Thursday, 31 March 2016

Leek harvest

Late afternoon, Wednesday.

Tired now.

But fettling leeks can be done sitting down.
After the carrots are dug.

Clouds are very fine things.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

About time...

We had a storm with a name.

'Katie' arrived at about 3am.

She had been forecast; but distractions abound; and predictions can be inaccurate.
But once awake; and contemplating the potential damage at that time of night; it is difficult to go back to sleep with an attitude of 'it'll probably be OK'.

That's an extra interesting element of living in a mobile home; the weather sounds very definite. Not quite as extreme trying to sleep in a small tent in a hooley; but there's an overall sense of movement in addition to the noise..

So don the waterproofs; gather headtorches; go find the drill; and perform a bit of very last minute hatch battening. Screwing shut the polytunnel doors for starters. They catch a gust something lovely otherwise.

Speeding wind has a tremendous capacity to lift sheets of anything....Just as well for those of you in the habit of travelling by air...




Not too much damage come the morning. Some of these thermal crop covers had blown off; but they didn't take overly long to replace.

 Unlike one year; where a particularly strong gale carried off a similar 50 by 20m crop protection sheet. Its weight usually requires two of us big strong farm girls to drag about; it makes us feel a tad like we're being bridesmaids for a giantess .....
 The errant cover was found; 18 months later by a gentleman walking his dog* in the woods over a mile away; across the river

The 'mystery shroud' as described by the local paper, had had its end hacked off whilst it was still hung up in the trees, so no great mystery at all; as to its value; or function; to the person who did that...And a dormouse had used it's hanmmocky nature as a temporary seasonal residence.....But the cover; since retrieved; is still in use here; albeit in its shortened form...

The eventual finder was particularly keen to impress upon the reporter from the local paper, that he was, the (very) proud owner of a Dutch Barge Dog. I'm still yet to meet one of those hounds; but I am prepared to be impressed.

And time, or the dearth of it; in this season; always occupies a growers mind. ..

The art; craft; and science; of growing vegetables does require prescribed timeliness to be observed. In fact it's one of the spurs to getting stuff done, even on days when foul weather is to the fore... A crop takes a certain amount of time to come to fruition. 
Though naturally day length and other variables play their part. And these cropping times can be extended a bit by some tricks of the trade.
  But each vegetable does have its proper season, and if you try to extend too far you will be disappointed.

 Customers understand this on the whole. Although if they've become used to purchasing from shops that offer year round availability of everything it takes them a while to get into the rhythm of things....Eagerly awaited tomatoes or beans or whatever delicacy might be in the offing taste so much better after a break, and picked and eaten when they still squeak with freshness.

The vegetable garden as a whole is a source of timely analogies. And frustrations. At this time of year it's 'all to be done at once; but if the weather isn't playing nicely then patience is called for....But that virtue is hard to cultivate when the greenhouse is filling up and trays of beans are bending perilously whilst they wait outside in the wind.


Onion sets 'Sturon' (7 kg of this variety) should have been in by now, but they won't reward hasty planting, and the planter herself isn't all that enamoured with sitting in the mud to do it....Even whilst wearing sturdy waterproofs..
Half of these went in this afternoon. just in time for the birds to have their fun pulling 'em all out again....Our feathered fiends have a reputation for being a bit 'light' in the brain department... Hard not to agree when you see them going down the line tugging the alliums out... "Is this one a worm? Nope. This one? no, not neither, and so on....

And some timely sowing of sugar snap peas direct outside... Taking a risk with the mice digging them up and eating them. It's tricky to stay sanguine with the whole "Gardening with nature in mind", when the wildlife seem intent on destroying all ones hard work. Legumes are mostly started indoors then transplanted outside later to give them a head start over the weather and rodents.
But I thought I'd risk sowing a short 20 yard stretch outside.

Once upon a time I tried rolling the peas in garlic and chilli powder; prior to planting; as I'd read in some 'weave your own yoghurt; knit your own knickers' publication that this was an effective deterrent.

Devon mice are obviously a bit sharper or possibly hungrier? Than elsewhere... A couple of days later there were delicate little heaps of discarded pea skins with flavouring still attached. The contents having been greedily consumed...Doncha just love nature?  Hmmnn...



Giving Peas a Chance...Just sown ones in the foreground...Fleece ready to recover.... Kitty encouraged to patrol; though she seems rather more intent on putting her time towards guarding the intermittantly sunny porch right now.

And the soil upon which we depend as farmers, and consumers (so that's all of us then) has a factor of time within it. The soil that sustains our livestock and crops; maintains Life on Earth if you will.
 It's formed of course of the underlying bed rock which is very slowly weathered; plus organic matter from old plant material; and any other amendments we make. It takes a long time to make a few centimetres of topsoil; the time will vary depending on the parent material; but all the same; many many years even for the youngest soils....

Then if we hurry cultivations, or misuse the soil in some way, perhaps by leaving it bare at the wrong time of year, we risk losing all those years of gains that natural processes gave to us for free. We can lose it overnight in one calamitous heavy rain storm if it is washed down a slope, into the river and out to sea.. 

