13th - 31st March 2002


Another string to the bow since the last entry. I applied on some Mystery Shopping web sites and have my first job
next week. Having a meal in a well known restaurant and reporting my findings etc. They pay for the meal and about
£8 over the top. Not much, but it's free and a bit of spending money thrown in.
To say I'm busy in an understatement at present and in the last two weeks I have refused about four possible jobs.

Having just dug most of the garden, I've let the chickens out for the last week. They've been scurrying around doing a
bit of extra weeding for me and in return, the egg situation has really taken off. With my 6 chickens, I've gone from 2 -
5 a week in February to 17 last week and 4 this morning !
I let them out in autumn and it's interesting to note that I haven't seen any baby lupins yet. Last year we were
overgrown with them - this year, looks like none.

I took delivery of some ceramic tiles which I've got to do in the big house. You can imagine my horror and nerves when
38 square meters turned up. It actually was a mistake and they took 32 sq meters back ! I'm working on 4 rooms at the
same time at present, the ceilings and wodwork awaiting for the wall colour selection.

It's a strange time of year; three weeks ago it was dull, miserable and cold with little to do outside except watching
football; yet in another three weeks everything's happening, the cricket season starts as does 'Bat and Trap'. I'm busy
preparing the Bat and Trap pitch mowing it once a week stopping the Sycamore trees which seem to love sprouting
right up the middle.

I get a lot of e-mails asking about the books I feature in the site so I'm working on a Shop Page at present where
individual items will be directly linked to the appropriate Amazon page. It's where I get all my books from. I've found the
service and price so much better than everywhere else. Also, there will be a page selling some of my own 'wares'.
This should be up and running by the end of this week. There will be a link on every page, so please have a look.

So have a lovely Spring getting all the seeds sown. I put a page for my friends in America
(http://www.downthelane.net/Page_15.php) showing some photo's taken last weekend, entitled 'The second day of
Spring down the lane'.
Larry from Montana sent me an attached e-mail entitled 'Ninth day of Spring in Montana' showing the snow in a very
barren looking landscape.
So maybe we in GB don't have it too bad after all !

I'll now phone Leonardo who's in Italy with his Mum, then sit down to watch the Brazilian Grand Prix. I'll try to stay still
for a minimum of 10 minutes before I think of something else I've got to do.

 



26th.Feb - 13th. March 2002


Since last writing, I've turned 54 and do I feel older ? Well, with the work I've been doing over the last three weeks,
about 10 years older ! But I've still the fitness and vitality to play in the Pool Team on a Thursday night - and walk the 70
yards home afterwards.
The Woodpeckers just arrived outside, busily digging lunch out of the grass - brilliant. Last night the PIR light activated
twice. With the recent burglary, I peeped out the curtains. The second time I found the culprit - a rat the size of a
squirrel. I don't think it's only the chickens that are attracting them, the derelict windmill and various earth energy lines
meandering around the property seems not to help.

Last week was good. I found out I have the job at Kent Cricket Ground, I finished another room in the big house and
heard of a successful dowsing job I had done some weeks ago. Plus 4 (yes 4) cards on my birthday put the icing on
the cake.
I worked through Saturday / Sunday to enable me to take Leo down to Southampton this weekend to watch them play
Leicester City. Before I leave on Friday however, I have three days work to squeeze into two.
The evenings have been active too. I'm making dowsing pendulums out of Chestnut, Apple and Hazelwood which I hope
to sell at the fast approaching Boot Fairs, plus a few sticks. For the sticks I go on shape, not on 'walking stick'. Most I
cut last autumn and they're just about right to varnish etc.
This is something I'd like to expand. It certainly seems slightly less active than clearing a bank full of stinging nettles and
rocks !

So, at present, lots of items in one basket, certainly versatile.

Money is the one bug in the works. Odd how I'm doing twice as much as this time last year and really struggling. All the
more reason for prospective downshifters to have a plan and a bit put away for a rainy day. I had my rainy day late last
year, so I'm on my own now, 100%.
Although I take it seriously, I still know that I'll still be around and surviving in six month's time and so on. Just one of life's
ups and downs.

The Woodpecker has now been joined by a Magpie, he's a bit of a nuisance around here as well. Outside the Mill House
yesterday, whilst still light, a couple of bats were darting around and a pheasant has taken again to the chicken
enclosure. It's that time of the year and it really does make a bit of a racket. The chickens don't take any notice.

So, this is lunch break and much to do still. Thanks for keeping on asking Mr. Jeeves above, I'm getting about 70p a
week now - thanks to you.
Speak soon and take care.

