13th - 27th. September 2004

Two weeks of change and surprise.
Kent finished the season with a fine win against Middlesex a day early, so all seemed to suddenly stop. In a way it was good as the final day would have probably lingered on a bit, whereas the suddeness and class of the win covered most end of season sadness up.

The next two days were spent clearing up and shutting up the Dressing Rooms for winter. This is not such a nice job. For 6 months there's been hustle bustle, joy, sadness, noise and bodies ! Overnight this goes and even looking out the window draws it's own story - no advertising boards and the pitch raked up for Ground Staff repair work and readiness for next season. They still cut the grass twice weekly, unless there's snow, so it never stops in that respect.

I'm sure the players are maybe a little like me (other than those jetting overseas to play). The first few days are on catch up with things to do at home and glad of not having to transport yourself around from here to there. But after that, I'm sure we all start thinking winter and next years Spring sunshine seems distant.

I had a surprise last Friday. Meridian TV contacted me through the Cricket Club. They are filming a documentary on downshifting and after looking at the web site and some word of mouth, have asked me to appear in it.
They're filming at Canterbury this coming Friday and I believe it goes out at the end of October.
I'm not sure of all the facts yet but it seems mainly interview with me sauntering around my 'new place of work' in comparism to the suit and tie before.
Don't know what I'm going to say yet, if I can get it out !! Who knows, it could be a movie next. !

For some reason or other the web site has taken off in the last 3 / 4 months and I'm glad that so many people are popping in to see what's happening. Main interest from hit counter statistics is the Battery Hen section which accounts for 45% of visitors.
I'm really pleased about this. It means a lot to me.

I went to the auction on Wednesday - no ex-battery hens ! I did however purchase two rather scraggy little girls for 50p each.
They're settling in with the others but are being shown, sometimes rather naughtily by the others, that they are on the block and they do as they're told !
In fact, just this morning I have been offered another ex-batt hen from a forum friend and I'm picking her up this evening. This will bring me up to 10 and a bit of 'pecking order' over the next few days.

I also purchased at the Household Auction 5 rather good condition 1940 / '50's valve radios which I shall put on ebay. These cost me the grand sum of £6 the lot. Surely there's a profit there ? The last two I sold I paid £15 and got back over £70. Have I found my secret talent of spotting a bargain ?

. It was great to walk around all the background places, especially the Dressing Rooms. Shame I didn't meet their Kitman, we could have discussed washing temeperatures and Soap Powder all afternoon !!

Beside all the high life I'm still busy preparing for winter. I've dug most of the veggie patch and hope to find some more old carpets to put over the top. The grass at the other 3 houses I do is still in need of a fortnightly cut and my wood pile is getting bigger everytime I return home from anywhere.

A kind gesture from the Team has enabled me to get coal which will last me about 3 months, some chicken food and a few other bits and pieces, one of those being a fine motivational accessary - a new Alarm Clock !

So 'Monarch of the Glen' has started on TV, the cats are sleeping about 23 hours a day, the car sounds as if it needs a throat sweet and the long johns are shouting from the chest of drawers.
Autumn has indeed started.

29th. August - 13th.September 2004

Even I am quite surprised with some of the things I pick up from skips and get given to me, but one 'gift' did come as quite a shock last Saturday. The Ground Staff at Canterbury asked me if I could open up the back of my car, they had "something for the Rayburn". It was a 40 feet tall flagpole, neatly sawn down to 3 feet lengths for me to transport !! The paint has all flaked off and will be ideal.
It's so nice to know people who always think of me before they throw anything away.
I can imagine various folk saying "Before you chuck it, could Richard use it" !!The rats remain a problem but cats and myself are on the case and doing well. With all the left over cricket food they've all been getting lately from the chicken pen, even they are so full they're having a lay in every morning.
The chickens seem to enjoy curry ! Last week there was a whole giant pan of rice being thrown away, they love that.
I don't know if it was the rice, but the egg on the left was laid by one of the ex-battery hens. I thought she had a limp and a bit of a sweat.On the subject of battery hens, I'm going to get some more next week, somewhere between 5 or 10. This will give them the winter to 'get back to being real chickens' . If I buy say 10, probably 2 will die within a couple of weeks. They've been imprisioned in a cage the size of 4 x A4 sheets of paper with 4 others for company. They're pecked, sore and half featherless when you get them.
At least if you do lose one or two, they have at least seen the sky and breathed fresh air for a short time of their life. They would otherwise end up in Soups, Pies or Pet Food.
See photo on left of the underside of battery cages.
If you ever thought about having them, you can buy them for about £1 each. The last ten I purchased, t cost 20p per hen.
One year on and they're laying 4 / 5 eggs a week now free of anti-biotics and completely over the top supplemented food at the farm.

