chickens · Life in the Countryside

The death of a chicken

As you may remember we have six chickens who are all about 18 months old now. Once they started laying they were pretty consistent although have been less so recently. We suspect that Dorothy has been eating her eggs and we think the girls have been a bit put off laying by their home being moved about a bit and some of the workmen and machinery that we’ve had around recently. Anyway whilst we were away in Cornwall we used the services of a local lady to come and water the garden and tend to the chickens for part of the time as my father in law was away as well. She contacted us to let us know that Henry didn’t seem quite herself. Henry has always been the runt of the group really. She had a poorly leg not long after we got her which took a couple of weeks to heal and she had always seem the weakest. Well to cut a long story short, she died.

The chicken lady said it seemed like she had respiratory problems and was egg bound but whatever it was she didn’t survive. Whilst it is really sad to have lost one of our girls, it is all part of life in the countryside. In fact we’ve been lucky not to lose any of the girls before now to foxes. Chicken health care isn’t exactly available and aside from some home remedies, chickens are generally expected to either make a recovery or not. Simple as that. We have debated whether or not to replace her but have decided not to immediately. Chickens can be rather bullying to newbies and as such it’s best to introduce them to an existing group slowly and in pairs. So we’ll leave it for now as a family of five and may add to our brood in the future.

The big thing that we’ve had to do is to explain to C about Henry. She understands the idea of death but hasn’t had any direct experience of it until now. We decided to be honest about it and tell her that Henry was really poorly and the doctor couldn’t make her better. We also have a book with a story about death which explains it really nicely about a fox going to sleep forever and how his friends remember him. So when J told her he said that it was like the fox in her book. She seemed to understand and wasn’t sad but very matter of fact about life an death. Guess that’s what comes from being a country girl.

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Caravan/travel · holidays

Caravan holidays

So during the Easter holidays we took our caravan down to Dorset for a midweek break. We didn’t take Jessie with us this time as she is in heat and it would have been a bit of a nightmare with her. The weather was forecast to be poor but we decided to embrace our inner campers and go for it anyway. Now my husband spent much of his youth in Dorset and so is really familiar with the area and since being with him I’ve fallen in love with the area as well. For our first trip with the caravan down there we decided to go for a holiday park called Highlands End which we’d visited before to use the facilities in our pre-caravan-owning stage. The nice thing about going on holiday in a touring caravan as opposed to another form of self-catering accommodation is that you can have everything unpacked and ready before you leave home. Before we set off I had already put our clothes in the drawers and wardrobe in the van. Our food was already in the fridge and freezer and C’s toys were already in her toy cupboard. This meant that when we arrived there was only the setting up of the actual caravan onto the pitch to do.

J is responsible for all the external sorting of the van and C and I do the inside. Although if I’m honest her assistance generally involves playing with her toys right in the middle of where I want to be. We are fairly efficient at setting up now to be honest and it’s lovely to arrive and feel your holiday can begin straight away. The weather whilst we were away was forecast to be rubbish rain all week so we had plans to visit the aquarium or go and see the new Peter Rabbit movie at the cinema or to visit the swimming pool on site or just stay holed up in the van watching movies. As it happens the weather was poor on the Monday night and into Tuesday morning but brightened up enough for us to head out for fish and chips in Weymouth for Tuesday lunchtime. It was even nice enough to have an ice cream on the beach. There is something about having fish and chips by the seaside isn’t there? It’s a proper British thing to do and it does taste so much better, and not just because it is inevitably fresher. Our favourite place for fish and chip in Weymouth is the Marlboro as their batter is really crispy and the fish is so delicate.

Wednesday the weather was a bit more hit and miss and we debated a cinema trip but instead I insisted on visiting one of my favourite places, Lyme Regis. I don’t know what it is about Lyme that I really like but it’s just somewhere that makes me happy. We parked in the harbour car park and walked along the front to the base of the hill and high street. For C going onto the beach is what makes it a proper holiday and she loved walking along the sand picking up stones and shells for me to carry in my pockets. She has a little bowl of shells in her bedroom at home which they will be added to. It did drizzle on and off so we had to pop into a couple of shops to keep dry, but thats part of the fun on a British holiday. C is going through a phrase where she’s really obsessed with dinosaurs so we picked up some toy dinosaurs for her and some fudge for myself and J. There are some really lovely shops in Lyme where you could pick up some nice bits for the home but given that we’re about to rip our house apart I had to resist the temptation to get anything.