But hurry we do; it seems to be hardwired in our being; sadly to our own detriment; and that of nature...

And the capitalists favourite phrase of 'Buy land; they're not making any more' 

Might be  more usefully transformed for everyones' sake into
 'Conserve the soil; it takes lifetimes to make'




Friday, 25 March 2016

Eostre Crafting...

Look! I made this myself; out of old pallets!

P'raps I should post a 'how to'  video later?

'Man Friday' on this 'Good Friday' would have been thrilled I'm sure.

If  he had been on hand to enjoy the,

"Once you've got a fire going; it isn't really work anymore", conclusion to the days labours....



However, despite having assured me that he would be reporting for duties on this bank holiday, my usual end of the week help, had to dash off to the aid of an apparently even needier friend..

Another of his favourite aphorisms:

"A real friend will help you move; a true friend will help you move a body...."

It wasn't quite that desperate. in fact this other mate had requested assistance with shifting a boat..... From Antigua.....To Gibraltar. So what was he to do? Hmmn...

My Ma' this time.... "That's the trouble with volunteers... You can't sack 'em...."

The purpose of today's conflagration; alongside practicing some axe - wielding 'butchcraft' was to burn last years haulm* off the metal mesh pea and bean supports. the peas are getting taller every day...

Something that Man Friday likes to take home most weeks; in addition to a supply of veg' ; is a new word. And 'haulm' was one such. That being the residue; stalks etc; left over after cropping; they go up with a beautiful crackle.

So, cheered by the flames, I got over my disappointment fairly swiftly; and reminded myself not to be curmudgeonly about other folks' expeditions.

 I did after all get to spend this Good Friday beavering by myself in the garden; something the usually office bound might be wishing to do all through the working week; every week. 
It could all be looked upon as 'self made luck'  whilst at the same time producing things of benefit to other folk too. So no business being grumpy whatsoever...

 Plus there are a few briefish jaunts outside the valley in the offing.

And besides; bodies can be moved by other means...

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Oh Muriel.....



Sweetie; you probably don't need anything else to eat; but I know that's not how it works. Rebuilding strength and dignity after the weekends shenanigans....




Muriel: the impressively fully figured one; accompanied by her 'stay at home' stable mate [........] rootling in the 'for scale' bucket.

Meet the substantial porcine pet from over the road; who gave us several hours of entertainment on Saturday afternoon. Following some investigatory straw fossicking; she slid down the bank into a stream; and fixed herself in; good and proper...

Once discovered; the first task was cutting the branches betwixt which she'd wedged herself upon descent.

 Must have been a tad nerve wracking having a chainsaw buzzing that close to a sows' ear, but a powerful tool; wielded by experienced hands does the trick. 

 Getting her out of the shallow stream presented a hefty challenge... Her legs; what you can see of them; are about four inches long; her low slung generousity of underbelly furnishes a mighty suction in the mire.

In the end, it took five of us to extract her. 
Once the stream challenge had been overcome; there was a hundred yards or so of marshy squidge to negotiate, before Terra Ferma could be reached. 
One of those oft overflying helicopter troop ships from the local marine base could have come to the rescue.....

For a few moments. it seemed as if Muriel might be pulled in four by the various bright ideas and techniques suggested for her rescue.
  All methods could, most likely. have worked; but not all at once... So a slightly bossy girl, in a set of red waterproof  bibbed trews; mostly told everyone else what was going to happen...

Not so much pulling a "we covered this at college" number; more something along the lines of "someone has to take charge; if this thing is going to get done; and today its me..." 
Experienced in the putting back of bones where they need to be; at least; I s'pose...

So; a briefish  'How to' synopsis, if you ever should need to move an unfeasibly lardy; and somewhat unwilling pig out of a swamp.....

First cover her head with a tarpaulin; or some such; it won't stop her shrieking altogether, but it calms her a bit.

Improvise a couple of slings for under each end of the capacious belly; armpits and groins so to speak; then roll her over onto her side....

That wasn't easy, much effort all round; and there was precious little to get a grip on; given her barrel like rotundity. 
Muriel wasn't impressed at our bundlings; she made it sound like she was being murder'ed..... Drama Queen.

 Then next; edge a large sheet of ply; hole cut to receive hook; under her back edge spinewards.

Attach a winch cable to the ply; and also to the pig embracing slings. Make fast to a sturdy tree.
 Start winching; and eventually the whole lot, once fully under her bulk, slowly inches across the boggy tussocks.

Now go and get the tractor... Attach piggy sled to the loader with a hook and 'Lady Muck' gets a few hundred yards of victorious processing 'pon her litter; along the road back to her enclosure....
It would have made an entertaining film... 'Squealing Mud Larks...'

But on the day; it seemed a bit rude; almost 'ambulance chasing' to intrude with a camera....

But don't do that again please; Muriel love; comedy and neighbourly relations notwithstanding. I don't think anyones' back or nerves could cope....

She seems, however, none the worse for her adventuring; going not so much 'outside the valley' more deeper into it...

