Thursday, 31 December 2015

Wind Pruned Thorn

May happiness be your frequent companion; as you set forth on paths as yet untrod.

With gratitude enough for the lessons learnt on uphill struggles.

Onwards...'tis the only way.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Twmpa, or Lord Herefords' Knob

The lengths... And heights; to which I will go to avoid tedious admin....

Blustery...But still not that cold for late December in Wales...Great; dragon filled cloudscapes......Glad of the Rubber Bog Trotters for sure.....Wind strength? Not quite blown over....That's a '7' on my personal Beaufort Scale...But comedys'  loss; perhaps my gain.
What a fun sponge...

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Real Farming......Not quite so twee....

A good run out to clear the lungs and the head. These Devon lanes are a touch on the soggy side right now, but there are plenty folks further North who'd give anything to have roads this dry.

This cottage is one of very few round here; that hasn't been 'done up, to within an inch of it's life'.
The garden is typically rural of the old school...i.e. 
"Who's got time or inclination for gardening as a hobby when you're outside working all day anyway?"

Picturesque perhaps; could do with a lick of paint certainly; but if you'd spent all day out with the cows, who could blame you for preferring a nice tidy; easy to run; brick built; centrally heated 'unsightly' bungaloid?

And here below; another scarce beast in these parts. 
A still in operation dairy farm in a valley where once, on account of it's lush grass, it was awash with cows. You'd have to spend most of your waking hours cycling these lanes to risk being stuck behind a herd of those beasts nowadays...It happened to me last Spring whilst pedaling 'The land that time forgot'  cowparsley strewn, misty meanderings of Mid Devon; but that's another story....

This is no nostalgia for the 'olden days'. I've done my time milking cows for months at a stretch. It takes a certain non flighty; steadily dedicated; (dare I say bovine?) routine loving type, to do it long term, even when it makes a living. 

But now with the price of milk on the floor; or at least unreliable enough to discourage long term investment in essential infrastructure; who would blame anyone in possession of a prime piece of real estate such as this; for selling it on to someone with the means to redo the thatch; paviour the collecting yard; and park a shiny 4wd thereupon.....And thence to live happily forever after in a 'Slantylightshire' fantasy land alongside gently grazing ponies for Jasper and Jemima..

If they do; I hope they'll preserve at least some of the wiggly tin for posterity...

Meanwhile; in further afield notes....

With funds somewhat boosted by familial seasonal largesse (Thanks Ma!) Have completed the final booking for my next let - out - of - the - valley - by - myself;  excursion....Someone got the hint about train tickets..and socks..

Will be hanging out on the fringe with a few more 'Green and Pleasant' (Peasant?) Farmers here...

You'd think there might be a modicum of consensus amongst; as to what to do?
But as with most cutting edges; it can get a bit messy... How to avoid self defeating infighting; how not to feel overwhelmed by the challenges ahead?

The problems are apparent to anyone who can spare even a couple of brain cells to rub together over the issues.... Climate change; habitat loss; soil degradation; flooding; food security; air and water pollution; malnutrition running alongside an obesity 'crisis'; depressed farm incomes (and farmers?) nigh on impossible access to land for new farming start ups; faced with inflated land prices; and an unhelpful (to say the least) planning system.

 Public ignorance and apathy. A system of profits paramount; that encourages farmers to 'get big or get out'.....A quick buck attitude; that colludes in the false image of  bucolically blissful country living peddled by some in the media; and oft pictorially plastered on the sides of the pantechnicons that ply our trunk roads, which masking the true realities of unsustainable factory farming and cheap imports...

I could go on ; and I have; and I doubtless shall again.

It will be interesting (to me) to listen to proposed solutions; and argue the toss with like and unalike minds....And to return with new ideas; and most likely more questions...

And I think there might be some dancing, on offer...

It really is quite astonishing the lengths to which I will go to avoid cracking on with those seed orders.... Toodle pip!...My lovelies...

Friday, 25 December 2015

38 years since...

The full moon fell upon this date...
I like to think my nine year old self would be quite pleased to know; that at the next concurrence; her (not quite) grown up self would have her own tractor and loader to catch it in.
The only trouble with 'dreams come true'  if you're the ambitious type; is that you then need some new dreams to chase after...
But in the less ponderous meantime, a bit of a sit down, and more food and drink than is perhaps strictly advisable.
And maybe just slightly less clambering about on slippery compost heaps; aiming to effect the best angle....I was keeping myself entertained whilst waiting for the chickens to go to bed. I think they mistook the rising bright moon for the sun coming up... Country girls; Easily confused.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Picked; Fettled;

And awaiting their final journey. 

35 kilos of the finest organically grown brassicas to be shared nicely between the lucky folk of the Vale.

There's still time for panic buying of more satsumas than one household could feasibly eat in a month.

There's still opportunity for purchasing well meant January land-fill.