Thursday we were blessed with incredible weather for the time of year which was perfect as we had plans to meet an old friend of J’s and her two daughters in Lyme. We had some fun times playing on the beach and paddling in the sea, I let J take charge of that one and I supervised from the comfort of the towels. Even though the sun was out there was still a bit of a breeze in the air but we were able to enjoy lunch overlooking the water and then a bit of crazy golf with an incredible view. I can highly recommend the crazy golf in Lyme, even though it’s not the best course I’ve been on, it is in an incredible location. That said, crazy golf was maybe a little ambitious for the two three year olds in the group. One of which had a tantrum and C only avoided a tantrum by picking the ball up and putting it directly in front of the hole before putting it in. But providing you aren’t too fussed about keeping score it’s not too bad a way to spend an afternoon. After all that fresh air the little ones were exhausted but we still had time to try out the new soft play at Highlands End which was the perfect way to end a very busy day.

Friday was time to head home after a thoroughly enjoyable few days away. It always amazes me how a few days away can make such a difference. I feel so much more rested and relaxed and we’ve made some good family memories. C in particular was sad to come home and that was on alleviated by the promise that we could do some baking when we got home. Holiday really makes you appreciate the importance of family time and the simple pleasures that spending some time together can bring.

Craft

Recent makes

Sewing has increasingly become something which I spend my spare time doing. Something which I enjoy and something which I am, with practice, improving at. Now I would certainly not consider myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination but I am getting to be more knowledgeable and more skilled as time goes on. I’ve made numerous items recently, many of which I haven’t photographed but some of which I have so I thought I would share some of my favourites.

This was a Mother’s Day gift for my mum (obviously). My mum tends to only have coffee once a day and uses her French Press. C painted the mug and I created the cafetière cosy. It was made using a free pattern from a magazine, I forget which now, and was my first make using heat insulating wadding. It was a slightly snug fit and I know myself that the stitching wasn’t as straight as it should have been but it suits its purpose well.

Next up is a top I made for myself using Tilly and the Buttons new sewing book Stretch. I made it using some lovely cable fabric from my current favourite online fabric shop Higgs and Higgs. It was a straightforward make and I used both my overlocker and my regular sewing machine to get what I think is a fairly professional look. It’s construction is relatively simple and the pattern gives lots of guidance at every step which is useful for those of use not well versed in sewing terminology. I paid careful attention to ensure that the cable pattern lay straight and I’m really pleased with both the pattern and the material. I can see myself using both again.

Now I know it looks very crumpled in the picture and you can’t really see the top, but this is a party dress that I made for C. I actually made it at a local sewing class and have since made another using the same pattern. I actually made this back in October time and it was one of my first forays into sewing clothes. It has a lining inside the top and a pleated skirt and a zip at the back. I made it in pink dotty fabric as C is obsessed with pink (still) and she absolutely adores it. However much I iron it she always manages to look bedraggled within half an hour of putting it on, but that is just her! I actually made her the hooded cape as well back before I had my cabin and when I was more focused on knitting. This was her on Mother’s Day when we were on our way for one of my favourite treats, afternoon tea.

I’ve made a couple more bits for C too recently. One of which is a hoody made using a pattern by a company called two stitches. Now little C hates wearing any kind of warm clothing. She is constantly taking her coat off outside at nursery and I really struggle to get her to wear any kind of warm top. I’ve knitted her a couple of really beautiful cardigans in the past and she point blank refuses to wear them unless forced. So I saw this pattern and decided to have a go at making her one, with the logic that if she chose the fabric she might actually wear it. The first was a grey number with sparkly unicorns on (I promise it looks better than it sounds), she absolutely loved it and has actually worn it loads without any objections. And the second was the blue shark material above. Both times she picked out the material herself and though I was dubious I went along with it and I have to say I’m rather pleased with how they’ve turned out. Perfect for colder days at the beach.

