Thursday, 30 June 2016

It's a shame...

Technology needs to hurry up with an 'olfactory share' option. The first substantial picking of basil today.

Sticking your head into a sack; containing over a kilo of this freshly picked herb; is a gloriously aromatherapeutic moment.

Cradling some naturally shiny yellow courgettes. Quite beautiful; even if not on a par with a Thursday custard....

Fond hearts; follow abscence....


Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Listening...

A noble aspiration. To be a good listener; yet so difficult to practice. This week has whipped up a cacophony of opinion, and chatter, some of it rather loud, verging on abusive.
And I'd like to claim that I've only offered a measured grown up perspective on events. But sadly it isn't so.
Some of these utterances; perhaps not so polite; have been born out of disbelief..
Or frustration, that a decision so momentous. That is the UK pulling out of Europe has been taken by so many; not in full possession of the facts...As far as anyone can ever know what those facts are....

But perhaps some of those protest votes came about as a result of people not feeling listened to..
I don't often talk about my yoga classes on this blog, as it's definitely a case of 'you had to be there' to get the full experience.
It is, or at least should be, mind, body, and breath, all in one place, all at one time. Precisely arranged, systematically ordered, and sequenced.

But tonight a particular theme of listening arose. Which doesn't require one to know how the feet should be placed, or anything technical...
The school of teaching I spent five years training with is reckoned to be the most rigorous worldwide.

Precision, alignment, extension, and everything in its proper place.
Occasionally it can almost seem overprescriptive; but it works, it has the desired effect, when properly done.
  I find it astonishing in some ways; that this practice is such large, and meaningful part of my life.
As in all other matters I probably come across as a bit chaotic, unprepared, going with the flow, wandering off, wherever the whim takes.
Certainly the veg farm wouldn't win any tidiness prizes.. And as for what I laughingly call my ' admin system' well ; lets not even go there...

I rarely do..
But yoga concerns the body, which is a discrete functioning entity, it has rules of efficient arrangement. 
And yoga, which has been developed over thousands of years; seeks to enhance the functioning, and health, and comfort of that system.
On a physical level undoubtedly,  but also mentally, and ultimately spiritually.

The last being a tricky one for me. Because; being of a hard science; rationalist background I'm not totally certain that I actually believe in such an actual thing as a spirit, or soul.

But what I have come to realise is that living ones life, and interacting with others and the wider world, as if such an entity existed seems to help.

So feeding the soul, with whatever nurtures it, and that can be anything from music to art to good (or bad) books, nature, walking, cycling, indulgent.food, good company, silly jokes, ridiculous hats, what have you..
Any; or all; of those things that aren't strictly necessary for bodily survival; but somehow make life worth living.
Soul food; maybe...
And a really important thing for most people's souls, if you like, is to feel that they are listened to. Actually actively, listened to.
It's so hard not to think that we know what the other person is saying already, and have a half formed reply ticking through our head before they've finished.
"I've heard all this before. Yadeyadeyadeda...
But people change their minds on things..If they're feeling brave enough. A new fact; or view may have changed their opinion subtly...
But do we hear that?
Do we even give them a chance to attempt the scaling of their own entrenchment?
often not; we're waaay too busy lining up the reaction to what we think is being said, rather than listening, absorbing, pondering. Hmmn, has something different been proffered?

How does this relate to yoga?
Well; we spend a lot of time actively doing stuff in class. Legs here, trunk there, arms just so. on the  whole very physical; muscular work. But the part that shouldn't be working hard is the head, the face, the brain; the throat the tongue...
But for a.lot of people that is where tension is held..
Many of my students have rather cerebral- only occupations. They find it hard to switch off their busy brainy brains.
And this can result in tension in the face; and the throat, the neck, and the shoulders.

To absorb new information in a class we have to be able to listen.
If we want to be able to listen, we have to stop talking. Verbally difficult sometimes, but even if we manage to shut up.. 
Then there's the internal chatter; the reaction, the response; to physical or mental goings on.
So after this week's endless thoughts and opinion giving, and talking; we tried to be paricularly quiet; and relaxed in the face; soft in the jaw.
If you find yourself pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth; or the back of your teeth, there a good chance you are having a bit of a chat with yourself. And therefore  unlikely to be able to listen to anyone else..
If the jaw is clamped; are we literally gritting our teeth against a seemingly hostile world?

