Category Archives: Margot’s Country Snippets

You’ll have to call back – I’m in Narnia

I am beginning to believe that the farmhouse has been trapped in its own snow globe.  Never have I had a better excuse to settle in a chair by the fire, read books or play board games with the girls whilst eating endless homemade crumpets.  Is there anything more decadent than licking the dribbles of warm butter from a third toasted crumpet off one’s fingers I wonder?  Don’t answer that.  We can’t all live a high octane lifestyle, dear Reader.  Despite the gradual shift in temperature, everything is smothered in a thick blanket of snow as I write and although I am supposed to be head down at the writing desk today, I find myself clutching a mug of hot tea and staring out of the window at the fluffy white eiderdown covering the farmhouse garden.  I never thought I’d say it but….sadly school isn’t shut.  Jerry has managed to get to London too so I am home alone.  I was hoping for another snow day to be honest, dear Reader.  The last lot of snow ensured days of bombing about on the little tractor round the garden – girls and dogs whooping about like mad things.  I know the snow isn’t fun for everyone and there’s a lot to be said for all the amazing people who have kept everything running despite the so called Beast from the East making life awkward.  A massive shout out to so many farmers who were out with snow ploughs, rescuing stuck vehicles and those who are battling with their livestock in truly difficult conditions.  These are awful lambing conditions.  Just getting water to our hens and ducks has proven tricky when pipes are frozen solid and drinkers ice over in seconds and we haven’t had nearly as much snow as some parts of the country.  It’s not just farmers who deserve our praise either.  The Herculean efforts of doctors, nurses, carers and so many more vital people in the community who have braved the elements to get to work has been awe inspiring.  Our local Facebook groups have been awash with kind souls offering help, giving lifts and taking shopping to those in need.  As they say, not all superheros wear capes.

However, I can’t help but feel that the white stuff has brought a bit of wintry magic our way.  Lazy days are few and far between these days and our first winter at the farmhouse has been memorable because of the snow.  We’ve been living in our own little bubble.  I can’t remember the last time I threw myself into all day baking sessions with my girls, danced round the kitchen to Moana with a tutu on or snuggled up on the sofa under a blanket to watch a film together without something drawing me away from time spent with them.  Snow days have banished any feelings of guilt that I should be doing something else.  Instead of missing out, I have made it my mission to forget the other stuff for a while and focus on making snow blobbies (Poppy’s version of snowmen) and finding the perfect number of mini marshmallows for a mug of hot chocolate.  It’s eight if you’re interested, dear Reader.  With enough wood in the log shed to keep us going and plenty of provisions, the snow has given the four of us the perfect excuse to slow down and shut out all the calls on our time from the outside world.  That and the driveway was rather slippery even with a Land Rover so staying put seemed a far better option than going out when the first lot of snow hit our little corner of Hampshire.  Swathed in layers, we stepped out into our very own Narnia and time was lost.  I may even have eaten a box of Turkish delight, dear Reader.

So with Jerry and the girls back to their everyday routines today and my head full of words that desperately need to find their way onto the page before me, I am rather sad to bid farewell to what we hope will be winter’s last hurrah.  The sun is out and great clods of snow are already thudding down from the roof as it warms up.  By tomorrow, the snow will have disappeared as quickly as it came.  It will soon be time to welcome in spring, dear Reader.

A Year to Remember

There’s always an ending and a beginning as the twinkly lights of Christmas are packed away once more.  Lists of things left undone, things achieved and dreams and hopes for the year to come.  Then January sets in and I’ve forgotten all about what it was I wanted to do, what I’m supposed to be doing and the things I should have done by now……including writing this message to you, dear Reader.  You know what they say though.  Better late than never.

