad at Fairview Farm
Sam loved this little fella!

We’ve also seen rabbits – plenty of rabbits!, moles (obviously here but we haven’t clocked one yet), frogs, a massive toad, some excellent bats swooping about right in front of our window at dusk, plus evidence of foxes and/or badgers too.  After being in the city so long, it’s so amazing to be around it all.

We’re getting used to where various families of animals live and you start to respect their little spaces and get to know when they’re around.  The Robin’s absolutely love you mowing the grass, as it makes worms and grubs easy pickings for them, so they look forward to seeing the mower every time!

bee
Some lovely buzzers about!

I’d never really given it two thoughts either, but my relationship with insects seems to be changing already too.  There are so many bugs and spiders here, I feel a lot less jumpy about it all already.  And bees – we love bees!  There are so many bees!  I’d like to look into it a bit, but I think that more people need to help the bees, so perhaps we can assist, as there certainly seem to be a lot here.  In our small garden of an evening, when it’s quiet, you can hear so many bees, it’s almost deafening once you tune into it, but a lovely experience listening to them and watching them buzzing busily around.  Quite relaxing.

woodland
Magical bit of old woodland

Other than that, we’re starting to work on the land a little, using the battery power hedge trimmer and brush cutter, which is allowing us to slowly cut through some pretty big stuff, allowing us access to new areas.  There are still some bits we just haven’t got to yet, which although is a bit frustrating, is also a little exciting too.  So far we’ve revealed a couple of lovely, secluded wooded areas, a built in barbeque area we had no idea was there, and yesterday, I finally managed to cut through to what I think is the source of the natural spring on our site.  Quite far away from where we actually thought it was to start off with!

We’ve managed to mow some lanes around and through some of the fields and eventually, they will all connect, allowing everyone to walk or jog around the whole plot to enjoy the various areas that we can uncover, look after and landscape in time.  I’m really keen to see if we can make use of that natural spring too so the investigation will commence on that soon.

natural spring
Our spring contributes to the River Cober, which runs along the boundary

Please enjoy a few more pics I’ve taken below of various plants and areas around our garden and the paddocks.  As always, we appreciate any comments or questions!  Hopefully, Clare will be along soon to do some writing too, so watch this space.  Thanks for listening!

Team S xxx

Giant Gunnera
This is Steve. One of about four Giant Gunneras that grow here.  The leaves are HUGE!
ancient woodland
more ancient woodland – so much moss and lichens
Globe Artichoke
Globe Artichoke growing in our run-down polytunnel
wild flower arrangement
A selection of wild flowers and stuff Clare and the boys picked from the fields
Exploring!
The Ralphies and Bradley came to visit, everyone exploring..

The decision…

I’m writing this now because finally, despite it all, we have managed to make it happen – we are now Cornish!  (well, sort of!)

Around a year or so ago, Clare and I made a big decision.  We had no idea it would take so long, or be so complex, but there we go – definitely one of those, “easier said than done” ideas for sure!  Our decision was to move away and start a new life, in the country.  In Cornwall to be more precise.

Go Confidently in the Direction of Your Dreams!
Motivation from my wall!

Having lived in the city of Bristol for twenty years now, we both decided it was time to try something different.  Very different.  We’ve both gone through a lot of personal changes in the last few years.  Giving birth to two little boys and basically growing up (a bit anyway) I guess have been the main ones.  We both grew up in the country (Clare was actually an Essex Girl to start with), and really appreciate how great a childhood that was and how advantageous that could be in today’s modern society.  So, knowing that our oldest, Dennis, would be starting school the following September, and having totted up the funds and made the sums add up, it felt like the time was right.  We had a chance to grab the dream by the scruff of the neck and do whatever it took to make it happen.  Since then, it has nearly been de-railed so many times, for various reasons, but I’m writing this now because finally, despite it all, we have managed to make it happen – we are now Cornish!  (well, sort of!)

