16/3/2017 I always put off the first lawn mowing of the season. It is a fine balance between the joy of welcoming in the new season and banishing the garden’s winter scruffiness, and the danger of mowing too soon when the boggy areas around the pond will be turned into a muddy mess by any attempt to drive the ride-on mower over them, even without using the cutter or sweeper.
But I don’t deceive myself: laziness plays a larger part in the delay. There is preparation work to be done, clearing fallen branches and twigs, removing mole hills and attempting to flatten the endless tunnels under the grass so as not to slice off the surface altogether. And one or two false starts are usually involved: always a flat battery, sometimes a flat tyre, and sometimes I have forgotten to fill up the petrol cans.
Now that having guests makes a tidier garden an imperative, I seem to have finally learnt my lesson and remembered to prepare the mower in good time. A few days of mild and sunny weather have dried out the lawn sufficiently, and the large fallen cedar has just been cleared, so I choose this afternoon to begin my battle with the industrious moles.
‘There’s an art to the business of wintering. It’s a time to revel in the muddier waters of human emotion and to hibernate magnificently. It’s not just the trees, shorn of flowers and leaves and berries, who turn inward.’ (Jini Reddy, in Winter: An anthology for the changing seasons)
6/3/2017 I was comforted and amused to happen across this declaration on winter just two days ago: the idea of it being possible to describe hibernation as magnificent gives a retrospective, dignified sparkle to my spectacularly unproductive winter.
Although I am a firm follower of the astronomical calendar, in which the equinox marks the start of spring (luckily for me, as I am rather later than intended with my winter newsletter), this year I have decided to claim the best of both worlds. Having seen out February with a stomach bug followed by a friend’s funeral – which pretty well sums up the intervening months since the autumn newsletter – I have never been so happy to greet the first of March, and with it a concrete promise of the approach of spring, as well as a much welcome relaxation of the bird flu-related poultry-keeping restrictions. The chickens suffered their confinement patiently but raucously!
28/11/2016 Autumn is a great time for making as much mess in the kitchen as you have to clear up in the garden. After spending an afternoon clearing vegetable beds, leaves, branches and twigs, it’s great to go indoors in the early dusk and start throwing flour and apple peelings all over the table and floor (forgetting for a moment that this creates more clearing up…). The apple peel might have been a challenge, as all my apple and pear trees were a wash-out this year – I can’t remember the last time they all synchronised in their failure to produce – but bartering came into its own: several of my neighbours had an abundance and have been happy to swap eggs for apples. The apple to egg ratio is of course deeply unfair, but most people round here will be happy to hurl apples at you by the kilo for nothing at this time of year!
As for the flour, bread making is becoming a great satisfaction. Having given up on traditional bread due to the superior loaves at my local bakery, I am now in the process of attempting to perfect sourdough bread, which they don’t sell. This is the second time I have tried learning to make it properly, luckily this time with more success, and I hope it will soon become a fixture on the breakfast menu. I am indebted to a friend for sharing his explosive starter, recipe and advice!
26/8/2016 It has been a busy few months since welcoming my first ‘guinea pig’ guests at the end of April. A fair amount of frantic DIY and administration went into getting the finishing touches in place before and during the trial period (I hope no one looked too closely at the blackout lining!), which is now over, and ‘official’ bookings are starting off well. It has been a delight and not at all nerve-racking, thanks to all the willing guinea pigs who helped me get into practice before there was too much at stake!
25/8/2016 If you are looking for a special gift for a friend or family member, gift vouchers are now available for any amount towards a stay at Crossways Farm. The gift will be sent by post with a handmade card featuring a photo from Crossways Farm. Please contact me if you are interested!