A New Roof and 4 Chickens

Crockern Farm

Crockern Farm

For the past several years, my husband Roger and I have longed for a place with more land, bigger skies, and a chance to live a different life.  I know it is a bit of a cliché, but the truth is as simple as that.

We met in 2005 on a Russian icebreaker in the Canadian Arctic.  Shortly thereafter, I moved to England and we got married.  Our lives and jobs took us on a few adventures but we kept coming back to wanting something different.  When job redundancy forced the issue, we upped our quest.  Who would have ever thought you could find a place by just looking on the Internet.  We did.  We went to visit and the rest of this blog will be of our adventures, some enthusiastic and some reluctant, at Crockern Farm.

When we started looking it was in the autumn of 2011.  Each visit was wet, windy, and wintry and generally would have put any sensible person off the idea of living in some of the last of England’s wilderness.

On March 21, 2012, before the house deal was agreed, we drove to Dartmoor to meet with the structural surveyor.  He poked around on his own, and then took Roger through the points of interest.  I was otherwise occupied chatting about this and that with the current owner.  It seems that in buying a property as quirky as this, the owner makes herself present for the entire thing.

Personally, I would prefer to look at the place without anyone around.  No doubt, she’d prefer that we not be there for so long and attempts to busy herself so that we don’t feel awkward.  But, the whole thing is awkward.  How can you go measure, look at cupboards, flush toilets, see if windows work, etc. without feeling like you are in someone else’s house?  And we were at that point.  So my general inclination at that moment is to sip a cup of coffee, chat about this and that, and try to ask as many questions as I can.

What I managed to uncover is that the old boiler seems to be a bit of an unreliable sort.  The previous owners never put in the electricity (something we plan to do) because it was too expensive.  Yes, it is expensive!  The last guy who serviced the septic tank tore up the grassy yard with his 4×4 and put a hole in the side of his tank.  In a recent strong wind, several slate tiles came off the roof and had to be put back.  Since our last visit in January, the dirt track has more and deeper potholes.  This track is our responsibility and I could not get a sense of when it was last tended, nor who all (besides the speedy driving postman) seem to use the lane.  Clearly some farm equipment does.  And speaking of the lane, the stonewall in the last month fell in a section due to a strong rain.  Who is to fix it?  The owner doesn’t know who is responsible.  All this and a bit more while trying to determine some basic things like when is the recycling/garbage pick up.

Crockern Farm from Two Bridges

View of Crockern Farm from Two Bridges

Meanwhile, Roger was learning that those tiles came off the roof because the roof needs to be replaced!  We were not counting on that bit of news.  And in the car/tractor shed, the seemingly flimsy bit of roof there has some asbestos.  Okay, this is getting better and better. We are still undaunted.  It all seems a bit crazy that we love a place that is in need of such huge intervention and yet we do.

We left after a few hours, took a long walk with our dog Sam and discussed.  We agreed that we are old enough to know what we are doing and young enough to be doing it.  Feeling positive despite the odds, we headed back toward the car.  On route, the woman selling Crockern Farm popped out to invite us in for lunch before our long drive back.  We happily accepted and sat in what would soon be our kitchen.  Sam was fine with her dog, but not with her cat.  We will have to live with mice I guess, as our dog cannot live with cats.

A nice chat.  A relaxed atmosphere.  A discussion of music, books, history, and the chickens.  She asked if we planned to keep chickens.  We’ve discussed it, but neither of us have ever done so, so I was thinking in a year’s time.  Well, she has a lot of chickens and might not be able to take them with her to her next place.  She’s got a friend who will take some, but was hoping we might like to keep a few.  Four in fact.  We enthusiastically accepted and then Roger asked about where to get chicken feed.

We left, well fed and facing a project of a new roof and 4 chickens and we hadn’t yet completed the sale.

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30 comments on “A New Roof and 4 Chickens

  1. Andrea Moore says:

    You are brave and adventurous souls! I admire the risk you are taking to live the lives you want. I will happily get my hands dirty with you all if I am able to come and visit. Loveyhearts!

  2. rsharrington says:

    Wow, Catherine!! I’m excited to hear more… Much love, Rebecca

  3. Susanne says:

    Too wonderful! Can you please find me a Roger so I can move to the english countryside too? I love that you’re going to have chickens. There is nothing that compares to a pastured egg – yum! Plus, they’re really cute.

  4. Julia Osborne says:

    Well done Catherine – this is brilliant. I shall follow with interest.

  5. Fiona says:

    I can’t wait for istallment 2.

