Tag Archives: tractor

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?

Always have biscuits



Well, dear Reader, I do apologise for my tardiness in posting but things have been blissful chaos here of late!  Last week was the first week of Jerry’s daily commute back to the Big Smoke and the first week for the girls and I to brave it in the sticks alone.  Quite surprisingly, the house, children, puppy and pussycats were all intact at the end of the week.  I, however, needed a rather large gin!  Trying to get things done in the house has been nigh on impossible, not least because the girls and I have been very distracted by all the sights and sounds around our new digs.  Primrose, Poppy and I watched with glee as the combines rattled up the farm track and the fields of rapeseed disappeared.  The farmer (a stereotypically grumpy farmer as described by his wife!) must have been rather bemused watching us staring at him at the edge of his field as he carried on with his harvest routine.  An incredible thing for two small girls who are used to the hustle and bustle of city living.  I still haven’t tired of hearing Poppy whoop with delight and yell “Tractor” from her bird’s eye view of the countryside in the backpack, every time we greet farmland at the top of the bridleway!  Pure magic.

Our secret passageway towards glorious fields of wheat.

Our secret passageway towards glorious fields of wheat.

I know you are dying to hear all about the village, dear Reader and believe me, it really hasn’t disappointed.  I feel like I have walked into a scene from a Jilly Cooper novel most days.  Gifts of vegetables continue to flood in from the villagers, offers on cut price game birds and invitations to tea, lunch and drinks parties.  I feel more sociable here than I ever did in London.  Still waiting to spot Rupert Campbell Black on a sizeable stallion though….!

The slow gin looked very impressive...shame no tastings on offer.

The sloe gin looked very impressive…shame no tastings on offer.

The local village flower show proved a delight. The entries were suitably charming and the comments were hilarious……clearly a leaf taken from Paul Hollywood’s (Great British Bake Off) textbook of harsh judging.  A seriously competitive business and some impressively polished silverware for the mantelpiece at stake.  I hear, over the garden gate, that one year, pots of jam were marked down for lacking a doily.  I stuffed a rules and regulations handbook into my ridiculously townie-sized tote to give myself necessary ammunition for next year’s show.  I am determined to prove that Margot can give the bumpkins a run for their money in the jam stakes.

Monty pup has settled in well but has caused quite a stir with local dogs, landowners and has only just narrowly missed a run in with the gamekeeper.  Turns out that he is rather interested in the fat little partridge who taunt him at every turn on our walks.  Back to training for us and walks on a long lead for the foreseeable future.  God help us when the gamekeeper releases the pheasants….  In the meantime, Monty is happily decimating local wildlife on the doorstep and devoured a live toad last week.  WHOLE.  I leapt in to intervene but it was too late as I watched it still wriggling as it went down.  Deeply distressing but all part of nature as Jerry said when he returned from London to a wailing woman in the kitchen, worrying about karma and whether or not it might have been a prince in disguise.

As if butter wouldn't melt....

As if butter wouldn’t melt….

The house is starting to take shape now and finally we unpacked a few boxes of books and it felt more like home.  Dear Anthony Powell was quite right when he said “Books do furnish a room”.   Jerry and I really can’t wait to light our first fire and spend our evenings curled up in its warm glow.  Our life in the countryside so far seems to suit us well.

Most importantly, I have learned a few lessons in our first couple of weeks here:

1) Monty is not to be trusted off the lead here, no matter how much he gives me his best soppy spaniel face.  Farmers, gamekeepers and villagers with large fields and horses do not appreciate a cheeky spaniel.

2) Expect flurries of expectant villagers all dying for a look round the house and….

3) Most importantly, always have biscuits!  Seriously.  With a hamlet full of folk bearing welcome gifts, biscuits and cups of tea are a necessity here.

Good Lord, I really wish I had taken some baking lessons.  I seem to be constantly rushing to the next door village and will be soon know as the shortbread queen by the owners of the shop at this rate!