Only one game left in the cricket season now. If we play well and win / good draw, we'll come second in the County Championship. It also depends a bit on Surrey not winning and us not losing.
In the One-Day League we are relegated to Division Two. But if you consider Sussex, Warwickshire, Surrey etc., are also in that League, there's no difference in quality.The summer seems to have passed by so quickly. I always think 'The last night of the Proms' is the end of summer and this year seemed to prove that point. The day after it was damp, chilly, windy and miserable.
I'm not a smallholder, so my busy time is February to October in the garden. With the 'Garden Farm' and Cricket, at least the winter is a time for a bit of relaxing from hard work physical action. Just the chickens to feed and clean - that's it.

I've been contacted by Brighton University asking if I could be interviwed 9 times in the next two and a half years. There's some Uni Course which is trying to get to the back of minds of those who have downshifted or opted for the simpler life. I'm really looking forward to this but I think they'll be on overtime trying to work out how I tick !
I do notice from my Site Counter statistics that a lot of Universities look in, so I dread to think what they make of it.

I lost my voice for 2 days last week. The local farmer harvested the field around the house and I can only think it was that. I just hope that the chemicals he was putting down afterwards aren't drifting into my back garden. Goodness knows what they put down nowadays.
They didn't think it was funny at work that I'd lost my voice, they were just thankful.Also, yesterday I took Leo onto the hockey pitches opposite with a 7 iron and Driver to knock around (free gift !). After all the mountain walking and stairs at work - whilst kneeling to find the golf ball, my knee went completely for about 5 hours - absolute agony. Seems OK today. So the last good deed from the Physio to me may well be a few acupuncture pins here and there

16th - 29th. August 2004

The farmer in the three fields around us has harvested his cereal. Good news for the general population, but not good for us - rats !! Through they came, they ventured, they survived and chose Bramley Cottage as their new place of residence, mainly in and around the chicken coup !.
This has set off fierce competition amongst the existing residents in a straight 3-way battle.
The scores at present (after 6 days and 'confirmed') are; Dad (that's me) - 5 rats; Mimi the Cat -4 rats plus 2 shrews; Ginger the Cat - 1 shrew and a wasp (confirmed by the second fat lip of summer).

One rather sad tale, or maybe someone will find it amusing, is I found Ginger sitting over a shrew. The poor thing was in shock and you could see it's heartbeat racing. I felt pity and fetched a trowel to pick it up and put it in the overgrowth for safety. I returned, but couldn't see it. I scoured the ground with my eye's - nothing. I guessed it had got away on it's own. I turned to walk away and to my horror found I'd actually stood on it and killed the poor thing. Oh well, the thought was there.

It's late summer and the time where I feel most 'at one with the good Earth'. No sooner have most of the vegetables been picked, stored and eaten, the freebies start coming in. The desserted Orchard up the Lane was Leo and my task for yesterday morning. He had cunningly worn shorts, so it was down to me to wade through the Stingers and climb the somewhat ageing trees. Finely balanced I managed to pick 82 apples from the tree and gave Leo catching practice at the bottom.
The day before had seen a similar mission on the blackberry bushes nearby and 2 plastic ice cream containers were filled to the brim.
Looks like jam making time ! Still to come are the plums and quinces.

