In the last few years of our time on the farm there was a certain amount of conflict, which I hope I managed to conceal in the blog.
There were two schools of thought – one being that the kitchen had been built to deliver educational sessions and promote healthy eating. This was a view shared by me, Julia, the funders and several other people.
Then there was the view that it existed as a plaything for the farmer and his sister to hold family parties and loss-making social activities.
I think we know who won.
Corrugated iron bar
Looks like a bar…
That’s the old butchery table under the new wooden top
Looking at it now, it seems our (short-lived) replacements did a lot of work and appear to have transformed it into a replica of a South American shanty, including corrugated iron, re-used wood and coffee sacks. You half expect Indiana Jones to stroll in.
New shelves for playing shops
Where did all the work tops go?
Table and coffee sacks
Unfortunately, the kitchen, despite the extension,The End is not now a practical venue for teaching. It will, once they have staff again, be an interesting place to eat, but we will no longer be teaching a thousand kids a year to make pizza or scones.
Nor, I feel, will it host the bread group again.
The final photograph is a young Wren. There were five of them but this was the best I could do. They are so quick! It’s a cheerful way to end the post, and a reminder of all the broods the Wrens have reared round the centre in the last five years.
No, not the poem, just a judgement on the remains of our old Butterfly Garden. We had a look while we were visiting the farm on Friday to visit Men in Sheds.
There is nobody in the centre or kitchen anymore, as things didn’t work out. This is a shame as they did a lot of work and it has presumably cost them a lot of money. It may still be costing them money if they signed a lease.
Sadly, without our (free) help, the farm appears unable to maintain the place.
Standing and looking at the place we spent five years working you half expect a tumbleweed to roll past, or a loose door to creak in the wind.
Dog roses running wild
Willow fedge turning into trees
Willow features in need of renovation
The willow work is out of control, the buddleias are going mad and the log xylophone has been torn out.
In other beds the shasta daisies, the borage and the oregano have all been ripped out.
Where are the daisies?
Barren Borage Bed
As a result we didn’t see many as many pollinators as we should have been and there were no brown butterflies, which used to love the oregano.
It’s seven months since we had to close down (or were evicted, to be more accurate) and the negative feelings are gradually fading as we move other things.
It’s also time to re-evaluate the title and content of the blog, as it’s clearly no longer the story of a Nottinghamshire Care Farm. I’ve been thinking of this for a while, and putting it off as it seems so final.
Yesterday we mixed the Christmas Cakes (using a Mary Berry recipe) and tied up some loose ends. As the day closed it started to sink in that we only have seven more days with the group. It’s starting to sink in for them too, as the rehearsals aren’t going too well and they are starting to worry about it. I’m not sure why – we’ve never bothered with high standards before and people still clap and enjoy it. It’s about the effort, not the quality.
The dancing is making progress but the Technicolour Dreamcoat number isn’t going too well and we haven’t even started on I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts. Fortunately this is our Christmas party rather than Britain’s Got Talent so there’s nothing but enjoyment at stake. Having said that, if we did enter BGT I don’t think we’d actually come last; bad as we are (and I personally can’t carry a tune in a bucket) I have seen worse.
Kirsty, rehearsing hard
We’ve had a rest from pom-poms as they all made their wreaths last week and took them home (before I was able to photograph them). I just need to make a few more then I may make a wreath, or I may allow the ladies to use them when we visit the Care Home for a wreath making session (though we keep saying we will call them garlands – same thing but without the funereal connotations).
Then again, I may just concentrate on cookery for the party – I want to make sure we go out with a good spread. We have a plan for a gingerbread wreath so I may make that instead.
The group did the poultry work as usual and replaced a faulty drinker, had a couple of walks through the trees, found a dead sheep, made a few individual craft projects, put up some Christmas decorations and did the composting, so it was a reasonably full day.
Ecocentre decorated for Christmas
Christmas decorations by Quercus
As part of the process of closing down we have given everyone their folders to take home. Some of them are inches thick with things they have done while they have been here, others (depending on how long they have been here, and how industrious they have been) are not quite so thick. Even so, there are a lot of memories in those folders and I’m beginning to feel a little maudlin at the thought of breaking up the group.
Feels like time for a bit of Housman. Nobody does maudlin quite like Housman.
Well, that’s the paperwork up to date. I can clear my desk with a clear conscience now and feel virtuous until we start tomorrow morning – that’s a whole 17 hours.
I’ve been struggling with the organisation of the Lammas Fun Run. The two things (one being an ancient Anglo-Saxon festival of Loaf Mass) and the other being a twenty first century celebration of people looking uncomfortable whilst running. At least Loaf Mass does what it says on the tin. Fun Run isn’t fun, and it’s barely running. Now, I’m no athlete, as you might have gathered from my comments on food, exercise and youth, so I do admire fun-runners: I just don’t understand them.