And she was very happy to accept some slightly misshapen very carroty carrots in return for a publicity shot......

Same bucket for scale....Ickle piggles here....Oxford Sandy and Blacks enjoying breakfast... And my how strongly they dig. Big thick necks, especially designed for turning over sods.


So this bunch working here on the old veg ground look like svelte racing beasts in comparison. These mostly guys (one girl...poor thing) are litter mates; getting on for five months old now.

They; unlike Muriel are destined for a special one way trip come October...
Upon meeting their autumnal nemesis; at dinner out a couple of weeks ago; I was reassured that they will have the calmest demise possible.

The slaughterman takes great pride in his work for sure, and as stress free an end as is possible gives for excellent quality meat.
 In a neat bit of local circularity, we were sharing a table at the establishment where most of their bodily offerings will be consumed...

Folks often assume I must be a vegetarian; given the organic veg' growing; yoga teaching thing. And in the past, I did serve over ten years; of foregoing 'the way of the flesh' ..... But not any more. 

Although for me, pork, is rarely on the menu. Even from these happily raised beasties. That is in part due to the fact that; in the absence of being able to recycle food waste through them; we have to fatten them on Soya based feed.
 But also because. on the obligatory (quite right too, lets see the thing for what it is) college trip to the abattoir; the pigs seemed far more aware of their fate than any of the other creatures...

Like many choices; consciously made; its not straightforward; there are many factors to consider...

But this is how I see it. 

In these Northern Hemisphere 'cool temperate' climes, very little grows better than grass; just ask anyone that has attempted to keep it out of their veg patch.

 Extensively grazed herbivores can convert inedible to us grass, into meat and milk. 
Our much loved green and pleasant fieldscape; hedgerows and all; is based on livestock keeping; if we want to keep that economically viable to maintain we are obliged to buy the produce of the land.

According to "My Big Book of the Farmyard" in order for a milking cow to keep lactating; every year she has to have a calf. Half of these calves born will be boys, so not much use as milking herd replacements.

If no one eats beef, then the boy calves will be euthanased at birth. So eating a small amount of beef and sheep from known sources seems like a reasonable way of accessing some toothsome quality protein. 
Adult bulls in more traditional farming systems are often used as draught animals; so they have a economic justification; when was the last time you saw an ox cart in this country? 

Very few of the veggie alternative favourites such as lentils, soya, chick peas, kidney beans and the rest will grow to produce a meaningful crop in this country.

 Field beans and drying peas are about all that will grow in the UK in terms of legumes....Hence the peasantry of old subsisting on 'pease pudding' . Meat was definitely a rich mans luxury back then.

All the protein substitutes will be imported from; where? Well quite possibly from a country that could do with those proteins staying at home to feed hungry mouths there. 
Cash crops may well be being grown for export; on land that might otherwise be used by local farmers to feed their own community..
 As ever; it's complicated.

And many people, at this point, will throw up their hands and say "Oh well; it's all too much to think about; I'm just going to eat what I like"...

 Fair enough; thankfully it's still just about a free country.

But if you choose to put some thought to it; you can still have some small; but  significant; local and global economic power and influence. You can vote; pretty much every time you shop. By becoming a bit better informed as to the provenance of your food, and how it got to your table... 

Eagerly anticipated Thursday custard ticks all the boxes, both nutritious, and locally auspicious....Muriel isn't getting a look in on that delicious dish. 









Saturday, 19 March 2016

Spreading the Love; and compost...

Rarely are two days the same; if you're after predictability; or even security; then don't get into farming... 

But health and efficiency? Well that would depend on your definition of those two laudable aspirations. There's no shortage of exercise that's for sure. Particularly working at a smallish scale such as this. Here spreading well composted council green waste from the back of the three tonne trailer.
 Being as I'm quite a one; for acquiring tractor implementation of varying vintage (well every girl needs a collection of something) I had once upon a time considered hunting down a diminutive rear exit spreader to do this particular job. But what with that particular bit of kit being fairly rare nowadays; and most likely retired into a farm museum; it never happened.

And I also realised that I actually very much enjoy this specific bit of hand work....There is no little satisfaction in delivering with a flick of the wrist a shovel full of black gold to just the piece of ground you had in mind.   Keeps the biceps toned for all the other duties they are required to perform...Long handled tool extends the reach, so budging up the tractor is required less often.

So why spend good money on kit; in the name of so called efficiency when it might spoil some the fun? Besides; it only takes about forty minutes to distribute a trailer load this way? What else am I going to do with my time? Write blog posts?


Two or three beds can be covered from one pass. Compost onto the cropping area; the tyre wheelings will become this seasons' paths. The first outside Broad Beans are now occupying this space. 

Couldn't quite claim that there is never a dull moment on the farm; but variety is very much the aim and the order of things. Todays' late afternoon had been earmarked for a bit of a cycle about the lanes; that was after a fullish day of Saturday Horticulture. Weekend work becomes a necessity at this time of year; even more so in the light of having bunked off Friday this week for a bit of extracurricular Yoga...

