So our readership has gone up quite a bit and I don't mind admitting that we like to see where in the country or worldwide you all are from when you pop on to the website to read our pages.
So lets introduce ourselves again incase you've missed a bit of stuff from the beginning.... I'm Emma, married to Steve living in a small one bedroom traditional welsh cottage. It was classed as a mountain dwelling when it was listed as Grade II, and that exactly what it is. 350ft up, sea views and the mountains rising up behind us. Thick stone walls, double height dining room and large fireplace, small cosy snug with a log burner, our bedroom in the crog loft above. A small kitchen with another later added second crog loft, small utility and bathroom. Thats it with the land around it.
We share this house and land with 9 dogs, 2 ponies, 1 horse, 4 pigs, 19 goats, 9 sheep hopefully with lambs on board, chickens, ducks and geese and 3 farm cats who are soon to be released from their house (they are currently warm with heat mats secured to learn their new home) but they'll be released to wander as they please when ready.
THE DOGS - 9!!! yes we have flipping 9 of them, we used to have 12. However to start from the beginning we moved here with 5, deciding that we could adopt another one as we had the space. That 1 ended up becoming 2, one adopted, Elsa and 1 we donated to have her leg fixed but no one came forward to adopt her, little Ripley as she is called now. She was at a kill shelter, no brainer but to bring her over to us at the same time. So Elsa with Ripley came to join Sam, Sully, Domino, Mr Riggs and Lucy.
Sam was bought from a breeder, Mr Riggs was dumped in a skip at 4 weeks old when we got him, Domino and Lucy we bought and Sully was given to us by someone who couldn't cope with hm anymore.
Ripley was a beaten dog when she arrived, broken bones and damaged growth plates. One leg grew wonky and she's on meds now for pain. She started to become reactive with the other dogs, we can only assume pain related. She reacted in the way she was taught, which is a real shame as she used to live in harmony with the other dogs. So she lives with us on a one to one basis, she has a crate, which is her safe space (and mostly comes to bed with us each night) this means we can manage her daily exercise, she doesn't get a chance to try stairs anymore or bounce around without supervision. She is perfectly happy having one on one time with us and now feels safe. Her fear goes to all new humans also, she has bonded with us very tightly and we can give her everything she needs right here.
Well from there we ended up fostering. Bad idea everyone. At some point you fail as an foster parent and become the adoptive parent. So after the rescue charity had managed to secure Obi we were asked could we foster him briefly in the UK. Obi had been chained up with Elsa with the same owner who hadn't let them both go at the same time. Within 12 hours of his arrival we could see they knew and remembered each other and couldn't bare to see them separated. So he stayed.
After that we ended up with Barney, a local lady seeking a new home for him as he was becoming a biter, he'd drawn blood. She was given two options have him put down or get him trained and that training didn't go well. He's been the most affectionate dog to us, very fluffy and very friendly, we've never had an issue with him.
Then came Leia, given to us for free as her owner was hugely allergic to her. Few issues regarding her resulted in several homes by the age of 6 months and she's been a challenge for us.Mostly due to the working bloodline in her so she has now become our official farm dog. She never settled in the house and was always on edge, keen to get outside and investigate the world. Now after a busy working day she settles in her outdoor kennel. She is in a sheltered location and has a soft and warm bed. Obviously though we are soft and every time the weather is pants she still comes in the house and sleeps in the dining room. We think the heat from the Aga is too much for her. She is a totally different dog now, settled and simply being involved in the outside jobs seems to make her complete whereas being left in the house even after walks was never enough. I've yet to try training her to herd sheep though.... We shall see.
Cody another foster dog was due to be adopted, they didn't 'get him' and couldn't bond and after that the charity struggled to find anyone who was interested in him. After the stress of trying to have him adopted Steve seemed keen to keep him, so we did. He's kinda been a bit of a pain, he could jump our fences, went running around the horses on day and could have got himself killed by them. We have addressed his talent and now with additional fencing that seems to have solved the matter. He likes to dig about so we make sure he can do that as much as he wants.
Harper, another foster dog on an emergency kinda basis. I'd been speaking to her owners about training some unwanted behaviour out of her. Whatever was going on (and I doubted that my advice was followed) it was making her worse and I ended up taking a phone call with the woman in tears about it all. She couldn't cope with her so we got it all arranged for us to take Harper. Harper was becoming dangerous. She was lunging, 'trying to bite' she said. She was reactive and was given to us muzzled and with a coat on saying 'nervous dog'. She was a wreck when she arrived.
