Monday, 29 February 2016

"Spot the difference"



At last; dry enough to get under way with some serious cultivations. Does it make the work any less worthy if I actually rather enjoy steaming up and down on the tractor; and taking the corners just a tad on the speedy side? 
No; I thought not. You've got to get your kicks where you can.

The soil here; through virtue of being sandy does dry out pretty quickly; even after days of rain. And the frost helps by squeezing some more of the moisture out.

Although, when I put this theory to a couple of country friends at the weekend they looked at me quite blankly and wondered aloud what on earth I was on about. To the point where I questioned whether I was talking sense.

It was only by having to explain myself more fully that I started to believe the validity of the statement.
 The water between the soil particles gets frozen; thus expanding; it's pushed to the surface; then subsequently on thawing; the wind and sun is more likely to whisk the moisture away through evaporation. 
Just like when unwrapped food in the freezer dries out at the edges; or how freeze drying works I suppose.

So it made me have a thought for all the knowledge that we do have; some directly imbibed from what one would hope were reliable sources; then tested if opportunity arises; and some worked out for ourselves through observation...
 "If this applies here; then surely it should apply there."

The saying goes something like "We should never over estimate a persons knowledge; but nor should we under estimate their intelligence"

Perhaps one flows into the other, but none of us are born knowing anything.
So if you don't know, find out.The closed incurious mind seems like an awful waste of good grey matter. But of course, you do need to be interested in the first place. 

So back and forth with the duck foot cultivator, seen here, to get deep into the ground that the chickens have laid bare with their grazing; then the same again with the spring tines and following clod crumbling bar, pictured elsewhere; to loosen and aereate the soil, and expose any weed roots to the dessiccating effect of the wind and frost.... Only it's going to rain again tomorrow. 

No matter its a start, and the days are lengthening noticeably now...

Its hard not to wonder, just how well adapted psychologically we truly are to these dark northern climes in the winter.
 How about we all just down tools; and migrate to the Med' for the dark days?


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Tines getting quite deep and groovy, note the enthusiastic mole activity in the foreground, that's what comes of applying lots of love and compost... A healthy population of worms to encourage the velvet coated gentleman... If you ever get to look at one close up, check out its front paws, incredible digging machines...

New ladies in the background are curious, they'd be doing some enthusiastic worm bothering here for sure.




Guaranteed gargantuan crowd pleaser; hooge rocks; in a hooge trailer..

It was shortly after what should have been a solemn occasion; that the conversation re soil moisture arose.

 A dear friend, has sadly lost one of her dear hossy friends to tetnus (vaccinated yes; but it doesn't always work).
 So in the spirit of 'moor trees' and at her request I took a small Hazel to the lower slopes of Easdon on Dartmoor; to plant upon his remains, once the digger had done its work.

These enormous granite boulders; nestling here in a full sized tractor trailer; weren't from the grave site; but were extracted from quite nearby; imagine trying to cultivate round them? Small wonder arable crops are confined to the lowlands.

Anyway between bouts of trying not to giggle 'cos we should be serious, and the dotty dalmation doing a gleeful valedictory gallop past every two minutes, the whole funereal event ended up fairly chirpy.

He was a chirpy equine when in the mood; and apparently partial to eating hazel trees so would have appreciated the gesture one hopes...

 And thence we repaired to the Warren House Inn (highest pub on the Moor... sorry no stats) for raising of pints, chips, and selected topics of lady conversation (more chortles) as a final send off .

It was so clear up there that day... You could pretty much see for ever; or at least as far as Plymouth...
The edge of the known universe.

The previous day had also been spent happily in the safe hands of a senior yoga teacher, who had come to the sticks to bestow her knowledge ....Prodigious quantities of; but lightly worn.... The best combination.

 Thereby putting everyones' bones back closer to where they should be, and reminding us of the fact that everything starts from the base... i.e. what is touching the ground and how it is placed, will affect how everything else lifts up from there.

It's all stuff that us teachers tell our students in various ways every week, but sometimes just a different form of words to emphasise; and pass on helps.

It is after all; just physics innit? In order for something to lift up; that is; the whole body; particularly the spine; something else has to press down.