2017 was a year of beginnings for us.  We met and fell in love with a farmhouse, decided to undertake the biggest project we’d ever tackled, turned a tired lavender field back into production and generally everyone we knew thought that we had finally lost all our marbles.  Move to a derelict farmhouse you say?  Why ever not?  Now our first Christmas here has been and gone, it’s hard to imagine that just a few weeks ago the farmhouse was still rather more of a shell than a home.  No clean drinking water, no heating, no functioning plumbing….the list is endless.  There wasn’t much of a kitchen either as it had been stripped bare before building work could start.  The steel skeleton was still firmly in place around us and our view of fields also included a few builders’ bottoms.  Not forgetting a bloody great Bake Off tent in the back garden that served as our makeshift kitchen for three months when the mouldy old kitchen was removed and the oak flooring went down.  Disappointingly, it was minus a chirpy Mel and Sue or even Sandi and Noel and it was completely devoid of showstoppers.  Well of the baking kind at any rate.  I’ve never been on safari, dear Reader but I am pretty sure tents in the bush are distinctly more glamourous and less functional.

As the weather closed in and the list of disasters from crumbling chimneys to water pouring through the kitchen ceiling (not once but twice) grew, Jerry and I lost faith in our ability to tackle everything that the old girl needed to bring her back to life.  I can’t tell you the waves of tears wept and a long list of expletives grew as for the millionth time I forgot to shut the curtains before venturing to the loo and remembered that I was visible to all on the scaffolding.  Nothing seemed to be going right.  My poor Pa who is in charge of all our electrics almost had kittens at how unsafe the wiring was (and in some parts still is) in the house.  Then there was the time we had been using the open fire to keep warm whilst we were without any form of central heating and the lovely chap who came to check the chimneys told me that I had been effectively poisoning us all as smoke and fumes were being channelled into Primrose’s bedroom.  Every day became a diary entry of disasters.  Working from home has some serious disadvantages when renovating a house.  Each little detail becomes a mountain to climb so that by the time you reach decisions about door handles or paint colours or whether or not you need a Hobnob biscuit or a Jaffa cake to get through the next hour, you are beyond being given any form of choice.  None of these things are the end of the world but after months of effectively camping in your own home, there’s nothing like a deadline to force you towards getting things done.  What better deadline is there than hosting Christmas and Boxing Day, dear Reader?!

All good things come to those who wait, dear Reader.  There is drinking water coming from the tap once more, there is heating, there is an Everhot, the builders have moved out and we can finally say goodbye to the Bake Off tent in the garden.  Getting the kitchen finished has meant no more cooking on a camping stove (a massive thank you to Alresford Interiors for all their hard work, beautiful carpentry and coping with a complete redesign at the last minute – for all the little extras and more we couldn’t be more grateful) and life at the farmhouse is becoming more and more ordinary again.  Whilst upstairs, bedrooms and bathrooms remain wholly untouched, downstairs is beginning to look complete.  Distressed oak floors in the hallway, kitchen and boot room sit alongside the original parquet flooring everywhere else.  Arts and Crafts colours reign supreme as you might expect – olive walls in the dining room, library red in the study.  The only room that has escaped something darker is the kitchen and that’s because limewash was needed it for its light reflective qualities.

Thank you to Quirky Interiors for our beautiful bespoke brass splashback too – the pictures don’t do it justice.

We haven’t finished by any stretch of the imagination.  The kitchen walls are still a bit bare.  Bathrooms will have to wait so washing hair with the aid of Tupperware boxes remains de rigueur for 2018.  The hallway still has its 1968 Laura Ashley wallpaper and I can’t wait to rip off the carpet on the stairs but perhaps not just yet, Jerry tells me.  We’ve already had more than one disastrous afternoon where we lost a cat under the upstairs’ floorboards.  Window panes in our leaded light windows have been replaced and new guttering and replacement roof tiles have seen us finally dry inside the house.  A shiny new boiler now heats the house after almost a decade without heating and cosy woodburners have ensured that even on the coldest days of winter, our little farmhouse has stayed toasty and warm.  I’ve also realised that I am far more resourceful than I ever thought I was.  Being able to bake bread and make pizza in a gas barbecue is a skill I may one day need in an emergency.  I’m not sure what sort of emergency….but you never know, dear Reader.  I think that Jerry is breathing a sigh of relief that my Ebay and salvage yard addiction is having a little break too.

