A Very Small Holding

The Elliffs journey into the good life

By

A very lucky cat

We expected that once we had established ourselves in our small-holding that there would be several hours each week of necessary general maintenance. The outbuildings may need a lick of paint or the boundaries to the land in need of repair.

Initially we knew that there would be a great deal of work required to get the small-holding into a productive state. After reviewing the various features and assets we had been left with we established a rough plan of action. It would evolve over time, but there were quite a few areas we wanted to get right before we jumped headlong into planting vegetables and acquiring livestock.

With our second child on the way there was going to be a necessary delay in our evolution of the small-holding. We decided to postpone any food production until the next spring, when our family would be less demanding on our time and when we hoped to have the allotment constructed to our liking.

In the meantime I would be largely maintaining the status quo, while taking opportunities to progress our grand plan for the small-holding. Katie would be tied to producing and then feeding the new member of our little unit, until some time earlier next year when we hope to begin enjoying development of the land as a family.

Tree branches, vines and weeds in three separate piles waiting to be recycled

This week I spent a couple of hours each day removing weeds from the allotment area. The stones that surrounding the allotment beds were being invaded by a number of weeds, mostly grasses and thistles. Most of the stones sat on a weed suppressing material, but this did not stop the weeds from sprouting up and the root of the thistles spearing through the material to the earth below.

As I moved around the allotment digging out the weeds with a trowel I was amazed at how many insects and small spiders lived among the stones. They ran for cover as this giant beast shuffled towards them on his knees, like a small crowd escaping an erupting volcano.

I was aware that in all probability my efforts would be futile, but as I have stated previously I did find some satisfaction from the manual task of clearing an area of weeds. Perhaps I have some form of obsessive compulsive disorder, that Katie would point out does not extend to cleaning the house.

A month after the move our elderly cat developed some very strange behaviour. She had been a house cat before we rescued Tabitha and her brother from the RSPCA. We introduced them to the outside world at our last house. Jake loved roaming the streets and scrapping with his neighbours. Tabitha had not been so keen and this meant we were still required to keep a litter tray close by.

The moment I found Tabitha curled up in her litter tray we feared the worse. She seemed physically well, but had a withdrawn demeanour. When I encouraged her out of the litter tray she found other odd places to make her bed. Previously she had been happy either on the sofa or in her own bed under the dining table.

Tabitha, our twenty-one year old cat enjoying the sunshine in the safety of our lounge

We knew the old wives tale regarding how a cat will find a comfortable place to rest when they are near death. Katie called the vet fearing the worst. The conversation with the veterinary nurse confirmed our fears as Katie described Tabitha’s recent odd behaviour. We packed Tabitha into the travel basket and drove to the surgery expecting to return empty handed.

The vet surprised us by diagnosing a simple case of fleas. We were unsure how they had been transmitted. Neither of our cats had ever had a flea infestation, and due to Tabitha’s agoraphobia she never mixed with other animals. We therefore suspected that the previous feline occupants of our new house had left Tabitha a welcoming committee. Tabitha was treated by the vet with a simple ointment, while we purchased some flea spray to rid the house of our unwelcome guests.

The next day I spent a couple of hours fumigated the house and then retreated to the allotment to trim more branches from the troublesome vine roots. Katie and Matilda had left that morning to visit a friend, accepting an invitation to stay for the night and avoid breathing any lingering fumes. I consoled myself that evening with a trip to the pub for a seafood platter and a few drinks.

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