Friday, 27 May 2016

Jewel like creation.

Two sorts of berries; in this complete crowd pleaser.
Custard creator; on top form :)

Churlish?

It might come across as ungrateful to anyone finding themselves abiding in a not so verdantly bucolic, region of the world, as fluffy, floriferous Devon.

But there's a part if me that's looking forward to seeing a bit less greenery in the hills...

Anticipating more in the way of rocks, twiggy heather, and perhaps the odd patch of snow...

It is usually a case of a change making for a rest..

If maintaining mental health was only about being around some trees; and grass; and nature; then no one in the countryside; would suffer from stress; ever....

Losing it...But gaining too...

I can't pretend I've not got myself involved in some crazy schemes over the years....

But taking ten days out to go away; during the busiest; full on madness period of the growing season; is up there in terms of recent,

   "What?   How?    And Why?"

...Especially when the idea is apprehended by others in a similar field of employ....

What?

Is the wholly understandable desire on the part of OH to be the first guy to 'take me up the Caingorms'.

It's been on the list of places to explore for a while.
But how to slot in that ten day window of time betwixt snow and midges? These  being perhaps just two; of the reasons  that the more Northerly regions have largely escaped development, and despoilment?

Whilst at the same time ensuring that every aspect of that which should be done vegetablewise; is achieved; in a timely fashion....

How? 

On earth?

Well mainly by calling on the talents; and energies; much, many, and various; of other good folk of the valley.

Not least Our Hero, who has stuck about to oversee; and undertake much of the planting of several hundred tomatoes, peppers and aubergines...

Then the rest of 'Team Fresh and Green' (both regulars and drafted in) have been tirelessly grafting over the bedding in of thousands of sprouts, broccoli, red cabbage, celeriac, parsley, beetroot, Kale, lettuce, salads, herbs, beans climbing and dwarf, courgettes, and so on... And hoeing, cultivating, compost spreading, irrigating Arrgghh!

The compilation of a 'done' list, as opposed to the usually oppressive 'to do' itemisation
would have been an extremely satisfying; if somewhat overlong exercise.

Still; there really is nothing like a deadline; to concentrate the mind....

Though in truth; vegetable growing of this nature and complexity is always a series of time dependant and pressured activities; what with 'everything having its season' and only so.many available hours and energy in a day.

So Why? 

Is easy to answer really.  If we do decide to wait until everything workwise is done, before taking some time out to do other; just as important; albeit in other ways stuff.

Then the likelihood of that those aspirations ever, being achievable; becomes increasingly less tenable...

So given the last two weeks, or so, of 'madness-more-than-usual' I have high hopes for this holiday..

A fairytale castle in The Highlands? 

With turrets; attentive footmen; weighty damask curtains; warming deep scented baths drawn by quietly spoken chambermauds?

Nourishing sweetmeats; brought on heavily napped trays?

We will see; but I do hear; that our accommodation has at least two porches....

So quite a step up from trailer life already....

Plus already enjoying the  'On the train'...... Frisson.

Moreover; whatever the conditions; it's not so hard to relax; knowing the farm is safely entrusted to two pairs of conscientious; and capable hands.


With more maintenance help dropping in from time to time.

Blessed much; all round.

....My; what an elephantine garlic.



Thursday, 19 May 2016

A girl can dream...

Prototype 'woman cave'....Would need to be wider to fit the 'couch of cogitation'  and a tad taller to accomodate handstands.....

But a wiggly tin roof; plus a kettle; would be absolute essentials....

And wheels of course; to enable a choice of broad views from around the farm...

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Pause...

And...... Breathe........

Oh my!

The exponential growth; of lush greenery; seldom fails to produce a stunning springtime in this part of the world.

You can almost hear the creaking; of the fresh vegetation swelling; as it expands to make the most of the long days..

The rate of work on a vegetable farm increases apace. 

All to do all at once...

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Blessed are the custard makers...

     For they do sustain the body; and give energy to the heart. To continue the broadcasting of so much love and compost about a small farm..

And such tasty delights do keep the spirits up; when there seems more to get done than could feasibly be achieved in the hours available..

There is the saying that 'Work expands to fit the time allowed'...
So perhaps the obverse might be true; restrict the hours allowed; and thereby the work diminishes?

.... I'm more than willing to trial this theory.

But some of the labours; are starting to bear fruit...


Broad bean flowers, need to be visited by pollinators to form pods. These nubile beans can be eaten whole as 'fingerlings' i.e. the size of your little finger; steamed; then served with butter or oil of your choice...


Fuel for the onward march... Last Thursdays custard sitting atop the last of this seasons purple sprouting broccoli.... Having worked off this confection several times over....Am now happily anticipating this weeks offering ..Mmmm....


There is a vigorous campaign underway right now; to try to stop further usage of bee killing pesticides...