Our clutter is at home here.  It belongs.  The furniture fits and as I wander through each room switching on lamps in the early evening, I feel as though at long last that I belong too.  Something which makes me very happy indeed, dear Reader.  We needed this house as much as it needed us.

A lot of amazing things wouldn’t have been possible without the help of lovely friends and our amazing farming neighbours who have given up time to help with fencing and much more besides.  They have rescued me from drowning under the weight of many a practical catastrophe and made us feel extremely welcome.  There is no doubt in my mind that they think me completely mad almost every day of the week and that they may well regret inviting me into their WhatsApp group dear Reader, but I’m ever so glad that they live on the doorstep and hope they don’t mind too much when they get a distress call from the mad lady at the bottom of the lane.  I’m glad too that in my own small way, I’ve been able to help them with their some of their plans for the future too.  Their festive farmers’ market before Christmas was one of most marvellous things I’ve been involved in organising in a long time – a huge thank you to all the lovely producers, suppliers and farmers I called on to come and make the day so special.  I can’t wait to see what new ventures are afoot for all of us.

So what does 2018 hold for us you might ask, dear Reader?  Well I think that we may have already hit the ground running….  We’ve started to resurrect the old pond which silted up years ago.  It will be given a new lease of life with our latest arrivals at the farmhouse.  It’s amazing how quickly the monsoon weather of late has helped it fill up again and although it looks more like the Somme than idyllic wildlife pool now, we have hopes that it will soon be rather more picture perfect.  However, I digress.  The mention of new arrivals will not have escaped you.  Well, you know how things always seem to happen to us by accident, dear Reader.  I promise they really do.  I’ll prove it.

One minute I am talking to our local log man commenting on his lovely geese and the next, I am receiving texts not about our log delivery but about ducks that need rehoming.  To cut a long story short, we are now the proud owners of 2 Runner duck drakes (Ferdie and Francis) and 4 Khaki Campbell ladies (names still being debated).  See what did I tell you?  A complete accident.  We won’t even mention the fact that I may have discussed goslings as well but mercifully, it isn’t spring yet and Jerry has a little more time to get used to the idea of those.  To be honest, he really didn’t take a lot of convincing when it came to the ducks and they have proven to be the best farmhouse addition yet as far as we’re all concerned.  They are definitely Jerry’s favourite.  Walking wine bottles – what could be more apt for our household?  The four of us can be found pressed up against the kitchen window most mornings just watching their ridiculous duck antics.  The perfect antidote to anyone’s January blues I can assure you.  So with ducks on the pond, some news ideas involving the lavender field, the gentle baa of some sheep on the horizon, a kitchen garden to plant up and a finish line to cross at the writing desk, it would seem that 2018 is shaping up to be a busy one already.  Oh it’s a quacking start, one might say……  I just hope you’ll still enjoy following us on our country living journey.  I hate to say it, dear Reader, but it seems that these days Jerry and I are much more Tom and Barbara that we ever imagined we’d be.  A belated Happy New Year to you all.

 

 

 

Winter magic at Warborne

I know, I know, dear Reader.  It has been an age since my last post.  I promise it’s not because I’ve forgotten you, it’s just that we’ve hardly had a chance to draw breath since renovations started.  It has been so full-on over the last few months and it has felt at times as if it would never end and we’d wind up living without heating or running water and cooking on a camping stove forever.  There’ll be time for stories of derelict farmhouse chic soon enough but before the chaos of Christmas descends upon us, there was just a little time for some much needed recharging of batteries.

After a long and winding renovation road which isn’t over yet, the four of us needed to escape the farmhouse a couple of weeks ago.  I can’t lie, dear Reader, the building work has taken its toll on me and managing a building site, working full time and keeping two small people (as well as Jerry) on the straight and narrow has left me utterly exhausted.  Jerry and I knew it was going to be hard but the constant day-to-day dramas and trying to keep it all from falling apart (literally rather than metaphorically on some days) was far harder than we ever imagined.  Still, we both know that the little farmhouse is worth it, no matter how many times we think we’re recreating scenes from the 80s classic film, The Money Pit.

