Daily Life at Chalk House: Winter

Running a smallholding could be a full-time job in itself; that's why here at Chalk House we're lucky to live as an extended family, where everyone takes a share of the work, without it becoming too much of a grind. Of course, there are always times when you're the only one at home, and the hours fill easily with essential tasks, but these days are (thankfully) rare.

Jobs change seasonally, and during winter the focus is less on the vegetable patch, and more on maintenance and organisation. To give you an idea of what it's like to run a smallholding at this time of year, here's what an average day looks like...

  • 6.30am (or just before dawn): Walk the dogs in the muted light of daybreak.
  The main duck house and pond first thing in the morning.

The main duck house and pond first thing in the morning.

  • 7.30am (as close to sunrise as possible): Open the houses of the chickens and ducks, and check for eggs. Make sure they all have fresh water and fill up their feed. We have to wait until sunrise for this, otherwise the foxes are still about, and the poultry is at risk. Check that the sheep are ok, and that their water is filled up.
  The sheep are either kept in the top field or the orchard, and are moved for fresh grazing.

The sheep are either kept in the top field or the orchard, and are moved for fresh grazing.

  • 7.45am: Breakfast and plans for the day, including what's on the menu and needs eating from the veg plot. Process the eggs and put outside for sale.
     
  • 8.30am: Dan's usually working on the build, and at the moment can be found constructing windows in the workshop. Tasks such as fencing and hedging are completed by volunteers, if we have any, and the rest of us, if not. Any baking is often completed first thing.
     
  • 10.30am: A well-earned coffee break.
     
  • 10.45am: More of the same tasks from earlier.
     
  • 12.15pm: Lunch! Currently finished off with apples from the store.
  Collecting chicken eggs.

Collecting chicken eggs.

  • 1.15pm: Go and check to see if there are any more eggs. Fill up the water butts that supply the water for the poultry, and make sure they all have fresh water too. Feed them some corn. We also give the houses a quick clean, but this is really a much bigger job that takes place at the weekends, and is also when we refresh the straw.
     
  • 1.30pm: More work. Dan's always in the workshop or on the land (if he's not on a fire shout), but the rest of us have other jobs to complete too, so it depends what day it is as to whether you'll catch us outside or in. If we need logs chopping, this is usually when we do it.
     
  • 3.30pm: An on-the-go tea-break, if we remember!
     
  • 4.30pm: During the winter, it gets dark so much earlier, so we're already shutting up the ducks and chickens at this time to ensure they're safe from predators. Any eggs we've missed earlier will be collected, and waters will be emptied to discourage rats from the area. The sheep will be fed with a few nuts, and we'll check that the electric fence is still on and doesn't need its battery changing. If any vegetables need picking for dinner, now's the time we do it to ensure they're as fresh as possible.
  Chard and leeks are two of our staple winter vegetables.

Chard and leeks are two of our staple winter vegetables.

  • 5pm: It's dark, so work on the smallholding is usually over by this point. Now we begin to think about preparation for dinner, and spend the meal discussing what we've all been up to, and any plans we have for the next day. Evenings are usually spent working, relaxing, or reading. Projects and ideas for the future often feature, and there's usually a fire in the woodburning stove.

Daily life looks so much different by the time we reach spring, and as the nights pull out, we spend less time planning and more time outside. Look out for another 'daily life' post once we hit that point in the year.