The idea seems to be gaining ground...But a little more support wouldn't go amiss...

http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/ban-the-pesticides-that-are-harming-our-bees

Bees are only one; of a myriad of wee beasties; upon whom; our lives do truly depend.

No pollinators, no food, it really is that simple....

But how to get folks fired up; about looking after these tiny creatures to which many will react with a recoil; or a swat...?

 Thankfully momentum does seem to be gathering; there is a commonsense impetus to preserve; these maybe not so immediately appealing creatures....

  Paul Taylor; who took these pictures in this locale; does a good job of revealing their jewel - like; if slightly menacing; beauty....

Whilst in the classroom at agricultural college in my early twenties; I tentatively suggested; that using so many pesticides might not be such a good idea.  The reaction; to a girl; from a non farming back ground; suggesting such ideas ecological had a predictably laughable reaction .

{insert well worn; sandal wearing; and lentil eating joke here}

By chance at that young age; I had come into contact with several people who were trying to live their ecological beliefs.

These people; by various means; had woken up to the fact that we couldn't really; in the long term; carry on the course; upon which it seemed we were set.

If we put toxins out there; they have to go some where...
It really isn't rocket science..........It is undoubtedly more complex than that...

But at the same time logic tells us that it can't be OK.

I spent one summer in college holidays; working on an organic dairy farm. It was run by a couple who were really sticking their necks out.
 They were refusing to use, the then mandatory, organophosphate warble fly dressing on their herd of Jersey cows.

 Basically this is a highly toxic nerve agent, that was used as a systemic preventative measure to kill the larvae of these nasty little flies, that burrow under the skin of cattle... Hows that for squirm inducing?

The dressing worked its way through the animals nervous system after being poured along its spine and infused the whole animal with the poison.

Doesn't sound great does it? But at the time, you could be closed down by the ministry of Ag' if you didn't use it.

This Somerset family; who had done careful research into the effects of using this chemical; had experienced all sorts strife for not complying with the regulations.

 From threats of having their business shut down; through to personal intimidation..

Moreover; this was in the days before social media could be used to bolster a campaign such as this... A lonely furrow to plough for sure.

Imagine living in relative isolation; trying to get your voice heard amongst the government funded experts; and suffering the approbation of your farming neighbours for being a trouble maker..Whilst at the same time being pretty certain that your concerns had good foundation.

But that was many years ago now... Since then this particular practice is no longer carried out; it deleterious effects on the animal the humans using it and the wider environment having been acknowledged by 'proper scientists'...
 Not just by concerned people doing their own research, off their own backs.

 To get things moved on; it often does take a few brave souls willing to risk being pilloried; laughed at; ostracised by their colleagues even.

A few years later I re met a few of those mostly farmers sons from college; and some of them quite cheerfully told me about their adventures in converting to organics... Progress indeed...

Farmers who use these chemicals as advised, are not bad people. They are trying to make a living in a globalised food system, where market forces rule.

They are doing what their neighbours do; they are following 'official advice' from important people with research labs...
Labs funded by whom? That's an interesting avenue of enquiry to persue.

If you let the weeds grow and the dandelions flower; in order to sustain the pollinators who will 'serve' your beans to make them fruitful, you risk being seen as a bad land manager; out of control; a trifle lax.

 And of course we need to keep things within reasonable bounds in order that we get viable, profit making crops.
 There are bills to pay; a life to be lived.

But we also need to give the bugs; and the bigger creatures a modicum of wiggle room. Permission to exist; and permission be part of the whole.





Some creatures are specialists focusing on one particular flower or niche; others are generalists working a range of species.

Not dissimilar to the beetle expert who will spend a lifetime discovering the inner workings of just one creature. In order that other generalists such as us farmers; who need to know some stuff; about a lot of things; can benefit from their specialist knowledge...
There's a place, or role for everyone.

It's impossible; even as environmentally concerned individuals to try fix everything that needs fixing.

 It's too overwhelming. But at the same time if we only obsess about the 'organic shampoo' details of our own lives and don't engage and join with the rest of the world in any meaningful way; then it just becomes an angst ridden navel gazing exercise.

The campaign to stop the use of bee ( and other pollinator ) destroying pesticides seems like the commonest of sense...

Even if the thought of 'low life' bugs leaves you cold; or even squirming.
 It would seem pragmatic to avoid killing off the very creatures upon which our survival depends...

Quite naturally we want to preserve the mega fauna such as elephants tigers and unicorns.... But without the bug life we are; well and truly buggered.
     


Working over time...







Are we in danger of seeing the peril too late?  Damselfly taking a lunch break...


How to keep up the energy to do ones bit, without getting burn out?... Being around other  like- minded people to keep the spirits up; that helps.

After a few years of being involved in this; that; and the other; actions; projects; and campaigns at both a local and global level; it's all too easy to become cynical and world weary.