So when Fanny from Warborne Farm suggested a visit to her beautiful family run farm in the New Forest, it was too good an offer to refuse.  A weekend away from our own farmhouse was just what the doctor ordered and my goodness, Warborne Farm really didn’t disappoint.

Warborne Farm is a family-run 100 acre farm which boasts a selection of lovingly converted boutique barns, perfect for families, couples and those who need nothing but cosiness, long walks and a chance to while away the hours just pottering in the New Forest.

Arriving to a roaring fire in the woodburner, the Grain Loft became our home from home for the weekend.  It was time to sit back and enjoy the peace without the constant whirring and banging of builders.

We have stayed in some truly beautiful places but I have to say that the attention to detail when it comes to decor is second to none at Warborne.  This is farmhouse styling on a totally different level.  It is functional but beautiful, cosy and rustic yet chic.  I applaud all the little things which make a stay at Warborne Farm so special – sheep fleeces on the beds from the farm’s own flock, a light fitting made from the original pulley system used for hauling up hessian sacks of grain for storing, shutters handmade by Kate’s mum Ann, bedside tables carved from blocks of Douglas Fir from the New Forest and sills once part of an old sunken barge found emerging from the mudflats.  Modern, rustic and so homely.

However, I’m not sure the girls and I will ever get over being able to watch our ‘neighbours’ as darkness embraced the world outside and the fire’s glow lit the scene below.

With a viewing window in the sitting room floor, we were able to marvel at the farm’s Boer goats and their kids sleeping in the shed beneath us.  A little slice of farm magic.

After stories and hot chocolates, much chat about how goats go to sleep and whether we could adopt some for our smallholding, the girls reluctantly left ‘goat watch’ for bed.  What a bedroom it was too, dear Reader!  Stalls converted into a stunning 4 bed dorm with beds of hay mattresses made from ox-eye daisies, ladies bedstraw and other wild flowers from the farm meadows.

Bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘hitting the hay’, Poppy and Primrose couldn’t wait to hunker down for the night.  Strictly on the basis that they could wake at the crack of dawn the next morning to feed the goats of course…..

With a long soak in the bath, a glass of wine or two and a squashy bed to sink into, I went to bed dreaming of Heidi and her grandfather’s chalet in the Alps.  On waking from the best night’s sleep I’ve had in ages, it felt like I was still there to be honest, dear Reader.

Getting to know the farm’s residents was firmly on the agenda when the girls surfaced for breakfast.  Alongside the goats in the shed below our sitting room, we discovered there were chicks cheeping away too.  A short wander from our barn led us to the orchard where friendly and rather dashing Swiss Valais sheep greeted us, portly Kune Kune pigs squeaked and grunted with delight at having visitors to scratch their bellies and armed with a basket, the girls collected eggs from the farm’s hens.  One of the most marvellous parts of a stay at Warborne is the chance to experience farmhouse life of your very own.  This is the sort of weekend that allows you to forget the outside world exists – simply switch off and free range.  Poppy and Primrose bounced on and off haybales in the barn to their hearts’ content.
We couldn’t get over the marvellous selection of vegetables in the farm’s burgeoning polytunnels, just waiting for guests to help themselves.  That’s not all, Warborne Farm has good eco credentials too.  The farm’s heating and hot water needs are run on renewable energy sources and the family take pride in the fact that the farm has been run along organic principles for the last three generations, ‘sustainably exploiting the natural resources’ available to them as they put it.  This is not only a luxury barn stay but one with a genuine conscience.

We stayed in the Grain Loft which sleeps 8 but there are plenty of other gorgeous converted barns to stay in at Warborne – all unique, all very private and luxurious.  I took a sneak peak at the enormous copper bath in the Hay Loft next door to us.  Thought I’d died and gone to heaven.  Jerry found it very hard to prise me away from its shiny exterior – I think that the words ‘gin o’clock’ may have been applied as antidote, dear Reader.