 


11th-26th.February


I went for the interview at Kent Cricket Club today. It was the first interview I've had for about 12 years and seemed quite
strange to be 'the other side of the desk'. I wasn't expecting such a high profile interview for the job in question and it
threw me a bit. Anyway, should know within a couple of days.

I'm still plodding on at the big house, I've just heard from one of my customers last year who wants me back on Friday, I've
a list of jobs to do for my dear Irish couple and hope to start the railway work again next week. So, I'm going to be a busy
boy from the sound of it. Just two more customers from the last two years to come to fruition and I'm set up til Autumn, I
hope.

Rats are my big problem. They're getting the eggs before I do and have only one egg to show in the last week. I've shot a
couple, put down poison, two traps - and still they come. So if any one knows some alternative method to the above,
please write to me (e-mail at bottom of page - no ideas for training them please !!).

I really must sow the broad beans at the weekend. The recent high winds have left me with a well ventilated Greenhouse,
four of the windows went ! I shall look around the skips for some glass or perspex. If nothing shows, polythene will do for
now. At least the rain will get in and soften up the soil a bit.
The weather is worrying again. This time last year I couldn't break the soil to dig it. This year the spade just sinks down.
Also worrying is the news today that there could be another outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in Yorkshire. Not long
since the Government declared the epidemic over. There's even a story floating around of secret culls in the North of
England.
It's the Smallholders I grieve for. They don't get the helping hand from the Government. It's a business just as much as
'factory' farming is. Also, if my business goes bust (and I am 'service') I don't get bailed out. I know the nation has to eat
etc. Very fragile subject I think and won't try to become too much the Devil's advocate.

My 'office' overlooks the garden and this morning I was treated to a Woodpecker digging around the lawn. He's been
around quite a few times, usually in the front, and the colours cheered me up no end. A couple of days ago a couple of
Kingfishers flew over the stream at the Mill House. Amongst the doom and gloom, nature lives on and entertains us
endlessly.

But I'm happy, just about paying the bills and keeping warm. I wore a shirt and tie today, sharply cut creased trousers and
my good old black shoes - I actually looked quite smart and made the most of my trip to Canterbury by strolling around the
shops for a bit pretending to be rich and handsome !
I got back at lunchtime, chucked the paint stained joggers, holed sweat shirt, drove round to a customers house and stood
on a toilet to hang a cabinet up. The moment of cleanliness was short but sweet - but I felt more at home being a scruffy git
!

Thanks for searching on 'Ask Jeeves' - it's mounting up to grand heights and at present stands at about half a bag of coal.

Cheers for now - Richard

 



1st - 11th. February 2002


Firstly, thanks for doing some searches on Ask Jeeves. You have earnt me the grand sum of 80p in the last 11 days.
May not sound much but by the end of the year it's feeding a dozen chickens for 3 month's or the Christmas weeks
food shopping, or half a filling at the Dentist's afterwards.
Still not working much due to the old head. One of those thing';s which only time will sort out I guess. I'm OK though on
painting walls etc, it's just the ceiling which are proving the problem.
Received a letter from the Auctioneer's saying the first Poultry Sale is at the end of March. I'm sure something's still
taking the eggs. They aren't laying early enough in the day to leave one in there to see if it vanishes or not. The rats
aren't eating the poison anymore so either it's some other creature or the rats are now immune to the pellets. Haven't
seen one either.
The weather here is upside down, really mild, very windy and very wet. Seems 'true' winter only lasted about 2 weeks,
but it could still happen. The ground is very soft and I've been able to do some digging. I even cut the grass on the Bat
and Trap pitch and our garden yesterday. Mr.Austin, the 92 year old who lives two doors away was out as well
digging his garden - put's me to shame.
I've applied for a little job during the summer - being a Steward for Kent County Cricket Club. It's on a 'whenever' basis.
It's just showing people their seats, car park control etc. But being a bit of a cricket fan, should I get one of the jobs, I
might see a bit of the games as well. I had planned on doing less gardening work this year, so this would be ideal.
Fingers crossed !
I must concentrate on this garden more than last year. Last year it was almost a spare time situation and I'd really like to
farm it more. More self-sufficiency is the plan for this year, but you've still got to pay the bills.
There's an interesting thread in the Forum about making logs out of old newspapers if you're interested. One
newspaper can burn upwards of an hour apparently. I never knew that, so I'll follow Carolyn's path of making some
during the summer month's.
Carolyn's forum on acountrylife.com is really active and interesting at the moment with loads of new folk from all over
the globe. There's some good subjects, so take a look at it if you've time.Apparently 'Escape to River Cottage' has been
shown on Discovery TV. I'll e-mail them to find out if it's scheduled for a repeat and let you know.
Tomorrow I'm off to Southampton for 5 days where I shall wallow in the guilt of my daughter for striking my head !
There's a few jobs to be done, so a few 'ooh my head' comments should do the trick for some sympathy and an extra
helping of Bread and Butter pudding.
Whilst there I'm going to dowse a bit in the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital which was pulled down in the 60's.
The building was over a quarter of a mile long (the American
soldiers used to drive their Jeeps up and down the corridors to save time during WW2). The land is
completely bare with the exception of the Chapel which remains standing
and beautifully restored.
As I've said before, the Cemetary, owned by the War Graves Commission,
is amazing. Stretching
over 100 years, you see the tragedy of so many wars, so many nationalities
and the pity of it all.
There's a photo of the original building on this button.

