Crossways Farm Autumn update

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!sourdough loaf

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!

Visitors and creatures…
Since finalising Crossways Farm’s advertising in October (Britain’s Finest, Cool Places, Away with the Kids, as well as being featured for a second time in the Bury & West Suffolk magazine), enquiries and bookings have been increasing, and all my autumn guests have been as delightful as the summer ones. Happy times have been had by all children, creatures and me, including egg collecting – more often egg hunting, as the chickens like to keep me on my toes…

Chickens and goats

Felicity playing ball
Felicity’s ball practice

One determined guest succeeded in capturing Ilo’s acrobatics on camera (I have never managed it, as I usually have to leap about with him like a silly thing, which precludes camera use), and Felicity has continued to practise her ball-playing skills, though she still prefers the lazy method, doing headers without having to move her feet!

Indoors, the ratties have become firm favourites with nearly all visitors despite my usual hesitation in mentioning their presence (it’s unpredictable who will be delighted and who will be horrified!), and Solo the chinchilla has finally rewarded my patience of nearly 3 years by starting to let me stroke him when eating oats out of my hand (oh what a soft fluffball). Leia is still holding out and only allows surreptitious tummy strokes but I trust she will be won over eventually! In the meantime she makes up for it with ever more frequent ‘popcorning’, the chinchilla Happy Dance (not so far off the goat version). NB for any film-savvy readers, I did not choose the chinchillas’ names…

Garden happenings…
The brightest autumn red this year came from an unexpected quarter: thanks to Ilo’s terrace break-in antics in May and September, my first red rose of the year only appeared at the very end of October, just in time to beat the first frost. My gaze has been alternating anxiously over the last month or two between the rose and the slightly temperamental terrace gate latch a few metres away… This time, thankfully, the rose won. The Persian ironwood (in the developing wildflower meadow) joined in the display shortly after: it usually wins hands-down in autumn, and this year has been no exception.

Rose and ironwood
Rose (left) and Persian ironwood (right)

 

Chilean guava
Chilean guava

Perhaps the most pleasing autumnal event at Crossways Farm, however, has been the productivity of my new Chilean guava hedge between the driveway gates (out of goat-reach), which although its season’s growth was nothing out of the ordinary, produced sufficient delicious berries to reassure me that it was finding the Suffolk soil and climate to its liking, and that by next year I might have a crop big enough to add the berries to fruit salads at breakfast. And in 2 or 3 years, maybe enough to start making jam. For anyone who has never tasted, or even heard of, this peculiar berry, it looks a bit like a red blueberry, but is firmer, with slightly thicker skin and tastes of sweets. Conveniently, the plant is evergreen (related to box and myrtle, but prettier), the berries seem not to be attractive to birds, and they ripen later than most, in October and November. So, all in all, a perfect fruit.

It’s hard to believe Christmas is less than a month away… as usual, the year has flown by, and I am only properly getting into autumn as winter is round the corner. But 2016 has been one of the best yet, and I’m hopeful of more treasures (including creatures) in 2017…