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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

The other day my mind refused to see a piece of very simple mathematical logic and try as I might I was unable to grasp the concept; though strangely I can easily do the calculations mentally if I don’t think about it!

I should explain. I’m dyslexic and so are my sons to varying degrees. This is not the convenient ‘middle-class syndrome’ that abounds in schools – ‘oh little Johnny’s brilliant – truly brilliant. It’s just that he’s dyslexic and his teachers don’t understand.’

Ours, so it’s believed, is genetic and has been passed down my mother’s side of the family. We have early documentation of it in a great (or is it two greats?) uncle of mine who was a well known and outstanding Victorian/Edwardian engineer.

Of course in my mother’s time no one gave it much truck and she believes the ‘cruel and unsympathetic’ way she was treated at school gave her a complex for the rest of her life. I know it was her own bad experiences that made her aware and sensitive to the possibility of me being dyslexic.

I was never allowed to think of it as a shortcoming – though I suspect that many of my teachers would disagree! It can be annoying and challenging even now – especially when I’m under pressure – and this hasn’t changed with age.

We, the boys and I, had trouble with simple sequences; the alphabet, days of the week, months of the year, hours, minutes, seconds and certain mathematical equations and tables as well as the transposing and reversal of letters and numbers . I also have very bad eye to hand co-ordination in specific things like throwing and catching balls (well anything actually) and playing tennis whereas in others it’s better than average – such as drawing, balance and archery! A strange thing indeed.

To help my sons when they were young I used to tell them that they were lucky to be dyslexic. It was an advantage. They had two ways in which to see the world, their own and the conventional one which we all have to learn. They thought this was great. I also found it useful to give them different answers to things that people expected them to know. For instance to the ever popular question ‘And when’s your birthday?’ Instead of the date, which they had no idea of, they could reply with ‘At the end of the summer holidays’ or ‘after Christmas’ and so on.

I was asked by their school if I could help other children in the same situation since I drew from first hand knowledge and could understand more easily the way they ‘saw’ or comprehended. I found this very rewarding, although doubtless my methods would be frowned on in some circles today.

I guess it’s all in the NDA.

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.

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