A Very Small Holding

The Elliffs journey into the good life


A very strong wind

The weeks following Sophia’s birth had not been kind.

Our dependence on our car was becoming apparent now that it was showing signs of unreliability. Our quiet rural location had many benefits, but the lack of facilities was telling for a young fragile family. Although the car had only developed one major fault and ingested a bad batch of diesel our trust had taken a knock.

The dent in our bank balance took another pounding when a freak gust of wind managed to blow open the metal coal bunker situated on the driveway. The concrete block holding down the broken lid down was thrown back into our neighbour’s driveway. It made a neat dent on the wing of their car. We had never used the coal bunker, it had been inherited from the previous occupants.

The saying that bad luck arrives in threes was proved accurate when our washing machine developed a terminal fault. For a toddler, two adults and a new born this was one of the most important appliances in the house. Therefore a third hefty chunk of money was handed over to acquire a new washing machine and a tumble dryer.

The front elevation of our house and the proposed side extension

The front elevation of our house and the proposed side extension

In contrast to these adverse events our architect delivered draft plans for our proposed home extension. She had provided drawings for three alternate arrangements and many improvements on our original brief. We were excited by the prospect of realising our dream home and both agreed on the grand design that would be developed in full.


A very tied tongue

Sophia asleep in her Moses basket

Sophia asleep in her Moses basket

The first week with our new arrival had its challenges.

With impeccable timing our car developed its first faults after two trouble free years motoring. Notorious for poorly designed electric circuits the computer packed up when it was invaded by a little rainwater.

We realised the chimney was in need of repair with the smell of smoke seeping into the bedroom. Christmas huddled around a natural log fire would have to wait another year.

And Baby Sophia needed a little maintenance too. A quick trip to a specialist to cut her tongue tie allowed her to feed naturally, a resource not available to her older sister. This was one of the fringe benefits of moving near to a city.


A very baby girl

Katie was due to have a caesarean section on the 8th of November, but only if the baby failed to make an appearance before that date. In preparation we had booked my parents to stay with us this week to look after Matilda while we were at the hospital.

The log store at the bottom of the garden complete with drying logs.

The log store at the bottom of the garden complete with drying logs.

To pass the time before the big day my father and I made ourselves busy outside. We used the corrugated sheets I had acquired the previous week to make a roof for our new log store at the side of the workshop. The sides were open to the elements allowing the wind to help dry out the logs we were to store there. We also constructed an extension to the short allotment bed, doubling its size, and removed the old duck house fence to open up the bottom of the garden.

We had an early start on our second daughter’s birth day. She had failed to find an exit, and seemed content inside her mother’s womb. We arrived at the hospital before most people had left for work. Due to Katie’s body’s aversion to pregnancy we were lucky enough to be first on the appointment list and there were no emergency caesareans blocking our way.

It was an unusual situation compared to a regular birth. We walked in to the operating theatre and an hour later we were presented with our new baby girl. There were no dramas during the operation, unlike at Matilda’s birth, which was premature, required an emergency caesarean section and a week in hospital. Sophia was born at 10:20am and weighted a healthy 7lb 3oz.

Sophia was born four months after we moved on 8th November 2012 weighting 7lb and 3oz

Sophia was born four months after we moved on 8th November 2012 weighting 7lb and 3oz

It was unfortunate that Katie’s birthday fell on the day after Sophia’s birth. She was forced to spend her 30th birthday in a hospital bed convalescing and was discharged the following day.

Sophia’s first day at home was not one we would wish to relive. Matilda had been small and weak when she was born, unable to regulate her body temperature, but after a week in hospital she was fighting fit. Her early days were relatively calm. Our found confidence was shattered when Sophia stopped breathing just a few hours after her discharge from hospital.

She had just fed in the early evening and was laid down to sleep. As her head touched the blanket she was quite sick and her little body could not cope. We were later to learn that her involuntary sickness was caused by reflux, which is a common problem in the first few months of life, especially for weaker babies. I picked Sophia up and she quickly began to turn blue. Katie immediately called for an ambulance and took Sophia from me.

The emergency call handler talked Katie through an assessment process while the ambulance made its way to our home. Sophia started to gasp for breath in fits and starts, slowly turning from blue to a healthier colour.

My mother waved down the ambulance, which she had timed at seven minutes, and escorted the paramedic into the house. He took over treating Sophia, who by this time had recovered her breath.

The paramedic completed his examination and explained that Sophia’s body reacted automatically to shut her airways to prevent vomit from entering her lungs. She was perfectly fit and healthy. The incident, although traumatic for us, was within the realms of normal.

The shock of this unexpected event made Katie and I very nervous, shattering the confidence we had gained during Matilda’s early days. We decided that we would take turns to sleep that night, each of us having a four hour shift to watch Sophia while she slept.

It would take several days for our anxiety levels to recede to a point where we were both happy to sleep while Sophia slept.


A very large shed

The smallholder we had commissioned to build our shed returned this week to construct the outbuilding. He and his two colleagues had built and painted sections of the building back at his farm. This made assembly far easier, but the task still required three days hard graft from his labourers. The shed was built using a timber frame and plywood sheets, with corrugated metal sheets on the roof. It was a very solid structure.

The completed shed with a door at each end and shutters covering an window opening

The completed shed with a door at each end and sliding shutters covering the window in the middle

While delivering one of several trays of tea to the workmen I discussed other requirements that we had with the smallholder. As a result of our negotiations he later delivered thirty planks of wood for our allotment beds and a dozen corrugated metal sheets for a log store. I also mentioned that we would be adding a water butt to the shed, to collect rainwater that ran from the roof. Five pounds secured two large plastic barrels. The first barrel I would attach to guttering that I had ready to install, and the second I would use to drown weeds that could then be added to the compost heap.