Craft · Life in the Countryside

Cabin update

So the cabin has had a few new additions since I last wrote about it. For my Christmas I received a mannequin so that I could get into dressmaking a bit more. It has proved to be a most valuable addition as my measurements usually don’t clearly fit into one particular size (in fact on one pattern my waist and bust were three sizes apart).

It is brilliant for putting partly constructed items on to check and adjust the fit and sits really nicely in the corner of my room. It generally has several partially constructed items draped across it.

I’ve also purchased some lamps so that when I’m in the cabin on an evening the light is a bit softer, especially if I’m sitting in my chair reading. I looked around for ages to find three matching lamps that I was happy with. I wanted one tall lamp for behind my chair and a small ones for two of the other corners of the room. In the end I found what I was looking for in B and Q.

However, the most exciting new addition to the cabin is my overlocker. For a while now my husband has been asking me if I want a new sewing machine. My machine was a gift of sorts from a friend of my father-in-laws who didn’t really use it. It’s a good few years old now but it is such a good quality machine and it does everything I could possibly want from it so I see no reason to upgrade it. So instead of a new machine I asked for an overlocker. An overlocker is a great machine for giving your seams a professional finish and it also enables you to stitch with more stretchy material. I’ll probably do another post in the future about overlocker but for now here is a picture of my fabulous new addition.

The rest of the cabin is pretty much as was. It is constantly in need of a tidy up, I mean if I have free time to sew then why would I want to spend it tidying? What I have found though is that we’re using it a lot more now as a family. If I go down to sew of an evening then J will often pop down for a cup of coffee and will sit it my chair chatting whilst I sew. I’ll often pop down there for an hour or so with C during the day as she has some toys kept down there as is always exciting for her to re-discover toys. C has become really fascinated with my sewing now, partially as I’ve made a few items for her recently which she loves so she’s really loved watching me create them. She’s also wanted to help several times. As any mum knows, toddler help is the least helpful kind of help. She’s “helped” me organise my fabrics, by pulling them onto the floor and using them as blankets for her and her toys. She has wanted to sew and has ended up sitting on my lap and guiding a piece of material through the machine using one of the fancy embroidery stitches. No doubt before long she’ll be wanting to make her own items which will come with it’s own challenges I’m sure. I’ll share soon some of my recent makes that I’m most proud of and some of my planned projects.

Life in the Countryside · Parenting

Forest school

Now this is a bit of a bizarre update as it has nothing to do with the cottage garden but it is something which is playing an increasing part in our lives and I think is worth talking about. For those of you that don’t know I work in a primary school and my daughter attends a nursery nearby. Both offer forest school as part of their provisions. What is forest school I hear you ask? Is it the latest parenting trend? We didn’t have forest school back when I was at school, why do we have it now? Well the truth is, in my opinion, that childhood has changed somewhat over the past few years. I worked in a secondary school for a number of years and over that time I noticed that children were becoming increasingly isolated from each other. For boys in particular this was a problem. They would spend hours and hours every day in their bedrooms playing computer games or on their phones and iPads. Alone. Inside. Not engaging with anyone else apart from online. Forest school is basically taking children outside (ideally to a forest of course) and re-introducing them to nature. Frequently there is a fire and a fire circle of logs surrounding it forming the centre of the ‘camp’. Fire based activities tend to include gathering logs (the lighting of the fire tends to be left to an adult) and various forms of cooking. I’ve seen popcorn popped (using two metal sieves attached together at the end of a long pole to hold it over the fire), marshmallows toasted on sticks as well as soup and pasta cooked in a more traditional way.

