20th, October - 4th. November 2003

Two weeks of pretty good news all round, but lot's of obstacles getting in the way and trying to spoil thing's.

A large well known Computer Retailer phoned me with an offer of part-time employment. This will be 20 hour
a week and I've already started two weeks 'full time' training'. This is my second day.
I'm really chuffed as I can work every alternate weekend thus having Leo here OK and will work 3 days a
week in total - which is exactly what I wanted.
I was originally turned down for the job and I assumed this was due to me being a bit 'fussy' over the hours
and the hope of flexibility when the Cricket starts next March (as there is no way I would give up the
cricket). But all seems in order.
Surrounded by PC's and Software, just like home !!!
Looks like I'm the oldest employee out of about 30, but I'll show'em.

The obstacles were that I took Leo home Sunday evening and had the rest of the day planned to get ready etc., and I got a puncture coming down the Lane. Not the front tyre of course, the back one, so it meant having to take the gears, chain off etc. Not very nice in torrential rain and 40 mph winds. I finally got to bed at 0100.
First day OK. Second day morning, go to get bike, other tyres got a puncture !!! Pumped up the tyres on my spare bike and zoomed off. Luckily the train was late (my training is in Canterbury) and I made it, but the brakes on that one need doing.
So, this evening has been spent getting various inner tubes and sundries off the two old bikes I have in the Barn.
Hopefully there will be no repeats.

Who said cyclings good for you ?

All in all, the winter is looking a bit brighter now. I have the Store job, plus other bits in between. You have no idea how much this will help (not cure !!) and is a load off my mind. I was beginning to have nightmares about a full time job through til March. I couldn't face the same place day after day and the routine would do me in.
It's one thing that downshifting certainly does to you. It presents a whole new set of challenges which beforehand would have seemed quite ludicrous. £10 is like £50 was four years ago, a treat is a bar of chocolate where four years ago it would have been an evening out.
It's adapting your whole life and outlook upon it. Sometimes it really gets you a bit down, but you're a bit down in your time and not someone elses. Plus you have more time and a more open mind to handle 'silly' disasters - like the bike - minor to most, but major to you.

We went to visit Vicky and the grandchildren for 6 days and I came home successfully 'drained', but it was so nice to be there. Thomas (Aged 2) loves us being there and Leo has become 'The Main Man' in his life.
Whilst there I took time out to have a walk through the Military Cemetary which was attached to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley. I found this quite an emotional walk.
They have Service people from about 1870 to 1960 buried there, there are German soldiers buried amongst the British and Commonwealth graves. The is no partition, they were doing I guess what they thought was right and in most cases, had no option.
I found a Canadian Soldier who was buried the day before the end of the First World War and a German who was buried on the day after. The youngest I could find was just 17, a Soldier from Australia.
It brought out so many thoughts. You remember what you were doing at 17, you think about how they may of died as obviously they had returned from the Front.
It's a beautiful setting and well looked after by the War Graves Commission.

The chickens haven't laid an egg for 7 days ! Following extensive talks in the Pen last Sunday, Management Side (me) clearly stated we would not accept under 20 eggs per week during winter. Chicken Side (them) said they had taken offence to the Graph pinned on the shed wall and there toilet area being lined with old chicken recipes.
At present they are stipulating 12 per week with the north facing shed wall repaired with thermal insulation.
This has now gone into arbitration.
(My cunning plan is to raise the height of their feeder so they get neck strain and have to sit down more thus laying eggs even if they don't want to).

The winter salad is growing well in the Greenhouse. I've had to cover these up well though. Not because of the cold, but because of Ginger who sees the place as a 5 Star toilet area.
Ginger and Mimi are having their bad days, but I caught them actually having a sniff around each other at the weekend. This is real progress. I hope the cold nights will make them cuddle up to each other and they do become good mates.

What the next two weeks will bring, I just don't know. Every day is a new one and a different one.
Wouldn't change it from that though.

5th. October - 20th.October 2003

As it seems I'm only using the car very occasionally, I quite like cycling and the old Doc says I should only drive when I have to (awaiting another scan !!!), I've decided to hang up the car keys until next March.
Why spend what amounts to about £40 - £50 per month on all the car necessities when I'm driving about 10 miles a week - doesn't seem logic if you're hard up !
I have ample work over the Lane and have a few indoor jobs to do quite close by. So that's it, made my decision and cancelled the Insurance. Plus Road Tax and MOT are due anyway !

I have two bikes in operation; a light commercial and an HGV. The HGV is the one with the bigger plastic box !
I can't get on the other one if the box is bigger; it's a man's town bike and the legs won't stretch that far.
It will be interesting how I get a 20kg bag of Poultry Mix on the back - balance is the secret I think.

