Joe & Els Go Camping

So last week, we spent our time starting to clear some of the overgrown forest down by the stream, as well as building some paths and stairs. By the end of day 3, the first set of stairs were pretty much done, and the path was progressing well. 

The morning after one of our bigger bonfires, looks like some kind of evil cult ring. 

The morning after one of our bigger bonfires, looks like some kind of evil cult ring. 

Taking turns to finish the steps. 

Taking turns to finish the steps. 

Making the most of the last of the light on Day 3, nearly done!

Making the most of the last of the light on Day 3, nearly done!

While Joe worked on the stairs, I started digging out a path further along. Using long and kind of straight branches, I created a border for the path to follow, packing the dirt around it to create a solid and flat walkway. 

After chopping down a few rotten trees & breaking off some branches, a path started to emerge. 

After chopping down a few rotten trees & breaking off some branches, a path started to emerge. 

Branches along the right marking out the path, now Joe starting to put some more steps in...

Branches along the right marking out the path, now Joe starting to put some more steps in...

We wandered further down the stream to see where we wanted the path to go, and to check out what trees needed to come down and get chopped back. It was then that we had our genius idea...why don't we camp?! We found a small clearing right by the stream, very peaceful and beautiful, and was on a more shallow slope than the rest of the area. It was late afternoon by this point, so the light was fading and we had to work fast. We dug out a clearing to put the tent, started gathering firewood, and getting supplies from the house. 

The campsite before we started any work, perfect camping spot!...Right?.

The campsite before we started any work, perfect camping spot!...Right?.

It was one of the worst night's sleep I ever had. Or at least in the top 5. Don't get me wrong, we had such a wonderful evening! Nice food, some good ales and of course great company. But it was cold. So cold. And uncomfortable to say the least. We were pretty overexcited by the idea of camping, so didn't plan well and took very insubstantial bedding. It wasn't until the morning and seeing everything in a new light that we realised why it felt like we were slowing falling into an abyss all night. Sliiightly more sloped than we realised when putting up the tent in the dark... Plus the constant digging and cold were taking a bit of a toll, Joe and I had been doing vegetarian January, and never in my life have I craved meat so badly as I did that morning. 

Easier to see why we were both rolling down the hill now...

Easier to see why we were both rolling down the hill now...

Getting the fire started ASAP after waking up freezing cold.

Getting the fire started ASAP after waking up freezing cold.

After spending the morning recovering, we got to work! We moved the tent and dug out the camping spot a lot more, adding in more reinforcements around the edge, to create a larger and much flatter space to camp. Joe put in some more steps further up the slope so that clambering around at nighttime wouldn't be so difficult (we had both fallen over in the dark numerous times the night before, but then the beer could have had something to do with that too...). The day before we'd dug out a bench in the slope, but it was definitely not big enough for the both of us, so we widened that out and made it more comfy. We also gathered way more firewood, bought down extra bedding from the house, and of course, got more beer. 

Dig, dig, dig...

Dig, dig, dig...

MUCH better!

MUCH better!

It was such a better night! Slept like a happy, dream-filled log. The extra prep work we did meant we were both so much more comfortable when hanging out in the evening, and the fire was way bigger so we were able to cook some delicious veggies. Sleeping in the tent was fine, despite temperatures dropping to -1 in the early hours of the morning! The ground was way more even, and we didn't have to keep swapping places every 3 hours take turns falling down the hill. Bliss!

We've still got so much more work to do, in 3-4 days we've basically done the width of half a field. Our plan is to keep moving along the stream; clearing, building and possibly camping as we go. The work is hard but so much fun, and plus the beautiful moments you get like this one make it all worth it.

Down By The Stream

So last week Joe and I started tackling the fairly mammoth task of clearing the woodland down by the stream. Now those of who you have visited will know, it is fairly difficult to get down there. Very beautiful once you do so, but it's steep and muddy, and pretty difficult not to fall over at least once. There's a lot of dead and rotten trees, with ivy and brambles clinging on all over. There is what looked like could have once been a path, so we decided to follow that and clear it along the way. 

So beautiful once you finally get down!

So beautiful once you finally get down!

Little waterfall! There's another one further down the stream as well. 

Little waterfall! There's another one further down the stream as well. 

Joe having a bit of an explore. 

Joe having a bit of an explore. 

