An Ordinary Week

Reading blogs from around the world and particularly prompted by Sarah’s post Finding Your Normal, makes me aware of just how differently we live. Your normal, ordinary day is my extraordinary. Sarah knits with a lamb by her side as she waits for her cheese to set; Glenda has bucket loads of passion fruit to deal with whereas I buy a few at 60 pence each to use sparingly; Jane deals with heat and looks across a red, dusty landscape; Sam gazes from her home across an ever changing seascape …

Here’s a glimpse of an ordinary week at Slamseys. Nothing exciting. Just the normal day to day. But possibly quite different to yours.

oilseed rape crop

 

I walk past this field of oilseed rape each day and have watched it grow from tiny seeds, been grazed by marauding pigeons and finally it has burst into flower. The poles carry the high voltage power lines that make up the National Grid, which are a pesky nuisance for tractors to negotiate around when they’re in the middle of fields but remarkably handy when you want to turn on the lights.

 

Miss Rachel's Yoke sweater

 

I try to always have something on my knitting needles but am between projects at the moment since I finished this sweater (Miss Rachel’s Yoke  from Kate Davies). This sweater was straighforward to make as it was knitted in the round and only needed real concentration for the patterning on the yoke.

 

ducks waiting to be fed

 

The ducks waiting to be fed. Some days, they decide they can wait no longer and come to the kitchen window to chivvy me along. Before I kept ducks, I imagined they would spend most of their time on the pond, but instead they wander all over the place. Last week, I found them marching down the chase headed for the road and a few years ago they ended up sitting on the central reservation of the nearby dual carriageway.

rusty duck

 

 

Every day, when I shut up the ducks, I walk past a building with doorways that have been blocked with rusting metal panels. As I waited for one of the ducks, who was waddling particularly slowly that day, I noticed this little duck in the rust. How apt.

 

Slamseys Blackcurrant Cooler

 

Drinking a tot of gin at the weekend seems a perfectly normal and sensible thing to do, especially when Beth needs tasters for some product development. This Slamseys Blackcurrant Cooler looks set to be my favourite during this spell of warm, sunny May weather.

Easy to make and oh so easy to sip.

 

Slamseys Blackcurrant Cooler

2 shots Slamseys Blackcurrant Gin
1 shot fresh lime juice
Ginger Beer

Drop some ice cubes into a highball glass and pour in the Slamseys Blackcurrant Gin and lime juice.

Top up with ginger ale and garnish with a wedge of lime or a sliver of cucumber.

Find a sunny spot in the garden and enjoy.

What’s your normal, ordinary? Do share.

If you want to know more about oilseed rape, you might be interested in Fields of Gold, which explains why it’s grown and what it’s used for.

 

 

 


oilseed rape crop

On The Farm In April

newly planted Christmas trees

The weather has been good here, with some gloriously sunny days that have dried out the fields so that land work has resumed on the farm. We managed to plant 1400 tiny Christmas trees earlier this week, mathematically agriculturally marked out using a spade, old electric fencing posts and baler twine. Standing only 30 centimetres high, these should be ready for cutting down in 2023, which seems an age away.

teleporter

Today they’re spreading fertiliser on the fields, which means the teleporter is running backwards and forwards between the barn where the fertiliser is stored and the fields. The fertiliser is delivered in enormous 1 tonne bags that the teleporter picks up and transports to empty into the spreader.

oilseed rape field

The oilseed rape is coming into full flower, which is a wonderful sight for those of us who don’t suffer from hay fever. This old tap standing in the corner of the field is a reminder of when this field was grazed by horses. After the crop has been harvested in early summer, the rapeseed will be sent away for pressing to extract the oil. If you buy a bottle of vegetable oil with a picture of a yellow flower on the label, it’s rapeseed oil. I can’t help thinking that somebody should think of a better name for the crop.

cheese and bacon flan

Packed lunches for tractor drivers call for solid food. I gaze in awe at pictures of bento boxes with their delicate salads and pretty arrangements of fruit but I know that beautiful as they might look in the kitchen, after a few hours bouncing around in a tractor cab, they would look decidedly unappealing. Apart from that, packed lunches destined for the fields need to be eaten with a minimum of fuss, preferably one handed. An old fashioned cheese and bacon flan fits the bill perfectly.

Essex huffer

Huffers are regularly packed into lunch boxes for tractor drivers and also into my rucksack when we’re walking. My family often tease me that I must be glad when we’ve stopped for lunch as my rucksack must be considerably lighter when we’ve taken out the huffers and fruit cake. Cruel. But true.

farm buildings

As the days lengthen and I no longer feel the need to close the shutters and sit in front of the fire in the early evening, it’s good to wander around the farmyard when everybody else  has gone home and enjoy the last of the sunshine for the day.

Even if nothing is growing in the cold soil of the garden, it really does feel as though spring has well and truly arrived.

 


around and about

We have had a bit of a pumpkin fest recently from our three pumpkin plants. Two of the plants yielded no pumpkins and the other one produced just one. But one very large pumpkin, which was similar in size to last year’s because there were still some seeds in the packet and even though I said to Bill (very clearly) that they were far too big and we did not want any more that size, he decided it would be wasteful to throw away the seed. Thank goodness only one grew.

Consequently, we have eaten pumpkin in many ways, some more popular than others. For the finale, with the very last slice of pumpkin,  I decided to make pumpkin scones. I made some the other day by adding pumpkin flesh to my normal scones and though they tasted fine, I decided to do it properly and follow a Pumpkin Scone recipe. Big mistake. The mixture was far too sloppy so I threw in extra flour. Then a bit more with another spoonful of bicarb. Then a whole lot more. Then I dolloped the mixture onto the girdle and cooked them. The result was not the normal light, airy scone but a heavy, claggy doorstop that shouted indigestion. So no scones to eat and a heap of washing-up for nothing.