In the kitchen, the Rayburn is doing us proud. There was a time on Saturday when we had Beetroot boiling, Beans and Squash Soup cooking, hot water going on top with egg-shells (for grit) and chestnuts roasting in the oven. Put that with tea bag drying, candle wax melting over the top, clothes drying on a stand, a nice warm downstairs - a very production machine. I only burnt wood that day as well, so it cost nothing.
There is something kind of cosy about it all, even the smell of wood burning brings an air of old times and youthful memories. Autumn has it's good points.

I did an on-line recruitment form for a part time job yesterday and it had one of those Personality forms. I scored well on 'Agreeableness', 'Extroversion' and 'Emotional Stability', but 'Conscientiousness' and 'Conformity' were interesting. I quote > may not always be particulary organised - may only look at the biger picture - might find your role restrictive - unorthodox - may be too informal - don't pay much attention to convention <. Oh well, that'll be interesting at the interview, if I get one !!

I actually didn't go to the Poultry Auction last week. I think I was too scared I may take pity and bring another lot back with me, even at 20p for my ex-battery hens, I simply can't afford to keep any more at present. The cost of food is out weighing the amount of eggs I'm not getting. If they want any new friends up there, they'll have to lay some ! I would love to have more and watch them getting well etc. I gladly 'take them in', but I can't afford to be a 100% charity if you see my meaning. I've had 6 eggs in the last week from 21 hens.
Hope you don't think it's unkind to say that, it's the money I'm afraid.

Saying that though, I have contacted the RSPCA to say they can bring any hedgehogs thay may have around here. I've only seen one since we moved here 6 years ago and it's a shame seeing the space we have and all the derelict buildings about. Lots of cosy bedrooms for them and, of course, they'd help with the slug 'natural selection' !
In the garden, it's the time where we say silly thing's like 'That's the last time I'm cutting the grass til Spring'. Both my neighbour and myself will be cutting monthly through winter as last year.

An old friend of mine who lives in Germany phoned up the other day and asked if I could help him with a removal job he was doing from Stuttgart to London. So I had a day out through the city streets and earnt a few bob. Nice to see old friends again

I've been working a lot on the Web Site. It soon became apparent that 'Frugal Living' was going to finish ahead of the other subjects in my poll and I've already started on this. The 'Fr ugal Living' page has been altered and one out of three new pages is up and running. I should have the other two done by the weekend. After that it'll be 'Downshifting' and work down the list. Results of poll on left.
I've also spring cleaned almost every page, put better book links in and altered the 'S hopping' page . This is now a 3 page section; 1. All books featured on Site plus more 2. My own personal bits for sale and 3. 'Other', which I'm working on.
The Poultry pages appear to be the most popular for visitors and these need some photo up-dating. I'm also only keeping the last two entries on this page now and should lead to faster uploading times. All previous message's are linked to at the top of the page

The summer seems long past. I read the progress of the two Kent players in the England team touring Bangladesh / Sri Lanka and our other 'stars' in far off sunny places and think 'why them and not me', the answer being pretty obvious 'I'm no good and too old anyway' !!
This autumn is producing lovely colours in the tree's. According to reports I've read, it's something to do with the dry / hot summer and all the sugar in them will be released quicker thus creating extra redness this year.
I haven't noticed it yet. I've been set and ready with the camera to shoot out and take a few pics, but it all seems quite normal to me.
I love watching the squirrels. I know they are a pest, but you have to give them credit for being street wise and survivors. When I'm in the Mill House garden I can sense 'eye's' always watching, either the squirrels or the Robin ready to see what I've unearthed.
I do not have the same romanticism for Moles and Pigeons who are being Real pests at the moment. We all have a place in 'this great plan' I guess.

This weekend Leo and me travel to Vicky's house in Netley for 5 days. A welcome break, but with two grandchildre 2 years old and 7 month's old, my expectations of returning home suitably rested are pretty slim.
But it'll be good to see them, you notice the changes not seeing them all the time. Plus the fact thay both think I'm great !!

The wording on the cardboard (photo of Battery Hen on left) reads ;

23rd.September - 5th.October 2003

I've started my cycling purge. Last week I cycled 35 miles in 4 trips to town and thereabouts Two of the trips were quite beneficial in so far as I had mystery shopping jobs. So I saved about £3 on petrol and made another £12 from the jobs and twice got breakfast paid for in the bargain. If I got that every week, that's £780 per year!
Ashford is progressing quite well with Cycle path's, so it was quite a joy.
Do I feel any healthier for it - NO !!!! I'm sure the old bones will become accustomed.

