Tag Archives: farming

The lost garden, and hogweed

No baby animals today, the Steiner wonderchild did them (very very slowly, like everything else), but I did get to start work recovering a lost garden. Hopefully I’ll have time to clear it and start some lovely things growing between other chores before I go!

This morning really started with Molly providing some comic relief by standing on the roof of the wood shed:

Farm 3.5

But then we came to where I hope I will be able to point to and say I left this place better for having been here.

You come to a wire gate alongside some of the sheds, keeping the herbs and veg that once grew here safe from marauding chickens that run loose in the yard.

farm 3.5

It’s some time since anyone spent any time down here, as you can see from the passage down to the gardens — though of course these weeds come up so ridiculously fast:

Farm 3.5

Arriving at the end of this passage is a very long lost garden, a huge undifferentiated swath of nettles and docks and hogweed and others.

Farm 3.5

This is looking back from the other direction:

Farm 3.5

The wunderkind began an attack on this later in the day with a strimmer — again, I so so missed the scythe. It is so much more useful as it cuts closer to the soil, apart from the noise and the petrol. You work your way along the edge of this towards a garden a little less lost, a series of raised beds, and bark put down between some of them to preserve the paths. What I also wouldn’t give for the little semicircular blade that would clear the paths…ah well.

Farm 3.5

Continue further — on your right, and down below you find Lilly and her mean father, Arthur:

Farm 3.5

You turn left to see six or eight more beds, with a polytunnel behind them needing reclaiming:

Farm 3.5

The view from the other side:

Farm 3.5

Quite a task! But first, I had to focus on cutting off all the flowering heads of the dock and hogweed before their seeds were dispersed across the farm.

Hogweed is quite interesting — I missed the media frenzy about Giant Hogweed, imported here from Georgia — this grows over ten feet, sending up huge white umbrels of flowers and its sap can cause horrible burns across your skin that may take days, weeks or years to heal properly.

from the Royal Horticultural Society:

The giant hogweeds are usually referred to by one name, Heracleum mantegazzianum. Research by RHS and other botanists shows that, while this is one of the species, there are as many as four other giant hogweeds at large in Britain some of which are biennial and others perennial. However, when tested all these had high levels of furanocoumarins (the chemicals which cause burning by making the skin sensitive to sunlight) and so all pose a risk to public health.

There is also a native hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium, which will be a familiar plant to gardeners and those who like to go walking in the UK. It can grow to six foot or so when in flower but is nevertheless a much smaller plant than giant hogweed. It can cause rashes and other skin complaints but reactions tend not be as severe as with the larger species.

The giant hogweeds were introduced into Britain and Europe from the Caucasus Mountains in the nineteenth century. The earliest documented reference to their introduction into Britain that has been traced is from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Seed List of 1817 where giant hogweed, under the name of Heracleum giganteum was listed among seeds supplied to Kew by the Russian Gorenki Botanic Gardens. They were soon introduced into the horticultural trade and being aesthetically impressive plants, were widely planted in ornamental gardens throughout Britain. Unfortunately they quickly escaped from cultivation with the first naturalised (‘wild’) population recorded in Cambridgeshire in 1828, and are now widely naturalised as invasive species throughout much of Britain and Europe.

What they don’t note is that the shoots of the native hogweed are apparently quite delicious steamed and buttered. I definitely want to try that. In picking them, however, they are still not pleasant to handle so gloves must be worn. They can’t be strimmed, because that can send the sap shooting across your skin (again a scythe wouldn’t have that problem) with force, which makes it even more painful. They have to be dug out one by one — I didn’t do that today, just walked around the very considerable field that has recently been mowed picking off the flower tops.

Here is some alongside the little bit that has been left as woodland, and where willow grows aplenty for use by the wood and willow-worker who has workspace here.

Farm 3.5

I picked a plethora, and tiring as it was, I got to explore the far end of the field where I had not yet been (except when I was sitting in the tractor). I found another badger sett! A lone one, but seems to be well used.