We can even spend a bit of time grinding on about how it's all really just a Midwinter Bacchanalian Festivitie to mark the turning of the season; and the pull away from the shortest day.

But in and amongst all of this; we must give some thought to the real significance of this time of year...

It is of course...

All About.

,The Baby Cheeses...

Monday, 21 December 2015

An Anonymous Biscuit Fairie...?

Very much liking this seasonal variation on a theme; upon descending from the heights of the red cabbage patch; homebaked offerings sit awaiting on the porch; blessed much...

I'd call them just desserts for getting ahead with this weeks harvesting. 

Thanks Vera !

Sunday, 20 December 2015

"It's Complicated"

I promised didn't I?

 That I would show you what Girl Monday does when she's not here weeding; helping move chickens; planting x y or z; or hoeing this, that, or the other....

She claims; quite erroneously; that she knows nothing about horticulture after having spent the last twelve years grafting for me.

Naturally she knows loads; but what she means is that she is quite happy not to be required to know.
Someone else is in charge ; she only has to do; not organise; not plan; not be an authority; not be answerable........

'Girl Monday' practises the art and craft of; and teaches; and researches; and writes books about; and runs a business supplying the materials for; Kumihimo.

The ancient, meticulously mathematical art, of Japanese braiding....One could very easily get horribly tangled up with it...

She's even been to those Isles to teach it back to them... Talk about 'Coals to Newcastle'...

Pictured above are many hand made braids stitched together, which eventually covered the whole surface area of a jacket. It might make one weep to calculate the hours of work involved. And if all those hours were charged; even at the minimum wage it would run into the thousands; but that is not what it's about...

All very well you might say for someone able to indulge in 'La di da' crafts whilst the rest of us have to go out and graft at a dull job to earn a living....

Yes indeed.

 GM can now make a living at doing what she does. But that doesn't mean there weren't many years of having margarine instead of butter; (ultimate sacrifice in my book) and folks hinting 'you could get a proper job with your qualifications / intelligence'. Years of wondering where the electricity bill payments were coming from; and so on.....

Now; for GM there are international teaching gigs; there are book orders; research grants coming in from all over; exciting commissions.  And that's all very well and satisfying when you can look back.....And know it worked out.

At the time with small children; swimming against the tide so to speak; wondering "am I being self indulgent?" Most folks could be forgiven for opting for a safer, more stable career path....

And then what? What is the point of all this 'art n craft n doing your thing' stuff?

 It is what makes us human perhaps?

Makes our hearts sing? It doesn't matter what it is....Some of us get it from climbing mountains; crocheting tea cosies; making (or eating) cheese; music; dancing; adorning our toenails; telling tall stories; studying particle physics; arguing the toss; growing fragrant flowers; painting our bedrooms pink; the list is endless.

Of course. first, we need to be able to fulfil our basic needs; food; shelter; safety for ourselves and at the very least our kin.
 But even whilst we satisfy those needs, something in us is looking for the other; the creative; our own voice; our own individual response to the wonderment of being alive; and here right now; on this incredible planet....

And then of course there's that:- 'This Planet'... Oh bugger!

 We all know that it isn't an infinite plain of infinite depth; with infinite resources to use and unlimited atmosphere to pollute.

But most of us; in the west at least; (myself very much included) live as if it were...

We know (if those pictures from space are to be believed) that we inhabit a tiny fragile unique spheroid of life; with the thinnest crust of usable soil; and that fresh water is a scarce miracle, and that the atmosphere has only so much capacity...

But at the same time; there is so much to see and do......

'Girl Monday' may (or may not depending on whether any burglars* are reading) have just gone off again; to the Far East; for her second fun jaunt that way this year...
She is fully aware that cycling here each Monday doesn't 'Greenwash Hogwash' Offset that.

I reckon that well over half the people I hold dearest have taken at least one long haul flight this last year, either for work or pleasure... Often both.
So with me being a environmentalist non flier you might think I would disapprove?

Well; "Its complicated"

 I love my friends, I want them to be happy and fulfilled, and have good times (just spare me too many details....)
And they are all switched on enough know the consequences of what they're doing.

And I know it doesn't make a gnats fart of a difference overall if I do; or don't fly.

We all have to decide individually upon lines that we will; or won't; cross to satisfy our desires...
And then of course those lines can shift.....

Another friend; who comes to help quite regularly at the field; has been up til now of the staunchly no flying camp.

But just recently has been offered work in backcountry Canada setting up (spot the glaring irony here) 'outdoor environmental education' programmes for children.

What to do? Principals; versus well paid work, kudos, and playing in the woods in Canada...

They would be crazy not to go....

It's relatively easy to have principals when you're not being overly tempted.....
But when you are? That's when the really hard work begins.....

As Oscar would have it.

"I can resist anything; except temptation"

And then qualifies with....

“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.”

