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  • Writer's pictureMarsh Farm Glamping

Chapter One continued...

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

So it was in late May 2016 we moved into our beloved Marsh Farm. But how do you prepare to move what by that time amounted to 2 houses worth of stuff, into one teeny-tiny house? How do you prepare for taking on 9 1/2 acres of assorted fields, an orchard, a mature-ish garden and a veggie patch, when you've been renting for 6 years and barely know one end of a spade from the other? How do you prepare your plan for livestock with a view to raising and preparing your own meat for the table, when your knowledge stretches as far as three badly behaved hounds (well two, the other one was raised by my father and was a paragon of virtue) and looking after my nieces' three pet rats?

The answer was obvious.

We would go on holiday.

For a week.

The week immediately before we were due to move.

Ahh, bliss. Several days spent glamping in Cornwall next to the log burner, wine in hand, not a care in the world. Highly recommended.

The eagle-eyed amongst you may think that this is the same photo as in Chapter One, and question why I've included it here.

The answer, is because seeing the two rambunctious hounds and the small paragon of virtue rocking their roll-necks amuses me greatly and warms my heart.

But please note - the log burner pictured is NOT the log burner in Cornwall. The giveaway is the eye-watering 70's carpet in the foreground.

We returned on the Friday evening and on the Saturday morning headed off for a two-day intensive 'how to be a smallholder when you know nothing' training course run by the incredibly knowledgeable and very talented Debbie Kingsley and her partner Andrew. They are based at South Yeo Farm West in Devon and the spec for the course ran as thus:

Who would benefit from this course? Are you thinking about taking on some livestock for the first time? Have you got an extra large garden or a bit of acreage that needs using? Do you want to know more about smallholding before taking the plunge? Do you want to produce your own food? Have you taken the smallholding plunge but feel a bit out of your depth?

I think it may have been the last line that really sold it to us.

We arrived at South Yeo Farm West on the Saturday morning and having met our fellow dreamers and swopped our smallholding goals and expectations over mugs of tea and slices of home-baked cake, we were introduced to our first taste of what we could expect in our new life. The one we had already signed up to, paid for and were about to collect the keys on. Unlike the other (wiser?) attendees who were using the course to see if the smallholding life was reeaally what they wanted to do before they sold their house and bought a farm. They seemed relaxed and far less manic than us. They also asked far fewer questions.

Over the course of the weekend we learned what tools were essential kit for starting out - surprisingly little, although approximately three times what we already possessed. Apparently one spade and a pair of gardening gloves didn’t qualify. We learned what legal requirements and paperwork would be necessary, which livestock need what, and how to look after them, how to erect a fence and hang a gate, and how to preserve your produce and make your own apple cider vinegar, with a mother. Who knew you need a mother to make vinegar? Not us.

We also learned how to wrangle a sheep and about the importance of looking after their 'teeth, tits, and toes'. Knowing how to manage anyone's teeth, tits and toes let alone your own has to be a valuable life skill, surely?

We met their beautiful rare breed sow, a couple of weaners and their herd of cattle, as well as their extensive collection of ducks, geese and chickens. And all of this interspersed with delicious and bountiful lunches and cream teas, all produced right there by their own fair hands.

We came away from the weekend feeling buoyed up and ready to take on our extremely daunting and rather over-whelming new life, which was due to begin the following morning when we collected the keys from the estate agent. All we had to do was go home and relax for the evening over a glass of well-deserved wine. Oh. And pack up the house.

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