10th January. The last two weeks have been very wet and windy, I've mostly been hibernating in the wagon. During some of the heavy squalls the wagon rocks and shudders violently in the wind. Happily the last three days the wind has dropped and I've got out and done a few jobs. I pulled the shoes off my horse as they were becoming loose, it'll do his feet good to be without shoes for a week. I'm getting restless and will soon be on my way. I'm looking forward to getting more exercise.
Storm or Kelly Kettle
Today is bright and frosty, I've got two kettles heating on my stove and will have a shower while the sun is out. A couple of months ago l was given a Kelly kettle or storm kettle. These were used by fishermen on the west coast of Ireland where there wasn't much fuel. It's a clever idea. You put a few small sticks in the base, fill the top with water. The top is like a sleeve and has a hole running up the middle, which forms the chimney. The kettle was missing the base, so I've fashioned a new one and will use it. They're very handy for boiling water quickly, especially if there isn't much wood to burn.
Kettle quickly boils
I soon have enough hot water. Although the weather is cold enough for there to be ice in the puddles it is lovely and warm standing in the sun having a shower. It's great to feel the sun on my skin. We make vitamin D from the sunlight. Many people get depressed in the winter because they don't get enough sun. Just 10 minutes with your shirt off makes a big difference.
I've been putting a new tarpaulin on an open lot at the scrapyard , [an open lot, is a light wagon without a door on the front, it just has canvas covers]. I like to put a new tarpaulin on every 3 years. After 3 years they start to rot and look discoloured, after about 5 years they start to leak. You can prolong their life by painting them with a mixture of gloss paint and boiled linseed oil. I never bother as it's a lot to paint and paint isn't cheap. When you put a new tarp on, the wagon looks smart.
Tarpaulin gets Discoloured
16th January. I got my horse re-shod yesterday. Steve Crisford, the farrier did a lovely job.
Old Tarpaulin gets taken off
I'll soon be off. I'm going to put a new tarpaulin on my wagon today. I also need to sort out what l want to take and get rid of anything else, its surprising how quickly we acquire things when we are sedentary. I've been stopped here for almost three months and l've enjoyed having a break. I've got on well with Mick, who owns the yard and l've been very happy here. I've started taking my horse out in one of Micks exercise carts to get him going again. He's going well. I've just got to finish painting the sharves and a few other little jobs and then I'm ready. I'm getting all excited about going.
New tarpaulin on, creases disapear when it rains
27th January. I set off this morning, sunny but a cold wind. I just went a couple of miles and stopped down on the marsh. The wind got up in the night and disturbed me. It's great to be on my way. This is a hard time of year to travel, especially when the weather is bad, but the days are getting slightly longer and the birds are singing happily. I'm heading over towards Folkestone in Kent in the next few days, where l'm going to put the horse in a lorry and the wagon on a trailer and go through the channel tunnel. I'm going to be dropped off at a stables near Calais and then head south.
Yesterday was so wet, it rained all day and the wind blew from the east. I stayed where l was, down on the marsh near Wartling. At mid-day l walked up the pub, The Lamb, it's a nice pub and l had two pints of beer with a friend. Better than spending all day in the wagon.
Down on the marsh near Wartling
Today the wind dropped and l did 15 miles. Set off at 9am and got here at 2.30pm. I walked all the way. First good walk l've had for 3 months. Quite a few hills, but my horse did well. Really pleased and will reach Kent tomorrow.
There are some signs of spring, daffodils coming up, birds singing happily, catkins on the hazel, went by some winter heliotropes, what a lovely scent they have. The grass is good for January and the horse is glad. I'm feeding him hard food this week to help him. The only problem with feeding hard food is that it's another 25 kilos of weight for the horse to pull. He hasn't needed any hay. Last winter hung on for ages and the grass was poor. Hopefully the next couple of months will be a bit drier and sunnier. The ground is so wet that everything quickly gets muddy and it's a struggle to keep things clean. It's also hard to find dry firewood. Dead pieces of hawthorn and ash that are hung up in the hedge are good, anything on the ground would be sodden. I may buy a small sack of coal, they sell them at petrol stations.