 But how often do we practice it? How often are we far more in our heads than in our bodies?

I often give my yogis toe exercises, when they're standing up. It's not strictly yoga per se. but it does take their minds into their feet, instead of just having their brainy brains fizzing round in their heads..

It also lifts the arches of the feet and starts the process of getting things back where they should be, building a foundation for the structure above, so everything done is a little less difficult in the long run.

Of course its not a panacea cure all; for every ill... Beware of anyone claiming that for anything.




Something like this..

Big toes pressed down, all the other toes up...higher.....

All the small toes down, big toes up..

Then; here we go...trickier stuff now; big toes down, little (5th) toe down, the triumverate of toes in between up...

There is an arch; of sorts across the forefoot...Which should add to the spring in your step once you've got it.

And taking longer strides might mean your shoes wear out less quickly; fewer ground contacts per mile?
Footwear manufacturers aren't going to like that idea much...

And now; relax your face, and unscrunch your fingers...


The brain sends the message to the fingers, perhaps thinking that's what you're trying to do..
Similar wiring diagram I suppose, and the poor, mostly ignored toes aren't used to getting messages sent solely, specifically for them alone.
However with practice; and persistence; you can get through; and even if it's not perfect reception; you are at least a little more aware that you're connected to the earth; and thereby everything else; on and around it.

 And that concept can come across as a bit 'Unicorn bothering' to some; but the interconnectedness is also a real actual 'thing' rather than just an airy fairy twinkly cosmic way of magical thinking.

"Feel the Force" .....Said someone...Tis powerful stuff.


But like most endeavours you've got to put in the effort; and the hours initially; before you start to accrue the benefits... 

And of course.

There really is nothing new under the sun; as a lecturer at agricultural college often used to remind us all; nearly thirty years ago.

 And now the very same chap comes to my classes; just to rearrange the same old stuff into a hopefully more usable and comfortable form...




Interesting collection of sticks n bones, and a barbed wire ball, on the gate post at the funereal farm....

Seem to be doing a reasonable job of keeping the warlocks at bay... Haven't been troubled by them for months...But the three year old who lives there is quite keen to exhume the deceased horse very soon, she wants to see if its transformed into a skeleton yet....Patience is a really hard crop to cultivate.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Everyday Essentials...

This well honed blade has seen a few years work; now thinning down after many encounters with the whet stone; a fixed handle seems to work best for general harvesting.

A folding pocket knife is better for general round the farm duties....

Only to be lent out to trusted friends, who will return it; and who also know where the first aid kit is kept....

And tea in my favourite mug. Remember the magical daisy munching cow Ermintrude?

"She enquired bovinely "

"Oh dear"

There always seems to one from each new flock of Hens; that turns up its toes overnight, and expires of 'inexplicable chicken malady'.
Hoping she's a one off. It was a cold morning and it was felt she looked a little forlorn just lying there awaiting disposal, so a suitable resting place was found in the interim.
The googlie eyes weren't my idea...Honest...

Monday, 22 February 2016

Fresh giggles...

New piggles..

The arrival of ten Oxford Sandy and Black litter mates, made for an entertaining downing of tools for half an hour or so.

Quite a heady miasma arose; as a result of their investigations into the pile of old cabbages left here in readiness.

Just eight weeks old, but already strong diggers.

Do they have any idea how lucky they are compared to their 'confined to quarters in the name of cheap meat' brethren?

Of course not, but this really is, how all pigs should live, before they become someones dinner..

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Further Sylvan Mossiness..


The alternative route to Tiverton, that unfairly, much maligned town of the area. Every region seems to need somewhere to look down upon...

But the sun came out...




And look; Spring is sprunging at Knighthayes Court; I'd cycled off the map by now; following my nose and the occasional little red arrow of the cycle network: so was pleasantly surprised to end up here.

 By this point my brake blocks were down to the metal; despite only being replaced three days ago ...Gritty wet conditions does for them; after only a few days; so negotiating the sightseers on the steeper tracks was interesting.


a veritable carpet of crocii and dwarf daffodils


A bike shop doing business on a Sunday was found and a very helpful resident of this town fitted some new stopping devices. He has lots of plans for trips too.