Interesting point of self observation perhaps; next time you are trying to listen; or be present, right here now..Even if only trying to be present to the position of your own two feet on the ground...

But why the glamorous blonde Hoss?
Well because Desmund is a very good listener; rarely answers back; and has a very relaxed jaw...

He also smells pretty good too....

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Out of control...


Broad view from ...
An appetite can be worked up; by walking up; to enjoy this from the freshly mowed hilltop... Sunshine not guaranteed.

And another round of feverish activity commences...
Of course; it never really stopped in truth....

Preparing to receive visitors at the annual Farm "Show and Tell"
Although the main event, for most people, comprises eating cake; and plenty of it..

However; people are coming round; and some will feel obliged to show an interest in the veg growing operation, and come with me on the farm walk.
So things had better be smartened up somewhat...

This scenario will be familiar to most; unless one is already ruthlessly tidy by nature.....Not something that comes easily to me...

So if I give even half a fig; for what other people think; I'd better get a wiggle on...

We can often be admonished for worrying about other people's opinions of us...

"Just be yourself" they say...

And then again; almost as frequently..

"You can't do, or say that; what will people think?"

There really is no winning sometimes...
So a comfortable line somewhere between the two?

And of course when it comes to tidy.
One persons chaos; is anothers 'comfortably lived in'.

Most of us have visited houses, where the sofa cushions, for instance, have had to be readjusted as soon as ones posterior has been raised from the banquette....
Doesn't make one feel so welcome..

But at the same time it's nice if there is a buttocks width of upholstery available; upon which to perch...

Balance in all things...

And so it is; in farming; at least if you're trying to farm in a way that could claim to be agroecological...

Leaving enough wiggle room for nature; in part just because; it has an entitlement to space to do its thing.

But there's also a degree of self interest..
For example; pollinating hoverflies; who also predate on some crop pests such as aphids are attracted by flowering weeds and gone to seed vegetables and herbs...

But too many weeds and they start to compete. Fighting for space; light; and nutrients; with the crops. Which are necessary to pay the mortgage; and the wages; and the running costs of the farm.





I'm also trying (and mostly failing; miserably) to keep an open optimistic outlook about last Fridays referendum.

All for due democratic process; and acceptance of a result of a properly thought through debate. But I can't help feeling that a decision was made, by a populace not necessarily in possession of enough of the actual facts, to chose wisely.

There was a lot of unedifying fear of the 'other' spread about. encouraging of xenophobia; even racism; for political gain... 

Already there are regretful folks; who thought they were voting 'out' merely as; a kind of protest about what they didn't like about the EU and the way it is run. 
Some who voted to leave, are now wishing the result hadn't gone the way it did... 

We will have to live with this decision; and its consequences for many years to come; we don't; as in a general election; get a chance for a rethink in five years time.
One thing that saddens me in particular; is that it was the older generations in the main; who voted out; the youth; who will be feeling the fall out for far longer; wanted to stay in.....

Ho; and indeed hum; is as impolite as I'm prepared to be in expressing my feelings of sadness and frustration on their behalf; on this 'open to all' blog.

But next Sundays event will also be open to all too; everyone will be made welcome; and doubtless well fed too. No matter their political views.
I will try to keep off the subject; and just focus on what goes on here; unless someone directly enquires as to my feelings. 

However; I am almost disinclined too, to swag the bunting in the usual 'English Fete (worse than death) style' Although I suppose I could slightly subversively insert the occasional European flag into the line.....?

 "No man is an Island"

Or any farm, or community, or country ( even if this one is an island geographically speaking)

Maintaining boundaries; personally; and geographically are important for sure. 
But maintaining connections; and acknowledging interdependencies; is just as crucial.
To quote a brave; young woman who's life was horribly cut short whilst peacefully campaigning for greater inclusivity; and for our staying within the EU .... 

"We have far more in common with each other than things that divide us."


Proceeds from next Sundays cake and veg sale will be going; as usual; to this organisation....


 Which does useful work globally; to find; and fund practical; sustainable; solutions to enable people to lift themselves out of poverty...
If you can't come and join in the gluttony in person.Then I'm sure a few pounds, or dollars, or Euros, or whatever coinage has currency in the country in which you; my dear reader reside; wouldn't go amiss.

