Tag Archives: harvest

Thyme for action

Every since we moved in, Jerry and I have been chomping at the bit to get started in the garden. Unable to really tackle much inside the house by ourselves until the bigger works have been done, the jungle surrounding our flint and brick beauty seemed a good place to start, especially as we were beginning to lose the children amongst the foliage.  The first job – tackling knee high grass.  Typically, as soon as we started using the sit on mower we inherited, it proved to be beyond repair and so with 3.5 acres of grass to mow, it was time to bite a rather expensive bullet.  Jerry fell in love with a green and yellow number in two seconds flat when he heard the word ‘mulch’, having only just finished professing undying love for an old Massey Ferguson which belongs to a neighbour.  Honestly, he’ll be coveting their combine next, dear Reader!

First step, turning the paddocks back into….well….paddocks.  Our lovely farming neighbours helped out with that one since we didn’t have any clue as to how and when to bale.  It was a race against time to get it all topped, dried and then baled before the rains came and we were hugely grateful for all their help.  “Bale in June…silver spoon”.  With a rather long list of repair jobs to be done inside and out, we could do with it raining a bit of silver.  Answers on a postcard as to how long you’re supposed to wait until that happens, dear Reader…..

We bid a sad farewell to the giant 100 year old willow tree that was growing into the water course, burrowing under the house and blocking out all the light.  Never easy to make the decision to fell a beautiful tree but the damage it would continue to do if allowed would mean that our poor little house might not stay upright for very long.

Fret not dear Reader, we will be planting more trees elsewhere to honour its passing and the hundreds of logs we now have as a result will keep us warm and cosy for years to come, once seasoned.  All part of the countryside cycle.

Raspberries were found in the undergrowth and quickly gobbled up by Poppy and Primrose, alongside literally baskets full of gooseberries – traces of a long lost fruit cage.

Squirrels moved in shortly after this discovery and stripped all the apples, plums and one lonely pear from the elderly fruit trees.  I asked neighbours what to do about them, thinking they’d have some ancient country wisdom to impart such as burying hair at the base of each trunk which features in a battered countryside almanac I found in an old bookshop.  The resounding answer to dealing the squirrel issue?  An air rifle.  It seems that that may well be next on the list, dear Reader.

Then there was the small matter of a whole field of lavender just outside the back door.  At first glance, the mounds buried under large patches of grass looked altogether done in.  Cue, Margot’s new toy.  A shiny strimmer.  Well Jerry can’t have all the fun, dear Reader!  Two weeks of daily strimming later and the lavender finally started to look more like a lavender field again. I can’t tell you the joy of seeing it all turn varying hues of purple and blue.  I’d better not mention the fact that not a lot else got done in those two weeks….including all the work I was supposed to be doing.  Let’s not dwell on that too much, dear Reader, or the fact that I very nearly strimmed my legs off at several points as the soporific heady scent in the midday sun reduced me to what I am now calling ‘strimmer’s coma’.  I did however perfect a new summer look…..farmer’s arms.  It’s all about the swings and roundabouts, isn’t it, dear Reader?

So with the lavender now well on its way to becoming a slice of Provence in Hampshire, we’ve taken to picnicking in the rows at tea time.  Heavenly hours spent in the sunshine with bees buzzing and butterflies wafting around us.  I am trying not to think about the harvest, dear Reader.  It would be fair to say that so far lavender bags will be featuring heavily under the Christmas tree this year.

A timely day out from the slog of the garden work at the launch of the Hampshire Food Festival with Hampshire Fare saw Jerry and I green with envy at the marvellous kitchen garden at Chewton Glen.

With a month of events to enjoy, producers and suppliers to go and visit and tours of vineyards, breweries orchards and farms on the menu, make sure if you’re in Hampshire that you get out and about to enjoy our county’s fabulous bounty.  With canapés with Masterchef’s Jane Devonshire and Juanita Hennessey on offer as well as Gin masterclasses at Berry Bros & Rudd or four courses in a Riverside Yurt, there’s something for everyone.  Still to come and top of my list?

Vineyards of Hampshire 5th Annual Wine Festival

Pop up Picture House with Rick Stein

Cherry Orchard Tours and Cherry Market at Blackmoor Estate

‘Sausage and Mash’ at  Parsonage Farm Charcuterie  and  

Hampshire Summer Fizz at Gilbert White

With the last two weeks of the Festival left, get your diary out and book away, dear Reader!