A common feature of a forest school is a mud kitchen. Now I don’t really remember having much of a play kitchen when I was younger, but that could be old age catching up with me, but we definitely did lots of making potions in the garden. A mud kitchen can take various forms. It can be as simple as some pots and utensils that children can play with or as fancy as a proper wooden outdoor kitchen. Mud kitchens have become very trendy at the moment with various companies charging not insignificant amounts of money for high end personalised ones. Children of all ages seem to really love them and a quick search on Pinterest will bring up a vast array of homemade versions. I have ambitions to create a covered one for C in our garden this summer out of pallets but haven’t finalised a design yet. I’m looking at putting it into the corner of our orchard and so far have out a base of four pallets down which I’m planning to secure together. The walls will pretty much be pallets stood on edge with some shaping and a window cut in maybe. Then I’m going to use the corrugated iron for which currently tops our coal shed as a roof. Ideally I’d like to create a kitchen bench type thing inside using our current kitchen sink and making a hob of some kind. Or at least thats the plan. I’ll start working on it sometime when the evenings start getting lighter so watch this space.

I can’t put up any photos up from my forest school experiences for child protection issues so I’ve added some of my random favourites in just to add a little colour. Forest school at a nursery level involves lot more crafty activities. Some of the ones I’ve seen include:

  • Taping a piece of paper onto a tree and using crayons to do bark rubbings.
  • Painting using mud as the paint.
  • Making a bird feeder by threading cheerios or similar onto a pipe cleaner (great for those fine motor skills too).
  • Using circles of cardboard and strips of sellotape across it to make a ‘stained glass window’. Stick leaves and twigs and other things found in nature onto the sellotape then backing it with more sellotape.
  • Using sticks to draw shapes in the mud.
  • Making faces and collages using twigs, leaves and other things found in nature.

The older children love building dens with ropes and tarpaulin and creating pretend battles. I’ve also seen children pretending to be dogs chasing each other and children digging for bugs and building homes for worms. What really stands out to me though is that forest school seems to be a place where children can just be children. Away from technology and the pressures of our society, children really relish the chance to just be children. The chance to let their imaginations take hold. Whilst it is amazing to see and be a part of, it saddens me. The fact that such activities don’t exist as part of childrens lives unless we specifically arrange it is a pity. Seeing how some children struggle to play outside without the structure we often give them just reinforces to me how much we need to keep making sure kids stay as kids for as long as they can. That they don’t miss out on being outside and enjoying the wonder that is nature. That’s my rant over. I promise my next post will update you more on what the cottage garden trio have been up to.

chickens · Dog · Life in the Countryside · Parenting

Snow days

It’s been pretty hard to avoid the fact that the UK has been hit by a storm of pretty mammoth proportions recently. All three of us had a snow day on Friday even though J did have to work from home. We’d had a bit of snow so far this winter so C and Jessie had experienced it a bit but this weekend it really came down hard. There is really something quite magical about the snow and the effect that it has on puppies and children. Even though it makes things so much harder it is just quite beautiful. That said I know that the storm has brought great tragedy and difficulty to many people so we are very lucky to have been able to enjoy its beauty.

This was the scene on Thursday night when I insisted that J and I don our wellies and walk out to the field just to look at its beauty. Jessie has absolutely adored the snow and would have spent all day out there had we let her. She has sniffed and dug and bounded all over. The funniest thing has been throwing snowballs and her trying to fetch them back.

On first seeing the snow C did ask “Can we open our presents now?” Which was pretty adorable and made me realise how much toddlers associate snow with Christmas rather than winter. I guess so many Christmas films show snow in them that the association is inevitable. The first thing C wanted to do was throw snowballs at daddy (which I strongly encouraged) and then build a snowman. It turns out that getting a toddler to build a snowman with a dog’s help isn’t as easy as you think but our garden is now proudly home to two snowmen (largely through the efforts of J but I did help).

C was so excited about putting the coal for the eyes, although we were lacking a carrot for a nose as I had just used the last of them for our roast dinner so we had to adapt with extra coal and an apple. I’ll be interested to see how long they last and I think C will be quite sad when they melt. I themed our Christmas Eve hamper this year on Raymond Briggs ‘The Snowman’ and when she watched the film she was really upset when the snowman melted.

I think the highlight of our snow endeavours for C was sledging. We already had a sledge in one of the sheds which J’s dad have over-excitedly bought a year ago when they said it was going to be a bit cold (no snow appeared that time). We don’t have any hills in the garden so C had to settle with being pulled around the field, which she adored.