I was very pleased and honoured to hear at the Kent Cricket Club Presentations evening that I got one vote for 'Player of the Year'. They obviously saw me throwing the ball back from the boundary a couple of times, or the athletic actions in taking the drinks out during the South Africa game.
The Club have kindly found me a litle extra work in sorting out the washing from the overseas players flats, so I'm still going back once a week. This is good as the weather has not allowed me to do too much work at the Mill House.

Around here, the farmer has harvested and this led to a busy weekend cleaning the windows. I also severely trimmed down our long Rose Hedge, cleared the Greenhouse, sawed a load of wood generally tidied up the whole garden.
The latter seemed to bring an influx of birds and yesterday, in the garden all at the same time, were Sparrows, blackbirds, Blue Tit's, Greenfinches, Wagtails, a Woodpecker and Robin.
It's strange that even after about 4 frosty night's, the runner beans are still growing. I read in the paper it's been a bad year for them, but not so here.
I've tried sowing some slightly rarer strains of salad in the Greenhouse and watch with interest if they appear. Not if Ginger has his way (see photo on left !).

I did not succeed with my aim of not lighting the Rayburn til after 2nd.October. In fact, it was the day after the last entry. It turned cold so quickly that drastic lighting was warranted. At least it saves using electricity for boiling up the left overs for the chickens. Also saves turning the water heater on - I should explain; During the winter I only turn the heater on if I'm bathing. The rest of the time, for washing up and self washing, I use the water from a huge Pan we have going all the time on the Rayburn.

The chickens are still not laying which means I'm in a loss situation. I need them to lay 36 eggs a week to break even (the money we save by not buying and selling the rest). At the moment they're laying about 15 ! At the height of summer they were averaging 55 per week. The good news is they seem to have stopped moulting and are growing new feathers. The rough and the smooth comes to mind, but I don't have so many to make money, break even all year round would do.

I went for an interview last week for a flexible hour part-time job with a well known Computer Retailer. At the interview I had a distinct feeling of 'being a bit old' and when explaining what I'd been doing for the past 3 years since my CV ran out, I had a rather puzzled look from the Interviewer.
I think that job has gone past me, but you never know. I shall cycle down to B&Q this week and see if there's anything going there. They have a good policy for employing 'the senior person' and, fair on them, I hear lots of kind words spoken about Staff there, most of which are my age or older.
It shows though that had I been made redundant 3 years ago and not left how I did, it would be very difficult to get back into anything. Most of my age group have so much to offer companies. Some feel we're only going to be employable for another 10 years, but how many younger people change their jobs every 2 years or so !!
I shall have to change my 'Over 50' page to 'Getting on 60' when I'm 56 next March.

I'm hoping to find more time to really spring clean the web site in general and would like to know your thoughts on which section I should start expanding upon first. I'd be most grateful if you could take part in the Poll on the left. I've found one which won't send about 140 pop-ups on your screen (none atall) and - I can't vote and you can only vote once. I shall take this off in 10 days time.
If you'd like a poll about anything, there's a facility in the new Forum. If you register and become a member, you can put one in there; serious or silly, I don't mind and it would be great to have a little community going.
Visitors to the Site have increased by 50 per cent in the last 3 month's, so thanks everyone for popping in.
Please sign the Guestbook, it's nice to know where people are dropping in from

8th - 23rd. September 2003

Busy busy busy are the 3 words to describe the present situation.
Kent played their last game on Sunday. We had to win to avoid relegation in the one-day league - and we won. Gallon loads of relief and gallon loads of orange squash and lemonade after the match - well, I think that's what it was - I did sleep well though !!
But it had a tinge if sadness. All the hype, tensions, highs and lows of the season are suddenly no longer there. What takes over is the scarifying of the grass, the removal of the advertising boards and the cricketers saying farewells as they jet off to all corners of the globe for the winter.
Well, 6 month's and it's back again. In those six month's comes cold, damp, winds and financial survival. I will win !!!

On the freebie frugal front, I've had lots of goodies bestowed upon me; a windy night on Sunday gave me 87 walnuts which had fallen in the Lane, the Mill House replaced carpets so the old one's are going on the veggie patch / compost heap, I had the chimney's cleaned today so the soots safely tucked away for 2005, Leo and I completely raided the disused orchard of apples and more Horseradish found in the field.
We're exchanging goodies here there and everywhere so the Larder is looking like larders did when I was a Lad, lots of bottles of thing's you had to look at carefully to know what's in them. Boy, is it satisfying though.

The chickens are on their second official verbal warning over egg production; one day 6 and the next day one etc. The pen looks like a feather duvet has exploded and the broody one is still broody, still pecking me if I go withing 4 feet of her. Speed is the secret. The other hens like to lay eggs on top of her, they roll down and she tucks them underneath. So you distract her with one hand, grab her head with the second swifly moving the first hand underneath and getting the eggs. Well, you know what I mean.

