Results for category "Old Orchard View"

Creatures of Habit

After a restful sleep in our warm little caravan, we awoke Monday morning to prepare for our departure. We packed up our things, cooked our last breakfast and loaded up Mark’s car. We said our goodbyes to Christian and Anja and climbed in for the ride to Bude.

When we arrived, we went straight to the laundrette to get ourselves situated for a clean start at our new WWOOF host and then stopped a couple of places for other needed supplies. By the time these errands were completed, lunchtime was upon us, so we popped into a second (of three) Indian restaurant in town and shared another lovely curry.

Tummies full, we ventured towards the sea to begin our walk for the afternoon, this time heading North to Sandymouth Bay. The sun joined us for almost the entire 5 mile walk, a welcome companion for the cool breezes coming off the sea. Although we’d prepared ourselves with our wellies, on this walk we found very little mud, even though it had rained much of the evening and night.

After some warming hot chocolate and a soy latte, we walked across town to Mark’s shop and his kind offer to give us a lift to Ceridwen, our next WWOOFing host. Only a short journey from Bude, we arrived just before dark at Ceridwen and were greeted by Rob and another WWOOFer who arrived that morning, Elana, from Tasmania, Australia. Diana returned home just a few moments later, as we all sat sharing some tea and greeting one another. Rob and Diana have two dogs, one old chap and a new little puppy, and two cats, as well.

Whilst we unpacked, the crew prepared a yummy vegetable stew with dumplings for our evening meal, which suited well as the cold air started to replace the sun’s warmth of the day. The stew was followed by a hot cup of tea and conversation before K and I excused ourselves for the night to have a hot shower and finish settling in.

Dormouse Census 2013

Sunday morning and we were again treated to a few early rays of sunshine as we cooked our breakfast and sat discussing plans for our final day at Old Orchard View. Spending time honing our hedge clearing skills was on the agenda, along with home building and report writing. So, in contrast to yesterday, the sun fulfilling it’s early morning promise, we stepped out to the thick, thorny hedging in warm sunshine, shears and gloves again at the ready.

Within a couple of hours, we had easily removed the final strip of overgrown hedging, completing the work amiss much distraction, as the cows took an unwelcome interest in our activities. Next job, dormouse house placement.

Mark has grand plans for creating a lake in his lower field but this involves removing hedgerow, which would have an affect on the homes of many small creatures, including the endangered dormouse. So, before he can carryout the work he has to “make reasonable attempts to discover if dormice live in the hedge, and if so rehouse them”. By offering them a perfect nesting box, we plan to get some idea how many of our furry friends live there, perhaps a sort of dormouse census, if you like.

The boxes allow for the dormice, or hazel mice, to have shelter from the weather, a warm, dry place to put their nest of grass and honeysuckle bark. They actually prepare two different nests, one at or below the ground for winter hibernation and one in tree hollows or dense scrub to be used in the spring or summer for sleeping and breeding. The winter nest is very small, only about the size of an apple. Whereas, the spring/summer nest is about the size of a grapefruit, or big enough to fill the nest box.

The mice are nocturnal creatures and hibernate through the chilly British winter, so it’s not common you would spy a dormouse, but you can see evidence of their visit if they’ve nested in one of the nesting boxes placed for them. We placed ten boxes for Mark along one of the most tree-filled hedges on his land.

Dormouse housing complete, we went back to enjoy our customary (late) lunch with the addition of yesterday’s yummy apple crumble before fulfilling our final job for the day. We had been asked to write down information on our experiences with other hosts and the practices they used at their sites, as well as, experience at retreat facilities. In addition, we had offered to research dwelling options for rabbits and how to build cob buildings.

A couple of hours later, we had our notes all typed up and emailed to Mark. By now the weather had changed for the worse, the rain coming down heavily. Nevertheless, with our trusty umbrella, we decided we should stick to our routine and go for our daily walk. It was wonderful to have a final walk through the now familiar country lanes. We reflected on happy times spent at the smallholding as the rain drove unceasingly against our steadfast shield, returning invigorated and not too damp to our cozy caravan. Accompanied by the rain’s peaceful patter, we prepared ourselves for our transition day. Tomorrow we are off to Ceridwen!

Welcome WWOOFers

Saturday morning greeted us with chilly air and cloudy skies, as we made our way over to the kitchen barn. As we prepared our breakfast, the sun appeared from behind the clouds and inspired hope for a beautiful day. With Christian and Anja arriving yesterday evening, today was going to be a day of introductions.

The momentary glimpse of sun, unfortunately, soon faded as the the rain began shortly after and delayed our planned tour of the property that we intended to provide for Christian and Anja. We waited the rain out a little while, pointed at some things visible from the barn and then finally were able to start the tour in slowed sprinkles.