Farm 3.5

The views are stunning, back down across the farm:

Farm 3.5

Across the other field that will at some point become hay:

Farm 3.5

It started raining in the middle of this, and has not yet stopped. I did a little more work on the lost garden, but left my ipod in the caravan so have no work-done picture. We have a half day tomorrow, so I will get one then I suppose.

Long day, but a good one. In other news, my last rejection apparently wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it was yesterday as I skimmed it over. But I still haven’t been able to read it again myself. Time for all things.


How Those Big Black Bales in Fields are Made, and Baby Animals

They are made with a mix of equipment, a number of tractors, specialised machinery. You start with your field of course:

Farm 3.1

You cut the grass (we are making silage here, not hay) with your rather older tractor and blades:

farm 3.3

You spread the grass out fairly evenly, because the farmer down the way is bringing in newer, more specialised equipment that requires this:

Farm 3.4

And then the bad boys come along — a father and son duo who have bought these to manage their own 200 acres and earn more money from them helping smaller farmers out because look at what these tractors do. The first collects all the spread hay into larger lines the correct size:

farm 3.4

Correct size for what? For this massive tractor-baler combination that sweeps up the hay and spins it all into this round bale so fast the air is whipped right out of it:

Farm 3.4

It pings when ready, and the driver waits a moment, and then as the bale is being wrapped in black plastic wrap, he can continue forming the next bale:

Farm 3.4

I know it pings because, look at me! I’m in a tractor! It was pretty awesome.

farm 3.4

Also awesome was sitting for a while and watching the tractors at work, it had been a long hard day.

Farm 3.4

I also learned to chop wood today, and learned that I really enjoy chopping wood. It started out humbling because I was really really terrible. But I got better.

Farm 4.3

And finally, the baby animals that started and ended my work day:

Sandy, the lovely calf:

Farm 3.4

I love her.

The lambs are alright, but fight and fight to get their milk and do all kinds of headbutting at the bottles so they often lose their grip all together — Sandy just gives one great head butt when she’s finished (I so was not ready for that my first go round), but still I feel for the mothers of the animal kingdom. I have to catch two of the lambs in this pen and feed them, and then the other two, or total mayhem will ensue because these are greedy little buggers:

Farm 3.4

Lilly the Kid, perched up on this brick asking me for more corn after her bottle — she is too little to push her way in amongst the others to get to the one of the two buckets.

Farm 3.4

We also found this perfect little mouse’s nest under the shed we moved from the field that was mowed, it was quite wondrous:

Farm 4.3

All of these things help me feel a little better after continuing to receive rejections, a particularly mean one today. At least the £1,000 advance from Verso stands against the flow…

For lots more on farming…



So tired. Also, a badger sett.

The highlight was a badger sett, but today started with a discussion of cows and their rumen over breakfast, but I am almost too tired to type more, and besides, Bob has promised to show me the cud as it is brought up and travels down again. So really, I will start with the bottle-feeding of the animals:

Farm 3.2

I was licked by a calf for the first time — people promised it would be sweet and it really was, though also the tongue was rough and also very saliva covered. I still have not taken a picture of the calf. We fed the lambs, and then the goat, and then saw to some ewe complaints (conjunctivitis and a bit of lameness). There are lots of babies around here:

Farm 3.2

Goslings soon, hopefully.

Then off down to another field in the village, to use the strimmer on loads of nettles and docks and spreading thistles, and to dig out some bow thistles and cut off at the roots more spreading thistles and docks. I missed the scythe.

It was a beautiful large field split in half by a little stream, very beautiful. This is some of the carnage we left behind after hours of work on this very warm sunny day.

Farm 3.2

The top of the field and its lovely marshy bit:

Farm 3.2

And the view down to the other end of the field.

Farm 3.2

Apart from how beautiful this field is, it has another curious characteristic. It is mostly sand. A rarity in this limestone district, and Bob thinks deposited here by glacial activity. Because it is sand, there is a lovely long sandy bank along the edge of the field facing the pub. All along the bank you can see these dug into it:

badger sett

This one was even more impressive:

Farm 3.2

The trail of grass shows that it is now in use — there is even a larger sett behind the houses across the road. While this group used always to be an auxiliary sett–with one dug then left to go out of use and then used again and more being dug–it now seems it is no longer auxiliary.

