Well we have been busy on the ol’ homestead, we are not planting any of our veg until June having learned our lesson last year when we had a frost in very late May which rather did for a lot of things. That being said we have been prettying up the place, which will be an ongoing process but we have made a start.

Rhododendron bushes, the one on the left we bought first but a frosty night did for its flowers.
The other five are ok though.
We have a new front door we painted Tardis blue, we just need some numbers on it now so deliveries can find us.
Finally got around the clearing the tangled mess that was the beds by the front door and have planted Azaleas.
We still need to weed though I see.
Hellebore (Lenten Rose). This area also needs weeding, sigh…
Hardening off the Sweetpeas.
Suzie’s greenhouse until we build one, all of the propagating is superstar Suzie, I am allowed to water them – that’s it!
In the back we have planted Dogwood around the water pump, this is the weeded side….
….and this is the unweeded side. Cleared today actually.
“Desdemona” a white David Austen Rose bought for Suzie’s birthday last year by Ali, Richard and Abs that was delivered last week.
Another rose Suzie bought that I must confess to not knowing the name off, they are pink though I think.
We did plant onions (Yay!) and they are starting to appear now, we bought three types because we do like our onions and we failed to grow any last year. No sign of the Broad Beans yet.
We are getting Asparagus this year too.
Grapevine I think.
The Strawberries are looking more promising this year. What’s nicer than homegrown Strawberries?!

Plum tree in solitary to keep the Deer off of it.

Japanese Maple.
We are getting an area ready for some meat birds, just need to decide what to do with the mower.
We bought six new layers too, supposedly 2 x Rhode Island Red, 2 x Starlight Green Eggers and 2 x Silver Laced Wyandotte (though we are convinced one of the latter is another Rooster…Oh No!).
We are trying our best with these ones to get them used to us, seems to be working.
This cutie flew onto my phone (twice) while I was taking these photos so not shy.


We lust lived through our first ever ice storm and it was no fun at all, every surface was as slippery as an ice rink. Then we got about a foot of snow which looks very pretty but working outside has just had to STOP! We finally have a sense of what it must be like to be in a lockdown but we have absolutely no reason to moan as this past year has been mostly business as usual for us, apart from Suzie working from home for the most part of course.

Looks innocuous enough but it was really slippery.
So many of our eggs were cracked and frozen solid, we are checking for them much more frequently now.
The chicken water.
Thankfully it would seem we have enough Propane to see us through.
Then came the snow…
Where are our vegetable beds?
Put your best foot forward.
Suzie texted this to Will, I won’t repeat what she said in her message!
In other more troubling news, Mack is missing!!!

A Bucketful of Compost

So being originally English we thought a $20 bucketful of compost meant the type that had a handle, but no it’s the bucket on a flatbed truck!

Our amazing compost place close by in Paducah.
Our lovely neighbor Carl took me in his truck AND was a big help in unloading it all. Thank you very much Carl!
First hugelkultur bed, half done.
First one done.
Did the newly cleared front beds too.

That Sinking Feeling

So our kitchen is done….for now at least. We left the countertop for around the sink until last as we figured the first two would be good practice, which they were. Our neighbor Scottie was a big help with getting the form built, he did the hole for the sink part, Suzie bought a little bottle of acrylic paint for the faucet hole as it was the perfect diameter. However as soon as we got the concrete poured Suze realized the form had not been built as a mirror image to what we actually wanted (the sink on the left)! While we were deliberating what to do and how we might be able to use the side with all of the bubbles on, one of our chickens jumped on top and left a claw print in the wet concrete – which made up our minds, we were using it!

Darn! Could we not have realized a little sooner?!
Pesky Chickens!

Thinking we needed an orbital sander we headed off into Paducah, Lowe’s had the sanders but not the diamond discs we needed so we had lunch and drove home. This happens a lot actually and it’s why we order a lot from the internet I guess.

Once the concrete had cured we needed to get it out of the form which proved somewhat difficult so we whacked it with a mallet and cracked the concrete, thought what the hell and then this happened:

We had no choice but to start over, our contractor was booked. We did things differently this time though and did not silicone around the form for the sink and we poured the concrete in smaller batches (to try to avoid pour marks, although we do kind of like those).

Fingers crossed.
Removing the inner form.
Carefully does it.
Flipped and sanding.
Quite a bit of sanding…
Applying the food grade sealant.
It served us well.

John our most excellent contractor arrived to fit the cabinets we bought and our new countertop. However, we bought an under-mount sink but due to the rough, uneven nature of the underneath of our flipped counter we could not use it as such. Which left us with a real problem as the hole we had left for the sink in the concrete was too small for a standard over-mount sink! We phoned around but not even mobile home and RV manufacturers could help us, their sinks were too small. The sink we had though just about fitted the hole so I decided we should have a go at jimmying it in and using it as an over-mount, John was concerned about bending the inside of the sink but went and fetched his rubber mallet.

The cabinets going in.

We got the sink in without damaging the bowls of the sink, so we took it out, glued it and put it back. There was a bit of the lip sticking up at the front and I asked John to give it another whack and DISASTER struck!


