After our little reminisce over the past 3 posts, (even though I could’ve gone on for a 4th!), it’s time to carry on with the present.

Just before we were asked to go over to the UK to present a talk on self-sufficiency, we had bought 4 chickens from our local market, we really wanted our own eggs again. Before we built ‘The Willows’ we had owned chickens so knew how to rear them, but after a year or so the fox came and took them. This was partly my fault because I didn’t make their run secure enough, but you live and learn and this time it was to be bigger and better and definitely more secure.


The netting was pulled very tight and a batten was nailed to the bottom to stop anything from pulling at the netting, which comes out from the run by 8 inches to stop anything from digging under. The net was also dug into the ground.


The netting comes out as far as my hand and then into the ground.

Now we were secure…….. I DON’T THINK SO !!

The very next day E was working in tunnel 1 when she heard such a commotion. The neighbour’s dog was in the run with one of the chickens in its jaws. The dog was talked to very nicely ( well, what do you really think we said to it?), but unfortunately the poor chook died the next day. We had only had them for 4 days! The dog had actually pulled the netting out of the ground, pulling the wooden battern with it. We couldn’t believe it.

Ok, so that was now a big wake up call for us, so 4 strands of barbed wire were placed all around the bottom of the run, pulled tight and spaced at 4 inch intervals. After a few days the dog had been back in the run again, luckily no more chooks were missing but all of their food had been eaten. Now what to do? We were due to go away in 2 days time and we were starting to panic. More barbed wire needed I think.


I had to finish this on the morning of us leaving and now it was just up to chance, I’d done my best I hoped.

We arrived home after 1 week away to find just 2 chickens and a run full of broken eggs. We couldn’t believe it but this dog who isn’t a small animal, had managed to crawl through the barbed wire, leaving a lot of fur behind in the process. Our whole land is fenced with sheep netting and barbed wire to prevent animals straying onto the land and I was getting very ANGRY. It’s one thing to have a wild animal take your stock but not somebody elses so-called family pet! Anyway, after being home for about half an hour, E turned round and there was the missing chicken looking at her, so at least nothing had harmed her. After asking around we found out that these neighbours had in fact moved out leaving this poor dog to fend for its self! It was obviously very hungry which shouldn’t really have been our problem, but taking our chickens, their eggs and food then it became our problem. We contacted the animal rescue and it’s now safe and well, being fed and given the attention that it deserves.


” What you lookin’ at? You don’t scare me dog!”

So this is where the novice part comes into things because at the end of the day that dog taught us a good lesson. One has to secure livestock far better than one imagines and that includes fencing our land better.

Until next time.



Welcome back once more to ‘The Willows’. We haven’t put a post out for a few weeks as we have been really busy trying to get all of our projects for this year finished before Christmas. Well we’ve managed it and we are very pleased about it all and have actually got about 5 posts to go out but we will split these up over the coming weeks.

The posts going out may be a bit topsy turvy and not in order, but I’m sure you’ll get the drift.

This post is about’ Percy the Pig’. I’ve just finished building a Pub/Gym but it’s started to get quite cold in there, well it is December after all, and I needed some heat  so that I can work out on my punch bag. I decided to make a stove out of an old rusty gas bottle.


This is just a rusty old gas bottle.

The top of the bottle is then cut off, I used an angle grinder as the metal is so hard, ( if you are going to make a stove yourself, please remember to remove the brass valve that the regulator attaches to as there will always be some liquid gas left in the bottle and we don’t want any explosions!)


I also wanted to make the stove out of as much recycled material as possible so I made the legs out of old leaf springs from a Hi-Lux truck. These were impossible to drill through so I had to angle grind these too so that I could put a nut and bolt through the whole lot to hold it all together. A hinge was attached for the door and the hole at the top at the back is for a flue pipe to be fitted.


The top of the bottle that was cut off will make the door. I hammered it flatter to make a better fit and cut a hole at the bottom to allow the fire to draw. The door handle is made from a rear wheel quick release nut from an old push bike.


After sanding it down a high temperature paint was applied and left to dry for 24 hours. You can see why we call it the pig, it has a face !


Here it is all in position. Unfortunately I had to buy the flue ( but everything else is recycled), and I had to shape the base of the flue to fit the curve of the bottle, and this was then attached to the bottle by using 2 brackets. I found some left over tiles to place the stove on to protect the floor in case any hot ash spilled out when opening the door.


We made a very small fire to ‘bed’ it in as the paint will have to harden further, but you can get some real heat out of them once cranked up !

Now, let’s see if my punch bag will get some more use, of course it will cos I love kicking the hell out of it !

Anyway, keep warm and enjoy.

