Was that summer?

Was that summer?

Apart from a few glorious weeks in June, summer 2017 was a bit damp and despite my hopes for an Indian summer, autumn is creeping in at speed. The hedgerows are splashed with the red of rosehips and hawthorn berries and soon the leaves on the trees will change colour and fall to the ground. Continue reading “Was that summer?”

Making the most of blackberries

Making the most of blackberries

At this time of year, there are blackberries to be found all over the place, from the slightly run down corner of the car park in town, in the country park or in the hedgerows around the farm. Food for free. Who can resist?

There’s a certain nostalgia attached to blackberry picking. I always imagine a picture lifted straight from a 1960s Ladybird book with a happy family, wicker basket in hand wandering along a country lane on a sunny autumnal afternoon. Possibly with the prospect of a picnic at the end, complete with red gingham tablecloth and bottles of pop. Continue reading “Making the most of blackberries”

All is is Safely Gathered In

harvesting wheat - view from the tractor cab

A good spell of sunshine at the end of the week meant that the combine could move into the fields and cut the last of the crops, bringing Harvest 2017 to a close.

Harvest has always been the most important part of the farming calendar, being the culmination of the year’s work and financial investment. We may have the advantage
over our forefathers of advanced plant breeding, fertilisers, chemicals and farm machinery that becomes ever more technologically advanced (and expensive) but ultimately farming is still governed by the weather. Good or bad weather can make or break the crop and farmers aren’t happy until the last load is in the barn. There’s a great feeling of relief that all is safely gathered in. That the crops are in the store protected from the weather. All we need worry about now is how the political and economic situation will affect the price.

Continue reading “All is is Safely Gathered In”

Enjoying the Days of Late Summer

Enjoying the Days of Late Summer

It’s late summer and every day is a little shorter than the previous one; a change that was almost imperceptible a month ago, is now noticeable. There seems a need to enjoy these summer days before they slip away. To notice the colours and the smells. To gather up all the fruit to preserve in sugar or vinegar. This is what late summer looks like at Slamseys this week. Continue reading “Enjoying the Days of Late Summer”

Essex Huffers for Food on the Move

wheat stubble

Harvest started last week. Then it rained and harvest stopped. As usual, it looks as though it will be a stop start affair.

During harvest, food is eaten on the move; throughout the day and into the night, empty cold boxes are dumped on the shelf in the grain store and fresh ones grabbed (though sometimes quite often I get a phone call because the shelf is bare).

Each year I try to find something new to fill the harvest cold boxes and search magazines and the internet for picnic food ideas. Alas, the beautiful looking feather-light sponge cakes and jelly filled glasses set out on checked tablecloths wouldn’t last two minutes being jolted down the fields in a tractor cab.

Food on the move, whether for harvest workers or a day’s walking needs to be robust and filling. Continue reading “Essex Huffers for Food on the Move”

A Holiday at Home

A Holiday at Home

 

We’ve been playing the waiting game at Slamseys. Waiting for the wheat to fully ripen. Waiting for the rain to stop. Then waiting for the sun to shine. Waiting for the wheat to dry. Waiting for harvest to start. But this afternoon, the wheat had been declared fit to combine and soon the yard will be busy with tractors and trailers as Harvest 2017 gets underway. Continue reading “A Holiday at Home”

Home Made Tonic Water

Home Made Tonic Water

Gin is the drink of the moment with new distilleries popping up across the country and it was inevitable that a plethora of premium tonic waters would follow. Saccharine laden tonic water, served warm and slightly flat is so last century.

Given the appearance of these new tonic waters, it might therefore seem odd to make your own tonic water. But, like everything you make yourself, you’re in control and you choose what to put in and what to leave out. If commercial tonic water is too sweet for you, then reduce the sweetness; add flavour with spices like cardamom or coriander or use herbs such as rosemary and thyme; if you fancy something citrussy then add plenty of lemon, orange or grapefruit peel. You could mix the spices and flavourings to complement your gin or leave them out altogether to make a plain tonic water that lets the flavour of your gin shine through. Continue reading “Home Made Tonic Water”