This however is not quite so helpful. Tying jaunty bunting over the top of the arrows can lead to a rather lengthier investigation of the 'burbs than there is patience spare for.

However rescued again, by another helpful resident, who over the ten minutes of escorting me back to where I should restart from, referred to me as 'sweetheart' only about fifteen times. I even caught a glimpse of his cat through his front window. 
On finally taking leave of my new paramour I felt obliged to 'sweetheart' him back in gratitude for his trouble.
I think by the local customs; this exchange might mean we are practically married now.

And it was still sunny....So after all that rain, I'm now starting to gently steam.



Not far now....Further evidence that the season progresses.

Back before the chickens bed time; and today's journey stats; if anyone's interested:  44 miles...Mainly on NCN. R 3. With a few extra side excursions for nutrient and or merriment; oftimes combining both...

Hmmmmn...

Who needs a spa Hotel?
With free exfoliation services; such as those afforded here?
Not a pony in sight tho'....
Lightweights.
Dulverton furnishes a good breakfast.


'Word of the day' ...Pluviophile - one whom finds joy; and peace of mind when out in the rain.

I would classify myself as an 'intermittant pluviophile' depending on the activity undertaken..

Or perhaps the joy and peace of mind comes as much from the being out and about on a bicycle whatever the weather; and finding oneself quite cheerfully content in ones own company; until of course; the next sociable refreshment stop hoves into view.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

The Downside...

To having a lighter load...
Keeping the bicycle attached to the road in 50mph gusts..
Sorry to dissappoint the sponsors but I  didn't quite make it to Porlock...
Did find a handsome stand of Scots Pine for a brief; if alarmingly creaky respite from the wind.




Brings back memories of Hebridean cycling...

My personal top tips if you contemplate travelling The Western Isles by bike...

1. Anyone who tells you there are no hills, in that undoubtedly picturesque string of archipelagos, has only traversed them in motorised transport, if they have had the luck to visit them at all.

2. The 'go from South to North' rule
to benefit from a following Southwesterly wind; is not a dependably hard and fast rule by any measure.

3.Take a tent. Even if you think you'll easily make the nights proposed billet in the time allowed; having to pedal hard downhill against the prevailing; might mean you have to rethink your accomodation options. And besides, waking up to an uninterrupted North Atlantic dawn; just outside your flimsy door; if the weather is fair, takes some beating.

4. Research the location of available Tea Shoppes in advance, and if you come across one, use it. Such establishments can be frustratingly few and far between...And your brew stove, however trusty, might not stay reliably upright or alight, in the winds you are likely to encounter.

5. On the interconnecting Island ferries (Cal Mac) Make the most of your first to load, first to get off, privileges as a cyclist. Enjoying that level of priority on two wheels; is a not oft encountered pleasure...

6. Don't let any negative impressions, given above put you off..... 
Even on a 'weathery' day, it is, unarguably, a place apart, and if the meteorological pixies smile upon you, it is quite truly stunning.

And here now?

 The four poster beckons...










Streamside View

From last night's stealthy pitch.
definitely one for the Mossy Log Appreciation Society.
Weather less than fair now; so alternative accommodation is called for.....

Friday, 19 February 2016

Quiet but sociable round here.

Exmoor is excellent biking country, even in the rain, with rolling hills, extensive views when the clouds lift, and a good selection of eccentric and welcoming hostelries.

One patronised this afternoon, at the top of a long thirst inducing incline; runs on car batteries and the landlord is happy for the customers to serve themselves.. Liking his trusting 'hands free' approach.

The pie..

Is found; and is found to live up to legend.
Bit of a squidgy pitch for the night, but top local knowledge tip; from my informant.
More of a close up views sort of day, mild; if moist cycling conditions. 
No great fan of organised religion per se; but hats off to the good old C of E for their commodious porches; enabling donning of waterproofs; and inevitable kit riffling; in relative comfort.

That is all, must do full justice...Suet pastry....Raptures :-)

Frisson

No plastic bag toting for the hayseed this time...Ultra lightweight excursion .
Fairweather right now, but promise of sogfest for later.
No matter, it's necessary to get out of the valley on occasion whatever the forecast.
And tonight's destination aspiration; has legendary pies apparently.
We will see....