I'm restarting the window painting over the Lane, only 31 to go !! Between this I have two other customers which I do a little work for and I have the Mystery Shopping jobs starting up again.
The owls are now on their own. They've stopped taking the food I give them which means they are self sufficient. There are two babies left which means we've lost two. Apparently, when fully feathered and grown, if the babies don't leave their home, the parents kill them.
I must say it seems strange not going over to feed them every night, it's been five month's.

From two old bikes I acquired sometime ago, I've spent a day making them into one good one - and I'm proud !! This means I have two good bikes now, so may sell one if there's a rainy day. I'm also making some freebie gifts. It goes; bit of tree, saw, hand drill and some varnish - the result is the photo at the end of this entry (I feel more like Tom Good every day !!). Don't think I'll get invited to many parties Christmas after next, "Jam, chutney, pickled something or a pen holder this year Richard ?".
You know, I may not have any money, but I'm so happy with 'my lot' at the moment. If any one reading works for the Nat West, I think you're all wonderful people, really good looking and if it weren't for a hamstring injury running out of the Ashford branch two weeks ago, I'd cut your lawn anytime.

In the last entry, I 'announced' the new Forum. Well, I received emails saying that on 56k Internet, it was taking about five hours to download. So, I've yet another new one. There are no pop-ups, it's fast loading and much easier to read. You can register and logon as a member (this enables you to have private messages to other members, hides your email (though you could simply make one up) and enables you to post photo's etc) or you can post as a guest. So, please, if you have a comment to make about anything, please post a message.
I have copied and pasted entries from the old forum up to March this year. Please give it a look in - CLICK HERE.

It's strange, on Sunday it was the last day of Cricket and it was 27 degrees, two days later it's 13 degrees and there's a frost forecast for tonight. Last year, I lit the fire for the first time on 2nd October (sort of sad thing I remember !). This year I'm determined not to touch it until at least the 8th.
The garden is now looking tired, but I'm still getting new tomatoes and runner beans. The Squash soup
is great.
Well, tomorrow I'm painting windows, Thursday I'm back at Canterbury for final clean up, Friday windows
and the weekend busy scrounging around the neighbourhood for bits and sawing some wood.
What a good life !

26th.August - 8th.September 2003

In the 4-day Championship, Kent go from strength to strength and again we polish off another
team in less than the 4 days. This of course is very good news, but I don't get paid if I don't have
to work !!
But every story usually has a happy ending and yesterday, being off, I was able to do some
good work around the garden.
My chickens are moulting everywhere and with one broody as well, the end of the garden has become a little depressing. However, eggs are starting to re-appear and I got four yesterday. I think the chicken recipes I hung up inside the shed may have helped a little (they sussed out the empty Paxo packet was just a ploy last year). They're still very hungry, but this has been helped with all the lunch / tea left overs from Cricket this week.
The Fox seems to be keeping to the other side of the Lane at present although I'm sure he's probably ventured over at some stage to give them a lip licking glance. But the Pen seems quite secure - I think he'd have been in by now, if he had the chance - but not a reason to become over confident. I scan the fence daily.

I'm getting on with painting the windows over the Lane and managed to do three last week. This may seem slow but the paint scraper has a habit of going straight through rotten wood all over the place, so much preparation takes place. Only another 31 to go, some better, some worse, some bigger, some smaller.
At last the Owls are ready to be released, although I shall still have to feed them for a while. We let them out into the old stables a week ago and the Owl Chappie reckons he can let loose tomorrow. I'm so pleased about this as I felt quite sorry for them stuck in a 3 feet square since early June. Also, the smell from the box when I feed them is getting right out of control - clears your nostrils though.

Leo and I had a Boot Fair last Sunday. I didn't have loads, but between us we managed about £70 - half and half. It was at a Village Cricket Ground where they were playing a Kent X1, this attracted families, so Leo sold most of his old Playstation games. Scoop of the week was that the day before I found a Bar Stool in a skip which needed a bit of glue. This was actioned and the following day I got £4 for it.

A good example of what an expendable society we are now came to light when I went to buy some Printer Ink for the PC. The ink was £27.99 colour and £25.99 B/W. A brand new Printer with a supply of Colour and Black / White ink was on offer at £23.99 and the printer is about the same standard as my old one !
Funny thing is that it is the same situation as I had with the last Printer - I've now brought 3 printers in 3 years. I don't use it much, so it works out well - plus I can get a couple of quid for the old one's at a Boot Fair.

In the garden, the last of the potatoes are now dug. We sowed some more lettuce about 4 weeks ago and that's coming along nicely. I've weeded most of the bare patches now ready for transplanting Spring Greens.
I am amazed at the Squash harvest - we've got loads of them. Roasted Squash Soup is our main lunchtime snack now and there's ample in the freezer for cold winter afternoons. Strange taste aren't they; somewhere between turnip, parsnip, marrow, courgette and even a slight orange tang to them. Plus of course, fairly sweet.