However; a neighbours' bodily substantial pig put paid to that outing; by miring herself in a bog, and thereby required no little team work (a chainsaw, a tractor, a winch, several slings and a sheet of plywood) to extract. 
Larks aplenty of the muddy variety.... 'Muriel' is fine by the way; last seen troughing soya nuts to ameliorate the loss of any body mass she is highly unlikely to have suffered on her expedition to pastures soggier...

And so tomorrow, a bit more jumping back and forth, in the name of other peoples' health and efficiency.
We will amongst lots of other closely observed 'fun' be working towards a few cycles of this sequence....Not everyone can do all of it straightaway; of course; but progress will be made. She says determinedly...

So; in the spirit of Never a Dull moment.

Surya Namaskarasana.

Roughly translated as "Sun Salutation"



Urdva Hastasana; arms should be straight, and in line with the ears...Mountainous scenery a bonus.



Utkatasana;  arms still back in line with your ears, and then your dorsal spine will go in...
Ischial tuberosities (that's sitting bones to you and me) down towards the heels; not out the back....There was some talk of these bony protuberences at last Thursdays ladies cycling night; but perhaps more of that and them at a later date..


Uttanasana; hands down; an observant teacher might espy that the hip socket is not quite vertically aligned with the ankle bone; as it ought to be... But in my defence the Pyreneen needle grass was fully living up to its moniker...And perhaps the upper back could be flatter, having carried a pack for a couple of weeks by now might be held up in my defence this time m'lud...Poor excuse.




Ahh; thats better; a bit of length... It could often be assumed that the main point; or even the pinnacle of yoga practice is 'Enhancing Universal Well Being Through the Diligent and Effortful Elevation of the Posterior in downward Dog'...  This theory; may well have some legs...Backs of the knees bright and shiny and open; naturally.



Chaturanga Dandasana... Not everyones' favourite; some of the well muscled chaps favour it... But really this move asks for technique as much as strength..
Though given the spikey qualities of the herbage in this location; the motivation to only be contacting the earth via the palms and toes; thus keeping the front body off the ground; is quite profound. 'Agricultural Heft' can be an advantage here.


Urdva Muka Svanasana; 'Upward facing dog' I know the chest should be further forrard; but at least the tail bone is in. Still having to maximise the legwork to keep the front thighs off the spikes.



More petitioning for Universal Wellbeing; the sun seems to be considering its options...
Adho Muka Svanasana.....

A deeper Uttanasana; legs slightly better aligned this time...I've squashed the grass now...
Makes it somewhat easier to perceive ones position; relative to the centre of The Earth,,





Urdvha Hastasana again...The objection might be; that the arms are just a tad too far back...And facing in the wrong direction; think ahead girls...And be careful not to let the lumbar spine dip in.

But an excellent method of solar drying the armpit fluff post swim all the same.... Not quite skinny dipping. I'm certain this would never be allowed between the pages of "Health and Efficiency" - (Does that wholesome; sun loving publication even still exist?)

  Happily; swimming in your undies does at least gets some of the laundry done in your leisure time.

Namaskarasana... Giving thanks for the sun.... Or petitioning for its continued beneficence.
'Farmer tan' much in evidence; a result of a decently warm season of vegetable tending... 


Repeat five times more; increasing the speed as proficiency builds.
Well why not?.... Morning is a good time to do this... It wakes you up; and prepares the back for a days load carrying; or pig shifting duties.....

Practising outside; is lovely; but not compulsory...

However; whatever the backdrop; yoga; just for me; is a blissfully necessary exercise.


Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Work in progress...

Short delay, on a run out with the trailer to the farm store to collect 600kg bag of sweetening lime for the season. The day the shoplet got blown over...

But don't fret egg seekers, second born son and I employed some time tested 'leverage with wooden poles' techniques to right it.
Could now apprentice him out for 'henge' construction duties...

There was a generous amount of potential firewood strewn upon the road; a 'proper' thrifty type would have gathered  and added it to the load.
Here in his JCB, the 'Parish Lengthsman' (he should really sport a smock; and port a proper  'Devon Shovel' with a title like that)

Detailed to clear the ditches either side of the lane, to aid drainage. This particular back road runs through an area of old 'wet' woodland. A rare and valuable habitat niche. This route can be  hazardous in the Winter even in this relatively balmy county.

Nights of hard frost, and little direct sunlight to thaw it, means the roads can accumulate treacherous patches of rime. So making haste slowly is the best approach here.....

Monday, 14 March 2016

Resilience..


A hardy hangover from the tulips grown here by a friend setting up her cut flower business, over five years ago...

Still growing strong.

That's both the bulbs; and the now elsewhere located enterprise.

It's a constant source of surprise what some supposedly delicate blooms can withstand..

.I guess they don't read the books that insist they should be cosseted.

Ploughed, Harrowed, Disced, Rotovated...


They just keep coming back, despite all the battering.
A cheering addition to the spring flower show.

Friday, 11 March 2016

The difference a day makes...

From the ridiculously windy, to the calm after the storm...