Inspired by Chewton Glen’s marvellous veg patch, I now have even grander plans for our own.  I seem to have spent half my life recently trawling through Pinterest thinking of ways to create a pretty allotment patch for our new smallholding life!  You can imagine Jerry rolling his eyes already, can’t you dear Reader? Grand schemes afoot, the hens are doing a sterling job of preparing the land for us already.   Scratching up moss and laying the foundations of good soil with their manure.  I would like to say that we’ll be digging the soil pretty soon, ready for planting up with some autumn and winter vegetable seedlings but Jerry tells me that this is wishful thinking.  To be honest, getting the earth moving will be a much needed distraction in the next month as the scaffolding goes up and roof repair work begins.  Jerry and I won’t have any hair or nails left at this rate.  The last few days of monsoon weather have had us reaching for the buckets and umbrellas inside again.

To keep up with our five-a-day habit in the meantime, a lovely local supplier Brimfields have been impressing us with stunning veg boxes full to bursting with deliciously fresh fruit and vegetables. Such a plentiful box for £12 had me whooping with delight when Ross from Brimfields delivered it to our front door for the first time – seasonal, fresh, local and the perfect amount for the week without the need to top up as I’ve often found with veg box schemes in the past.  I’m not sure Ross was quite as delighted to encounter a Margot with no makeup and a towel on my head having just stepped out of the shower though!

Brimfields deliver in and around Winchester but if you’re not on their delivery route, then pop down to their Veg Shed in Kings Worthy, at the King Charles pub just off Lovedon Lane, to stock up.

They are open two days a week – Wednesdays from 08:30 until 12:30pm and Fridays from the same times.  There you’ll find fresh local free-range eggs, fresh bread as well as lots of lovely local produce like Hill Farm Apple Juice and The Tomato Company passata, ketchup, chutney, relish and juice, alongside local jam, honey and cakes.  Well worth a visit.

Summer holidays in full swing, I shall have Poppy and Primrose joining the ground force team at HQ – that’s if I can tear them away from their latest den building expedition.  It looks like I shall have to bribe them with a few more of these if I’m ever going to get them to help me pick the lavender, dear Reader.

As for my motivation?  I’m already plotting something altogether more Margot, dear Reader….. Anyone for lavender gin?

Autumn rolling in

NYC

Never have I felt the juxtaposition of town and country more acutely than a recent weekend dash to New York and back for a dear family member’s wedding.  Saying goodbye to straw bales on the school run and green fields (plus two small girls) to be greeted by cabs honking, neon lights flashing and the whoosh of urban living was a far more epic contrast from our every day life than I could ever have imagined.  Continue reading

Summer of countryside love

MudefordProfuse apologies, my dear Reader, for my epic summer silence.  It seems an age since I was last tip tapping away a little note to you and I can only blame it on lots of work and plenty of lovely things happening at Margot and Jerry HQ, giving me not time at all to resume my position at the writing desk.  With Primrose and Poppy at home creating mayhem for almost 8 WEEKS of summer horror, I mean holiday, I haven’t had a moment to even hear myself think either!

Days have been filled with exploring our patch of Hampshire, trips to secluded sandy spots, sampling a lot of local goodies (wine, beer, gin…..) so when we finally headed off for our staycation and annual trip to Tom and Barbara’s shire farmstead, we couldn’t be too downhearted when it weed it down with rain.  Lots of time at home too – the spare room has had its bedding stripped more times than a boutique B&B of late!  As anyone who knows us well knows, we’re always more than happy to have friends to stay – any excuse for a good gossip over a large glass of something! Continue reading

A time for harvest

Ah autumn, there you are!

Ah autumn, there you are!

What a busy few weeks it has been!  Harvest celebrations, dinner parties in the village, Primrose’s birthday, her party complete with farm animals in our garden and a hilarious moment in the dark changing a Land Rover tyre with Jerry and one of the villagers……  I am definitely ready for a rest in the dark with a large gin and tonic, dear Reader!

Autumn is rushing around too it would seem!  Our little landscape is changing again and walks have become muddier and leaf-strewn.  Everywhere you look, you can see that the harvest has well and truly been brought in.  Gathering with all the villagers to celebrate the bounty in a neighbour’s barn, Jerry, Primrose, Poppy and I felt rather like we had stepped into ‘dreams of foregone times’ last week.  Hops hanging from the ceiling, checked tablecloths and wine flowing, homemade shepherd’s pies made by the ladies of the village (and of course, yours truly) as well as crumbles galore, the whole village sat together following the Sunday service to eat, drink and generally make merry!  A time honoured tradition, made even more special by the whole village singing “Happy Birthday” to Primrose.  Primrose was mortified, slumping further and further down her chair until she was almost under the table!  Poor love!  Mind you, Primrose wasn’t the only one to blush with embarrassment that day.  Asked by the village harvest committee to create a floral display for one of the church windows, I had no idea of the brief and ended up creating a rustic autumnal wreath to sit amongst a sea of really rather elegant blooms.  One villager called it ‘charming’.  I wondered if this was village vernacular was ‘a pile of old rubbish’.  However, I did at least manage to make it all from things in our garden and although it wasn’t the most beautiful tribute to the harvest in the church, it did have a bit of Margot charm.  Well, at least Jerry and the girls thought so!