Whilst I was checking the attribution was correct.... Dear, dear Google.... This; of his; also struck as apposite...

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” 

It is something we can all claim as being the worlds leading expert on....Being ourselves.... For good or ill.

And what that is, shifts, and is complicated.......

*She has housesitters BTW.....

Friday, 18 December 2015

Pink wiggles

Beyond weeding and harvesting there is precious little horticulture that goes on at this time of year.
But plenty of prep and planning for next season to be undertaken.

After filling in the 'Productivity of Small Farms' survey, and wrestling with seed orders this week it brings home why sometimes all this bucolic blissfulness can feel a mite overwhelming... 
Over fifty different crops; to fit in their proper places rotation, quantity, and timing wise. Then so many varieties of each to consider. It can get a bit 'kid in a sweetie shop' when looking at pretty pictures in catalogues... 
Too much choice; and of course they are all 'generously cropping; and of a superb flavour'

But then, when asked "What is your most profitable crop ?"
 The answer has to be "Variety"

That could be the spur for somewhat hyperbolic accolades such as; "It's like Christmas every week "

(A friend informs me that particular 'festivitie'  does actually fall in seven days time ; but I'm going to hold off believing them for a little while yet...And anyhoo there are plenty of sprouts.... isn't that enough?)

The prospect of say eight different types of tomato, or five different sorts of climbing french beans, in the summer could possibly be what keeps the patrons steadily munching through their kale (six varieties), and dreaming up 'new ways with beetroot' (three varieties) all through the Winter.

And it does make it a bit more engaging for the grower...

So today was the day, for cleaning the outsides of the polytunnels, in order that the shepherds delight can paint them this; oh so alluring pink.
 Algae forms on the polythene and cuts light transmission to the crops inside.
 But how do you clean the top of something that stands over 15 feet tall at its apogee; and that is made of slippery plastic which mustn't be scratched or climbed upon?
Well, first you make sure it's Friday so the man of that monikker is to hand... And then, check there will be some rinsing rain in the next twenty four hours.
Next half fill a dustbin with hot water and add generous amounts of non-biological washing powder. The bio stuff won't do...Eats away at the triple laminate plastic.

Have much fun; and several fails: at tossing a rope over said tunnel.... 
This man sails boats; but obviously isn't usually required to throw a painter (?) quite so high. 
Once successful.....
Dump a long length of crop cover mesh into the hot water. attach mesh to rope and haul one wet soapy end of it over to the other side.

Then it's "To me; to you" up and down its length like scrubbing the back of a whale.
Repeat times three.
You end up with very soapy armpits; unnaturally clean hands; and somewhat achy biceps; but the pakchoi and other assorteds are very grateful I'm sure.

 What if it doesn't rain to rinse? Deploy a farm boy with a hosepipe in the morning?
 I think his lie in is assured; I can hear it starting to chuck it down now.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Unsung Heroes

Look after the bugs; and everything else will look after itself...

On a day that butterfly population rates are reported to have declined depressingly.......

Here are some shots of our fellow residents taken by someone who knows how to drive his camera; taken at the 'stead last Summer...

Yes I am getting on with seed orders; and lovely murky weather for it too.
 But that can make it hard to imagine that warmer weather will return; and that Spring will ever be sprung enough to sow new crops.

All these jewel like creatures living here in such abundance give some hope.

 And justification for not always being on top of the weeding; it means the wee beasties get plenty forage.

Yes of course I will give them all names soon, in order to satisfy the entomologically curious ......

More distractions.......Just what I need

But in the meantime...

Pictures by Paul Taylor :- July 2015

Elspeth getting into her stride......

' wrestling' sheild bugs

Friday, 11 December 2015

And Lo' the great 'Sprout Fest' begins....

"Don't get me involved in your vegetable dioramas"

Quote from second born son whilst he helps fettle and bag produce for the seasonal markets; I get diverted  by just how very distractingly pink chard stalks can be; and request that he pass me a slightly smaller bud, for my pictorial tomfoolery.

Apparently the abundant sprout crop isn't entirely down to my consummate skill as a grower. This August's weather is more likely the main cause. So sorry kids; there are going to be plenty everywhere...Mmm.

A two day yoga sojourn in Bristol coming up for me.
Might not be some people' equivalent of a 'lie down in a darkened room', for the mentally stretched.....

But I would disagree. Being a student, is tantamount to a luxury break for anyone in the bad habit taking on too much....Someone else being in charge; no expectations; lovely.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Trains, bicycles, custards, and wiggles,

Whatever does it for you....Do more of it....

This October I was in Yorkshire; cycling about in various weathers. 
During a brief respite from the Proper Northern Rain, this steam train arrived in Goathland on the North Moors.

 I could have got a better shot of it pulling in, if I'd been prepared to leap into the path of an oncoming lorry on the very narrow bridge; under which the rolling stock was passing. Obviously not enough dedication to the cause to attempt a third career in photo journalism.