Suzie was at work but when she got home she just loved it, crack and all, because that’s just who she is. I am “Mr Everything Needs to be Perfect” but Suzie said the damage was part of the countertops story now and that we should just fill the cracks, Kintsugi was mentioned but who has the money for gold!

Looks great we think.
Because there’s more to life than kitchen countertops.
It was also Starling migration season again this week.

The Egg Song

We figured as it’s winter that our chickens had gone off the boil (no pun intended) particularly our Easter Egger (Esther) who lays beautiful, smaller eggs that are green/blue (I think as I’m color blind). Esther is a bit flighty mind you and even laid one in our garage once.

While working outside we have however been hearing the “Egg Song” coming from the compost bins quite a lot but every time we have peered in there we have seen nothing. Today though as I needed to climb into the compost for the second of our hugelkultur beds I found 21 eggs including many of Esther’s plus a couple of smashed ones. Some of them were really buried so they have clearly been laying them there for a good while, we did the water test and they are all still fresh. It kinda/sorta brings our tally for the day to 26 eggs with probably one more to get from the coop today.

They are a bit mucky.


Suzie being the brilliant gardener that she has no doubt known about Hulgelkultur for quite a while but it was news to me. It is our plan to prevent the vegetable beds from flooding again when it rains (and blimey does it pour down here sometimes). What appealed to me about it was that it uses up the byproduct of land management, pruned trees, dug turf, etc., etc.

You can dig the beds first and I did a little (you need top soil at the end of the process) but it’s back breaking work and to save our backs we wanted our Hugelkultur beds to be as high as possible.

Chickens helpful as ever
Farmer Mack (also helping)

It’s Concrete….

So our kitchen remains a work in progress, we recently bought a lovely new sink and a cupboard to go beneath it but we were quoted the best part of $5k for countertops and we would need to have the complete redesign of our kitchen done as they would all need to be fitted at the same time (incidentally you only qualify for any kind of discount on countertops if you are spending $10k or over).

Super Suzie was very keen on the idea of concrete countertops and had me watch a good few YouTube videos but I remained skeptical as I always tend to be with things we have never done before. What it always seems to come down to though is me saying that as long as we have absolutely everything we need to do the job (whatever it may be) I will give it a go.

Last weekend we made a start, mistakes were made and lessons were learnt but we have our first countertop done, we are calling it “rustic”. I am now confident that our second one will be a lot neater and having by then done two we will tackle the one for the sink.

Blimey that melamine is damn heavy!
I cannot be trusted with the power tools.
We made the sides for the mold from some trim we had laying about in the garage.
Somebody (me) cut too much off of the silicone spout.
The guys on YouTube had beautiful thin lines of sealant.
Also damn heavy!
The cement is in, it took both of us to mix and then lift it in the bucket so we have no photos of the mixing or pouring – sorry.
Chickens – no help at all!
Tap the edges to get all of the bubbles, important stage this. This will actually be the underneath of the countertop, we needed to take it out of the mold and flip it over. Again, no photos of these stages because we both needed to do the removal and the flipping.
Today we sealed it with food grade sealant – wax on, wax off.
There you have it, best not to look too close!
In other news Suze made enchilada sauce and had a double yoke egg (poached) for her lunch.

An early (unexpected) frost

So at the beginning of this week we woke up to a frost, which killed our tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts and our latest try at brussel sprouts.

We had let the sweet potato vines get away from us so we were not really expecting any and we weren’t at all sure we had any peanuts. The tomatoes, particularly the yellow pear were still going great guns but that just gives us another chance at green tomato chutney….who has the time or space to ripen ’em?!

In other news there’s a couple of acres the other side of the road from us up for a mail-in auction and we are tempted.

A visitor today to the land we do already own.

eggs R us

Things have been somewhat busy on the old homestead of late particularly outdoors for me as Suzie got a new job but is currently working from home which means she is in her office eight hours a day.

The news that’s fit to print right now though is that our chickens have started laying and fresh eggs are just the bestest thing ever.

We have started letting them out of their coop for most of the day, which they really seem to like, they have done for what’s left of our peppers though (below).
Not all eggs are created equal!
The Brown Isa’s lay pretty big eggs but we think the mega large ones are our grey chickens – whatever breed they are…?
Double yolkers are very cool.
This is “Babs” our only chicken that seems to actually like us and my favorite because of that.
We did not want a rooster but count ourselves lucky that we only got the one. He is spectacular looking but superfluous to requirements and is for the pot if he does not stop attacking Suzie. We did not want any Polish chickens and were not supposed to have bought any so thank you Rural King.
We have been getting eggs for about three weeks now and so far 29 is the most we have gotten in a week but we might be on to break that record this week! Plenty to share for sure.

Can we do it? Yes, we can!

The last few weeks have been busy. All our hard work is beginning to pay off and we have moved into happy harvest mode! We have been waiting for what feels like months for the pale green bell peppers to turn red. We did eat a couple at the green stage but then stuck firm and waited for them to ripen. I’m glad we did, the red peppers are amazing. They are a variety called “Gypsy” and are supposed to be prolific fruiters. They haven’t dissappointed us yet!

