It wasn’t as bad as I expected. Actually, I’m not sure what I expected. I’ve been doing a countdown to my 40th birthday for about 2 years, wondering what “luxury item” I’d treat myself to for the occasion. A car was top of the list for a while – either a BMW or a 4-wheel drive. A new watch also featured – one of those fancy ones you see the tennis stars modelling in the glossies. In the end I opted for something with far more longevity than any of those items – I chose this life.
This life, here in the beautiful countryside, surrounded by people we know. Nothing to hear but birds chirping, cows lowing, Beelzebub doing what Beelzebub does and the mile-long cargo locomotive passing in the distance twice a day. Food from our garden, eggs from our charming little hens. Money can’t buy this life – and I love it.
We were hoping to be into our new house by my birthday but it was always going to be a challenge and we didn’t quite make it. I’m glad we had it as a target, though, as it forced us to knuckle down to get the work completed – and we’re almost there. All construction work has been completed. We have electricity, water and internet. We have a working bathroom. We have doors in the important places. All we really need in order to move in is for the kitchen to be fitted, which will hopefully happen today or tomorrow.
Now that I can see how beautiful the house will be I just can’t wait to move in and enjoy it. In the meantime I am enjoying being one step closer to our self-sufficiency goal. We now produce most of our food ourselves either by growing it, rearing it, bartering with neighbours for it or making it from scratch using supermarket staples. Yesterday’s supper, for example, consisted of a tossed green salad of lettuce and broccoli spears from the garden, egg mayonnaise using my own eggs and homemade mayonnaise, and homemade soda scones using milk from our neighbour’s cow. It was fresh and vibrant and utterly delicious.
We kept our vegetable garden deliberately small this year, planting small quantities of a number of vegetables just to see how they grow in our weather and our soil. Some are working better than others. We have an abundance of green and white beans, plenty of broccoli, far too much lettuce and enough onions to get us through the winter. I plan to sow more broccoli over the next few days as it’s one of our favourite vegetables and it’s quite expensive in the supermarket here. (It doesn’t feature at Farmers’ Markets at all – it just isn’t that popular for some reason.)
We have also inherited a number of fruit trees. We did have bushes heavy with both red and black currants but the birds stripped them bare in about a day. We have lots of apples and damsons ripening which I will put to good use in the autumn – apple jellies and jams with the apples and jam and wine with the damsons. There are fewer pleasures as enjoyable as sipping a glass of wine that you made yourself, perhaps with a slice of homemade cheese made with milk from the neighbour’s cow.
Getting to forty was an interesting journey, full of fun, laughter, pain, sorrows, adventures, hard work and many, many wonderful people. If the next forty are half as interesting I’ll be very happy, indeed.
PS: I got a very interesting gift for my birthday from my husband, details of which I hope to share with you in early August. You’re going to want to stay tuned for this one!