This picture reminded me of something I only recently discovered about my father, when reading through some old papers of his. 
It was in a transcript of a speech that an old college friend of his had given at his memorial service. Apparently as a youth he was mad keen on trains (yes; even spotting them) and bicycles; something I really don't remember being made aware of as a child growing up.

It made me wonder at how many of our proclivities are absorbed almost by osmosis; rather than directly learnt..

Now, this may single me out as part of the 'Easily Pleased' coterie (no bad thing IMO); but loading a bicycle onto a train is probably one of my top ten thrills. 
Pregnant with the possibilities of new horizons; self directed travel (if they let you off at your chosen stop*) ; whilst at the same time combining two very elegant pieces of engineering.

My career path has been quite different to his; but I think I could credit him; and my mother too with the employment philosophy of "Find something you like doing, and are hopefully reasonably good at, and then work out a way of getting someone to pay you for doing it"

He managed just that; right up until his far too early death seventeen years ago today. 

At the time of his passing he was only twice my age. Having been something of a dilettante in terms of my own occupations up until then; I think his untimely demise somewhat galvanised my energies into 'getting on with life, and settling enough to something (or as it turned out several things) to see it through'.

Small mixed farming suits the temperament of someone in possession of multiple enthusiasms. There's never one job that goes on too long; and there's lots of stuff to find out about, involving a wide range subjects and variables.

Teaching yoga although completely different in some ways; still throws up many challenges and avenues to explore; in addition to being sociable, useful, and fun.

Pa' was a lifelong devotee of a good bit of quality food and drink, I remember his unfondly reminiscing about having grown up in the 'Arid Cake Belt' of East Sheen in the fifties.....
He was particularly keen on the cuisines of the Mediterranean and Middle East; tastes he had acquired through extensive travels in those areas for 'work'.

The legend is, in the world of academic specialisation that:
"You get to know more and more: about less and less; until one day you end up knowing everything about nothing."

Towards the end of his life however he had taken to studying archaeology in areas of recent seismic activity; in order to gain insights in his field of tectonics.

It may not have been entirely coincidental that these studies required him to undertake frequent trips to sunny; properly well-fed lands...

He would most certainly have approved these Sicilian Egg Custards baked by 'Cake Fairy in Chief' Cynthia for the Open Day here at the field, in July. 

Even with the less than conventional addition of her own home grown blueberries.
 How many now classic immutable recipes were 'invented' when something fell into a pot quite by accident. Leading to sublime combinations like this. 

Neither of my jobs is going to bring in vast monetary riches; certainly not with the way I keep accounts anyway;  but this region is so thickly populated with kitchen genii, and culinary craftspersons; that one is seldom left wanting in the delectable edibles department.

If I did have spare cash; I guess it could either be train tickets; more new socks; or possibly an addition to my already extensive (in deep need of rationalisation if I'm honest) collection of tractor implements.... Look girls! It's the spring tine cultivator....With following crumbler bar...... For those of us who just can't resist a bit of a wiggle....

Monday, 7 December 2015

Fresh Pastures.

Fret not; small farming has not been totally abandoned in favour of other outdoor pursuits.

Here Girl Monday #1 makes herself very popular with the girls; newly liberated onto fresh ground, and always glad of some corn to scratch for.

It has to be healthier for the birds to get new forage; and be displaced from their own detritus every few weeks.

It took us less than an hour to move the hens and their house this morning; including taking down then re erecting their netting fences.

Leaving more time for the never ending; self perpetuating job of salad weeding. Natures way of keeping us out of mischief...

Despite having plenty of her own self generated fun to hand; GM has been helping me for the majority of monday mornings for the last twelve years. Not least; by engaging in the kind of conversation that makes three hours fly by.

Soon I will show you what she does with some of her time when she's not busy with horticultural hi jinks here.

Suspense aplenty....

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Surfing at Sunny Sidmouth

Each to their own....Looked like fun..


Surfing in December?

In the tail end of a storm called Desmond?
Some folks maybe didn't ought to be let out by themselves.
Who names these storms? Desmond sounds more 'benevolent uncle' than malevolent tempest.
We've got off lightly down south this time. 

But over the last few Winters our sandstone cliffs have taken a fair old pummelling, from elements undubbed. Our Island is shrinking year on year.
Those land loss statistics might make alarming reading; let's not waste any more good land; building stuff we don't need?

Meanwhile in other stat's news... I was pleased to get all the way up our local cyclists challenge, 'Peak Hill' ascending from Sidmouth, without stopping.
No weight in the panniers makes a massive difference..
Who would have thought?
Oh, and the stats..? 1.64 km, 157m ascent....Time?...Yeah right; I do stuff like that...

View from top?....Spectacular, if blowy.

And paperwork progress?
Hmmn, does walking round self importantly; with a clipboard feverishly scribbling notes; count?

Good.....It's going just fine!