In fact to get her back inside we had to bribe her with the promise of hot chocolate with marshmallows. She later described her favourite part of the day as being sledging. Being ‘trapped’ at home was actually quite nice in many respects. We had milk in and used the bread maker to keep ourselves stocked up with fresh bread. I baked a lovely coconut and raspberry sponge which was lovely still warm from the oven and even better the next day with custard. I had been running the freezer down in preparation for the big move so it wasn’t quite as well stocked as usual. However, we were still able to rustle up some lovely meals; roast dinner, egg and chips, beef bourguignon and new potatoes, Boursin topped ciabatta pizza and of course porridge or eggs and toast for breakfast. It has really reinforced to me the importance of having a well stocked freezer as a family. When we have the work done my aim is to have a large American fridge/freezer in the kitchen and two additional freezers in the sheds. And maybe a chest freezer too if we start producing our own meat.

I’m not sure how our veggies in the raised beds will have faired with the snow. We have strawberries and asparagus in there as permanent additions and our leeks which we planted back in October half term still in a bed too. I guess we’ll just have to wait for the big thaw to see how they have coped.

The fire has proved invaluable in this weather. Some of our water pipes did freeze inside the house due to lack of heat but once we put all our electric radiators on they thawed by Friday morning. We’ve actually been quite toasty.

The chickens have struggled in the weather and we have done what we can do for them but until it thaws properly it will be a bit touch and go for them. Their eglu is insulated and designed to withstand snow so they are fine in there but they really didn’t like coming out of it so we moved their water and food temporarily into their coop and are just going to have to wait it out and see how they do. We’ve still had at least three eggs everyday so they can’t be doing that badly but I’m prepared for the fact that we may lose a couple. Fingers crossed though.

chickens · Life in the Countryside · The field

Moving the chickens

So after we had the hedges and the grass all cut back recently we decided to move the chickens out of the orchard and into the field. There were a couple of reasons behind this. Firstly the grass in the orchard needs some time to recover from the girls pecking at it and creating dust baths so we’re going to reseed it and give it a bit of tlc. Secondly, it was a right pain trying to mow around the chicken pen as there wasn’t really enough space to move the electric fence easily so you had to mow a bit, then move it, then mow a bit then move it etc. If they are in the field then we can just mow half the field, move them permanently and then mow the rest. Thirdly, we were actually missing having the orchard as a place to spend time in. We really liked the orchard and had a couple of barbecues there last summer and wanted to get back to it being more of a social area to spend time in as a family. So our plan was simple, move their Eglu and then remove the fence and herd them into the field. We figured that the chickens would follow their home as it moved. By gosh we were wrong. So first we moved the Eglu, the chickens were mildly interested in what we were doing but mainly focused on pecking at the area where the Eglu had once stood. C and I tried to bribe them to come out of the gate in their fence using meal worms. No luck. So we started taking down the fence, again they showed a mild interest in what we were doing but then just decided to explore the rest of the orchard. 


So my father in law began to mow the orchard to even up the grass where the fence had been removed. Admittedly they did move away from the mower, but only a little bit and still stayed determinedly in the orchard. By now they were getting a bit more confident and were exploring the full reach of the orchard, but still stopping short when it came to moving towards the field. Now we had kept Jessie inside whilst we did this as we thought she’d be a bit of a hindrance (I did want to keep C away too as she was equally a hindrance but you can’t really lock a toddler in a cage) but we then thought we could use her to help encourage the chickens into the field. She has only seen the chickens from behind the electric fence before and so we figured she would relish the idea of chasing them. If only we could manage to get her to chase them in the right direction. The result…she had a mild interest in the chickens but was more interested in exploring the orchard. We tried leaving them in the hope they would go by themselves but we were worried about them not managing to get home before it got dark and we know there are foxes about (hence the electric fence). Eventually we used all of our resources (me, my husband, my father in law, the dog and some netting) to try to trap one or two at a time so we could then carry them to the field. I don’t have any photos of this because I didn’t have a free hand to take photos! We managed to get five up there but Dorothy (remember her, the elusive let’s hide our eggs chicken) decided to hide in the hedge between the orchard and the field (which she couldn’t get through because of the fence). We ended up leaving her and coming back a couple of times and we eventually managed to pick her up and get her there but it was hard work. This is their new home in the field.


