Saturday, 23 October 2010

Builders at last

Having just come back into Wales from Somerset again I'm bursting with things to write about. For now, I'll content myself with an update on our building project in Somerset...

This has been a Very Good Week. We have had an actual, real live builder on site!!! After almost 6 months with nothing discernible happening to our house, we now have a concrete base inside the main barn, some footings and low block walls, a couple of drains.....and a lot of sticky red clay outside where the concrete and subsoil have been excavated away from the barn wall. I can now breathe more easily. Let it rain. The barn is secure.

Here is the beautiful concrete slab (beauty is in the eye of the beholder), and the walls to the left will be the utility room - it looks tiny at this stage but will hopefully have room for a few boots and a dog one day.
This is technically what we are calling 'phase 1' - more so we can feel a sense of achievement than that any significant work has been done. Steve and Lee, our builders, have been brilliant. They turned up on time, every day, worked hard, kept everything tidy, discussed everything with us ....... and even came in under quote! What's more, they were both very good looking (don't worry they definitely won't be reading this and I'm sure Ian can get his own back with a simple mention of Alice-whatsername-Roberts).

I, meanwhile, have spent the week in trench warfare. Still sorting out the trenches dug through the lawn for water and drainage. Why oh why didn't we put down plastic before dumping all that red clay onto our lovely green healthy grass? You definitely learn by your mistakes. After about 7 hours
scraping with a rake I think the grass can breathe again. It is a challenge though finding places to put all the subsoil that is being dug out - i think we'll have to design some banks or hillocks somewhere - hopefully to look as natural as possible.

We relocated a lovely contorted hazel bush a couple of weeks ago - too early in the season as it turns out as it promptly and thoroughly died - or so I thought. Looking more closely this week, little green shoots have popped out all over it. God is good.

And to finish off, this is the view from somewhere in the Brecons on my journey back to Newbridge.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Apple juicing

Sunday - the tenth of the tenth of the tenth - was Apple Day. At least it was here in Wales. The Llandrindod Transition Town group decided to hold an Apple Day event at Ashfield. There is a high degree of 'working-together-ness' here in Llandod between like-minded groups. It makes things possible instead of Very Hard Work.

First pick your apples....

...smash them to bits with a large wooden stick in a bucket (or you can chop them and put them through a 'scratter' if you happen to have one)... here's Ian doing some whilst networking at the same time...

...then put the pulp into an apple press. A proper one can cost in the hundreds... most people make their own - with a car jack or giant screw fixed inside a wooden or steel framework and something to collect the juice as it's squeezed out. Ours was a wonderful contraption involving a stainless steel pan with holes drilled in it, a plastic tray, two wooden chopping boards, a few nuts and bolts to hold it together.....
...and a dustpan to act as a spout! The juice comes trickling out as the jack or screw gradually turn to compress the pulp.

Feed the remaining squeezed-out pulp to the pigs...
... add a teaspoon of ascorbic acid per bucket of juice, and pour into bottles. When you get home, pasteurise the juice by placing the bottles, caps off, into a large pan, and simmer at 70 degrees for 20 minutes. Replace the caps and leave to cool. This process kills off any yeasts that would cause the juice to ferment, so it should still be good in a years time!
We really enjoyed the Apple Day. It's the first time I've seen Ashfield buzzing with people - volunteers, trustees, visitors, local people - working together and enjoying the sense of making something without spending an arm and a leg.
The warmth of the day, the children watching the apple lady make apple spaghetti, and the sound of the blues guitar in the background - settled like magic in my heart. I have finally understood what Ashfield and community gardening is all about, and I don't want to leave it.


Sunday, 10 October 2010

Feast for mind and spirit

This weekend has been a feast for mind and spirit. A two-day course at Streams in Cheltenham (the Art of Hearing God) was like water to a thirsty soul. It felt so good to be studying, learning, and opening my mind to understanding more of God - wow - how amazing that he is always speaking to us and through us. Here are a few sound-bites I noted in the margins of my manual, though 2 solid days of teaching can't really be condensed into a few lines:

"PEACE is the potting soil of revelation"
"You can focus on faith or fear - faith is from the spirit, fear is from the soul (mind, will, emotions) - whatever you focus on you empower and will grow bigger"
"We are faced with constant choices and decisions. Every choice you make either brings you closer to God or further away from him."
"Live before an audience of One"
"EGO = Edging God Out"
"Godly character is of greater value than spiritual giftedness"
"What you see and hear (in the spiritual realm) depends a good deal upon where you are standing - and a great deal upon what kind of person you are"
"You cannot understand spiritual things with the soul (mind) - it speaks a different language"

We also spent time listening to God - for ourselves, and the other students. I found it a little bit nerve-wracking trying to tap into Gods heart for another person when they're stood right in front of you but it's all about learning and becoming more confident and sharpening up your discernment. The teaching we received was so good and completely based in the Bible - I would highly recommend this course to anyone with a desire to explore their gifting in more depth.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


I've taken a few snaps of the beginning of Autumn, my favourite season. We had a great weekend with some of Ian's half of the family and discovered Abergwesyn and Llyn Brianne to the west of Newbridge, visited the Red Kite Centre, and drove up through the Elan Valley. Wales' hidden gem as I heard it called on Countrywise on TV last week.

Us in the Elan Valley - from left Peter, John, Ann, Eileen and me.

Ians lovely mum

This is Llyn Brianne, a reservoir built about 40 years ago.
Red bracken...
We've discovered from the girl in the Post Office that the name of our house, Tyllwyd (pr.Tuth-loyd), means 'Grey House' - not the most imaginative name but it sounds good in Welsh and is an accurate description of its Victorian grey stonework. I love the orange tree that splashes colour all over it though today hardly any of its leaves are left.