No rolling stones here..

Who doesn't love a good mossy wall - tree combo?

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Friday Frolics....

All work no play etc...

In light of the favourable weather forecast; an executive decision was taken to eschew horticulture in favour of a 'works outing' to Dartmoor. Quite whose genius idea, it first was, to do this being the subject of some controversy (poor Man Friday).

First a brief tea stop to catch up with inestimable Kate, and her burgeoning (but sadly in some parts broken) menagerie on the Eastern edge of the moor...

Then a few miles circuit taking in some breezy heights such as Hound Tor; and here Greator Rocks.

Snapping the chaps doing their best ' Mid Eighties Moody Album Cover' poses on the descent.

For anyone tutting at the less than conventional rock hopping footwear.... I can personally attest that these 'Bog trotters' have a perfectly adequate grip on wet granite.

Very useful too for the moister; deeper parts oft encountered hereabouts; You just have to be careful not to leave your boot behind in a bog.


Apropos of not very much at all.....

Naughty Dorothy Parker upon being tasked with employing the word 'horticulture' in a sentence...

"You can take a whore to culture; but you can't make her think"

I sometimes worry that horticulture leaves a girl with a tad too much time for reflection...Giving rise to a surfeit of 'parlous nonsense.'

But it's now only eighteen days until the shortest one?... Where did that year go?
So today; perusal of seed catalogues for next season, and catching up on some other long ignored paperwork.  
Will doubtless find more interesting diversions to distract myself with afore long...Could always go for a bike ride....

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Confession time...

On an unseasonably warm December day like this; all I really want to do is ride my bicycle.

The oaks still have their leaves on; these linearly aligned ones were once part of a Devon hedge bank; it's since been let go; and the trampling cattle have worn the soil down; so the exposed roots look like gnarled fingers gripping the earth.

The temptation is just to keep rolling on...

I realise it is almost exactly thirty years to the week since I first arrived to work and live in this valley; the plan was to move on after a years work experience. But plans are of course what we make; whilst life happens to us...

Not such a dreadful place to get stuck I think you'll agree.

And I've been cycling up and down this lane for work and pleasure ever since; and herded sheep; bedded sows; tended vegetables; and made hay in many of the fields besides it; along the way.

I did have a reasonable reason to be out whilst right hand Wednesday girl was industriously harvesting the Cavello Nero.....Apparently the blood test shows amongst other things; that I have the kidneys of a twenty year old...
A good thing; one hopes....Or was the doctor suggesting I might like to lay off the ale??

And you can breathe easy now; the balmy temperatures; and the rain in abeyance meant that I did get those last few handfuls of ryecorn tickled into the old pig ground...The corvids hadn't found all of it.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Fresh air; and rainbows....

That's what the ladies live on...
Up til now
Then today I heard a pleasing thing... 

It was several years back, I remember a radio programme about a chap proposing to farm maggots; on slaughter house waste; to create chicken, fish, and pig food.
 All those creatures need a high protein diet which these days usually comes from soya....Not the most sustainable source; even if it's GM free, and organically grown.
But nothing seemed to come of it....I assumed it had fallen foul (fowl?) of 'cultural resistance' Otherwise known as 'the yuk factor'.
Anyway- up; apparently there is currently a woman trialling farm scale production in this country; the flies are feeding on manure (any less yuk?) and the maggots when they're 'ready' conveniently crawl off their food source and congregate waiting to be gathered. 
 Which are then doubtless gently anaesthetised by soporific songs, composed specifically for the purpose. 
Makes perfect sense; turning a liability into an asset. And the manure will have been beautifully processed; into a usable soil amendment...
Will it take off? Remains to be seen. Perhaps just too neat a solution ? 

Could the thought of hens eating maggots be too much for squeamish folk to stomach?
 And if so; do I need to tell the ladies to lay off all those yummy woodlice they are presently dining off in the woodchip pile?

Monday, 30 November 2015

Will we ever learn??

The answer is? Well that depends....

Willingness to learn is essential undoubtedly; but can the teacher understand their pupils struggles; and point of view? Equally vital; but harder to master.

Some things come more naturally to some of us. Other skills we've worked hard to achieve; but we can all too easily forget how hard it was to 'get it' at the beginning.

Ever been frustrated by trying to teach a child to tie their shoelaces? You only have to try doing it back to front.... left first; instead of right; to realise just how awkward it once was....I have a mental block around I.T.; my children are nearly always very patient with me... I very rarely have to remind them that once upon a time; I had to teach them how to use a spoon...

 Even the brightest amongst us can take in, and fully retain, perhaps three things at once? 
That's on a good day; with full attention able to be given; and a mind uncrowded by that endless 'to think about' list.

People will often leave a yoga class saying they feel far more relaxed... That's not because they've spent an hour and a half wafting about; gazing at candles; inhaling incense; and chanting...

