Sunday, 31 July 2016

"Hairy Farmers".... Revealed


It's interesting how themes can emerge; almost like 'topic of the week' something along the lines of the hive mind ;getting a bee in its bonnet.

One way or another; there's been a lot of discussion around ' womenly issues' of many hues this week.

 I've been having some very hard choices to make re toenail paint; matching or contrasting...?
 Ooo the angst. Happy with this so far.. Maybe I should take advice?

Somewhat of a late comer to the world of cosmetics. And toes are as far as I've got...

 My somewhat selfish (?) rationale being; that I don't have to look at my face; so why bother painting that?

 I like to imagine that I've gained a few extra months of life just through time saved. buying, and applying makeup.

 Not to mention (much) all that business with careful considered and maintained hairdo's...
 "The Salon of Hedgebackwards" having mostly served me fairly up until now...

 On occasion it will take me three days to get my hair looking 'just so'...  'This unreconstuctable ' style...

Three days of hill walking, cycling, or working in a windswept field that is...

However that wasn't the main thrust of the topic....
Whilst very much enjoying the convivial camping company of some women friends. Temporarily residing in someone elses' very pretty field,  but located in bucolic blissfulness at the bottom of a hill.. 

The, more than servicable, composting loos were at the top of the hill.
 Not so far but a bit of a bind, an arduous excursion, compared with the hedge that's just there...
 Fine for the chaps to go and add some nitrogen to, day or night, no problem.

Far more in jest; than out of a serious modesty we fashioned a blanket cubicle; supported by our outstretched arms..

Facing outwards to preserve the good ladies modesty; in order that she answer that most urgent of all of mother nature's calls... 

Someone's suggestion; that we could have; on the count of three; made like lady eagles and flown outwards; in the manner of a dramatic tableau; wasn't put into practice... As if; we would....?

But generally it's deathly dull; those extra inconveniences; brought about by lack of conveniences... 

On their own none of them amount to anything too onerous.... 
But given a pause for thought; together they all add up to an extra bit of bother in total. Perhaps not something always considered if you are not of the female persuasion..

For women out and about, whether in the relative luxe of a campsite with toilets, or in wilder country, or even just working outdoors. There are undoubtably added complications.

Most of us aren't brazen enough just to squat down by the hedge.... Better cover needs to be found. in some circumstances wearing a skirt can help. Also useful for 'downstaris ablutions..

Then if we need to wash our upper half; in most places its not culturally acceptable, to disrobe from the waist up like the chaps can. A vest is useful in those circumstances but its still not quite the same. 

There are other matters too; that need taking into account. 
None that I am too coy to mention here; they might be covered in another post; another time. 
 But by by now; you might be almost as sleepy as me..

Having just returned from two days of intensive discussion; and 'post it note' wrangling around Agroecolocical Farming.

 "What is it?
 Is it a good thing?
 And if it is agreed to be such; what prevents more of it happening?

 Moreover following on from that; what do we need to do to overcome some of those obstacles?


Way too much; contained in Ten collective brainiums of diverse experience in the field; and opinions formed as a result; to condense here.

I did apologise for collectively referring to us as a group as "Hairy Farmers"
But general consensus was that it didn't offend; and was reasonably apt..

I mused over this; alongside many other matters as I drove into the West... 

Hairy does on the whole describe our general level of hirsuteness. And maybe; (no offence intended here whatsoever) our tendency towards 'otherwise engaged' concern for appearance.

Plus the overall look of our farms, or holdings..... Long grass; and patches of friendly bug harbouring nettles... And the odd bit of homespun fencing or what have you.

And no mere trifle here, for most small scale producers who are 'trying to do the right thing' The 'hairiness (or precariousness) of securing something like a living in return for labour expended....





Might need to work on the 'farmer tan' ... But scarlet nails seem to go with the overall reversal of 'feet on the ground; head in the clouds' reclining....








Oh bother! I scribed trifle!
Soo suggestable.

But there is no way I could expect a Thursday custard tomorrow; not after leaving it's creator in charge of all the harvesting today. What with me swanning  off merely to talk about it....

Even if she was ably assisted by 'second mate' Man Friday. 
Here on a Wednesday (?) before returning back to the briney afore long..... 

Other peoples schedules eh? 
Rarely; a dull moment.

However; I'm more than happy to do some silent communing with a few kilos of freshly plucked basil the morn' ... 

Words alone; are inadequate, to describe that olfactory delight

Friday, 29 July 2016

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Purple hearts; of glory...


The ones that got away.

Even with the best will in the world; you can't pay attention to everything all the time. 

