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.
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.
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.