Pear Picking by Catherine Evans :: 18th October 2009

Next Sunday we are planning our Annual Cider Making day and John has decided he would like to try and make perry as well; so this morning we headed off to a neighbour’s farm where there are several old perry trees. Unfortunately since John had spotted the pears and gained permission to pick them most had dropped and been eaten by the sheep – lucky them – not so lucky for us! However we did find 1/2 a bag of small yellow pears and 1 bag of hard green fruit – this tree was absolutely dripping with fruit – so we shall see how much juice we can extract next week.

Maize Harvest by Catherine Evans :: 14th October 2009

You may remember seeing fields of plastic in the spring – that was maize being planted! Maize needs a long growing season to maximise the nutritional value of the crop so the current trend is to plant the seed under bio-degradeable plastic. This allows the seed to be sown up to 2 weeks earlier and hopefully yields a bumper crop. This year we have planted fields using the new method and by traditional drilling but as the Autumn has been warm and dry there has probably been little advantage to the new method.

Whilst the crop has the appearance of corn on the cob it is not really intended to be eaten as such – it is still under ripe and will be turned into silage to feed the cattle through the winter. The earlier sown crop has already been silaged and the remaining fields will be harvested this week – we use contractors with specialist equipment so have to wait for their arrival!

Titford Bridge by Catherine Evans :: 12th October 2009

Since we went back to school at the beginning of September the weather has been glorious and yesterday was no exception, so I persuaded John to abandon clearing out his new workshop and come for a walk. We headed for what is one of my favourite spots on the farm – Titford Bridge. The bridge crosses the River Rea between Stepple Hall and Detton Hall and is on the Simon Evans Way – the route he took as the village postman, after being gassed in the 1st World War. It is such a peaceful spot – we have seen kingfishers skimming up stream in the past, but unfortunately not this time!

Sloe Gin by Catherine Evans :: 03rd October 2009

To make the sloe gin the fruit must be pricked to allow the juice through the skin without clouding the gin if the fruit were crushed – we use the Hobin Sloe Pricker, a wonderful tool made many years ago by our friend Jeremy. This is a handle with several pins set in the end, speeding up the pricking process! The sloes are then placed in a demi john (bulk production) or wide necked bottle and layered with sugar until the container is full. Once full add the gin – any cheap stuff is fine – and fill to the top, leaving enough room for a bung. This must then be kept and shaken regularly until all the sugar has disolved. After which the finished sloe gin can be bottled and stored – at least until Christmas, longer if you can bear to wait!

Gin Galore! by Catherine Evans :: 30th September 2009

Here at Broome Park we are lucky enough to have some ancient hedgerows criss crossing the grass field in front of the house. They are made up of native trees – hawthorn, holly, beech, hazel and blackthorn. This time of the year all the fruits are at their best and this afternoon I have been collecting sloes. Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn – small and bitter they cannot be eaten on their own but soaked in gin and sugar make fabulous sloe gin. Sloes bottled now will just about be ready for Christmas although I am trying to cultivate a vintage collection, storing for a year or more – I have just discovered a demi john of bullace gin in the cellar from 2006! Bullace are wild damsons – a sort of cross between damson and sloe!

To be continued…….

One Man and his Dog by Catherine Evans :: 14th September 2009

Even a busy farmer gets time to relax with his friends! John and Jet are enjoying the late summer sunshine, sitting on the garden bench. It has been another busy weekend with Ludlow Food Festival a major draw and The Borders Bike Show on at Lacon Childe School.

I was able to visit the Food Festival on Friday – an excellent day out – it is wonderful to see how many different local food businesses there are, many of whom I use for the B&B. This afternoon I was helping out at the Bike Show, serving homemade cakes and refreshments to appreciative bikers of all ages!

I have also restocked the freezer with our own beef – enough to keep us fed for the next 12 months hopefully!

New Addition by Catherine Evans :: 04th September 2009

The latest enhancement for the benefit of guests is a small fridge located on the upstairs landing. This will allow me to leave fresh milk and chilled water for guests to help themselves. I often think guests are reluctant to bother me for milk in the evenings or befoer breakfast so now they will be able to make themselves a cup of milky tea at any time of the day or night!

Thanks go to Richard for making the custom built table on which the fridge sits. This is Mark 2 – the first was rejected (by him) as too unstable and the design of this one had to be modified after John demanded full access to the fusebox below!