Tyre Swing
The boys love their new tyre swing

Why Cornwall and Falmouth?  Well, we’ve both felt the pull there a lot.  It’s beautiful!  My family roots are actually from that area too, with my Great Grandfather leaving Truro in the early 1900s to the bright lights of Swindon, then my Gramp moving down to Bristol, and then my Dad to the Cotswolds.  I’ve spent a fair bit of time there and love it very much.  Clare went to university for three years in Falmouth and absolutely loves going to the beach every day at every opportunity, so for her it was a no-brainer.  We have some very good friends there too, so a start of a social network thrown in as a massive bonus.  (Hi Paul, Gareth, Sarah, Alan and Heather!)

Gylly Beach
Gylly Beach at Falmouth

We wanted to start this blog with the idea of keeping all our friends, family and anyone else interested updated with our progress, and who knows, maybe inspire someone to make that big change they’ve been talking about in their life too.  We’ve never really blogged like this before, so stick with it and we’ll try our best not to bore you as it goes along!  We’d really appreciate any comments, questions, ideas etc too, so please don’t be shy!

So, over the next few weeks, we can hopefully go into a bit more detail about the 10-acre smallholding we’ve ended up with, not far from Falmouth near the South Coast of West Cornwall, the ideas we have for it, and hopefully the progress we are making as we go along!

For now, I just want to say that we have arrived, safe and sound, with all our stuff (I think!) and are massively appreciating being in and around all this nature.  It really is fantastic and we’re connecting spiritually with it already in ways I could never have imagined.  I also wanted to just outline a few of our objectives to also help with a little accountability (yes Pete!) – We have some pretty big plans, some things we could only do in the country, and other things we aspire to make changes in our lifestyle and also take on new hobbies, skills and interests.  Many new leaves to be turning over!

A Far Reaching View At Last!
View From our New Bedroom Window

We have, at the moment, a very rough list of objectives.  Here goes.  Within the next three years, we hope to:

a) Be living completely off grid (or as near to it as possible)  I’ll definitely be going into a lot more detail on this as we go along, as I know I have several friends very interested in this side of things, as am I.

b) Have both lost a bit of weight and be living a much healthier, fitter and more active lifestyle, including trying to move towards eating less animal products.  Also a big move to a much more outdoor life and LESS OR NO TELLY!  We also want to have taken up some new (or old) hobbies; tennis, dancing, swimming, surfing, windsurfing, sailing, canoeing, archery, music, cycling, bouldering, etc etc.  They’re all on the list plus many others I’ve missed out!

c) Give back to the local community – Get involved and give.  Whether it’s use of our land, our time, our energy and/or money, we want to feel like we are contributing in a positive, fulfilling way to those people that need it.  I’ve already mowed the lane for our lovely 90-odd-year-old neighbour and it felt good!

d) Be embracing our creativity a LOT more.  For me, writing, music and woodwork.  For Clare, arts, crafts (and singing?)  The kids love them all.

e) Make the land work for us financially.  We won’t be keeping livestock for the food industry, but we do have many ideas of various things that are possible.  I won’t go into details on this right now, but within three years, we hope to be generating at least enough income to pay the mortgage each month.  This seems like a tangible target at the moment and one that will take a lot of pressure off.  We are also very open to any suggestions if anyone has any ideas of things they could do to make use of some of the land – please message us!  The only pre-requisite at the moment is that whatever we do there needs to be pretty quiet, so NO RAVES!  😦

f) To be producing at least 50% of the food that we eat, right here on the farm.  We’re pescetarians, so hopefully this should be acheiveable…

So there we go.  We have so much more to say and show you all, but no proper internet for the next couple of weeks, so I’ll say again, please interact if you wish, it will always be great to hear from anyone reading this, and we’ll be along with the next installment and some more photos soon!

Peace.  Tim and Team Sobey x

Tug-o-war in the Garden
Heave!