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4 August 2011

In the photo you see our empty headed dog Gem trying to commit harakiri by getting enmeshed in the hay tedder. This year for the first time ever we decided to make a substantial amount of hay – a risky business at the best of times. As good fortune had it we mowed the grass on the 20th,  looking at a forecast of five dry days, though not much sunshine. On Thursday we got up to steady rain and I felt a bit glum. However the rain soon passed and the weather steadily improved. Almost every day the hay was turned and in the ever increasing sunshine the hay crisped up nicely. We made 84 big round bales last Wednesday of the most beautiful smelling meadow hay. (If any horse owners out there are interested in certified organic hay, drop me an email.)

In response to my request for more courgette recipes, a customer has sent this recipe which is also a good accompaniment to meat.

My favourite courgette recipe is from Sophie Grigson

"Eat Your Greens" published 1993- Gratin of Courgettes with potatoes and tomatoes.

Slice courgettes, potatoes, tomatoes and red onion and layer them overlapping, like tiles on a roof, alternating each veg in an oiled ovenproof dish. Season lightly with salt but with plenty of pepper, sprinkle over oregano ( I prefer fresh thyme) bake in oven 180c for 50 mins;(I also like to grate parmesan over in the last 10 mins of cooking)

I often start it off covered in tin foil for 30 mins.




27 July 2011

You may remember me mentioning in the Spring a visit we had from the military wing of the Department of Agriculture. The balaclava clad, baseball bat wielding supreme commander (my memory of the visit may be slightly exagerated) notified us of an outbreak of Sudden Oak Death and served us with a destruction order on some rhododendrons. We had to dig them out by the roots and this necessitated the destruction of an old dry stone wall.

I am delighted to tell you that there are men who still retain old skills – behold a magnificent example in the above photograph. (Making this sort of wall is extraordinarily hard work and the man who did it has made me promise not to pass on his details to any one else. I can assure you, it wasn’t me.)

As part of our current project work, I took a couple of old iron gates to be shot blasted yesterday. The people doing the work waxed lyrical over the level of craftmanship in the gates, almost certainly made over 100 years ago in the smithy that used to be on the site of the Orange Hall carpark in the village. There are no rivets and no welds, the gates are put together like a sort of permanent jigsaw. I’m not knowledgeable enough to understand how clever this is, but you could hear the awe and respect that the workmanship inspires in today’s craftsmen.

You may have been aware of a butterfly census, in which we are all being encouraged to take part. I counted only 2 in the fifteen minutes. When I was a child growing my first vegetables, I used to go out with a tennis racket and swat cabbage whites by the dozen. Now I rarely see any. Trees around our house used to drone all summer with the hum of insect activity – now silence.

There is something rotten in our countryside.



P.S. Any other courgette recipes welcome.



20 July 2011

The picture shows our cabbage, or more correctly brassica patch. Beneath the fleece are cabbages, cauliflower, sprouts, calabrese, turnips, pak choi and sundry other members of the brassica family. One of the great disappointments of organic vegetable production is the disappearance of so much of the crop under a protective cover. Earlier this year we planted out about two hundred cabbages before I had got this fleece, and within 48 hours virtually every one of them had been taken by pigeons. Later in the year the pheasants join in the carnage – last Autumn they completely devastated our kale crop and our sprouting broccoli. Thus we have succumbed to the inevitable and taken the decision to cover the whole patch with fleece, and as we solve one set of problems, we create a new set.

It takes about 20 minutes to pull the fleece back from the crop and a further 20 to replace it. Thus 40 minutes are spent before any work such as weeding can be done. If we want to cut a few heads late on a Saturday we can either go under the fleece (fine if it’s dry but pretty grim if it’s wet) or try to pull the fleece clear of our target, which is time consuming. But by far the worst thing about protected cropping such as this is how awful it looks. I like to be able to see the crops as they grow.

In case you hadn’t realized, the tent like apparition in the foreground of your picture is me.

EGG BOX ALERT!! We need clean empty egg boxes for our re-cycling operation. Please bring your donations to the shop on your next visit. Thank you.




13 July 2011

In this spell of good weather, one’s thoughts inevitably turn to Christmas dinner- see above. I think there are 18 birds in this picture, though they are almost as difficult to count in a photograph as when they are roaming about in the field. We actually have 36 geese and will be taking orders when I feel a bit more confident about their lasting the course. The last year we kept geese, we lost more than half of them to the fox –so  I am reluctant to tempt providence by taking orders just yet. Most days you can see them in the front field, and rather beautiful they look. What pleases me particularly about these birds is the way they graze the grass in the orchard – they have it like a lawn. Later in the year I will have to supplement their diet with oats, but at the moment they are thriving on a grass only diet.

The swan seems to have built up sufficient strength to enable it to fly off to wherever it is swans fly off to. Maybe it will return next year with a partner. (I wonder is there a minimum size of pond required for them to breed on. I rather suspect that our little dam doesn’t quite meet the spec.)

Remember we are open this week as normal.