IMG_0929

Let’s hope they don’t ask me to do anything for Christmas!

Best of all, was the amazing haul of vegetables we were given as we left the harvest lunch.  The village is awash with fantastic kitchen gardens, orchards and flower gardens.  I shall to have to up my game seriously for next year.  Squash, artichokes, potatoes, courgettes, purple and orange carrots….I could hardly carry my handbag as it was brimming with veg!  Dear Reader, I had no idea that pattypans really existed outside of Beatrix Potter but here they are..

I am not sure that this is the same pattypan that Duchess was worried about eating in the veal and ham pie!

I am not sure that this is the same pattypan that Duchess was worried about eating in the veal and ham pie though!  WHAT is a patty-pan?

From harvests and growing your own food……we even managed to parade (albeit briefly) as a smallholding for Primrose’s birthday party.  2 donkeys, 2 goats, 2 pigs, 2 sheep, 2 turkeys, 2 bantams, 2 call ducks, a mini colony of guinea pigs and rabbits and one extremely well behaved dog (note, dear Reader, that it was most certainly not Monty, who was kept inside for fear of him devouring a duck).  A veritable mini Noah’s Ark and all in OUR GARDEN!  A huge hit with children and grown ups alike.  I was happy to play farmer’s wife and it did get me thinking about how marvellous it might be to rear a pig next year when we are a little more settled.  Jerry nearly had a coronary when he heard the farmer who brought the livestock to the cottage, saying that he would happily give us the Kune Kune weaners he had brought that day.  Apparently they do make the most delicious sausages!  Considering that I have finally managed to persuade Jerry to let me have some chickens, I think that asking for a pig for Christmas might be a step too far.  For now, dear Reader, for now…….!

I suppose I shall have to make do with this little piggy!

I suppose I shall have to make do with this little piggy!

An apple a day

Horn of plenty!

Apples a plenty and a few lusciously large quinces too!

Harvest is here and the village and hedgerows are laden with sumptuous treats!  Apples are everywhere and almost every villager has offered us some of the bountiful produce!  Our dear new neighbours, the Worthingtons have an orchard the other side of the fence which is truly to die for and what is more dear Reader, is that they have said that we can pick apples until we drop!  I have, of course, taken them up on that offer.  Oooh I am already planning endless crumbles, tarte tatins, jellies, apple butters, chutney……delicious….and it is not even National Apple Day (21st October).

Armed with an apple picker, Primrose, Poppy and I spent a glorious afternoon gathering apples and learning all about old English varieties of cookers and eaters.  Mrs Worthington is now known as ‘apple lady’ according to Poppy.  Trampling in and amongst the apple trees, I was reminded of why we moved to the countryside in the first place – a desire to lead a simpler life.  Well, Margot’s idea of a simpler life at any rate!  There will be no knitting of yoghurt here!  On a sunny day in September, it was heavenly to watch my own dear dots scrambling through the apple boughs and munching on their treasured finds.  At that moment, I could honestly not imagine anything better!  My mind is now full of ideas of growing my own mini orchard once we have tackled the jungle that is the garden.  Perhaps it was the talk of cider that got me thinking about my own apples and the need for an apple press?

What a beauty! Not sure this one made it to the basket...

What a beauty! Not sure this one made it to the basket…

With our baskets laden, we skipped home to cook an apple cake.  I know what you are thinking, dear Reader….MARGOT DOES NOT MAKE CAKES.  This is true.  However, the girls called for cake and I was desperate to use my new gadget.  All hail the miraculous apple peeler and thank the Lord for Nigel Slater who has a really easy cake recipe which even this baking criminal can manage!

Everyone needs one of these - believe me!

Everyone needs one of these – believe me! Go to Garden Trading and get one!

An edible cake!  Makes a change!

Edible! Makes a change!

Girls merrily scoffing cake, I had time to panic about the annual village Harvest lunch.  The form is that everyone makes something for the table and I have been asked to prepare a shepherd’s pie.  Nothing too extraordinary about that – shepherd’s pie is shepherd’s pie.  Well I think it is at any rate but you never know, the village might have an ancient pie tradition which I haven’t discovered as yet.  The real anxiety, resting pie issues to one side, is that in addition to the culinary part comes a request for a harvest floral display for the village church.  Oh dear!  I have been frantically researching autumn displays and wreaths for days now and I am still none the wiser.  Where is a local florist when you need one?  Do they not realise that I am townie and know nothing of arranging flowers?  At this rate, I might just have to hang apples from the church ceiling in a decorative fashion…….apple bobbing anyone?!