Tag Archives: House

New Year’s Resolutions

We are just taking the Christmas tree down and I am  making some belated New Year’s resolutions. One of them is to try to update this blog every Sunday night in case people are interested (I hope that, on Mondays in the office, hearing about our muddy shenanigans might make people smile?!).

Our progress has slowed (thanks to a little bundle) for the last six months, but we are still slowly ticking off jobs and here is a little summary of the most recent projects:

  1. We have put down membrane and gravel between the vegetable beds to try and help with the war on slugs and weeds.
  2. We have demolished our old corrugated iron shed and we have builders currently building a replacement. This project is not as environmentally friendly as we would have liked thanks to time and money, but at least it will be a sturdy structure that will be there for a very long time and is sorely needed.
  3. Tree felling, hedge laying and general clearing and tidying outside is an ongoing winter project.
  4. Jules got a butchery course and lots of knives for his birthday and Christmas so when we slaughter a pig next week, Jules will butcher it himself for the first time!
  5. On the animal front, we hope that this year will bring us a new calf, more piglets, more chicks goslings and hopefully ducks too.
  6. Renovations inside the house will be the main focus for 2013, in particular the bathroom and kitchen as well as beefing up the insulation and battling the damp.

Well, that’s all for now folks. We  have added loads of baby photos to the gallery for those who are interested and we leave you with this photo of Jules bringing Barbara back from her little walkabout to the neighbours’ house!


Seminal Moments

Autumn 2011 has had important moments for us at Penybanc and in our quest for self-sufficiency. The first was a lot of work for Jules as he built a hearth in the corner of the living room, disconnected the old oil boiler completely and plumbed in both a stove in the living room (a Stovax Stockton 8HB to be exact) and an Esse (model W35) in the kitchen as well as putting up two new flues. This means that our central heating and hot water are now completely carbon neutral, with all the fuel coming off our own land. The timing couldn’t have been better as no sooner could he utter “let there be heat” than the first chill could be felt in the air. Admittedly we still hve a lot of radiators to install, so the fairly stressful plumbing journey has not quite ended.












The next big moment for me was having to fulfil a promise, that I made over a year ago, that I would bake bread with flour from a local producer once the Esse was installed. Jules managed to source some flour from a water mill from mid Wales and I did my first baking! There is definitely room for improvement, but the bread was tasty and edible (if a little dense) – so I count it as success.












Then we had our first anniversary, on 5th November, of buying Penybanc so we had a bonfire party with some friends who had, very very kindly, helped us clean the place on our first day here (back when the place had been empty for a year, smelt very damp and was generally filthy and cold). Our mates brought some incredible fireworks and sparklers, we carved a pumpkin, made a Van Fawkes, had three dogs running round and served mulled cider and home reared pork out of the back of our Defender.  It was a good way to mark this special ocassion.

unlit bonfirepumpkin jackolanternguy fawkes









It isn’t quite a turning point, but our border collie, Dusk, has recently been showing real development in her agility and intelligence. Also, her fear of the other animals seems to be a little less exteme. She is our little shadow around the smallholding, so I thought she deserved a mention.

7 month old Border Collieborder collieborder collie catching tennis ball

The last big moment I was to tell you about happened today. Our chickens are very cute but so far they have not been productive at all. Having been hatched here on 9 May, we expected them to start laying 21 weeks later as suggested by the books. But this date came and went and then another 5 and a half weeks went by. As our hens free range, we have been searching the place but we assumed that we must just be failing to find the eggs. We had this morning decided that from tonight we would pen them into an area for a week just in case they were laying them somewhere hidden away. Then a couple of hours later one of the hens started making a massive racket, clucking like she’d just had the shock of her life and the cockerel was standing guard, joining in the cacophony. And there it was. A very small, warm, quite pointy, extremely white, EGG.


In the words of others…

We’ve been flat out with gardening, feeding/cleaning/training animals, working and, the latest, doing structural work knocking down a wall and opening the fireplace, where the wood burning range cooker/boiler will go. There is not much time and not much else to say at the mo, but here are some quotes we have read in the last few weeks:

A few from John Seymour’s book The Fat of the Land:

“If a man does not undertake some really hard and even violent manual work fairly often he becomes soft, his arteries harden, his heart weakens, he puts on fat, he develops blood pressure, his liver gets hob-nailed – I hate to think what he looks like inside. And outside he doesn’t look much better.”

“[T]he simple life, alas, once you really try to lead it, leads you into all this complication! You cannot live, and rear a family, on your own little share of your country, growing your own food, preserving and processing it, without this vast assemblage of tools and implements.”

“I know the modern […] worker is supposed to lead an “easier” life than, say, a French peasant. But I wonder if this supposition is correct. And I wonder if, whether “easier” or not, it is a better life? Simpler? Healthier? More spiritually satisfying? or not? I don’t wonder very long.”

“In Wales life changed for us completely. […] Our neighbours had not yet all given up brewing their own beer, killing their own pigs, and living largely from their own holdings. This fact made life immediately pleasanter for us: we no longer felt like freaks.”

We also recently read John Seymour’s book “I’m a Stranger Here Myself, the Story of a Welsh Farm”, where we read this poem:

“It’s no good asking me the way guvnor
I’m a stranger here myself
If you don’t know the way I don’t
And anyway the way to where?
Where is it that you want to get mate?
Someone said: ‘I am the Way’
But he didn’t make it clear where to
There’s plenty of ways of course
This way and that way and the other way over there
They all lead somewhere – but is it anywhere you want to go?
Oh I’m a fool am I?
I see
Well I may be a fool master but I do know where I be
I live in a bubble of air I do
With a rock in it
Hurtling through Eternity
No it’s no good asking me the way guvnor
I’m a stranger here myself
That’s me.”

And here are a few other quotes:

“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad – or an economist.” JFK’s environmental adviser, Kenneth Boulding

“One never notices what has been done; one can only see what needs to be done.” Marie Curie

“Do not squander time. That is the stuff that life is made of.” Engraving from an old sundial.

“Never invest in an idea you can’t illustrate with crayon.” Wall Street investor Peter Lynch.

Microgeneration and Solar Power

So… here’s our first ‘info-blog’ where we try to share some of our research and experiences with you guys in case you are considering something similar – or just because you want to regale your friends down the pub with newfound greeny knowledge.

There’s SOOOO much information out there about renewable energy in general and solar panels in particular that I obviously can’t give you more than an ‘amuse bouche’ without going on for hours. The aim, which I’ll try to keep in mind, is to consolidate the days of trawling through websites, talking to engineers and nosing through text books and give you the key points that led us to make the decisions that we have over our solar installation. I’m also going to assume that you have a desire to reduce your impact on the environment and reliance on fossil fuels… I don’t have the energy right now to be persuading the cynics.

I’ll pitch it at the novice and keep it quite general, so if you do want extra info, don’t hesitate to get in touch. And beware – I’m NO EXPERT so don’t take my word for it if you’re making any decisions… ask one!

Making the choice

That nagging itch over energy sustainability, reliance on fossil fuels, pollution and the hole the energy companies are burning in your wallet is beginning to become a little much… what are your options? Well, I’m going to break down a home’s energy requirements into 2 areas; electrical and heat. These, I believe, form the largest and most logical groups of energy consumption in the household

(In later posts we might consider light, kinetic/gravitational and chemical energy all of which play their own critical parts…).

This first instalment focuses on electricity and next time I’ll waffle on about heat.