(Half) Day 1

Ivy. Everywhere. Basically just spent all our time chopping down and pruning trees, cutting through the huge ivy roots, and clearing brambles. Not the most exciting afternoon, but necessary so that we could actually move around a bit easier. Didn't take many photos as we started late, and it got dark so early. Here you can see the pile of stuff we gathered, and also where I planned to build the path.

There's kind of a route through the trees here....

There's kind of a route through the trees here....

Joe chopping up everything we cleared into more managable bits for the bonfire. 

Joe chopping up everything we cleared into more managable bits for the bonfire. 

Days 2 & 3

So to explain the layout...one of the fields slopes down into a small quarry, where it then slopes sharply down again into the trees. Our next job was building some steps into the side of this steep bank that takes you into the trees and down to the stream. Joe and I had got used to it after clambering up and down so much, but it wasn't user friendly at all, especially when carrying tools. 

Joe the human gyroscope, spilling his coffee at the final hurdle. 

Joe the human gyroscope, spilling his coffee at the final hurdle. 

You can just see the remainder of the bonfire we had from Day 1. 

You can just see the remainder of the bonfire we had from Day 1. 

All strapped up with everything we needed to start building some steps. 

All strapped up with everything we needed to start building some steps. 

We started another gardener's bonfire straight away, and kept it burning all day, as we had so much to get rid of. Here's how we try to get our fires started.... 

Step 1: Cut up some dry pallet wood for tinder. Everything here was so wet, it was tricky to get the fire started with what was just lying around.

Step 1: Cut up some dry pallet wood for tinder. Everything here was so wet, it was tricky to get the fire started with what was just lying around.

Step 2: Create a bed of mini logs for the fire to sit on, if the ground is really damp. Lay your tinder across the fire with one side slightly raised to assist with airflow. 

Step 2: Create a bed of mini logs for the fire to sit on, if the ground is really damp. Lay your tinder across the fire with one side slightly raised to assist with airflow. 

Step 3: Keep piling on logs in a criss-cross pattern so that the fire can travel up through the middle. Allows the wood dry out as well. 

Step 3: Keep piling on logs in a criss-cross pattern so that the fire can travel up through the middle. Allows the wood dry out as well. 

Now on to the steps...the ground here is very shaley, made up of clay underneath, so digging was hard work but compacted down nicely. We used chunky pallet offcuts to create strong and fairly straight steps, secured in place with stakes made out of branches. 

The steps starting to take shape.

The steps starting to take shape.

Used a small axe to chop branches and other pallet offcuts into stakes. 

Used a small axe to chop branches and other pallet offcuts into stakes. 

Having a well deserved rest! The seat is an off-cut from some kitchen cabinets that Joe is revamping.

Having a well deserved rest! The seat is an off-cut from some kitchen cabinets that Joe is revamping.

Lunchtime! Now one of our all time favourite things to cook and eat is veggies and halloumi on the grill. Courgettes are the favourite, although there seems to be some kind of national shortage of those at the moment, we can only pray this ends soon. We really like cooking over a wood fire, as it gives everything a delicious smoky flavour, but this may not be to everyone's taste as it can be quite strong! We also had some leftover BBQ beans from the night before, so we wrapped them up in tinfoil and stuck them on the coals until hot. It was here we realised that we'd forgotten to bring any cutlery, and couldn't be bothered to go back up to the house again. So Joe, being the very handy man that he is, carved a spoon out of a branch. As you do. 

Propped the grill up on some branches, which then slowly started to catch fire. It made for an interesting cooking experience to say the least, 

Propped the grill up on some branches, which then slowly started to catch fire. It made for an interesting cooking experience to say the least, 

Joe carving out the spoon with his Opinel knife. 

Joe carving out the spoon with his Opinel knife. 

Tucking into some beans with Joe's spoon. The creativeness of this guy will never cease to amaze me!

Tucking into some beans with Joe's spoon. The creativeness of this guy will never cease to amaze me!

We carried on digging, clearing and burning all afternoon and the next day. By this point the steps were nearly done, and a path was starting to emerge. We decided to walk through the forest a bit more to see where the path was going to go next, and come up with a plan of action.

This post ended up being way longer than I planned, so I'll explain the rest in part two, coming soon!

New Toy!