Critical Mass..

This is actually a time hop back to last Thursdays sublime creation; snugged 'pon a bed of Purple Kale.
A colourful complement to the buoyant blueberries.

However; breaking news from the outer limits of confectionary creation..It is  believed that the possible settable limits of depth to surface area ratio, have been reached.
Not that we would in any way wish to discourage further experimentation.

Stats to follow after independent verification.

A few break fast spoonfuls left to look forward to; before Sallying forth the morn' on what will probably be the last excursion before the Spring Rush.

Feeling a frisson of bicycle on train anticipation; but mustn't tempt the meddling travel pixies from their lairs too soon...

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

On a promise...

One of those 'two sets of waterproofs' harvesting days....But very glad of bib and brace trews...Even if they do make me look (and behave) like a 70's kids TV presenter...The alternative; wet underwear can be quite depressing.

There is talk of an extra large custard for the morrow; further compensations of country living :-)

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Quick scoot...

Over the hills to the seaside; then back to some proper work I promise...

Bees Knees Must be Freezy...

Medlar in hibernation.


A rare frosty morning here this Winter, picturesque, but can present challenges.
Not just for our friendly pollinators who have been out very early this season foraging in amongst the dandelions and snow drops.

Bee numbers do drop dratically, but quite naturally during the winter, so that the nucleus of the colony has a better chance of survival through the lean months. The hives here are left undisturbed, as the consumable honey they produce is of secondary consideration compared to the value of pollination services to vegetable and fruit gardening they provide.

Some beekeepers harvest honey and then replace it with sugar syrup or fondant to feed the colony.
 Of course I can't speak for the workers in this case but one would suspect, that given the chance they'd rather hang onto their original product....

In a good year there is a honey surplus; that can be freely extracted without any peril to the bees.
But it could be argued that there hasn't really been a good  year for bees for quite some time now. They and many other less lauded pollinators are under pressure from many negative influences, mainly around degraded habitat. pesticides, and  diseases introduced from overseas.




The plan was to move the old flock of chickens this morning. But even after cosseting and charging the humungous (din) tractor battery indoors overnight; the Ford still didn't want to play. 
There was talk of lighting a fire under the engine block; which is an old school remedy which has been known to work. 
But there have also been times (not here thankfully) when the results would have produced fascinatingly incendiary pictures....
 But i'm afraid there is only so far I'm prepared to go for dramatic effect.

So it was a case of waiting for the midday sun to work it's warming charms. and then a rather unconventional, but pleasingly sucessful movement of the old flock in a momentarily 'ultra free range' style.

That is; take down their fence; let them wander about the farmyard and garden like something out of 'My Big book of the Farm" , and meanwhile move their house without them in it; re erect their fence; then collect them back in with a few handfuls of irresistible mixed corn...Pretty smooth operation all in all.

It only works when all the tastiest crops on the plot are already covered against the cold. I wouldn't like to see them hens marauding in an uncovered bed of lettuce. 

Sophisticated ladies; investigating the last of the Spanish Radish...

This is a particularly bold (for bold read cheeky) member of the new flock. She has a curiously turned down tail. Not certain whether this is the cause; or as a consequence; of; previous misdemeanors ....
She was lucky to only get her leg ringed today; such was her beakiness; the little plastic anklets will help to identify who belongs to which flock once the new birds reach mature size. If you put an escapee back in with the wrong bunch it will be bullied mercilessly.

cheering and cosy solution to the needing nimble but not frozen fingers for work problem.
Who says workwear has to be all sludge green and muddy browns? At least not initially.

Sculptural tyres and silage sheet keeping the compost pile dry and preventing the weeds getting on top of things.... She does take photos of the oddest things...




Self Sufficiency....That used to be an aspiration of many people a few years back..

But of course there's really no such thing in physical terms.

Yes we can provide for a lot of our own material needs.
And if we're lucky enough to have access to a patch of land, and a bit of energy and know how, we can grow a lot of food for ourselves.

But in and of itself; trying to do and make everything for oneself is far too energy and time consuming and denies the fact that some people are better placed to produce certain essentials than others.

