The Monday Project: Where Fairies Live

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Off into the woods we go.

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

The right spot is key.

 Where we lived in England in the heart of  the Dorset’s Jurassic Coast  is a  stunning area called the Isle of Purbeck. Its not actually an island (oh those quirky Brits!) it is actually just divided from the main land by a river.  Some smart publicist probably thought it was a great name to get tourists in.  The Purbecks are full of rambling little villages all thatch and duck pond quaint.  If you know the right roads and you are there at the right time (the area gets closed regularly for military training) you can go to an abandoned village called Tyneham .  It was evacuated in the second world war and has remained abandoned all these years.  A woodland has sprouted up between the buildings as they tumbled into ruin leaving the ghosts of homes entangled with trees and shrubs.  A short walk down a dirt road you get to a beach which is essentially an old smuggler’s landing. The beach has a straggly bit of sand and copious amounts of beach glass worn soft by the tide and time and it is the best place I have ever been to find rare lavender, purple and red beach glass. It is a magical place: my children have only ever known Tyneham Village as “The Fairy Woods.”

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Gathering little treasures en route.

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Location, Location, Location.

The first time we went K. was only two and I was pregnant with E.  It was spring and Tyneham Village was bursting with Bluebells and Wild Garlic.  The sight of a British Bluebell wood is one of my most treasured memories.  It is breathtakingly beautiful and ethereal.   M. ran ahead of K. on our first visit and hid pennies in little  crevices in the dry stone walls, tumbled homes and cracks in bark. When K. started finding pennies and wondering where they came from somehow a story of fairies hiding gifts was spun out.  K. went on to concoct her own theories about the sea glass which became “fairy gems” and were her very favorite magical thing.  Even now K. loves nothing better than heading to the beach to hunt down stray pieces of sea glass.

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Ground preparations and foundations.

From that moment K. was convinced of the existence of fairies and would bring little gifts for them when we visited The Fairy Woods- a couple of raisins, a few nuts and memorably a carrot stick which M. was made to chop into little pieces so they could carry them!  I’m sure there were some grateful squirrels when we visited.  We regularly went back. Usually in Spring as the bluebells were up. We would pack a rope swing, our camp cooker, a little dome tent and a picnic.  An entire day would pass as we basked in the sun or cowered in our tent from the rain and as dinner time would approach we would pack up our sandy shoes, grass stained knees and damp tent to head home again.

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Acorn cap potted ferns.

It was a natural progression that we start building Fairy houses.  Our first was on Badbury Rings– an Iron age hill earth works again in Dorset.  Its 3 rings stand about 10 30 foot tall at best (thank you M.) but would have been much higher in it’s hey-day.  As you walk up the entrance and ascend the central mound, to your left a tiny lily pond hums with frogs and dragonflies and in front of you a woodland thickens. Our fairy house was rickety; made of twigs, grass leaves and bracken.  K. was more interested in running through the woods with Daddy collecting interesting bits and pieces to decorate with: acorn caps, mossy bundles, pretty leaves, stones, flowers and conkers.

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Every Fairy Village needs at least one house with a swing.

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

Fairies enjoy good landscaping.

We have built a lot of fairy houses but E. was 5 when she decided they didn’t exist declaring for all to hear “I don’t believe in Santa because God never said let there be fairies that fly.” I never did figure out where Santa came into it- we weren’t really into the Santa thing so I can only guess it was a bit of information from school she was working on… and that was it. That little nugget of wonder was gone.

Sometimes we still gather piles of twigs, ferns and pebbles; sit, squat or kneel in a likely corner and begin to build. We try not to add anything to our house that isn’t natural, after all we don’t want to trick the fairies’s little squirrel companion into eating something poisonous!  So shells are okay plastic not so much.  Raffia is good, wire or glue- naw.

 K. likes to build for tiny fairies:

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

K.’s Tiny Fairy house with Abalone shell pool.

 E. likes to hunt unusual objects:

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

E’s bigger house with a zig-zag path, Buck-Eye and Autumn leaves decor.

J. is all about the detail:

Sweet Little Wood: Building Fairy Houses

J’s beautiful garden path approach.

Me… I like to sit in the dirt with my children breath in the air and enjoy a little bit of  fairy wishing.

xx

Jo

Brown, Yellow and Cheep

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

This week we were thrilled to get to welcome our new little flock of chicks! In every single way this has been our best experience getting new chickens.

