on 27th July 2019
Since I can remember I have watched my dad at work. He is a carpenter and, even though I would say it, he is master of his craft.
I tagged along to jobs on-site during school holidays, helped out when things were built in our garage at weekends, and had a go myself when the opportunity arose.
Even during days off, when we’d visit places, dad would point out interesting building techniques – modern and historical. He still does now (don’t tell him I said this but it’s weirdly fascinating).
So from an early age I was surrounded by things being built. Sure it looked complicated, but it didn’t faze me. I liked knowing the process and admiring the techniques and skills involved.
I almost followed dad into the building game, as he’d followed his; grandad was a plumber. Though when I left school I decided to take a different path into horticulture and arboriculture (gardening and tree surgery if you’re not sure).
However, over the next 20 years I left manual labour for an office job, swapping chainsaw for a computer. Yet those skills, knowledge and interest never left me. Little did I know, moving to the farm they’d all be invaluable.
Let me be clear, I know my limits. I won’t touch electrics. It’s one thing I know nothing about, and the fact it could kill me if I get it wrong is enough for me to leave it well alone.
If it’s time to call in the professionals, I will. Otherwise, I’m happy to get stuck in and have a go. And what I love is, Emily is too. Together we have a wealth of knowledge which can be used in all sorts of situations, greater than the sum of their constituent parts.
For example, when it came to making a new kitchen, built to our specification around the way we live and cook, I was in my element.
It was my first big project, and the first I’d done for several years. So like anything one undertakes it took time to find a rhythm and build confidence. I called on dad for some tips, and he helped me mitre the worktops correctly – a very expensive mistake to go wrong.
It took a few months of measuring and planning, buying and assembling but I did it and we now have a beautiful kitchen space. One where Emily has been able to use all her cooking knowledge and develop an exceptional skill.
Beyond just serving meals of the day, she’s learnt how to preserve to keep us going through the winter months too. Without the kitchen we can’t cook, without the food we can’t survive. We make a perfect team.
Got it, use it
While there have been times where I’ve had to call in the professionals, it’s been thoroughly rewarding to be able to put my professional knowledge to use too.
Previously I didn’t even own a garden, let alone any trees. Now, by comparison, I’m lucky to own a forest! We have over a dozen fruit trees dotted around the place, all of which were in dire need of attention.
No problem, loppers and handsaw at the ready I spent a few months working my way through the orchard to tend to our tree stock. Getting back in the harness and climbing into the canopy was something I hadn’t done since I was 19 years old.
Sure, it took a while to get my brain and body in gear, and boy did I ache the next morning, but being able to exploit my skills that I’d spent years learning gave me great satisfaction.
Like when we needed to clear an area of land to allow the new septic tank to be installed, it wasn’t a problem to fell a few trees. Out came my chainsaw, on went my protective trousers and I got to work.
Even just the chance of taking a piece of overgrown scrubland and turning it into a garden has been a joy. The opportunity to carve out our own little piece of heaven using knowledge I’d long since forgotten I had.
Then, of course, there’s this virtual world that you’re staring at right now. When we decided to share this little venture of ours at Slowdown Farm, we knew it needed a virtual home, as well as the physical location.
Given that in the intervening years since giving up the great outdoors and getting comfy behind a desk, I’ve spent the past 20 years building websites, so making another one for us wasn’t a problem.
Mixing the days of hard physical labour with those like today – as I write this – where I can turn off my body’s muscles and my brain on and think creatively in a different way is such a joy.
I’ve always loved to write. In the past I never had an interesting enough story to tell. Now that I do (I hope), it’s nice to sit down once a month and tell our story.
It’s the perfect way to keep you up-to-date with everything we’re doing, but it also for us recognise just exactly what it is we’ve achieved. Being in it makes it hard to fully appreciate just exactly what has happened.
A combination of skills
Of all the life-changing aspects we’ve had moving here, the one I least expected was getting the chance to use all my skills and knowledge together in one place.
It feels bizarre but it’s almost as if the various past chapters of my life were all a training exercise to set me up to live here.
I didn’t know when I was 10 years old watching my dad work that I was studying his actions and that I’d later take all that knowhow and renovate a house with it.
I didn’t think that when I climbed out of my last tree I’d be back climbing my own to tend to my fruit stock. And I didn’t know that building and maintaining other people’s websites would make it easy for me to build my own to share this wild ride with you.
It’s probably why, despite all the many, many challenges, living here is yet to phase me. Part of me feels like I’ve trained for it. And I’m sharing it with a partner every bit as capable, skilled and rehearsed as I.
People ask us what we do, in the hope of getting a handle of who we are. To say we’re farmers doesn’t begin to tell the full story. Now you know, we’re all lifelong learners.
1 Chef de Ville, 56490