I saw a woodcock today. The very first one I’ve seen all winter. They are such pretty birds.Just for once British agriculture is not being blamed for the reduced numbers seen here this year. It’s the beastly Russians, well, their bad weather last breeding season. Now we can look forward to swallows and martins. I hope some make it back to New Cross.
Most of the asparagus has now been covered with polythene. Some nice bright sunshine would be good, so that the soil warms quickly and we can start cutting. It looks like it will be a late season, especially if we have this cold snap this weekend. Only a few buds are moving, Ben Vane blackcurrants and Invicta gooseberries. The honey berries are coming into flower. It will be interesting to see if they survive the frosts over the next few days. They were bred in Saskatchewan ( can’t ever pronounce that right) and are supposed to be frost hardy to -5 centigrade.
The other thing we’re looking forward to is our first seakale. We’re blanching it under polythene. The wild stuff, unblanched, is rather bitter, it’s all those glucosinolates which are sooo good for you. Hopefully our blanched seakale will have most of the good stuff but a little less of the harshness. Time will tell.
We’ve had a tragedy at East Lambrook, the lovely thatched cottage opposite the Rose and Crown burnt down yesterday. Our hearts go out to the owners.
The snow as come and gone, just the way we like it. We hunkered down for 2 days, didn’t bother to go out and about, so it was all very relaxing! Luckily our Romanian boys arrived on Wednesday night, when there were just a few snow flurries and a very cold wind at Bristol airport! Back to work this week, we’ve covered our little seakale patch with black/white polythene to blanch it and asparagus is being covered with clear thermic polythene. Hopefully this will warm up the soil so we can start cutting ‘gras by times.
It’s Liz’s big week end coming up, a significant birthday and mothering Sunday on the 11th. David, Louisa and Katy are all coming plus Liz’s mum will be here for Sunday lunch. I hope the weather is half sensible so we can have some nice walks between eating too much!
It seems so unusual to be here in March with out much growing out on the farm The pear buds are swelling, as are the Vane blackcurrants. So often by now it’s all go go go with spraying and stuff, just as well really with the windy weather. No doubt when it warms up everything will grow away like fury. Much better than these long drawn out springs.
40 years ago this week I was stuck in Taunton for 4 days due to a blizzard. I’d been to Lancashire, left on the Sunday in bright sunshine, past Bristol and the M5 became single track weaving through the drifts. Are we going to get snow later this week? The cold we’re supposed to be getting sounds quite awesome, -5 in March, that’s a shocker. At times like these, I’m glad we didn’t take a serious punt on Apricots. Our few trees are showing a bit of colour on the buds. Certainly cannot stand that sort of cold! Apparently Honeyberries can stand it. Well, we’ll see, the first are now in flower.
We have 3 Romanian boys turning up on Wednesday night. Think they’ll have a bit of a shock getting of the plane. Hope we get home before the snow…. We’ll start covering asparagus as soon as possible, so we’re still hoping to cut by April 14th.
Some of you may know Maria Popa, she worked for us a few years ago and then decided to stay in England, making Henry hoovers. Unfortunately, a fortnight ago, whilst back in Romania, she had a car accident and is still in hospital. Our thoughts are with her. It always reminds one of how fragile life can be.
Sorry it’s been a while since I last blogged. Will try to do better as we approach another Asparagus season. At the end of the month we have 3 Romanian boys coming and we’ll be covering with plastic a portion of our ‘gras. Then if the sun shines….. hopefully we’ll see some by about April 10th. If all goes well, you’ll be able to try some blanched seakale as well. Must say, I’m looking forward to that.
Charlie Hicks fired up my imagination about sea kale, also piss en lit and artichokes. A really good guy and serious lover of good food and booze. I was really upset to hear of his recent death. A good guy, taken far too early. He even had a tattoo of an artichoke. I remember him being so excited when I first showed him our little artichoke plantation. I’ve left the piss en lit to the french. I bought some seed one year, but the thought of deliberately planting dandelions got the better of me. Perhaps I’ll try a few in the garden if/when I retire!
Lovely cold week we’re having. Just checked up on the chill numbers, basically hours below 7 centigrade, and we’re around 1290 now. So only another 300 to go for our Blackcurrants. Plums, cherries and most apples have now passed their chill requirements. Which means when it warms up things can grow away quickly. It would be good to have an old fashioned, warm and late spring. I hate clear nights in April and May when there is a frost risk. Still can’t sleep then!
I’m going to have a rant about Hedgehogs, they are in the paper today. Farmers being blamed, as we are supposed to have removed all our hedge rows in the last 20 years. What absolute rubbish. Yes, in the 20th century hedge rows were grubbed, but now the amount is increasing. And just answer me why where there are culls of my favourite black and white predator, hedge hog numbers have rapidly increased? Perhaps it really is rocket science….
Happy New year to one and all. Let’s hope for a cool winter and an equitable summer. I think we all deserve it. Hope you all had a good christmas. Ours was going fine until the evening when the wind got up. The result was 16 Lombardy poplars down, most across the road. A bit of a mess. As a number had significant rot, we think we will have to fell a lot more. So if any one wants some big lumps of poplar tree, get in touch! It will be good when the weather settles down, Liz & I lie awake at night worrying about trees.
It has been lovely too see David & Lou and Katy over the christmas period. Exciting times for David, Louisa and Hummingbird resources as they have actually poured Gold from their mine. On time and Budget, Clever stuff. I keep scratching around here, just in case a nugget or 2 are hidden in the soil. Or even a nice gold hoard. Dreams are made of such stuff.