Unless you are lucky enough to live near a good breeder chicks usually have to arrive by mail which is always nerve wracking: knowing that these tiny little creatures have endured a rather traumatic first experience always gives me regret.  We have received a few mail-order chick/duckling deliveries and always when the box arrives a few chicks have died en-route, usually the hatchery provides a few extra to make up for the loss.  Our worst experience (when half of them died) the chicks were clearly more than a few days old; the delivery was expected to be 30 chicks what arrived was only 18 and then a further three died and we just managed to save a little Easter-egger we named Pig-widgen who never quite recovered her full wits but was very sweet regardless.  After that we had decided not to order chicks by post because opening the box and not knowing what we would find felt too traumatic.  However we realized that the chicks we could buy at the farm stores in town were delivered by mail and basically you were being buffered from the chicks trauma but not in fact preventing it.

As M. feels quite passionate about the welfare of his animals and believes that for a chicken to be in its best condition it needs as little change in habitat as possible so buying a chick which has been shipped to a third party just for us to collect it from them at a later date did not seem to suit the animal’s (or M.’s) needs.  He researched the best possible breed for our needs- dual purpose birds (good for eggs and meat), who give a good number of eggs a year and pure-bred so that we could breed our own flock  further down the line with good results maintaining the breed characteristics.

The Tiny Red Chicken Barn: Sweet Little Wood

M.’s design Red Barn Chicken Hutch is big enough to house 30 chickens who free-range during the day. The barn is equipped with a solar-powered door which opens on a set timer- best small farm product EVER!

He found Whitmore Farm.  They are a heritage breeds farm with a strong emphasis on animal welfare without antibiotics or hormones.  Our experience with Whitmore has been beyond brilliant.  They have such a genuine concern for the chicks they ship M. and I have been thrilled with the service, communication but especially the birds.  The chicks all arrived alive and energetic with plenty of vim.  They were clearly shipped within the first day of life as the box they traveled in had tiny spots of the green poop that chicken’s pass soon after hatching- just like human babies pass meconium.   Early shipping is important because they have a little bit of the egg-yolk sack left inside their body after hatching to help them adapt and if shipped later than a day that yolk sack can be too depleted to help them.  They all responded to the food a water enthusiastically and immediately began exploring their enclosure in the barn.  Usually chicks are quite skittish of humans but these little balls of fluff are insatiably curious without any fear and have been chasing my hand around their box to get a closer look. We haven’t lost a single chick even three days later when it would be usual for the weakest to have shown the stress of shipping.

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

We ordered a mix box of breeds. We did pay more money per bird (for the purebred breeding and ethos of the farm) from Whitmore Farm than we have previously from other “big box” breeders.  We specifically requested half Delaware which are dual purpose and the other half were to be whatever was hatching at the right time: which happened to be Welsummer.  So the little cream-yellow chicks are Delaware and probably about half of them will end up in our freezer.  We intend to keep one male but the rest of the males will be reared for meat.  The adorable little Chipmunk striped chicks are the Welsummer.   Welsummer have sex-linked features so we can tell already which are male and which are female.  For those of you who are curious the female Welsummer have a thicker eyeliner and more distinctive stripe on their head than the less strongly marked males.

Like so:

Welsummer chick- sex-linked, female on left. male on right: Sweet Little Wood

Female on the left, Male on the right.

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

 They are such beautiful little creatures and for once I feel that we made the perfectly right decision with our breed suppler.

Welsummer chick- sex-linked, female: Sweet Little Wood

So what’s Brown,Yellow and Cheep?

xx

Jo

Morning, Noon and Night: My Kind of (Birth) Day

 

Morning: My surprise birthday gifts which 4 very sneaky people manged to get in our barn last night without me knowing! Sarah, Rebecca and Leah: my Nubian goats.
Morning: My surprise birthday gifts which 4 very sneaky people manged to get in our barn last night without me knowing! Sarah, Rebecca and Leah: my Nubian goats.
Noon: An invitation came to pick Chardonnay  grapes from our neighbors vineyard- of course we said "Yes Please!"
Noon: An invitation came to pick Chardonnay grapes from our neighbors vineyard- of course we said “Yes Please!”
Night: Dinner NOT made by me and cake NOT made by me! Lovely.
Night: Dinner NOT made by me and cake NOT made by me! Lovely.

