Monthly Archives: April 2015

Focaccia and nettle soup

It was the baking group again today, though they were slightly thinned out by holidays. It’s always good to see them because they are a happy lot. This is good when you’re baking (as some of my attempts have been horrendous and several, despite exhortations to “re-use the dough” have ended up in the bin – sometimes scraped from my fingers, and sometimes propelled with at speed). The fact that Focaccia was bread of the day was a bonus. It always smells so good.

I wasn’t baking today – I lost my baking mojo a while back and my enthusiasm has faded. I need to start getting it back now, particularly as several schools have been asking for bread making as an option when they come to visit. The smell of freshly baked focaccia and rosemary is just the sort of thing to bring back that enthusiasm. Not that I’m overly enthusiastic about the school sessions – it can be a bit of a dull day for the kids when you keep dragging them back into the kitchen for the next stage.


That reminds me, I have a teacher to ring back.

At the end of the session I gave out nettle soup. One or two slunk out without taking any (though I bear no grudges) but several drank it cold there and then and the rest took pots home with them. I’m easy with foraging and can take it or leave it, but it’s good to produce food from found ingredients and to introduce people to new experiences. It’s also, as somebody once said in a book, good to eat foraged food once in a while because it gives you a range of nutrients. However, there are reasons that we eat spinach instead of nettles, with the stings being just one of them.


I have actually set myself a target of learning something new every day this year. My learing for today was that I didn’t know how to spell focaccia. In fact I just had to check it after writing that.

Finally, can anyone tell me how ro swirl cream into soup and have it still look good by the time you’ve switched your camera on. In an effort to raise my game last night I swirled the cream, sprinkled the freshly picked chives and took this picture that looks like a curdled face.





A tale of two partridges

We had a red-legged partridge at the bird feeding station yesterday. They can tell when the shooting season is over and gradually begin to appear around the yard mooching for spilt grain and chicken food. We’ve not had one by the feeder before so it’s a first for the list.

The grey partridges they reared for the shoot all disappeared by last autumn and everyone thought they had wandered away or fallen prey to predators.

However, since the end of the shooting season we have started seeing them again.

They have a brain the size of a pea. They have no formal education. But they seem quite intelligent to me.


Lessons all round

We had twenty kids out today to discuss plant growth, plant seeds for cressheads and make butter.

Due to the regulations and fears around taking photos of kids I can’t actually show you a photograph of 29 smiling faces as I didn’t get the right form signed, but believe me – it happened. This was achieved despite the fact that they had been expecting a day out playing on the farm, not the plants growth/sandwich making brief we had been sent.

It’s a shame I was only expecting 20. It meant that we didn’t have enough compressed paper pots for cress heads, so I had to cut some egg boxes up. At that point I was told that Pupil X has an allergy to chickens, which includes eggs and anything that once contained eggs.

Now, allergies are dangerous, and I’ve been taking some training lately so that we don’t kill anyone in the kitchen, but there is a time and place to be told about allergies. The place is not “here” and the time is not “now”.

Time, I think, to reassess our booking procedures, and to look closely at our communication skills!


Games, bamboo and beans

It’s not often we welcome a sports personality to the group but we did today, after his trip to the Disabled Games at Scunthorpe. So it’s congratulations for a job well done (including archery and curling) and a big thank you to the Rotary Club for putting on  the games.

Despite predictions of cloud and rain over the weekend we pretty much seem to have had good weather. Too good for the plants in the polytunnel – some of which had laid down and died on heat stress on Sunday. I was in on Saturday so I know all was well then. Current forecast indicates we are in for some cooler days but they haven’t exactly covered themselves with accuracy for the last ten days so I don’t know what to believe.

I’ve been ordering a few new seeds as I crave excitement in the garden and don’t think I’ll be getting that from phlox, onions and feverfew. So it’s hello to Giant Bamboo and Bananas. The Giant Bamboo is suposed to grow a foot a day when it gets into its stride so I’m looking forward to that. It’s going to make an interesting photo diary at the very least, and next year’s bean frames are going to be pretty spectacular if it gets anywhere near its predicted 100 foot tall.

Final picture is of our new, slightly out of kilter, X-shaped bean frame. The theory is that the beans will hang down and be easier to pick from an X than from an inverted V. I’ve seen a more sophisticated version of this in a book – I think by Alan Titchmarsh – which was a timber frame supporting a proper V shape. If the X works I may look at going the whole hog next year.


More news on the beans is that the roots we saved from last year are starting to form shoots. Normally gardening books tell you to cut the top part off and leave the roots in to the soil so that all the nitrogen they have fixed from the air will go back to the soil. A couple of years ago  Julia read an article saying that runner beans were perennials and you could store the roots like dahlia tubers. We did it and they seemed OK. Opinions on the net seem a little mixed but we’ll give them another year and see what happens.


Behind every successful man…

You wouldn’t think one small woman could contain so many orders but by the time she’d finished I had a list big enough to see out my Saturday, which is why I’m sitting down at just after four to finish the day. It’s not been the longest of working days, but it is Saturday and a chap expects a bit of slack.

I’ve bought compost, potted, repotted, sown seeds, weeded and swept up. I’ve tidied, moved things, made compost, picked rhubarb and watered. I did find time for a cup of tea and to show off my new “tea plantation”, talk to a keen new volunteer (I’ll soon turn her into a cynic) and er…

That reminds me, I seem to have missed lunch. I knew there was something I’d forgotten.

If I call it a diet I can feel virtuous. And hungry.

My nettle crop is looking good – enough tops for a good soup and enough mature leaves to start drying for tea. Unfortunately The Farmer and his farmer’s brain have noticed them and told me to eradicate them. This calls for either blackmail or distraction tactics. I will apply my thoughts to the problem.

