The last few weeks have seen me rather busy, dear Reader, with one thing and another. Flat tyres on a dark, foggy night (HUGE thanks to Megs, owner of gorgeous pub The Woolpack for rescuing damsels in distress), funerals and our usual countryside chaos all rolled into one. Prudence, our bossy hen departed from the coop and the arrival of two new hens (Cora, a Rhode Rock, and Lady Agatha, a very flighty Cream Legbar) caused quite a stir with the three remaining hens. I have to say, dear Reader, that hunting for escaped hens in my neighbours’ garden for 2 hours is something I had not expected when we decided to add to our flock. All seems well now at least and after some considerable wing clipping, Lady Agatha is choosing to stay in the garden rather than masterminding the next breakout. She had better start laying those green blue eggs soon!
In all the mayhem, we have found time to kick up the leaves in the last throes of autumn though. I even caught myself humming The Byrds’ Turn, Turn, Turn strolling along the bridleway with Monty. Don’t worry, I was drowned out by Monty barking at a partridge, dear Reader.
We finally bid farewell to dear Cumberland, our porker, fostered for us at the marvellous Parsonage Farm and then trotted off to attempt a considerable amount of butchery and sausage making all in one day. Far from squeamish, Poppy and Primrose really enjoyed making sausages and salami and John and Sarah Mills from Parsonage were on hand to make sure that all was done correctly! A huge thanks to them! Only my second attempt at butchery, I think that I did pretty well considering and we had a chest freezer full in no time. I won’t go into how I ended driving a pig’s head (minus body) around half of Hampshire one Wednesday morning. I promise it wasn’t anything sinister or some sort of Cameron spin-off gag, dear Reader. Suffice to say, said pig’s head went to a good home and returned as a natural history specimen which Primrose insisted on taking into school for ‘show and tell’. You can only imagine her teacher’s joy…….
With the bacon cured on a hook in our boot room/laundry room/general dumping ground and a ham for Boxing Day on the go too, we are well on the way to being prepared for all porky goodness for the ‘C’ word. Certainly put me in mind of a scene from Badger’s sett in The Wind in the Willows.
With Christmas on the brain and fizz for the day firmly in my mind, I popped over to see the first pickings of this year’s Harvest for a new English sparkling wine which will soon be gracing our vintners, Raimes English Sparkling.
Looking for ways to diversify the family farm, Augusta Raimes and her husband Robert, turned over 2 large plots on the farm to the planting of the classic champagne combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier in 2011 and with a course at Plumpton College under her belt, Augusta began her winegrowing journey. Talking to Augusta, her enthusiasm for winemaking is infectious. As she turns over the harvested grapes all crated up for the next stage of the process, her excitement is palpable, not only for how much the vines have produced thus far but for how their wine is taking shape under the guidance of Hattingley Valley’s Emma Rice, who is already known for creating Hattingley’s internationally recognised and award-winning wines.
From grape to glass is a fascinating process and at Raimes, it’s a real family affair too with everyone lending a hand to get the harvest in. As lovers of a good drop, Jerry and I have long dreamed of making our own wine so it was a morning full of inspiration for me! One day, dear Reader, one day. In the meantime, I shall be very excited to taste Raimes English Sparkling when the time is nigh – definitely one to watch, dear Reader. Lovely, local fizz – what could be better?!
Never a dull moment here at Margot HQ, last week saw a little stint on the radio too. Monty was a marvellous addition to the recordings of 4 foodie segments for BBC Radio Solent’s The Good Life when the lovely Becs Parker came to record from the old cottage. He even managed to sneak the black pudding off the kitchen worktop when I answered the door to the postman. Ever the model of perfect spaniel behaviour, dear Reader….. Still Confit duck leg with smoked lentils and balsamic roasted beetroot made it onto Sunday’s programme untouched by hound (you can listen again here). Tune in for the next 3 Sundays to hear all sorts of treats….and some more of Monty no doubt….from Margot’s Kitchen! I’ll leave you with a sneaky peak of something to warm the cockles after a windy walk. Anyone for Venison Pie, dear Reader?