  6. Carol Hynes Assmann says:

    Catherine, My Dear Friend —
    You know I love you (and Roger), but I’m afraid you’ve gone completely bat-shit crazy!!! Looking forward to the next installment of what may become an Anglo/American version of “A Year In Provence”.

  7. yvonne payne says:

    Indeed, bat-shit crazy seems to sum it up, but a great challenge which I’m sure you’ll both relish. Looking forward to our next visit. xx

  8. Russ Charlton says:

    Chief,
    I wish you the best of luck. I too think you have gone “bat-shit crazy”, but then I am a sucker for old houses. My question is, Which will get completed first my Austin Healey or Crockern Farm.

    • Roger says:

      Russ, both big projects, but you have had a thirty year headstart with the Healey!

      • Russ Charlton says:

        True, I did get a head start, but then it got side tracked by my house and the race car. I guess my advice is to go at it as hard as you can for as long as you can so when you get burned out you can at least live in it and enjoy it. I am really looking forward to seeing the progress.

  9. Mary Ann says:

    How exciting!!! You both deserve to have a magnificent life and this farm sounds amazing! You could maybe even have your own horse!

  10. Jenny Vouilloz says:

    Hi Catherine, am loving your account so far- when do we get to find out who uses the track, who knocked down the wall and what happened with the hole in the septic tank….? looking forward to your next installment! xxx

  11. sarah fiedosiuk says:

    A lovely introduction to your life and to Crockern with a bit of bat-shit craziness thrown in for good measure. You will make it work and you will have fun making it work. But where are you going to keep the horses? Surely there is a market for some middle-aged women on search for a long-lost weekend on horseback?

  12. Sheila Shepheard says:

    OMG – it all sounds dreadful and wonderful at the same time. You crazy Yank!

  13. Jack Murray says:

    Well it ain’t Hoboken, New Jersey, that’s for sure! I’m really psyched to read this! More pictures too please!

  14. Annette says:

    great stuff Catherine, Neither bloody nor (I hope) unbowed. The roof is a blow, though. Best of luck and love to you both

  15. Chris Brown says:

    Keep up the detail……can’t wait to get up to date on where you two crazy cats are at (and sam of course who is certainly not a cat!).
    I just love your spirit. xx

  16. Ann Dawney says:

    Know you will so glad you recorded the early days at Crockern Farm. The more we look into Wistman`s Wood etc the more magical the place seems….. We`re full of admiration!
    Ann & Mike

  17. Jenny Stewart says:

    Never heard the expression bat shit crazy before – but maybe sheep shit crazy would be more appropriate? Look forward to more tales from Crockern Farm and to hearing all about your adventure. Jenny xxx

  18. Paul Blaney says:

    It’s like reading an outline for an episode of the Archers! Keep it coming. And best of luck.

  19. Bettina Koester-Smith says:

    And again: wishing you a lot of courage and best of luck!

  20. Beth Neeld-Mullins says:

    This should be easy for you. I remember many weekends of our childhood spent at your parents “weekend house” when it still had no plumbing–I believe we joined the bears in the woods. We also washed our hair on your boat dock! I must say, I do love chickens and can’t wait to hear more about your adventure.

  21. kayaaden says:

    Congrat! Can’t wait to hear more!

  22. jo says:

    Oooh so nice to dip into your lives and hear about your adventure. Looking forward to sitting in your favourite spot, staring out and drinking coffee… mmm! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  23. Colin says:

    An episode of the Archers – on acid…
    it’s eerily quiet round your old gaffe – even with our friendly new neighbours.
    Dogs can chase mice too… get Sam at it now!

  24. Mike Paredes says:

    I have to say: I smiled through both of your installments, the whole time. The names-Stannaries, Dartmoor, Crockern itself-sound like stuff out of Game of Thrones! When will the Ghost of Harrenhal appear? Maybe through the mists during your morning coffee ritual? Love this blog, and really happy for you and Roger and Sam. I hope the goddess of chickens protect the remaining 3!

  25. Jo and Paul says:

    It’s an amazing place and the country around it is wild, mysterious and beautiful. Yes – it’s lots of work but you’re living the dream – and we wish you the very best of luckand happiness with it.xxxxJo and Paulxxxx

  26. Anja says:

    You’re a natural, life of crap is truly hilarious! X

  27. Along A Path says:

    My Goodness! We are on the same path but an ocean apart! I am looking forward to sitting down with a cup of tea and reading your whole blog from beginning to end. But I have go clear out the chicken coop – again!

    • Thank you and I thought the same thing when I found your blog — a kindred spirit and I need a quiet time to sit down and read about your entire adventure! Looking forward to following your blog.

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