Northumberland

I love getting away, I love exploring new areas, and I love to go away for my birthday! Yesterday, we arrived back from a three day trip to Northumberland, we stayed in an airbnb property, which was small but perfect for our needs- also a great price of £50 a night! It was in a lovely little village, with a nice pub opposite.

We spent time in Chillingham Castle, it was pretty quirky and interesting. It is apparently one of the most haunted castles in England- and I can believe that! It was taken over by Sir Humphrey Wakefield after it had been left to decay and rot for over 50years, he took the time to fix it up, including the ceilings in some rooms and get it back to its functional self. Sir Wakefield is a hoarder of interesting and random historical items, but as he has so much space to fill, he becomes a collector! We enjoyed the uniqueness of this place, it was much more than a castle and has such a rich history. I believe you can stay in the grounds and they do ghost tours, I didnt fancy that, I am a baby! The grounds are beautiful and we wandered through the woodlands, we saw a fox but no deer sadly. I also got serious garden envy!

Chillingham also has the only wild cattle in the UK, we went to see them as part of a secondary tour. It was certainly interesting and the cattle look interesting, smaller than a lot of other cattle. We heard bulls rutting and having fights up on the hill and saw some calves. The tours are only at set times on certain days. I loved the castle, the cattle tour was interesting but not as much as the castle!

We also went to Alnwick gardens, I love this place! It is the best gardens I have ever been too, and I love going to gardens! I think it was because the space was filled with interesting things, like the corridor of cherry blossom, which of course were still beautiful at this time of year, tulips and daffodils lined the paths and giant swings were dotted all over. The walled garden was incredible- walled gardens are the sexiest things in my humble opinion- the symmetry was just so eye catching. The way the trees were trained to espalier looked awesome and the water features, which again reflected the symmetry just felt so inspiring! There is a massive water feature right at the start which has fountain shows, and a corridor made of trees on either side. The serpent garden has the most amazing water features, and the bamboo maze is just fantastic! The rose garden was sadly not in bloom but still great, and the Poison garden was just fascinating!

The Castle at Alnwick is interesting, but a bit too perfect for me, I do like Castles to be falling down a little, or quirky ala Chillingham, though the views were stunning. We got to see a quidditch training session taking place!

We drove past Bambrough castle which was very picturesque and went along the coast for a drive, then on to Rothbury which is a sweet little town. We also went to Dobbies garden centre where I bought a Bonsai tree! So exciting!

The dogs stayed in kennels, this cost us just over £80, we payed for the Alnwick castle and gardens tickets in advance, this cost just over £50 with the online discount, airbnb cost us £150 for three nights, we have an economical car so that helps with carbon footprint and cost! It was £35.50 for Chillingham Castle and Cattle for both of us, which we paid when got there. In total we spent an extra £395 on the castle, fuel, eating out lots, and shopping! I am quite happy with this! I love a get away and we dont like to skimp, the room we had only had a small fridge and no cooking facilities, so great excuse to eat out and about!

Chickens

In June 2018 we adopted 4 chickens through the British Hen Welfare Trust, they are just amazing! As they are mini dinosaurs- velociraptors- we named them Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo, from Jurassic Park World.

They all have their own characters, they run over to you when they are free ranging it in the garden. I understand this is for food, but I like to pretend that its because they love me! They fight off crows if needed and when Lady tries to pounce on their run- she is a little unsure still- they just peck her on the nose!

I researched a lot about the best homes, most practical homes and runs etc. I wanted to make sure that the Chickens wouldn’t become a time burden as we work full time and have the dogs as well. This led me to Omlet, they do plastic hen houses, this seemed practical as they won’t rot in the rainy welsh weather and they will be very easy to clean. The biggest barrier was cost, these are not cheap by any standard!

This led me to trawling ebay looking for a great deal, which was close enough to collect. I actually found the Omlet cube with a 1×3 metre run, and then a 2×2 metre walk in run, for £550 all in, which was an hour away. Expensive- yes, but not comparative to these items new! Another appeal is the fox proof claim, which I have seen videos demonstrating, but also both hubby and I actually like the look of the Omlet setup. Modern and nice, it is also green so blends a little more.

We created a swing, a box which we filled with extra soil for the art of mud bathing, and we got all the Omlet accessories for food and drinks from the folks selling the house and run we bought. I read up a little about chicken enrichment and hung up old CDs, the mud bath box was made from scrap wood we had as was the swing- which they have never used! I also chucked some plastic balls we used for a dog ball pit, just in case!