 Sorry if that disappoints; but we don't do any of that stuff..We work hard physically; always safely; always within our own capabilities; it's just most folks are capable of a lot more than they imagine...

I believe resulting relaxed mind is far more to do with having to be fully present to what we are physically doing right now; complete attention given to the precision demanded from this form of yoga..

It is almost impossible to think about any of lifes worries whilst you're balancing on one (hopefully very straight) leg; and then doing your best to get the rest of yourself properly aligned and extended, in relation to it.

 Iyengar Yoga appeals not exclusively to the logically minded, systematic type, but there are a lot of scientists, educationalists, and dare I say it? Men; who take it up. 

Ardha Chandrasana.... Top arm should be vertical....

Another oft encountered barrier is the "what we are used to doing" hurdle. The picture above shows Ardha Chandrasana.... Half moon pose...At first appearance considerably trickier than Trikonasana seen below; which is one of the very first postures we teach beginners.

But really the main difference is that in the above pose we're asked to stand on one foot and one hand: rather than our usual two feet. The shape; limb in relation to limb; is really not that different...

The adult brain puts up a bit of resistance at first. But if you can get your grown up 'brainy' brain to shut up for a bit; and let the mind experience; through a step by step methodical approach; what the body can do; it often in turn surprises the brain....And thus builds confidence for the next adventure.

Trikonasana... Triangle posture..Strenghtens; lengthens; opens; and realigns...Puts your bones back where they should be... 

One of my favourite teaching moments, is getting middle aged girls; who claim they couldn't achieve it in the school yard; up into their first ever in their lives hand-stand.... Child-like whoops of joy often emanate....From them...(I try to keep mine on the inside)

Probably best I leave it there... If they cotton on to just how much enjoyment I get out of teaching 'em they might refuse to pay anymore...,,

But no; that's my ridiculous; quasi Calvanistic - 'work should only ever be hard' attitude that kicks in on occasion; something that I definitely need to unlearn.

 This Sundays extra class had the winning combination of being informative and enjoyable for everyone; as well as lucrative for me; and that of course is O.K.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Timely Reminder...

Undertaking what is probably the last big cultivation job of the year...Just quarter of an acre of ground, where the lately departed porkers once rootled. It's very poor practice to leave soil bare over the winter, precipitates loss of nutrients and soil micro life.

So yesterday I hitched up one of my favourite attachments...On the edge of being slightly too heavy for the Ford; Massey discs. The light and sandy conditions here means that even after only a couple of dry days it's acceptable to cultivate carefully; without risking damaging the soil structure; or  becoming bogged down to the point of needing a tow by another local farmer...

The discs lift and turn just the top few inches of soil. Then it's back to highly enjoyable medieval handwork methods; broadcasting the grazing ryecorn seed which will germinate even at this tardy point in the season. This 'green manure' will grow slowly; but protect against erosion; and keep hold of the pigs' contribution to fertility; until the resulting greenery can be worked back into the soil in the spring; prior to next years squash crop being planted.

Cycles and circularity of nutrition and cropping, in some ways ...But not quite a closed system; current legislation requires that pigs cannot be fed on our food waste; of which they are near perfect 
re processors, they have instead to be fed on soya based pellets...
Hopefully before too long this wasteful practice will be reversed, and swine can reclaim their status as most efficient converters of the inedible into the highly comestible.

After casting the grain about; it's off with the discs; and back on with the spring tines; to tickle in the seed; followed by the crumbler bar that firms it in to the tilth.

 I will dig out a picture... There are some as find that particular item of agricultural kit quite visually stimulating.

Then only ten minutes off completion; the sky darkens noticeably ...Nearly four O'clock;  I could have finished; but a figure approaches; I'm needed urgently elsewhere; annoyance turns to relief as only then do I realise, I'm about to run out of fuel; (the tractor; not me; I'm still full of Friday cake). And thereby am serendipitously saved from the very tedious job, of bleeding the diesel system...

By the time I get back up the hill with a jerry can of fuel it is pretty much dark; plus it's now bucketing down; the leaden sky was full of rain as well as duskiness. But I could just refill and get those last few yards done...
Climbing onto the slippery bonnet; funnel in one hand 20 litres of fuel in the other; I finally gather some sense...Hmmm? Rushing these jobs seldom ends well..

 I have a neat little scar on my inner thigh from an incident a few years back where I was saving a few seconds with what I knew at the time was an ill - advised implement manouvre. 
Hydraulic systems are very powerful; even on aged kit; and are no respecters of human flesh....
"One legged yoga teacher / farmer" might be a novelty act too far?

Farming has overtaken deep sea fishing; and construction;  to gain the unenviable pole position, in terms of highest accident rate statistics.

Maybe in part because we are often working by ourselves; racing against time; or the weather; or both; employing perhaps less than state of the art equipment?

