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An extract from Chapter 22 of Alan Beat's

" A Start in Smallholding"

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...... The net result of doing more for ourselves instead of paying others is twofold. Firstly, less money is needed, so less time needs to be spent earning it, thus neatly reversing the vicious circle in which modern society had previously trapped us. Secondly, it inspires self-confidence, the belief in our ability to cope. We see this quality in many of the smallholders we have come to know; not usually over-confidence, just an unspoken inner strength.

Our quality of life is so different here, so vastly improved from before, that it is hard to imagine now living in any other way. Of course it is not idyllic all the time by any means. There are days when the weather is against us, when nothing seems to go right, or when our best efforts fail to achieve their purpose. As I write this, a south-westerly gale is buffeting torrential rain against the window pane, and not long ago, I was outside in full waterproofs on the evening livestock round. Feed, muck-out and bed-down the pigs; move the ewe lambs from their riverside grazing to higher ground because of flood risk; feed and shut in for the night assorted ducks, geese and chickens at various locations; carry a hay-bale through slippery mud to fill the feeding racks for the ewe flock; struggling all the time against the wind and rain to finish up cold, wet and muddy.

These conditions are accepted with a shrug, for the hardships serve to heighten appreciation of the better times, those other days when a similar round is sheer pleasure, when a sharp frost and low winter sunshine transform the familiar landscape into brilliance; or the drowsy warmth of a summer evening finds us lingering outside long after the round is finished, reluctant to move indoors after a long hot day outside. Yes there are times when it is idyllic, after all.

So now, after eight years, our lives have changed in many ways and, almost to our surprise, we find that we are no longer raw beginners. There remains so much more to learn that we know our apprenticeship will continue for a very long time to come.