They seem to have settled in quite nicely. Once they’ve been there for a couple of weeks then we’ll give them the chance to free range even further into the field. 

Raised beds · Vegetable growing

The death of the broad beans

Our broad beans were grown from plants bought from the garden centre to fill a gap as we were rather late in getting the raised beds finished. So I wasn’t too precious about them really. We had a few the other week but most of them weren’t ready before we went on holiday. Unfortunately, by the time we had come back from holiday they had been hit by what is known as rust. I did open some pods to check if the beans were alright but they weren’t, they were a write off. So we’ve had to dig them up and bin them (bin rather than compost for any diseased plants in our house). Not exactly what we would have hoped for but nevermind. Next year they will hopefully be in the field and will get more of the attention that they need. 

Craft

Dolls bedding: how to guide

So a little while ago I made C’s baby a changing bag and accessories. She loved it and I had some of the fabric I used left over so had been planning on making something else with it for her but it had languished about in a box crumpled up for months (that may have partly been as I didn’t yet have a sewing room, but now I have the cabin so no excuse). Her doll has a bed from IKEA that I picked up for her on a rather disasterous trip there whilst looking at storage (I would never recommend anyone take their toddler there if they are actually planning to shop rather than chase a toddler). It’s a lovely looking wooden bed that was remarkably cheap (can’t actually remember the price) and C loves it. We had got it for her at about the same time as we were going to convert her cot to a bed so thought it was a really good thing to link to the idea of a big girls bed. Anyway, so although the dolls bed came with bedding it was rather thin and cheap looking. So I decided to make some nicer bedding for it. 


I didn’t have quite as much of the elephant fabric as I would have hoped so the dolls quilt had to be adapted somewhat from my original plan but I’m rather pleased with it. I’ve included some simple instructions below for what I did in case anyone fancies trying out a similar project.

Dolls Bedding how to guide

First measure the length and width of the inside of your dolls bed (this is where the mattress would sit).

Materials

  • Mattress: 2 pieces of length add 1/2 inch x width add 1/2 inch; one piece of wadding the same size
  • Pillow: 2 pieces of length x 5 inches; toy stuffing to fill
  • Quilt: 2 pieces of length add one inch x width add 4 inches; one piece of wadding the same size

You can choose to have the same materials for the mattress and the pillow (as I have) or different for all three. I had planned to have the top of the quilt in the dark elephant fabric and the bottom in the pale elephant fabric but ended up having to adapt and sew some squares together to get the required size. My instructions below are for one piece of material on the front and one on the back. All fabric should be prewashed, pressed and cut to size. Seam allowance throughout is 1/4 inch. 

Instructions

  1. Mattress: place the two pieces of fabric right sides together and lay the wadding on top. Sew around all four sides leaving a gap of about 3 inches on one side. Snip a triangle off at the corners and turn the right way out through the gape left in the same. Press well with a hot iron so that the wadding becomes firmer and more mattress like. Then hand stitch the gap in the seam closed. 


2. The pillow: put the two fabric pieces right side together and sew around all four sides leaving a gap of 3 inches. Snip the corners then turn the right way out through the gap in the seam and then press. Next begin stuffing, making sure to push the stuffing right into the corners (a chopstick can help with this), keep squishing it to ensure an even fill. Once filled so you are happy with it, handsew the gap in the seam closed. 

3. The quilt: now you could try to be quite fancy here and do a patchwork design or appliqué a picture on it, but my guide is for a simple plain quilt. Put your two pieces of fabric right sides together and then lay the wadding on top (I try to used the thickest wadding I have here). Sew around all four sides leaving a gap of about three inches for turning. Snip the corners and then turn right side out. Do not press here as you want your wadding nice and fluffy. Hand stitch the gap in the seam. You could do some quilting stitch here if you want but I haven’t. 