Also in the “glut” department has been the Russian kale, which we both love, luckily. I have been making sag paneer with it and it works amazingly well in place of spinach. I even made a kale and mushroom lasagne, it was amazing. Russian kale isn’t as bitter as the stuff you buy in the supermarket so it’s not as disgusting in lasagne as it sounds! It doesn’t really work for kale chips though, you just end up with flat, dried kale leaves, tasty but unfulfilling.

The cucumbers have decided to kill us with kindness. We can’t turn around for another 40 on the vine, ready to be picked. We only have two plants varieties called “White Spine” and “Spacesaver” and honestly, I can’t really tell the difference. They are all the size of footballs. Luckily the chickens love pecking at the inside of an oversized cucumber!

The strawberries did well, but as is the way of strawberries there are never enough. I will have to buy some to make jam with because we ate all ours!

This week the basil has seriously started to go mad, so next week there will definitely be a pesto making session.

I haven’t even mentioned the tomatoes, I am in awe of the incredible yellow pear tomato. Despite getting a really late frost, and me being daft and putting them outside far too early, and an infestation of the almighty tomato hornworm, which the chickens were delighted with, and despite us almost completely failing to tie them in properly, the harvest has been legendary. A few of the red variety “Rutgers” survived the frost and the flooding and have been keeping us busy but the “Yellow Pears” have gone crazy. I am constantly wondering what to do with another large bowl of them. So far we have had them raw (obv), roasted in oil, made yellow tomato relish, chutney, green tomato chutney (windstorm that toppled a couple of plants), pasta sauce, salsa, enchilada sauce and this week I even sun dried a few. I am considering having a go at ketchup.

The zucchini (courgette) has also been producing. I planted two plants really because if nothing else will grow in a garden, at least the zucchini will. Two plants were about one and a half plants too many as Al absolutely refuses to eat them. I mean, I like them but who could possibly eat two plants worth of zucchini? I might have a go at stuffing the flowers before the fruits get a chance to develop.

Critter Proofin’

With the structure of our deer proof vegetable garden built it became time to critter proof it all. I have to say though that it occurred to me more than once that digging trenches is work for much younger men.

1′ wide and 8″ deep along the front….
….and up the side.
Alas, we had a bit of rain and that delayed things (and probably did for our potatoes).
Hardware Cloth 2′ x 50′ that should (hopefully) keep them out.
Have to say though that Mack is doing a pretty good job of keeping the pest population down too (Suzie told him that was his job when he first came to us).
Suze has planted some flowers in the refilled trench.

Pollinators R Us!

This month the homestead has been a very busy place. The bees we introduced into their hive are doing well. A few worries, like the fact that they decided to raise a new queen for some reason, but still buzzing away. We have also noticed a whole host of other pollinators including bumble bees, dragonflies, other solitary bees and a ton of butterflies. In particular we have noticed several Monarch butterflies. It’s hard to not notice them, they are particularly large and beautiful and it was while attending an online course on pollinating insects that I discovered that they are on the verge of becoming an endangered species.

They really are remarkable, they spend time with us here in Illinois in June, lay their eggs on one species only, milkweed, and after raising 5 generations or so, migrate in September down to Mexico. They vacate in the warmer climes for three months or so and then start their journey back to us, raising a quick generation of young in Texas. These butterflies raised in Texas then make their way back to Illinois to delight us in June.

So, with this in mind, I ordered some milkweed seeds and then totally forgot to do anything with them! Imagine my surprise when a couple of weeks ago I noticed a Monarch butterfly anyway. Okay, so to be honest I didn’t really know what milkweed looked like. It turns out we have about three acres of the stuff in the land that we couldn’t clear this spring because the mower broke down. I did the initial post winter mow and then left it to its own devices. Perfect for the milkweed apparently! Despite its name it really is a pretty plant, smells nice too. I haven’t been able to get a picture of a Monarch butterfly yet, they fly off into the butterfly sanctuary we have apparently cultivated and it’s hard to follow them but I have managed to capture some others. All identifications are guesses, trying to match them against my butterfly book, it’s hard because no two butterflies are really the same! There is also a bright yellow butterfly that I can’t get close enough to photograph, with no photo it’s very hard to identify them. I will keep trying and I am determined to photograph a Monarch!

Milkweed with bumble bee and other wildlife
Pale Swallowtail
Pearly-eyed Satyr
Tailed-Blue butterfly (inside the wings are a gorgeous blue)

How does your (veg) garden grow…

OK here’s our early June garden update, so far everything seems to be doing well (the Sunflowers did not germinate though and the French Beans seem rather reluctant). We have started the anti critter trench but so far the motion activated lights seem to be working, a few weeks ago I saw a couple of them come on and then saw the silhouette of a rabbit running away. Mack is doing his bit too.

