What a lovely week weather wise, spring is really trying to make her presence felt. Our land is still too cold for any sowing or the like, but hopefully with a little more sun and warmth we shall be able to make a start in a couple of weeks. On a trip to Gloucester this week we saw that the sandy free draining soils in those parts were being worked and sown, i am sure those farmers are very pleased to have an early start to the year. We high up on the hills, as I said, must be patient. Hedging has been our main task this week, as with many of our neighbouring farmers. Up here in the Black Mountains people tend to lay and pleach their hedges, this is an old skill still practiced and respected by many around us. These hedges are to form divides between fields, and if properly done provide adequate fences to keep animals in the fields. It is quite a skill and there is much competition between farmers as to who lays the best and most beautiful hedge. We are certainly not competitors, but we do maintain most of our hedges in this way. Another bonus for this practice is that it provides shelter and home for many species of birds and small animals, without this, life would be tricky for them. We trim our hedges once a year to encourage stronger, denser growth. The end of winter is a good time as the small trees and bushes that make up the hedge are still in a dormancy period and not yet growing leaves. This time is also best as the birds have not yet started making their nests in them, from which to lay and hatch their young . Today we have planted some willow to start a new willow hedge, running along the dingle track. We have cut “stakes” of willow branches to a 45 degree angle and put into the soil twelve inches apart. This is then watered regularly to allow the roots to begin to form. Willow is used a lot to grow living fences as it grows very quickly, and is flexible so that one can control the form of the hedge desired, and their roots will also help to hold the steep bank on which they will grow and stop its erosion. Let’s hope that they take.
This weekend at the Arch we have a good variety of produce for sale. We are now onto blood oranges called Sanguinello, an outrageously juicy, very sweet orange. Bergamot lemons are finishing, but all good things must come to an end. Fern Verrow produce includes peppery salad bags, swiss chard, parsley and a few new season chives, spring greens and more leeks. Smoked bacon and unsmoked gammon joints will also be for sale. We have also been able to get some biodynamic daffodils! from Tony Carlton at Grange Village near Gloucester, to accompany these we have some hedgrow foliage, which will last for weeks in water, whilst sprouting spring growth, very pretty and uplifting to have on your kitchen table. Another variety of seville marmalade too, the latest batch is lighter and sweeter. We have used the bergamot lemons in our marmalades and they have really added great flavour and match the sevilles perfectly. This weeks Fern Verrow Kitchen experiment will be lemon curd, made with our own goose eggs and new season lemons, the goose yolk is very large and rich and we think the best for producing an outstanding lemon curd.