Hannahz 37 Varieties

Watch out Mr Heinz!  Hannah has outdone herself this year, taking advantage of seasonal and locally sourced produce to create 37 varieties of chutneys, pickles, jams, jellies and preserves.  Perfect (and colourful) Christmas presents!

Particular favourites this year: Elderflower Rob - a non-alcoholic hedgerow Creme de sureau, perfect with champagne, and Rosehip Syrup - for coughs, colds, general deliciousness and particularly good poured over ice-cream!

And if that weren't enough Christmas cheer, the farm shop has embraced the modern age and we now accept card payments:

Making last-minute present shopping a breeze!

A Sty with a View

The piglets are now happily ensconced in their new quarters - open plan studio apartment (ark) with uninterrupted views across the river to Nayland Airfield, cricket bat willows and general Stour loveliness. Ever considered living in a sty?  I have.

This 'pig's-eye' view of the world shows how perfect the site is for the trio, but they'll have to work for that view.  In fact, once they make it to the end of the track, they add Wiston Mill to the panorama.

To thank them, we generously removed the Take Put found beneath the brambles.  And if you were wondering what this does, Dad's description "You take things, and put them somewhere else...somewhere you forget about them." is pretty accurate.  He's been searching for this for some time, so has taken it...and put it somewhere else.  Circle of Hell right there.

Thank you to Fryers Farm Shop for the huge quantity of windfall apples.  Like ill-disciplined children, pigs like to play with food and are enjoying rolling them under the fence as an excuse to retrieve them.  We believe they too may be trying to get to Wiston to play with Reggie.

With the piglets settling in, we were joined by a festive offering:

Farmers' luck, calving started 20 minutes before we were due to leave for the carol service.  Fortunately, 'No 1's Calf' is a pro and it was born and up within minutes, so  Humph escaped to deafen the dignitaries of Colchester with a piccolo 'Top G' in  'Angels from the realms...A performance praised by the Mayor himself.  It never ceases to amaze us that even after a lifetime of farming, with farmer hands hewn from endless baler twine knots, he is able to play the piccolo so well.  To show our appreciation, when Humph's piccolo services are required, we briefly allow him to practise in the house, before realising this is a terrible idea (Farm Dog wails) and banish him to the barn - all a little Thomas Hardy until you catch a riff of a sea shanty amid the carols!

A Yuletide treat

Seasons Greetings from all at Lower Dairy Farm!

 And what better way to celebrate the festivities than a Christmassy vintage offering.

This fantastic photograph is reproduced from a Christmas card sent to us by the Cohens who live at the mill.  See if you can spot the two figures in the picture.

Wiston Mill is just over the Stour from the farm and an important landmark in the valley (and home to Humbug's best friend, Reggie).  One of my earliest memories is Dad driving the combine very slowly over the mill bridge as we children looked on willing the bridge to stay up.

Thank you to everyone who has helped out on the farm this year.  From the barn mending teams to those offering advice and support over the phone, we are very grateful.  Special thanks to Chris Kelly who is single-handedly keeping the rabbit population of Little Horkesley under control.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

Bricklayers Anonymous

   Yesterday, whilst wearing my regulation "it's November, it should be cold" outfit (three fleeces and a waterproof) I was wolf-whistled at by a man towing a cattle trailer.  I was as surprised as you are, but this can only mean one thing...bring on the mince pies!

   And no Verity, you cannot use shop bought pastry.  Save yourself some money and go crazy with some shortcrust.

Shortcrust pastry

8oz flour, pinch of salt, 2oz lard, 2oz marg, cold water to mix (approx 2tbsp), (1oz sugar for sweet pastry)

Mix flour and salt in basin, rub in fat.

Using a knife, to cut and stir, mix with cold water to form a stiff paste.

Turn dough on to a floured board/worktop and roll out.

- from the Be-Ro bible.

   Personally, I think lids are a waste of pastry (I am that cheap), so it's stars or dinosaurs, or whichever shape cutter/mould comes to hand - some still retaining the kryptonic strength of dried-on homemade play dough.  Or if you have that much time on your hands, you can create Edible Boggle (minus the shaking).  Way more rewarding than actual Boggle.

   In other news...progress on the barn restoration.  The brickwork is nearly completed thanks to Dad and Jack, our Master Bricklayer.

   Over the past two years, Mum and Dad have made incredible progress to ensure the barn remains standing for another few hundred years.  Through courses run by Essex Heritage and led by the excellent Richard Green of Green Restoration, we've been able to repair the rotten sole plate in three places and shore up the barn.  After the marathon effort of all the attendees on the last course, we've got a lot to do but it will be worth it!

We'll be adding more information and background to our website, but here is a quick photographic rundown to get you up to speed and show you our most recent progress.  And Richard, I'm not that good with Photoshop, the brickwork is real!

The race is on to get it shipshape before the weather turns...!