This one even had tracks pressed into the moist soil:

Badger Sett

They are wonderful. Bob said he saw two young ones playing about on the top of the bank and he approached slowly and got close enough to just put his foot on the back of one them — just to see what it would do. It wasn’t terribly impressed and just ambled off, like he couldn’t be seen. I was jealous, I have yet to see a badger. But I have a feeling you could see them sitting in front of the pub opposite.

After lunch we did some hot dirty work sorting metal recycling, and then I pulled nettles and more nettles from the path to the caravans.

I finished reading Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selbourne this evening before dinner. Sitting in a chair in front of the caravan, listening to the birds and staring up the field and nodding off from time to time. I felt for a moment that I should do all of these blogs in his epistolary style, but was too tired this evening.

A blackbird did, however, today fly into K’s caravan where her dog was understandably surprised, and put no little effort into catching and killing it. I have known blackbirds to fly into caravans no less than seven times, generally in May and June when…

But no, effort.

I might go to sleep soon, but it’s only just gone 9.


First day on the new farm

It is beautiful — they have all been beautiful but this is absurdly picturesque and scenic and also messy due to being a working farm, so I love it. It is very close to Wirksworth, funnily enough, where last year we had some terrifying apocryphal adventures, and some incredible real adventures, cementing my love for this area just south of the Peak District. I think it will only grow here, this farm has:

An awesome dog
a couple of cats I have only seen from afar

We are bottle feeding lambs, a goat and a calf.

This farm also has barrows and a quarry and an old lime kiln, I took a walk up through the fields today with the little guide, and I shall write more but here are a few pictures, a view from the top of the mounds with all the hawthornes in bloom:

Farm 3.1

The quarry:

Farm 3.1

Farm 3.1

Herefords! I learned lots about these guys today, but am too tired to share

Farm 3.1

Coming back up the lane:

Farm 3.1

Farm 3.1

Home for the next month:

Farm 3.1

And the view from my door:

Farm 3.1


Stockholm, lovely Stockholm

Stockholm has brought us tiny baby goats, Joe Bataan, Nietzsche’s death mask and more Munch paintings than I have ever seen before, an exhibit on Satyajit Ray and Tagore’s artwork, discovering how good the Swedish modernists were, the best boar sculpture, meatballs and reindeer stew and skinksmorgas, medieval alleys, turf houses and farms, the red room where intellectuals and artists once congregated that inspired August Strindberg’s novel by the same name, knowing that the king encouraged every Swedish household to grow their own tobacco, boats, wood-paneled working mens’ bars…amazing trip. I might write more later, but everything in life is going so fast and I am off to a new farm this morning.


From ferries to amazing buildings to food at Kvarnen and Pelikan, restaurants/bars in Södermalm (which is the area I by far loved the most). The red room in Berns. Boats and stick figures, also inlcuding a few pictures of Thielska Galleriet, where we saw: ‘Olof Sager-Nelson and his contemporaries. “Anywhere out of the world” along with an amazing collection of Edvard Munch and Nietzche’s death mask, a bit of Blasieholm as described by Fredrika Bremer…I love this city.

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Gamla Stan

The petrified medieval centre of Stockholm, with wonderful narrow alleys that we went slinking through so as to avoid completely all tourist thoroughfares. It is hell. of. touristy. But quite beautiful when empty, so I was sorry to spoil it for others with my own tourist self.

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Stockholm’s open air museum, this I did want to write more about because I loved the ancient buildings. I am fascinated by the process of ripping them from the ground they grew out of to bring them here. We shall see when I write!

There were also baby goats.

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Snus- och tändsticksmuseum

Part of Skansen really, but incredibly amazing place…I will write more about this too, and it’ going into the novel too, but for now:

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Studio and collection of Carl Milles, and most of it was stunning though that crazy array of statues in front of the sea was a bit overwhelming… but I liked visiting a further island by ferry, seeing a bit more of the everyday city. Satyajit Ray and Tagore — amazing.