Italian egg custards... With blueberries; just some of the delectables on offer last year.... hungry now...

I have to say I am impressed with the international diversity of folks who seem to be interested in the goings on; of a fluffy little farm in Devon, UK...

So waves cheerily \0/ to the Portugese; Belarussians; Malaysians; French; New Zealanders; Peruvians; Nepalese; Malawians; Spaniards; Japanese; Brazilians; Canadians; Americans; and, and all of you.....I've had to look some places up - most educational ... 

Of course you may all be enthusiastic 'bots'.... But then; perhaps; you have feelings too?







Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Radical silliness...

On the eve of the EU referendum....

The in / out debate has been endless. With; I'm sure; varying degrees of accuracy as to what would happen if we leave or remain; on either side of the argument.

Personally I think we should stay.
That's not to say that there isn't much about such a large organisation that needs reforming, reexamining, and changing so as to take the European 'project' forward...

But on balance as an agroecological farmer; who believes that environmental issues shouldn't be left in the hands of a short term focussed national government, or worse in the control of those whose sole motive is profit.
I feel that the EU does far more to implement and enforce the environmental protections that are needed, than is likely to take place if we leave..

Then there are all those tedious workers entitlements, health and safety directives   and upholding of each individuals human rights that come about as a result of European legislation too.

Only tedious of course, if you happen to be privileged already. Or stand to gain in some way from those rights being infringed.....

So for all its flaws, our staying within the behemoth of The European Union gets my vote tomorrow...

The motivation for its initial founding to bring warring nations together to work for the general betterment of all, has for the most part worked.

The fact that we grumble about cucumber sizes; rather than worry about being invaded; pays testimony to that...

We can't work meaningfully to improve a somewhat dysfunctional; yes perhaps; but in the mainpart; well meaning family by disengaging from it..

Plus at the moment; small productive farms; are politically and economically supported on the continent; far more so; than is the case here....

So I hold my hands up to any charges of self interest.
But I would also like to claim too that I have an eye (or two) on the broader picture...

Elephant Garlic....This strain originating from Wales.... Unimpeded border crossing!


Sunday, 19 June 2016

Rescued...

An enviable enough view from the office window. Finally got round to mowing the top of the hill. Lots of seeding grasses, and undisturbed cover, makes a fine scampering ground for any number of small mammals.

This is one of my favourite field tasks of the season...Plenty of effect; to show for relatively little effort. With the addition of a picturesque backdrop.

I'm cutting the herbage down in stages; so as not to obliterate; in one fell swoop; all the floriferous forage for the butterflies and other bugs....

And perhaps; in truth; to prolong the enjoyment of the job?

One small rodent had a lucky escape...Darting for cover just in front of the tractor wheels....Oh no! Will the poor mite get mown into tiny pieces....?

Then just at the last minute a kindly crow darts in and snatches said mouse; from the jaws of disaster....

Hope the little fellow was properly grateful to his rescuer....

I had a large buzzard do exactly the same thing last year; whilst harrowing new ground... Quite dramatic to witness....

Then after the rains of the last few days, the sun and wind had sufficiently crisped the surface of the carrot beds; to allow a session of hoeing....A satisfying conclusion to the days labour.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

In Good heart...

Lots of love and compost.
When your soil is in a happy state like this; the simple but satisfying pleasure of hoeing doesn't feel like work.

It's more akin to stirring brown sugar...

The weeds are desperate to seed and perpetuate themselves; as midsummer approaches. So keep the top layer of tilth moving. But try not to disturb the lower levels too much; where the soil life is working it's mysterious magic.


Monday, 13 June 2016

Hosses...

Seem to enjoy yoga.....Or at the very least they seem to enjoy their people doing yoga...

The parallels between a well ordered happily moving equine; and the same things encountered in a human frame are strikingly marked.

But not so surprising perhaps; upon realising that there are so many more similarities; rather than differences; between the two when looking at muscular and skeletal structures.

And considering the efficient;  comfortable; neigh enjoyable; range of movement possible.

So lift and spread those parts that should be so. Get underneath; the parts that should support.

