Finding time to do anything…

during the summer holidays is tricky. I definitely underestimated the amount of time I’d have to able to catch up on work, clean the animals, sort the house or write a blog. From two blogs a week, I’m now managing one every two weeks…

So to all parents out there who are constantly juggling work and childcare you have my sympathies and my support. I’m fortunate to share childcare with a lovely friend, so once a week I have a day off to cram all my jobs in. Tomorrow I’ll have her little ones so she has a break and can do whatever she can in the time allowed.

However much I appreciate the quiet moments during my day off parenting, I’m happy to have shared the last few weeks with Isla and Molly. I’ve left them to their own devices in order for them to create their own games and fun, but we’ve also had a talented friend teach us watercolours. We’ve visited a festival, the beach, the big city of Plymouth, many playgrounds and Woodlands. The weather has been a battle, so the welly boots have been donned regularly…. but we’ve had a great if not tiring time.

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We’re now gearing up for a rather large and exciting adventure – we’ve got two weeks left in the UK before leaving for South America and beyond. We’ll return when the clocks have rolled back, the days are shorter, darker and cool, and the smell of bonfires and fireworks fill the air. So instead of blogging I should really be packing, shifting and sorting through the quite terrifying amount of clothes, books, toys and kit we have to take with us. Hopefully my next blog will be before we go – but who knows if I’ll find the time to write anything vaguely worthwhile in the meantime. So, good luck mums and dads – only four weeks left to go!

Mermaid in training…

As a scuba diver I’ve always toyed with the idea of learning how to free dive. The peacefulness and weightlessness achieved whilst diving is one of the many reasons I took up the sport. Whilst descending slowly into the blue I feel a complete sense of calm. It’s almost meditative – I do feel totally at peace. Free diving appealed – especially as you rid yourself of the bulk and weight of tanks and regulators.  It would be just me and the water…and my breath.

I arrived at Vobster quay nearly two weeks ago now. It was the day of the huge storm that shrouded the South West. I had previously met my hugely experienced free diving teacher Emma at one of the UK’s Dive Shows – she was very impressive, full of energy and passion for her sport. I felt like I was in very capable hands. This two day course was also a chance for me to relearn some of the diving theories I had learned many years ago whilst doing my dive master course. I needed a total refresh of the physics and physiology theories behind both scuba and free diving. It was good to switch on my brain again!

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Free diving training – harder (and colder) than it looks!

After the first day I realised that I had underestimated how difficult free diving can be – especially when you’re suffering from a cold, albeit it a mild one. I’ve witnessed free divers descend and ascend on one breath effortlessly. But for me, I could just make around 3 metres before rising up due to blocked ears or my diaphragm contracting to a degree which I found really uncomfortable.

To complete the course, and become an accredited free diver, would take me longer than two days. Not only did my ears cause me a lot of issues but I need to spend a lot of time practising my breath hold. Our bodies natural reaction to the CO2 build up whilst we hold our breath is something that you need to learn to manage, to over come and to embrace. It was a shame not to fully complete the course but I will return to finish it in the New Year. I’ve still acquired new skills and knowledge, I managed to get away to do the course in the first place which is always a logistical challenge and I met some lovely like-minded divers too.

I won’t be starting up my professional mermaid business just yet then…maybe next year.

 

Hens…

We rescued 10 ex-intensive farmed hens well over a year ago. A plea was broadcast on a local south west radio station and I knew we had the space to home some of the 200 which were looking to be rehomed. 

A wonderful friend collected them from Cornwall and agreed to drive them across the Tamar bridge and down to the South Hams. When they arrived they were terrified and featherless. They had no experience of perching – so roosted on the floor – some made it to the nesting boxes but with no wing feathers some couldn’t. They certainly weren’t used to daylight and stayed in the hen house for 14 days before venturing outside. 


After a number of weeks their skeletal wings began to feather up. Subtle ginger tips sprouted through the meaty skin on their backs. And the more they became accustomed to their new home the more they flourished. It didn’t take long for the egg production line to speed up – at one point we were receiving 14 eggs or more a day. Suffice to say all our friends and neighbours didn’t have to shop for eggs for many months. 

Sadly, on occasion, one or two became poorly and passed away. The rest remained resolutely healthy – friendly and fantastic layers. Molly and Isla handled them regularly and our once fearful birds became household pets. 


I was spurred to write this all down because of an immediate call of help from the British Hens Welfare Trust – they need to urgently rehome hens in Rotherham this weekend. If you have space – hens don’t need a huge amount – these lovely birds are simple to look after and produce beautiful eggs. 

http://www.bhwt.org.uk/ Please take a look at this link to see other appeals all throughout the country. Each has a personality and you won’t be able not to fall in love with them – promise. 

Savouring our summer – a sensory feast…

We are lucky to be experiencing high temperatures, clear, vivid blue skies and blooming, beautiful gardens, hedgerows and rolling fields. Today is a good day to live on the south coast of Devon. It’s glorious.