View from the gate: Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and in the second bed from the right, potatoes (three varieties of fingerling and a main crop) and sweet potatoes. In the next bed, tomatoes (two varieties) where the posts are and we have a strawberry bed and peas along the opposite fence.
First bed from the gate, Suzie planted sesame seeds, peanuts and zucchini/courgette today. This is the bed with the (so far) no show french beans and pak choi which is doing great.
Brassica bed.
Strawberries – we are already eating them and they are delicious! And at the end two varieties of cucumber, one salad and one for pickles.
One of several bowls of strawbs we have harvested. Suzie made yoghurt too which may be combined at some point.
Sugar snap peas, will soon be up the fence.
Sweet potatoes growing for the first time.
Asparagus, these will need a year or three before we can harvest.
Why can we not develop foods that grow as well as weeds? This is Suzie’s umpteenth bucket full.
Our sweetcorn has germinated, if you look closely.
The critter proofing on the outside of the garden has begun, stay tuned.

Chicken Update

Today I remembered to take my phone with me up to the chicken coop and thought you might all enjoy the following couple of movies. Bear in mind I had just woken up, no coffee, no hairbrush etc. The chickens, as always, are camera ready! They woke up this way.

Happy that they have finally found their upstairs!

Here are the two videos:

Early morning, after a bad night! I look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards! But of course still have reading glasses on because I sleep in them!

Hunt the chickens!

Hope you enjoyed breakfast with our chickens!

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter…

A few years ago now when we lived in Torrance, CA our neighbors at the time bought Suzie a book by Jennifer Reece called “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter”, it’s a great read and we used to live by it. Suze more than me obviously I was just the contented recipient. Then we got ourselves the absolute time suck of sharing our home with a foster kid and it all went out of the window.

Now though in these difficult times the book is front and center again!

First up homemade bread again YAAAAY! This is a “No Knead/Artisan” loaf.
An English fave, Bourbon Biscuits (pronounced “Bor-bon” no alcohol is involved).
Eggs from our lovely neighbors, cannot wait for our Chickens to start laying.
Iced Coffee FANTASTIC!
Another English favorite “Hob Nobs”, don’t know if I’ve ever seen them in the US. These were SOOO much better than the ones you can buy though!
Lamb Burger with Feta, Sesame Bread Rolls and the Burgers were homemade by Suzie, we did not raise the sheep.
We are all Crackers!
Meat Pie, my absolute favorite!!!
Homemade Treacle Pudding with (homemade) Custard. Suzie does love me then.

Meat Pies for the future!
Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Honey Oat Bread rolls.
A Kitchen casualty.

The Buzz for the Cluck

Suzie put down a deposit on a nuc (short for nucleus, a queen and starter pack basically) of Bees quite a few months ago but we got the call this week that they were ready for pick up. We knew we wanted them up by the pond but needed to do some clearing first.

We did realize after a while that this was not the side we wanted to have the Bees on and it was tiring work so we moved on.
Honeysuckle might be pretty when it flowers but MAN is it invasive!
The side where we did want the Bees.
Leedle-Houme Bees in the fantastically named “Mulkeytown” (about an hour from us – the furthest we’ve been for quite a while).
Good to know!
Very useful onsite demo.
The Bee House.
Our nuc, can anyone hear buzzing?
Suzie’s Beehive, painted and ready to go.
Suzie’s Hazmat suit.
Suze is keeping them supplied with sugar water but they are already flying around and seem to be getting accustomed to their new surroundings.

So we finally have our “Buzz” and the “Cluck” is doing pretty well too. In the few weeks we have had them they have about doubled in size and are feathering up nicely. We have 10 again temporarily as one of our neighbors Chickens had Chicks before they were quite ready for them. It was pretty funny actually, one of the new Chicks made so much noise at first that all of ours cowered at the back of the box we put in there for them, seemingly terrified. All is harmonious now though.

Also, just because I’m writing this one….Amazon are now shipping Cats!

Not sure all of the bubblewrap was necessary.

Off to beds

Today we finally planted (some of) our spuds, Onions and Leaks still to be planted in this bed. Hopefully after last week we are now done with the frost for the year.
We are calling this a “first pass” and yes, on both of these I did mess up the edging.
We still have two like this left to dig.
On the tv show Time Team they always have a “finds” table where they display fabulous historical artifacts that they have unearthed. This is ours….

Glub and Cluck?

So this week we picked up the fish Suzie ordered a while ago now, Wide Mouthed Bass and Bluegill, both native to the area – pretty sure though that we are just feeding the Water Snake we saw up there at the pond.

Did Mention that I HATE Snakes?!

For some reason even though we bought them months ago, on the day we were number 24 and had to wait.

It was raining so we also went and bought some Chicks:

4 x Buff Orpington
4 x Brown Isa (guaranteed female)
2 x Welsummer

Alas, two died the first night.

Heat lamp with infra red which is supposed to help calm them. All we need to do now is keep Mack out and man does he want in!

Tea for the Tillerman…

Our lovely neighbor Carl making it look easy!

….or in this case a coca-cola and some homebaked cookies, much as Carl (and Suzie) love a cuppa.

I had a go and needed both arms, my legs and all of my heft and still struggled. Next step vegetables, which reminds me we still need to put in that critter trench.

This is a bit more like my action.
Watch this space.