Whilst dealing with the rather more prosaic vegetable production matters; such as getting leeks and kale in for winter sustenance. 'Fripperies' albeit tasty ones; such as these; can steal a march; and show their true colours.

Globe artichokes are part of the thistle tribe; and here their fuzzy mauve tops; make this botanical fact quite plain.

However; the dinner tables' loss; is our other fuzzy (buzzy) friends' gain.

All thistles make good bee forage. So although I have cut these flowers from the statuesque plants to encourage more edible buds; The blooms are left within the reach of those helpful pollinators; and naturally; where their beauty can be enjoyed by other appreciative eyes..  


a vision of loveliness for sure; but beware the spikes..



But ideally; you catch 'em before they've gone too far....




In truth; the hearty ones very rarely reach an actual table here... More of a 'private' indulgence...Being a niche crop; of questionable monetary profit; and certainly not to everyones' taste..

 Almost more a hobby than food... They take a bit of time to cook, dismantle, and enjoy.

One has to have patience, and 'endure' muckily buttery fingers; (olive oil is just as good) to get to the heart of it...

 Is it worth the effort?       That's always a question of personal taste; but I believe so...

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Merry Cans...

Galloping down the final furlong* And into the home straight...

The very last few; of many a thousand leeks are skillfully inserted by this 'filly (not) so fickle; planter extraordinaire...

"Team Fresh and Green" has indeed surpassed itself this year... All these tasty winter alliums ;safely bedded in; the whole shebang taking less than two days...

And only three of us on the job.

Must have been the same following wind; such that helped industrious 'Man Friday' swiftly across the pond; as hastened this task to it's completion..

Merry celebratory libations called for; methinks....

Moreover; more than happy for those lowering clouds in the background, to actually fulfil, some of their soggy promise..

It's as if they're just teasing... Some rain please, weather pixies...

Girl Monday who happens to be in the 'Land of the Free' (refill)  right now; spreading the joys of fancy string; would approve our labours; I'm sure...

http://broadviewfromasmallfarm.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/its-complicated.html

For sure; a taut string is an underappreciated tool in itself; gardenwise...
Get the veg planted alongside straight; hoeing for weed control becomes a pleasure...

I often consider that anyone working here; should first have a go at hoeing; before being allowed to plant anything...

Only then; can you appreciate just how important it is; to get things lined up, in their proper place; so as to make culivations that much easier.

Been appreciating aswell, our innovative friends Stateside; and how helpful their intermediate scale, tool designing skills have been to me.

A lot of my most useful kit here originates either in design, or actuality from there.

It's almost too 'shootin fish in a barrel' easy to lampoon some of the goings on in the good ol' US of A.

As if we; over here; don't get up to almost equal levels of tomfoolery?

But I have to say I've got a soft spot for their attitude of "Go on; have a go; lets see what we can make best to fit the situation".

 Its lazily easy to carp, and criticise, from the lofty heights of 'why bother'.
 It's never that difficult to find some fault or other..

 But the harder thing; is to get off ones fallen onto backside; and have another go.

Lets see if this works instead?

Mistakes; or having to cope somehow, with the unexpected; are often the breeding ground of innovations and adaptations in my experience...

Hmmnn?

 But; enough; of all that motivational nonsense...
Back to the important business of booking train tickets; and organising other 'educational excursions' ..

I am actually quite excited to be going to this event...

http://www.commongoodfood.org/whats-on/farm-hack-scotland




 *A furlong; most usually employed nowadays on the horse racing track; was originally used to denote the length of a furrow that could be ploughed by a horse before needing a rest....  220 yds.. These leeks are planted 4 rows to a 50 yd bed. so by that measure we award ourselves at least one cup of tea per bed planted... That's one of the upsides of self employment... You can create your own rules around standard tea break directives..

Plenty of food for thought on offer; and tasty edibles offered too..

If a method works on hard ground in Scotshire; it should make things a breeze on the Southern Softie lowlands...

For example, the tridents pictured here, crafted by a metal working friend, might present a fairly primitive looking method of forming planting holes...

 But they do the job, need no maintenance, cost very little to make, and will, most likely, outlast the operatives.

And seeing as the meeting venue is a fair way distant Northwards from here, it would seem almost unthinkable; to the point of madness; not to take the velocipede and excurse further for a fews days; or more through the Glens, and who knows; perhaps the Isles; after?

Apparently 'The Team' can just about cope without me then.
Especially if I promise to return with some crafty ideas for improving efficiency.

After all; I hear that's what 'business trips' are all about.


