Gardening

Now I will be the first to say that gardening does not come naturally to me. My dad will be the second. My father-in-law will be the third. However, in Rural Care we have an allotment and a lot of people who know what they are doing! So I have been loving learning how to plant, care for and harvest different flowers and vegetables. The other day I even learned that a strimmer doesn’t have a blade underneath it, just a piece of plastic wire (honestly I was fascinated!). I have also learned that just watering plants helps to keep them alive – it’s amazing the difference that has made to my balcony plants! The allotment has a sensory garden at the end of it full of herbs and textured plants and I love sitting in there listening to the breeze through the leaves and the wind chimes. It is doing it’s job well because it is super relaxing!! I feel very proud that I know what a nasturtium is AND I know what a sweet pea flower looks like! I have also successfully planted and grown chard and radishes and I have successfully planted hundreds of strawberry runners to sell in the shop (it’s hilarious that I am so proud of this because strawberries are a really difficult plant to kill!). It makes me so happy that my gardening confidence is growing, I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to work on the allotment every day and to learn from some very clever people!

All creatures great and small!

One thing I love about the farm is learning about the different animals we have – how to look after them, what their job is on the farm and their different personalities! I really enjoy visiting the different animals, feeding them and looking after them – I don’t even mind mucking them out! I’ve found that one of my favourite animals to work with is our chickens – I could watch them for hours just wandering around the field pecking things and ruffling their feathers. I found it fascinating to watch them digging pits in the soil in the summer and then I learned that they do it to have a dust bath which helps prevent mites and helps them to preen their feathers. I love the way they rush over to you when you enter the field and peck food out of your hands – they will even let you give them a little stroke which I would never have thought!! The ducks are a great little bunch – digging through the wet mud with their beaks and waddling around the field. I have learned how to herd ducks which is just hilarious and very rarely necessary to do, but it’s fun all the same! The rabbits and guinea pigs are great escape artists and it has been a real challenge to keep on top of the digging and chewing but they are still super cute. The turkeys are like two old ladies that wander around at a glacial pace keeping an eye on the rest of the farm (they always remind me of Fowler from ‘Chicken Run’!). Sheep are MASSIVE when you get up close to them – especially when they are running towards you for their food! They are gentle creatures though and I’m only a little bit scared of herding them now 🙂 The goats on the other hand have horns. Horns are scary. Goats with horns are scary. Grumpy goats with horns are terrifying. And dangerous. Goats with horns and food however, are fine. The goats are my final hurdle at the farm – I will feed them and muck them out but I do feel nervous the whole time I’m in there and I am always armed with water to protect me (goats don’t like water, especially the grumpy ones). Fred is the grumpiest of the lot and I have many a bruise where he has bashed in to my legs but I am determined to befriend him! However, I think most of that will be happening with a fence between us!

 

Crafty goodness

There is so much joy to be found in creating things from scratch and making things look beautiful but with it comes the danger of living under a pile of hand sewn lavender pouches, with rag wreaths on every door and a decoupaged dog.

Luckily, in Rural Care we have a craft studio where we can make an abundance of beautiful things to sell in our shop. I absolutely love being able to make and decorate things and I have learned lots of new skills too!

Eggciting facts!

Before I worked on a farm, eggs were not something that registered on my happiness radar. At all. But as this blog is all about finding happiness hiding places, I am eggstatic that I have found a new one! Collecting and processing eggs is a big part of our job on the farm and I have been as porous as an egg shell soaking up eggy facts so I thought I would share my learning with you all (aren’t you lucky!).

chickens

Different breeds of chicken do different jobs – our egg layers are Rhode Island Reds which you can see on the left of the picture. Our table chickens (think about it…) are White Leghorns which you can see on the right of the picture. We give them different food to help them do their job and as I am sure you can imagine we keep one a lot longer than the other…..Unlike ‘Chicken Run’ (which is where all of my pre-farm chicken and egg knowledge came from), the chickens do not have their own nest boxes so we have no idea who has laid which eggs. Instead we just keep all of the egg layers for their whole lives 🙂 Also, contrary to ‘Chicken Run’, chickens lay a maximum of one egg per day so there is no competition, no solitary confinement and no chicken pies!
egg grader

