I met Nick and his lovely wife a few years ago while he was stationed at RAF Odiham, but lost touch briefly when he left the RAF… He and his family have had an incredible journey since then with an astonishing life style change that I find both fascinating and terrifying! We came in contact again through Facebook and I discovered the blog he writes about his new life, Rotor2Rotavator and all the triumphs and disasters he has faced along the way. It is a great read, absolutely charming and leaves you full of admiration for a family prepared to take the plunge and follow a dream. Here Nick introduces himself and talks about the enormous changes the Geary family have faced:
I guess I am a house husband, a domestic CEO, cleaner and child-social-life facilitator. I certainly don’t feel like a farmer and it seems a lifetime has passed since I was a Chinook Pilot. But then a lot has happened since then.
I left the RAF in 2009 after 20 years flying helicopters. Frankly I had had enough. Don’t get me wrong I had a brilliant time and I wouldn’t change a thing, but life has a way of changing you. In the last couple of years the detachments took their toll on us, on the children and on family life in general, especially since my wife was also in the RAF. On the subject of ‘the boss’, during the same period she had to have major knee surgery, then developed cancer, then had to have a hole in her heart repaired. I had suffered from pneumonia and the children had suffered enough disruption for a lifetime. Someone was definitely trying to tell us something!
I just said I wouldn’t change a thing, didn’t I? Well, I stand by that, but that is not quite the same as saying ‘I would do it all again!’
So we decided that one or both of us would leave the RAF, sort of a ‘see who gets a good job first’ type thing. Well the boss did. So we upped sticks and moved to Lincolnshire. Fed up with both of us chasing a career we had agreed that the one not working would ‘keep house’, so to speak. That frightening, daunting and rather overwhelming task now fell to me. But I felt I needed more. Something to keep me busy and out of mischief. So we bought a house with a bit of land and began our smallholding.
I knew nothing about farming.
The idea was not to become ‘Tom and Barbara’, although our good friends Margo and Jerry do call us that, but to be self sufficient in a certain few things. Not being a great vegetable grower, we began with animals. So before I left RAF Odiham in Hampshire, I spent a bit of resettlement time learning that you don’t plant chickens or harvest pigs. I started with an excellent course on keeping chickens, run by Alison at Hook Farm (http://www.hookfarm.net) and followed that with a pig keeping course at Pig Paradise (http://www.pigparadise.com). And so the adventure began.
I started blogging about our little venture just over 3 years ago; the aim being to intersperse tales from the smallholding with snippets on life in general, not really knowing where it would take me.
The menagerie began with Ross Lohman chickens, a professional egg layer if ever there was one and very easy to manage. Then we took on 3 Berkshire pigs, Tosca, Napoleon and Spider Pig – 2 for the pot and one for breeding. No other pig gives crackling like a Berkshire! We still have Tosca and she is expecting her third litter of piglets in May. Then Marigold and Scamp arrived, who were Dexter cows. Finally we gave a home to Flopsy and Mopsy, who are Wiltshire horn sheep.
The first 18 months were great. Long summer days making hay, eating outdoors and drinking elderflower champagne. We had all our own meat, had bred some of our own chickens and turkeys and also kept Gloucester Old Spot and Saddleback pigs. We even planted an orchard and grew some vegetables. Then things went a little awry. The boss’ job moved locations twice and was now much further away and no longer enjoyable. Oh yeah, and then the house burnt down.
This was truly devastating. Then, during the next few weeks whilst we were trying to sort through what few possessions we had left we were burgled 8 times.
Still with me on the ‘I wouldn’t change a thing’ thing?
After a period as nomads in hotels and friends and family homes we were lucky to get into a bungalow belonging to a friend just up the road. This meant the children were still near friends and schools, work was no further away for the boss and I was near enough to the land to keep the smallholding going. It was a very tough 13 months before we were able to move back into our home, but at least we were still safe and well. Whilst rebuilding the house we also built an extension and the whole process gave me a juicy project to get my teeth into and keep my spirits up.
Now we have been back in the house for a year and we are delighted with it. When you go through something like this you have to think positively. So we look at our lovely, renovated and improved home and think how lucky we are. The boss has now landed her dream job, unfortunately this means a few days a week in a London flat, but we will make it work. We now have Light Sussex, White Star and Blue Bell chickens as well as two more ewes. The freezer is full of beef, lamb and pork and we wonder what life will throw at us next. I keep writing up the blog whenever I have something interesting or funny to say, usually involving me chasing escaping cows, wrestling stubborn sheep to the ground or getting tripped over in the mud by Tosca. I’ve learnt a lot about keeping livestock and a little about growing fruit and vegetables. I’ve learnt a lot more about making new friends and then asking a great deal of them.
And guess what? I wouldn’t change a thing.