Monday, 25 July 2016

The excitement builds...

Preparing for the last hoogemungous planting job of the season.

Keeping the firming roller moving is the trick... Don't lose forward going momentum..

The roller is really 'normal' person size... It's the teensy 'rain train' shaped like a tractor in the foreground that upsets the scale.
That's been steadily consolidating the tilth, with water; so as to facilitate dibbling...
Hole making tripods with be deployed at dawn...

Now that we have well made, smooth beds for leek transplanting tomorrow..

And further 'good news' to cheer up the three woman planting team tomorrow?

'Man Friday' is back earlier than expected from his onerous boat delivering duties...

And he can't imagine any more fun; that could be had; than transplanting alliums...

On a Tuesday...!

I'm considering that we should all have a celebratory 'flypast' first thing... Arms outstretched..

To limber up for the days labours.

Excellent for the shoulders; after all that 'draught work' with the roller...

Mayhap a hoss; to help with motive power isn't such a bad idea??

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Classy burds..

Well bred hens such as these; will only accept their grit and oyster; if proffered in the finest French cookware..

Here; the ladies are daintily filling their gizzards; from the leCruset; with grit to help grind up their corn ration...

Plus oyster shell flakes to make eggceptionally sturdy; moreish offerings.

They know quality when they see it...

Thought for the day..

"If you don't realise your own worth;

you will always be short changed..."

Friday, 22 July 2016

Cravings...

Apart from obvious restrictions like time; and money; I find the greatest limiter to  soothing the itchy feet; is food.

Not only food as in calorific fuel; that's easily enough ported; but vitalising stuff; that actually nourishes...

It just doesn't feel OK; to me;  have more than few days away from 'proper' greenery such as this.

I guess it's a type of 'feels good' bodily addiction, similar to yoga.

It's not some kind of virtuous, self denying, pure and wholesome 'holier than thou' way of life.

It's more about feeling fully alive. 'Full of it' even.
After years of those helpful inputs; the body would, quite reasonably like them to continue.. 

So that it has the energy to keep doing the doing.
And it's also no secret that mental health is affected, in a very significant way by what we eat..

So somewhat uncharacteristically for me, I'm doing a bit of planning ahead...

Working out a few ways of taking, still live foods, on trips away; to places where they are less readily available...

A little garden on a bike trailer perhaps...?

Hmmn; that might be taking the oxymoronic idea of the 'working holiday' a step too far.

A little more refinement required; methinks..

These salad leaves pictured were cut first thing yesterday morning. They stay fresher longer if picked first thing before the sun has warmed them. Mizuna, mustards, and rocket will regrow for a second and third cut if supplied with enough water.

Being grown in the polytunnel means they are less susceptible to the teensy flea beetle; who will cheekily nibble myriad holes; if it's hot and dry...

Technology installed allows a godlike facility to make it rain indoors... Quite refreshing for humans on a hot day too.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Space; and time..

Thinking about trying to find the time to write up the May trip to Cairngorms...
Fast receding; thankfully not in memory... Huzzah for photos; and notebooks; but certainly seems distant timewise...

As with all 'non essential' but still itching to get done projects. it might mean staying up late; getting up extra early; or both...

I believe it's a common theme;  among compulsive writers; or journaliers.
That storytellers need; to get ones account down; in words; and perhaps pictures too...

There are always many angles of approach that could be taken. Beyond merely "First here, then there".
But it would appear that bunnets, on summits figure significantly; somewhere in the mix.

And there are also a few other pressing pieces of writing that need addressing too. It's soo very difficult to stay focussed; too many distractions.

But what brought all of this to mind; is an investigative project that I've been invited to take part in next month.

Regarding the barriers to incomers; and would be participants; in agroecological farming...

More demands on time; but an issue close to my heart, so time will be found, or made, somehow...

Mind wandering as it will, I was considering the clearance of the small scale  or subsistence farmers from the Highlands of Scotland... And how there are parallels with what has happened to the same, in more lowland UK...

Starting off down South with the enclosures where large 'show estates' were created, by the 'landed gentry'.... Particularly on the more fertile, easily cultivated areas, of the South East and the Midlands...

Meaning that smaller scale producers, or tenant farmers were tidied away to make room for large tracts of parkland..

Which meant that the South West; and parts of Wales were the primary areas where smaller farms and 'steads continued to exist; and in sometimes prosper.....
And even up until fairly recently it was where new entrants might get a first foothold on the farming ladder.