Having said that, many of us do have an urge to grow some of our own dinner at least...
My hail fellow, well re-met friend from Oxford contacted me the other day.

She has just got her hands on an allotment - Much excitement - And what should she do first...?

Well this is what I advise most people in that situation...First; calm down a bit; hold the seed packet; better still put the seed packet in a cool dry place..

And get thee to the nearest farmers suppliers to purchase for yourself the biggest toughest sheet of black plastic you can....The same size as the area you intend to cultivate if possible. Its commonly sold as silage sheeting...

Then mow down; within reason; maybe leave the fruit bushes if you must; whatever is on the plot.

Cover the whole lot with the plastic. First having accumulated many suitable objects with with which to weigh it down....Lots of old tyres, bricks, or bags of soil. Bear in mind that the wind will try everywitch way to lift it; so there needs to be as much stuff in the centre as around the edges.

If gustyness causes struggles during laying; you may wish to co opt a friend to fly a kite nearby. In my experience that pretty much guarantees an immediate  cessation of even the most persistent breeze.

Then; over the subsequent weeks peel back a manageable amount, and extract the vegetation you don't want with a fork.
 Or double dig; if you can carry off a waistcoat, tweed cap, and stout leather boots...
Then recover with the plastic, to stop any fresh weeds growing, and to keep it all dry and workable. So when its finally the right time to sow or plant you've got something resembling the soil "As seen on T.V."

What and when to sow might have to be another post... planning to write my way out of a job?.....Unlikely.





A number of years back there was a brief spike of interest in 'growing your own', well over and above the many who do it as a matter of regular habit.

I love nosing at the allotments that seem to grace so many town edge railway lines; that and getting a glimpse of the generally more unselfconscious  back gardens.
The most interesting stuff is usually kept out of general view.....

So, as a result of this green fingered resurgence, several customers phoned to inform that they wouldn't be needing any of our produce from now, on as they were going to be feeding themselves and their families from their own plots....

Well the outcome was, in the main, as you will doubtless already have predicted....
But thankfully; no one actually died of scurvy.....
And those experimenters were quite cheerfully welcomed back to the fold after a few months of vegetable dalliance elsewhere...

The people who do; or at least have tried growing; a bit of their own veg' are usually the most appreciative of having it done for them...

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Meanwhile...In other shopping news..

...Further worshipping at 'The Local Temples of Mammon..'
A new yoga teaching shirt...

"Lift and spread your tractor"
Look at 'em hooge wheels ;)

I really can't be doing with all that hippy dippy lotus flower thing that some yogi types go in for....
I mean; they're not even native species to these Isles.

Spotted this beauty (well who could resist?) whilst lurking in a bike shop; awaiting the arrival of my afternoon tea companion....

Need any tips for your 'rock n roll' lifestyle?..
You know where I am....

Out to play in the woods: on a Sunday...


Look look! there are waterfalls round here too.
Nicely swollen after all that rain.

This stream cuts through the deep sandstone goyle in the woods nearby.
 I had plenty of childish fun testing my wellies in the water...

Then some adults came past; and made me feel a bit self conscious... 
Why do they have to do that?






A drainage tunnel under the old railway embankment, displaying some nifty brickwork of the time...
Sadly, this branchline is now closed; but the track on top levels the route to the sea for cyclists, part way at least.

 Crunching down here, after fresh snowfall, betwixt the trees, you'd not be surprised to come across Mr Tumnus..

But no snow this year, not this low down at any rate.. 

Ferns taking advantage of the lime pointing.




Who doesn't love a mossy log?
This tree felled by the Autumn storms might have reached the end of its growing time; but it won't take long for all the wee beasties to take up residence and give it a new lease of life.

Perhaps due to the steep terrain; these woods aren't overly tidied.

The plantation parts are harvested when they mature; but older specimens are generally left to do their thing; and give a home to the workforce of the woodland floor.





Wall Pennywort almost obliterating these South facing stones. The growth on the wall opposite gives almost the same coverage; but individual leaves are smaller... Reflecting the lower light levels they receive.

This little navel-like bit of herbage is edible, even if it's not the tastiest thing on the planet.
 Its fine to browse the leaves, just be careful not to dislodge the roots.