I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be – this morning on my jog/brisk walk/dawdle past the sweeping stretches of golden sands on the coast, I found myself in Blackpool Valley. It’s a cool and shady respite to the warming morning sun. A river idles through it and the sound of its babble is my accompaniment – there’s no need for iPods today. I can hear our majestic pheasants calling to each other, the cries of seagulls and the lowing of cows.

As I near the muddy footpath that winds up the valley I can smell a gorgeous scent – it’s a climbing English rose, pale but stunning and its scent is divine. It masks the cows…All I can see is dappled light shifting through ancient trees as I work my way steadily up hill. I squelch through swampy patches of path and stop to rest on a crumbling, worn stone wall. Finally I reach the top of the valley – and the narrow coast path opens up to farm track and I level off. It’s very hot and pretty uncomfortable but it was worth every step.

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Blackberries in the paddock

Back at home I notice the blackberry bush is beginning to flower – its soft lilac tinged petals are where the plant will bear its fruit. And with that follows Autumn…it won’t be long until we’re pulling on our knitted jumpers, baking blackberry and apple crumbles and the nights will be dark and cool again.

But for now – I’m savouring our schizophrenic English summer, for all its faults (erratic temperature fluctuations to name one), when it gets it right it is simply the most wonderful thing in the world.

Is there a good time to get a dog…

This is a question I’ve been asking myself for some time now. Since losing Reuben (our beloved German Shepherd cross) a year ago, we have been a dogless family. It’s been a little breather for us, especially me, whilst Monty travels and works away from home so regularly. To not constantly worry about the dog – whether it’s walked sufficiently or sat alone at home whilst I’m at playgroup has been a lovely respite.

However, we both feel the time has come to find a new dog (or dogs) to join us at Orchard View. Reubs was a rescue dog from Holly Hedge Rescue Centre in Bristol. He was huge, hairy, excitable but a gentle bear of a dog especially around little one’s. He was also incredibly handsome and strong – we all ran many miles together over the years.

We’d like to take on a rescue dog if possible, we all know that there are thousands of dogs in need of homes all throughout the country. But with small children, a cat, hens, ducks, sheep and the fact that we’re surrounded by farms with cattle and horses in most fields – this new dog has to be the right one. And you can never underestimate the time, energy and love a dog needs from you. It is like having another child to consider all the time so some serious thought has to be put in to owning a dog for sure.

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Reubs & Isla

So we are supporting Holly Hedge this weekend, at their grand opening of a new kennel block, lovingly dedicated to Reuben. Here we can talk to the volunteers and staff about finding a suitable new member of the Halls household – once we’re back from our sojourns this summer. If you’re local to Bristol – please come and join the fun in Long Ashton – the Holly Hedge event is open to all – http://www.hollyhedge.org.uk/default.aspx

Dogs are and always have been devoted companions of man and woman alike. The house was so deathly quiet without Reubs in it – it’s time to fill our home with barks and yelps, hair and muddy footprints. I’m sure Reubs would approve of our decision – but I can promise you, my lovely boy, you will never be forgotten.

If we all give one hour a week…

We could make a substantial difference to our schools. I’ve heard recently that our local primary school, which Isla and Molly attend, have had to drastically cut their budget for 2017/2018 by tens of thousands of pounds. This means losing additional support staff, our forest school teacher, and so much more. Our Government is not supporting our schools sufficiently – this is obvious, but do we as parents do enough?

In some cases, if parents have full time jobs, of course it is difficult to commit time to our schools. But those that have a little bit more flexibility could do so much to help enrich the environment our little one’s spend the majority of their time within. Be it painting the grey walls in the playground to running summer fetes.

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Me supervising whilst drinking tea – I promise I did paint and not just drink tea..

When Isla began school last September I volunteered to join the Friends group, a small selection of Mums and Dads who organise fundraising events in aid of the school. I agreed to organise one event per year – feeling like I’m contributing to the collective effort but still retaining time for my work. Last month I became the Friend’s secretary and my friend, who I initially roped into organising our ‘one’ event a year, became the new Chair. We are now in the throws of organising a mini festival after our sports day taking place this Friday (please let the sun shine!).

I didn’t expect to get so involved with this little group of proactive and energetic parents, but I’m incredibly pleased I did – especially now. When our schools are at breaking point, we can not stand by and not step in. Friends groups, PTA’s and other fundraising committees need your help urgently. So don’t be shy, please put your hand up to join in. One hour a week could make a massive and lasting difference – I would thank you and think you rock, but your children would thank you even more. Not it’s over to you!

My pop up to Bristol & our local pop ups…

I’m in sunny Bristol today, we have an office here, and although it’s a trek from Dartmouth I really enjoy driving up and being with our lovely team (especially when Suze brings us crumble chocolate cakes from Lanzarote). However, this enjoyment is fleeting as our brilliant ‘nanny’ Hannah will be leaving us at the end of July.

She has been a god send, really, and I’m not sure what I will do without her. For one day a week she’d get the kids ready for school, take them in and collect them. She then feeds and entertains them until I returned for bedtime. It was only one day a week, but that day was my day. Now, it looks uncertain about what I’ll be able to juggle – realistically.