A good day was had investigating the synergies between good posture in both the horse and rider.
And then further progress was to be enjoyed when combined with the ancient art, science, and philosophy of yoga.
Further investigations will doubtless prove fruitful.

Everyone; particularly myself; came away with a lot to think about.

But a very promising start was made.
And the whole event; was most proficiently hosted and facilitated by excellent mate Kate..

Cheeky; the Hoss here pictured; would certainly; I'm sure; add his stamp of approval...🐎

Friday, 10 June 2016

Tall tales; and curly ones too..


Of course everyone was right. May is a ridiculous moment in the horticultural calendar to go sashaying off to the hills.... Although; upon return everything was so tidy that I thought: perhaps stay away for longer next time....?

Poor joke I know.... Most fabulous farmsitter.

So as predicted; straight back to the tillage, trying (and miserably failing) not to bore on about reindeer, high campery, snow fields, rare birdlife, and stunning views as far as Norway... 
Will have to do a summit bunnet report; afore long; to fulfil the onerous headwear contract all the same. 

There was a heatwave in our absence; but everything survived due to the stirling efforts of those left in charge. Irrigation tapes were installed everywhere; but nothing gets into the ground so well; as a soaking downpour.
 And thankfully there were a good few thundery deluges today.. I love a bit of storm drama.
 And newly planted crops are glad of the soaking too..

'Man Friday' camouflaging the tractor..... On a Thursday?.... Confusion all round... 

So the activity pictured could be passed off as a traditional midsummer 'country dressing' of the Ford in greenstuff.
 A ritual that might ensure free flowing fuel, and happily working hydraulics for the cultivating season... 
The kind of thing us rustic types are oft reputed to get up to; when we're not busy rolling cheeses down hills; or making mysterious (and undrinkable) magical beverages from ill assorted herbs... 


We were; sorry to disappoint; rather more prosaically clearing the spinach; which grew all winter; through these holey sheets of ground cover fabric.

This mipex could then be moved onto freshly harrowed; and composted ground. Bricks reinstated to stop the wind lifting it... Frog* side up preferably; so as to reduce their attractiveness as slug and snail hotels...
Residential accommodation; with an all day buffet nearby...

Then get in over six hundred squash plants of multiple varieties in the hope of providing a bounteous harvest such as this....

   http://broadviewfromasmallfarm.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/left-out-to-cure.html

* that's the divot in a brick; for those unfamiliar with the anatomy of building materials...

 The tightly woven cover; with holes burnt in (against fraying) prevents the weeds growing; which would otherwise; be nigh on impossible to control; in a crop that spreads itself about as generously as this....
 Not hard to envisage being overwhelmed with tendrils; if one did lie down for a snooze; amongst these enthusiastic sprawlers.....


The spring tines did a workman like job job of pulling out grass clods; and sent up a hooley of dust as they went through.... Not great from a soil conservation point of view perhaps; to kick up quite so much soil.
But I think most of it settles back down on a still evening; as I shatter the peace and quiet of the countryside charging back and forth burning the dusktime diesel...

'Ginger pork and spinach' 

The beneficiaries of the 'tractor dressing' greenery.

 'Conventionally' raised; that is non free range piggles; are kept on straw; if they are lucky; but often on solid concrete floors to make cleaning easier...

 Can you imagine the boredom suffered by animals whose native home is woodland? They are designed to spend their days rootling in the understorey searching with their powerful noses; and hefty digging necks for tasty morsels. Be those plant roots; or crunchy 'caramel' snails to feast upon...

Pigs however; are intelligent beasts; some would say; on a par with; or beyond that of hounds.. So if confined to featureless quarters with no stimulation of any natural sort, will resort to behaviours towards each other, that probably don't bear recounting on a blog that might be read by those of a sensitive nature...

But it certainly isn't the happy frolicking pig that might be pictured on the outside of that; how cheap? Pack of 'farm fresh' bacon sold at an unbelievably bargain price in your local supermarket...

I don't consume pork myself as a rule; so some might wonder why I raise it? 
Well in part because I believe; that if folks who do choose to eat it; do experience on occasion; a taste of the real thing, they might; in time; eschew the factory farmed; in favour of a creature that had a life before its untimely demise. 