 Because the more marginal land in these areas was just that bit more affordable.
But recently there has been an upsurge in 'downsizing' where folks with plenty of readies; from selling up in the South East,  or wherever; can come chasing the 'country dream'... 
Thereby quite unintentionally; I'm sure; stymying the hopes of any local persons who might have dreamed of; getting their 'properly gnarly' mitts on a few acres to ' start farming'...
But of course; if those people have spent their years building up the experience in land work; often grafting on other folks holdings, there's no way they've built up a pot of money to rival that of the highest bidder; with cash to splash.....
So those potential farmers, who may have some connection with the locality; or at least have some connection with land work; are priced out if the market... And there are fewer and fewer affordable tenancies available, when a handsome rent can be extracted from some well off 'lifestylers'..

And County Council Farms, are sold off for the apparent benefit of the Council Tax payer... Even though most folks don't even realise that there ever was such a thing as a council owned farm.... And who knows? If asked; those interested citizens might wish such a scheme to be continued.

I have a few; only half thought through ideas; as to how these conundrums might be resolved....

But I'll definitely be very interested to hear how others might be working out a solution to this impasse...
And sooner or later; but hopefully before too long I'll be winding up the 'handcranked country broadband' to recount and picture one version of events; around clearing off to the Highlands, in May... 

A small farm; with a priceless farmsitter; is the only real way; of pulling off a trip like that....
Only slightly wonky water level...Snapped whilst balancing (or obv not) on a rock...
Theme of 'falling over' arose in yoga class tonight; as is so often the case... 'Over-balancing'???  Strange phrase... As really it's a dearth, rather than a surfeit of that ability... 

Smooth operator...

Other people's mishaps can provide far more heartening entertainment; than workaday; boring old; "Everything went according to plan".... So drear...

With the proviso that nothing other than pride was hurt; save for a few nettle stings; and superficial wire scratches..

So a glorious day for mowing... Getting into those long neglected patches of nettles... Of course one should always go diving in there bare legged first, to check if any traps lurk....

A smallish piece of fencing netting, abandoned some months earlier.
Can wrap itself most snugly; and effectively about the spindle and bearings of the flail mower...

Necesitating an hour of colourful language, and wrangling with bolt croppers on my part. Oh pish! and botheration ...!

After having first turned the whole shebang turtlewards; for access..

Fore end loader and strop (tool - not mood) come in particularly handy for this porpoise...

Now please feel free to select from the following options; of 'helpful hints' to proffer..

Always tidy up after yourself.

Don't leave things lying around in the long grass.

Look where you are going (mowing)

Or you could if you prefer; invent your own variation; on any of the above themed......

I'll put them into 'My big book of very sensible; after the event farming tips'..

Catchy title eh?


Monday, 18 July 2016

Glorious.....

At last some proper hot weather;  the ginger pigs have wasted no time taking advantage of a leaking water trough. Creating a wallow to match their hue.
I seldom wish I'd been born a boy. Despite the many 'complications' biological and otherwise of being female....
But the cultural limitations on disrobing whilst working in hot weather; don't really seeem quite fair.... 
Even when working alone.
But; one mustn't scare the horses; let alone poor unsuspecting delivery drivers..
Despite staying modestly attired; several tonnes of compost were spread; in preparation for leek planting....
And B$t**d horseflies definitely had more than their 'proper' pound of flesh.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Succulent snack...

Sunday Sowing duties; rendered most palatable when accompanied by warm from the vine; red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Just coming into crop.

Here sowing Chicory Pallo Rossa; a seed in each cell. My 'special' compost firming block; still preserved by the insistent label.

These bitter but crunchy leaves should be ready by November.
Quite delicious in a mixed salad with sweet tender, red or golden beetroot; and only just hard boiled duck eggs.

Need to source a new flock of Indian Runner ducks, and build them a very lightweight duck house on wheels, so they can be penned briefly in various patches around the veg patch.

In this way, they serve as a SWAT team hoovering up slugs and snails; as well as clearing the eggs of same molluscs.

Thereby breaking the life cycle, and reducing population numbers of those horribly hungry slimey pests.

Duck eggs are one of those comestibles that sharply divide opinion.

Personally I love them, but for some inexplicable reason they give others; the shudders.

There's really no accounting for tastes; and secretly I'm glad that I don't have to fight anyone for em...

That could get awfully messy.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Keeping on; keeping on...


Well that made a change.

Instead of the usual Friday fieldwork frolics ('Man Friday' help; was off boating anyhow)
It was the annual picnic lunch of assorted academe . Pre Graduation Day prize giving in Bristol.