I was interested to read an article in Saturday's Daily Telegraph about Hugh Fearnley Whittingshall. Apparently, he doesn't grow his own Onion's, he finds it easier to just buy them at the Farm Shop. I was a little pleased to read this as I don't do main crop potatoes on the same theory - they're cheap, organic and save a lot of garden space.
For 'la typical English Sunday Lunch' we are 90% self sufficient for now and the winter on vegetables and salads, 100%. Vegetable Omelette is probably the most satisfying meal because we haven't brought anything !
All this for £10 of seeds in Spring and enough left over for what will end up as 50 jars of various chutney's, relishes and sauces. With the freebie fruit, about 30 jars of Plum Jam, Blackberry Jam, some with apple some with none and still the Quince to come.
Hard work it is sometimes, but the satisfaction factor is enormous.

Tomorrow I am summonsed to the Bank - not so good news ! But they have money of mine in a 'can't get hold of' savings account for which I have their letter saying it was a good idea. So I'm hoping I won't have too much of a hard time. Even so, 'ready cash' is much needed at present, especially with the egg shortage. I even spent time yesterday repairing and cleaning my bicycle. If I cycle to town (which I do a couple of times a week) plus cycle to see Leo, I reckon that's £5 a week quite easily saved. You have to see it that way, then find another 5 thing's to save £5 a week on = £30 a week before you know it. Then of course, just as you're getting there, you need a new car battery or the PC packs up - never mind, I'm still here ! The Reaper pops his head over the fence once in a while, but he's not climbed over yet.

12th - 26th. August 2003

A very pleasant 7 days in North Wales with Leo.. We had 4 days walking / scrambling up various peaks and the other two just chilling out.
I managed somehow to keep the whole thing; petrol, camp site, food etc., down to under £200 which, seeing as it's 300 miles away, I thought was quite an achievement. You have to remember though that this is doubled by the money you lost by not working those days !!
The only thing which spoiled it was a three hour tailback on the M25 coming back which made it a 10 hour journey rather than 7 with stops.

Not so busy with cricket at present, so the last few days have been concentrated in my garden and bits and pieces at the Mill House.
In preparation for autumn, I've cleared and tidied all my sheds, weeded and dug various parts of the veggie patch where the plants have been harvested - these areas will be used for winter cabbage / spring greens which I sowed yesterday.
Plus a healthy stroll down the field has benefited me with about three weeks worth of larger size wood. I have kindling for the whole winter due to the roof being pulled down in the derelict cottage opposite !

I dug up some of the wild horseradish and am waiting for the right moment to uniform myself with goggles and nose mask to shred the roots !

My cauliflowers continued the reputation I have for not being able to grow them. All seemed well, but they've suddenly bolted. We've managed to cut off all the small flowers and freeze them. This will probably amount to four meals, but for 59p on the seeds, I'm not too downhearted.
My carrots have done well and really big. I obviously didn't quite get the bed right in some places and some are worthy a showing on 'That's Life' if it were still running !
The potatoes finally made it and I have no doubt they are the best I've ever tasted - absolute success (and after all that worrying earlier !).

Nows the time of year when 'free food' is in abumndance; fruit and herbs especially. I have access to a disused orchard, a quince and a plum tree, so you can imagine the work that's going on at present in the kitchen (quince not for 8 weeks or so yet). I've had a quick sortie at the blackcurrant situation and that's looking pretty good as well.
I wish I liked elderberry jam but I don't. I'm reading up a few cosmetic recipes plus an elderberry chutney looks quite interesting. Making wine doesn't turn me on. This is pssibly due to years ago when a large bottle of home made ginger beer ended up on the ceiling and glass got into every tiny corner of the kitchen.

The chickens aren't laying at present which is a worry, in the last 3 days I've had one egg from the 22 chickens. I can only think of 3 reasons; the weather, the recent un-invited visit of the fox or I was away and the routine changed a little. They seem to hang around the shed more than usual rather than wandering round the pen all day. The fox and weather theory appear to be the favourite reasons. I've also noticed some are losing feathers on the back of the neck. I wouldn't think this is moulting, more likely fleas or ticks. So a spray is required I think.

With only 12 or so days work at cricket from now til the end of September, I have started to paint the 27 windows over the Lane. They probably haven't been painted for 15 years I would guess and being sash, they are going to be hard work. I'm not on any time limit, so it'll give me ample work for quite a while. The house, being 400 years old, always needs something done to it, so I think I can rely on regulay income there.
However, one must have an 'insurance policy' and I have applied interest to three part-time jobs for winter. Two full days a week would do me, even a couple of night's if it were worth it. I do not want to be in a situation of not liking to go to work, one reason why I changed my life three years ago. So, maybe I'm a little fussy - 'fussy at first, not fussy if desperate'.