Of course should you wish for a fix of the outside world, Lymington isn’t far from the farm’s doorstep.  Perfect for stocking up on supplies, taking a stroll on the sea wall or finding somewhere cosy to stop for a bite to eat or a swift half.  However, there’s so much of farm life to enjoy at Warborne, you’ll find it hard to tear yourself away.

To be honest, it was almost too good to share with you, dear Reader – I’m already planning a return to Warborne for a little more digital detox to ward off the January blues and get some more words scribbled.  It’s the perfect place for a retreat.  The girls are still asking Jerry and I when we can get some goats and cut a hole in their bedroom floors to accommodate viewing windows and I wasn’t at all sure that I wanted to come back to our own little farmhouse after such a wonderful weekend of slow living.

However return we did, with bucketfuls of ideas for our own project.  Hay mattresses, shutter designs, polytunnels…….oh and geese.  They are definitely on the list for our field in the spring, dear Reader.

Sshhh…….don’t tell anyone but should you wish to book a January escape to Warborne Farm, there’s currently 25% off on all January bookings.  Well worth it I’d say dear Reader.  Do follow @warbornefarm on Instagram for more details.

 

Preserving Autumn

Autumn is here, dear Reader.  My favourite of all the seasons.  I could wax lyrical about tumbling shades of orange, brown and russet reds, the earthy smell of bonfires, rotund little pumpkins swollen with the last drops of sunshine and the woolly embrace of cardigans and cosy tights.  Somehow I feel so much more at home with autumn.  Perhaps it’s being a redhead and being able to blend in with my surroundings or perhaps it’s simply because autumn gives me an excuse to slow down and appreciate the seasonal changes in the landscape?  Maybe both or neither.  Whatever it is, dear Reader, Keats’ marvellous daydreams of ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’ resonate with me and cling like little bits of everyday countryside magic.  It’s then that I remember to slow down, take it in and appreciate my lot, a lot more.

Things are beginning to take shape on the house front, although we’ve had our fair share of renovation sagas.  Dramas over the chimney, fireplaces being condemned, dodgy roof tiles, leaky guttering and don’t even get me started on the boiler situation.  Two months after work started, we are still without heating.  Oh and the kitchen isn’t a kitchen anymore either.  Let’s just say it’s rather minimalist, shall we?  Cooking on a camping stove does have some benefits though.  You get to feel like you’re on a camping holiday every day of the week, dear Reader.  Insert the crying emoji here.  Joking aside, it is surprising how much we have managed when it’s been too wet to venture outside to cook on the barbecue.  Those of you who remember the last time I was left with just a camping stove will be pleased to hear that menus have branched out since then.  A little nod of appreciation to the amazing Genevieve Taylor‘s How To Eat Outside: Fabulous Al Fresco Food for BBQs, Bonfires, Camping and More which has been my bible over the last few months.  I am so grateful for her fount of outdoor cookery knowledge.  Who knew you could cook a calzone or make bread on the barbecue?

Still now the house has chimney pots once more after decades without and work starts on the kitchen in a week or two, we are finally moving in the right direction.  The oak floor has been laid in the hallway and the plasterers have skimmed for the next phase.  My very brilliant electrician has had the patience of a saint especially as he isn’t being paid (he’s my Daddy) and I take my hat off to the kitchen cabinet makers who turned up for a last measure up and ended up redesigning the whole kitchen to fit in my new fridge!  I promise I’m not the renovation equivalent of Bridezilla – it’s just that this whole project managing thing is hard work and making decisions on the turn of a sixpence is starting to take its toll.  Each little step forward Jerry and I take, has been about trying to faithfully preserve the past whilst bringing the farmhouse back into the 21st century.  Replumbing, rewiring, rebuilding – there isn’t a ‘re’ we haven’t had to sort out.  So you’ll have to forgive me, dear Reader, if I sound a teensy weensy bit of a nightmare renovator but I simply can’t wait for the woodburners to go in and for the boiler to be fired up for the first time.  The house is in desperate need of drying out and we are definitely in need of something cosy on our little building site, rather than relying on vast quantities of wine and gin to warm us in the evenings when the girls are tucked up in bed with the oil filled radiators on.