So, til the next time, have a good one. Like the laying chicken ? Trying out some tricks my friends on the Web Studio
Board have been showing me !

 



18th - 31st. January 2002


It would seem that my daughter made a better job of my head than first thought and I've had to take a rest this week !
A further visit to the doctor and the hospital revealed an inward dent which has caused numbness of the whole of
the top of my head. It brings a whole new meaning to 'oh, he can't feel a thing'.
Never mind, a chance to have breakfast down at the market and a few strolls through the fields to remind me of what
nature's doing at present.
A regular visitor to the garden is a Green Woodpecker who has taken a fancy to the ground around the rhubarb area,
for which I have a good view from the 'office' window. I also glimpsed a couple of Kingfishers last week, beautiful.
Other regualr visitors at the moment are rats the size of squirrels. A cunning plan of leaving the eggs in the shed and
marked has shown I've lost four to them this week. I've put poisen down every day and that seems to vanish
overnight. The neighbour caught one in a trap yesterday and Leonardo got so close to one at the weekend, he almost
had a conversation about Einstein's theory of relativity with it. I mean, they don't even tidy up behind them !
Good job I did a lot last week and earnt a bit of money; painted another bedroom, laid carpet in a bathroom, fixed a
couple of wardrobes and tidied a garden.
The financial hang over of Christmas has taken effect somewhat and I've learnt that next yuletide, I'm not being so
financially generous. I feel home made chutney's and jam's in fancy jars are in order for everyone this year. What
seemed little expense two years ago is a lot more percentage wise now. Only myself to blame.
So a big effort next week with some early starts to make up for lost earnings.
I've had a few enquiries about the 'Escape to River Cottage' web site (I had a link on the Homepage up til last week).
I've written to Channel 4 and the site is not available anymore, nor is it available on VHS and DVD.
I'm lucky I printed off the whole website when the series was being shown, so if there are any quiries on the series,
please write to me and I'll try and answer them. I believe they do show the series on a Sat/Cable channel, so if you
have a dish - keep your eye's posted.
I can't rate the programme highly enough - especially the first series if you're thinking of taking the plunge.
Frugally, I've stopped burning coal altogether now and the Rayburn's running on anything I find. The Electricity Board
sub-contracters have cut 'trimmed' down a lot of tree's at the back of us, I saved a lot from the shredder and have it
stored for next winter; I shall also take the shredded wood for the garden before it self ignites. A local DIY store's
closing down and I got about 15 packets of seeds at 30p each. I also found a skip with a kitchen in it, asked the
people if I could help myself and now have it stacked next to the 18' x 12' Conservatory I picked up in September.
Haven't the faintest idea what I'll be doing with it, but what I can't use for shelving and other bits - it'll burn !
Oh yes, I get 2p everytime someone uses the 'Ask Jeeves' search engines on this site. So there's an opportunity to
assist in my vast earnings potential and put me well on the way to mega tax !
Have a good time.

 