So the festive period is drawing to a close, the decorations are coming down, and the days are slowly starting to get longer. We all spent Christmas and New Year here at Blaensaith, it seemed right to spend the first holiday on the farm here together (minus a couple of siblings but I'm sure that will change next year!) We went on lots of beautiful wintery walks along the coast and the nearby beaches, even going for a dip in the sea on Boxing Day, along with about 200 other nutters from nearby villages. 

Poppit Sands on a beautifully clear day. 

Poppit Sands on a beautifully clear day. 

Admiring the view from the hill at Mwnt. 

Admiring the view from the hill at Mwnt. 

Christmas came early for us this year, bought on by the arrival of Simon's new toy / very important farm equipment which definitely isn't a toy....

Louise thoroughly enjoying herself.

Louise thoroughly enjoying herself.

Taking it out for a spin!

Taking it out for a spin!

Pretty sure this isn't allowed according to the safety video...but then again nothing is. 

Pretty sure this isn't allowed according to the safety video...but then again nothing is. 

It's been really useful for when Simon's been cutting down small trees further down the hill and dragging them up to the house, or shifting wood around in the yard where he's cleared a bunch of trees. There was some really overgrown hedgerow near the house, and according to the OS map and previous owner, home to a septic tank, a well and a pond, none of which had actually been seen! But after a lot of hard work with another new bit of a kit, a strimmer/chainsaw, Simon finally found it all. 

Simon using the quad to drag trees out of the overgrown hedgerow. 

Simon using the quad to drag trees out of the overgrown hedgerow. 

Just when we were starting to give up hope, here's the pond! It really exists! Still lots of clearing to be done, but we're all happy to see it isn't just a mud pit. 

Just when we were starting to give up hope, here's the pond! It really exists! Still lots of clearing to be done, but we're all happy to see it isn't just a mud pit. 

I wish I had got a picture of the "Before", this was all completely overgrown and impossible to get into.  

I wish I had got a picture of the "Before", this was all completely overgrown and impossible to get into.  

Next week we hope to start decorating the downstairs of the annexe, as well as continuing the ongoing battle of clearing hedgerows, woodland and overgrown banks. Joe and myself have got more work to do in the workshop, adding more storage and sealing up the rather drafty doors. Until then, hwyl fawr am nawr!

Setting up the Workshop.

It's been a couple weeks here at Blaensaith! Lots of unpacking, decorating and clearing various buildings; of course mixed in with some exploring of the local area. The first project is getting the annexe looking nice, both the house and annexe are fairly dated, and are in need of some serious TLC. Luckily there's quite a few of us to tackle it! We've had some late nights painting and carpet laying, but it's been totally worth it as now the upstairs of the annexe is looking lovely. I'll put up some photos of it next time, once everything there is completely done.

One of the most important jobs to sort out when we got here was to set up temporary workshop for us and Simon. Eventually we will build new workshops on a different part of the land that overlook the sea in one direction, and the rolling hills on the other (office with a view anyone?). For now, Simon is up in one of the spare bedrooms, and we are in a shed/lean-to next to the stone milking barn.

After clearing out the rubbish. 

After clearing out the rubbish. 

Unpacking boxes, still need to install some shelves and storage, but we're getting there. 

Unpacking boxes, still need to install some shelves and storage, but we're getting there. 

A coat of paint makes all the difference!

A coat of paint makes all the difference!

Ready (ish) to work!

Ready (ish) to work!

It was filled with old milking equipment and various bits of junk, with some rather suspicious smelling chemical stains on the floor. We spent the first day clearing, scrubbing and painting. Surprising what a bit of elbow grease can do the brighten a place up! Next we added in some workbenches, made of out pallets (what else?!) and some sheets of ply we ripped off an old barn.

Joe reclaiming some new worktops!

Joe reclaiming some new worktops!

Cutting them down to size...

Cutting them down to size...

We wanted to eventually install a wood burner as it was so cold in the workshop that it was impossible to stay out there for any longer than a couple hours at a time. There was one up for grabs made out of an old oil cannister in the static caravan. However the workshop roof is made of asbestos, and we certainly didn't want to start hacking that up to cut a hole for the flue. Now I have to mention that the weather here has been pretty fantastic the last couple weeks. Although it's been cold, we've lots of beautiful sunshine, blue skies and no rain. One night it tipped it down, which is fine, we knew what we'd signed to by moving here). It did however reveal some problems, the next morning we realised that part of the roof was cracked when we walked into a very wet workshop. We very carefully replaced that part of the roof with some wriggly tin that we ripped off another old barn (it's awesome how much material there is lying around waiting to be used). This was safe to cut up for a flue, so we were able to install a wood burner! I am so happy!