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We saw the photography museum as well, missed lots of things but hopefully we’ll be back. When we’re both much wealthier because it was by far the most expensive place we have ever been.

Linköping and its Folkhögskola, Sweden

Linköping is quite small, about a 100,000 people. A university town, the old seat of a bishop so home to a cathedral and all the bishop’s faded magnificence and a handful of medieval maze-like streets and old buildings that are quite wonderful.

I somehow lost all the pictures from our wander round that first day. It’s a bit tragic. So there is no cathedral to see here, no narrow winding streets that convince you that wonder and beauty lie just up ahead.

Of course, there were few of those streets here, fewer left in situ. The government seems rather fond of picking entire buildings up and moving them safely out of the way of development. I suppose it’s better than knocking them down, but it is such a curious way to deal with history. It sanitises history in a way, excises it from the city and puts it safely to one side where you can visit it at your leisure.

Still, Linköping had some gracious spaces, lovely old buildings, a lively square where everyone had retired to drink beer in the fading sunlight after work. It had parks and sculptures and boulevards and wonderful bike lanes and many people didn’t even bother to lock their bikes up.

All of this I leave to your imagination.

There is a single photo of a church remaining from the very busy day following because it was my favourite church and I liked how the light fell on it:


The churches are very beautiful here.

They did have an open air museum as well — it is where I took myself off too while the examiners were meeting before the defense.

It was, to be honest, the most opaque ‘museum’ I had ever been to. I wasn’t even sure I was in it, but I was almost certain given these great double-decker barns. This was my favourite, and I love the beautiful way these massively cut stones fit together:

Linköping Outdoor Museum


Of course, from my recent farming experience I learned that livestock here is undoubtedly kept inside over the winter and hay and grain would also have to be stored, so these make so much sense.

I still enjoyed their awesomeness more than their practicality.

The second two-story barn had open doors and signs in swedish and I poked my head in and found rabbits and a horse, so thought I probably was in the museum.

Linköping Outdoor Museum

And then a sign! This was Valla Farm, a large farm standing here since the 19th Century, the stables before me to the left built in 1860s also served as storage for wagons…to the right, those to the left built in 1875 served as a cowshed.

Linköping Outdoor Museum

An old picture:

Linköping Outdoor Museum

I love that they cared enough to make this barn quite beautiful.

Linköping Outdoor Museum

The main house, built in 1859:


I wandered up there wondering if that was were more information or anything at all to tell me more. But no, nor in the other more substantial building beside it.

Finally I found this map.

Linköping Outdoor Museum

It didn’t help too much.

I found more signs hidden away beside a kind of corral on flowers and the cycle of harvesting wood:



The last didn’t need translation exactly, but I missed it a little.

I wandered back and around and found the second, and main, section of the Folkhögskola. Here finally were signs showing some buildings that apparently you were allowed to enter and did serve as museums. Just not that day. They were clearly closed. These were the buildings moved here from surrounding countryside to be preserved while making way for development.



One of the buildings housed the museum detailing the history of water and sewage I think. I think this was it.


There were also some goats and some chickens, and horses, and mums pushing prams full of screaming children, and some play areas. A pond with a heron. Some rather spooky empty cages. More rabbits. Lots of wildflowers. I almost wish we’d had another day here to visit the other museum or perhaps wander a bit in the woods, but off we went to Stockholm and really, I had no regrets about that.


Day 8: Sheep shearing and the beauty of labour

My last day at the farm, sheep-shearing day which I am so happy I got to see. It hardly seemed real to be leaving, hardly seems I was there now I am in Bristol. Everything fades so fast, though the soreness of my arms and tiredness implies it was in fact real.

