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!

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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!!

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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!

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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

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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!

My new job!

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Me walking Patti the goat!

I very much believe in fate and that everything happens for a reason. After ‘the horrific thing that happened’ and I had left teaching (and had spent the week on the sofa in my pyjamas), an advert popped up on Facebook advertising a job working in Rural Care at the farm where I got married. I only saw the advert in the first place because I ‘like’ the farm on Facebook so there was my first twist of fate! When I went to visit Rural Care, I went to meet the manager and it turned out that she lives on the same road as me and knows my husband because they have bumped in to each other on dog walks – while this didn’t qualify me for the job, it did help to break the ice when I first met her and there we have a second twist of fate! Going for the job interview was a bit of a gamble because at the time there was only two days of work available per week. Luckily this is where my third twist of fate came in to play. Because I have a teaching background, the opportunity came up for two additional days of work per week working with school children. This made the job up to four days per week so I was in  much better position to go for it!!

I am so SO happy to say that I got the job and I couldn’t be more happy – it is a job that I could never have dreamed actually existed and I feel so lucky to be part such an incredible service. Rural Care is a service that provides adults with learning difficulties and mental health issues the opportunity to work on the farm, learn new skills and make friends. I spend two days a week working with some of the adults and we have a great time together mucking out the animals, feeding them and giving them health checks. We also work on our allotment, go for long walks to litter pick around the farm and use our craft studio to make lots of products that we can sell in the shop to raise money for new equipment. We also have schools and colleges for teenagers with learning difficulties who come to the farm on a weekly basis to complete qualifications for skills in working life. I spend two days a week supporting two classes to complete units of work on animal care, poultry farming, working in a team and following instructions. It is lovely to work in a group with students and see them progress in their skills and confidence.

I personally get so much joy from my new job – I absolutely love the people that I work with and we always have a lot of fun, I feel confident in what I am doing and I know that my managers will always support me when I need it, and I love being outdoors every day working with the animals. I have already found lots of little pockets of happiness to share and I am sure there will be many more to come!

Happy Hump Day Hugs

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Hugs are fab. I love hugs! I love the spontaneity of someone rushing up and throwing their arms around you. Or the ones you ask for. And the ones where someone just scoops up your sadness and turns it into laughter. Hugs are warm, comforting, familiar, and safe. I’m lucky, I work with children and get dozens of hugs a day. What the children don’t realise is that when they come and ask for a hug and I give one, they are also doing me a favour too! However, I’m also lucky enough to work with colleagues who understand my hugging needs! And this morning I was greeted with many Happy Hump Day Hugs. So here I am passing them on. If you are in need of a hug, here is one for you … catch!

My Best Friend

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My best friend is amazing. She is one of the few people in the world who truly “gets” me. And she always seems to know exactly what to say. We laugh, at the stupidest things – and go on laughing way after it’s funny. We go on road trips and sing, badly and loudly, to the cheesiest music. We gossip over pizza. We cuddle up under a blanket and watch property shows – planning our houses for when we have money… We shop and spend more money than we have. But it’s more than that. Without my best friend I probably wouldn’t be here today. She is my absolute rock. She has seen me at my lowest of low points and still stayed by my side. She has held my hand and let me cry and patiently reassured me when my anxious paranoia kicks in. She has firmly told me that “giving up is not an option”. And I listen to her when I can’t listen to myself. She always seems to know the right words to say, when to be serious and when to have a joke. She hugs me and reassures me and loves me unconditionally. And I can never fully put into words how much she means to me. Happiness comes from spending time with people who truly love you for who you are – just like she does for me.

The kindness of children

Children can be so honestly kind in a way that I think adults struggle with because to us it all seems a bit over the top – we’ve learnt to tone it down and not show too much emotion (something I have not learnt to do very well yet!). As a teacher I have moments every day where a child says or does something with such open honesty that it knocks you back for a second while you realise that they’re not being sarcastic or manipulative or cheeky, they’re just telling you how it is from the kindness of their hearts. Examples include:

“You know how when you love someone a lot you try to show them how much you love them by making them things or writing them a card, but it’s never enough to show them just how much you love them? Well that’s how I feel about you.”

“I wish we had school at the weekends so that I could see you every day.”

“You’re like a rare, bright star – you shine brighter than the others.”

“It doesn’t matter where you are, I still love you.”

These children have so much love and kindness inside that they just want to let it out – they’re not bound by social conventions and the British stiff upper lip, they just want to tell the people that are important to them how much they love them. It makes me so happy that children are free to do that – and to hear them speaking to each other with such kindness is heart warming. I often see posts on Facebook from taken aback parents whose children have written them a kind message, done something kind or said something kind and it’s just lovely to see that it happens everywhere! There really is nothing like the kindness of a child to make you stop for a second and feel warmed by their love and compassion. I’ll leave you with one more example that put a huge smile on my face (after I had stopped crying!)