So began a good long while sitting on the floor of the dining room ignoring her. We threw away the muzzle and the coat, we told her she wouldn't need any of that anymore. Eventually she came round, she became an amazing dog. Then she was adopted by someone via the charity who had originally homed her. After several calls to the new owners we eventually went to hand her over. If I'm honest we both felt funny about it but couldn't put our finger on why we felt unsure. We told them everything we had done to turn her around and how we thought her rehabilitation could continue. 4 days later she'd bitten their adult son twice. Harper had never done this to us or any of the visitors to our home. They done nothing we'd told them, they hadn't tried to settle her in, so another trip was arranged to pick her up again. She came home and we started from scratch again. It was amazing what those few short days away had done to her mentally. Once we'd got her back to being ok we spoke to the owner of the charity, Harper had now bitten yet we'd had absolutely no issues like that. She would have to stay with us, her chances of being adopted were slim if none now anyway and to be honest we didn't want her to go. The chances of someone else creating a dangerous dog were too high and the subsequent risk of her getting put down were to much for us to bare. Honestly she is a stunning dog, friendly and lovely to be around. She's always been super friendly with our visitors so this clearly is her forever home. She is literally a joy to have!
Have we had issues with this many... Yes we've had issues, a pack of dogs does not all behave perfectly. We've had a few scraps mostly like Elsa and Lucy settling their own boundaries with each other, solved by changing their dinner routine. A few behavioural issues to address and Ripley and Leia do not get one anymore, but they never mix now. As I type this we have two dogs sleeping in the dining room, Leia and Ripley in her bed, and 7 in the kitchen, they have a bedroom above the kitchen, a bed and sofas to sleep on. They are still like a bunch of toddlers sometimes, but they all seem very happy to us, they are all safe, they are all fed and watered, they have outdoor time with us everyday to run about and play. They've got their little groups, Elsa likes to run about on her own, Cody and Harper team up to go find mice in the long grass and dig stuff up. Obi, Sully and Barney like to be with me, Lucy... well Lucy follows Elsa and barks quite a bit which entertains her but not so much my ears. We do visit the beach, we do go for walks on leads sometimes, but mostly they all get to live a very free range kinda life now. We don't have children and we have no desire to, these guys are our family.
Harper, Cody, Elsa, Obi and Ripley were all rehomed by a charity called 'Cyprus Pride House'. They are a charity who are (obviously) based in Cyprus who foster unwanted and homeless cats and dogs from their local area. They do a great job and have saved countless animals. You can find them on Facebook.
Domino, Sam and Mr Riggs have all passed since we moved here. We miss them very much, although they are all buried in the garden so they will remain with us always.
THE HORSES - Thor and Hercules, they were rescued as foals when they had been dumped in a field in Prestwich, Manchester. They are cobs and still have some growing to do. I was doing a bit of volunteer work at the sanctuary for a while and fell in love with them both. We were then approaching completion on buying our new home and we figured we could do with something to graze the grass. They both came to us as tiny foals, and to be honest I didn't realise how small they were. They have done a lot of growing since then! They are booked in to go to school this summer and learn some manners, some basic work to get them using their brains and make it easier for me to groom them to perfection! They help us to cross graze the land, removing worm burdens and keep the grass down. they cope with our winters although we did make them a big barn to sleep in when the weather turns horrid.
Zoe is a thoroughbred standing at 16.1 hands high, she isn't ours, she belongs to my cousin who had long planned her own retirement in Spain. Life and work all came together and so she sought out a place to let Zoe live her life (she's 24 now) in peace and safe in the knowledge that as she carries on providing for her she is safe and well looked after. She is such a polite well trained girl it is an absolute pleasure to have her stay with us. Zoe didn't move to Spain with her owner as due to her older years is carrying a few health issues, We hope the fresh sea air, mild climate and spring water on tap will do her the world of good.
THE PIGS - So... we got Queenie and Duchess to start us off, the piggies were free and I paid for their house, very well cared for but they'd finished their work at their previous place and they had no more space for them. Duchess died unfortunately last year, we knew we'd need to find some play mates at some point so along came Nemo, the black one with a missing ear (birth defect) who was extremely well cared for but lived on his own as a pet pig and they felt that he needed more than they could offer. Then Charlotte and Wilbur. Both came from a 3 bed semi. I don't mind stating it here but their living conditions were not ok. I know the chap who had them loved or liked them very much, but he could not provide for them what they needed. They were smaller in size than they should have been and on the thin side. Since they got here they have put a lot of weight on and grown in size and really started to mature. They root and dig and they eat grass whenever they want something they didn't have enough of previously. They have been clearing land for us and they have recently moved to our neighbours woodland to carry that on. They will stay ours, and eventually they will retire here to live out their natural lives.
THE GOATS - The goats are something pretty special, all 19 are our breeding herd, we have 3 intact males and 5 castrated males to keep them company. The rest are girls and live (we hope they think so) a life of luxury. We breed each year, not many, but enough to give us some beautiful babies and milk which we freeze and use as an ingredient in our Goats Milk Soap. Our little business is The Clean Goat Soap Company and we've been running if for just over a year. We've taken a short break from it in this new year so we can have the time to finish off some critical, bigger jobs to complete the transformation of our home from a house in fields to an actual fully functioning smallholding where we can welcome visitors and volunteers safely.