In the field wild horseradish is flourishing, partly I think due to me spading up roots last year and obviously splitting them.
The rain with the little sunshine seems to be making an early harvest on all the freebies and I'm thankful I went to check them out when I did.

No walk for freebies is any good without some wood collecting as well. To get down the lane to our place you have to cross the A28 Ashford - Canterbury road. It's on a bit of a chicane and I was worried walking accross with a rucksack full of apples and 3 pieces of dead wood, one of which must be 13 feet long !! Timing is the key !

I'm here still to tell the tale.

It's a very busy time now and as I said earlier, my Good Earth side comes out. I've made a couple of necklaces out of some hazel wood and re-built the wood shed linings. I've already enough wood for about 8 weeks I guess.

It may seem I have time on my hands, but all this has happened with only three days off. I tried to arrange a social event today and found I have no time until 28th.September ! In that time I've 15 days of cricket, some gardening work and another Southampton visit (for my birthday present I should add).
I've been asked to look at a house in view of decorating every room and have loads of catch up work to do at the Mill House. Then there's 2 doors down windows and the newly converted Mill Cottage have asked me to do their grass for them. Also Mum wants a couple of rooms done as well.
Life is definitely not boring.

Motivation will be the key to autumn and winter. Last year I lacked it and paid the price with extreme financial crisis late Winter / early Spring.
It's a time where you're not sure whether to get a part-time job as a base becuase you don't want to turn work down which you enjoy doing.
I'm umming and arring over this one. I know I have work available certainly til Christmas, but not absolutely certain about later on.

But, at present I'm enjoying the time and not looking forward to the end of the cricket season. The last two years, the day after the final match, I've gone into depression ! After 5 months, I get the shakes !!

1st - 16th. August 2004

My (quote) Saturday and Sunday free last weekend went right out the window. I worked Saturday and Sunday morning, then it chucked it down Sunday afternoon, so the garden gets deeper and deeper into backlog mode !

My visit to Southampton went well. It was the first visit since May and it's good seeing the Grand children growing and changing. Seeing them every day you don't see differences, but this way you do. Mind you, the volume control doesn't change much !
My daughter Vicky informs me that her 2nd cousin reads the Diary on a regular basis, so 'Hello John' !

Walking around the garden this morning conjures up bad back and muscular pain. The chicken area needs strimming, the bare garden from harvested broad beans and potatoes needs weeding and digging, the grass needs cutting, the hedge needs trimming and the shed needs preparation for wood stacking and general autumnal jobs.Today is my only free day til next Tuesday, so looks like my afternoons sorted out !

There are various recipes of Chutney already going in the larder. Variations of Tomato, Onion, Courgette, beetroot mixtures are abound. I'm keeping an eye on the wild horseradish in the fields nearby so that's on the agenda as well.
Also, having free access to a variety of fruit, it won't be long before that gets going as well.
From this time on the smells of the kitchen change daily from a fruity to a vinegar (don't like that one much).
The freezer is getting full and winter getting closer.

The chickens are enjoying themselves. Luckily I spotted a possible fox entry just before I went to Southampton. Some of the wire meshing I've put on top of the corrugated iron fencing had fallen off, quite simple for an agile creature !
I don't have a problem about foxes, they're beautiful. It's up to me to protect. I could kill away if I wanted to, but it wouldn't stop them, there's always another one to take their place.
In September I shall obtain 6 or so more ex-battery hens. That'll give them the winter to settle down, grow their feathers back, get rid of the sores and be happy.

I've about 20 days more work at Cricket before late September, then the great mystery of winter begins. I have a possible job of decorating a whole house close by, the Mill House is building up quite a lot of 'handy man' and decorating jobs (ie 'paint 18 windows !) and then there's a few things at Mums house to do.
It would be nice not to have to get a part-time job, but I know only too well my motivational downfalls during months where I'm doing jobs which aren't as nice as the summer ones. I can't afford to let things slip a little like I did last winter - still need to pay bills etc.

I'm getting paranoid about the fields around us. I know that any day they're going to be harvested and that's going to smother the house with dust and also bring the rats back into the chicken run again. Every time I go out I'm checking the windows are closed and telling the chickens to phone me on the mobile at the first sign of a rodent in the camp.