Might this be in someway related to the minimal income that can be derived from food production? Or are we all just 'gung ho' idiots who didn't ought to be let out by ourselves? 

I was also mindful of the fact that today I was doing an emergency first aid refresher course. It would have been deeply embarrassing to have to cry off with a work related injury.......And to have missed the opportunity for a good bit of sitting down and tea and biscuits; between bouts of CPR and bandaging. 

So the cheeky jackdaws; that are often on hand to assist with cultivations; will have had a fair portion of that ryecorn by now; and it might not stop raining for a month; so it may be too late to work it in properly. But in the grand scheme of things; not much was lost.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

What no Thursday Custard???

Even a paragon of productivity is allowed an occasional early night...

Maybe she's still recovering from the weekend?.....Those pictures are definitely pay per view...

Still; the fragile feeling custard creator was on hand to help with the all important salad harvest this morning....

A genuine customer accolade...
  "Now that we have a regular Fresh and Green salad bag; our lives are complete"

Hmmn; over-egging it a tad?

Well; who am I to judge?

But it does put a bit of pressure on those of us tasked with producing them.....All year round.

Showing just a few of the varieties that go into the salad bags: - Wild and tame rocket, mizuna. red mustard, joi choi. purple pak choi, moroccan littlecress, cavello nero, red oakleaf lettuce, and in the foreground, chrysanthemum greens.

 I put off growing these for years as personally I can't abide the smell of their flowery counterpart, and naturally assumed they might taste similar. But in addition to producing abundant greenery through the shorter days. they are really very good. Something I only discovered during an impromptu farm tour with a fellow grower. 

Here; hearteningly weed free beds indicate that it has rained here quite a lot recently.
Weeding in the polytunnel being the default job for soggy days. 
Tomorrow might have to be outside work; whatever the weather; the leeks need some attention....It's on the list; so no shirking it. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The 'stead...

Taken almost exactly a year ago...Yes I am very tall....

Attendees at Landworkers Alliance meeting this weekend were mostly young, clearsighted, intelligent, well educated sorts; all of whom have experienced the joys of endlessly weeding leeks in the rain; and other associated bucolic blissfullness....

Yet they are still keen to get on with realising their ambitions of, making a sustainabiy scaled,  environmentally benign living, from producing decent, affordable food, for folk in their locality.

But the barriers to them achieving those aims; in this age of the ever increasing commodification of land and food production; are possibly even more insurmountable now; than when the pictured plot  was purchased; with the same intentions.

  Back then, nearly ten years ago  it was a featureless pasture field; most likely destined for 'horseyculture' not food growing..

After an amount of work; and some investment of energy, time, and money, it is starting to shape up as a viable small farm...

So it might be time for me to step up; as someone who could be regarded as an 'old hand' (eeek) to join the ranks of those campaigning on behalf of the new generation. 

Those keen; energetic (and crazy) enough to take on the task of feeding the country properly, need encouragement.

Multiple studies have shown that smaller farms are more productive overall per acre. And employ more people...

But policy documents? (gulp) Position papers?(arrghh) European consultations, and lobbying? Well maybe......

Those girls and boys certainly do furnish a decent nosh; and knees up.......And not a knitted knicker; or whittled spoon; in sight...

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Sending Oneself to Coventry...

On Being Quiet...


Today I'm flying low, and I'm
not saying a word.

I'm letting all of the voodoos of ambition

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,

the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten
And so forth.

But I'm taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather

I hardly move though really I'm travelling
a terrific distance

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple

Mary Oliver


Friday, 20 November 2015

Once you've got a fire going..

"It isn't really work any more"
Words of wisdom from 'Man Friday'
New to some of you..
When he's not gadding about the globe; or off sailing other peoples boats.
He turns up at the end of most weeks through the darker months to keep me on top of the job list...Endlessly enthusiastic; energetic; and relentlessly cheery...
Must be all the veg' and yoga of which he partakes...
Exhausting sometimes; no slacking allowed; except for cake breaks.....
But I did get to cross four things off the to do list...Usually three feels like an epic 'win'.
And no; I didn't do that sneaky; but satisfying cheat of writing down an 'already done' just in order to strike it through.
So a Friday eve' beer to accompany the waste consuming blaze seems like a trifling thing to offer.
Especially as he will be off marketing the vegetables tomorrow morning in town, while chief custard wrangler and I go off for a 'works jolly'...

Broad View; still some work to do...

The view from the hill helpfully hides at least two thirds of the workload behind the windbreak of Italian Alders...Nitrogen fixers plus potential firewood..

But it's starting to feel like a few things are getting under control...

Ha; what a statement to make...

Control is a hopeless word; for a situation where it's far more about keeping the plates spinning; and trusting that natural processes will continue to do their thing.

All we can do, is to encourage natural flows to go towards where we would like them.

"Working with nature" is an much over used; nebulous; means nothing; and yet means everything term...

At least in the world of organics; and general 'Greenery'.