Monies proffered (not mine!) in memory of late father To "Best Third Year Geologiser"

 (Must check actual prize title; and recipient; more carefully; but something in that ball park. Well done you! Very much so. And keep up the good work.....)

Taking a fairly long view....

Thought it might be a useful chance to extract some insight from someone whom has been involved in 'Earth Sciences' for many a year; and who should have a 'long view' on these things...

My question being....

How do you keep on doing 'the thing'; that seems like the 'right thing' to do; but at the same time often feels like pushing a stone up a hill; or swimming against the tide? 
(Take liberties with choosing; and mixing your metaphors. 
But perhaps don't go swimming with a stone)

In this case; keeping on with small scale 'Eco' farming... With all it's attendant flaws; and contradictions; and exhaustions; and not making much money for all the effort...And the world seemingly goinging quite cheerfully in the direction of consuming more; not less.... All of that and more..
Why keep going?

And of course his answer to this poser; was the same as anyone who has spent their life pursuing an interest by which they feel compelled. Or drawn to; or can't imagine not doing..

You've just got to do your thing... Whatever it is; and it may be multiple things..
It may not be anyone elses thing; you may find it impossible to rationalise; or justify. You know its not going to 'save the world' or save anything... And naturally 'The Thing' and your motivations may well change over time... 

But; if you're lucky; you will find some 'cheerleaders' and supporters.

Although at other times you may feel like you're ploughing a lonely furrow.

There will always be plenty of naysayers; denigrators; why are you bothering with thattters? It is so easy to carp; and criticise... Some folks even turn it into a cheap; if ultimately unfulfilling hobby...

These weren't his exact words; this is my paraphrase... And then followed some fascinating but slightly beyond me talk of crystalline structures in the far North East of Scotshire.. Which I will look up. And will go and see one day..


Someone else put all of above far better...

On living the questions; rather than reaching for the ready made answers...

"The adventure is it's own reward - But it is necessarily dangerous, having both negative and positive possibilities, all of them beyond our control. We are following our own way, not our daddy's or our mothers way.... 

Life can dry up because you're not off on your own adventure."



Joseph Campbell
























Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Top tip..

If you happen to be the kind of chlorophyll crazed loon; who thinks it a perfectly reasonable undertaking to plant out 1600 cabbages by hand...

To avoid unsightly injuries; to a farm maidens hand...
A wodge of wadding; inside the glove...Before; the blister starts to form...

Also stainless steel tools; insert into; and thereafter; shed; the earth; most efficiently...
Thus lightening the load infinitesimally with each move...

But....The smallest amount x 1600 adds up to quite a lot...

And you too; can have the same advice for free as I gave to a chap going by the name  Huge Furry Whatsischops; or some such, when he inquired, whilst perusing at a market, as to how I got my sprout buttons so perfect..

"They like it deep and firm Hugh...

Deep and firm..."

The plant stems will send out secondary feeding; and stabilising roots; if they are planted deeply enough.
And the soil needs pressing down with some conviction.

Not patting it round; as if you're putting a kitten in its basket..

Probs too late to be sending him an invoice for 'consultancy'... 

But perhaps next year I'll run a course here entitled... 'Getting your brassicae done right'

I won't charge much for the expert tuition and could even throw in some free camping....

Lovely views...

Book now, to avoid dissapointing, me...


Low tech but effective tools for the job; string to get them in straight (that really helps with accurate hoeing later) ; stainless steel bladed planting trowel; and padding for inside your glove...

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Sunday, 10 July 2016

More fun...



If all the 'jolly japes' pictures are to be believed; it would appear that the fun pretty much; never stops round here. 

 Of course its not all skipping about; giggling girlishly whilst wearing a bunnet; a basket 'pon ones arm. But; even seemingly mundane tasks; such as hoeing beetroot in this sunny afternoons' skittish breeze can be pleasurable if you are in the zone...
Undertaken with a presence of mind; on the job; with that almost medititive flow; that you can experience whilst undertaking any purposeful activity once you've got the knack..

 With the proviso that you're reasonably comfortable with whatever else is going on inside your noggin. 
Sunshine helps; birdsong; fluffy clouds; green trees; all that stuff that we are told we should get more of; to relieve the anxiety brought on by 'modern life'..... Whatever that is?...Rather depends on whom you ask.

Hmmnn; all well and good; if what you're mainly suffering from is being bunged up in an office nine to five. Then yes; undoubtedly 'outdoors' in all its forms can be restorative.
But where does that leave those of us who spend most of our working lives outside; if we are still troubled? 
Are we by definition abject failures? If still; despite all the bucolic bliss; we are unable to shift the stress?