So there you go. Fairly simple, all you need to be able to do is to sew in a straight line, you could even hand stitch the whole thing if you want but it would take a lot longer. If using a machine then this is an easy project to complete in an evening. Next step is some clothes for her doll I think, maybe even matching. Has anyone else sewn anything exciting for children?

Caravan/travel · Life in the Countryside

Let’s go buy a caravan

So next Spring we are going to do some massive renovation work on our house. And when I say massive I really do mean massive. We have to do a single story extension, move the staircase and remodel upstairs, install a new roof, install a central heating system, new windows and doors, rip up and replace all floors (not just flooring actual floors) and walls. So obviously we can’t really live in the house whilst this is going on. So we are going to hvae to move out. We did lots of thinking about where to live for this time. One option was to rent a flat for six months but that would probably cost a fair amount in terms of removal costs, rent, council tax and bills on both properties so we dismissed it as we’ve both always felt rent was dead money. Another was move in with J’s dad who lives just down the road which would be free but after consideration we decided that we would all end up killing each other and that actually it would be best to manage a big renovation project from on site. So we looked at getting a second hand static caravan in the field to live in which seems to be fairly common for large renovation projects. However, we hit a snag as static vans are 12 foot wide and the gap between our garage and the neighbours hedge is about 10 feet. So it wouldn’t fit up the drive into the field. The only way to get one into the field then would be to have a crane lift it over the hedge. Which would cost seriously mental money so we dismissed it. So our only solution really was to get a large touring caravan which we could drive into the field. A major advantage of this is that we can also use it for holidays in the future so extending it’s useage beyond the build. We made this decision quite some time ago hence why we had an area prepped for it in the field (I’ll give more details on that another time).

So anyway, we had thought for ages about when to buy our van. We won’t need it until next March/April time but didn’t want to wait until just before then in case we couldn’t find the van we were after (as we were planning to buy second hand). As I had never stayed or even been in a touring caravan before (J’s family had one when he was younger), J said it was essential for me to look at a good few to be convinced that I would be happy to live in one and to holiday in them. For some reason my husband seems to think I’m quite fussy, I don’t know what gave him that impression. So early summer we had gone to a few caravan shops (pretty sure they’re not actually called shops as it just doesn’t sound right) and I had made sure that I went into all different types and sizes of caravans. It was a really useful exercise as I was immediately able to determine what were must haves and what were no way in hell will I live in thats. So my must haves were a decent sized bathroom. Not only do I have a toddler but neither J nor I are exactly small so we needed a big enough space to move about in. Ideally I also wanted the bathroom to be at the back of the caravan out of the way. Even though there are only three of us (and are planning on staying a trio) we wanted a good sized van, big enough so that if C ever wanted to bring a friend on holiday then she could do so we were looking at probably a five or six berth van. As we are planning on living there we need some kind of central heating system and a decent sized kitchen. 

Now the sleeping arrangements in caravans tend to have a few distinct options. You can have a fixed double bed at the back, or you can have either fixed twin or bunk beds at the back. Then most vans also have the option to convert the front sofas into either another double bed or twin beds. Some also have a small table somewhere at the back that can convert into another bed. We wanted to avoid as much as possible having to convert a bed every day when we’re living there so after lots of looking in different vans we have gone for a set up where there are bunk beds at the back and a small table which converts into another single bed (which we will probably keep converted at all times when living there). There is also a decent sized bathroom at the back. That whole back section can be closed off its a curtain/door thing which will be useful when we put C to bed early. We’re also getting a large awning which we can have as extra outside living space. I’ll post some pictures of the inside etc when we collect it this weekend as we’re planning to spend a night in it on Saturday to see how Charlie settles into sleeping in it (and because J is ridiculously excited about us squeezing in some weekends away in it before the weather gets too cold. For now I’m just trying desperately to think what kind of essentials I need to get to in, what are the kitchen essentials for a caravan? How many games and toys do I need? I’ve never been massive on camping so I don’t really have a clue what kind of things to get for it? I’ll try and write a post on Sunday to let you know how our first night went!