I’ve been spending some time researching the history of the farm. I really want to find out by whom and when the farm as we no it was created. It was part of the Portman estate, they bought/took over the Rodwell estate which included New Cross, we think. I’ve seen a map of 1807 showing what looks like a courtyard of buildings and a big square lump on the south side which I presume is our house. We know that part of the farm buildings burnt down in 1854, putting 80 men out of work! At that time a George Parsons was running it and he was an engineer as well as farmer.
I’ve spent some time in the Somerset Heritage centre and seen all sorts of deeds relating to land let by the Portman estate. What I don’t understand is why there is no mention of building what must have been one of the biggest constructions for miles around. I have been told that some of the estate records were lost to a nazi bomb. Meanwhile I intend to continue beavering away and trying to piece together what info I can find.
All our fields have names, which to my amazement, are generally the same as mentioned in the 1840 tithe documents for Kingsbury Episcopi. A couple of slight spelling variations and, of course, field amalgamations make up the differences. So if anyone out there bumps into any clues about New Cross, let me know!
Happy Christmas to all and sundry! Have a lovely one!
It’s more difficult to get inspiration to write about the farm when it’s all rather quiet. Just ticking along with Ian pruning hazelnuts and tidying up Blackcurrants, which also get a dose of herbicide at this time of year. Lots of people we know in the horticultural world are getting all steamed up for the big day that’s fast approaching, just as we used to do a while ago. Now we sit on the sidelines and watch it all go by. What I don’t understand is why we’ve always got stuff to do. We talked about good walks and pub lunches and visits to the seaside yet we’ve hardly had a day away! Perhaps retiring won’t be such a bad idea after all.
At least this year those apple growers who had a crop are making a bit of money. I do feel for those who were badly frosted in the spring. We had some spectacular frost rings on some of our apples, a band of russet all around the equator. They end up looking like saddle back pigs!
Our big excitement at the moment is waiting to hear when Hummingbird Resources, the company David works for, produce their first gold from the Yanfilola mine in Mali. Any day now! They’re going to offer a “single mine origin” gold coin to investors next year. Good to see the idea of provenance spreading to other things than just food! Look on Hummingbirds website for interesting pictures of their progress.
Meanwhile enjoy the next couple of weeks of panic shopping….!!! Oh, and Happy Christmas
All quiet on the New Cross front. We’re putting everything to bed for the winter, but the weather appears to have other ideas. It’s so warm for late October! Haven’t seen any asparagus shoots yet, like we did a couple of years ago. Any way, nobody here to cut them if they did grow!
Not a lot to report otherwise, Liz has been stonecarving down at Tom Clarkes’ in Bower Hinton. She’s going again in a couple of weeks. I’ve been to a couple of operas and off to see the new Nico Muhly “Marnie” at the beginning of December.
The local shooting season is well underway, which provides us a supply of partridge. We have a field in the middle of the shoot… it’s, sort of, rent. I understand that some of the bigger pheasant shoots literally can’t give the birds away. A hundred quid a brace flying, minus 30p when on the game cart. Such a pity more people don’t try pheasant. Very good eating!
Got a day with three ladies on Monday, talking all things wildlife and Blackcurrants. Ribena want to be associated with wild life friendly farms. At the moment we seem to be dominated by large black and white mammals (wish we were in a cull area) and corvids. Fat chance for much else to survive. With the number of slugs about you’d expect to be heaving with slug eating birds. No such luck. Perhaps we’ll have some decent cold to reduce their numbers.
I keep on forgetting to have my little rants at this time of year. bar one variety of Perry pears, all our harvesting is finished. First time in my career that we’re done and dusted by the middle of September. It’s all because we’ve reduced the amount of apples we grow. Once upon a time we had nearly 200 acres, mostly Cox and Gala, now it’s nearer 10 and almost all early varieties. Of course this year apple prices will be good…. that usually means getting about the same for them as we did in the 1980’s. Inflation… what’s that in a fruit growers world?
When we pulled out some orchards last year, we planted a mix of chicory, Phacelia and various clovers. This year it’s been a riot of blue flowers and now we’re seeing lots of small birds feeding on it. It’s also attracting other insects and hence swallows use it as a restaurant before their migration. Lovely to see, especially as we have had such a dearth of wildlife this year. Bar the black and white beasts who are still digging out the bumble bee nests. Wish they would take a fancy to the slugs. Never seen such enormous ones nor so many. When we’ve lifted polythene around baby blackcurrants it looks like masses of caviar. Any one fancy slug eggs?
Three out of nine of our Romanian staff have at least started to be taught at seminaries back home. We’ve particularly tried to get Olie to intercede with the powers that be to stop the rain. Now we’re nearly at the end of the harvest it looks like he might have been successful. Well, the forecasts are showing a dryer time ahead. I thought the schools had another week of holiday. It seems to be a fact of life that schools break up for the holidays and the weather goes downhill! We get frustrated enough as farmers, but I do think of all those people organising so many outdoor events which always go easier if it’s dry overhead.
I laughed the other day when I heard someone going on about how we farmers had to become more “resilient” because of climate change. He reckoned we’d have more summer droughts and more winter rain. Did he miss out on the basic physics, warm air can hold more water…. hence heavier summer rainfall. Every once in a while someone asks me why we haven’t got irrigation facilities… just wish we could have a dry summer for a change!
If you’re reading this and want Victoria plums, come quick, we’ll be finishing soon. Our Damson stocks are diminishing rapidly as well. Short of nuts at the moment, will be back on stream next week.