Do you like my new hat? (see shadow)
 Sadly the proprietor guy in the outdoor shop wasn't on hand yesterday; to give me my usual; very thorough; patronising.
Everso slightly dissappointed; the stand in Saturday Girl allowed me to buy what I wanted without question....Where's the challenge in that?






Jacobs Ladder, steps down to the beach from the cliff top gardens...
See the colour of the sea? That's where all that lovely East Devon topsoil ends up....Plus of course a contribution from the natural cliff face erosion....


Stat's for all lovers; of things numerical....10 miles (ish)


Friday, 12 February 2016

Paperwork...

This is the kind of 'filing' I like..
It has a persuasive air of finality about it.
A satisfying rainy day barn clear out, and a successful run to the tip with 'Man Friday' It's a particular (perculiar?) treat for him.

And it's not as if he 'doesn't get out much'.

By the way MF, I don't remember receiving the 'leave of absence form'... But apparently it's India for four weeks now....Hopefully incorporating some intensive yoga practice?
Hmmmmmmm?

Still as this wise sage would point out..."Once you've got a fire going it isn't really work any more :) "

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Solar panel here???

We could learn a lot from cats...
If only we"d listen...

Trailer Trash Kitty, soaking up some rays, whilst showing her best side..

Magnificent stripes darling :)

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

With Views of Mt Cloudy....


Good to see some blue skies, and fluffy clouds today after days of rain.
The earlier pictures posted a couple of days ago were cheating; plucked from the summer skies; but just occasionally 'cheering up' has to come before authenticity...

The recent deluge has meant its been tricky enough to get traction on the good earth; let alone the truth. 
And narrowly avoided an hilarious 'trollley full of beetroot / slippery mud' incident earlier today. 

The farm is blessed with a free draining sandy loam. An unusual soil for Devon; which, when combined with the south facing aspect of the slope gives for 'early ' land.

It means that the cultivation, planting, and growing seasons, can be stretched a little longer than elsewhere. 
So greater productivity per acre, just add proper amounts of compost, some seeds, and lots of love (for love read labour)

Here on the tilled area pictured we can just make out the green fuzz of ryecorn that was sown late last Autumn, its not showing a lot of bulky growth yet but a few more warm days like this (mmm please, sky pixies) and it will start to get going.


The lightness of the soil does mean that come the summer (oh yes, very much please) conditions can get a bit droughty.. But having sunk a 20 m borehole  soon after buying the land does means that there is an almost unlimited source of free water for ever. Free that is but for the cost of the electricity to pump it. 
And in addition; an ingenious irrigation system encircling the veg plot; facilitates the application of water when, and where, it's needed.

So I'd far rather have things a bit on the dry side. Working on the principle that you can add water; but you can't take it away...   


The grass is fairly verdant on both sides of the fence right now, it'll be back to mowing before long,,,



July here, last year...

One of my top ten fave tools..... 'The Rain Train'

(I don't think the Ford in the background is feeling threatened by my display of affection)

Hard to imagine right now, but there are times when the ground needs to be made wetter. Most irrigation on the veg plot is done by dripper tape laid out alongside the crops. 
But this cute little device is good for watering larger areas. Here preparing the ground to receive the leeks in July.The soil needs to be moist, to create effective planting holes for leek transplants.

So another ingenious invention from our friends across the pond. A sprinkler; modeled on a darling little yellow tractor; for practical purposes not just to appeal to soft in the head types like myself.

You plug the hose into its rear end; its front wheels then sit either side of the pipe, the bigger lugged wheels at the back get a grip; and once turned on; the water pressure drives the gadget back along the pipe. It stops when a push up button underneath meets a little ramp you've fixed astride the pipe where you want it to finish.

It can malfunction if it hits a soft spot and gets bogged down by watering itself into the ground... But at least I don't have to swallow my pride, and go and fetch a local farmer to pull me out of that particular hole....


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Good start girls...

Showing one full size for scale.

Soon; as all these young pullets come in to production, there'll be double yolkers, and various sorts of eggceptionally interesting contributions, some even looking like deflated party balloons....

Lovingly laid all the same...