There may not be many offsite camping excursions in the immediate offing. But here at the top of the hill, this part of the farm; known as Beacon could be just the place for a quick overnighter... Look there's already some firewood for sending messages...Reasonably dark skies, for stargazing, and none too shabby a view, for the morning.

And because the trees planted a few years back have grown up to a height; protected from deer browsing as they are by an understorey of brambles; it's almost impossible to see the work pending on the lower slopes beneath. 

So coming up here even for a short perambulation can be equivalent to 'getting away from it all'
 A bit like having ones very own local park to wander in. How lucky is that?




 Go to the shoulder of the hill however and the work is all laid out below; like a life sized 'to do list'...But at least the horticultural witchcraft (more of that later) appears to have worked it's spell and some of the 'to do' can now be done....Set fair for a few days now.

The red sandstone coast lies just over far distant hill; that high ridge being known as Mutters Moor. The briney is a good hour and a bit stomp via green lanes and the pebblebed heath, or just short of twenty minutes by bike; maybe a bit longer if you decide to go the hilliest route for fittening kicks.....Even more pertinent now, as I have two antipodean chums petitioning to be visited. And I guess there are a few steepish hills between here and there, not to mention the ocean going pedalo section...

This lot needed settling in deep and firm, even planted out of the gusting winds, they threaten to topple...


Muck (compost) and magic...These greenhouse raised, overgrown, leggy broad beans have been sitting outside on a bench 'toughening up' (properly known as hardening off) for nigh on two weeks now.
 The ground conditions however haven't been in the least bit receptive to their planting...So finally I relented and find them some space in the polytunnel.
They should crop sooner, even early June perhaps, and the little Kale plants in between will give some more welcome greenery. But, on account of the heat these brassicas will probably show their yellow flowers quite soon too...Could be useful, as they in turn will lure in more bees and other pollinators to give the bean flowers a good seeing to...Ensuring an abundance of well filled pods....


And now; almost immediately that the plantlets have been warmly housed away from the inclemency; of course the weather comes good.....

Correlation and causation.. Endless 'whitchy?' fun to be had; mixing those two up....

 I used to worry a lot about the weather; too wet; too dry; will it ever come good?  Of course experience shows that in the end that it will be OK. And cultivating variety (the most profitable crop) means that enough, will do well enough to provide an abundance in the end...

I still worry about climate, and how that might be changing, but that is I guess another wasted worry in the end if performed unilaterally....Without some collective action pretty quickly, that particular possibly unstoppable juggernaut is taking us into uncharted territory....

Now of course very few people; if they're truly honest; enjoy being proven wrong....

But I can honestly state that very little would give me greater pleasure than to discover that the climate change deniers have got it right....

That really would be some kind of 'witch craft'... Put all that extra carbon into the atmosphere at a hitherto unprecedented rate; whilst at the same time reducing the carbon sinking capacity of soils, ocean flora, and terrestial vegetation.....
And....

'Nothing Happens or Changes......?'

Hmmm? That really is 'Collective wishful magical thinking.....' methinks.

Or; did someone suspend the laws of physics; and not tell me?
 That's the trouble with living in the country; news takes a while to get through...



Very effective distraction technique...The blueberries depicting a treasure map of...?
Nope 'tis a secret....


But never mind all that environmental angst; how about a bit of 'living in the moment'....?
 An absolute classic this one. With eggstra contributions from our feathered fiends on account of the damage caused by Wednesdays' 'Gustybuffeting'* that had the eggshop inverted.....But there's rarely an upset, that doesn't have an upside, if you're willing to look closely enough....

Especially as; on this particular Thursday there was only it's generous creator; and myself; and two spoons.....
And....A veil is discreetly drawn....I'll leave the rest to your imaginings.

But first t'was nestled 'pon a bed of just picked salad. Showing the oriental greens' inclination to flower with the lengthening days...Once fully bloomed they do fill the polytunnels with a honeyed scent. Bringing in yet more bees and their mates. It's quite a treat just to stand at the door and inhale, and hear the busy drone.

So variety, again.. Seen here: mizuna, claytonia, pak choi red, and green, red mustard, rocket - wild - grrr, and tame, Morroccan little cress, red salad bowl lettuce, joi choi, oh and some red mizuna....The budding flowers like tender mini broccoli are even more nutritious than the leaves...

* I thought perhaps a new 'sturdy' underwear range?



It was whilst harvesting this salad that I involuntarily invoked the ire of the custard creator. Not an advisable course of action in any circumstance..Thankfully it wasn't directed at me...

Phew! Some folk, to their great peril have trodden that hazardous path in the past. I for one, would not stray down that thorny perilous route.
 There's brave; and then there's foolish.

The subject of her disgruntlement?

'The powers that be'...

 Oh no; not them!

The meanderings of conversation had brought us to the subject of our needing a fresh delivery of red diesel to fuel the tractor for the season.

Normally, that bill is paid for through the Single Farm Payment. A 'EU' bestowment, which replaced farm subsidies some years ago.