THE SHEEP - I had said awhile back 'We are not having sheep'; well I was wrong. We did need a few to cut back the grass in areas where I didn't want the horses to go, the woodland for one, and after one summer trying to strim the grass where the chickens were to at least give them a chance to see the pesky fox we had visiting us on a regular basis I searched Pre-loved and found 2 rams for sale up the road. This brought us in to contact with a lovely lady who ended up borrowing one of our goats for breeding, we also ended up buying two ewes from her, unrelated to the lads we had. From then it has kinda spiralled.... so be warned, they are addictive! We now have one ram, flapjack, his mate Fudge died this year due to illness/physical issue which was possibly a stroke. We have Badger, Smiler, Ebony, Chickpea, Aconite, Dotty, Esther, and Flapjacks male friend is Wilbur. We hope that little Fudge did his thing.... and we also hope that Flapjack is also able as it would be lovely to have lambs end of April.
FEATHERS - Chickens, ducks and geese..... I can't think of this place as complete without them, the ducks are just lovely and no bother, the geese do like to deafen me on occasion and the chickens, well I love them. I love the eggs and I love their colours. We have ended up with lots of cockerels due to some being dumped locally and us taking some in from rescues. They add some 'bling' to the place. Ive recently got myself some really large lads who I hope to add to with some matching ladies and some really small seramas. I'm afraid that the recent pics of the chickens are not best as they are in lockdown themselves due to the avian flu, so I'm looking forward to releasing them and taking some nice photos like we've done in the past.... here are just a few of what we have....
THE CATS - Now this is another animal I always said we wouldn't have, but here they are, three feral cats from a charity run in Manchester. A lady does her best to trap and neuter any feral cats left to their own fate on the streets and alleys in Manchester. She does an amazing job, day and night, bravely dealing with drug users who want to grab kittens to sell for a quick fix.... yes that's true. All cats that she takes in are seen by a vet and are neutered (hence the shaving on the picture) and given any care they need; it costs her a fortune. If anyone out there fancies looking at her Facebook page it is Pawpurrs Halfway House. We have two female black cats, and one more fluffy grey and white male. They all have their stories, but now they are safe, they have heated mats, dry beds and a house that will always be there. Food and water always, a safe place that once released into our little farm they can (and we hope will) always return for regular meals and a dry bed. Whilst we don't store lots of food on the property we've had the inevitable issue of rats and a huge population of mice of varying types. The rats particularly can cause issues, they can damage door bases, undermine buildings by digging underneath. They use the hay barn as a run through but this causes issues when we find rat droppings on the hay which is the food source for the livestock. Then there was the year that they got into the chicken coop, and chewed the heads off nearly all my chicks which were big enough for moving outside but obviously not big enough to be a put off for the rats. So in just a few weeks, Cosmos, Midnight and Zak will go out and about free to come and go as they please. hopefully they can live their life out well up here and enjoy doing what cats do, giving us a little helping hand in that department.
So thats us for now, living off grid for water, we'd love to get solar panels on the land and maybe a wind turbine for power, but that goal is a little way off yet. Our home is basic, and we like it that way, after struggling to find someone who would come and make us some new windows (we are listed so its got to be a copy of what they already look like) we've decided to embark on teaching ourselves how to do it. I'm soon to remove the old, and having already fallen out bathroom window and start there. It promises to be an exciting project. We have several that will need to be re-made. It also gives us the chance to add secondary glazing to the inside to help keep drafts and cold air at bay. We've taken much inspiration from other people doing similar things, become more self sufficient, embarking on new skills and new challenges. As time goes on we will be more sufficient in growing our own produce, producing compost, and grazing the land. Till then there is still a list of projects to complete and repairing the land continues, all of which our stock play a part in. As well as all that I'm creating some gardens, lovely spaces to enjoy, to garden in, relax and one day offer some nice areas to sit in for visitors to our little piece of paradise. We love the back to basic life, cut our own wood and store it to stay warm in winter, and we've very much enjoyed using our sheep fleece to weave into rugs. I've got more to do on that side of things, a simple life with hand made and home made items is very satisfying.
We probably couldn't convey in words the work, the stress, the blood sweat and tears we've had here. It has not been easy. The photographs all make it look bliss but its been a battle at times and a slog of unimaginable length at times. We kinda knew what we wanted to do here, how we wanted to transform it but it has developed over time gradually as we've been able to tackle more and more. It goes without saying that the neighbours, our friends locally and the people we have met who are on hand to help out have been invaluable. We have maintained contact with Nemo's owners who have visited him on several occasions, we consider them good friends and networking and becoming friends with other local smallholders and farmers has been an amazing part of our life up here.
We hope you enjoy reading about us, and what we get up to. As we approach the times for opening this place up, online and for a few workshops we look forward to meeting you all.
Emma & Steve