Reaping Rewards

by | Feb 21, 2014 | 10 comments

I have the most hectic schedule at the moment, as soon as I finish one job there are at least a dozen waiting to be started. Once I’ve got Richard organised and given him any hand he might need with the benches there are emails to be sent, materials to order and invoices to write. Then there’s the book keeping, vice making, filming, editing and I’m most of the way through building a new website. There’s all the usual stuff as well like walking the dog, house work and cooking tea; I’m never happy eating anything ready made and Richard eats a lot!
When we made the decision to take on the restoration project of our barns it’s easy to see why we had serious concerns that too little time would make things very stressful – after all we are going to be doing the bulk of the work ourselves.
Weirdly though since starting to potter on the barns we’ve never felt more relaxed. It’s always going to be slow progress but for every brick we move it feels like another step forward rather than a chore. And if I can find half an hour or a couple of hours between jobs then I can enjoy planting out a row of hedging or digging out a floor while thinking through the job I’ve got coming up. I’m only small, but it’s surprising how many barrow loads of muck you can move whilst pondering.ivy on treeThis may well be the honeymoon period for us but I like to think that it’s also reaping the rewards of choosing to be self employed. Working for yourself is never, ever the easy choice and in fact I guarantee it will bring more work and more stress than the alternative but after many years of toiling it does give you something very wonderful – choice. It isn’t a choice to earn lots of money but perhaps something more important, a choice to how you spend your time. Having integrity and genuine enthusiasm for your work makes it possible to get through any difficult spells and when things are all in order it’s time to take some control and start moulding your working life in to your lifestyle.Bricks and sunIt’s all too easy to feel constrained to a routine and for me being relaxed in an afternoon planting out in the sun feels like cheating – like something you do when you’re enjoying retirement. Taking on the challenge of these barns though has put in to focus what we work hard for. It’s about choosing what’s important to us; most people wouldn’t envy the amount of bricks I’ve had to move these past weeks and we will never afford holidays, nights out or fancy cars but we decided for us those things aren’t important. Our wealth will come from our experiences; the journey of spending time learning together, achieving small goals and the freedom to sit out on a February afternoon and sip lemonade because the sun decided to shine.reflectionWe are only tip toeing through our first steps of this project and without any services or even a full solid building we are a long way from being able to move in. Every day though it feels more like home and we have decided that this is our project for life and where many experiences – both good and bad will be made.
I know that many people are eager to see some of the work we’ve been up to and I don’t want to big this up because it really isn’t a whole lot of progress but I am bringing together some footage that we’ve been taking as we go along. I won’t promise you when it will be ready but it’s there on the job list.

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About Helen Fisher

About Helen Fisher

Helen seeks to explore ways to live with greater joy & sustainability for both ourselves & the planet. Concepts which have led to the launch of her second business We Are Carbon. As the producer of our videos, Helen brings a unique perspective & injects life to our education ensuring it is both a pleasure to watch & easy to follow & learn from. Learn More About Helen & The English Woodworker.


  1. Gary P

    A lot of hard work ahead for the both of you. But, I have envy. To start over and do what you and Richard are doing now would be awesome. Having fun and enjoying the changes you make with your own two hands are something to remember for the rest of your life. Take care and looking forward to your next post.

  2. Chris Buckingham

    You are on the right track for a satisfying life ! Once you have put your mark on the things that you have brought back to life, you will feel that the place is truly yours, from a place that was once owned by someone else, you will transform it into “your” place, the big problem with these huge projects is that with so many things to do, you do not really have the luxury of sitting back to admire the bit that you have just finished! In our case, with a similar workload, it is difficult to quantify just how much you have done, as you are always looking forward and planning future projects,(do take lots of photo’s) so no more bored evenings looking for something to do, the only problem is that now time will really fly by, but it is the most enjoyment you can get out of life! Just enjoy every day.

  3. Dave Pryor

    Spoken from the heart, Helen.

    You have both embarked on a wonderful journey. Now with the Spring just around the corner 2014 promises to be something extra special.

    Keep the faith,


  4. Laurence Pylinski

    I concur, take a lot of pictures and make notes. When you are several years into this make up a scrap book with the notes and revel in your accomplishments.
    We did this with our home starting 19 years ago and when I tell my wife we have so much to do she brings out the scrapbook and brings me back down to reality with all we have done.
    That is when you will really get a true sense of accomplishment.
    Keep sending the pictures, you will be surprised how many of us enjoy seeing your progress.

  5. mike murray

    Hope you don’t mind if I suggest this but…If you folks could get a garden tractor with a sleeve hitch on the back and equip the tractor with a Johnny Bucket Jr. for the front (or possibly a small farm tractor with a loader and 3-pt lift on back) you would be amazed at what and how much you can accomplish without breaking your backs to do it and do it in much less time. You would find soooo many uses for a small tractor there on the place. You can see the Johnny bucket attachments here:

    (I am just recommending, I have no vested interest in the company that produces any of this equipment)

    We bought a Cub Cadet garden tractor and put a Johnny Bucket Jr. on it. It has been the best investment in outdoor equipment I have ever made. It spreads gravel, dirt, or whatever, and it will pick up and haul most any dry materials. I use ours to push snow too. Besides all the things the tractor will do, like mow, rototill, and pull sleeve hitch implements for gardening. I’m serious, you wouldn’t be sorry if you found a nice little tractor to help with the tasks there.

  6. davidos

    what a lovely post,i am sure you will get back twice as much as you put in. all the best and good health

  7. Ron Dennis

    Helen, exactly what “vice” are you engaged with? Mine was smoking, which I abandoned in 1980. No more accidental fires in the shop since then. Hopefully it will not catch you in a bind as between the jaws of a “vise”!

    • mike murray

      I’ve been reading the blog for some time now. I can’t recall Helen ever misspelling or using a word incorrectly. I think you will find that she is usually quite brilliant in her writing, as in this case where the spelling of “vice” in the context is correct. HTHs

  8. Ian Elley

    Love what you two are doing Helen. In 1990 my wife and I bought a coastguard house in Lincolnshire, it needed restoring from top to bottom, we hardly had a penny between us and the work was very hard and took for ever, as you said though each brick moved really felt like an achievement and a step in the right direction, we had never been happier !!

  9. Micheal Kingsley

    As a lifetime Self Employed Family, my wife and I fully appreciate your experiences. However, being on this side of the pond we have a few more difficulties to deal with, none of which our government seems to be concerned with. The new health insurance policies help a little. We keep telling folks we do not need health insurance, we need health care. Americans don’t see the difference. You and Richard made the right choice though, I know we did even with our government. The rewards far outweigh the difficulties. Enjoy your tea and sunshine, and of course the hard work!


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