I expanded a while back as to how this payment has been withdrawn from all UK land holdings under 5 ha' . This plot comes in just short of that by 0.4 ha'

http://broadviewfromasmallfarm.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/a-winter-bounty.html

Now I know we could very well have a convoluted discussion as to the rights and wrongs of any landowner receiving this 'blanket' payment. We might meander through the issues of compliance with environmental regulations; quite rightly imposed by the EU; whilst farmers produce food priced as a global commodity; and so on; and so forth...

But; I've already glazed over just thinking about it; so doubtless you will have too dear reader......

But it does provoke; a not completely unjustified reaction; along the lines of "It's just not fair"

There was a suggestion made by 'She who should not be messed with', along the lines of driving a tractor trailer load of manure to deposit in front of our own august seat of parliament. Where, as it happens this 'devolved to member states' decision, was made ...Therby expressing our displeasure in the manner favoured by our more politically proactive continental neighbours in agriculture.

But I countered that it would be waste of good soil building fertility; that should really stay on the farm; and although it might well be great noisy fun holding up the traffic on the A303 as we chugged eastwards; I can't really afford the diesel for a trip like that...Especially not now...

So as smaller farmers we no longer get the dosh that our larger brethren still continue to receive; they with no upper limit of payment..

Despite the fact that globally; smaller farms are more productive per acre than larger ones...

Ho and indeed Hum; but at the same time Oh well never mind.

'Small' is still beautiful in so many other ways...

Freshness, nutrition, connectivity, community, efficiency, interrelation, diversity, resilience, mutual support.......Sometimes intangible; immeasurable benefits; but none the less real for that..

Repeated 'studies have shown' that globally; smaller farms are more productive per acre than larger ones...You don't have to be massively cynical to speculate just as to which vested interests might be driving UK food policy...

http://www.technologywater.com/post/69995394390/un-report-says-small-scale-organic-farming-only

And no longer getting the payments means no more worries about having to comply with the 'meddling' (but generally ignored here anyhow) edicts to keep the brambles back, which are protecting the newish trees, which are harbouring beneficial buglife (And OK not such welcome numbers of bunnies, foxes, and badgers) , and shielding happy campers from the southwesterly winds, and in turn temporarily giving the growers eyes respite from everything that needs doing straightaway.....

So; better crack on with some of it then....




Will be sowing some of this today. An Italian delicacy that a friend switched me on to quite some years back....It's shy to germinate; and a bit of a fiddle to harvest. Hence umlikely to be hitting supermarket shelves in any appreciable quantities any time soon.
 But it's generally very popular once folks have got a taste for it. Traditionally braised in Olive oil then dressed with lemon juice...It's something a bit like samphire, but grows happily on drier soils ... Ideal for these sandy south facing slopes..






Supplied by these good people...


Who in accord with the 'Supadug' lot, also close down for a portion of the summer, to give their staff a break...It could be the new ethical shopping criteria... Do the workers get a proper holiday??





Wednesday, 9 March 2016

45 degrees, today....

Angle of lean required to make headway against wind.
Field Shoplet overturning disaster..

Resulting in eggceptionally high levels of paltry 'shell shocked' puns...Elsewhere.

Storm unnamed as yet...

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Out and about...


The sarcastic response to 'International Women's Day" on the 8th March; might be :
"Really a whole day; just for us?
 Well thank you; if you're sure you can spare it"

But I know that's not how it's meant; it's supposed to highlight the issues particularly affecting women and girls around the globe.. And really; looking about the world it's hard not to wonder if we haven't slipped back a Century or two.

There are so many things still not right; or even getting worse that it's hard to know where to start...
So I might stick to the subject that perhaps I can claim to have some expertise in...How it feels to be a woman right now, right here, particularly in respect of excursing by oneself...

I have cycled, walked, camped and generally traveled about solo, by bus, train and hitching too, enough, to see that as a gender we are very under represented..."Out there"

Clifton, Bristol, dusk...

Why is this?

Quite recently whilst on a short 3 day cycle tour of Exmoor and it's environs I fell into conversation with a couple of scout masters (yes I know ;) at a hostel to which I had retreated in the face of inclement camping weather.

They reported having seen far more solo female cycle tourists on the continent; than ever they had espied here...

I am often the subject of friendly curiosity in this regard; I don't mind, a bicycle seems to be a good 'ice breaker' and the resulting conversation is rarely dull.


It's just that a woman out by herself; is still seen as unusual enough to be remarked upon.

Perhaps it's a case of people thinking of what they usually see around them as 'normal'. Anything else; is somehow questionable.

And judging by the often envious remarks I get from other females, whilst I'm going about the place; I don't think it's a case of women not wanting to go out by themselves.
 It is perhaps more to do with giving themselves permission; or learning a few skills to make it a possibilty; or perhaps just seeing other women do it so they know it's no big deal...

It really isn't so hard to learn to navigate... And getting lost; if that should occur; can be fun and lead to fresh discoveries... One talent that women do seem to have less trouble exercising is 'asking for directions when lost'.
You never know what extra, handy nugget of, local advice you may garner in addition to directions......

