A Very Small Holding

The Elliffs journey into the good life

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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.

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A very safe garden

An important characteristic of the house that we had chosen to make our home were the generous front and rear gardens. We are settling down with our family and wanted the children to have plenty of outside space to play in. Our playground would be the land across the road and they would have the gardens. We had also been lucky that the previous owners had abandoned a large playhouse and a climbing frame in the back garden. Both structures were sound and reasonable new. The play area would need to be cleared and the surrounding garden made safe for toddlers.

One important feature that was missing from the gardens were secure gates to prevent young children from running out into the road. The passage beside the house was only half a metre wide, but would allow an unsupervised child to leave the back garden and access the driveway. The driveway gates were broken and provided an easy means of escape, especially for our mischievous daughter.

Beside the playhouse a small enclosure had been built to contain pet ducks. A small duck house was located behind the playhouse wedged between the playhouse and the perimeter fence. A two bar fence began at the boundary fence and ran to the central pathway separating the poultry from the main garden. The duck enclosure was entered through a small gate from the pathway.

It occurred to me that the gate would make a suitable side entrance. We had already made the decision that all livestock would be housed on the croft, the duck enclosure was threfore surplus to requirements. It did not take long to remove the gate, retaining the post it was anchored to and unscrew the latch from the opposite fence post.

The side gate and fence constructed to prevent the children from escaping

An ivy covered fence divided our driveway from our neighbours, but it stopped short, a foot before our garage wall. Our neighbours had a car port and still had the original outbuilding at the side of their house. The outbuilding was three metres further back from the end of the fence and started on the boundary to our properties. This created a three metre gap that a child could easily toddle through, escaping via the neighbour’s car port.

I used several wooden beams I had won at an auction the previous week to construct a frame that would span the gap. I painted the wood dark brown using a small paint pot I found in the garage. A section of dark green chicken wire was nailed to the frame to complete my improvised fence.

I managed to secure the gate post to an original concrete post, hidden under the ivy, installed by the council when the properties were constructed in nineteen forty-eight. The new fence was screwed to the wooden gate post and to the corner of our neighbour’s outbuilding. The gate closed against the corner of the garage wall at a thirty degree angle. Our back garden was now secure.