Initially we were too scared to let the girls have free range time, there are foxes in this area, I have enjoyed watching them! But after discussions, and the run starting to get muddy, we decided that we would do our best to keep them safe, but if the worst happened, I think they would have been happier to have that time out. They are hilarious, I love watching them run around, chasing bugs and scritching around. It has also meant we are paying less for food- which doesnt seem drastically expensive to us anyway- as they are getting a lot of sustanence from the land instead.

The girls came to us looking rough, with feathers missing, as they had been caged for the 18months they had lived so far. Now they look incredible, big fluffy, feathery girls! They are all individuals and funny, watching chickens is great! We donated £5 per chicken, absolute bargain! We get lots of eggs, its winter and we get at least two a day, but mostly, we just wanted to stop these beautiful birds from getting killed just because they are passed ‘optimum’ laying age.

If you are considering getting chickens, stop thinking and do it! We clean out the house once a week- the cube has pull out trays which collect all the poop so this is a five minute job. Water gets topped up once a week and refreshed once a week, grit and food topped up once a week- this all takes less than 20minutes! We have decided we will jet wash the whole thing in Spring this year, it doesn’t need it yet though and as it is plastic this will be very easy and quick!

We bought tarps to cover the top of the runs- one from Aldi has worked really well on the smaller run, but the other two tarps ripped off the walk in run, so we bought three Omlet tarps- so far they have weathered two Welsh storms, so at £90 not cheap but hopefully they will last a very long time. We also extended the run, that was £100, but again, I think it is money well spent! Another thing we spent £150 on, because I am lazy and it makes life easier, is an automatic door opener, it is the best thing ever! The girls are locked away safe when we get home and its dark, plus it means no early mornings on the weekends! Bonus!

I guess one thing about Chickens, is that they can be as expensive or cheap as you like, they are happy with minimum contact or lots of contact, perfect pets! Hubby wasn’t totally sure about chickens, but agreed as I was keen and he likes rescuing animals, he is totally smitten with them now!

Pets- at what cost?

If you have read any other posts in my blog, you may well have seen pictures of my two rescued furchildren. I love my dogs, I love all dogs, in fact, I am a self confessed animal lover! Having my dogs in my life feels like a non option, I have grown up with pet dogs, in both my seperate family homes we had two dogs (per household), as well as cats, horses and chickens.

I remember a few yeas ago, when I read through Mr Money Mustache’s blog post great-news-dog-ownership-is-optional, and I liked the fact he pointed out some of the realisms of dog ownership. Such as the fact people will adopt/buy a pet when they have little income, not taking into account the true cost of owning an animal. That true cost, covers the responsibility we have as dog/pet owners, this is covered by the five freedoms: The first part is Health– we should protect our pets from disease, illness and injury, and if they should become injured or unwell, we have to seek treatment. We should allow our pets to be natural in their behaviours, when looking at companionship as a freedom we should be considering if that animal is social and whether it should be kept alone or with others. Dietary needs- this includes preventing malnourishment and obesity as well as access to water. The last freedom is access to a suitable environment, this would include access to a shelter and a safe space to be, away from harm.

Pet ownership feels more complex these days, there are so many different opinions out in the world about how we should do things, how we should treat our pets and what we should feed them for example. It is a minefield! Do you buy pet insurance, is it worth the cost, what if your pet has health needs that would invalidate insurance, or the breed means an unfair hike in costs? Buying pets is a huge deal, I wont lie, I rescued my babies, I will always rescue and will never ‘buy’ a pet. This is personal to me and is part of my moral code, I will always advocate adoption! As it stands, my dad and stepmum have two rescued dogs, and my mum and stepdad have two bought dogs, I love both sets of parents and both sets of dogs. If people are to buy puppies, then I will heavily and wholeheartedly advocate for buying from a proper breeder. Always see both sets of parents, check that the breeder will/has vaccinated, ensure to the best of your abilities that they are not from a puppy farm. My mums Jack Russells are from a local breeder, whom we know well and in fact I am now related to via a marriage!

I guess the point of this post, is to highlight that pets are optional. You should take into consideration the cost of time and money that is needed to ensure that any pet has the best life it can, and the possible things in your life that will be impacted upon by this. As a sidenote, I think I will do a couple of blogs introducing my furchildren, I am a very proud parent who will gush about them at any time!