When we have collected the eggs in the morning, we sort them in to those that have a perfect shell and those that are a bit crinkly. The crinkly shelled eggs are used in our cafe and pub while the perfect eggs are sold in the shop. The eggs are graded in to small, medium, large and eggstra large based on their weight and we use a grading machine to help us do this. I LOVE using this machine so much – it is so relaxing watching the eggs roll down the different lanes! All of the eggs have a 28 day ‘best before’ date – next time you’re in the supermarket have a look at the ‘best before’ date and it will give you an idea of how old they are!

extra large

A large egg (right) compared to the beast of an egg I found (left)

One day I found this whopper of an egg – that was one brave chicken!!

pullet

A large egg (left) compared to a pullet egg (right)

pullet eggs

I can hold 4 pullet eggs in my hand!

A chicken starts laying eggs when it is around 16 weeks old. Their first eggs are called pullet eggs and they are about a third of the size that they will be when they are fully grown. These eggs are too light to be graded as ‘small’ so on a lot of farms they go to waste. Luckily we are able to use them in the cafe and the pub and we use them for cooking activities in Rural Care – they are very tasty!

bantam

A large egg (left) compared to a bantam egg (right)

There is such a thing as ‘bantam’ chickens – they are like the bonsais of the chicken world! They are very cute, smaller versions of regular sized chickens and they lay equally cute, smaller versions of eggs!

olive

One of our chickens lays olive green eggs – this is because she is a cross-breed of a brown egg layer and a blue egg layer!

I absolutely love learning new things and learning all about the eggs on our farm has been such a joy. I also love collecting the eggs in the morning and following their progress all the way to the shop!

 

Bagging feed

bagging feed

Bagging feed – simple but relaxing!

I find it hilarious that I get so much happiness from simple things – I think it’s because it provides a bit of a brain break and there’s usually a quick return on progress! Bagging animal feed basically involves putting one scoop of feed in to a paper bag, then rolling the top of the bag down, so simple but my goodness do I enjoy it!! I find it really relaxing digging the scoop in to the food, watching it pour out in to the bag and listening to it hit the paper. Seeing all of the bags of food lined up neatly in the box brings me great joy – there’s just so much happiness to be found in tidy organisation!! Bagging feed is also a great opportunity to sit down with other members of the group and have a chat and a bit of banter which always puts a smile on my face 🙂

Next time you go to a farm and buy some bags of feed, just think about how much enjoyment went in to preparing them for you!

Make up moments

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Until about ten years ago I’d never really worn make up at all. Then I acquired a few bits and wore it occasionally when I went out. The reason I gave was that I was allergic to most makeup and my skin was too sensitive. In truth these were excuses. I didn’t like myself enough at that point to make the effort to look good. I didn’t think I deserved to look nice and I didn’t want to be considered attractive by other people.

Since I came out on here over three months ago things couldn’t be more different. I’ve felt so much more confident and happier and I am actually starting to wear make up, not just a little bit occasionally but actually properly and regularly. Now I am certainly not saying that I need makeup to feel good about myself, quite the opposite. Because I like myself I think I deserve to look nice and I like the way I look when I wear makeup.

Ive actually had several people compliment me for the way my make up looks! Yes me, who didn’t have a clue how to do more than put on mascara! I’ve spent more money on makeup and beauty products in the last three months than I think I have done in the rest of my life lol.

I like experimenting with different looks and colours and products. I like learning how to get better at something. I like how I look both with and without makeup on. Makeup up is most definitely a happy little moment for me now!

Summer Fun

Summer on a beach

Summer seems while ago now I’m back at work and in the routines again. But I just wanted to tell you about my summer. I didn’t do anything particularly special, no holidays of a lifetime or anything, but I had fun, lots of fun.

I laughed lots, I caught up with lots of friends, I read, I relaxed and I ate out far more than my bank balance or my waist line allowed for! But most of all I learnt to love myself a little bit.

I enjoyed my own company sometimes, although there were days where I drove myself mad too! I discovered the world of make up and I love it! I actually like the way I look when I step out the house in the morning. And I learnt to be more myself and not to care as much what people think.

Its still definitely a work in progress but this summer I definitely took some big steps towards learning to love myself.

My Ink

Until I was 30 I was adamant I was never having any tattoos. Then I got my first one and I can safely say I love them and they are very addictive! Yes they hurt at the time, yes they can be expensive, no they are not to everyone’s taste but to me it’s like personalising my body. To be they are my art. All my tattoos mean something to me and were chosen for a reason so here is my explanation.