It’s a very common dilemma many parents face, mums and dads alike. Without local grandparents for additional childcare, or extremely early breakfast clubs and even later after school clubs the return to work can be so hard. I’d hope to find a childminder or nanny locally who can take on Hannah’s role but it’ll be tricky.

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Me about to eat a chocolate crumble cake/at work…

However, last week I met some inspiring and talented ladies, who with young families, have established their own businesses, thus giving them flexibility to be a very present figure throughout their children’s lives. These women produce stunning silver jewellery, unique ceramics, beautiful watercolours, bespoke cushions & leather bags and source homewares from Africa – to mention just a few. Unfortunately I’m not so talented and can’t set myself up in this way due to my lack of creative skills or aptitude for building such imaginative businesses.

I imagine that the majority of us have local pop-up shops and stores so I urge you to seek them out – our current pop-up shop is taking place at Stokeley

I aim to visit on Thursday – to support small local businesses, especially working mums but also to be inspired, perhaps I need to relinquish my fears about starting something on my own and consider something new. My days in Bristol maybe numbered but perhaps something good will come of it.

Consolidating and looking back & to the future…

It’s a big day for the UK, it’s voting day and whilst I’d like to say that we aren’t a hugely divided political household, we’ve had some robust conversations about which party symbolises what we truly & realistically need in the future. I’m not going to comment online about who I’m voting for, it’s a personal choice – but I urge you all to use your right to vote. It’s a wonderful privilege, which we share with some of the world, but certainly not all of it, especially as women. So use it wisely. I wait with anticipation for the outcome…and I’ll be taking both my children with me to vote after school, so they can begin to fathom the way our political systems operate in the UK. And to witness that every single vote can and does matter.

Today has made me stop in my tracks. It’s the 8 June, we’ve already lived through half of 2017. I’m trying to use today to look back on how we’ve spent the previous 6 months. Fortunately my Freeprints arrived today, I try and print out photos rather than store them all on my laptop, and from the pile of pictures before me I can see we’ve managed to squeeze in quite a bit. We’ve had some highs, and a few lows. The country too has been through so much, especially within the last few months. Be it good or bad this is life.

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Happy times

And, when I look at the photos I’ve chosen to print out they’re all of us as a family, spending time with friends and family, travelling and taking part in friend’s weddings, raising our ducklings, developing our home and exploring more places where we live and a little further a field. It’s what I imagine life should be, I know I’ve not taken photos of me hoovering the living room or cleaning out the muck from the goats house but it appears that we’re leading happy lives and that’s what matters. I feel very grateful, and very lucky. I hope that the next 6 months brings happiness and contentedness to us all…and perhaps, a new Government…!

No tele day…

It’s 08.45am and a record has been set. I’m not sure how proud I should be feeling about this, as it says quite a bit about how our mornings generally begin, but we have not put the TV on yet. 

I’ve checked my weather app (I’ve one optimistic and one that’s pessimistic so go for the average) and today is the last day for a whole week of sun and settled early summer weather. 

So the TV is staying resolutely off. We’ve already had the peacock Queen and Princess performing a song and dance routine. The saucepans, cake tins and bowls have been utilised as a uncomfortably loud drum kit. I’m constantly man managing and mediating between the girls as to how many turns each may have on the single hula hoop we own. 

It’s exhausting…I’m sitting in the garden trying to type this on my phone. However the girls are now arguing over the swing…one is slightly higher than the other and that one is obviously the better. But, after a few minutes peace resumes. I can hear the morning bird song, the babbling of a little stream which runs besides our garden. I can even hear our neighbour’s peacock call echoing down the valley. The squeaking of the swing set provides a constant rhythm…there’s no Paw Patrol theme tune and no guilt. 


As always our children need to discover their own ways and methods to entertain themselves. I may not get the cleanest kitchen I’d like but I’ve engaged more with my little ones. School will soon begin again and these times will become few and far between. So the television can stay off today…at least until it’s time to make tea. 

MCS’s Plastic Challenge

The Marine Conservation Society’s Plastic Challenge begins tomorrow. They want you and me to try and live without single use plastics for up to one month. This isn’t a simple challenge, it’s a mammoth battle – one of which I fear we are losing at a frightening rate. 

If you’re not sure about the devastating impact of plastics on our oceans and marine life please, please watch A Plastic Ocean: https://www.plasticoceans.org/film/about.html

Perhaps this will be the encouragement you need to take the challenge on and to try, in some capacity, to reduce the amount of plastics we send to landfill every second of every day. 

I’m going to start the challenge today – I’ve signed up here: https://www.mcsuk.org/plasticchallenge/

I’m using the opportunity of it being half term, and so I have a little more time, to go to our local food stores instead of Sainsbury’s. I’ll have a little more time to visit our farm shops that don’t wrap every piece of fruit and veg in single use plastic wrappings. And who sell refillable soap and washing detergent bottles. Their delicious breads aren’t wrapped in cellophane but paper. 

I’ll have a chance to look closely to what I can realistically do to stop using plastics. It won’t be easy but it’s absolutely necessary.