Location: East Ruston, Norfolk, United Kingdom

About us, Dermot and Sue Allen and our dog friendly holiday cottages. We started with the Old Forge running it for friends in 2005. In 2007/8 we were able to develop our own holiday accommodation, The Old Piggery. The Garden Room was added, belonging to another friend and the success of these prompted a further request to add Red Roofs at Hickling which has been doing very well. In 2012 we are embarking on our next project, New Barn. It isn't new at all (approx 180 years old) but it will be a fabulous new addition to our dog friendly holiday accommodation. Keep watching this space....!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Into Autumn - August and September

The Piggery work continues. In fact, now it is officially called the Old Piggery. A straw poll of friends and family about the name made us decide to add the 'old' bit just to make sure that anyone booking it as a holiday cottage wouldn't think that it still had pigs in it! (as if!).

Got the website started. Riding friend Leonie did a brilliant job of all the techy stuff and I provided text and pics. So we are officially out there.....on the Wiggly World Webthing. We have something called a stats counter - which I am a bit obsessed with - and I have learnt as much as I would like to know about metatags. So now all we have to do is hope and pray that people find it and book!! The Old Forge is on it too - makes sense to have them both on the same site.

The final work on all the pipe and cables at the back was done - talk about spaghetti junction! There's the septic tank and the rainwater harvester and both of them have chambers and pipes and pumps (we probably have the largest collection of pumps in Norfolk!) and inspection chambers and drains etc. There are cables to the Piggery and between the Piggery and the heat pump room (basically a shed on the back of the big shed - a shedlet?) and through the stock yard and across the front garden. Just so the main garden doesn't feel left out there is a cable across that too, for powering the submersible pump (yes, another one!) in the pond.

We had always wanted a pond but I had vetoed it at this time because we have MORE than enough things to be getting on with. However, we needed a decent amount of soil to start to level the area in the field left over from filling in the ground source heat pipes and we had a the pond was dug. Then, of course, it had to be lined. Sand and old carpets we had in abundance but not huge rubber liners. That cost several hundred pounds and weighed likewise! Still, we managed to manhandle it into the field and across the hole and stretched it and cut it etc. Then we had to fill it. The week before we had just changed from mains to metered water - boo! But the rainwater harvester had done its job and we had several hundred gallons of rainwater to use instead - hoorah!

At the time of writing, the pond is full (needs a bit more work on one side to allow the water to cover the liner edges) and is teeming with wee swimming and diving beasties. Every frog we find gets rehomed there and the birds have found it for drinking. It was a real joy to watch the swallows skimming over it. It will eventually be planted up with marginals and we will add some floating plants etc to it. The pile of cobbles in the corner is our 'water feature' - rather low key but in keeping for a wildlife pond. The pipe comes up from the submersible pump and splashes water through and over the pile. Very relaxing. We will add some logs eventually to provide shelter for other beasties - toads we have in abundance but would be nice to shelter some snakes or slow worms and hopefully attract some hedgehogs. Eventually, this corner of the field will be fenced off and the area round the pond developed as a wildflower meadow. And we'll put somewhere to sit beside it with a net on a stick for pond dipping!

The swallow babies fledged in the Piggery and got out of there as fast as possible! Way too much going on for their liking and the scaffolding was level with their nest - just no privacy for them! Brendon and Chris could then finish the chimney and break through the roof to put the chimney pot up.

The whole building is now fully weather tight. All windows and doors in and when we finally had the back area levelled the whole place began to look a bit more like a dwelling and less like a building site! Though not a the front. We still have a yard full of timber, roof tiles and sundry building 'stuff'.

On the smallholding side of things the sheep have spent their summer stuffing their faces up the road at Fiona and Peter Blacks. D day for them is October 10th - just don't tell them that! Bluetongue has hit East Anglia and so we check them twice a day for any sores or runny noses. Hopefuly they will escape it - not long to go now. The foot and mouth outbreaks have curtailed any more animals movements onto the holding. We were due to have another half a dozen sheep and would have liked some pigs but it is now getting too late in the year to make it worthwhile. We'll see how things are in the spring and hopefully get ourselves another set of weaners. Hunting has been affected. We started on a Tuesday and stopped by the Friday. And we haven't been able to go out since. Bah.

There was a fairly major tragedy in the chicken department involving antifreeze ..... we will draw a veil over that sorry saga, as a result of which we ended up re-stocking with 6 retirees from a local commercial egg producer. They didn't have a clue about outside life to start with and wouldn't leave the safety of the hut at first but it didn't take them too long to discover the joys of sunbathing, dustbathing, having a good scratch and other chicken-y pleasures. They now have far too much attitude for their own good and mob anyone that goes into 'their' pen.

One of the survivors of the tragedy, a Norfolk Grey hen, had gone broody so our smallholding neighbours, Mick and Pauline, let us have some of their eggs and after 21 days Mum was proudly clucking to 5 balls of Maran fluff. You can just see one of them tucked under her left wing. Now they are growing up, looks like we might have a couple of cockerels. One will draw the short straw and the other will form part of the breeding stock for the next couple of years.

We snuck in a quick and much needed week's holiday in Spain, staying with Derm's mum and stepdad. It was wonderful - warm and relaxing, fabulous food and wine and their hospitality knows no bounds.

Last, but definitely not least, we lost two of our five cats during August and September. Tiny, who was 16, developed a big problem with her red blood cells and despite the best efforts of the vets had to be put down. Then we had to do the same for Mouse. She was 22 and one of our original kittens from long ago in Great Yarmouth. She was skinny and batty and quite doddery but was happy enough in herself. We had always said that as long as she could eat, use the litter tray and potter about then we would leave her be but her back legs went and the vet was called. Our vet, Hilary, is also a friend and it was a great comfort to us for her to come to the house to put them down on both occasions. No, it was a great comfort to me as Derm always seems to be away for any animal death or trauma! So it will definitely be his turn to take the sheep in to the abbatoir!

Indoor animal meal times are far less chaotic now though, especially as Ed, the Border Terrier, has pretty much taken up permanent residence with my 86 year old grandma.

It's a tough life eh, Ed?


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