Self care has to run alongside earth care...And people; and our attitudes to them are just as important..

It might; on occasion; be better not to get involved at all; if ones 'tired out' approach is going to depress other folks with fresh feet for the march.

There have been several periods over the years when I've felt like it is all hopeless. And that the way; we are carrying on; seems to be leading us to a not very pretty; but inevitably sticky; end.

And this may of course still be the case...

Do we keep going; doggedly trying to make some small difference; because we've started; and it seems defeatist to quit now?

 Or give up with a "Sod it; its all hopeless; why bother"

 A perfectly reasonable response some might say.

We can vacillate between these positions depending on energy levels and attitude of others around us..


Mandatory 'Bee on a Bluebell in Devon in May' shot...
I'm no "Everything is going to be all rainbows; and singing unicorns" skipping 'Pollyanna' optimist.

But I did read a piece few weeks back; that gave a fresh perspective on the cause for carrying on.

i.e. Reasons not to give up...

The writer was saying something along the lines of:

 Even if we are all doomed; and if this planet does eventually decide; to shake off; its infestation of humans.

Then how about we construct some sociable parachutes to let us fall with some grace..?  Local food systems; community networks; in reality; and even on the oft maligned internet, where much in the way of useful information and campaigns are disseminated...
Mutual support systems, so we can descend more gently.

 Insurance perhaps; against the time when our madly grandiose; growth without end; globalisation project has to come to an end....

And it has to be a form of collective madness; to assume that we can carry on as we are doing; on a finite planet......

It totally defies all logic; whatever your political, social, or religious belief system.....

However this is not a proposal of  'prepping' style of hoarding of food or building a fortress within which to preserve oneself; and close friends and family...

Defences can be breached; always; by the people with the bigger guns..

This is far more about recognising our interdependence; cultivating an ability to 'share nicely'... skills and knowledge, as well as resources.... Looking out for each other.

And maybe its a pleasanter way to live in the interrim...Whatever the outcome...

Here's a worthwhile joint effort....This weeks custard; on the first picking of peas...Blessed Muchly... 

There was once a story going round that Bumble Bees shouldn't be able to fly; given their proportions and wing size....Thankfully no one told them ; So they just kept on flying




... 

So credit again to local friend Paul Taylor; who took these amazing shots; and who shares them widely in order that we can appreciate just what these unsung; and as yet here unnamed beasties do for us....



And if you do deign to engage; with such shudder inducing media; as facebook.
You could do worse than to peruse the pages of these good folk....

https://www.facebook.com/Give-a-Shit-about-Bees-427686113928795/

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The youth of today....

When we look around the world; and feel despair; at some of that; which goes on..

We may; quite reasonably; ask ourselves

 "What hope can there be for (wo)mankind...?"

Well it might help; for a start; if we could all try to be a fraction kinder to one another....

But also kinder to ourselves.....

Give ourselves a break...

Youth is not wasted on the young. It is theirs to luxuriate in; it's not their fault; if we feel frustrated by what we did; or didn't achieve with our earlier years....

So let's not be curmudgeonly about their high spirits; or sneer at their 'out there' ideas.

 Even the most apparently 'mainstream' of activities; that we engage with nowadays; was new 'once upon a time'..

So let's encourage them in their endeavours; however they might manifest.... 

These youngsters very often feel small; even as they act 'big'...

Let them fill themselves up; right up to the edges; with themselves.

 Let's acknowledge their efforts...

Everyone; appreciates some appreciation.

Then prepare to be awed; and astonished; at what the fresh lot can do; and can be........

But there's really no rush; they have that ultimate luxury.....Plenty of time.


Lucky buggers!

Deep thoughts from a tall Hoss....

Handsome Garbanzo...

Contemplating the connections; and disconnections; both physical; and mindful; which may arise; between hoomun beans; and hossy legumes....

A subject worthy of further; and deeper investigation......

To be continued....

Friday, 6 May 2016

Resolution...

The broad; with the views; and the means of expressing them. Will give herself the time to do just that; on matters many and various arising...

Before the end of the weekend..

But first; a hopefully balanced, productive, and even perhaps fun assortment of activities 'other' to be undertaken....

Bingo wings held at bay; for a few more months by spreading this much love and compost... ;)

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Turning a corner...

The first fresh sugar snap peas are ready....A landmark timewise in the vegetable garden. This crop has been brought on extra early; given the shelter and warmth afforded by the polytunnel.

Not the easiest on the eye; in terms of landscape feature; some might say.

But folks expect vegetables out of season these days; and no amount of love and compost on their own would get a harvest like this; unprotected; in May.

The first of anything brings excitement. Maintaining enthusiasm after months of picking?  Appreciation from the consumer makes a big difference.

And of course; willing hands to help gather them in.