It’s also another example of the Random Events Generator that seems to be in use round here. Lammas is about loaves. We normally do a couple of wheatsheaf loaves (complete with traditional mouse) – though that’s more a harvest festival sort of thing. Last year we also made soda bread straight from the field (and had it back to the combine crew in time for lunch) and did a couple of plain loaves which were used in the Communion service.
having mentioned it I’m seriously thinking of building a random event generator – that’s for “Events” as in Open days and such, rather than just things that happen. What with guinea fowl and goats we have enough randomness in everyday events not to need any more. No, this is Over 60’s Limbo Championship territory, plus the Santa Fire Walk and Full Contact Knitting. We already have Breakfast and Yoga next Saturday and Doga in a couple of months. That’s Yoga combined with dog walking – I’m told it can be a bit lively when the dogs get together.
Yes, it’s like the Through the Looking Glass version of The Office working here.
Fortunately I’m not in it for the money or the glory, I just like a laugh and the feeling I’m doing a bit of good.
So let’s see what the next week brings.
And watch out for the further adventures of Farmer Ted…
Another trip to Peterborough and not a kite to be seen. There was only one kestrel and that was hunched on a lamp post by the side of the A52 pretending to be a buzzard.
I did manage to get three good views of buzzards.They were all pale forms and they were all puffed up against the cold. It must be a miserable existence being a bird in winter. One of the sightings was unusual because the bird was perching in a tree by the side of a flyover. As I drove past I actually had the strange experience of looking down on a perching buzzard – even if I was only looking down on it by a matter of inches.
It was a good day for magpies, hopping around on ground that was conveniently coloured black and white by melting snow.
Back at home I went through the back of a bird watching magazine, the section where they list all the rarities. Last month we went past a pond and saw a white heron-sized bird. Great white egret, I decided, though it’s nice to confirm there has been one about. I couldn’t see any news of one on the internet but the magazine report shows there were some sightings in Derbyshire, which will do for me. It also shows there were ring-necked parakeets seen in West Bridgford and Aspley, though we haven’t seen any recently.
Glad to say we’ll be starting back in a few days as I want to start getting things ready for the bird watch and the porridge day, and get my Christmas present into action. Yes, it will be all action once we get back…
It was a crisp December day today, which was good because a wet, grey day would have taken a lot of the fun out of it. We had a change of gear today with the Christmas Event and though Santa and Elf worked in harmony we still managed to scare two children. I tried to make one happier about the situation by taking my wig and beard off to show him there was just a normal man underneath it all but this just made things worse.
Either I have a face that scares children or, as Tim put it: “To him it just looks like you peeled your face off.”
Sometimes you just can’t win. On the other hand when you examine the picture there is definitely a touch of Dan Aykroyd and Trading Places in my eyes,
What was particularly good about the day was that we saw quite a few new people and were able to talk about the farm. That’s always good because, as we found at the conference last year, when you talk to other people you realise what progress you have made. To be honest, although I’m there most days it’s a case of not seeing the wood for the trees. This is ironic when you see what I do when I look out of the window (i’ll post a picture tomorrow).
Hopefully some of those people will be reading this, so it might be a good time to apologise for talking too much, or for discussing care farming whilst dressed as Santa.
We made the penguins from beads – only sold one but thought they were worth a picture anyway,
We’ve always done a bit of bird watching on the farm, partly because we have birds to watch and partly because it allows me to sit and relax. It also teaches a number of important skills such as concentration, being quiet and sitting still. When you have learning difficulties you can be given to twitchiness and talking continually so it’s useful to have an activity which rewards efforts to control the condition.
One of the things we’have been watching recently has been a kestrel hovering over the field where the new woodland has been planted. I say “new woodland” but at the moment it’s sticks and tussocky grass, which is good hunting ground for kestrels. Sometimes the bird hovers in the area around the recently erected Neighbours statue and once or twice people have told me they saw it perching on the head.
I have been trying to get a shot of it but I’ve never had my camera with me at the right time and I’ve never actually seen it perching on the head. It all changed today when I managed to spot it perching while I had my camera in my hand.
Tim found some pellets in the hood of the male figure when he was putting the Christmas lights on the statues so it looks like we’ve inadvertently erected a kestrel habitat.
Warning: Several animals were killed in the making of this post – sorry if it upsets you but farmers don’t keep pets, as we tell all our visitors.
It was an eventful end to the week, with 35 wanting soup and a variety of other things taking place, including a double-booking that slipped through the system and another college visit.
I’m going to concentrate on the soup, because the rest aren’t so easy to photograph.