Mouse Tale by Catherine Evans :: 02nd September 2009

When I went to feed the pigs last night I found a field mouse in the bag! It must have got in when I filled the sack from the bulk bag in the morning – I don’t know who was most surprised! After taking its photo it climbed up the side of the bag, leapt over Jet’s head (he didn’t even notice!) and disappeared down a hole in the floor. Richard thought I was mad to let it go but it was too cute to kill!

Guest Feedback by Catherine Evans :: 28th August 2009

It is always great to receive positive feedback from guests and I was thrilled to discover this message left by Ben after the families had left. They were certainly a pleasure to have stay!

I bought the board so I can feature the different marmalades made by Joy and also the ‘jam of the day’ but haven’t got round to using it yet – perhaps I have stumbled on an alternative use!

Harvest Update by Catherine Evans :: 25th August 2009

A reasonably dry August has allowed John the chance to catch up with the combining and he seems quite relaxed at the moment, even managing a day off on Sunday to go walking on the Clent Hills with friends. This field along the Ford Road is unusual as it was planted with 2 crops – fodder beet in the centre (green) and barley around the outside – because the farm only wanted 5 acres of fodder beet apparently! So the barley has been combined but the fodder beet won’t be harvested until later to feed the animals over the winter.

Swing Seat by Catherine Evans :: 19th August 2009

Since finishing his GCSEs Rich has been busy making a swing seat for the garden. It was finally finished and moved into position on Sunday (with the help of a tractor and loader!). Guests and family can now sit and admire the view of Neen Savage.

Beekeeping by Catherine Evans :: 15th August 2009

Last Sunday Sandra and I went on a beekeeping course at Hopesay Glebe Farm. It was an opportunity to learn about the art of beekeeping and get some experience of handling bees. The morning was spent in Phil’s sunny garden learning about the life cycle of the bees and the steps necessary to ensure a healthy hive. After a delicious organic lunch using homegrown and local produce (yummy honey and lemon cheescake!) we strolled along quiet country lanes to the hives. This was the scary bit and I was really unsure how I would cope with the bees but once I was suited and wearing protective gloves I was able to handle the frames with confidence. We then headed back to the house to see how to extract and bottle the honey – bringing a small jar of rape honey home as a momento of the day. Sandra and I now plan to share a hive in the Spring as her neighbours are not keen on a urban hive! Check out other courses offered by Phil Moore on his blog – I would certainly recommend them!

Burwarton Show by Catherine Evans :: 08th August 2009

Thursday was Burwarton Show – the largest 1 day Agricultural Show in the Country I think! The weather was kind – a beautiful day after all the rain – and the Band played on the Village Green. There is certainly something for everyone at the show from the traditional livestock and handicrafts to the Fun Fair and The Kangaroo Kid as the main ring star attraction. Becky and I made a bee line for the Local Food area once we’d finished playing and sampled a ginger treacle tart, raspberry and pineapple frozen yoghurt and olives – (not all at the same time! ) – and all were very delicious!

The Show Committee (all local volunteers) are to be congratulated as they had worked tirelessly to ensure everyone enjoyed a great day out – we certainly did!

Garden Update by Catherine Evans :: 01st August 2009

Thanks to all the rain(!) the garden is looking lush at the moment. As you can see Geoffry is grazing the apple tree and having no effect on the pigeon population who appear to sit on the greenhouse roof and jeer at him! In the foreground the leeks are doing really well, behind them the potato tops are just dying back – I have been harvesting new potatoes for the last couple of weeks. The raspberries (centre left) love all the rain – the guests remarked on the size at breakfast this morning – delicious with cereals or yoghurt (or both!).

Yesterday I spent tidying up the strawberry bed – rather overgrown and so many runners – I have potted up some to extend the bed in the autumn in the hope of a bigger crop next year – I only had 4 strawberries this time?! The beans are also growing well – we have been eating dwarf and climbing beans since the mange tout finished and the runner beans should be ready soon. Courgettes are also rampant – careful picking is needed to make sure they don’t end up are marrows! However some sun to ripen the tomatoes and lift everyone’s spirits is desparately needed – the corn harvest will be ruined if it continues to rain for much longer.

Crooked Steeple Morris by Catherine Evans :: 28th July 2009

Yesterday we had our last Dance Out of the summer at The Plough, Wistanstow, home to Woods Brewery. Fortunately the weather stayed dry and the Landlord was an appreciative host – thanks for the free drinks! Practice nights (much needed by me!) will resume on the 7th September – just in time for the 2nd Annual Severn Valley Railway Tour. This is just an excuse for us to travel on the railway and dance at loads of places along the way! Great fun!

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