Taking a Weekend Off

I think I have broken Suzie, she has spent at least the last eight days working outside, I at least had some time working on freelance stuff inside. So today Suzie said how about we rest up and actually have a weekend for once – great idea! We decided to go walk the Forestry land behind us that has recently been cleared. First off we had a walk around the front garden which is looking glorious.

We have a Magnolia tree – who knew?!
Red Bud we think.
It still cracks me up that Mack comes for a walk with us.
Mind where you step.
Empty nest, we know that feeling.
FINALLY found the other pond we had seen just up from us on a satellite image last year. Thank you Forestry Commission for clearing the land.

Building Stuff!

We have been busy! The mornings when it was only 37 degrees weren’t much fun but we persevered.

We still need to support the gates but do not have the wood and cannot get any right now.

We have now about 98% built our Deer/Rabbit proof vegetable garden, next month we need to dig the beds and plant out everything. The cages in the photo above are protecting two apple trees Suze bought.

Starting, please note how clean our garden tools look.
I think we put in five posts the first day.
Top and bottom supports.
Suzie made some cracking gates!
This is after I cleaned them a bit.

Next up protecting livestock (the Chickens we will be getting) from predators. A while ago when we were going to use different posts some numpty bought a bent one – but Suzie likes it.

We still need to add an apron across the bottom, finish the roof and put in a divider for the meat birds.
We have not been quite as meticulous as we were with the vegetable garden!

Anti-depression Photos

We have had a ton of rain lately, including thunder and lightning, even a tornado watch last night, and so work has slowed here on the homestead. With all the scary and depressing news out there in the world it has been an effort to keep things in perspective. With that in mind I took a wander around the property today and snapped a few anti-depression pics. Hope you all enjoy.

On the Fence

So, with a few dry(ish) days behind us and the ground not actually being frozen solid for a change, we decided to get on with starting the fencing of our vegetable garden.

Fencing is very necessary here, due to the abundance of wild deer. As pretty as they look, they are death to production in a vegetable/fruit garden. When we first moved here, they were all over the place. Then hunting season started and they all but disappeared. Thinking the hunters had culled the population, I felt a bit bad because they really are lovely animals to watch in the morning with a cup of coffee on the patio, but it turns out I didn’t need to worry. They weren’t gone, merely in hiding. The very last day of the season we started to see them again. I have no idea how they know, but they do. Our neighbor saw five of them on our land a couple of weeks ago. I have found tracks (and poop!) right down by the house where I have never seen them before so a fence is essential.

After doing a lot of research we decided on the following plan, a six foot high fence which can be added to if necessary, no electric fence yet. But if I see one deer looking at our vegetables and licking its lips, extra steps will be taken.

Look at all the tools we used!

The day before, we had done our best to peg out where we wanted the final posts. We are completely inexperienced so of course, we made some mistakes but eventually came up with posts spaced eight feet apart to total 40′ x 40′. We have the space to put in more areas this size if needed next year. It is nice to have a lot of space! After a quick Google search we discovered that about a third of the post needs to be buried so that meant our holes needed to be two feet deep. Easy.

Two feet of clay!

So the first six to eight inches was easy, then we hit the clay. Oh, how we hit the clay. I was tempted to start a pottery. And it’s wet too, wet, sticky, claggy clay. It stuck to everything. EVERYTHING! In the end we spent more time scraping clay off various tools and our boots than anything else.

Gate posts in!

Eventually we figured out a method and got the first two posts in, see the breeze block boot scraper? This is where the gates will go. I have to make them first.

We are old, so we knew we wouldn’t be able to do all the posts in one day. I have a bad back, Al has a bad neck, we just do what we can and stop when we have to. We are not the fastest, most accurate workers but we plod along and we get there in the end.

One day’s progress.

This is our progress after the first day. And it wasn’t all day, but the clay got the better of our old bones and we stopped for lunch. Of course, when you do stop, you realize just how much pain you are in and that’s it for the day. Even so, we are very proud of our progress. Six posts in a (mostly) straight line, only another another 14 to go. Of course it rained last night, so we will have to wait for a couple of days before we start again. Not a bad idea, give our bodies time to recover!

Finally getting some Bzz

After what has seemed like a very long time, we are very excited to start our bee-keeping journey. Can’t have a serious homestead without bees, right? I have a nice space picked out for them up by the pond, somewhat sheltered by trees and wild honeysuckle but a nice clear route down to our proposed vegetable garden. I will plant some enticing flowers in a “bee corridor” down to where I really want them, pollinating my fruit and vegetables.

It’s way too cold for establishing a colony just yet so all I can do is read up about bee-keeping and of course get the hive built.

I ordered this one from Galena Farms, via Amazon:


It was really reasonably priced and looked good to me. Came on time, packaged brilliantly and I spent a happy , if cold, morning assembling it. Can’t wait to get it in place.

I still need to order a spacesuit, but will wait for that until a little nearer the time. Enjoy the pics!

Wax coated frames

Hutch (no Starsky)

Suzie found a hutch up for grabs on Facebook Marketplace that she liked the look of for our kitchen, it was in the wilds of Paducah but undeterred we drove and got it. Suze is terrific at fixing stuff up and after patching, sanding, sawing, gluing, tacking and painting it, it now looks great in our kitchen.