With visions of cosiness in mind, I thought it was high time I was rescued from the drudgery of endless tea runs and placating of builders to try out a rather lovely bit of book post which landed on the mat – The Kilner Cookbook.

Kilner has long been synonymous with storing, pickling and preserving seasonal bounty.  Around since 1842, Kilner jars have adorned pantries, larders and kitchen cupboards in almost every household I’ll be bound, dear Reader.  Not just for bottling up pickles, chutneys, preserves and jams, Kilner’s classic clip top pressure sealed jars can be used to cook and store any kind of food or drink.  I’ll bet that you have at least one or two of these glorious jars lurking in your own kitchen, dear Reader.  Such is Kilner’s success.

Marking their 175th anniversary, I found Kilner’s new cookbook to be jam-packed (you’ll excuse the pun I’m sure dear Reader) with recipes to create, make and store so picking out one recipe to share with you was rather a difficult task.  Soups and bircher muesli, cordials and cocktails, layered salads and slaws – honestly, you’d be surprised at how many different ways you can put the humble Kilner to work, dear Reader.  However, misty autumn mornings require sunshine in the kitchen especially if you are cooking on a camping stove and nothing promises that more than a spot of homemade lemon curd.

The recipe in The Kilner Cookbook is simple enough even for the beginner cook and takes next to no time at all.  The only thing you have to watch is the heat under the bowl, otherwise you’ll end up with lemony scrambled egg rather than unctuous lemon curd.  Whisk away and you’ll witness the marvellous alchemy in the bowl as the curd thickens.  Mouthwatering zinginess – perfect for hot buttered toast, scones or crumpets, spooned over Greek yoghurt with hedgerow blackberries before the birds take them all, added to a lemon meringue pie or spread generously in the middle of a Victorian sponge.  The possibilities are endless and it will keep for up to 2 weeks in a Kilner jar in the fridge.

Whilst waiting for the toaster to ping, I set about perusing the book for other gems within its 100 recipes which aim to help us preserve more and reduce food waste.  Imagine my delight when I realised that Kilner have added a spiralizer jar, cocktail shaker, coffee grinder and a butter churner to their vast range too.  175 years on and this Yorkshire born brand with its patented vacuum seal system is still going strong, with plenty more innovative products to boot.  The thought of homemade butter whisked up in a jiffy has already sent me rushing out to add to my Kilner collection.  There’s even a whole host of suggestions for using Kilner jars to make snow globes, lanterns, terrariums and much more on the Kilner website.

With autumn mornings sorted with luscious lemon curd, it was time to turn my attentions to bottling up something for colder, darker evenings.  The garden awash with blackthorn trees doubling over with inky skinned sloes just begging to be picked, I couldn’t resist steeping them for a batch of sloe gin in my new measuring Kilner jar.  Now with some patience, that preserved little tipple will be rather a nice accompaniment reading my book on the sofa by the fire.  That’s once we have a fire, of course.  Well I’ve sorted the gin bit at least, dear Reader….

A big thank you to Ebury Publishing and The Happy Foodie for the lovely book post and Kilner jar.

Bee Happy

With whisps of autumn in the air and summer sun now a distant memory (oh the irony when we had a mostly wet August, dear Reader…..), I can’t help but miss the heady scent of our lavender.  After what felt like a lifetime of picking, we still didn’t quite manage to harvest the whole field before the rain set in for the rest of summer.  However, the hard work was worth it and early mornings picking are now a distant memory until the purple spires appear again next year.  I did get the chance to daydream about the field looking like we had stepped into Provence one last time though when the lovely new quarterly journal Creative Countryside asked me to write a little something on lavender and its folklore before I begin to pen all things autumnal.

