Friday, 29 October 2010


What sort of person thinks it's a good idea to leave their rubbish like this in the middle of the countryside? Litter picked up today along a half mile stretch of footpath in two fields:

Tied to footbridge: Carrier bag containing empty Tesco Chicken Sandwich wrappers

Discarded on the ground: 3 plastic drinks bottles, 1 plastic sandwich container, 1 cigarette packet, 1 blue plastic carrier bag, 1 sweet wrapper, 1 plastic sleeve from drink, 1 plastic drinks carton

The Countryside Code is very simple - Litter and leftover food doesn't just spoil the beauty of the countryside, it can be dangerous to wildlife and farm animals and can spread disease - so take your litter home with you. Dropping litter and dumping rubbish are criminal offences.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Christmas trees and reindeer

Yesterday we went to Suffolk for a British Christmas Trees Growers Association meeting where we were ferried from one plantation to another by a tractor and trailer driven by Father Christmas.  We saw the Shropshire sheep in the plantation where they help with weed and grass control and picked up tips on growing and pruning trees. Back in the yard we looked at the reindeer with their enormous feet, went into a barn filled with an amazing display of Christmas decorations, met lots of other growers and helped decide which grower will supply the Christmas tree for Number 10.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Pork and Nuts

I could forage all day long and not keep up with the fruit, nuts and fungi about at the moment. While Morris the fox terrier sniffed out rabbits this morning in Lakes Field, I picked a carrier bag full of crab apples for our next apple pressing day and later picked up a few sweet chestnuts, which I'll heat up on the simmering plate of the AGA. The apple trees are still laden and if I pick carefully, there's still a few blackberries to be had.

 The peppers in the greenhouse are finally ripening, so I used one of them together with some of the walnuts I picked at the weekend to make this sauce for pasta.

Last week we took the three Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs (Dave, Clegg and Harriet) to be slaughtered.  They'd spent summer in the grass paddock digging holes, wallowing and generally lying about but at six months old were ready to go.  I do miss going into the field with their food; at the sound of the latch being lifted on the gate, three heads would go up and as soon as they saw the bucket of food they'd run over at quite a speed with their ears flapping.
But the point of keeping pigs every summer is so that I know the provenance of my meat and yesterday I collected seven boxes of pork from the butcher. Three of those boxes were filled with sausages and the other four were joints of various shapes and sizes. The remaining pig (and I know it's Dave because he was the biggest) is being cured so in a couple of weeks I'll have bacon and ham to collect. Not surprisingly, we had sausages for supper last night and very good they were too.

Thursday, 14 October 2010


Rolling in Gardeners Field after the wheat has been drilled.  Rolling breaks down the big clods making a finer seedbed for the grains of wheat to germinate and grow in.  Compacting the ground also makes it less hospitable to slugs.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Drilling wheat

Drilling Great Forest with wheat
It's been a glorious autumn day; the fields are drying out well and the contractors have been drilling (or sowing) wheat.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Walnuts and chillies

It's getting difficult to go into the greenhouse as the tomato plant in the corner is fighting its way out. I know I should have cut it back, but my enthusiasm for the greenhouse tomatoes wanes from September onwards and I'm just happy to pick what I can find and let the plants run riot. Yesterday, I made my way through the tomatoes to the chilli plants and picked all the chillies, which I threaded onto string and hung up to dry. These chillies seem of variable heat; I put one chilli in a dish one day and it's so mild we can hardly taste it so the next time I put two chillies in and I can still feel my lips tingling an hour after I've eaten.

I've seen so many squirrels carrying walnuts across the garden that I decided I should start picking while there's still nuts left on the tree. At the same time, I picked the pears before they dropped and as the quinces have already started to drop, I picked a few up from the ground. I've left the pears to ripen and the quince are sitting in the bowl until I get round to using them. I have a big basketful of walnuts so we had Waldorf salad yesterday and coffee & walnut cake for tea tonight.
This afternoon was glorious so we walked across the fields to see if they're ready to drill (they are) and then checked the fences in the paddock as one of the horses escaped into our neighbour's garden yesterday.  There's a broken post and some loose wire alongside their garden and further round, the horses have eaten right through one of the rails, so it looks as if there's a little fencing work to go on the list of jobs to do.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


The pigs were brought inside last night from their rather muddy field and were tagged with their identification numbers and left to clean themselves up on the straw overnight.  Then this morning we loaded them up in the livestock trailer, completed all the FSA and defra paperwork and took the pigs off to the abattoir.  Luckily we only have to go five minutes down the road so it's all pretty stress free. We had to wait a few minutes while a trailer load of sheep were unloaded and then Dave, Clegg and Harriet were walked into their pen in their usual unhurried style.  Forms were completed and handed over, details chalked on the pen of the gate and we went off to wash out the trailer, leaving the pigs to their fate.  They will be slaughtered today and hung in the cold store until they are cut up on Monday.  One of the pigs (Dave probably as he was the biggest) will be cured so that we get bacon and gammon, while the other two will be cut into pork joints and made into sausages.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Apple Pressing

The apples are ripening and falling from the trees, much to the delight of the chickens and pigs who eat the windfalls, so armed with trugs and baskets we set out on Saturday morning and picked a variety of apples.  

Sunday morning we assembled our Apple Pressing team and chopped and sliced our way through the piles of apples in the sunshine until it rained and we all had to move into the garage.


The apples were then put through the (very clean) garden shredder and the resulting pulp went into the press. 

After a bit of hammering and pushing and pulling, the screw was tightened and the juice flowed.  This was collected and transferred to large plastic fermenting bins.



The spent pulp was spread around the bottom of the hedges, in the hope that a stray pip might germinate and produce some wonderful new apple tree.

At the end of the day, all the equipment was pressure washed clean and we sat down to supper washed down with bottles of last year's cider.  Meanwhile, the juice is frothing and bubbling away, slowly turning to cider.

Friday, 1 October 2010


  My vegetable garden looks wet and bedraggled; even the scarecrow has flopped over as if it's just too much effort to stand any longer. I pulled up all the tomato plants this morning so now have a mountainous compost heap and a basketful of tomatoes in a myriad of green, orange and red colours. 
 Meanwhile, I'm still deciding what to do with my knitted carrots and peas. Maybe I should make them into brooches as a veggie take on a corsage or … well, I'm not really sure what else I can do with them.