I think it comes down as much to a change of perspective; or even environment. I met a friend for a drink yesterday afternoon; for one of those rambling chats that could have given time; gone on for three days; or longer....

 But all in good time... She too spends most of her days outside; so despite the weather being clement; and there being tables free by the canal; we gave ourselves the treat of sitting indoors... Could also be argued that the beer contributed to the cheer... Very pleasant; for the peasants... Mutual unburdening... Thereby lightening some of the load.



Dont fall in.... Or at least warn me first.....So I can get the best angle..

So then after a few duties this Sunday morn it was time to be off again; quick spin on the bike down to the coast; leafy lanes; shingle beach; and back in time for elevenses... On the way home; crossing the River Otter I came across this chap; and his mate..
Middle aged men especially; I have noticed seem to have a particular talent for quite guiltlessly enjoying their leisure. And good for them I say; its just the rest of us; that need to catch up.

River fishing; or indeed any kind of fishing doesn't really appeal to me. I tried casting off the beach one time; and the greatest profit from the whole enterprise; in terms of enjoyment; was experienced by 'Man Friday' who was tutoring... 

He said it gave him uncommon pleasure to witness me; not being totally competent at something*... Some folks might have been offended at this judgement; but I know it was meant in totally good heart; and humour... 

I guess having spent all my life doing 'practical' things; one way or another I could come across as irritatingly able; in several fields... 
I reserve the write however to still be a bit rubbish at computers... There has to be some reason for having kids; after all...

(* And anyway my lifetimes catch rate didn't suffer; I have in fact caught tens of thousands of slippery ones in my fish farming time; only by the vastly more efficient method of dragging a Seine Net; then pumping out the rest of the lakes water so the poor blighters can't get away)


So I thought with an audience; this fisherman would have no chance of bagging his catch; but within five minutes of my arresting on the bridge 4lbs 2 oz of grey flapping mullet was in the landing net...

Now; if prior to leaving home this chap had announced to his housemate...

"I'm going down to play by the river with Pete."

Or if the solitary fisherman staring intently at the ripples further upstream; had told his interlocutor

"I'm off to meditate by the riverbank"

Then either of these 'manly' men might have feared coming across a tad childish; or fey...

But what else were they reely doing? 
Playing; contemplating; immersing themselves innocently; in an activity that had no function whatsoever (the fishy was tossed back; not eaten )
 Quite naturally they had lots of important equipment to fuss over; and fiddle with; that's also part of the fun...

I don't mean to mock at all; not one jot... 
I have a deep admiration; nay envy; for the skilful infusing of import; with which  some folks manage to flavour their enjoyable outdoor pursuits. 
A talent which I would not seek to denigrate in the slightest; rather; if anything I believe more of us should strive to emulate this laudable talent...

What I find a sad shame though; is if we can't take some of that sense of total absorption; and pleasure into our everyday; required activities.

I wonder if some of the 'not liking work' problem; doesn't come from being expected to be a serious, suffering, productive unit
Not wanting to be seen to be having any fun at all whilst we go about our labours. When in fact meaningful tasks; done with a modicum of pride can be pretty satisfying. I guess the devil is in that 'meaningful' bit...

Of course there are some things we'd prefer to do over others...
So then we might have to integrate the principal of "Eat the Frog First"
i.e. Complete as priority; the task we're least looking forward to; then reward ourselves with the funner stuff later.

But make sure you're not going searching for extra frogs as some kind of 'self' punishment; as in truth; I suspect few of us have reely been that naughty..... :)

So a few bits of 'serious' paperwork loom (soggily?) in my pond now... Might have to quit with the 'mucking about' for a few days... We'll see....

But in the spirit of 'Just because I like this stuff'....... A rather fine compact and characterful  specimen collected; on behalf of the Wiggly Tin Appreciation Society










Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Wholesome fun....



Absolutely no shortage of bunnage on offer this weekend. And it never fails to amaze; just how much cake arrives; and is subsequently consumed by the assembled. As you can see from the photo; 'Open Day' is an inter-generational epicurean effort. No one needs a second invitation to help themselves.

Great to see so many folks enjoying the victuals on offer; and casting an appreciatory glance about the veg field too.
 Long socks; a frock; and a bunnet were deemed as a 'sensible' garb for a meet and greet day... 
Not that this 'disguise' was used as a tactic of evasion... Well, hardly at all..
The whole event was most like a traditional afternoon tea party; only; in a field.
 However despite my feeble efforts to avoid the subject; there was much heated discussion around the 'European situation'.