Today as I sat at the train station — before being joined by an Afro-Carribean pensioner on a day-trip from Bristol doing her photography who boldly stated that Blair and Bush should be brought to the Hague for prosecution for their wars that were for nothing more than oil and was a bit taken aback I think when I wholeheartedly agreed so continued on with her arguments as if I had disagreed — before being joined by her, I was thinking how much I have enjoyed my time so far. I feel like I’ve been cracked open a little bit, horizons expanded a little bit so I have more room to grow. There is all this new experience that I can now own as mine, and the humility of knowing it could fill a thimble of what there is to know.

Today the sheep-shearer came. Martin. I watched him work and like yesterday herding sheep with T I was hit by just how very beautiful human beings are when they are in their element doing things they are expert in. I think sometimes this is the fascination of sport, because in office life, city life, you almost never see this. You forget just how amazing it is to watch someone with true expertise move and perform the very difficult tasks that they are best at. It seems effortless, every movement is sure, practiced, with the weight of years behind it. It looks easy, but you know it is the opposite.

It struck me that in this kind of physical labour you can find one aspect of true beauty visible nowhere else.

I will miss it the way I miss stars. Both of these things, I think, are things generally lacking in urban modern life, a reminder to be a little humbler in how we walk on the earth.

He had already done a few hundred sheep this morning before he came to do our 51 (the ewes with lambs will be shorn later in the summer) — most farms have several hundred at least. He spends three months a year in New Zealand shearing sheep like this every day — there are farms there with 80,000 of the things. Teams spend weeks shearing. Then there is part of his year traveling up and down England shearing sheep every day, and he has just added winter months in Finland and Latvia to the rotation — sheep there are kept inside for whole of the winter into the very late spring.

It never occurred to me that people could travel the world shearing sheep. A different kind of migration than what we usually hear about.

In England, where there is barn capacity (unlike the farm where I was working though plans are for that to soon change), ewes are often shorn in December before they lamb, and then kept inside until spring. They only need an inch and a half to two inches of wool coat to be perfectly happy outside in the winter weather, the rest of that immensely heavy fleece has all been bred for our own use.

Thank you.

The sheep file up this ramp — it was easier than I expected though often enough a ewe grew tired of waiting there and backed a waiting line right back into the pen. Often enough one of the stupid things sat stubbornly sideways across the entrance blocking it. They snorted and started around the pen when I got in to encourage them up. They act as if they are afraid of you every time you move, but when you are still you often feel their hot breath on your hands, and they will attempt to nibble away at wellies and sweater and jeans.

Farm 1.8

The shearer grabs them under their chin and by the foreleg and as he pulls them down he flips them over and there they lie strangely quiescent for the most part as he follows the same routine in removing their fleece, moving their dead-weight deftly to do so with practiced holds. Off the great thing comes. It is an amazing thing to watch.

I was expecting someone burley and older and grizzled. Not a rather puckish looking slender guy who is very possibly stronger than anyone else I have ever met.

The clippers are razor sharp and the skin very thin though the fleece is generally ready to come off at this point, seemed mostly to just peel away. From scattered conversation it also seems that certain kinds of sheep are much easier in this respect to shear than others, and some fleeces much more ready to come off. On one of the ewes who kicked there was a deeper cut, and he sewed it up himself there and then with something very thick and a huge needle.

That made me a little queasy I confess.

T rolled up the fleeces as they came off, into bundles that filled these massive great sacks that need massive muscles to haul into trucks and make this a bit more of a manly occupation than it needs to be. The sacks belong to the wool board, a cooperative that collects the wool from around the country and sells it all for the best price possible for large and small farmers alike. I love this, the only problem for T & I is that they don’t get a check for the wool until the following year. Not a huge problem for large farms, but often quite difficult for small holdings as you could imagine.

Sheep are so funny when shorn, but so clearly very happy and they even frisked a bit like lambs might — these were the year-old ewes who still hadn’t lambed, so still young I suppose.

Farm 1.8

He did the two ewes that didn’t lamb and the ewe whose lamb died and the four rams as well — those last cost quite a bit more trouble, and then one of them jumped the hurdles, a rather astonishing feat for something so heavy. An annoying one too as it meant a much more tiring day for us. Martin’s sheep-dog Jack helped round him up which was immensely helpful, but it meant he ended up penned separately with two of the shorn ewes so we had to separate them, get all the ewes into the orchard, get the rams together, load them up into the trailer, and return them to their fields.

