There ain’t gold in them thar hills

William Hebditch - May 11th, 2018.

What a roller coaster ride of a spring, a couple of days of heat then back to cold. Makes planning an asparagus crop utterly impossible. It’s a real seat of the pants year. Then today 4 of our workers left us mid morning. Next week will be a little difficult so please bear with us whilst we try and sort out our troubles!

Mean while the good weather over the bank holiday weekend appears to have helped with the setting of cherries and blackcurrant flowers. Though it’s so difficult to call on cherries, they do have a tendency to continually drop fruitlets right through till harvest. This year we decided to put the nets on early to stop all the pigeons grazing young foliage and pea green tiny cherries. We missed out 1 bed, that’s been murdered by the b. pigeons!

David and Louisa are coming back soon from the gold mine in Mali, perhaps they’ll bring an ingot with them! I’ve seen photo’s of a 25 kg ingot, looks very impressive and expensive. Don’t think I’ll have much luck panning in the Lambrook brook!


William Hebditch - April 25th, 2018.

A slightly strange spring, late and very fast. Plum blossom out for 3 days then gone. That coincided with the hot weather so we’ll probably end up with a crop. It pushed on the cherries and currants into what is now a rather uninspiring week and what apparently will be a cold weekend. Such is life. It’s kept me busy with the sprayer, trying to protect flowers against blossom wilt and botrytis. Both diseases of wet and cool weather.

The covered asparagus is well on the go. Outdoor is hardly showing a spear yet. Oh the joy of modern materials. At least we can give you fresh Asparagus on a daily basis. It’s just a tedious job lifting polythene, cutting then putting it all back. Dirty heavy work! I must say the asparagus we’ve eaten so far is jolly nice, very sweet and moreish.

Even though many flowers have come and gone quickly, including our wonderful patch of Fritillaries in the garden, the swathes of primroses have been absolutely spectacular. When the first flowers came out, I thought how poor they looked, then, wow, did they come good! And farmers can’t be blamed…. I see it’s our fault that there are no Hedgehogs around now, intensive farming and all that, and a tenfold expansion of the badger population has had no effect. Yeh, right! I’d better not blame them for the dead mole at the bottom of the garden, ’cause it would have been a very small starter for a brock.  Moles are so lovely, those amazing front paws and beautiful fur. Wonder how it died?

It’s the weather

William Hebditch - March 29th, 2018.

Oh my, isn’t this weather just plain horrid. A March to forget. I’m fed up with plugging through the mud and of course it’s keeping the soil temperature down and so no Asparagus.

Perhaps the new month will be better. Let’s hope. Going by previous experience, we hope to start cutting ‘gras around week beginning 16th of April. We’ve got quite a lot covered so when we do start we will have a regular daily supply. No doubt it will produce a great big flush when it starts. I think that will be the story of spring from now on. So often when it’s late everything is all ready to burst back into life and there will be lots of flowers out at the same time. We did see the first solitary bees a couple of days ago and I saw a Brimstone butterfly. So spring really is just around the corner.

I wonder if we’ll ever have clarity about Brexit. I was at a NFU meeting yesterday, interesting, but loads of conjecture. It’s just 365 days away now, I still wonder whether we should be off to the continent for our dotage. Will we need a visa to go to our son’s wedding? Or on a more farming thought, will we be able to harvest any crops next year.


William Hebditch - March 14th, 2018.

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.

Is spring springing?

William Hebditch - March 8th, 2018.

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.


William Hebditch - February 24th, 2018.

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.


Charlie Hicks

William Hebditch - February 7th, 2018.

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….

Golden Christmas

William Hebditch - January 3rd, 2018.

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.


William Hebditch - December 17th, 2017.

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!

Gold rush

William Hebditch - December 9th, 2017.

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