From the spoils of our harvest, we’ve managed to keep a fair bit in the shed where it’s been left hung out to dry.  Its soothing powers will last a little longer in the form of the homemade lavender wreaths we sold to friends and family as well as lavender bags to hang in our moth-ridden cupboards.  There’s even a batch of my very bath salts to enjoy once hot baths are back on the agenda following the instalment of the new boiler, not forgetting the leftover flowers we’ve reserved for lavender tea.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m already planning a few other little lavender strings to my bow for next year.  Our first harvest from the field also got me thinking about getting started on a long held smallholding ambition of mine too, dear Reader.  Keeping bees.

One of the best things about walking through the field was listening to the hum of the huge numbers of bees that visited our garden daily.  Everything I read of late seems to point towards encouraging more bees into the garden – whether it’s planting bee borders or sowing wild flower meadows, installing nest boxes for solitary species of bees or rescuing thirsty and hungry bees with sugar syrup.  Since bees do so much for us, it only seems fair that we return the favour, dear Reader.  My father was an amateur beekeeper in his youth and Poppy and Primrose love hearing the stories he tells of how he used to take his friend’s bees for a holiday to the heather moorland on the roof rack of his car.  I think they were even stopped by the police, on one occasion, who quickly got back into their Panda when they realised the potentially angry cargo being transported.  Travelling bees aside, his beekeeping tales have always made me wish for my own hive and moving to our own little farmhouse has given us a great opportunity to expand our smallholding repertoire, dear Reader.

Enter Sara Ward from Hen Corner, all round lover of the good life, keeper of bees and hens, vegetable grower and urban farmer.  Sara and I have known each other through the powers of Twitter and Instagram since I began my blog properly in….gulp…2013 and after rather a lot of tweets, advice on hens, growing veg and a good deal of mutual blog post sharing, it has taken us nearly 4 years to meet in person!  So imagine my joy when Sara sent us an invitation to come to one of her Bees for Children courses in the summer.

Sara’s urban smallholding at Hen Corner is a marvel.  With 20 hens, 2 colonies of bees, a plentiful vegetable and fruit garden and micro-bakery producing bread for sale in her local community, Sara and her family make the good life look easy from their Victorian terrace in West London.  You really wouldn’t think sitting in Sara’s back garden that you were in London at all.  It’s a real testament to just how much you can achieve in a small urban outdoor space.

So whether you want to learn the art of wood carving, to make your own preserves, bake bread, keep hens or learn to charm bees, Sara runs a whole host of courses and workshops helping to encourage others to give smallholding life a go regardless of how large or small their plot is.  What I love most about her is her determination and commitment to encouraging the younger generation to think ‘big’ when it comes to urban farming and she spends a lot of her time as a regular feature in local school programmes.

Brilliantly hands-on, Sara’s Bees for Children course aims to get children up, close and personal with nature’s buzzy little friends.  Sara explains how the bees live and work, their importance when it comes to our own food, how honey is made and how to handle bees as well as how to spot the queen.

Fully kitted out in mini beekeeping suits and rubber gloves, Poppy and Primrose were encouraged to hold a frame and check it over with Sara’s help but if you don’t want to get that close, there are plenty of other bee activities to keep your children entertained as well as the all important honey taste testing.  Now who wouldn’t want the chance to scoff a load of award-winning honey, dear Reader?!

We all thoroughly enjoyed it and got to try some of Just Bees’ new deliciously infused spring water drinks too – all made with, yes you guessed it dear Reader, a drop of honey.  If you’re looking for a way to encourage bees in your garden, then the wonderful people at Just Bee Drinks have started a campaign to help save Britain’s bees with a free bee-friendly planting guide for your garden and free bee friendly wild flower seeds to sow – all you have to do is fill in a simple form online and they’ll send you all you need to claim your free seeds.  Quick, easy and so good for all those bees out there – they need more of us to do it, it would seem.  So get buzzy, dear Reader!

With bees on the brain all the way home, we are determined to get some of our own bees next year.  I’ve been looking into local beekeeping courses already so I can learn more of the nitty gritty I’ll need to start out on my own.  Do look Hen Corner up if you are looking for a fun day out with the children, dear Reader.  The girls loved it and I shall definitely be popping back to visit Sara again soon.  Hive fives all round I’d say….