I have already received notification of my 'further tests' at the hospital and go next week. , wait
18 month's for the initial appointment, now it's racing

Next Wednesday, the Kent v Surrey floodlit game is on Sky Sports One. So if you're a fan,look
out for me on the Players balcony. I'm the one wearing the dark blue 'Spitfire' kit. Mindyou, it'lbe
obvious - I'll be the oldest one and looking knackered !!

1st. - 12th. August 2003

Blimey, it's actually raining outside. I forget the last time that happened. On Sunday our garden reached 36 degrees in the shade and nearby Gravesend hit the hottest day ever recorded in this country.
This has not pleased every one of course. With two weeks of this weather, the chickens have gone from laying 60 eggs plus a week to just 25, although this is partley due to the fox some three weeks ago.
Ginger is still nervous because of the dog attack and Mimi still persists in sleeping with the tomato plants in the Greenhouse where the heat has been incredible !
The Owls accross the road have hatched 5 babies and they seem to be doing well. Because they are still fenced in the Pigeon Loft, the smell as you feed them knocks you back.
Then of course, there's the poor human being. At Cricket (I've worked every day there for the last 12 now), going up and down the stairs has made the legs feel as though they have 50lb weights tied to each leg. We played South Africa last week and even their players were suffering. On average, they were drinking 15 bottles of water each day.
This is the third attempt at completing this entry due to PC crashing with the heat.

My big moment came at Cricket though, when I had to take the drinks out on to the Pitch. In 56 years, this is the closest I will have got to being a Professional Cricketer !! I didn't even fall over coming off to some sarcastic applause my a number of members.
Tonight we have a floodlight game against Worcestershire, tomorrow I clear up and Wednesday, it's off to North Wales for some mountain walking for 7 days. I've been really looking forward to this, although the weather will probably change from one extreme to the other. I can ill afford to go with some recent heavy stuff to pay out on and 'polite' letters from the Bank. These letters will probably change to 'not so polite' upon my return. I think the final score is, you can only bull....t some of the time !!
But I must go, need the break, need the air and need time to walk and think.

On my return I start painting the windows of the Mill House. About 27 in total, sash, old and most untouched by human hand for many a year. This will be welcome though with the cricket season only now giving about another 14 days work.
Most people say it must be great to work just over the road as such. It is, I can come home whenever I wish but this can also be a distraction and you have to discipline yourself not to suddenly have the whim of a quick nap or another little job you happen to see.

Most of the vegetable patch has now been harvested and stored and we are busy making various chutney's, relish's and pickled this, pickled that.
About 7 of the 20 cauliflowers look as if they may come to something but I'm pleased with this as before I've never got one good one !!
I have to admit that our potatoes are the best I've ever tasted. They're a meal on their own, knob of butter and a scattering of chives, glass of white wine - say no more.

Downshifting is great, you can do virtually what you and when you want, but the financial side is something to be so aware of. Two month's ago I was flowing along quite well and made up huge ground on the disasters of January / February. But - in the last four weeks, I've had over £400 unexpected costs, had to change two of my tyres, the kettle blew up, the chickens have almost stopped laying and two matches have finished a day early at cricket (only get paid for what I do).
You just have to go on the 'up's' and have faith that in three month's time you'll be OK again. It's not all fun and games, but I think it's worth it. I would rather live in a tent than go back to the suit, shirt and tie. Maybe I will !!

I finally had my hospital appointment and heard a couple of theories which are slightly worrying. I now have to go for some further tests, which I hope won't be another 18 month's. Anyway, not life threatening.

It's now chucking rain outside and I watch with pleasure as it flows down the leaves of the veggies. Rain always seems so much better than watering can from a tap. Saves a lot of work as well !

19th. July - 1st. August 2003

What's happened in the past few weeks ? Well - I've been bitten by an alsation, Ginger's been attacked by an alsation (not the same one), I've lost a chicken, I've had to kill a fox who was stuck in the chicken run, Leo's Rabbit died on me and both Leo and me got food poisoning. So, quite normal really !!

Ginger had been out for two weeks and because the owners of Mill House have been away, he'g ot used to having a stroll round their garden. They came back, Ginger walked round the corner and came face to face with the dog. Poor little thing had eight teeth punctures, spent the night at the Vets on a drip and had five days on anti-biotics. Thank goodness he's OK. Although my concern is only for Ginger, that lot cost £267 - find me a poor vet !!