Friday, 5 February 2016

Thursday, 4 February 2016

A Return to form

Glory be...

Absolutely no arguing with this one: Luscious, eggy, and liberally topped with blueberries and nutmeg. 
The custard creator turned out a real crowd (four women) pleaser this week.
If one were to offer criticism (smacks of churlishness, I know) the only slight, and I have to state very slight disappointment; is the lack of 'jiggle'.

I have it on good authority (can't quite remember if it was Mrs Beeton or Nigella from whom this nutmeggy, nugget of wisdom emanated) that the centre of an egg custard "Should wobble; not unlike the inner thigh of a pre Raphelite maiden"... I may be paraphrasing here, but pretty sure it was something like that.

Sorry there's absolutely none left; even if you're quick..
But there is still some curly kale, upon which this dish nestles...

Which is not; I repeat not a 'Super Food'. 
Kale is just a fine and versatile, all year round, but particularly welcome in the winter, vegetable,

 Low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Iron, Magnesiumand Phosphorus, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin CVitamin K, Vitamin B6, CalciumPotassiumCopper and Manganese.

All that definitely, and if cooked properly... 
(Just how hard is it to steam something for 20 mins and then chuck loads of butter and pepper on it?)

Very tasty too....


But not a nonsense, made up, marketing speak, 'Super * Food'.....GRrrrrr!

(I'm told, that was the noise I made when approaching this confection...Like a dog guarding its bone?)

*That kind of accolade should be reserved for the sublime contents of this dish....Just Imagine....

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Who's going first?


Contemplating the great outdoors;

A new flock of 30 layers, not quite 20 weeks old.

Their juveniles' paler and smaller combs will enlarge and redden, as they come into egg production in the next few weeks.

These ladies have just arrived from the breeder in mid Devon, they are bred specifically to perform well in an outdoor organic system, which they will enjoy, once they've steeled their nerve to go outside, well you never know, just who might be lurking?

There was a lot of noisy "No no; after you" going on here; but in the end the verdant herbage just visible, combined with a bit of chivvying on the part of their new owner resulted in a mass egress to pastures fresh and vistas wider.

The hens here do a brilliant job of clearing all the grass, and weed, and old crop cover, from the area upon which they're enclosed.

The older flock have just about finished clearing the patch where this years beans and peas will be planted; so are due to be moved with their house onto a new area very soon. The netting fences are effective at containment, until, the grass really is soo much irresistably greener on the other side.

Then a number of them will organise a 'Chicken Run' style; escape committee. One particularly plucky bird will climb part way up, over one of the flexible fencing stakes that holds up the mesh, she will then be followed closely by a huddle of the the others who will have been waiting clustered nearby. Eventually their combined weight serves to bend the post low enough, to allow a mass trampling down of the fence.
 And freedom... Until, that is, the greater pull of the rattled corn bucket lures them back.

It really does look as if they've thought it through...


Fascinating chicken factoid #27...The colour of a chickens ears denotes the colour of the eggs that it will lay.






Finally plucked up courage to emerge and found the forage to their liking; in fact one of these precocious girls went so far as to endorse her new home by laying an egg under the coop. 
They are supposed to do that in the nest boxes...I guess I'll have to draw a diagram.

No shortage of custard ingredients now....High hopes for tomorrow, what with it being Thursday ;)

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Ooo, wiggles....

Just in case, you thought I'd lost interest...
In wiggly tin.
Far from it; but not everyone gets such a thrill from this particular niche.
It's always hard to judge how far to take indulging ones own proclivities, without impinging upon others interests.
However the owner and creator of this Shepherds Hut is not immune to its charms, and was quite understanding of my enthusiasm.
These once humble examples of agricultural workers, mobile vernacular accommodation are also the source of no little gentle leg pulling in these parts.
Because, despite these tin sheds on wheels being generally far less luxuriously appointed than your average touring caravan, you can, if you have a Dingly Dell enough type venue, park them up and charge some folks three time the price of staying in their more modern cousins...
How those horn handed labourers would have shaken their heads at such impractical indulgence in rural fantasy.
but then they'd doubtless also have thought my thing about wiggles pretty bonkers too. So perhaps we'll leave it as a case of each to their own...