I did genuinely get a "I wouldn't start from here" from an Irish builder chap, when enquiring 'pon the quickest route to a destination.....Larks aplenty!

And a succint life story; and 'state of the upland sheep industry update' from a Dales shepherd when establishing which of the two possible routes would be a less hilly conclusion to a long day in the saddle..

Most camping kit can be found in lightweight form; if you don't happen to have  the 'agricultural heft' built up through thirty years of farm work...Like some of us do.

And putting up a tent isn't nearly so complicated as some folk would have you believe....

The science of shelter erection: 'Tautology' is a gender free, sexless, undertaking...





 Maybe on account of having spent most of my career, in what is traditionally seen as a male job; I'm less susceptible to pressure to behave in what might be considered a 'lady like' fashion....Ha!

And that is perhaps another issue.

Expectations, and the concious, or unconcious, use of unhelpful language, and how confidence sapping it might be to those unsure of themselves.

 "It's just words; get over it." Some will say; funnily enough that is rarely opined by those for whom those perjorative words may have some sting...

There is a plentiful supply of ready to use negative terms out there; for females getting ideas 'above their station.'

But even with ostensibly, well meant advice... Implications can be made.

There was an article I read recently about 'Getting more women out into the wilds'

Or something along those lines..

 They were encouraging first steps...

And on the face of it advice such as..

Be sensible about your use of social media....i.e. Don't give away where you are...
Seems perfectly reasonable, until you analyse it...

Because girls; if you do give away your location; and 'something happens'

That is; for instance if a completely out of order person finds you; and molests you in some way; well you didn't take sensible precautions.... Silly girl.

It may seem like a trivial distinction to some; but the implication underlying is that 'You were asking for it....'

How often do we still hear this; in all sorts of situations?

 To be honest; I personally have an almost awestruck admiration for the women who can survive a night out in a camisole top, very short skirt, and little else....What I want to know is how they don't die of exposure in those temperatures; without even a cardi??

 Impressively tough I'd call it...Manufacturers of insulated jackets are not going to be funding research into this 'extreme temperature resistance' phenomena any time soon..


Here 'The bright lights of Whitby' after a full day of cycling in the soft welcoming rains of Yorkshire; last October.
 Despite being a daughter of that fine county; I've gone a bit 'Southern Softie' since and definitely had my warmest clothes on here...

Candlelit dinner for one... A nightlight can be very cheering, and doesn't add significantly to the luggage.... I'll nip off, and weigh it later...

Earlier in the same trip I'd had an enquiry from a chap who asked:

"Aren't you scared out there; all by yourself ; on your own in a tent?"

"Scared of what? exactly..."

There was a short pause...Then

"Oh ; I don't know...The Boogie Man?"

Which of course made me fall about laughing...

Well yes; I can see there could be a bit of a problem if some bloke turns up wanting a disco in this tent; there really isn't the room.....

And it would play havoc with the seams....

 Shudders....


I guess what he meant was that scarey; vast dark primeval unknown; just outside the tent flap.....

Where anyone; or anything; but most likely; in this country at least; sheep; could be lurking...

But really I'm pretty sure that at 'Axe Murders School' first principles would be "Go where the people are"...

Don't hang about; in a random; out of the way spot; in the hope that a hapless lady cyclist should happen by and bung her tent up; just as the sun goes down.....


Tea light carried front left pannier; I believe.....The ancient; now in need of repair; forward luggage; appropriately branded 'Freedom'   That company sadly now defunct...


Next week I'm going to a women's night at a localish cycling shop. the same shop from which I purchased my steed some years back.

I'm not usually a big fan of single sex events, but it will be interesting to see what goes on. And I hope to find out what might be done to encourage more women to get out and about doing their own thang, following their own noses, under their own steam, and mixing their own metaphors to their hearts content...

For me I s'pose it started as a girl; wandering unimpeded; even about the edgelands of Bristol.

Then luckiest of lucky; having access to a hoss when a bit older; to go charging about on; dissappearing off who knows where?

In the days before mobile phones. Getting a bit lost on occasion; then finding oneself again.
A few minor tumbles but no permanent damage..

And of course the equine is still; the mode of getting out and about; most favoured by the female youth in the countryside, but access to such privilege, is by its nature very limited.....And the proliferation of such beasts; in some areas could even be said to be leading to the 'ossification' of the countryside.

It should be a normal unremarkable thing for girls and women to go it alone by whatever means of transport, but sadly, still now, in the early 21st Century we are often seen as objects of curiosity... Tis a shame; cos there's lots out there...

And ones own company; when not engaging with the natives; can be most congenial...


http://www.bikesheduk.com/exeter-womens-night

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Liabilities into Assets


In case the 'subcontinental' readership might be concerned at a lack of productivity on a Friday...
There's been a steady but relentless accretion of paper sacks over the last few months; of the sort that the chicken feed is delivered in.

 It almost seems as if, that when you stack a lot of things together they start to breed and multiply through mysterious forces, until the volume of 'things' can threaten to overwhelm.

