by Tria Stebbing.
The time is running away with us and the evenings are drawing in. Nature is providing us with an assortment of goodies over the field currently, although the weather has thrown us a wild card in what we are foraging.
In the last few years the sloes have been plentiful – this year, however, we are looking at a much-reduced crop. It was not worth risking them and waiting for the first frost, so they have been picked and popped in the freezer, ready to be added to gin for a Christmas tipple.
We have a bumper crop of Rosehip, more than we have ever seen, so I am currently experimenting with making syrup. Rosehip is known for its high vitamin C and anti-inflammatory properties – easing the pain in a farmer’s stiff joints can only be a good thing.
The hedgerow is a vibrant shade of red, with a hint of blackberry, but the blackberries have gone over, leaving plenty for the birds to finish off. They were early and very sweet back in August – we have loads left on the bushes, but sadly they are bitter and dry.
The other surprise has been the crab apples, apples in general seem to have done very well – as you drive through Dorset you can’t help but notice the glut of apples in the trees and on the ground. The sheep love the windfalls and small amounts can be fed along with carrots to boost vitamins before the ram going in. Our girls have them as a treat, mixed in with their ewe nuts.
We topped both fields a few weeks ago, when the ground was like brown dry parched dust. It has paid off as we now have paddocks of lush green shoots. It is a good time to spray the thistles as we are grazing the flock on summer grazing currently away from the field. The thistles need to come out as they ruin a bale of hay and when in situ in the field, the sheep graze around them wasting a valuable patch of grass, leaving prickly tufts sticking up seeding themselves and making more.
The village has its Apple Day in the community orchard next week, a community coming together to celebrate a great year for the apple and a chance to press them and make delicious apple juice. Harvest festival is being celebrated in local churches and it is for us a moment to prepare for the next stage at the field – the introduction of the Ram. Look out girls Humphrey is warming up.