It was looking a bit the worse for wear but was free.
It needed some repair.
The artiste at work.
I tried to convince Suzie it was one of the dogs but she was having none of it.

Looks really great we think! Fits the space nicely too.

Cooped up!

Suzie found a great chicken coop online and I set myself the task of putting it together but failed miserably. Suze came out and noticed I had missed an important part of stage 1.

Can you spot the part I missed?
All we need to do now is build a larger pen for them.

Boxing Day

Once again this year I was reminded that Boxing Day is just not a thing in America. Our neighbor suggested to me that I contact the South Eastern Illinois Electric Co-op about the trees in our front yard that were on the way to interfering with the electricity cable running to our house and last week or the week before they came out to have a look. I was thinking they’d be back early in the new year but nope….Boxing Day, bright and early!

Suze, me, both dogs and the cat went for a walk around our property.
They arrive with all of the kit they need, three man crew.
First tree gets a few of the lower branches chainsawed off and then it’s into the wood chipper for it.
It’s a real shame because it was a big un.

When the guy came out to look I asked him about the big mostly dead Fir tree in the front that was on a serious lean toward the cable and he said they’d take it down for us but would not clear away the branches, fair enough. We were quoted $2k to take down the big dead Fir tree and one other by a private contractor.

I didn’t get photos of them taking down the second Pine but that one was done much more strategically as it was really near the cable. All of the branches were removed, it was roped and taken down in the direction of the road, then wood-chipped in the second chipper they brought.

First, off come all of the branches.
Section by section….
It comes down!
We asked that they leave us about 8-9ft of the trunk as we have plans for it.
The sections of trunk we are thinking we will roll to the side, bore holes into it and plant mushrooms. Today we will go buy a chainsaw for the rest of it.

Not only that but our neighbor Frank came and took down that bloody, bloody basketball net! How much better does that look?!

Walking the Land

It has been raining rather a lot here but Suze and I have been trying to walk our property line when she gets home from work with the dogs and the cat that recently adopted us (he is the best behaved while we are walking, just putting that out there).

Heading out towards the back of our property.
The pond is looking much better after all of the rain we’ve been having.
Area that still needs to be cleared – I might tackle it with the strimmer.
(We did lose Mack in there, something peaked his interest).
Heading toward Glendale Road (out front).
The view toward Boaz (Pope County Road 2610N).
Heading home as it gets dark, Suzie and Cesar are in there somewhere.
We really must bring in the washing.

Last room for now

So with it being rather wet outside of late I decided to paint our Laundry Room and I am done for now. We do have one final room that needs spackling and painting but it’s full of stuff from the move right now. The color of the walls currently is migraine inducing but fortunately you cannot really see it for all of the aforementioned stuff.

Here then is the color it was.
They really did like their brown tones.
We have gone with the same pale grey as the kitchen and vestibule.
Certainly looks lighter.
I am retiring these jeans now!

Bird o’clock!

Suze and I would quite often sit outside of a morning and evening when we lived in California and we always loved to listen to the birdsong, we used to call it “Bird o’clock”.

Blimey though, yesterday WOW! it really was Bird o’clock! We were unindated with European Starlings by the thousand it seemed like. I did ask our loveliest neighbors what they were but when Suzie got home she teased me for not recognizing a Starling when I saw and heard one as they are everywhere in England – in my defence though it’s not like I saw any of them up close….but I should perhaps have recognized their song.

Presumably they are all off to warmer climes, I doubt very much they were just getting here.

Hitchcock’s The Birds anyone?
Loads more across the road at our neighbors.
Oh boy, where to start….?

The Last Catpost…?

So this in in real danger of becoming a blog about Cats and I’m sure the internet has enough of those! Mack is putting on weight nicely and seems to be getting the hang of his litter tray (thank the stars). Being softy ex-Californians we have of course bought him a collar (with a dickie bow) and a name tag. I get that the tag is supposed to be a Fish but it just looks like a mini submarine to me – the watercraft not the sandwich.

My name is Mack!
Submarine, right?

Obviously I know what a Tabby Cat is but a “Mackerel Tabby” was a new one on me, they must be pretty common though as most Catfood suppliers have photographs of them on their packaging it seems.

For a recently stray Cat he is certainly hungry most of the time it seems.

Action shot!


So Suzie was correct (as per usual) and our new girl cat is actually a boy. We took “her” to the vet’s and “he” is not microchipped (no surprises there really) but he is only 6-7 months old (which did surprise me). At some point in his short life he has taken a knock to his left pelvis, which means his tail does not work properly – it is rather typical that we should find ourselves with a non too graceful feline.

We are calling him “Mack” because he is a Mackerel Tabby. If we cannot dissuade him from pooping inside though he may have to go (joking).

He’s keeping an eye on me.
It’s now official – we live at 25.


What was it we said about NOT wanting any more animals?! This one followed me home last night….TWICE.

Vet’s tomorrow to see if she’s chipped, she is far too friendly and clean not to belong to somebody.

It’s Curtains…..