It was a cold rain as we toured the couple through the different buildings and land features whilst introducing them to the animals and running through the tasks Mark would like completed. It wasn’t long before the natural elements won out and we were forced back into the barn for a hot cup of tea and conversation.

Christian and Anja have actually not long graduated from high school. The law in Germany just changed so that students graduate a year earlier, so they experienced the overlap year – both they and the class behind them graduated together. This meant that there were twice as many young adults entering the workforce from high school and applying to university. So, they decided that WWOOFing would be a good way to wait out some time for the push of people to place themselves, to experience a bit of organic farm work and to improve their English. They both will be attending university next year using an English-speaking course line. The last three months of WWOOFing seems to have given them a lot of experience with the language and communications, as they appear to us to do very, very well!

They also shared with us some of their adventures WWOOFing – places they had stayed, the type of work they’d done, accommodations, etc. They echoed the challenges on receiving responses to contact emails and finding placements, specifically when their plans for a 7-week stay fell through after they’d spoken about their intended destination to a couple of different WWOOFers along their travels. It seems that the host owns a hotel and was mainly looking for free/cheap laborers and that the conditions were very poor, so they decided not to head to that place, after all.  This left them with a 7-week loose end they had to find new placements to fill, which ended up including Old Orchard View. We hope that they will enjoy their time here as much as we have done.

After our tea, a little warmed and more comfortable, Christian and Anja went to the large barn for a “rainy day job” of shoveling old corn left there by previous ownership into bags ready to be hauled away, while we headed down to the apple tree spied the day before yesterday that we had plans for. The rain had let up now just enough to make the apple picking slightly more manageable for K, although the mud, cows and reach still added enough of a twist for him and a little entertainment for R.

Once we had washed the apples, we set about the business of peeling and chopping them for our apple crumble. This took quite some time to do, as we had decided to make three batches in reasonably large pans – the decision based mainly on what pans we had located and also because we wanted to ensure our host was afforded returns worth the time we were putting in.

When enough apples were chopped and ready, we prepared the crumble for the batch and into the oven it went. Repeat. Pause for peeling exhaustion. Finally, the third and final batch was in the oven. So, we headed outside to finish stapling the fruit cage we had worked on several days ago. Every time we’d went to finish over the past several days, the rain would appear. Finally, we were able to complete the task and stand the wall upright so that the obstacle course in front our little caravan was at last removed.

The final crumble bubbled with warm and sweet goodness as it came out of the oven. K set about feeding the animals, while R prepared our standard main meal, followed today by warm and yummy apple crumble. We had to have seconds and one of us even thirds 😉 . Then we ventured out for our walk in the now dark surrounding lanes with our trusty flashlight for safety as the wind and the rain brought a chill to our fingers and a quickness to our step.

Upon returning, we stopped in to say good night to Christian and Anja, who were in the kitchen barn preparing a late evening meal. As the rain continued through the evening, we lay snug and warm in our cozy caravan, preparing ourselves for our last day on this hill.

Coastal Exploration

Thursday passed much the same as the previous two days, with more hedges being cleared and trenches dug against a grey, wintry background. By the end of the day, we had two very significant piles of brambles in the bottom field and a respectable mound of earth near the front gate. Border duty completed, we set our minds to planning a day out for the rest day to follow.

Thursday turned to Friday and we awoke to our second day off at Old Orchard View, again cool and damp, but with plenty of promise in the air. Mark had, again very kindly, offered to collect us and drop us at a place near his shop, so by 8:30am we were speeding though country lanes on our way to Bude.

With the weather much improved from Monday, we felt it was time to go on a longer walk to stretch our legs and appreciate the rugged beauty which is currently lying so close. Armed with a good set of wellies , our ever-faithful brolly and a couple of snacks, we hit the Cornish coastline.

The wind was blustery and the waves high as we made our way up the hill along the coastal path. Rocks jutted out like jagged teeth as white waves broke on the eternally enduring shores. As we winded our way along the path, we were pleased with our last minute decision to wear our wellies as the mud was often ankle deep.

After a good couple of miles of undulating coast, it was time to turn inland to circle back to the town centre. For this we chose to walk alongside of the Bude Canal. The paved surface was a stark contrast to the precarious sliding and scrambling that had gone before and we even found a small stream in which to clean our wellies, making ourselves a little more presentable, as we were next planning to have lunch.

We returned to the town centre pleasantly tired and in search of much needed nourishment, and immediately headed towards a local Indian restaurant, but alas, they were closed on Friday lunchtimes. So, we made our way towards the second Indian place we knew and had eaten at on Monday but, again, they were closed. By now, with stomachs rumbling and suspecting a strange Friday Indian restaurant conspiracy, we made our way to a lovely little diner and set about inspecting their menu.

