Back in the swing

Since leaving Country Living HQ to begin maternity leave a fortnight ago, I’ve found that any notion of routine has disappeared along with the usual 6.50am London-bound and 7.08pm homeward-bound trains, and regular office hours. I would sit and type my weekly blog on a Friday morning before work began, having picked up thick, buttered toast spread with Marmite from the cafe next door (I did manage to remove most of the crumbs from my keyboard before my cover, Kitty, took over). It was a ritual I relished – and, of course, if you’ve a dedicated timeslot for any activity it means it’s more likely to be done than if you simply expect to fit it in. So, after a blog-free fortnight, I’m attempting to establish a new routine at home and writing a two-in-one post today to make up for lost time. No doubt all such resolutions will dissolve with the arrival of our baby boy, but it’s worth a shot in the meantime!



Routine also happens to be the theme of the goings-on in the world of Audrey and Margot this week. I’ve already documented the fact that they spend most of their time hanging out in our (half-built) porch – or utility room, when they can gain entry – pecking around the dogs and even approaching them in an attempt to eat their food (as pictured above), which is either extremely brave or exceptionally foolhardy. In fact, sometimes our three canine companions look at us as if to say ‘Can you please get rid of those pesky hens?’ (Megan, below, wears this expression most of the time).

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It’s as if the balance of power has shifted in The Smallholdings’ animal kingdom and the Labs and German Shepherd don’t like it one little bit. Obviously, the cat has always reigned supreme, but the dogs were of middle ranking. Now the Araucanas have usurped them.

Audrey expresses an interest in the chew that Amy’s keen to keep to herself

This week, the cheeky pair have pushed their luck further and have even begun to roost in the utility room or porch at night. James wondered if this new move was due to invaders (the nasty red mite or vermin) disturbing them in their coop, but there’s no sign of any such pests. I just think they consider the end of our house to be more sophisticated (even in its rather grotty state) than their avian abode. Needless to say we have been politely moving the slightly deluded pair on.

Audrey and Margot bed down for the night
Audrey and Margot bed down for the night in the utility room


Just lately, James and I have changed tack in some of the ways we live. Instead of acquiring more and more hens to ensure we maintain a steady supply of eggs for friends and family, we’re not replacing the ones that die of old age, and are allowing the numbers to dwindle to half a dozen or so. Although this means that we inevitably disappoint some whose orders we can’t always fulfil, we figure that fewer chickens will mean that we get round to routine tasks such as dusting them for lice, treating scaly leg mite and checking them over more regularly and thoroughly. It’s a common assumption that once you’ve one or two of any animal then you may as well have a dozen, but when it comes to taking proper care of them, this just doesn’t ring true. It takes twice as long to treat 12 hens as it does six – and that can mean it’s hard to fit in.

Jeff continues to be ever the gentleman, allowing his dwindling harem first dibs in the corn
Jeff continues to be ever the gentleman, allowing his dwindling harem first dibs in the corn

This new way of thinking – essentially, that old adage that less is more – is being extended to various areas of our lives and we feel all the happier for it. No doubt this is also due to our imminent new human arrival and anticipating a reduction in time spent on our animals for a little while, but it’s an approach we’ll continue to adopt, I expect. Similarly, due to the need to build a new run because we’ve kept two herds of pigs on the same land now in consecutive years, we quelled our usual let’s-get-on-with-it-then mode of action and resisted the urge to put in new fencing, deciding to delay acquiring new porcine residents until next spring. This is as much due to the fact we need to finish our very much semi-baked house, which we’ve only half-renovated over the past eight years due to the fact we’ve become distracted by more interesting livestock pursuits in the garden, as it is down to the fact that we want to reduce the items on our plate. The nursery is a good couple of months away from being complete and so we’ve put that ahead of new piglets, as much as we’ll miss them this year. How much more fun will it be,  though, with a toddler in tow…?

Here’s to happy henkeeping!

5 thoughts on “Back in the swing

  1. I’ve only recently discovered your blog and am so glad I have ^^
    love reading about life at Country Life HQ.
    We have recently got 3 hens (one of the reasons I was looking for blogs like yours). They’re only been with us a few weeks, but I’m loving every minute lol.

  2. Do enjoy your last days before your baby comes, Ruth, what a wonderful life he will have on your smallholding!
    Can’t wait to see a photo of him…

  3. I was in contact with Sara from Hen Corner recently and she said I should check out your Blog, which I love! I wonder how you are juggling everything with a baby on board? I remember those days well but now that my kids are 12 and 9 (I can’t believe they are that age already!) they are a great help at the farmers’ markets and they love being in the middle of the activity! Anyway, I hope things are going well and good luck with everything.

    1. Hi Justine,

      Thanks for your kind comments and good wishes. Great to hear that your children are an asset to your farmers’ markets work. Yes, my husband has been doing most of the smallholding tasks over the past few months and we’re trying to resist the temptation of more pigs this year so there’s less to do when the little guy arrives. It will be lovely to get properly stuck into the good life again in 2016!

      Hope the markets go well this summer.

      All the best,


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