Essex, Orange and Proud

Yes, it's nearly Halloween, and El Diablo dog is disguising himself as a pumpkin to avoid the ghosts of past unholy collie-terrier unions. Wise werewolf.

   Here in Essex, those of us who cannot afford a spray tan, take this seasonal opportunity to surround ourselves with as many pumpkins as possible for a reflected TOWIE orange glow. Nothing is more effective at scaring the undead.  And so, to celebrate this joyous pumpkin-filled Hallowe'en, we've delved into Hannah's recipe "book" (a scary task in itself, see right), and as requested, the recipe for a family favourite:

 Pumpkin Bread

1lb pumpkin (peeled and diced) , 2 oz butter/marg, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ginger, large pinch nutmeg, 1lb flour (1/2 white, 1/2 wholemeal is best), 1 tsp. salt (optional), 2 tsps. sugar, 2 tbsps. warm water, 1 egg (beaten)

Peel and dice the pumpkin.  Cover with water and cook for 20 minutes until tender then drain and mash with the butter, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  Make sure it is smooth.  Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, mix together the sugar, warm water, egg and yeast.

Once the pumpkin mixture is lukewarm, combine all the ingredients and knead.  The mixture can be quite wet at first.  The best advice I've had is to start mixing and kneading with a spatula and give the flour time to absorb some of the liquid.  If needed, gradually add extra flour a little at a time on your hands or in the bowl and knead in until you have a smooth dough. 

Cover and leave for 10 minutes to prove in a warm place. 

Punch down and divide the dough in two.  Knead each half and place into two greased 1lb loaf tins.  Cover the tins with a tea towel and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.

Cook at 200oC for about 30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when knocked on the base. (My favourite part of the bread process!)

Enjoy toasted with lashings of butter, Marmite or jam and try not to eat the two loaves before you get a chance to take a photo...ahem.

This year, mini pumpkins (munchkins) are available at Wiston Church, including the adorably named 'Wee Be Little'.  It's worth a walk over to Wiston to enjoy the autumn colours and return home with pockets of pumpkins. They also act as excellent improvised "go fetch" balls if you are uncoordinated enough to drop them near annoyingly fast werewolves with vegetarian tendencies - a socially acceptable werewolf if ever I've met one.

Happy baking and Happy Halloween!

All Creatures Great and Small II: And Those Not Bright and Beautiful

Ah, Autumn, season of mist and mellow fruitfulness.  A time when Humbug suffers puddle/mud dilemmas, night-time "stealth rain" periodically knocks out the electricity, as does the slightest tremor of wind, and Water Lane lives up to its name upgrading the farm with an exclusive "moated" look. The very height of Country Living desirability!

The River Stour is on the rise, so we may soon have to take the bullocks off the Marsh and autumn cultivation has been abandoned in favour of spring barley.  However, in good news, the squirrel escaped...then returned with a friend, both intent on making their way back into the covered bin.  Yes, we saw the jungle gym potential, and took it to the next level.  Welcome to the LDF Squirrel Creche.  Are you going away from home?  Work-Life balance leaving you with little "me-time"?  Leave your squirrels with us.  A diversification idea I can't wait to share with the bank manager.

I laugh, yet Humphrey is at one with the squirrels.  Forget 'Tarzana', a baby squirrel once decided Dad's wellington boot was its mother.  Humph was found standing in the middle of the lane plaintively crying for assistance as said squirrel-ette refused to abandon his wellington.

I'm not sure what's scarier, a pet squirrel or the Gollum-esque nutter (appropriate) holding precious.

But in other news, and proving once again I am not "at one" with the animals, following my tweet, Farm Dog was found cavorting in mud, puddles and a lot of onion waste (= stinky dog, avoid at all costs) with BFF from Wiston Mill, Reggie.

So last year it was complete refusal, and this year it's personal.  I am not worth crossing the muddy wastes to reach.  Given the squirrel died shortly after the photo was taken (most probably out of terror), it is proving difficult to blame him.

I shall instead focus on the lovely autumn colours as the trees begin to turn across the  Valley, providing an excellent backdrop to this year's record silage harvest!

Mission Marmalade

It's a noisy time of year with the cows queuing up at the gate waiting to go out with every sunbeam that appears.  Whilst they're bellowing their indignation at every human, car, bird or dog that passes, Hannah is on a marmalade mission in the kitchen.  Batch two of this year's marmalade - and she's still going!

With a house filled with the delicious smell of Seville oranges, we've entered the annual "no adopting of Peruvian bears found at railway stations" season.  A sad time for Colchester station's orphan bear population.

But we don't need a bear!  They might be quieter than the cows, but we've got our own little Paddington here on the farm (albeit from Dorset not Peru, wearing a sou'wester and willing to eat anything from clothes pegs to ancient rabbit).  Fearless cattle dog Humbug is prepared to work in any weather (but not mud - really useful on a farm) and was found yesterday with his head inside a cow's mouth.  Who needs a dentist?

Whilst buying him a sou'wester may have jinxed rain for the spring, he has at least stopped shivering in the farmyard.  Off now to feed (guaranteed to quieten down the cows) and test Dad's photography skills with a picture of me and a cow.  It's day two and we're yet to get a picture in which I'm not standing gormlessly in a barn with my eyes closed, the cow and I are both still, I'm not being attacked by a cow - forgotten dog treats in pockets lead to mass attack, or worse still, a picture in which I look like I actually like cows.  But it's all part of the celebration of ...

Great British Beef – from the Ladies in Beef

This year's Great British Beef Week runs from 23rd - 20th April and this year butchers, supermarkets and retailers taking part will be raising money for Help for Heroes.

So bring on St Georges Day and a celebration of Great British Beef!  For more information, and the chance to win £500, head to