January 4th - 18th 2002


The first good news of 2002, the Foot and Mouth epidemic is officially over. Government officials are very proud of this -
shame about the 6,000,000 plus animals which were slaughtered. At least this will re-open the Livestock Auctions and in
Ashford they hope to start in February.
I lost a couple of days work this week. My son-in-law has a brand new Gizmo filled BMW 4x4 which speaks to you about
your route, tells you your exact longitude / latitude / altitude, TV etc. I regret it hasn't a facility to tell you that your daughter
is about to slam the car boot down on her Dad's head !
I did however find time (and strength) to lay some ceramic floor tiles and do a few more odd jobs. On Sunday Leonardo
and myself went to watch Southampton lose to Man Utd 1 - 3. We had hoped for a resounding Southampton victory to
avenge the previous heavy defeat, but not to be I'm afraid.
The Lane is a buzz of activity at present with the Electricity Board renewing the cables. Lorries and van's churning up the
surface and 'tree Surgeons' (note the small 't' in tree) cutting anything that looks as though it could look nice in summer.
The pity is that these cables don't supply our houses, they supply the village about 4 miles away.
Work wise I'm progressing with the decorating accross the way and now on Room 5, so I'm amply employed for the
moment.
It seems odd that in only four or so weeks time it will be sowing time for the Broad Beans. I remember last year digging the
plot for them with only the top two inches of soil fairly soft. I will shortly be moaning that I didn't dig the vegetable patch
enough in autumn. We have a bumper crop of sprouts, cabbages and leaks which give a fine plate most evenings of the
week but we really miss the carrots and runner beans lost in the freezer breakdown.
On the 28th, 'Down the Lane' will be one year old and it's so nice to have met many new friends from all over the Globe.
I've even had a visitor from Lapland ! (no he didn't visit on 25th.Dec!). What surprises me is that although many have very
different climates, we all seem to grow the same things, have a similar outlook and can help each other out..
I've come accross a very good Smallholding / Downshifting / Self Suffiency Site - 'Self Sufficiency in Style'. Take a look
from the link below. I like the fact that they live in Hangmans Cottage - conquers up all sorts of spooky tales.
Next week I'm taking Leo to 'The London Eye'. This scares me, I'm OK up a mountain but can't stand man made heights, I'm
even unsure up a ladder !
So not much to tell this time. I can't wait for Spring but equally, thinking like that is wishing time away and at the moment, I
want it to go as slow as possible.

 



Summary 2001


On the business side, the year got better and better finishing up with the busiest two weeks at the end of it. Up until
March hardly anything happened except me having granduer idea's whilst looking at the frost from the comfort of my
sitting room. At least the auctions were on, I was busy with the chickens and catching up with all those lost jobs around
the house. The Spring and summer month's brought about a fair amount of gardening work and the decorating of a large
house, half the inside and all the outside. This with the Railway work as well kept thing's ticking over. Just when I was
contemplating finding a part-time winter job, along came the huge decorating job I'm working on at present and this should
in theory, see me through til Spring.
I've had about 12 'regular' customers and about 15 'individual' jobs. About two thirds of my years earnings came from
three of them.
Financially I've managed quite well - then came Christmas !! It's odd how the more you earn, the less you have and this
applies at present.
Jobs this year have included all sorts of thing's, deliveries, putting in a bathroom, odd easy plumbing jobs, making toy
boxes, putting up shelving. In other words anything which I had confidence in doing and had a bit of money at the end of
it.
The garden produced well with good crops of just about everything. Disaster is that we lost a lot in the broken down
freezer two weeks ago and this has cost us runner beans, carrots and sweet corn which would see us through til
Spring. We still have leeks, sprouts and cabbages in the garden so all is not lost - just a re-arrangement of our veggies on
the plate.
I've said it since we lost 10 to the fox back in summer, but now really is the time to get some more chickens. Our present
six are getting to the end of the high laying age. This, with the cold winter, is only giving us enough eggs for ourselves at
present. It was good back in the summer when we were selling 5 - 6 dozen eggs a week. It gave me a bit of cash and
paid for the beer at the Bat & Trap evenings. It was like a free night out courtesy of Doris and co.!
All in all I can't complain. I've become a Grandfather, I see more of my kids than I ever have done before and I've found
time to partake in new hobbies and interests.
Becoming 'self-employed' does give you more a feeling of ownership on your life and finances. If you can be successful
handling someone elses business then surely you have a good chance of doing well in your own ? In theory that is!
I'm lucky that I've had a fairly healthy year. In fact I'm more tired when I'm not doing anything now. I'm always reminded of
my old next door neighbour who moved out about a year ago. He's about 60 now. When he lived down the lane he was
in the garden every spare second of the day tending to his veggies, cutting the grass, cutting every other bit of grass he
could find around and about, building thing's etc.,etc. He suddenly moved into a town house with a postage stamp garden
and withing two month's was in hospital and has been dogged with ill health since. I saw him the other day and didn't
know it was him. Food for thought.
2002 brings about a complete mystery. I know (I hope) that all my regulars should need me again but I need those two or
three big jobs to pay the rent. The rest will sort out the bills. One thing I've learnt is that you simply don't know what or
where you're going to be in a month ahead. Just when you're starting to worry, something comes up. I've never
advertised and don't intend to, I leave it to fate, hearsay and someone wanting a job done well but cheaply !
I really thank everyone who writes to me and especially for those who've written giving me confidence, advice and most
of all, friendship. The web site was another new venture in 2001 and it's so nice to have so many friends from all
corners of the globe.
Happy new year and...................relax !

 


Going back to look at the future