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I wore this as my ‘something blue’ for my wedding!

It’s already Wednesday!

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Happy Humpday folks! I have to say today I’m feeling a happy little boost from the fact that it’s already Wednesday! Thursday and Friday are my favourite days at work so I’m excited that they’re already on their way 😊 sometimes it’s the simple things that put a spring in your step….

Zumba – Let it move you!

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Happiness landmarks are those turning points in your life where something happens that gives you a long lasting boost of happiness. A bit like drinking a double espresso, or downing a shot of Berocca, or driving in to a turbo boost on Super Mario Kart….anyway, finding Zumba has definitely been a happiness landmark for me. I can’t even remember how I first heard about Zumba, but my friend and I decided to go along to a class one evening and we instantly loved it – the music was full of energy and while the moves definitely gave us a work out, we really enjoyed dancing along to the music and had a great time together. From that first class we ended up visiting more classes with different instructors and as time went on, we came up with our own ideals for a perfect Zumba class. I couldn’t believe it when my friend then decided to turn our ideas in to a reality and trained to be an instructor herself! I loved her classes so much – the music was perfect, the moves were perfect and we built up our own Zumba family of members. Then last year another crazy thing happened…my friend had to close the class temporarily while she was on maternity leave and in a moment of madness I decided to train as an instructor myself so that I could cover for her! I had no idea then that it would snowball the way that it has – I absolutely love being an instructor, I now have my own Zumba Kids Jr. class and I’m adding a Zumba Toning class to my timetable after my training in February. Zumba makes me feel so happy, the music, the moves and the people that I get to see every week really give me a boost and put a big smile on my face. I look forward to every class and I have so much fun every time – seeing other people enjoying the class too certainly gives me an extra boost of happiness and confidence, knowing that they have chosen to come back each week is definitely a compliment! I can’t wait for my friend to come back and teach her class because we have so much fun together, but I am also grateful for the opportunity to experience the other side of Zumba because it’s opened up a huge source of happiness that will last a long time!

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My Zumba Kids + Kids Jr. training was one of the best days ever – this photo definitely shows how fun it was!

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This was taken after my first class as an instructor – that’s happiness and relief on my face right there!

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I’m a bit addicted to Zumba clothes….

Feeling proud

Feeling proud is such a funny emotion – whilst you feel an overwhelming happiness for someone, it’s almost as if internally you feel happy for yourself too, as if you are taking credit for someone’s achievements just by being associated with them, sharing their success. My friend Rosie is an INCREDIBLE artist and I am so proud of her I could just burst – I tell everyone that my friend is an artist and I’ve been to her exhibitions and one of them was in London don’t you know…. yet I am not remotely artistic and her talent has absolutely nothing to do with me. Seeing her artwork brings a smile to my face, usually because her humble nature makes her sheepishly slide her sketchbook towards me, and when my jaw drops in amazement she chuckles and looks at her lap. That’s talent right there – artwork that speaks for itself without any need for inflation from the artist. I, however, am not like that at all so I’ve included a few pieces of her work below for you to enjoy and I’ll shout from the rooftops about how good it is. She’s also been chosen as the artist of the month by Outside In – pop over and read her interview!

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Dopamine by Rosie Stevens via Outside In

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Let’s Move On by Rosie Stevens via Outside In

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Sketches by Rosie Stevens via Outside In

neptune

Neptune by Rosie Stevens via Outside In

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Wonky Sunset by Rosie Stevens via Outside In

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Detail 1 by Rosie Stevens via Outside In

My greatest honour

One of my greatest honours is being given the title Auntie Karen to this gorgeous one. I’m an only child so I was never going to be an Auntie by rights. I can’t remember exactly when Ruby’s mum asked me but I know I welled up when I accepted the title. I can still remember the first time Ruby actually called me Auntie herself. It was in August 2012 when she would have been three and three quarters. Ruby and her mum had come to visit the Brownies on our annual pack holiday, we’d been out for the day and we were all just having a rest before dinner. Ruby was toddling around the house still full of energy and loving spending time with the ‘big girls’. There was the usual hubbub of noise in the house – inevitable with 20 odd children there! Then, across all the noise came another voice “Auntie Taren” (the ‘K’ sound came later!). Yes I admit I welled up (again).

Nothing makes me a prouder Auntie than having Ruby at Rainbows and now Brownies with me. And I still get a lump in my throat when those words come above the rest “Auntie Karen”. Ruby is eight now and is definitely growing up fast – she is beautiful, affectionate, clever and also determined, stubborn and certainly has a mind of her own! She drives me mad at times! But I love her immeasurably and she is a source of many many happy memories.