There seemed to be general agreement; as to how precarious things have been left, after the 'shock' outcome... But time will tell; and fretting about it won't get anything achieved here... I can always take out my angst on the weeds.... There are just a few left, for the bugs naturally. And a good few tonnes of compost need spreading in the coming days.

Perhaps opportunities for change; will arise from the perceived mess that has been left, by 'our' leaving. Certainly 'the game' has changed; for good or ill.
 Maybe there will come a greater awareness of how things actually are; for so many people; and how improvements could be made with some considered action.

The age old curse " May you live in interesting times" has indeed come to pass.
But that is both the beauty; and the beast; of the future. You seldom know for sure; what is around the next corner; or over the next hill.


Help yourself.... Oh! Fantastic; you already did....
Plus helped a few others too... With the addition of a postal contribution; we raised over £160 for http://practicalaction.org/ 

So it was lovely to have visitors; and to bask replete; in the uncommon sunshine at days end. 


But solo working; or sharing tasks; with a companionable silence; has much to recommend it too.

Monday morning; found me back weeding the kale seedling bed in the company of Girl Monday... Satisfying to look back and see where you've been. But must make more diligent efforts to gather mugs; as I go along.. 

Kale: varieties Moss Green Curled. Cavello Nero, Hungry Gap. Red Russian, and Jagalleo Nero; for winter cutting
Here awaiting transplanting to their final home in the next couple of weeks.



And then further delights in paper form arrive with the post . This is one publication; whose arrival will always find me scuttling away to some quiet corner for a peruse. Even if there are more pressing tasks to hand.

For many a year now; 'The Land' has been a supportive, informative, and entertaining read, for those engaged in what could loosely be termed 'ecological land based occupations'. Or for those interested in such matters.
This is its twentieth issue...

Most of its contributors are; or at least have been; associated with landworking in some way.
It is the 'go to journal' if you want to keep abreast of whats going on on the more outlying fringes of agriculture, horticulture, and forestry, especially where those subjects overlap with ecology, organic production, land rights,  both national and international. and social justice in the widest sense...

But who knows what; of the activities considered 'a bit weird' now; will be seen as 'mainstream' in ten or so years?
 Very difficult to forecast...

This magazine also has some beautiful illustrations; many of them original wood engravings; a further reason for it being the one periodical that gets hoarded here..... Not in a precious way; there's plenty of dog ears; and mug rings. But they will always bear a reread.

In depth journalism; with all facts; properly referenced. No pandering to the rather patronising; supposed; goldfish like attention span; of your usual magazine reader...

Moreover there is plenty of dissection; nuanced argument; and counter argument.

 So this is no preaching to the converted 'we're all on the same page' anti- establishment for its own sake; collection of writings. As many questions are raised; as are answered.

One of the topics this issue is the various cultural; and even legal aspects and approaches to the age old peasant tradition of 'foraging' for wild food.

Not the usual "Gosh! Did you know you could eat this?" Kind of gush; that is so often presented by 'greenish' tinged publications.

The retort to that; often being; a rather dry....

'Yes I know you can; but to be honest I've tried it once; and that was enough'

I'm not suggesting that gathering properly identified leafage from by the wayside doesn't have it's place (particularly if you're on foot; and chlorophyll is in short supply  :)

But it on the whole; for most people gathering wild food is a harmless hobby rather than a  source of great sustenance. More than likely you'd use as many calories gathering your pot herbs as you're going to get from eating them.
Maybe that's no bad thing; and perhaps there are vital micronutrients available in some edible wild plants scarce found elsewhere?

After all, most herbivores will; given the chance; graze the hedges; in addition to any lush sward; made available to them

However if you're not averse to the odd rabbit or pigeon for your repast, you are, perhaps in a lazier (and bloodier), but more efficient way; making the most of that animal having done the foraging for you. There's certainly no shortage of those tender morsels in these parts... If anyone fancies doing a bit of pest control..


Whatever the subjects covered; and this issue also offers amongst many other topics: The Church of Englands' pattern of land ownership and management; alternative pig foods; Local planning authorities varying attitude to travellers; the proposed privatisation of the land registry; and the growing movement of veg producers within the London Boroughs.

 Definitely worth a look if you have a thoughtful interest in land; and how it is used; and oft abused. Or are concerned about decent food, clean water, and air, a respected; but not sanitised; rural landscape. And whether the people; and other creatures; living and working in that landscape; are being given a fair deal.

So with any luck; that pretty much includes any half sensible human being.

Certainly; one would hope; that there are no insensible people who read this blog



"The Land is written by and for people who believe that the roots of justice, freedom, social security and democracy lie not so much in access to money, or to the ballot box, as in access to land and its resources..."