Here’s picture number one, consisting of a mass of bones in a pot with a few veg (known as mirepoix when making stock). We had the bones of several pigs available after sending some off for slaughter last week and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. First we roasted the bones for the additional flavour, then set the whole mixture to bubble away for hours. How long? Well, from when it was ready till it was time to go home. Sorry, I really will start to do proper recipes soon.
With three pots of bones steaming away the place was, to be honest, starting to look like Jeffrey Dahmer’s hobby room. I’m not sure if the addition of the vegetables made it look better or worse.
The “before” and “after” of the stock
Three pots of bones produced nine pints of stock. It lost a bit of flavour as I had to dilute it to make 20 pints of soup. First add barley to the liquid and cook for 15 minutes to half an hour – recipe suggestions varied so I just cooked it till it tasted half cooked. Then I softened onions and celery and added them plus 24 diced potatoes, a packet of frozen vegetables (carrots, peas, cauliflower, brocolli, onion) more diced carrot and swede. A bit later I added the cut up turkey left over from the turkey tasting event at the weekend then right at the end of cooking I added chopped kale. If you’re going to reheat it leave things with a little bite to them so they don’t get overly soft. This isn’t a great picture because it shows the soup before it was properly re-heated so there’s a bit of fat on top. That’s something else that needs improving before I start doing more recipes.
I’m not particularly proud of the packet of frozen veg or the ready to use carrot and swede but I had plenty to do without spending all morning chopping veg. In my defence I would like to point out that I used our own free-range pork and turkey and picked the rosemary, thyme and bay leaves from the garden.
You may spot a small red dot on top of the soup. That’s because I’ve had complaints about seasoning in the past. Each of the three pots got two tsp of sea salt, two of ground black pepper, a six inch sprig of rosemary, four big springs of thyme, a couple of bay leaves, a finely diced red chilli with a few seeds left in and a piece of fresh ginger about the size of the top joint of my thumb.
It had a good rich taste of stock and herbs and a bit of an afterburn. I’d say it was a satisfactory warm soup for use after a morning disturbing game birds.
Two of the pots contain enough for ten portions or so and the bigger one should do a bit more. In the end there were fewer than 35 wanting soup, but we still got through 27 portions with no complaint.
Meanwhile, to ensure the contents of the blog match the title, here’s a picture of me trying out my costume for the Christmas Event at the weekend.
I’m not big on the concept of jollity but sometimes you just have to go with the flow.
It’s the first party of the season tonight, the turkey tasting event. It’s not a Quercus event but we’re involved because we are trying to sell some our merchandise. We also ended up involved in some of the preparation because we’re naturally helpful! Or because we like to know what’s going on.
On the left is a selection of table decorations made with foliage from the local hedges and flowers from the garden. On the right is a wreath made from strips of cloth: if you look closely you can see the remnants of one of my old shirts. Behind the table decorations is the rammed earth wall that serves as a heat sink – read more about it on the Ecocentre page.
Not sure what will happen tonight, but it will be brightly decorated
When the Christmas jumpers start you know that the big day can’t be far off.
Today we’ve done more decorations and we’ve been working for Shipshape Arts, a company describing themselves as an “artistic creation company”. They are based in a barn on the farm and do quite a bit for us – including helping us with the Education tent at Flintham Show and making the quoits we will using for the Christmas hoopla. In return we try to help them a bit, though “help” may be be putting it a bit strongly.
Today they gave people hats. You can see them being worn in the main picture. Of course, not everyone got a hat. For some reason I didn’t, despite the fact that my poor bald head needs some warmth. Just saying…
This is one of the statues that they put up for us recently – looked at from this angle it’s a bit more noticeable than it is when you stand on the back of the Ecocentre looking across the field. The stone that looks like it’s on the right comemorates the air crash in 1944 – it’s actually on the left but there’s a curve in the road.
This is one of “The Sweepers” that were originally shown at the Southbank Centre Festival of Neighbourhood. We also have “The Neighbours”, who were also at the Olympic Park before coming up here. Did you know there was a market in second-hand statues? I didn’t. It was quite a performance putting them up, with low-loaders, forklifts, power tools and lots of helpers.
This is “The Neighbours” taken from a deceptive angle, inreality they are several hundred yards from the kitchen.
We’re decorating the Christmas tree now. It’s a bit early for me (though I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas, to be fair) but it’s turkey tasting time this weekend and we are aiming for a Christmas Dinner feel to the centre.
Finally – I nearly got a picture of a bird feeding at the table. We’ve had great tits, blue tits, pigeons, chaffinches, robins, house sparrows, greenfinches, starlings and wood pigeons so far. It could be better but we’re hoping it will build up as time goes on. Meanwhile they are all quick to take flight and added to a cheap camera and poor light levels I haven’t much to show for my photographic efforts. Looks like I’m going to have to borrow my wife’s camera or wait until the butterflies come back in summer.
At least you can tell it’s a robin, most of the others have been unidentifiable blurs.