January 2010

A proper winter has meant, bedsides the cold and wet, some strong winds. A gale blew up in the early hours of one Saturday morning. Lying in bed, it sounded like the end of the world – or at least an earthquake. In fact, two huge beech trees came down, their topmost branches brushing the roof of the coal shed, within a couple of metres of the house. Although it’s a shame to lose these magnificent trees, this has bequeathed us many winters’ supply of firewood!

Brussel Sprouts
Brussel Sprouts

Apart from routine jobs about the farm, this month seems to have been all about keeping warm and cooking really sustaining meals. Plums have come in handy; stewed and added to hot porridge and cream for breakfast, with a sweetening of maple syrup or a sprinkling of sultanas. Beetroot and parsnips – dug when the frosts allow – regularly accompany roast lamb; leeks have lasted well, supplementing the stored onions, and the Brussels have benefitted from the anti-rabbit netting. We are nearly through the sprouts and have started on the tops, so our own greens are in short supply.

Cows in snow
Cows in the snow

On snowy days we felt sorry for the sheep and gave them a couple of scoops of organic nuts to warm them up; they now expect it, sounding off and running up to the gate whenever they see us, until they get their breakfast. A week or two or dry weather allowed us to let the cows out, which they really appreciate. The calves are belting around the field, enjoying the really good leg-stretch. The massive pile of big bales and the huge haystack (which we thought we’d never get through) have both dwindled to very modest proportions. Egg production has slowed but not stopped. Snowdrops are now in full splendour, cheering the spirits after what seems to have been quite a long winter already.

Dog in the snow
A sprinkling of snow