My first tattoo was three small stars on my foot. They are to represent the stars in heaven of my Grandad, my Auntie Doris and my Uncle Norman who were like grandparents to me. My next one was my butterfly on my wrist. This is for Olivia, a fabulous girl who was a brownie who sadly lost her battle with cancer. It’s a butterfly as we released butterflies at her memorial and they always remind me of her when I see one. They are also a reminder of the fragility of life. The placing is not insignificant as when I make my brownie promise salute the butterfly looks out my current girls.

My next ink was my ladybird which is for my gorgeous niece Ruby. When she was little everyone bought her ladybird things and they came to be associated with her.

My fifth inking was my owl on my side. Partly because I love owls and partly because of the Guiding and Brownie connection. And obviously I am Brown Owl! Somewhere around there are some photos taken by my co-blogger of me grimacing having that’s one done!!

Number six is a Japanese kanji which means friendship. This represents my best friend. Enough said.

And then we come to the most recent three. The hands is an original drawing by another of my best friends which she gave me on a card when Granny died earlier this year. The detail on it is amazing and she is one talented artist. The hands are significant to me because when I was little she always held my hand and guided me and as she got older and frailer, I held her hand to guide her. And now she will be with me forever. On a side note, she always loved my tattoos and coloured hair- I think she had a secret inner rebel! Well Granny now you have your own ink!

The rainbow heart represents the year I came out properly and you lovely blog followers made me happier than I’ve been ever with your total acceptance of everything that is me. Love is love, whatever and whoever.

And finally my smallest (and ironically the most painful!) is a semi-colon on my little finger. This represents the fact that 2017 was a turning point in my life. A fresh start, one where I can be me and will be me and am happy. And one to raise awareness of mental health. A subject which will always be close to my heart.

Whether you love them or hate them they are part of me and more importantly I love them!

H.A.P.P.Y.

Happy. A small word to describe a big feeling. Today I feel happy. In fact I have felt happy basically every day since June 12th. You may wonder why I know the date. Well it was the date that I took a deep breath, felt the fear and did it anyway. June 12th was when I finally came out via this blog and the post called ‘This is me.’ And you all reacted in such an amazingly positive way. You have no idea how you have changed my life.

I never realised that a blog post could have such a massive effect on my whole life. Since then it’s as if a weight has lifted. A weight that I didn’t even realise I was carrying. I feel different. I haven’t had a single anxious day since then. Not one. And I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was a teenager. That’s a whole month with no anxiety.

Several people have commented that I’m like a different person, especially at work. I went out with my work friends and danced til the early hours (took me a couple of day s to recover lol but hey) and I loved it. I chat to people at lunchtime. I no longer feel grumpy and want to snap at people in the morning. I want to be sociable. I actively seek out people to chat to at lunch time. I chat to my friends about crushes, make up, tv etc. all normal things I know but not for me til now. I even message them out of work – something I would never have previously done. I used to keep myself separate. I went to the pub with them after work and felt accepted and included. So much love for my work friends right now.

I crack jokes, sure I’ve had frustrating times too but nothing really seems to bother me too much or for too long. And I’ve been sleeping – not perfectly but a damn sight better than before. I even ordered myself some make-up. I will confess I’ve rarely bought myself make-up before. Most of what I have has been presents.

And the biggest thing of all for me. I don’t dislike myself anymore. Sure I could do with losing some weight but hey so can most of us! I went out and felt good about how I looked. I feel comfortable with who I am and what I am. I’m happy. IMG_1345

New Hobbies

My latest happy thing is my photography. I’ve slowly been taking more and more photos over the past few years. And I have plenty of subjects with all the Brownies and Rainbows! I’ve recently graduated from my bridging camera to a DSLR with different lenses and I’m loving it!

I love the challenge of taking really good photographs and capturing moments and expressions. At the moment I’m really into the wildlife, flowers and animals and nature photography and I’m really just experimenting with different effects etc. It makes me proud as I’ve found something that I truly believe that I’m good at – and that doesn’t happen very often.

I also love the pleasure that other people get from seeing my photos – I’m basically a people pleaser! I’m intending to keep improving and getting better until I get to a standard where I might even be able to use my hobby as a job!

Here are a few of my favourites from my day out today.