The Chalk House Story

A bit of background information never goes amiss, and if you're interested in what actually goes on here at the smallholding, and how it came to be, this post is for you.

I'm Eleanor, and I'll be doing most of the blogging around here, though you might, from time-to-time, hear from one or two of the others. I've lived in the Lincolnshire Wolds for the past 16 years, except for when I flitted off to university. My parents - Lee and Julie - had a dream to live off the land, to build their own home, and to embrace a simpler lifestyle. In late 1998, they bought a 4.5 acre plot, with the intention of creating the opportunity to do just that, and they spent the next 2-3 years getting to grips with carving out the shape of the fields, and building part of the house.

In 2002, it was time to move in properly. My sister - Jess - was most excited about getting a dog. I enjoyed the space and fresh air that living in the countryside provided. My grandparents moved into a caravan for a while, before moving next door to be a part of it all. It really was (and still is) a family affair!

Fast-forward a few years, and the second and third stages of the house-build are still a fair way from completion. And it's complicated. In essence, there are 3 sections: section 1 is where my parents still live, and where Dan and I will move temporarily next Spring; section 2 is the main body of the house, where my parents will move to in the Spring; section 3 currently consists of just the foundations and a small section of wall, but will eventually be a home for Dan and I. At this point, section 1 will become vacant again, and my sister and her husband - Lewis - will probably move in. Are you still with me?!

Where we have made arguably more visible progress, is on the land. There are two main fields, both with a public footpath running through them. The first field - the one closest to the house - is split into a large vegetable patch, an orchard, an apiary, a chicken house and a section of earth that looks like mini mountains, which is earmarked for future development. The second field is slightly larger, and houses the ducks, and at one time provided a home for pigs (which we currently do not have). It is then split into two sections, which form paddocks for the small flock of sheep we own. On the far side is a collection of coppiced ash trees that grew from nowhere and curve to create a mysterious and magical tunnel.

Closer to the house is a workshop (the old cow shed) that currently houses Dan's pole lathe, and the beginnings of his blacksmith's forge. Two greenhouses start our vegetable season early, and a large garden provides floral colour and fragrance, along with herbs for cooking. The bell tent (where Dan and I currently live) is also located here, with the mini mountains of earth behind providing much-needed shelter from the wind.

We have many plans for the future of the smallholding, and spend many an evening discussing our ideas and dreams. Although at one time we aimed for self-sufficiency, we now realise that this isn't a realistic goal for us. We are, however, self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables throughout most of the summer, and into the autumn months. We rarely buy eggs, and if we've sent a lamb or pig to be slaughtered, we don't need to buy any meat for some time, either. It's about a balance, between hard work and perseverance, and wanting to take time to enjoy the life we've created here. If that means we have to nip to the farm shop, or even the supermarket, then that's ok. The rewards for our efforts are more than worth it, but we don't profess to be farmers, and nor would we want to ever become a working farm.

Smallholding, homestead, call it what you will, this way of life works for us, and despite the toil it brings, it's absolutely worth it. Over the next few posts, I'll be writing about different aspects of Chalk House, and what we do here, so keep an eye out if you'd like to know more.

For now, enjoy the sunshine!