There is a song called ‘The Rhythm of Life’ from the musical ‘Guys & Dolls’ that I was in the chorus of many years ago. It is a rather incongruous song, which does not fit into the musical in my opinion, but the chorus of it does seem to sum up what Jill and I are trying to achieve in this new adventure that we have been on since I retired from the police. I now believe that just recently we may have found the rhythm. The bakery business had rather been taking over our lives. Almost unintentionally, what had been an idea of a two day a week working model had become 3-4 days, plus all the admin that Jill had to do to keep accounts and orders up to date. Furthermore, much as we enjoyed opening the shop in our local pub, the financial rewards and required support from a regular body of customers was not emerging. Now if this was what we HAD to do to make ends meet we would have given the shop a much longer run, but we don’t have to! So after 13 weeks we jointly agreed to end this part of the business. Strangely our closure announcement on social media had nearly 500 hits, far greater than any previous post that we had placed on Twitter and Facebook trying to advertise the business. We do not have any regrets though; we still supply the pub with bread, plus a local deli and a wedding business. Jill also had this idea to start a weekly loaf club for some loyal customers. All of the aforementioned means that we only bake 1-2 days a week, do not have any wastage and have slowed down the pace of our life.
The other parts of our life are now starting to fit in rather than having to be squeezed in; family, ‘The Borrowed Garden’ and the camper-van.
The borrowed, walled garden now requires at least 2 half day visits a week, and regular quick trips (it’s only a 10 minute walk from our home) to water the plants. The garden has blossomed amazingly over the past 6 weeks. Tomatoes, aubergines, chillies and cucumbers are in large pots in the greenhouse. Potatoes are well and truly established in the ground, as are various beans (broad, runner, french, borlotti), sweetcorn, sprouts, lettuce, kale, kallets, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, onions , garlic, spring onions and radish. The work Jill has put in to move seedlings from smalls compost cells, to small pots to large pots is amazing, supported by me carrying loads of 75k compost bags and filling the pots with this and manure. The old Victorian greenhouse does look stunning , even if we do say so ourselves.
The challenge is now keeping the beds weed free and ensuring we water our produce regularly. Typically, we have had very little rain recently and we mainly water the garden itself by hand. We have had the odd failure or two. Borlotti beans do not seem to like the soil, some of the shallots have gone rotten and a session of weed killer spraying by the landowner’s gardener (to keep the garden’s paths clear) resulted in the loss of french beans, mint, other herbs and some sweet peas. That latter incident was a little soul destroying, but we recovered quickly and hopefully the newly planted seeds will catch up with the rest of the produce and add succession harvesting. We have so far held the natural bugs/pests at bay through a combination of water overflow piping (courtesy of B&Q) framework and second hand netting bought by Jill on-line from a farm in Scotland.
When the bakery business was at full tilt and we were working from 5am-midnight Jill and I would occasionally catch each other groaning. We never groan (other than when I bend over to weed!) in the walled garden, no matter how hard some of the work. We both love being outside and literally seeing the fruits and veg of our labours. On Monday mornings, come rain or shine there is no better place to take a well earned tea break, after a couple of hours of digging, planting, weeding etc, than in our ‘Borrowed Garden.’
In order to cope with the amount of produce we are starting to produce we have established a Vegetable box group in the village – 6 families, plus the garden’s owner & occasionally the gamekeeper/gardener of the estate. The first couple of weekly harvests have seen the boxes contain herbs, two varieties of lettuce, strawberries, homemade strawberry jam (what a bumper year for strawberries in both our gardens!), radishes and posy of flowers by Jill. So part of ‘the rhythm’ is that on Wednesdays we deliver veg/fruit boxes and on Thursdays/Fridays we deliver bread.
The Camper-vanning part of our life has seen us visit Worcester, Ypres (Belgium) and The Pembrokeshire coast near St Davids. On each camping trip we have had perfect weather (only one brief spell of rain in Worcester) and we are beginning to master the camper-van, the equipment required, car ferries and the campsites with their various rules and slopes.
We have had some lovely times with our 2 grandchildren, seen our sons and my dad (a two week stay here in Northamptonshire for him). We’ve been to a number of shows; Mamma Mia and The Northern Ballet’s ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’. I have achieved an ambition of appearing on BBC National radio (very briefly) and we were gifted a free third-hand table tennis table for our courtyard. I lost our first and only game 19-21 – well I am carrying an elbow injury (too much digging!) and I haven’t played since 2008! Play is temporarily suspended as our Labrador caught and chewed up our only ping pong ball!