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calves on Saturday's frosty morning

calves on Saturday's frosty morning

Glorious October certainly! We continue to be busy outside with the hundred and one jobs this dry weather has allowed us to get on top of…dung spreading, ditching, fencing, hedge trimming, cutting and carrying wood from our wood stacks to our winter store and, of course, never ending topping (yes, we are still able to get onto the land with a tractor!).

ewe lambs enjoying the autumn sunshine and grass

ewe lambs enjoying the autumn sunshine and grass

The ewes have been tupped and are now grazing peacefully, happy in the autumn sunshine and revelling in the unexpected bonus of being dry underfoot.

Cows and calves are contentedly munching away in the River Meadows, whilst the bull and his cohort are doing a first-rate job around our smaller meadows at the home farm.  Our autumn flush of grass has been excellent – more sustaining and nutritious than the rank crop our waterlogged fields produced during the wet summer months.

the bull happily grazing Flop Meadow

the bull happily grazing Flop Meadow

Polytunnel beds are gradually being mulched down with our organic dung and covered over for winter – though a handsome supply of chilli, aubergine, tomato, squash and carrot are still providing us with tasty suppers. Outside in the kitchen garden leeks, kale, red cabbage, spinach, broccoli spears and roots are giving us delicious seasonal variety.

Though apples haven’t produced that well this year the quince tree is heavy with golden, fragrant fruit which I’ll pickled, make into jelly and quince cheese. The pear tree in the orchard is also bowed over with small, bullet hard fruit for which I’ll have to invent some different preserves.

It’s a good autumn; land, man, beast and wildlife flourish. Next weekend, on the 25th, we have two farm walks, so though the weather is due to break tomorrow I hope  we won’t  return to horrendous torrential drenching!

Devonian Whitebeam (indigenous to Devon) berries, which I'll harvest to grow sapplings from.

Devonian Whitebeam (rare and indigenous to Devon) berries, which I'll harvest to grow saplings from.

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Apples, apples, apples. A more applier a weekend you’d be hard pushed to find. After our hectic Saturday of collecting up apples we were due to celebrate a friend’s birthday that evening.

Hurrying in for a quick wash down and brush up, Robert shouted from the shower “Where are we going? What are we doing?”
“Um, not too sure. Something about South Zeal, common players and cider? Anyway we’re almost late!”

It was a surprise arranged for Jane, the birthday girl, by another mutual friend and we hadn’t a clue, when we pushed open the door to South Zeal’s Victory Hall,  what to expect. We walked in on one Peasgood Nonsuch’s Heathen Harvest! What? What on earth…? I hear you exclaim.

heathen harvest - an evening of entertainment, music and song

heathen harvest - an evening of entertainment, music and song

So, to explain briefly in the words of the Common Players themselves ‘they are an arts organisation who seek to engage people in a positive and playful way’ – Cider-with-roadies, of which Heathen Harvest is their newly commission evening show, ‘uses creative activity to enthuse people about local produce’.
None the wiser? Not surprised. It’s taken me sometime to get there. But it’s well worth the effort.

Wow; Heathen Harvest is an exuberant roller-coster performance, bursting with energy, based on music hall, slapstick and cabaret traditions. And as we, the audience, sat at tables quaffing cider, feasting on a delicious community harvest supper, we were entertained by the players with an eclectic, hilarious and poignant selection of stories, songs, sketches and puppetry. These had all been drawn from research done by the writer, Jonathon Stokes, of local Devon apple workers and cider makers.

It was tremendous, hugely enjoyable and unexpected. What a way to celebrate Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees, gardens, and orchards.

snapped with my head in a bucket - washing apples!

caught with head in a bucket - washing apples!

Up for an early start on Apple Pressing Sunday. After checking and feeding the stock we loaded the truck – already groaning under the weight of apples – with fermenting barrels for cider and old water containers and saved milk bottles for juice, and departed for our rendezvous with apple mill and cider press. A system soon established itself of apple washing, milling and pressing; filling juice bottles (time consuming), cider barrels (less so), removing the old pressed cheeses to the compost heap, and refilling the press with fresh pulp. We worked hard and relentlessly, breaking for an apple soup, sausages and apple cake lunch, plus a quick cup of tea. It was growing dimpsy as we loaded the last barrel into the truck and hosed down the equipment and barn. And do you know what…we’ve made approximately 185 litres, 320 pints or 40 gallons of cider and 6 gallons of juice! A weekend of pure apple inspiration. Thank you to all who made it possible.

Pomona I salute you!

our cider barrels, waiting to begin their fermentauon

cider barrels, waiting to start their fermentauon

Locks Park Farm

Thanks for visiting my blog. All entries are presented in chronological order.

I have a small organic farm on the Culm grasslands near Hatherleigh in Devon, with sheep and beef cattle. I've been farming in the county for more than 30 years. I've set up this blog to share views on farming and the countryside - please do give your thoughts.

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The Campaign to Protect Rural England has helped set up this blog. We want farming to thrive in England, and believe that it is essential that people understand farming and farmers better in order for that to happen. Paula's views expressed here are her own and we won't necessarily share all of them, but we're happy to have helped give her a voice.

Find our more about CPRE and our views on food and farming at our website, www.cpre.org.uk

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