It presupposes that we even know, how nature really does work....Mysterious ways muchly....

Good solid science can tell us a lot. 

But there's still an awful amount of research yet to be done around understanding how something as seemingly mundane; yet complex and life sustaining, as soil, actually fuctions.

In a healthy loam there are a myriad microscopic organisms; plus associated buglets; endlessly interacting; and producing and consuming micronutrients, and minerals.

Then there are multiple soil types; climatic conditions; crops that can be grown..

How do you set up empirical tests for all that? In each and every situation? 

And who is going to fund all that research?

When at the end of it all there is no actual marketable product; or magic bullet to sell to us organic growers...?

And even if a sustainable one were to be found; could we afford to use it?

For now; and I suspect in the longer term;, we just have to trust our instincts; whilst making best use of that experience and knowledge we, and others may have garnered over the years...

And of course keep on larding on the love; and compost....

Thursday, 19 November 2015

It Can't beThursday Again...?

But we have to believe the evidence before our eyes...

Luxuriating 'pon a bed of frilly brassica nonsense; the luscious dish of  nutmeggy wondrousness nourishes and delights in equal measure..

Fewer daylight hours makes it feel as if someone has stolen a couple of days out of the week.
 I guess in days gone by we would have naturally slept more at this time of year; not sat up late writing fatuous nonsense about custard.

But I've personally no nostalgia for the so called 'good old days'. 
Hopelessly over romanticised; and pretty certain it was often colder; harder work; and could be dull and narrow viewed . Modern life may have it's downsides but on the whole I wouldn't swap.

Looking forward to a 'girls on the road' trip with the creator of this confection at the weekend.
Pictured here peeping from 'mongst the Flower Sprouts.

I'm voluntarily 'sending myself to Coventry'.

For The Land Workers Alliance AGM, 

Should be a good bit more fun than might first present.... Proper Shindig; excellent food; bit of a knees up; and the chance (hope?) to be reinvigorated by some like minded folk...

Looking for some portion of camaraderie; inspiration; and encouragement; to help with the oft muddy slog of 'getting through' murky winter days, whilst making a go of earning a smallish living from the land... 

Just need to remember to keep my counsel with the outer fringes of yoghurt weavers; and knicker knitters; who may be present ... They'll grow out of it...Perhaps?

And anyway we have a pitchfork on our logo...So who could resist...??

Still; to my mind at least; all of this farming m'larkey beats going to and from an office in the twilight; and only seeing the sky for a few precious hours at the weekend; if you're lucky..

We may well get a good few crispy, shiny days before long; even snow?
 Will then be able to keep toasty shoveling it all off the veg, pre' harvest... Larks aplenty. 

Hmm; lets see;  just how much genuine chirpiness that extra labour produces; when the time comes...

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Wide enough skies here too...

Got back just before dusk..
It sneaks up quickly; this time of year...
Was viewing a potential bit of tractor kit..
Which wasn't wide enough...The search continues.

But cycling unloaded feels like flying; even on Devon Hills.

A watery sky and skeletal trees; after recent November gusts, suggests that a bit of hatch battening is called for.
Wild weather can be fun; if you don't have to spend most of the day chasing crop covers all over the field...

Sunnier Times...

Snapped here (no; not in half) By girl Monday #1......I have two of them on occasion; how blessed?
These brassica were just babies when we employed some 'practical yoga -   uttanasana to keep out their weedy competitors.
The hinge is at the hips; thus avoiding bending the back...It does take a bit of consistent; persistent; lifting fronts and backs of legs; to safely get your hamstrings lengthened this much...

But being able to reach the earth; without it hurting your back; is useful for all kinds of tasks...Especially given that most work here does tend to be at ground level.

Sadly; the season for wearing pink socks is over....But these babies have grown up into harvestable cabbages...Crunchy Savoy; with leaves like bright green tripe.

So I'd better go and cut some now for those folks eagerly awaiting this week's delivery..

Waterproof trousers on; yuk; but proper coffee on too...Right-hand Wednesday Girls on their way.
Blessed again.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Still hanging on...

Temporary fix; last featured here 7th August...
Update...A few months have gone by now; and still really no closer to being put right.
 It continues to makes me smile though.... Every time I see it. But how long will it hold....?

Someone will get to it; at some point.
 All in good time...
Devon Time.

And as predicted; some of the red has turned to pink.
Second born son informs me that he used to slide between these railings at his old village primary school; so their child containment function is obviously limited.
He is a good deal taller now; but certain that his expansion widthways has not kept up...Was this damage caused by someones' unsuccessfully reliving their boyhood?
Slow work day at the field?

Quite the contrary; but if it's pictures of girls giving cabbages a darn good weeding that you're after; I'll have to have a rummage; in the archive....
Because it was back to 'wearing mud' not just dressed in muddy colours today; I need to get a lens cover for my phone camera...