The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Sometimes I work in enchanted places

Photo: Chicks preening. Caroline's photo so all rights resrved

Photo: Chicks preening. Caroline's photo, so all rights reserved

Laptop still crashing after ten minutes so here is a post that I’ve been trying to put up for the last  couple of days. Caroline provided the photo which I just had to include …



I’m very lucky. Over the past few years I have got to know a lot of people and observed hundreds of different lifestyles through my decorating work. If the job is a long one, I become a fly on the wall. Listening mainly to my DAB headset sports radio as I work but sometimes looking beyond my brush.

I have been employed on a large estate for several months on and off, painting their 43 Georgian sash windows and doors (inside and out). Fiddly work but the radio and the wildlife keep me sane. My clients are kind and interesting too.

Half a mile from the road, the house is freed from the noise of passing traffic. A large range of birds are attracted by a handful of substantial feeders. Ducks and moorhens nest in the rushes at the side of their large natural pond. Swallows return each summer – in fact I flushed out a couple when I started Niftylift (their cherrypicker) in the barn this morning. They darted out so fast that I just glimpsed the shape of their wings before they accelerated into the clear blue sky.

When Jalopy and I rumble up the drive we are travelling into a different world, so packed with wildlife that any worries seem almost irrelevant. Here the 40 acres team with wildlife especually when all the humans are out.

Sometimes a pair of wagtails bob across the grass. Beautiful enchanting birds that I had never noticed before I worked on the estate. Even though we live just a couple of miles away, they are wise not to visit our garden – the Min Pins would have them in a trice as wagtails are ground feeders. There are blue pheasant nesting in their garden and a wild duck who’s successfully protected her brood of six obedient ducklings for two weeks now. I see them disappearing into the shrubbery when I disturb them as they guzzle dropped seed below the bird feeders.

It was here that I saw my first jay, heard baby owls who ‘terwit’ weeks before they ‘terwoo’. One quiet and sultry afternoon a hare lolloped past – just  inches from my step ladder, heading for the kitchen garden and the young spring greens. This morning I spotted a green woodpecker arriving to feast.

This is the place where I first fell in love with a black Labrador. Patrick was sensitive and hugely intelligent. Sadly now enjoying that great meadow in the sky. His place has been filled by Beau. Large feet, low slung and affectionate, B has enchanted me. His big dog scent intrigues the Min Pins when I return home in the evening. I love catching his eye and feeling his head in my hand each morning.

Tomorrow is my last day and although I will really miss this haven, it has got under my skin and is part of me now.

  Leave a reply


  1. Margaret

    That place sounds idilic, I can see you will miss it now your work is done. Have you asked if you would be able to visit just to go for a walk now and again? I would, it seems like the ideal spot to go to when you just want to escape.


  2. That sounds wonderful. I work in an office and I hate it – one day when I am not a wage slave, I will work outdoors,

  3. Katy Vic

    Do you get any particular error messages when the computer shuts down? Or does it just freeze/go blue?

    Sometimes things like the graphic driver can get corrupted, and all you need to do is download a good version again… but the system will generally tell you what file(s) is causing the problem…


  4. Michelle in NZ

    Super laptop frustration for you after working is such a beautiful home.

    have just rechecked your St Clements roast chicken recipe – will roast a small (“feeds 3 people”) chook tomorrow and this method seems wonderful.

    Zebbycat home with shaved bit including right side of neck, both front legs and a shorn abdomen after various tests and an innards ultrasound this week. He does look funny and for once he will be able to contemplate his navel. With his ample size his bare belly looks more like a beer belly!

    Huggles to you both and all the min pins (smuggling a few more to Dr Q)

    Michelle and Zebbycat, xxx and purrrrrumbling

  5. magic cochin

    What a gorgeous photo of your chicks – aren’t they clever, knowing how to do preening at such a young age!

    The estate where you’ve been working sounds idyllic – it’s amazing the wildlife that’s about when you step off the main roads and pathways.

    And the window frame painting sounds very meditative when you’ve got your system worked out and a good programme on the radio. I rather like those repetitive yet satisfying jobs. When you look at the finished paintwork do you remember what you were listening to?


  6. Living and working in a rural location is such a priviledge and sometimes it’s easy to take all the surrounding wildlife for granted – I’m sure there are lots of town and city dwellers reading the blog that envy all us country folk. I must make more time to appreciate everything that goes on around me – perhaps one of these days I will knuckle down and produce a record of the wildlife here so that I can share it with others as you do.

  7. Veronica

    What bliss! And wow, 43 windows to paint …

    Your crashing problem really does sound like overheating. Not sure what you can do about it with a laptop, if you’ve already tried blowing out all the dust and Min Pin hairs. It’s very crowded inside a laptop, so they are prone to overheating. We’ve just had the same problem with a small-footprint desktop, and the repair guy said it just wasn’t worth replacing the motherboard as it would be just as expensive as buying a new PC! Luckily it’s a spare.

  8. That sounds so lovely – working on your own in lovely, peaceful surroundings (although I’m sure not all clients/situations are so nice).
    We have a Jay visiting us at the moment. We have had one for the last few years, but this one is coming to the nut feeders close to the house.
    He is, I must say, a bit of a bully. He sees the smaller birds investigating something quietly in the grass, as is their wont, and dive-bombs, thinking there is something for him.
    Having spent a few years admiring them from occasional glimpses, I am quite disappointed by this behaviour! I must look him up in a bird-book, to see if this is normal.

  9. Joanna

    One of the beauties of living here in rural Latvia is the peace and the quiet. As I sit here typing this at nearly 9am in the morning I am only interrupted by the occasional sounds of traffic even though we do live in a village and they are putting in water pipes up the road. We have just returned from a long weekend in England visiting our two sons and it was sooooo busy and soooo much traffic.

  10. That so took my breath away – 43 Georgian sash windows and doors – painted both sides! My Victorian house pales into insignificance! I am full of admiration for you. Your description of the wildlife was absorbing to read and the chicks look so perky. x

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