This was the weather this afternoon just before the rain. Not quite as good as it has been and there’s a definite bite in the 25 kph wind – good job I decided not to jump the gun with the planting out. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Is it only two days?

Just  look at the beans – they’re a bit different from the picture I took a couple of days ago. However, this isn’t the first time I’ve had good beans at this time of year. It’s not always a guarantee of having good beans later in the season. Last year’s crop, for instance, had to be replaced after cold winds saw the original plants off.


Pride definitely goeth before a fall, as I often misquote.

There’s something about crops that brings out the fool in many of us. I always used to plant too early anmd suffer huge losses. I’m better now but It’s hard. Same went for my customers when I used to be an agricultural salesman. There were always a few who had to be the first to gather the harvest in. You could always tell them by their smug expression and the sound of the grain drier working overtime. I’m not sure what the profit margin is with grain, but I can’t see the cost of drying improving it.

And here’s the tea plantation – or nine sticks in pots. It’s early days yet. If you fancy any I can recommend hot-plants on ebay. They came from Cornwall, were £8.95 each, arrived quickly, and were well-packed.



Trouble in Paradise


This was the view from the “office” an hour ago.

As I’ve often said before, I’m not in this for the money or the glamour. I do it for the people and the view in spring and summer. I actually only say that to make people happy,  because really I just do it for the view and the birds.

“Solitude sometimes is best society.”  as Milton said.

For those of you wanting to know more about the film we saw on Tuesday night you can find the first 15 minutes for free on this link. If you would like to show it to a group they are allowing people free licences to show it in Mindful in May. I’m an old-fashioned sort of bloke and don’t go in for all this health stuff, but I ddi enjoy it and there was some good stuff in there, so even if you are a cynic you can still get something from it.

That’s the end of the advert, if they want more coverage they write their own blog.

On the downside, I have a meeting in a minute where, amongst other things, we are going to discuss the agenda for a meeting next week.

Talk about trouble in paradise.

The postman calls

Big news of the day is that the tea bushes arrived. For the moment “bushes” might be an expression of hope rather than fact (as you can see from the picture) but I have confidence. As usual I have the plants well in advance of knowing how to look after them. I vaguely remember they need ericaceous compost but can’t remember much else. I should have learned from the Great Gimger Debacle but I didn’t. One day my polytunnel will pulsate with exotic life.


For the moment, in the exotic line, it has nine tea twigs and some sorry looking bits of ginger in it.

We had a birthday party today, launched a massive attack on the garden weeds and planted more seeds. Now that my French beans and multi-coloured carrots are coming up I feel more inspired to plant more. The rhubarb seds are coming up too, but the comfrey has still to appear. We also had three more bookings for school trips – 180 kids, some as young as five, spread over four days. Let’s just say that everyone has their own personal hell. Mine features five year olds. They squeak. They fill each others’ pockets with stones. They don’t listen. And you feel guilty when you threaten them.


That’s all for now – I have to set up for tonight’s visit from the Young Farmers’ Club and then we’re going out for a meal with the kids to celebrate having time to go out for a meal when all four of us are available.

Ours is a life of simple pleasures.


The art of relaxation

There are going to be two posts today – there was going to be one last night but the meeting over-ran and by the time I’d had tea it was midnight. I did try to write the post but I fell asleep in my chair and the laptop fell off my lap. I took the hint and went to bed.

Bird news of the day was that we saw a lapwing displaying by the side of the A46 as we turned off and found pied wagtails at the top of the lane. There were more wagtails in the yard and during the day we noticed the swallows were back in force after a couple of weeks of showing up in ones and twos. Finally, around 5pm, I looked up and saw something unusual on the bird table – a great spotted woodpecker. I know they do visit feeding stations, but this is a first fior us, though we have seen one on trees around the yard.

However, the main part of the day was getting ready for the evening meeting. The  centre scrubbed up well and we got the 56 chairs out without a problem. The kitchen looked good too, particulalrly when we opened the double doors and set the tables up outside.



The film was mainly about people recovering from serious illness by the use of meditation. There’s obviously more to it than that, including diet and medication, but the film was centred on the relaxation response so that was what was emphasised.

I’ve always believed in the power of relaxation, and in not taking things too seriously, and was grateful that the film gave me plenty of opportunity to practice. Julia actually dug me in the ribs several times when  she thought I was becoming too relaxed. We also did some official meditation and a bit of Qi Gong.

It’s World Tai Chi and Qi Gong day on Saturday 25th April. If you happen to be near West Bridgford it’s at the park, opposite Fire and Ice at 10.00 am. Contact Ian for more details.

That’s it for yeasterday. Today will follow in a few hours. Who would hav ethought that blogging could be so frantic?

The calm before the storm

It’s not been a bad day. The spring weather continues, though it’s a bit crisp at the start of the day. The birds are singing, the chickens are laying and things are growing.Somebody paid me £40 they owed me and I had an email from an organisation telling me that they owed us £60 from last September. We were even spared the weekly staff meeting when it was cancelled with 23 minutes notice.

I did draft an email saying Julia and I had gone ahead with the meeting and voted to stop wasting time by holding meetings but I decided it wasn’t worth sending. Not everyone shares my sense of humour.

On top of that we have just had the result of the latest Environmental Health inspection and have been awarded five stars again. It takes a bit of doing when you are running a kitchen by committee but we managed it.


We have made major inroads into preparing beds and planting seeds, though there is still a lot more to do. That however, is not the calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm refers to the fact that at 1pm tomorrow people will be arriving to get ready for the High Sheriff’s visit. It’s going to be a nightmare of women cleaning and tidying, like a wedding but worse. At least with a wedding you know there will be cake but this is a meeting about health and wellbeing: the liklihood of cake is, to be frank, small.