As I write the fields are still covered with a layer of snow now frozen hard and when Christopher came back from the barn a moment ago he said the temperature in the yard was minus 8.
I’m sporting my thermals underneath my regular clothes and going to the loo takes an extra few minutes because there are so many layers to navigate! But on the plus side we have a very seasonal looking landscape at the moment – it really is picture postcard pretty.
Doing anything on the farm takes double the time in this weather – not least looking after the animals. Frozen hose pipes mean that water for our menagerie needs to be carried in buckets from the house which is hard work but I’m counting it as my resistance workout each day!
Our raggle taggle flock of sheep adopted over the years now numbers just two, Rose and Peter, so we’ve moved them from the Beckley Bowl to live in the orchard with Sue the pig and from there they can also chat to the goats through the fence. Rose is struggling with bad feet (not uncommon for sheep) a combination of being on very wet ground for so long followed by very hard ground has meant she’s very lame. So we’ve created a pen for her to stay warm in while she recovers. Peter is now officially our oldest sheep – he’s 15. Once hand reared by us as a sock lamb, he follows us around whenever we’re in the field with him and is very vocal. If you’re walking past on the footpath and you hear a sheep, that’ll be Peter talking to you.
We’ve had some empty nights in the accommodations this week and It’s been a challenge to keep water flowing to each of them as without inhabitants they obviously stay much colder. So we’ve had a round the clock rota for keeping the wood burners ticking over inside to keep them warm and the taps from freezing. We still had some burst pipes at Woodcutter’s Cottage despite massive efforts at lagging them all, but our superhero plumber Greg worked in the dark yesterday evening to get everything going again. If you think running a micro holiday business like ours on a 40 acre nature reserve sounds like a laid back way of earning a living – you’d be wide of the mark! I feel like I run on adrenaline most days, and after a day without power earlier this week followed by a day without water – we certainly know what it feels like to live off the beaten track.
Last Saturday when guests arrived I had to tell them that because the drainage pipe from their hot tub had frozen meaning I couldn’t drain it from the previous guests in order to clean and refill it but not wanting to disappoint, by late afternoon things had thawed out a little so at 6pm there I was in the empty tub with my head torch on cleaning it in the dark – it then took nearly 90 minutes to fill again because the water flow was still slow. I won’t lie it was chilly work, but the guests were super grateful and commented how pleased they were to have snow for their winter escape.
Challenges aside, when sun is out and the sky is as blue as it is today despite the chill, I still feel very lucky to call Swallowtail Hill home.
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