Winter Whimsy

IMG_20141127_142519 IMG_20141127_141229 IMG_20141127_135122There comes a point each year, about the middle to end of November (depending on the weather), when the endless wet mud, lack of life in the form of fewer flowers or crops to pick, the lack of light and heavy, cold, damp skies get too much. The field and tunnels have slowed right down production-wise, and not only are the crops barely growing, there’s not much of anything to pick, or much variety. So about now is the time when my soul rebels, and fights against the seasonal depression and determines to create some interest in other ways. Last week it was building a pond extension to benefit wildlife; today it was making blackboard signs for the polytunnels. The boards are actually lovely reclaimed floorboards, scavenged from the carpenters’ nearby fire pile, and painted with blackboard paint. Now nearly all the tunnels how their very own board, with their name on top; and the idea is I will list what’s currently growing in them on each board. So anyone taking a stroll around can have a nose and see what’s going on – everyone is welcome to take a look after all. It might help me remember what’s coming up next too, if I forget to keep to my planned out rotations. Plus it makes it look like everything is actually planned here (pretending there is a master plan is always a good idea).

Morale needs such solid structural whimsies to hang on to, as the tail end of the year approaches; once the days get longer again, and we can plan for the new season, all will be excitement and action again (in theory). So now is the time to work on pretty frivolous projects to a) get you through that day, and b) bring a smile to the face when you see them again, and imagine how other people or animals/wildlife will enjoy them too, whether it’s next week or next year. I’m also thinking of starting a Put-your-face-on-a-scarecrow idea: using printed out & laminated photos on wooden cut-out figures, to dot around the field and put off the pigeons (a bit like Fred’s genius cut-out farmers at Duchy Home Farm in Tetbury). Maybe it would make a good Kickstarter or BuzzBnk crowd-funding pitch – pay £20 and put Aunt Mabel’s face on her own personalised scarecrow as a Christmas present. Hmm, one to mull over with a cuppa in the warm…


Hartley Farm Christmas Market Saturday 29th November

10389035_10153178136574879_1562122897189261548_nDon’t forget the brillliant annual Christmas Fayre at Hartley Farm this Saturday – the warm spicy aroma of Kim’s mulled wine always annouces the start of the festive period for me, along with gorgeous crafty decorations, brilliant local gifts and treats, and general good cheer. It’s always a morale boost to get a few presents sorted before the madness of December starts! There will also be plenty of wintery veg from my field and polytunnels available in the shop: parsnips, leeks, mixed salad bags, kale, PSB, the last of the hot red chillies, herb bags and lovely crunchy green celery. See you there!

Spin, Spin Salad

IMG_20141110_132532 IMG_20141112_110825No chance of losing this bright little gem in a snowstorm eh? This is my new commercial-sized salad spinner, and it wasn’t cheap – but there is something very pleasing about the action of the well-engineered cogs as they spin effortlessly round and round, giving my salads a nice refreshing rinse. I can probably fit around six bags-worth of leaves in it at once. I invested in the spinner because the last of the salad leaves outside (a mix of rocket, mustards, mizuna, mibuna and lettuce) are so sandy and silty following the heavy rains splashing the soil up and over them; plus of course the damp weather has meant that the slugs are again out to play, following their summer dry-bernation. While there’s no way that I’m going to be able to remove every single baby slug in the spinner if it’s determined to hang on to a leaf, at least it will get rid of the worst of them. I still put ‘wash before use’ on the salad labels, in case an enterprising pest make an attempt to go under the wire and hide in the bag. Short of covering the leaves with poisons out in the field (not good for other wildlife, and surely not good for us to eat), there’s not a huge amount more I can do – I piled up last year’s brassica stems in the top corner in spring, hoping this would make a good toad and hedgehog hotel. I also need to work out a way to sweet-talk the local birds into being more vigilant. They do seem to be doing their bit now; there are always robins and finches fluttering away when I go to the field; and café chef and keen ornithologist Matt tells me he watched a stone chat have a great time eating things off my cavolo nero the other day.

Talking of wildlife, I noticed yesterday and this morning that something (field voles most likely) has been digging up my leaf radish seeds sown in the module tunnel. This hasn’t happened for a couple of years; last winter they didn’t bother at all. I’m wondering whether this means a) the mousetraps I had all round the tunnel two years ago worked, and all surviving rodents passed on terrible stories to their offspring not to go Up On The Tables – which has now worn off as their descendents go exploring and disobey their great-grandparents; or b) somehow they know we’re in for a hard winter again. I suppose only time will tell; meanwhile I’ve dug out the mousetraps again and placed them around the leaf radish, but hope the voles just give up and stop causing a nuisance, so I don’t have to deal with snapped bodies on Monday. Please, guys, listen to Great Uncle Squeak and keep away…