As usual, in times of frustration or in need of a good think, I pulled on my wellies and went for a walk.

mistletoe growing on apple tree

The mistletoe seems to be growing faster than the apple tree and for the first year has berries. It’s difficult to believe how much it’s grown from this tiny bud back in 2012.

spartan apples

A quick detour to pick up some crisp and juicy Spartan apples that have fallen to the ground. Spartan are my favourite apple and with their deep red skins, I always think of them as Snow White apples.

sloes for Slamseys Gin

We’ve picked kilos of sloes for Beth to make her sloe gin, but there’s still so many left that the hedge looks blue now that the leaves have mostly dropped. This blackthorn hedge was planted in 2012 and has grown remarkably well, though when you consider that the name of our farm originates from the Old English for “enclosure of the sloe tree hill” and we live in Blackley Lane, perhaps it’s not so surprising.

Old Man's Beard

Along the farm track, Old Man’s Beard threads its way through the hedges.

oilseed rape

The oilseed rape crop is looking remarkably healthy. At the moment.

ditch between The Ley and Lakes Field

The oilseed rape is growing in a field called The Ley. On a map of 1849, this is shown as three fields called Old Leigh, Little Leigh and Spring Field but by 1895 they’d been amalgamated into one field called The Ley. This small ditch runs between The Ley and Lakes Field, so named because Mr Lake once owned it. There’s not much water in it at the moment, but if we get a wet winter the level will rise as the water drains from the fields into the ditch.

autumn leaves

The leaves are falling fast from the trees and some trees are already winter bare. There’s nothing like kicking through a few leaves to bring a smile to my face. And hurrah, no more pumpkins.


rolled field Little Forest

October

October already and we are making the most of a spell of fine weather sowing wheat for next year’s harvest.

sunset apples

The Discovery apples in the garden have finished and we have just started to pick the Sunset. We’re still picking blackberries and autumn fruiting raspberries, the runner beans and tomatoes show no sign of slowing down and I’m pretending not to notice that the courgettes are no longer small, tender fingers but have ballooned into mammoth marrows.

cockerel and hen

Each evening the hens, ducks and guinea fowl are shut in a little earlier as the days shorten. The ducks come to the kitchen window any time after five in the hope that I might feed them early but the hens linger in the garden so that I sometimes have to chase them out from underneath the rose bush. The guinea fowl just shriek at me from behind the fence in the fruit field, forgetting that they can fly until I wave my arms behind them.

rabbit traps

The oilseed rape is growing well, which means that the usual battle against pigeons and rabbits has started. Just for some variety, moorhens have also decided that the tender green leaves of oilseed rape are tasty and are helping the rabbits and pigeons to clear the crop. Our mode of attack so far is to place gas bird scarers in the fields to deter the pigeons and line up rabbit traps along the headlands. A trail of carrots (sliced lengthways because that’s the way rabbits best like them) lead the unwary rabbit into the cage, where they stand on the plate that springs the door shut behind them. The traps are checked every morning and any captured rabbits are humanely dispatched. Sometimes a rabbit gets lucky and manages to eat all the carrots without springing the door. Sometimes there’s two rabbits in a cage. Sometimes people spot the cages across the field and walk over and shut them. Or turn them over. Or throw them in the ditch. Or steal them.

ducklings on pond

Rather unseasonably for October, one of the ducks has hatched four ducklings. Aren’t they cute? For the moment.

Normally at the beginning of the month I link up to Celia at Fig Jam & Lime Cordial for In My Kitchen but I think I may just post In My Kitchen photos on Instagram instead. This may be a one photo wonder, especially as my enthusiasm for Instagram waxes and wanes. If you want to see what everybody else is up to in their kitchens, check out Celia’s website for a list of proper In My Kitchen stories.


on the farm this week

This week we’ve had sunshine, sunshine and more sunshine! A quick walk along the farm track shows how quickly the crops are ripening.

wheat Gardeners Field July 2013The wheat in Gardeners Field is just beginning to turn from green to golden. The countdown to harvest is beginning with trailers checked over, barns swept and paperwork prepared.

oilseed rape cropThe pods on the oilseed rape crop have filled out. Earlier this year, when the leaves had been eaten away by pigeons, (here’s the photos) we had to decide whether to leave the crop in the ground and hope there was enough crop left to grow or whether to plough it in and drill another crop. We decided to leave it in the ground and though it doesn’t look a fantastic crop, we will at least have something to harvest.

borage growing Essex July 2013Our neigbour was also growing oilseed rape in the field next to The Ley and over the winter we watched as flocks of pigeons flew from our field to their field and back again. Next door they decided to plough up their oilseed rape and drilled borage in its place and now the field is a sea of blue flowers. The tiny black seeds will be harvested for their oil.

ducklingsOne of my ducks has hatched off six pretty little ducklings. Having sat on her nest for a month with the sun glaring down, the mother duck was keen to get onto the pond with her brood as soon as she was satisfied that all the eggs that contained ducklings had hatched. She pushed the unhatched eggs out of her nest, rounded up her little family and headed for the pond. She walked up the ramp but of course the ducklings took the difficult route, having to jump up two steps each higher than themselves. They launched themselves upwards, flapping their immature wings and after a couple of attempts scrambled up, while their mother called them to follow.

ducklings swimming on pondHaving negotiated the steps and the walk across a small yard past parked vans, the ducklings tumbled down the bank of the pond  and plopped into the water. They took to it like … ducks to water and spent the rest of the day swimming around with the other ducks. Now they stand patiently by the gate with the others waiting to be let out every morning and each day the jump up the step seems a little easier.