We had the best bacon butties I have ever eaten when we finally had done. Showers and hot water seem extra special as well.

And then there I was waiting for the train. Feeling a little sad to be going I confess. Before I left I got a shot of the very helpful poster of sheep, cattle and pig breeds, though a bit of reflection from the sunny day

Farm 1.7

Wonderful thing to do, this farming malarkey, though I am quite happy to have a good long rest before me.

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Farming days 5 and 6 (and 7)

There’s a trick to catching a lamb, striking fast, grabbing it by the back leg and scooping it up. Day 5 we herded up the sheep that were here in the orchard because there were some problems that needed monitoring, this little handful was no problem on Monday, though I was tired after:

Farm 1.6

But yesterday, yesterday we started herding the year-old ewes to bring back here to be shorn tomorrow. They didn’t really want to be caught and it all went pear shaped but we vanquished in the end. I can see how important a good sheep dog is, sadly Todd the dog is afraid of sheep so it was the two of us trying to herd.

I didn’t know then that this was starting off easy.

Farm 1.6

Farm 1.6

This is them before being penned in proper tight, so we could give them deworming medicine and their vaccine…I had to spray a spot on their heads for each so we knew who had been done. I am really bad at tagging sheep turns out. They are covered with an array of strange marks and sigils and the occasional appropriate thumb-sized mark.

So we moved them…and I was tired. But the real work would be moving the ewes and lambs into the field these ladies had lately been occupying.

Herding those guys? Jesus. Lambs skipping and jumping and breaking away everywhere. We had one complete fiasco of an attempt, and then tried again and were victorious.

Farm 1.5

So in I waded into this morass of sheep and fished out about 65 of the lambs, one by smelly shit-covered kicking and very heavy one. My facebook update after lying around comatose last night:

65 lambs today. I caught 65 fat and hell of heavy lambs along with other assorted herding and moving sheep in a double decker trailer tasks and I may possibly have been this tired but I have never been this smelly in my whole entire life. Also, sheep are just as stupid as you always thought they were. I am still enjoying farming.

Which I am.  But it is exhausting. I wasn’t strong enough to manage technique, so I grabbed the back leg and then sort of threw my arms around the thing and hauled it up, and then held it for its shot and then as it continued to kick, we fought to get it into the top deck of the sheep trailer.

I don’t even know how we managed them all, and while loading the last trailer load of sheep, in an effort to keep the ewes in the trailer, a tendon was torn (not mine) and so I&T ended up at the hospital but all is okay today. I walked the dog and cleaned out the very disgusting trailer once again. It’s almost as bad as housework.

I can’t really feel my arms.


The micro-beauties of the woodpile

Today was all about the woodpile — and a little more on snowdrops. Wood fires are amazing, but moving cured wood from the shed to the porch, and then from bags to the shed not so much.

There is a strange enjoyment, however, in stacking wood well — it is not a skill I have mastered. I am kind of entry-level apprentice. It’s not something we grew up with, the idea of a woodpile above the height of my head was pretty inconceivable.

I am pretty tall, today was a lot of work. Day four. Last day until Monday and I am pretty glad of that.

But there were lots of amazing sights in the wood pile and on the plastic bags some of the wood was sheltering in. This country is pretty slim on interesting bugs, but look at these

farm 1.4

Snails…I quite like snails. Those tiny slugs (you can see one in the fuzzy background) on the other hand, are fairly disgusting.

Farm 1.4

This one was spectacular. It was a day of sun and then sudden rain and then hail and then sun again. I don’t know what combination of these things caused this strange collection of bubbles, but the Twilighty vampire snail was amazing:

Farm 1.4

Farm 1.4

There was an astonishing absence of black widows, brown recluses, funnel spiders, scorpions … all those things that I worry about when working in sheds with old dusty wood. This country is so damn safe.