The cottage opposite is now complete of it's renovation and on the market. I've a cunning plan. Should I not like the look of a viewer, I'll put a sign up outside this house with 'Boot Sale here every Sunday - starts 6am'. I reckon that'll see them off. If they have a second visit, I'll change it to 'Please do not feed the rats' and see what happens.
I reckon it's going to be a profesional couple job, 4x4 and the conversion of the garage into a Gym.
My personal Gym consists of a vegetable garden, chicken run and a Cricket Team to look after plus running away from grandchildren who only give you a cuddle so they can wipe their nose on your shirt and rub their jam sticky hands through your hair !

Many thanks to those who have ordered books etc. through my Amazon links. I've just received the last quarters voucher and it enabled me to buy birthday presents for son, daughter and grandson (all have rottenly times birthdays all at once !

19th. July - 1st. August 2004

A change to the Kent v Glamorgan fixture mucked up my holiday plans...but, a quick alteration to plans and I've already been !
Leo and I went last week for 7 days camping at Wasdale Head in the Lake District, a fine place indeed. Being off the beaten track meant we were well away from the main 'touristy' bit and enjoyed a relaxing time, 3 days milling around and 3 days up the mountains.
We did Scafell Pike, Great Gable (in cloud cover at the top) and Lingmell. Taking the slightly harder routes kept us on our toes, especially me who had to remember compass bearings correctly - but we're back to tell the tale !

I have come to the conclusion that the motor vehicle is much the same as the human body. I thought we'd take a shortcut through the mountains on the Hardknott Pass, only 30% gradients on both sides ! On the way up the poor old G reg Micra got a really hot engine and by the time I'd got to the bottom on the other side, the brakes were barely keeping the car at the same speed. Going up the mountains on foot does the front part of your body in and on the way down does the back in ! Striking similarities !
What's also odd is that we 'climbed' a total of approx 9,000 feet whilst there and I wasn't out of breath once. Today I went to Canterbury, walked a dozen towels up the stairs to the Dressing Room and was completely shot away !

So I managed another holiday just about. Petrol, Campsite and food for about £170. I knew I'd been because at the Service Station on the way back, the Cash Machine said "No" !
Not to worry, I wouldn't change anything. One thing about your 'late summer' is that you suddenly realise the things you haven't done in life and it's a little more urgent to make sure you do them.
Even when you've done those things another challenge comes along, so again, it's the old Ecclesiastes 'if you wait for the wind and rain to be just right, you'll never sow anything and never reap anything either'.
Next year Scotland, then hopefully the Alps and after that John O'Groats to Lands End'. Those will take me through to 60.

Now it's 6 days out of 8 cricket, then off to visit family in Southampton. The only problem with this being that just about everything in the 'garden farm' is ready and willing. So I know what I'll be doing on Saturday and Sunday !

It's mite time in the chicken shed. No matter how much you spray and clean, you get back indoors and they're creeping up your arms or around the hair line (luckily my hair line is quite minimal nowadays). Once a week I give the shed a thorough clean and I've a system now whre I run the bath, clean the shed, strip off outside the back door and jump in ! I haven't as yet been caught out by the neighbour suddenly coming round the bushes with some scraps for the chicken mash, but heaven help them if they catch a glance at my strapping 6 feet, ten and a half stone body ! Put them off forever I think !

Oh yes, my savings scheme of puting all my 2, 5 and 10p pieces into a jar since March accrued a grand total of £15.72 at Sainsburys. Regret to say it didn't accept the couple of old French coins I bunged in.
The end of the cricket season is rapidly approaching and I must start thinking about a part-time job through winter. With that and the various odd jobbing I do, I hope to survive to fight another year. I did think of an alternative, but Police tend to catch most bank robbers nowadays.

So finally - who is Jamie Reid ? Well, he's the BBC Radio Kent Sports Reporter whom I have the pleasure of meeting at every Cricket Match. In great honour and esteem of this talented young man

Going back to look at the future

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