Monday, 11 June 2018

It is time for the full story

I think now it is time to tell you the full story with the backdrop of photos from a very special place, a place you have visited if you have been reading this blog for a while. The cabin. Grab a cup of tea and settle down.

My grandparents were farmers. My dad was second oldest of four brothers. He passed his 11+ in the 1960's and went to Grammar school. His bothers stayed at home and farmed so did his many cousins. We lived a very separate life to his farming brothers: later having a large house, company car, foreign holidays, an interest in education. We still however had this link to dad's home village; helping out at harvest time, staying there as children through the summer holidays when dad did his renovations on our derelict house. My grandparents tried to get planning permission to turn the milking sheds into a house for their retirement but planning restrictions in the 1980's were more restrictive than now in rural areas and sadly, for my Grandad, it never came to fruition. After my grandparents died my dad picked up the baton and tried to get permission to build a home there for his retirement - again it was difficult but he was tenacious.

Who wouldn't want to have this as their early evening view? My dad took 10 acres of land as part of his inheritance, including the milking yard, before selling the farm house and the rest of the land to split with his brothers - the initial farm was no more. He continued to try to build a house. He succeeded in gaining permission around 2012 and we decided to build a cabin in 2014 in the field so that we could stay there, help him build his house and the children could visit their grandad when he lived there. 

In the meantime while building reglulations were going through, we all liked to go to the farm cabin for a cup of tea with my dad and his wife after we had mucked in with farm tasks like hedging, shearing, vaccinating lambs etc. The cabin blew down in 2016 but I have my fathers tenacity, and I encouraged Andy to build it again. 

When we found out that my dad had cancer in 2015 we came to a crossroads. He seriously asked us if we would like to live there, carry the family baton and build the house he had tried, and succeeded in getting permission for or should he sell it all. My family tie felt so strong that we decided to take it on - we had no idea how to build a house but didn't want to let the land go. We loved the pond, the views, the freedom it gave our girls, the restorative pleasure it gave us all and the opportunity to have a little slice of rural Shropshire.

We started to think like people who were going to change their lives. We planted fruit trees and went to the Grand designs show. We bought Bruce who loved to chase pheasants and run like a mad dog... but that was only the naive start.

As my dads health worsened over the years we had to learn how to look after sheep at weekends, do some land management because we are always at the mercy of mother nature and primarily build a house from his drawings. 

Andy decided to give up work temporarily in September 2017 to help my dad try and see the vision of his house plans and be his carer/companion. Although dad had given us this project, he was not actually ready to let it go. It was one of the things that helped him hang on to life for so long.

 They built the foundations together through chemotherapy breaks and in January 2018 in those -10 degree conditions, when Andy's water bottle and yogurt froze in his lunch box, and it was too cold for my dad to be outside, Andy took delivery of a timber frame for a house and helped to erect it.

It was hard for Andy to work with my dad. They are very different people and dad's drive to still be in control was at times infuriating but we tried so hard for him to see as much of it as he could. His last visit there was to see the roof tiles on. He told me that he wished he could see the stonework on the outside but he knew that he wouldn't. 

So this weekend we all stayed at the cabin to tread the fields that are now ours, to feed and water the sheep that are now ours and take stock of a half built house that is now ours.

We watched the sun go down which was a deep red globe and felt very lucky and unlucky all at the same time, a phrase I had said to my dad only a week before he died when I thanked him for this special rural gift.

So there you have it, in the background of sewing clothes, knitting, crochet and family life we have been building a house. Other peoples house builds can be a bore so I have not mentioned it here before but it might pop up it in my news over the next few years - there is not a time frame - Andy has just got a new job. Our weekends will be a steep learning curve in house building without my dad to advise us but we will be fine. A new chapter begins as the sun goes down on the last.

I carry the baton for the third generation. Exciting isn't it? Thanks for listening. Jo xxxxx


  1. Oh Jo there should have been a mascara warning with your post. What a lovely gesture by your dad and such a shame he didn't get to walk through the front door of the finished house. I'm sure he will be watching over you, Andy and the girls as you continue on this journey and look forward to seeing you all move into your new home with sheep and an orchard.


  2. I just wiped some tears of my face, too. No mascara thankfully.

    It is a beautiful story - and a sad one, too. I always wondered about the story behind your cabin. Thanks for sharing. You have a lot of energy. I am sure you are a little like me, keeping busy as a means to keep it all together. Your new home will be wonderful and it will be full of memories of your dad, too. I can't believe that Andy and your dad started building a house, just like that, brick by brick. Imagine that! Building a stone pizza oven for the garden would already stretch our skills :-)

    Wishing you all the energy, strength and good weather you need to finish your family home. xx

  3. How wonderful,your Dad will be with you always, living on in your house. A part of the very foundations of your new life.