Saturday, 2 July 2016

More things of beauty


Living and working in the countryside; it's a fantasy aspiration for so many people residing in more built up areas. The perception of endless peace and tranquility; an easier pace of life; abundant nature; clean air; and pretty scenery...

Now I'm not about to start complaining about my lot. 
Most of us; if we're lucky enough; get to make some choices about our lifestyles; and then we have to live with the consequences; be they fair; or even if not always so.

Running a small mixed farm can be hard work; frustrating when the weather doesn't play nicely; and can feel a touch relentless from time to time. But the work is varied; and the body is designed to do things. So get enough rest; and try to use the corporeal primary tool wisely enough; and physically; barring disasters one can keep going. 

The weather is beyond our control; and it would seem; even more unpredictable now. Not a massive surprise in truth; given that we are starting to see the effects of our releasing into the atmosphere; over a few lifetimes; vast stores of carbon laid down over millions of years.
It truly would be a 'miracle of nature' if there were no consequences to our doing that...

So we have to work with the materials we're given. 
And be thankful; as growers we get many of our inputs for free: sunshine; rain; and nitrogen in the air that can be captured by soil life; and reprocessed by those micro organisms; to feed plants; if that soil life is properly cared for. 

And perhaps; because the views from this particular farm are quite agreeable; there are often willing workers on hand; to be grateful for too. 

Preparing for Open Day this week... It's not so much a case of getting everything looking perfect. This is a commercial growing operation; not a show garden; no handy trust funds; or grants here.

 But who among us; if they take some pride in their work; doesn't want to show it off to its best advantage?

 Weed control; after maintaining soil health; via lots of love and compost; and not over cultivating; is the primary concern of anyone trying to produce crops for profit; without resort to herbicides...

So with a bit of extra, very welcome help; this small farm; is looking reasonably in shape for todays cake hungry influx..


Amina; cheerfully supervising the brassica weeding; and taking a few soil samples.... Looks like she's consumed a reasonable portion of healthy bacteria; to boost her intestinal flora... All the better for her digestion today..
And a few more items; pleasing to the eye; and palate; from about the place.....

Pea tendrils ...  Looking good; and tasty too..

Onion flowers...can be broken up, and used as a flavoursome salad garnish

Young red onions; on a bed of Agretti. A crunchily textured green vegetable originating from Italy. Its closest comparison texture and flavourwise; might be samphire.

First pickings of shiny courgettes; yellow patty pan; plus more conventional green variety. 

Lucky enough too to receive a gift yesterday. To be honest I'm not always such a fan of 'country writings'... They can often verge towards the twee; waxing lyrical on the pleasures of floriferous meadows; larks ascending; and other general bucolic blisssfulnesses; whilst turning a blind eye towards some of the harsher realities.

But I think the sender knows this..... :)
So despite exterior impressions that might be implied by the 'lovely' cover; the interior isn't quite so much 'unruffled country charm'..

There is something about getting a parcel in the post.... Thrills..


Even the first line of the preface reassures, against any rustic complacency..... "Now that I look back, I see that I have written with some anger"

This by a farmer; who is trying to build up the soil; and wild life of a depleted arable field over a couple of seasons; whilst producing a viable crop. 

That period of time; being not nearly long enough; of course. The saying being
"Live as if you are going to die tomorrow; farm as if you are going to live forever".....
 (Hmm...Sounds exhausting, to be honest.)

But an interesting undertaking all the same.
The first chapter mentions the regulations governing the atmospherically regulated cabs of tractors; involved in 'conventional' crop spraying. 
Protecting the operator from ingesting any of the toxic chemicals he or she is applying... EU directive etc etc...

Only now; if 'our' decision to leave the European Union comes to pass; then there won't be so many of those pesky rules; interfering with peoples right to apply whatever they like to their crops; on their land; however they choose... 

Although of course; those farmers are just trying to make a living, in a market driven world where "Business is business; and business must grow..... Regardless of crummies in tummies you know*"...

At all costs? Regardless of consequences? Yes; it would appear so... 
Sadly; I don't feel we really are; such 'clever monkeys' as we'd like to believe... 

Or maybe some are clever; but wisdom; at least for the longer view; certainly seems in fairly short supply.

Still; there will be cake; and anyway; glumness never solved much. 
So I will get the 'bunting monkey' to do his acrobatics; it visually cheers; in addition to distracting from any overlooked 'untidiness'.

And as ever; I'll put the kettle on for tea...









* Dr Zeuss ;)