I was just going out the other day and I heard commotion in the Chicken area. I walked up and found a fox limping around with a chook in it's mouth. I scared him and he dropped the chicken, I herded the others into the 'inner sanctuary' as I call it, opened the gate and tried to get the fox out. He wouldn't go for that one and persistantly tried to jump over the corrugated sheet fencing - but it's about 5'6" high and he couldn't make it. He finally got caught and injured himself even more. I had no option but to help him on his way. I really hated doing it as the main idea for the fence is to keep him out thus out of harms way.
I finally tracked down how he got in. He'd climbed an elderberry bush next to the fence and jumped down about 10' into the Pen.
So, my fault - I didn't 'think fox'. I didn't sleep too well for a few days I can tell you.

As before, after a fox attack, the chickens have gone from laying 10 / 12 eggs a day down to 5 / 6; a big difference and not helping on the financial side either.

Leo and myself went to Southampton last weekend. Vicky, Thomas and the two of us went to a famous fast food restaurant. Leo and me were the only two to have burgers. We paid the price within 15 minutes of each other three hours later. That was six days ago and I don't feel right yet. Serves me right though. Here I am promoting home grown produce and how healthy it is and this happens !!!

Squash, Runner Beans, Beetroot, Tomatoes, Carrots, Peppers, you name it, they're being eaten already. 6 bottles of chutney have already been made and we reckon on another 20 bottles at least. This with all the freezing, the early harvest is proving highly sucessful.
We've even been picking apples from down the lane for three weeks now.

There is no better enjoyment at present than having an Egg Salad knowing that every ingredient is your own. 'In the head' maybe, but it looks better and tastes better than anything you'll get in a Supermarket or Farm Shop.
I spent just over £5 on seeds this year, I must keep count and work out what we get back on that.

At present I'm on a 11 day out of 12 at Cricket. We beat Essex in the 4-day match, next week we play South Africa which should be a goodie. Then, Monday week it's a televised day / night game and off to Wales for a week.
Kent have just signed on the World Ranked No.1 bowler, Sri Lanka's Murali. It's a real privilage for me to meet all these people, I've been very blessed with this job.
It's not only meeting the present stars but those I used to watch and admire so much years ago; Brian Luckhurst and Derek Underwood and so on.

On Tuesday I go for my 18 month waited on appointment with the Neurologist (this following on from a couple of TIA's and a bang on the head (which probably made it a lot better !!).
I've already had all the "He went for a brain scan, but they couldn't find anything" jokes. Good thing is I'm not in the least bit worried and actually looking forward to it !! - Perhaps I have cracked !!!
Stay good and watch that Sun.

7th. - 19th. July 2003

Ginger the cat has progressed swiftly from attacking butterflies to pigeon's !! On tuesday we were sitting quite comfortably in the Sitting Room and uproar reigned in the kitchen, a wounded pigeon flying around with Ginger in hot pursuit. I got the bird out but it was so badly wounded, I had to put it out of it's misery. What next I wonder ?

I was in the Mill House garden talking to it's owner last night and I suddenly spotted the fox walking around the side of our house. Their White Alsation spotted it at the same time and I've never seen two animals go as fast. The dog was certainly catching up when the fox vanished into the stinging nettles up the end of the garden. I noticed the fox had a bad limp and I couldn't help feeling sorry for it. Foxes can't help being what they are; they have to kill for meat as we do - and look at the way we do it ! I have nothing against them - I have the chickens pretty well protected now after learning my lessons last year, so old foxey can prowl around if he wants. If it isn't him, it's something else - even of the two legged variety.

If I did wish any creature off this planet, it would be the Thunderfly. The place is full of them and it makes going into the garden a real misery. As soon as I go out, you can virtually hear the "Human 5 o'clock, dive, dive, dive". You think you've just cleared the last one off you and there's another. One of the downs of a heatwave I guess.

We're eating tomatoes and cucumbers already, so with the lettuce, spring onions and potatoes, we have 100 per cent salads from the garden. Next in line will be chutney making. I rather fancy some relish as well this year, so we're busy looking up the various recipes.
Once the Broad Beans are finished I shall sow some winter cabbage in their place. The Squashes won't be long either, they are already the size of tennis balls. The books say they should be ready in August / September !
If any one has 'the ultimate' in sweet tomato chutney or Tomato Relish, please post them on the Forum for myself and all to see. Also, Squash recipes as we haven't ever grown these before.

Sad to say one of my new ex-battery hens has died. This is the third or fourth time I've lost one of a batch. I don't know exactly the reason, they seem OK one day and the next day they are gone. I can only think it's the sudden change. For over a year they been with 4 other chickens in a 20 inch x 20 inch cage, even before they get there, they are loaded into boxes by a moving conveyor belt. This battery farming business is really annoying me. I mean, we treat the chickens like we do, then at 60 weeks old, kill them for dog / cat food or even to go in pies for humans (occasionally selling the better ones at Auctions). Take a look at the Battery Farm Photo Page. I've been quite fair I think, some photo's I've seen are quite frankly disgusting. The RSPCA and CIWF sites are well worth looking at.