These guys are 'lucky' enough to have a very local abattoir nearby for their 'one way' Monday morning trip... They are kept as a group on arrival; then whilst waiting for their turn; they loaf about in a well strawed pen; and apparently don't seem to know what's up... Until it's over.

Sadly very few pigs get to live; and die this way.
We appear to have a strange attitude to animals in this country. On the one hand we will spend a fortune on our pets, and anthropomorphise their every move. 
But when it comes to meaty dinner on the plate?.... Sorry no; not interested; price is all that counts...

I'm not advocating vegetarianism, particularly not in these cool temperate climes; where grass; for raising milk and meat; grows almost better than anything else. But perhaps we could have a thought for; or interest in; how; and on what; that creature was raised, and in what manner did it meet its end? 

An additional benefit of having pigs on site; is that they are very good diggers.... Most excellent at clearing ground of unwanted vegetation. Moreover as a result of their 'ground hogging'; the roots of pernicious weeds; such as the well named Creeping Thistle get consumed.. 

They will also enthusiastically chase couch grass roots through the sod; as those tenacious colonisers send forth their doughty underground stolons.

 Apparently those roots used to be eaten; and even sold in the London markets as a delicacy. 
In truth I've never tried them, but given their toughness I guess they may well be akin; in texture and form; if not flavour; to undercooked spaghetti.
 If our porcine friends have left any ungourmandised; I may give them a try one day; and report back..... But don't hold your breath.


There are some slightly more conventionally tasty morsels on offer right now; which I know will be keeping the producers and purveyors of dairy produce busy for some time to come to come...

Globe Artichokes.....Steam for 30 mins; add prodigious quantities of butter; dismantle and consume at your leisure....Mmmmm.



Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Coooool feet....

Hard to believe that this was less than a week ago....

Proper crispy hoeing weather here...Weeds shrivelling to rags after being sliced off at soil level...
Muggy; and some evilly hungry horseflies abound...

Generous quantities of  citronella mixed into suncream keeps the worst of them off. To which; is swiftly added a liberal coating of soil from the disturbance.

The heat and dust could almost induce a dip in a freezy lochan right now.

But the lemony smell also puts me in mind of a civilised evening libation.... As a nod to the glorious weather; Ice obligatory.

Moment....

Sigh...

Back to the lush greenery of Devon....
No hardship really; in all this constant renewal; and growth; and bounty....

But rocks like these do remind of a slower pace of transformation, in the bone structure of the earth.

Nevertheless; it's all still constantly changing.

Nothing stays the same....How exciting, and scarey, and wonderful all at the same time...

Must don the sun bonnet now; time to go work with the faster flow, and currents of life; in the vegetable world. Moving towards its midsummer peak.

A modicum of control might needed though; the broad beans are swelling; and the badgers just love 'em....

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Flighty thing...

The accommodation was commodious; two porches did indeed ensure the maintenance of the entente cordiale.

The weather watchers smiled upon us too..Just enough rain; and mist to justify the porting; and mercifully infrequent sporting; of the dread waterproof trews.
But far more sunshine; cloud inversions; and scenic eyefuls; than could rightfully be expected.....

Plenty of chances too; for the all important summit bunnet shots.


I thought it would be tempting fate to take sunglasses.

But then I don't have to look at a few extra wrinkles brought on by snowfield glare  ;)

Upon return, I am expecting to hit the ground running. A fair amount of squash bothering to be done. And carrots to sow; and so on..
The high Summer growing season waits for no woman..

So trip picturing and recounting; mainly for the benefit of those left in charge of the stead; might take a while. Given that more pressing tasks are pending....

But at least my headgear duties; in that direction; were discharged...

New kite however; is required ; present model will have to be retired to lowland duties only. 

Broken string; and a tail frayed well beyond wirhstanding the rigours of upland winds..
What chance of a sub 25g performance model? Research will need to be done.

But fully in favour of the 4pm; well timed bothy stop.
A siesta style snoozette; affording refreshment for the onward meander; rather than route march to the nights pitch.....
Long days mean there really is; no need to rush..

Plenty tops attained all the same.

And now the prospect of some readily available chlorophyll; most certainly attracts...

Whilst in the hills, I got unnaturally (?) excited upon discovering a patch of nettles to amend the evenings repast.

Better provisions vegetablewise; methinks; before the next excursion....