The damp, though, makes some pretty spectacular fungi. This one includes a gratuitous snail, and suddenly those shells make perfect sense:

Farm 1.4

An amazing little guy raising his hands above his head saying oh no, not the woodpile…

Farm 1.4

Wonderful velvety orange in a volcanic landscape sprawling across this log:

Farm 1.4

And of course this place is full of old rusting things. This looks like it might have been some kind of jack, but I don’t think it is working anymore.

Farm 1.4

These need no explanation.

Farm 1.4


Day 3: Snowdrops

I discovered today that I prefer battling nettles and following their long roots across the earth’s surface to actually planting bulbs. Even snowdrops. It worries me that I prefer destruction, but of course I was happy to do both.

God, I am tired. This physical work every day is no joke even though it hasn’t felt too much at any one point and I have enjoyed it immensely. I honestly almost took a nap this afternoon, wishing I could sleep through dinner and right through until tomorrow morning. I nodded off through a book and dinner was amazing.

Every meal is amazing, the best thing about hard work.

Today I worked clearing out a lovely old overgrown herb bed, now nettles and primroses and masses of snowdrops that needed rescuing. I love snowdrops, I remember the days I just went to other people’s gardens to stare at them. The RHS on snowdrops:

Plant freshly-lifted snowdrops when the foliage is just dying back in late spring. If it is not possible to plant in late spring, buying just after flowering when the leaves are still green, (‘in the green’) is the next best way of establishing snowdrops.

I dug out bulbs and green leaves and replanted them in the bank I’ve been weeding the past two days. Still not done. The snowdrops have already flowered of course, before my arrival, so the picture you see here is from a previous snowdrop extravaganza.

It does prove that you should establish snowdrops, they are so lovely. One of the things I love most about this farm is the extra effort taken to brighten the lane alongside us, and to leave this place more beautiful than when they found it. Practical willow and bulbs upon bulbs, so lovely.

Snowdrops…They work their way down and down into the soil helped by the actions of worms, their bulbs were so much deeper than I expected. They had worked their way into crevices and under the edges of the wall’s stones. In places they clustered in great and beautifully-removable clumps, in others I found lone bulbs choked by nettles.

Nettles are truly amazing, and digging them out along with the bulbs I have begun to plot the rest of this novel I have started that is going nowhere fast. I thought gardening might work to shake things loose and it has, though I wasn’t able to stay awake last night to think about things the way I need to. Tonight isn’t looking much more likely.

The middle of the day involved a beautiful drive through countryside, a stop at the most wonderful roadside stopover I have ever seen, run by farmers and containing a farm store where we dropped off juice and stayed for cake that tasted just as good as it looks.

A special goal in my life is to seek out places that sell cake that tastes as good as it looks. I find most cake disappointing, and how heartbreaking is that?

We had a quick run around Stroud, a wonderful old industrial town I hope to get back to, and picked up another new wwoofer and her son just arrived from Japan.

A good day, and I learned the best trick for helping a fire get going that I have ever seen…and a complete aside, BBC2 radio has had a programme on country music on that played some songs from the latest Mary Chapin Carpenter album along along with Loretta Lynn, the Steeldrivers and even 6 Days on the Road (though unaccountably no Johnny Cash and no East Bound and Down). They are now playing PYT by Michael Jackson, and suddenly Arizona doesn’t seem so far away.

I’ll end with snowdrops as I started. From wikipedia — this amazing description of leaves and new words. I love the idea of explicative leaves.

An important feature which helps to distinguish between species (and to help to determine the parentage of hybrids) is their “vernation” (the arrangement of the emerging leaves relative to each other). This can be “applanate”, “supervolute” or “explicative”. In applanate vernation the two leaf blades are pressed flat to each other within the bud and as they emerge; explicative leaves are also pressed flat against each other, but the edges of the leaves are folded back or sometimes rolled; in supervolute plants one leaf is tightly clasped around the other within the bud and generally remains at the point where the leaves emerge from the soil.[4]