The new bit of roof, complete with chimney.

The new bit of roof, complete with chimney.

Success!

Success!

Me feeling very pleased with myself after removing some wriggly tin for a new roof. 

Me feeling very pleased with myself after removing some wriggly tin for a new roof. 

On Sunday morning we got a good introduction to life in the country, when out of our bedroom window we saw some cows strolling past the stables. We all rushed outside to get a better look by which point they had wondered into one of the fields. Another farmer had found them roaming in the road so guided them onto our property, knowing that there weren't any other animals to worry about. A couple of hours later someone turned up on a quad bike to round them up and take them home. Apparently this kind of thing is quite normal and happens every now and then, but that didn't make it any less exciting for us to have these beauties walking around in the back garden. 

These two were real starers. 

These two were real starers. 

There's been so much else going on here, but I want to wait until the rooms are all completely done to show the difference, so until next time!

First Post / Moving Day

Welcome to the Blaensaith Fawr blog! I originally wanted to start this blog to document moving our the business from the Surrey suburbs out to Welsh countryside. This won't just be a change of scenery for us, but a chance to explore a completely different way of living and working with the land. I also wanted to show our family and friends what we’re all up to here, the renovation of the houses, how we use the land, and any other activities we've always wanted to try but never had the space for (watch this space for dirt-bikes and chickens...). Blaensaith Fawr is an ex-dairy farm, one that was still operational up until 6 months ago. Upon arriving here, I felt it even more important to keep a record of the old farm and the land around here, especially before things really start to change.

Next to the cattle barn, where we plan to build our new workshops.

Next to the cattle barn, where we plan to build our new workshops.

The farm is nestled on a hill overlooking a small valley, with sea views out to Cardigan Bay. There's still so much about the land we don't know about yet, there's still a lot of exploring to do there! So in this post I though I'd tell you a bit about the house and moving in. 

360 view from the centre of the courtyard shows the main house, stone barn, stables, stone milking barn, annexe and back to the house. 

360 view in front of the house looking out to the sea, also showing the larger barn, static caravans and railway carriage. 

The main farm house has an annexe attached and looks out to the sea, while facing inland there are two stone barns either side of the house, making a courtyard. At the moment we're all living in the main house and annexe, eventually Joe & I will renovate and move into one of the barns, and Josh & Kenza the other. The house is perfectly liveable, but there is a lot of room for improvement! Other buildings on the land include some stables, and old cattle shed, a large wriggly tin barn, 2 static caravans, a rusty railway carriage, a silage tank and the foundations of an old barn.

Inside the cattle shed, built onto to one of the stone barns.

Inside the cattle shed, built onto to one of the stone barns.

Shed next to one the stone barns. 

Shed next to one the stone barns. 

Another shed next to the stone milking barn. 

Another shed next to the stone milking barn. 

Moving day was pretty tiring, as we had to move not just the house but also Simon’s and Joe & myself’s workshop. Hilarious highlights (for me at least) included moving our 250kg bandsaw onto a skateboard to shuffle it across the ground, Joe and Simon clinging on to the laminator on a tail lift as Russ revered the lorry over the mud, and 5 of us hauling Simon’s 3m long printer up a narrow flight of stairs.

Russ, Joe and Simon shifting the ridiculously heavy bandsaw. 

Russ, Joe and Simon shifting the ridiculously heavy bandsaw. 

Joe and my mum surveying what will be our new temporary workshop.

Joe and my mum surveying what will be our new temporary workshop.

This week we hope to get Joe & myself's and Josh & Kenza's bedrooms redecorated in the annexe, as well as setting up our new temporary workshop in the shed that's been built on to to stone milking barn. I don't actually have many pictures of the house itself, I'll get some more for next week. Until then, here are some more pictures around the farm!

Steel supports from the old barn, we hope to reuse a lot of these materials. 

Steel supports from the old barn, we hope to reuse a lot of these materials. 

Inside one of the stone barns, which will eventually become Josh & Kenza's home. 

Inside one of the stone barns, which will eventually become Josh & Kenza's home. 

The view! 

The view!