Sunday 27 May 2018

Jam & Chutney

A couple of days ago we obtained a quantity of apricots so today I am busy making jam and chutney and what fruit is not used up in those recipes is bottled. The kitchen is alive with the bubbling of fruit and sugar and the spices and vinegar used in the chutney are scenting the air with rich aromas. Apricots make the best jam I think and bottled apricots are infinitely useful in the winter months to make puddings and pies. The Farmer adores chutneys of all kind and today's recipe is for a rich chutney using a fiery combination of spices as follows;

Spiced Apricot Chutney

12oz apricots (stoned and halved)
11/4 cups sugar
1 tspn. coriander
1/2 tspn. crushed fennel seeds
1/2 tspn.allspice
1/2 tspn. ground cloves
1/4 tspn. cayenne
3/4 cup vinegar
1 chopped onion
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tspns. ginger
1/2 tsn. salt
3/4 cup water.
Mix all together in a heavy based pan, bring to the boil and boil until the desired consistency is obtained.

This is the most wonderful time of year for the wild flowers and the hedgerows lining the drive to the farm are tapestried over with the froth of Queen Anne's Lace dotted with the shocking pink of red campion flowers and the madonna blue of the last of the bluebells. The lovely vivid yellow of Welsh poppies gleams at intervals. The hawthorn trees are in full flower and the honeyed scent of the blossom particularly after a small shower of rain is heady and intoxicating.

Friday 18 May 2018

Ducks on TV

We've had another couple of busy days with the television crew from BBC Wales filming on the farm for a programme about farm animals which will go out later in the year (title to be revealed in due course). This session of filming was centred around ducks. At a poultry sale at the weekend, we purchased four fluffy yellow ducklings and two older 'teenage' ducks. A makeshift pond was built using a children's paddling pool and disguised with reeds and foliage in order for the action of the duckling's feet under water to be filmed using a very clever little camera in a waterproof housing that is connected by WiFi to the cameraman's smart phone...amazing technology! Some great shots of little yellow feet paddling away like mad were obtained and even one of a duckling diving under water.The 'pond' is still on the yard and the ducks are very happy & decorative and much safer than they would be out on the real pond. The last ducks we had were taken, we think, by an otter which had been seen roaming around on several evenings by Younger Son. It is very frustrating for my terrier Dottie though, as she has to be kept tied up as being a true terrier she just cannot help herself needing to catch the ducks. The sheepdogs are no problem, they just watch the ducks through the netting surrounding the pond trying to herd them I think, and the labradors are just not interested.

Monday 14 May 2018

Parties, Guests, Ghosts and Grass

We are well into May, the most glorious time of the year with the countryside greening up all around us and the air full of birdsong and the hedgerows a brimming tapestry of flowers. To cap it all we heard a cuckoo yesterday, the first time for many years that we've had one calling on the farm. Wonderful!
We've been very busy with family events, a landmark birthday for Younger Son marked by a very big party involving canopies and marquees on the lawns, barbecues, fires, a disco, two(!) birthday cakes and a great gathering of friends and family from all over the country...and great fun it all was too!

No sooner had we recovered from that long weekend than a old friend arrived for several days from Australia. She is a friend of the Farmer's going back forty years and she comes back to the UK only every 5 or 6 years. Her visit was made memorable by trips out and about discovering Pembrokeshire in the springtime, so very different to her sub-tropical life on her small farm in northern Queensland. We went down to Martinshaven to take a marvellous boat trip around Skomer, the RSPB bird reserve where we saw hundreds of puffins on the water and standing outside their burrows on the grassy tops of the cliffs. Colonies of kittiwakes & guillemots were perched precariously on the cliffs where they were nesting and we saw shags, gannets and many seals mostly of whom were lazing in the sunshine on rocks or the small sandy coves around the island. It was perfect weather with a calm sea and for anyone holidaying in west Wales it well worth the run down to south Pembrokeshire to go on any one of the boat trips out to and around the islands.

Whilst in Pembrokeshire we espied a solitary church spire above a grove of trees and so went to see if we could find it and came across the most beautiful and extraordinary place. Up a track we came across a very old church surrounded by the most overgrown and delightfully gothic churchyard. A place of leaning tombstones shawled in ivy with clumps of bluebells and primroses dotted across the mossy ground and delicately wrought rust-railinged enclosures keeping captive the graves of long dead ship builders from Devon who had come to the this hidden corner of Wales to work in the shipyards at Pembroke in the early 19th century. Do their ghosts long to go back to the west country or did they find peace and acceptance in lovely Pembrokeshire?

With the weather as perfect as it is the silage season has begun, so there will now be days of mowing and carting by the Farmer and the Sons and with me making picnics of sandwiches and good rich fruit cake for hastily grabbed sustenance while the weather holds. The valley will be humming with busy-ness as everyone gets their first cut in and there is careful watching of the weather to make sure we all get done before it breaks. We enjoy the work despite the long hours and so long there are not too many break-downs of machinery. It is satisfying to know that we have made a start on the supply of winter fodder, although the last winter does not seem that long ago...the cycle of farming & food production for cattle and ultimately for people is never-ending.