We wanted to finish decorating inside before Christmas as the previous tenants had made some rather odd color choices, it being so wet of late and with Suzie out at work I got stuck in. Again against all expectations I actually enjoyed it, Suze has always done the decorating in the past, apart from when we were getting Esterbrook ready to sell and I did not like that at all – mostly because Will who was supposed to be helping kept writing his name on the walls and we were all on covering it up each time. I swear in the right light you can probably still see it….although I do know the people who bought it repainted in a somewhat darker shade so maybe not .

Our Bedroom, Suzie was right the curtains do make a room look finished. I did have to watch a few videos about “cutting in” I must admit.
Suzie’s office we know about, but now with added curtains.
Vestibule, before….
….and after.
We did get one dry day to get outside and do some more weeding.
Panini was getting these damn things really stuck in her fur so they had to go!


I have always thought that November was Winter but apparently it is really January/February and we should not be getting Snow now…but hey there’s no such thing as climate change right, Donald?

Poor Suzie still had to go to work.
I was able to track her from Metropolis IL (once at&t would give her a signal). She got to work ok but said the drive had been “insane”.
This is what happens if you leave your Boots outside d’oh!
This mostly dead tree in our front yard is a bit of a worry but it does seem to be leaning away from the House. Thus far I cannot get anybody to phone me back about taking it down.


Turns out Southern Illinois is even more like England than we thought as we have been having a frosty snap. When the weather brightens again I will take photos of how red some of the trees are going, it really is beautiful here.

Suze bravely ventured out to take these one morning.
Panini for one loves to be outside, here she is telling me all about it.
We bought boots, Suzie wore hers to work today – no news yet on whether or not she had to defrost the windscreen first.
I have my own lane – unsure what it really stands for.


FINALLY! We got rid of that bloody, bloody doghouse out back! I figured it’d be a really noisy demo job so I decided to do it when Suze was out. Alas though, I had to unscrew all of the bolt/screws that were in the metal plating and move the (rotten) wooden frame around the back of the shed.

More than once I wished I’d never started but we are both glad to be rid of it, what an eyesore! I really want rid of the Basketball Net too but that’s concreted in so who knows when we’ll get to that….we can buy Dynamite in stores here mind you.

No blue skies, the dogs and me were out in the rain – it had to go!
Doghouse and Basketball net (oh and some bloke).
Some but not all of the plating.
Just Grrrrr…..

In other news we are on a “Freeze Alert” for tonight, who knew that was a thing?! Suze went out and harvested our Mint, Parsley and what Tomatoes were left on the Vine – the Tomato plants did particularly well.

Can you tell where we parked the Van?

Pondsy Scheme

OK technically it was before the rain and the pink but we had a go at cleaning up the pond.

It was a lot fuller when we first saw the place.

It was a thankless task, there was just no raking it fast enough and I did get stuck (twice). We bought waders but they were the type you put over your shoes and mine leaked so off they went back to Amazon. We talked to our lovely neighbor Carl and he suggested we get a solar powered pump to aerate the water, he said that’d help get rid of the algae.

All of the rain we’ve been having might have filled up the pond a little (hopefully). Clearing around it is on the list and I might tackle that next week. We really need to get mowing the Bush Hogged land before that though.

Suze took a video of me heading in.

Left the right one out in the rain (unintentionally) and that cleaned it up great.


Well California is on fire but we have been having a pretty big rainstorm and have been under a flood warning. So it seemed like a good day to get on with some more decorating. Suzie’s back was a bit choice so I spent yesterday taking far too long to paint her office – fair enough really as she painted mine.

It looked like the room had been for a girl but what girl would want a room this color?!

What color would you call this exactly? Something in the poop range…
To be fair it was also being used for eBay stuff.

I was reminded of an article I read a (very) long time ago that said the type of men you needed to win a civilization were not the ones you wanted living in it. Which is why a lot of husbands can be found most weekends painting the back bedrooms of the nation.

I’m color blind so the walls in the photos still look kinda brownish to me but they are now a dusky pink.
We moved out all of the eBay junk too.
The rainstorm blew free a few leaves!
It’s definitely Fall.

Clearing the Land, ongoing…

So I’m a poster boy?

The truly brilliant Suzie went out and got a job! It all but covers our overheads and – most importantly – gives us medical and dental.

Which makes me a kept man FINALLY! Against everyone’s expectations including my own I love working outdoors but it has taken me a good while to clear behind the Potting Shed, it sounded easy enough when Suze mentioned it – a Canoe, really?!

Easy, right?
Perhaps if our Pond gets a bit deeper…
Why’d I put them there? I am only going to have to move ’em somewhere else now.
We did find a Lawn Sweeper the previous owners left which works great!
How much Barbed Wire does a Homestead need? None if you ask me! All of it was behind the Potting Shed.
I did take time out to go clear this sign in the Shawnee Forest next door, I wanted people to be able to see the “Visitors Welcome”.

New Poster Alert!!!

This is my somewhat farewell post as I will be leaving Al for another….no just kidding, I got a job. Which is great because “money” but sad because I will have to leave these three alone all day to play on the mower without me. In the meantime…say hello to our new contributor….Al!

Al and helpers!