I have had a hilarious day. It started with tears as M. had hidden balloons in a box and when I opened it and the balloons flew out at me it scared me half to death!! I was laughing and crying at the same time when I got to meet my beautiful new girls.  Grape picking was so much fun and the pressing to make juice was even better. Now I’m going to settle down with all my sweetlings here and watch a DVD with popcorn and a glass of wine.

Have a beautiful weekend darling friends!

xx

Jo

Weekend Plans: August 29th – 31st

1: My oldest niece is expecting her 3rd baby and I have got to get this present done because I have this midwife 6th sense that there will be no waiting till her due date at the end of the month.

SweetLittleWood.OnesieGift

2: K. is having a good friend over to start the school year off fun- and making sure things look pretty for her!

Saucily named flowers.

Saucily named flowers.

3: Not technically still the weekend but… I gotta go socialize with some ice-cream on Labor Day.  Its a big annual event in the Yorkville Socialite Club (which I am the most likely member to be asked not to attend) and I don’t want to bee seen to be snubbing the ice-cream.

ice_ice_baby

I will try to get photos up on my FB page from the Ice Cream Social because watching my husband and children eat ice-cream is like watching feeding time at the zoo… when the tigers get into the antelope enclosure.  Everyone hunched protectively over their portion guarding its sticky deliciousness: eating as fast as possible (in case there are seconds and the slowest eater misses out on more)!  Its disgusting to behold and I think it might be time to shame them.

xx

Jo

Morning, Noon and Night: Saying Goodbye.

Morning: 5 a.m. waiting to load the goats onto a cattle truck.  Final goodbyes.

Morning: 5 a.m. waiting to load the goats onto a cattle truck. Final goodbyes.

Noon: The award ceremony was BORING!

Noon: The award ceremony was BORING!

Night: Opening checks for the sale of their goats.  The generosity of the buyers was phenomenal.

Night: Opening checks for the sale of their goats. The generosity of the buyers was phenomenal.

We have had the most amazing time.  The girls are coping with the separation from the goats remarkably well. Better than I did with my first 4-H animal.  I think being able to load the animals themselves and seeing how calm the animals were helped- the pigs are a different thing but goats are so gentle.  I’m trying very hard not to think about what the rest of the goat’s day was like but the tears come anyhow.

Our fair buyers were so incredibly generous.  The fair had the highest sales ever.  Average goat prices were $15.00 per pound.  It is hard work but like any summer job it helps to be rewarded.

Phew. So glad to be at this point but a little heart-sore with it.

xx

Jo

Morning, Noon and Night: Photo Day

Morning: Goat ripped ribbons.

Morning: Goat ripped ribbons.

Noon: And keep on smiling.

Noon: And keep on smiling.

Night: keep those goats cool all afternoon as the temperatures soar and keep your cool when people are rude.

Night: keep those goats cool all afternoon as the temperatures soar and keep your cool when people are rude.

I have to say something about today: It was quiet for us. All our showing was done- we only had photos to worry about.  K. E. and J.  spent the whole day keeping their goats comfortable in the heat- most of our neighbors were only seen rarely so we know that the care they gave the goats in uncomfortable temperatures was extraordinary.  Well at the end of this long hot day a couple approached E. (who was caring for the goats in their stall) and said “We are here to buy goats.” E. responded with “Oh lovely”  and offering them some little stickers we made up that say “I support 4-H” which the couple took without a thank you.  Esther then said “These goats belong to me and my sisters.”  (poor grammar but polite) to which this couple responded “Yes there very nice now where are the champion goats.”

A couple things keep going round my head…

1: E. has a good sense of humor so was able to laugh at their rude behavior.  Fortunately E. did very well coming third in her class against the two goats that eventually went on to be Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion so she didn’t feel like they were being deliberately disparaging:  BUT what if she hadn’t what if she was a more sensitive child or had been upset by a poor performance?

2: They were talking to a child.  Who treats a child like they were an insignificant speed bump in the grand track of their very important life?

3: Bastards. How very not nice.

Xx

Jo

Morning, Noon and Night: Show Day

Morning: A terrible nights sleep followed by an early start to clean the goats pens.

Morning: A terrible nights sleep followed by an early start to clean the goats pens.

Noon: Waiting to enter the ring tension.

Noon: Waiting to enter the ring tension.

Night: Many hours in 103 degree heat and four ribbons later.

Night: Many hours in 103 degree heat and four ribbons later: K. 4th,  E. 3rd and  J. 3rd in their classes and one 4th for J. in Showmanship if you’re interested.

xx

Jo