An hour later, satisfied from a delicious homemade lasange and some Cornish fudge, we were making our way to the leisure centre to complete our washing duties. Again, as on Monday, it was wonderful to have a proper wash and we were soon sat in our “regular” cafe sipping tea and discussing arrangements for future hosts and Christmas plans.

As day became night we found ourselves being whisked along country lanes by our gracious host to return to the smallholding and welcome our German WWOOFing compatriots. We pulled into the driveway just before six and went straightaway to feed the chickens and rabbits, feeling slightly saddened that our of day exploration meant a day of confinement for them and hoping that a nice evening meal might go some way to repairing the trauma of their experience. Shortly after, Christian and Anja arrived.

After spending some time getting to know our new neighbours (that will be another story 😉 ), we retired to our little caravan ready to do a little more exploration, this time in the land of dreams.

Preparing the Borders

After a refreshing and re-energizing day off on Monday, Tuesday saw a return to our smallholding activities, now cleaner, fresher and happier. We were surprised to awaken to bright sunshine and enjoyed our breakfast looking over the beautiful hillside. Without running water everything does seem to take so much longer and it was 9:30 before we commenced work beneath blue skies and chilling winds. Today we had strict instructions to prepare the borders.

First, we went to the front of the driveway and resumed our pick axing and shoveling to make ready the bank of earth for a new dry stone wall. Dry stone walling, as the name may suggest, is a process which doesn’t use any mortar, but a method of selecting the stones to interlock. This particular wall will have to bear the load of the earth behind, which may shift with time, the elements, and growth of the trees sprouting from the hedge.

We spent a couple of hours swinging the pick axe at the hedge and the ground, attacking the smaller roots, working around the larger ones and removing stones we uncovered. Shovel by shovel of earth went into the wheelbarrow for a pile at the end of the line of stones already heaped behind us. Tired, hungry, and certainly of the opinion we were not cut out to be miners or dwarfs, we stopped for tea and a snack before moving to another task for the remainder of the day.

After a well earned cup of tea, we went down to the front field to work on another hedge line, this one in need of serious trimming of blackberry brambles. It was a thorny business. We resorted to splitting duties because of how intense some of the thorns were. R manned the clippers and climbed on the hedge chopping and hacking away, while K wore two pairs of gloves and took responsibility for clearing the brambles more safely with the extra protection.

After a few more hours of bramble clearing, we called it a day and set to preparing our standard main meal before travelling our evening path for our walk, now illuminated by the early evening stars as the nights draw in. Upon returning, we settled into our caravan with a new addition, an electric heater. We had managed the cold as long as possible before resorting to use the heater in our little space. What a difference it makes to be warm and the air to not be chilly or damp! We slept very well, warmer than we’d been since we were in Bristol with family.

The next day we awoke in our little, comfortable caravan oven and prepared to meet our host for a work day together. He closes his shop on Wednesdays in order to spend more time at his smallholding, as there’s still a lot to accomplish on his ever-growing “to do” list. After breakfast, Mark appeared and informed us that a German couple would be arriving on Friday to WWOOF for a couple of weeks.

We headed back to the bramble hedge, intent on finishing. It took a good few hours of clipping and pulling before we finally cleared the hedge from top to bottom. Mark came to inspect our work and remove a few dead trees from the hedge with his electric saw and rewarded our industrious labors by asking us to clear the bottom and top hedge lines, as well – obviously, because we’re awesome at hedge clearing!

After a very late tea break, we headed back up to the driveway to work on the dry stone wall preparations some more. This work is much more strenuous, as the earth is very compacted and laden with roots and rocks. After over an hour of this, it was time to have our main meal to replenish our energy. Today, our standard lunch finally deviated, having run out of sieved tomatoes, we decided to finally try the sweet and sour sauce in the cupboard on our veggies and pasta. YUM!

While R was preparing what had now drifted into becoming dinner, Mark showed K around his property where there is another task to perform on a future day, placing door mouse houses. The research on these little creatures and appropriate placement of the houses would also need to be done.

As K was on this tour of the hedge line borders, he spied an apple tree next to the creek, still full of ripe apples. Mark seemed willing enough to supply ingredients for us to use the apples. So, we set about recipe research and discussions for the opportunity to spend Saturday making delicious goodness from the bounty of the smallholding.

A second day of rigorous hedge clearing completed, we had our customary walk through the lanes before returning to our a now toasty caravan to resume Rs introduction to classic British comedy, this time an episode of “Some Mother’s do ‘ave ’em” before we drifted off into dreams of hedge clearing, apple crumble and farcical “harassments”.

Loving Simplicity