  4. Jo, I have to confess I had to make a grab for the tissues too! Your new home will be wonderful, with a lovely family history and sweet memories. Wishing you all the best. Jx

  5. Oh Jo, I have tingles all over reading this. I don't know what to say, but I am so glad for you to have this opportunity and I just know that you will take it all forward in the very best way and I will look forward to reading about it as and when you wish to share. With many hugs and hopes for wonderful things for the future, although coming from sad things to coming I hope to very good things and great new times ahead. xx

  6. A very moving story. I like your blog a lot. Thank you, Jo.

  7. I too was moved to tears, what a wonderful legacy your dear Father has left you. Wishing you a wonderful future as you continue with your journey building your amazing new home.

  8. I agree with the others, a very moving story and so beautifully written! Good luck with finishing your house, and I look forward to reading more about it on your blog. XXX

  9. Thanks for sharing Jo. It was lovely to read and I chuckled whilst reading it. Wishing you all the very best for the next stage in your lives.

  10. Definitely a few tears shed there Jo! What a wonderful way to honour your dad's wishes and create something beautiful and worthwhile for your family together. Your dad will be willing you to do well from the peaceful place he is in now x
    Good luck with your house building and renovations I look forward to reading about them over the next few years.

  11. Oh my, what a story, I’m in agreement with all the other comments, happy, sad and shedding a tear or two. I wish you and your family lots of luck for the continuation of your dad’s dream. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Dear Jo, as a regular reader of your blog, I have seen you are a very determined personality and resilient. You have chosen a wonderful partner/husband who must have similar qualities to yourself. So the pair of you along with your girls will weather this sad time of transition and move on to such wonderful memories and a lifestyle which can only improve your quality of living in the future. Your father must have been a very determined man to live a corporate life but remain close to the land. It appears you also have that within you and your family. Your story is sad because of the loss you have had but also so uplifting and exciting. Shropshire is my very favorite county in England, how fortunate your are to have ties there. Honor your father's memory by carrying on living your life with gusto and love. Regards Linda, Western Australia. XXX

  13. It is indeed very exciting, Jo. You have so many family stories and memories tied up in that land, no wonder you couldn't let it go. It's part of who you are. Taking it on, learning to build a house and make it a home, to manage land and livestock, is no easy task, I'm sure, but I have no doubt in your ability to make a success of it. How wonderful. x

  14. What a lovely story, sad but hopeful too. I can imagine everything you do to progress will bring back a lovely memory. I wish you all the best with it and look forward to seeing photos of it one day. x

  15. Such a touching story Jo. I'm so sorry your Dad didn't see the house completed but he must have gained a lot of solace from knowing you are carrying out and completing his dream project. What a wonderful gift for your girls too.
    Sending you a hug
    Jacquie xxx

  16. It's great that you could do as much as possible to help your Dad see his mission getting completed. And he is also lucky to have you and your husband as passionate as him to treasure the place and be a part of his mission. The bucket list sometimes keep growing in life and you may not complete everything but, seeing that a part of it is taken care of, gives immense satisfaction to us and dear ones.

  17. Such a moving story of what you've been going through in very real terms. So very sorry about your Dad, but can only imagine what joy you and your husband must've given him to see his dream begin to materialize. Your photos are gloriously beautiful and it must be a most beautiful, as well as special place to be. Good luck as you and your family begin a new chapter of 'life's' journey. :)

  18. Such a lovely legacy Jo. We have led parallel lives....well almost! When our children were small we decided to convert our attic to a guest suite...with the help of my father in law who was a retired builder. So weekends were spent with Hubby and FIL upstairs and me taking the kids out to the park to get them out of the way. FIL sadly contracted leukemia and subsequently died...leaving Hubby with the attic project to continue alone. Eight years later...after much blood sweat and tears ….quite literally, we finally finished the "much more than a weekend project." It is my favourite room in our small city house, flooded with light, so much more peaceful than the rest of the house for some reason, but each time I remember my dear FIL who gave us the encouragement to take on such a task, without getting into debt or taking out huge loans, and I am thankful for the lifetime of experience he was able to impart to Hubby. You too will one day walk into your own country escape, shut the door behind you and be thankful for all your father did and gave to well as dear Hubby who has worked so hard to accomplish it. Thank you for another insight into your life :)

  19. What a wonderful story, it moved me to tears. How lovely for your late Dad to know that, although he wouldn't get to live in the house of his dreams, his daughter and her family would.

  20. Jo, thanks so much for sharing all of this...your story in photos and words... I am sending you heart hugs...knowing some about the swirl of feelings you have described so perfectly. And I am asking the Lord to continue to bless you and yours as you continue living your stories now and in the days to come. xx

  21. What a story Jo! I am so sad that your Dad did not get to see the final product, but happy that you and your family will continue to love and learn during this ongoing adventure. Best of luck with all of it, and congrats to Andy with the new job!

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