Oh yes, if you want to see some 'really cool' chicken sheds, go to this American site I came accross. Click here . They certainly put my 'Nettle Cottage' to shame !!

At cricket Kent are enjoying a strong run with two wins and a draw.This has helped us away from the bottom of the tables a little and we now look forward to a good run through to late September. People at the Grounds often ask me what I do on my days off, so I've done a special web page of a typical Dressing Room Attendants time at home. Please go to 'Roomy'.

With two extremely large Electricity and Water Bills to pay, I'm now trying to work flat out to pay these and have enough for Leo and my camping week in Snowdonia. It's going to be tight, but I'm determined to get there.
That makes late September seem even closer, so I'm now looking for ideas to get me through winter. I've work at the Mill House still, but I'll need more than that - looks like seeking out a part time job.
If you have any ideas, please write them on the back of a £20 note and post them to me !!

25th.June - 7th. July 2003

Good times and bad times in the last two weeks. Last Tuesday I had an enjoyable day out to see my Mother and brothers and sisters at my brothers Pub in Scaynes Hill, W.Sussex. Nigel has a suitcase full of family history and over the past few month's I have been slowly doing the family genealogy.
In the suitcase are photo's dating back to the turn of the century, my Great Grandfathers Will, letters home from both World Wars and stacks of other interesting items. I must now find the time to photograph, scan and put onto CD.

On the way home I developed a sore throat which led to me not being able to work Wednesday and Thursday, fever, cough, stuffed nose - the lot. But it's my first cold for two years, so I haven't done badly I guess.

I brought yet another six ex-battery hens at the Auction. I now have a total of 22 hens, 18 of which are ex-battery. But I'm getting between 8 and 12 eggs a day at present.
This has highlighted the fact that I've just 'added on' the existing shed and enclosure. The shed is now an array of extra places for laying and new perches. Ideally I'd like a larger shed but can't afford it. Sometime or other I must go in search of some wood and extend. They're all OK, but it's getting a bit tight in there, not only for them but for me cleaning etc.
Having this many chickens means more cleaning and supervision. The new six are in a pretty bad way and need looking at quite often. One problem is they've never seen an egg before and naturally think it's food. So I have to watch that and make sure they're getting to the water and feed OK.
I really must try and not buy any more ! From a financial angle it's costing me a little money as the sales aren't quite covering the cost of the food at present.
So with the extra time on the chicken maintenance, the slight loss of money, I must try to get more from elsewhere. Break even will be nice and that should come soon. I sell at 60p per half dozen which is well below Supermarket Free Range prices.
Seems to me that the words 'organic' and 'free range' on a product automatically doubles the price in a Supermarket.

The owls now have 4 eggs and I would imagine it won't be long before they hatch and the parents can be let loose. This will be great. I must admit that after a long day at Cricket, returning at 9 or 10pm, it's quite a struggle going over the lane with the step ladder to feed them.

Leo and myself spent a couple of night's in my new tent at the Weekend. Nature has a funny way of seeing a tent going up - it rains for the next five days !! But it's a nice biggish tent and I'm really looking forward to a week in Snowdonia during August.
The rain has made everything grow, especially the weeds, they're thriving !! The Runner Beans are flowering, our second early spuds are nearly ready and we're eating courgettes, broad beans, spring onions, lettuce daily. The Squash plants that we had a problem finding a space for and ended up putting them on the old bonfire are going really silly and spreading everywhere.

I took a walk down on the fields the other evening and found loads of horseradish - something else to do during August / September - the roots are only about 12 - 18 inches deed and it's good stony soil !!!

I haven't a clue about flowers, but the lilacs are just blooming. I had to dig up a load from a persons garden two years ago. Rather than dumping them, I scattered them around our place. Only thing is with them, they seem to flower for about two weeks and that's it.

Ginger the cat is now out and about and enjoying his new freedom. But I've told him, as he never seems to stop eating, he's got to earn his keep and get the rats. I'm sure Mimi will guide him through an intensive training course. He loves sitting up by the chickens and watching them, so that's a good sign.
I've found that it's best quite often to leave creatures to their own devices. You buy a cat a bed and it never sleeps in it and you make the chickens nice cosy nest boxes and they lay in the stinging nettles ! The main thing is to give them food and love.

A busy few days now at Cricket in Maidstone. I must confess to being a bit whacked out at present. You just have to think that in four month's time you'll be wishing it was July again !

Going back to look at the future

Full Website