Oh by the way, a new addition has moved in. A small white kitten turned up a few weeks ago in a very sorry state. She was skin and bone, her eyes were mattered up, and she was seriously malnourished, dehydrated and exhausted and could hardly walk. After some TLC and a dose of wormer she is now a truly different cat ! We have named her ‘Beryl the Feral’ and she now resides in the Pub/Gym alongside that new stove !! Welcome Beryl.


‘The Willows’


With everything else that’s going on at the moment, certain things have been neglected. Unfortunately this time  it was our poor roses. Sorry roses!

So, I thought that this was a good opportunity to show the effectiveness and ease of permaculture. Yes, I know that there are loads of sites out there on this subject and certain ones might criticise mine, but so what ? I just thought that this could show you how to mend a ‘broken bed’.

Obviously this rose bed can’t be dug over so this is our alternative. First we clipped the long grass down, and hand pulled some weeds. A dock plant had to be dug out but this was right on the edge.

Cardboard was laid down and soaked thouroughly.

Well broken down grass clippings are then placed on top. This should be quite a thick mulch as this  also feeds  the plants.

We also use our donkey ‘Poo Brew’ on the plants to give them all a good feed. All we do to get ‘PooBrew’ is to collect up a couple of buckets of donkey dung, put it into a big blue barrel, fill this with water, cover and leave it to completely break down. This is then diluted down for veg or used neat on the garden and gives us all our organic fertilizer. We call this ‘Permaganics’

A nice thick donkey ‘Poo Brew’ that’s been breaking down for about 6 months.

                                                                              Bowie and Floyd.

We’ve often been questioned as to why we have donkeys. Well, we have the land that they graze which keeps it down for us, they provide our fertilizer for our veg and garden and they are just lovely, lovely animals. Thanks lads !

One of the strange things though, is that permaculture is nothing new, my Grandad was gardening this way 50 years ago and he called it mulching. He’s now 83 and still grows his tomatoes in his greenhouse and waters them every day. Come on GRANDAD !

He didn’t feel like he had to copy other people he just did things his way. When we go over to see him, I still carry the watering can up to his greenhouse for him and it really brings back memories I have of being a child.

He is the person who really got me started on this course of life. We used to go into his shed and make things out of wood, nails, screws, and glue. I have since built my house out of wood, nails, screws and glue ! The knowledge that he has given to me is invaluable. One of the first books he gave to us was ‘The Family Smallholding’ by Katie Thear and it still has that old book smell. This was back in 2001 when I had started to settle down a bit after travelling for 9 years round the world and inspired me that this was the way forward.

So, with this sort of information being passed down, you come to realise that we all stand on the shoulders of giants, but, it all depends on whether we look out and see what’s there at the time. I’ve always tried to acknowledge those people who have inspired me along the way, even if just in memory. It can’t always be done in person, sometimes distance and time make it impossible.

Certain people do, certain people don’t, we just try, and trying is the first step to success. Some people just copy others because they have no path of their own, and these are the ones that try to pull others down so that they can make  themselves feel more important than they really are but with no real substance and are just insecure.

So Happy Litha ! We are now just off to the tunnel to dig up a few new potatoes to have with our home made mint sauce .



We just thought that it was about time we introduced you to the rest of the family at the Willows.They are all really important to the whole place.

These two are our little babies, WHISKEY AND JINGO.  Whiskey is 10 and Jingo is 9, they go everywhere with us. when we go off in our VW camper,they are in the back. If I go out in the car Whiskey is always with me ( don’t tell the police that i’m driving with whiskey ! )

This is the Whigsta with Jake ( the name Jake we got from the film AVATAR, blue and yellow !).

Say cheese ! JINGO jones is a real poser. He was found, dumped , in a shed by ‘E’s niece. He was left to die at 4 weeks old, and he is completely deaf.

Now these two reprobates are BOWIE AND FLOYD ( now u can tell a part of our music likes ! ). They really do play a big part in the Willows life, they keep the land down and all their ‘POO’ is collected and put into piles, once its broken down it goes into the veg patches. Some of it we put into a barrel of water to break down, so that you can put a watering can in to water an instant feed to veg like onions.

I wonder if DR Dolitle knows that we have his ‘ Push me pull me’?!?.

AH, now then, this should be our cat ‘BOLLO’  BUT, the feilne that he is ( er sorry Felis Domesticas, ) he refused to be part of what he considers to be a blatant invasion of privacy !!!!!

We did have another cat but unfortunately he died earlier this year, his name was ‘MAORI’ because he was ‘ all black’.

Also we had chickens, but the fox took them in the winter. we will get more in the spring.

We hope you like our family.. Enjoy.

May 2022

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