Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Great Power Cut of 2011!

Well the day started off innocently enough and pretty much like any other day here at the lodge. A couple of 2 minute power cuts, nothing to worry about. Our guests were out in the garden anyway and unaware of the annoying little incidents.
Being the perfect host that I am I had already made up the venison stew for the evening meal and it was busy doing it's thing in the oven.
The winds started to pick up quite rapidly outside much to the annoyance of our chickens who find it pretty imposible to walk with any dignity when there's a small tornado whipping up their feathers. They end up flying along the ground at an incredible pace and generally in the opposite direction to which they want to go.
Parsley, as usual, believed the world was coming to an end and began to run around here enclosure like a goat possessed, Basil looking on in dismay and far more concerned about the lack of pellets he had received that morning.
Well, with trees bending and gates swinging the power cut finally arrived at around 5pm. Not too much of a problem as it was still light.
Now where did I put those candles?
Our guests came indoors and, in true crisis style, we got the Monopoly and cards out.
Once 7pm arrived I think it became clear that the power was not returning for some time and so the hunt for candles and torches commenced. Success, one candle and 2 torches with flat batteries!
There was also no water as our electrically run pumps were no longer operative.
Not to be panicked, we put the wood burner on full blast and began the very slow process of cooking rice in a pan on top of it. In true British style we managed to make an endless supply of cups of tea on our tiny camping stove. You can deal with anything if you have tea!
Mark was called out to work on numerous occasions during the night due to power poles and trees falling down everywhere. It was pretty scarey sat indoors listening to it all, seemed to come in waves of complete calm and then chaos for a few seconds. Just before the rains came I manage to get the sheep in, more for my benefit than theirs I think as they seemed completely unmoved by the whole thing.
We could hear lots of loud noises on the roof as various sized branches and debris hit us, made all the more scarey by the night time darkness having arrived.
Monopoly by torch light soon ended and as the heavy rains fell and the wind seemed to subside we all made our way to the safety of our comfy beds.
The following morning was a beautiful day but still without power.
We discovered 2 fallen trees but no other damage at all, what a relief. Normality was restored at 3pm that day when the power finally returned.
It's life on the edge here in Garston. Do come and visit.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It's been a while

We are so sorry for abandoning our blog for such an amount of time but as usual our fast paced and crazy lives took over.
To update you fully. We finished our sunflower season with a bang and sold out every time we went to market. It wasn't however to be our fortune maker just a little bit of pocket money you might say once the petrol and parking tickets had been paid! We had a blast though and i think will continue with this venture next season. It made people smile and you can't beat that.

Big changes too in the full time employment stakes. I left for a year and am now in the middle of my time off. However, very unlike our normal selves, we made a decision to take a slightly safer option when Mark was offered the perfect local cop job. It seemed too good an opportunity to let go and so I am, much to my dismay on cold days, alone in my fight against the constraints of full time employment and normal life. Mark does fight the cause too but only on his days off!

Our busy season is well and truly over now at the lodge. We have a few guests due to stay each month but certainly not enough to keep the debt collectors away. Fear not though we are, as is the norm, hatching various plans. Sending all the brood to the circus is at the fore front of this list.

We recently returned from a trip to England where, for once, the sun was shining and it wasn't raining. The lodge and animals were looked after by our wonderful neighbour Pam without whom we would be lost sometimes. Upon return there had been various feats of misadventure by all the fur coated creatures.
Jack and Ryan, our pigs, had decided that the goat enclosure was offering so much more than theirs was. So, sensing that the electric fence had finally lost it's charge, they made a run for it. When I say run I suspect it was more about getting their stomachs to roll forward and then allowing momentum to do the rest. Once on the heavenly side of the fence they took over the goats hut and had an amazing holiday in a new and unexplored land.
Reo, our sheep, upon seeing that the pig enclosure was absent of it's snoring and farting occupants decided that she too should check out new territory. Once again helped by the fact that our electric fence was on holiday she lept across the great divide. Sid, our fur ball sheep, was on a leash and unable to follow as I feel sure he would have.
Parsley, upon seeing the new occupants of her enclosure, began to butt everything. She doesn't like change does our Parsley and her answer to everything is to hit it with her head first and then when that doesn't sort it out well she hits it again. Basil was uninterested and bored of eating hay.
I am sure you can imagine the scene as we returned from holiday to see, well, to see no-one where they should be.
Hercules greeted us with loud meows which continued all night. Infact they are still continuing and we've been home a week now. His routine has finally returned though. At the first hint of movement in the house each morning he is at the front door meowing like life itself depends upon him being heard. Once inside he eats biscuits, cries for milk and goes to his cushion in the lounge. This cushion, although already soft and fluffy, is then padded and clawed for 15 minutes to make it softer and fluffier until he finally goes to sleep. Here is where Hercules remains until he is forcibly ejected around 10pm each night.
So, the electric fence is now charged, the animals in their own beds, Hercules on his cushion indoors, the fires glowing with a welcoming warmth, normality is restored once again at Castle Hill Lodge.
Wonder what this next year is going to bring? Whatever it is we can't wait to get on with it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A new year, a new start?

2011 has begun at the frenetic pace that seems to encompass most of our life and major changes are afoot! we do not wish to cause any undue panic or alarm and assure you that some things remain the same, for instance the goats are still susceptible to awe inspiring bouts of flatulence and Hercules the cat is still capable of enduring amazing amounts of fuss at the hands of any willing volunteer. No, the animals are all safe and well and evidently completely sane. We, however, are arguably completely insane! Once again we have stepped off the employment merry-go-round and turned our backs on security and predictability! Yep, we have once again abandoned our employers for another year! It would be fair to assume that we have a plan for the coming twelve months, unfortunately.... we have not! We do, of course have the B&B and have enjoyed a good season to date, thank you very much, but as we hurtle toward the long cold nights of winter, the coffers are likely to get very lean. We are, however, undeterred and have decided that unpredictability, uncertainty and self sufficiency are actually very good for the soul, hence we have now become farmers of Sunflowers! 
We have about 5000ish of the blooming things and on Saturday 29th January, 2011, Sharon and I went to market.
The night before we gathered the troops, when I say troops, we mustered four of our good friends, plied them all with food and wine and then marched happily into the paddock for the rather chaotic, ill-disciplined and hap hazard harvest! Cut, trimmed and bunched our way through the next couple of hours and, needless to say, a couple more bottles of wine, and before you know it we had our stock.
Simple, yellow and stunning, three large buckets of floral gold and happiness in a pot!
Up at 6am, we squeezed the buckets into the back of the truck and headed to town. Even the boulders that fell overnight and smashed the road to pieces around the Devil's Staircase were unable to stop us as we strode confidently toward Queenstown Farmers Market!
We did not quite make our fortune but people did like the little bunches of sunshine and we sold a few, we also made lots of people smile on what was a very gloomy day and starred in many, many holiday photographs. Sunflowers are the way ahead, at least they better be if we are gonna eat this winter!!!!!