Crossways Farm Autumn Update

2/12/2017 Autumn began in a promising manner. On the equinox I boarded a train down to Cornwall for a holiday, and returned home two weeks later with some important resolutions: more writing and more walking. Felicity and Ilo (the goats) and the ratties all made their own resolutions: more mischief and more food. Dexter the rabbit decided on more relaxation. (They tell me it’s all about work-life balance). Winston the wood pigeon’s resolutions were to grow all his adult feathers and stay firmly at home – preferably sitting on my head – and the chickens, generally the most amenable of my fluffy friends except where broodiness is concerned, decided that a moult was the best solution to the problem of summer coming to an end. I am pleased to report that all of the Crossways Farm residents’ resolutions are either complete or still being followed religiously.

Dex and Badger

Creatures carrying out their resolutions: (clockwise from top left) Dexter relaxing; Badger the rattie showing off her fat tummy; Winston the wood pigeon's favourite perch; Winston's smart new suit.
Creatures carrying out their resolutions: (clockwise from top left) Dexter relaxing; Badger the rattie showing off her fat tummy; Winston the wood pigeon’s favourite perch; Winston’s smart new suit.

Mr Mole, in the meantime, seems to be taking great glee in doing his (un)level best to undermine both the lawn and my efforts to mow it. He is now affectionately known as mouldywarp (meaning ‘earth-thrower’) since I discovered his marvellous old name – and the affection, incredibly, endures despite his tiresome activities. Removing four wheelbarrows of soil from the lawn and doing a dance on top of each ex-mole hill before taking the mower anywhere near them was in vain: the sweeper packed up before half the lawn was cut and now requires dismantling in order to (hopefully) make it go again. But mechanics are not my speciality…

Despite the lack of rain, my neglectful vegetable gardening has continued successfully this season, resulting in more raspberries in November than in July, and an accidental 2.5kg courgette that I couldn’t even palm off on the goats. There have also been plenty of apples and pears to make up for last year’s famine. The only problem was my ill-timed holiday: I picked the pears just before leaving home, hoping that they would be ripening by the time I returned, but instead I found them already well on their way to rotting. After one attempt to remove the duds, I have since been trying to ignore the ever-growing smell of fermenting pears wafting through the corridor. The apples, thankfully, have been far more accommodating to my schedule, with large quantities being enjoyed by humans and stewed for the freezer, despite the goats’ efforts to take at least one bite out of every apple I failed to catch on its descent to the ground.

ApplesandpearsmarrowThe other, far more calamitous, fruit casualty this year has been the blackberries, putting in jeopardy my year’s supply of blackberry jam (its supremacy in the preserve department as yet goes unchallenged). A combination of very early ripening, my holiday, and the farmer’s most inconsiderate flailing of hedges in early September in the best local blackberry-picking location of the year, meant that I only managed a few punnets before the harvest was rudely interrupted and, as I soon realised to my horror, not to be resumed until next autumn.

As part of my ongoing effort to embrace the shortening days and colder months, I have started (friends willing) an annual tradition: the first open fire of the season accompanied by Aga-baked cinnamon rolls on the first weekend of November. They are dangerously delicious, but luckily too time consuming and messy to make more than once a year. In case I was under any lingering illusion, however, that there are still nearly three weeks left of autumn in which to resign myself to winter’s arrival, November was seen out with a very slow drive home in a blinding snow storm. Perhaps we are in for our first cold winter in four years… which we will all do our best to tolerate in good spirits, and hopefully without my hoofed and feathered friends putting too severe a strain on my resolve by gazing longingly at me through the windows…