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  • Writer's pictureMarsh Farm Glamping

Chapter Two or... Reap what You Sow

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

So we'd completed the two day smallholding course, we'd bought the books, at least three of them, we'd even managed to pack up all of our belongings. We were ready to begin our new life. The movers were due at eight thirty am and as soon as we'd loaded the trucks we would be off, to adventures unknown!

Unfortunately, due to a crash on the M5, the movers didn’t turn up until eleven thirty, which meant that my meticulously planned trip to drop the dogs off at the kennels in order to avoid the considerable chaos that would ensue when the three enormous removals vans parked up on the one way street outside our house, failed miserably. We had somehow managed to get everything packed up though, having become experts in moving house in the preceding years - we'd moved the equivalent of five times in the previous five years.

And so, on a sunny day in late May, we drove up the lane to the farm,. The same farm that we'd viewed and decided to buy in the dead of winter, when everything was bleak and barren, the fields soggy underfoot, the house stripped bare of frontage.

We had been back a couple of times in the previous two months to talk to the incredibly kind vendors about how things worked. We had never been ‘off grid’ before and there were all manner of switches, knobs and circuits that we most definitely needed to know about. The socket in the kitchen with ‘DO NOT SWITCH OFF - SEPTIC TANK’ was fairly self-explanatory but what was a soakaway? How did we switch from well water to tap water? And most importantly, how on earth had they managed to fit seven dogs, including one the size of a donkey, into such a tiny, tiny house,? And what would actually happen if you did switch off the septic tank? It couldn't be that bad, surely? (Note to self: Yes. Yes it can.)

It was at one of these visits that we had been introduced to the aforementioned dogs. We had been walking past the stables when a head had suddenly appeared, resting on the stable door. Resting on it. In other words his feet were still on the floor. He was their Irish Wolfhound and the biggest dog either of us had ever seen.

An Irish Wolfhound pictured next to another dog, representing all other dog breeds for an accurate and genuine size comparison.

(Image by David Mark from Pixabay.)

‘Ah yes, that’s Sully,’ the vendor said. ‘He’s only a year old.’

Really? Really? He was the size of a Shetland pony! If the Shetland pony had been fed almost exclusively on steroids and had been stood on blocks.

‘Ah,’ sighed Leon wistfully, ‘I’ve always wanted an Irish Wolfhound. He’s beautiful. Maybe we should get one next.’

What? What! You have NEVER mentioned getting an Irish wolfhound, you big, fat liar! I thought, somewhat hysterically. We already had our ‘big dog’ and he was almost more than I could handle. But the couple selling the farm, with its teeny, tiny house, had managed to fit the biggest dog in the world, plus another who was almost as big, plus three collies plus two small terriers into said tiniest house in the world. I could already see Leon’s mind working overtime, calculating exactly how many square footage of canine would fit comfortably into the kitchen. He had clearly miscalculated as he smiled broadly. ‘So where did you get him from? Local?’

It had been cold and wet during these previous visits. The farm had looked desultory and a bit despondent. As we turned into the drive in May, however, we were welcomed by a barely recognisable cottage covered in climbing roses, with wild flowers dotting the grass along the driveway and an abundance of traditional old school rose bushes setting ablaze to the garden. The pond was filled with the most enormous yellow irises, and the fields were full of all of the wildflowers that the previous owners had painstakingly re-introduced. We'd loved it in the dead of winter, but due to the appalling sales brochure, we had never dreamt it could be this pretty.

We were finally in. After six years of renting, we had arrived. Our smallholding adventure started right here, and right now.


But, but, but.

We had moved in May and the whole process had taken us a week, whilst the previous owners had moved out a couple of weeks previously to that. In the meantime we had had rain followed by glorious sunshine, and the foliage, of all descriptions but mostly the one known as ‘weed’, had taken full advantage.

Once we had crammed all two houses worth of stuff into the tiny cottage, we took stock. This was bad.

Very bad.

How was the electric lawnmower going to cope with nine and a half acres? And would the extension cord stretch that far? The gardening gloves would definitely come in useful, but we weren't so sure about the spade. When do you cut grass anyway? Was now a good time? But what about the wild flowers? And what about the hedges, of which there were a lot. A lot. And the ditches - when do you dig those out? The docks, thistles and dandelions were out of all control and multiplying to epic proportions before our very eyes. How do you remove those? We weren't sure if our three year old, 750ml spray bottle of weedkiller would be sufficient, or deadly enough.

What had we taken on and how were we going to manage? We had visions of the previous owners turning up a year down the line to find us sat at the kitchen table, heads in hands, surrounded by empty bottles, a despairing look on our faces. Of course they would have to find the farm under all of the undergrowth first.

‘What the Hell have we done?’ I asked as we walked the land that first evening. Leon was silent, clearly in a contemplative mood. That, or bitterly regretting our decision to pack in our previously ordered life to take a massive leap of faith (stupidity) into the complete unknown.

‘It’ll be fine,’ he ventured after a minute or two. ‘We just need to learn how to get to grips with it all. It’s a matter of learning by degrees.’

‘Yes but how do we do it all?!’ I asked, my voice rising in a unattractive wail. ‘How do we know what needs doing and when it needs doing? What if it’s already too late and we’ve ruined the land just by moving in two weeks late?’

I was beginning to feel faintly hysterical. Again.

’How are we going to cope? What if we fail? What if we just can’t do it and end up as massive failures?’

‘It’ll be fine,’ he repeated. ‘It’ll just take some time. Let’s finish walking the land, our land, and take a minute to take stock.’

He was right, of course. As we walked the land that first evening, the wildflowers were out in force, dotting the land with haphazard splashes of riotous colour. The sun was shining, high in the clear cerulean sky as the clouds scudded past, and the insects were humming.

Whatever the task and however enormous and completely overwhelming it seemed, we would get there eventually. We would learn by degrees and bitter experience, and it might take us a while, and there would no doubt be tears along the way, but we would do our best. Hopefully. Dear God please let it be so.

We arrived back at the house, topped up our lovely, at this point still shop-bought and therefore very pleasant non-homebrew wine, and made a plan. We would take the bull by the horns and just get on with it. We wouldn't let any more unchecked, forbidden, renegade growth take place. It all needed dealing with and Goddamned it we were going to deal with it! We had the bit between our teeth and we were going to run with it!

We just needed to paint the kitchen and bathroom, repaint the Welsh dresser and cupboard, and choose a colour for the utility room first.

Mack, our 'big dog', happy to finally be settled at the farm.

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