Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Vegetable Plotting

This post is my contribution to the herbal blog party hosted at aquarianbath.blogspot.com - let's party!

Spring is coming on fast, the farming year is well under way, and our veg patch up at Laurel Farm is in need of attention.
E.B. White wrote, "Just to live in the country is a full-time job. You don't have to do anything. The idle pursuit of making a living is pushed to one side, where it belongs, in favor of living itself, a task of such immediacy, variety, beauty, and excitement that one is powerless to resist its wild embrace."
A lovely ideal, but unfortunately we do have to engage in the idle pursuit of earning a living – and so the veg patch is in need of attention!
So up to Laurel Farm to do some digging, and to visit the new lamb, surrounded by her Jacob family.

The lamb is a cutey, fiercely protected by her mum, the white cockerel is consumed with lust, running the hens ragged, and the pond is filled with frogspawn – mother nature has reproduction on her mind!
There are many different weeds on our veg patch, plants that particularly like cultivated soil, and as a herbalist I am torn by having to get rid of them, as they are so useful in themselves. So I harvest as many as I can to turn into medicines and mineral-rich wild foods. It’s a delicate balance!
Today we uprooted some dandelions and docks, and I took the roots home to make Dandelion coffee and Dock syrup.

I washed and scraped them, then chopped up the dandelion to roast in the oven, and boiled the dock roots, adding sugar and vinegar, to make an oxymel’.

D took a sip of it and made a most remarkable face, but I love it – bitter and sharp, great for the digestion.

There are bee hives too, at Laurel Farm, and I visited them to tell the bees about Cora, who passed away on Mothers Day. Cora was one of our villages oldest residents – born and spent all her life here, and was much-loved.

Telling the bees is a tradition dating back to Medieval times, where a designated "beespeaker" visited the apiaries to tell the bees about significant events in the lives of the community. It is still thought by some apiarists that when a beekeeper dies someone must inform the hives of her death and introduce them to their new keeper.

"Marriage, birth, or burying,
News across the seas,
All your sad or marrying,
You must tell the bees."

- Celtic Wisdom

Sunday, 21 March 2010


At precisely 5.31pm yesterday springtime officially began - and the days are now longer than the nights - well thank goodness. The word on the street is that it has been a long long winter, and it certainly seems to have been a colder one than we've had in a while. I haven't been out walking much since our trip to Folly Farm, partly because my knee's been playing up, and partly because I haven't had so much spare time. February came and went!
We have had some beautiful sunny days this month, and on Mothers Day I set off with my camera to check the progress of spring. Though the snowdrops and crocuses have been with us for a while, I think of them as winter flowers, and my criteria for spring are things like daffodils, celandines, cleavers and nettles.
Down Wick Lane, past the Mill, through the meadow, over Stoneage Lane, through the New Wood and Little Scotland, and back home via Splott Hill.
I did find spring, but a later one than in recent years – is this because of the colder weather? The daffodils are very delayed, I found hardly any flowering celandines, and only a few dandelion
leaves starting to grow. Nettles and cleavers are starting to sprout, and mercury and wild arum are romping away.
The early butterflys are about, I love the acid-yellow Brimstone that matches the yellow of spring flowers – yellow must be the colour for spring. The bees are busy again after their winter snoozing – those that have survived anyway. They have been going mad about the crocuses, dusting themselves with pollen and packing their legs with big lumps of it. The other day a big fat bumblebee visited the print factory and bumbled around, presumably attracted by the lights, although one woman said it was her hairspray – is she or isn’t she? (you have to be quite old to remember this ad!)
The frogs are on the march too – but I only know this from the ones that didn’t make it across the lane. The traffic is so light into the village that either they are very unlucky, or there are a lot of them on the move at night…