Welcome to my blog, where a 30-something couple from the UK renovate and extend an old cottage, build some outbuildings, raise some hens and grow firewood trees and vegetables on our Acre in Hampshire. It's a bit like a smallholding but without too many animals, so we call it a homestead - living within our means, relying on ourselves and having a wonderful life!


Saturday, 11 October 2014

Steam Trains, Fence Posts and Hens

Another catching-up-on-the-last-fortnight post I'm afraid; I really must try harder to Blog a bit more frequently.

My neighbour Graham and I like beer. We really like beer. Actual beer. Ale. Real Ale.

Two of our great beer-related discoveries in the last few months have been the Village Beer Festival and the Real Ale Train. We both volunteered to work at the Beer Festival, which gives unlimited access to 'refreshment' from the barrels as one is pouring pints for the visitors. Tremendous!

The Real Ale Train is a marvellous thing indeed, combining three of my interests - beer, trains and Victorian engineering! It runs along the Watercress Line between Alton and Arlesford in Hampshire, which gets it's name from a previous function of the line - to transport produce from the watercress beds of the upper Test Valley towards London. The idea is simple - buy a ticket, ride the steam train and drink cheap beer. Splendid!

Tickets are so popular that we had to wait some months for a space - being quite late in the year meant it was dark for much of our journey. Still, we arrived early enough to have a good look at the engine.

Anyway, let's have some beer! Here is Graham in the bar carriage. Everything is preserved beautifully - even the stations are done very well, with period signs, adverts and equipment. 

Arriving in Arlesford, we had a good opportunity to see the engine shunting as it reversed on the line. Despite the darkness, and thanks to my amazing new Fuji X100S, I managed to pull off a couple of lovely shots of the Fireman lit by the firebox.

A great evening out - we are already planning a return journey, but this time in high summer so that we can enjoy the view as we travel.

Anyway, enough beer - back to work!

I ordered a load of fencing in order to provide a perimeter for our terrier Monty. We had stripped the old fence out when the ground workers came, and the garden has been insecure for a few months now. Dear old Monty has a bit of a habit of running away - so a fence is a real necessity. To make the job a bit easier (we had about 40 holes to dig, what with the fence and some trees we had bought) we hired a big hydraulic auger. It turned out that this was fine when the soil was good - but ALL the fence post holes were on very stony ground. It was very hard work, even with the auger. Eventually, we discovered that digging as far as possible with the machine, followed by a bucket of water in the hole, would soften the earth enough to allow the larger stones to be dug out with the auger and a digging bar to shift the bigger lumps.

My parents were kind enough to visit for the day to help - here is my Father having a go with the auger, digging a hole for a tree up by our top shed.

By the end of the weekend we had dug all the post holes for about 40 metres of post and rail fencing and planted 15 trees and large shrubs. This is a view of the longest run of post and rail, which will be behind the Barn when it is built. The gate means I'll be able to get the tractor out to mow the front paddock without driving through our neighbour's farmyard.

Finally, I woke this afternoon after a night shift to find that Kristy had bought more hens! We are due to return Mummy (actually called Indigo, as it turns out...) to her rightful owner, which would have left Isla (possibly a Barnevelder, who we raised from an egg) on her own. Two new Black Star hens have now moved in - one is to be named Florence, but we are stuck for a third name.  We now have a flock of three - a perfect number for us!

Here are the Egg Squad - Isla is on the left, and the two new girls are on the right.

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