Is there anything better than good neighbors?

Having finally finished moving in, and mostly finished the decorating, we took a little break this week to just be in our new home. We are incredibly lucky to have amazing neighbors, seriously amazing neighbors. Some who feed us what they have grown, some who have introduced us to the area and other great people and some, like Mike, who has gotten in his tractor and bush hogged 6 acres of our land for us. For free. For free. How lucky are we and what could we ever offer in return?

Here are the results of Mike’s hard work. Seriously people in Southern Illinois are the best!

Garden of the Gods

In the spirit of getting to know our new home, we drove up to Garden of the Gods (Southern Illinois not Colorado) and took a stroll.

In a very quick quarter mile walk, we got some outstanding views on the Observation trail. Enjoy the pics.

Al observing Camel rock

It was really high up

Smoke stack

He makes death look so jolly!

Well, we did walk a whole quarter mile!

Finally Moved In!

So this post is a celebration for us. We finally finished moving all our stuff into our new house! It’s seemed like a really long time but it’s only been three months from finding the house to having all our stuff in one place. The dogs are especially happy to be done with it all I think. They love being off leash.

Of course we are officially worn out. Lots of miles driven, not quite enough to drive around the globe but not too far off. And we have a lot of exciting things to do starting next week, this week is a designated vacation for us, especially as Friday will be our 20th wedding anniversary. We don’t usually celebrate it, having lived together for a long time before we said “I do” but it’s a decent number now and I’ve always liked emeralds so we might start now.


Last meal with our favorite son

A very long time ago

Quick Catch Up

It’s been an interesting few weeks. We are still bouncing between states moving our junk but are about to embark on our final trip! Honestly anything we can’t fit in the van this trip is being left on the side of the road.

The house is coming together as we finally get to unpack boxes and it’s been really fun discovering exactly what we decided to keep. Another revelation is that Al has exponentially more junk than me – unexpected! Not seeing your stuff for months makes them feel like old friends when you see them again.

Precious little gardening has happened – it’s summer so it must be mowing time. But also our wonderful neighbor has continued clearing our land and we finally got to walk the perimeter. Wow, it’s a lot of land!

Enjoy the pics!

We grew this!

It finally happened, dog in pond!

Al to the rescue

$25 Composter

One thing has become very clear, there is a lot of compostable materials here on our homestead. We are constantly mowing, growing and weeding and what do you do with it all? Plus at some point there will be chicken poop to deal with, maybe even goat poop! Our trash service does not have green waste (or recycling) so we have to figure out another method to get rid of waste. I’m saving anything I think I can use in the future, glass bottles, egg cartons, yoghurt pots etc and we decided to build a composter to at least cope with the tea bag waste.

Anyone who know us knows that we don’t know how to build anything. I once made a planter box and ended up using duct tape to keep it together. I’m not kidding. Anyone who knows us also knows that we will have a go at making anything. So with duct tape at the ready we set out to build a compost bin.

There is a place in Carbondale, IL that sells old pallets for $2.50 each. Sounded like a good place to start, so we picked up 10 and headed home. Using pallets and rusty old fence posts that were just lying around the homestead, we figured out a very rough plan, my favorite kind and made this.

First I cleared the area

Fence posts through the pallets

Getting there

Manly action shot

Cardboard floor which will eventually rot


First lot of teabags

Very sweaty work

So if it rains a lot we might have to cover it up and the front pallets aren’t secured because I’m not sure how or if we need to. We will see how it goes.

Time to use another teabag.

Shall I carve?

So before we took off back to CA a while ago, I couldn’t bear the thought of not planting anything so we dug a tiny bit of land and threw in a couple of tomato plants. We then spent the next month driving back and forth and totally forgot about them. Until today when we did some mowing and I literally unearthed our first harvest!

One teeny tiny yellow cherry tomato. About 5 seconds after this photo, Al ate it! I hope this is just the beginning of feeding ourselves.

Half way there

After a brief time away from the homestead for ComiCon, we got back to the now almost finished kitchen. It’s very light and bright and feels so much bigger. The sink is temporary, we have no cabinets at all and everything needs a good clean but here are some pics of where we are at now.

And just of quick reminder of where we started from. That carpet!

Cesar approves

Raised ceiling and new fan light combo

New doors with blinds in them

One huge difference is the smell, no longer mold and wet wood, it’s so much nicer now. It’s all paint and fresh wood. We have some storage racks to unload from the car and set up. And that will be it for now. Just need to find the perfect cabinets/pantry cupboard/sink unit and sink etc now. We will just do it bit by bit because while we have been away the grass has sprouted up again and I need to get back on the mower.

Where’s my mower?

Eggs…the follow up

With the mid-week find of eggs in the compost our weekly total was 54. Suzie not wanting to waste anything hit on a plan, we gave some eggs to our neighbors and hardboiled a good few but then she had a day of baking.

Everything was DELICIOUS!

Egg tally for the week.
Mini treacle tarts.
Gala Pie (my favorite).
Treacle Pudding….
….and Custard.
Our other Polish “Beaker” has started laying, hers are the tiny white eggs.
Not all eggs are created equal.