So; having fruitlessly offered them about for purposes unspecified; it was either a big fire; always particularly tempting on a Friday for some reason; or put them to  some use...

These blackcurrant bushes are just coming into leaf; the weeds and grass around them are equally keen to do their springtime thing; and would threaten to overwhelm if not kept in check somehow. 

So first a half handful of heat treated chicken manure, as shown below, to feed the plant over the season. Then around each plant lose a few bucketfuls of leek trimmings; one of the few varieties of pack house waste that can't be processed either via the hens or the pigs. 
Add on top of that a 'double doughnut' ring of paper sacks to impede the weed growth; and finally top it off with a barrowful of thickly spread, half rotted wood chip, courtesy of a local tree surgeon who needed to dispose of a liability. 

by this time next year most of the layers will have rotted down, fed the blackcurrant, which will in turn have fed several folk, and most likely the job will need repeating all over again.
 Keeps some of us out of mischief for a day or two... 'Man Fridays' youthful stand in seemed quite happy shoveling mulch out of the loader bucket and barrowing it in place.

To ensure a happy fruit bush the ground needs to be moist before applying this treatment, no worries on that front here.


Now I've got a bit of a soft spot for this stuff...


Of course most importantly it's effective nutrition for anything that might need a balanced slow release feed over the season.

It also smells fairly pleasant; I know you may not be convinced but I'm not the only person who thinks it has an almost coffee / chocolatey aroma...It is heat treated after all.
And it's produced by a smallish firm, who deliver quickly, and will usually throw in a free bag of the stuff, or a pair of gloves if you buy enough at a time. And the same business doesnt take orders for a couple of weeks in August because that's staff holiday time... 
Quite right too; all year round availability can lead to being taken for granted...

But really; best of all...Check out 'Super Dug' .....Manly jaw; broad shoulders; stylish titfer; and darling striped trews..... 
Who wouldn't want him helping out around the veg plot?

I reckon he could do with a bigger wheelbarrow though... This one is verging on a trug.



























Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Powering up...


"The great outdoors"... Hmmmn well mostly; and nearly always feels so; when one is outward bound primarily for recreation. 

Yesterdays very cold and wet and windy harvesting day was one of the very few occasions each year when I speculate on the benefits of an office job.

 I am fully aware that I would last about half a day in that environment; the second half of which would be taken up by being voluntarily sectioned; or explaining to a desk sergeant exactly why, I did what I did, to the printer that wouldn't talk to the computer...

However; studies have shown that 'Outdoorsy people are nicerer than indoorsy ones'....!/


 Hmmmn well; at least us not always nice as pie; outdoorsy sorts give everyone else a break from time to time by going away to remote places...

And I couldn't say for sure but I suspect that deskbound folk don't get voluptuous loveliness like this; expertly crafted for their delectation. 

The custard wasn't so big this week, its the leeks that were teensy, gourmet offerings, double the price for half the size might apply in a fancy supermarket. But here you get twice as many.

Quite generous doncha think? Considering the almost Biblically foul weather they were lifted in.   


Is that the face of Mrs Beeton we see; pictured in the blueberries?


Now this would have been the place to spend a soggy drear Wednesday...
Tucked up in the toasty glasshouse...
Yikes! The benches in the greenhouse are already full, and its only just March... There is just never enough space. 
Here the seed germination; and plantlet growth is hastened by custom made heating mats on the benches.
 They're a bit like electric blankets; but set into a heavy duty foil sheet. 
This is overlaid with thick polythene, then capillary fabric to provide water to the modules from underneath. Which is finally topped off with thin perforated polythene; which impedes the growth of algae and moss thereupon; but allows water through
A temperature probe into a bag of moist compost nested between the trays regulates the heat via the adjustable gauge. 


Second sowing of peas in the foreground nearly ready to go out... First sowing already happily growing away in the polytunnel.... Must go out 'a mollusc hunting with headtorch and scissors....Slugs love fresh pea shoots... Don't worry, I'm not going to post a picture of that nocturnal activity, even with googly eyes...

 And fascinating slug factoid #16 (look away now if you're squeamish)  by the morning the resulting carnage is cleared up ....The surviving slugs eat their deceased breatheren...Eeeww!



There's a bit of a campaign going on at the moment to persuade people to switch to Greener Electricity suppliers.

It would be great; of course; to have some solar panels here to harvest more of the sunshine, and if one has some spare dosh sloshing about in the bank it's definitely worth doing; but that might have to wait.

But the next best thing, after you've been frugal with the current, is buying from someone like this...



We've been using their 100% renewable supplies for nigh on 20 years now...
Good customer service; and its a fairly pain free of 'doing the right thing'.
Makes me feel slightly better about indulging in deep hot baths too....

And in case you were wondering..... These peoples' Electricity seems to work pretty much as well as anyone elses'  ; even if it does leave the kitchen with a faint whiff of cumin...*




















* And OK; yes you do; sometimes; have to pick little bits of hessian fluff out of the sockets; but its barely any trouble; really...