Monday, 11 September 2017

Circle of Life.



I'm not as prolific a writer as I used to be. Sometimes this is because I'm mad busy and life gets in the way of talking about life, other times I overthink it and the moments are lost. Occasionally I know I have something momentous to impart, but by the time I've treated a lamb, fed the alpaca or checked a fence, I have forgotten I ever had a point to make. I also try to make a point of not blogging, posting or tweeting when I'm in poor spirits. Over the past few weeks this has been my excuse, I have been a little low. I'm not depressed, I know friends with depression and I'm aware that this is not me, I've just been a little low.

The weather in August was quite inconsistent and we almost lost our hay, (the positive being that we did not.) Our lambs thrived. We birthed three gorgeous cria, with more due in April, and I was determined not to be disappointed that they were all boys. We've had a bit of a spate of boys in recent years and I longed for some girls. The alpaca babies took a longer time to arrive than expected, also a consequence of the weather and I was restricted to the site, awaiting babies. It makes you a little stir-crazy. But they were happy and healthy when they arrived. Then suddenly one was not; happy or healthy. I worked hard with our vet, but the baby developed an infection, pneumonia set in and he passed away. It hit me hard.

Rest in peace little Diablo.

It's taken three weeks but I'm back on track. The farmers say 'livestock, deadstock,' it's a bit harsh but it means that if you breed livestock, you'll have times when issues occur and you won't be able to save that animal. It's life. I realise I haven't quite come to terms with that. Born in St John's Wood, I'm definitely a smallholder rather than a farmer.


My family, friends and my garden have kept my spirits high. It's hard to be down when you have special people in your life. Nature's bounty is always uplifting and it's hard to be down when the kitchen garden groans with fruit, veg and flowers for the house, dahlias scream hello in their showy way, grapes are ripening, sweet pea are filling the air with heavy scent and fat hedgehogs waddle gown the path at dusk. Life is good and I'm grateful.

Selling our range of natural fertilisers at Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court was fabulous this year again, thanks to Todd's Botanics and their wonderful team, of which I now count myself as a virtual member. Don't forget to order Lou's Poo Beans if you are planting spring flowering bulbs and our limited edition Christmas bags are on sale now. www.TheArchersAtTheLarches.com.



Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Post Chelsea Flower Show 2017 - Part 1

For the second year running, The Archers At The Larches Ltd have sold our branded Lou's Poo, Dried Alpaca Fertiliser at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. We wouldn't be there without the fantastic support of Mark Macdonald, owner of Todd's Botanics, Plants Delivered and Vaso Toscano. Mark is a champion grower and a firm believer in our fertiliser. He uses it to feed the nursery and loves specific products, like our Shredded Lou's Poo, for feeding his tree ferns or our Beans, for feeding his olive trees.

In conjunction with Mark, we created our Lou's Poo, Compost Tea Mix with added comfrey, especially formulated to feed flowering plants in their flowering season. At Chelsea, this was particularly well received by those growing agapanthus, chilli and tomato growers but it suits all indoor and outdoor flowering plants too.
This year I was lucky enough to attend the Chelsea Flower Show Press Day and Gala Dinner hosted by the RHS on the Monday before the public opening. I was stationed on my Plants Delivered stand eager and waiting to see who I might see. First to pop by was Julian Cleary and his mum. Juilian is astoundingly beautiful. I remember him from his early days on TV and imagined him short and skinny. He is tall and elegant. I passed him my card as no celebs seemed to be buying much. 'Ah,' he said in a considered drawl, 'Thankyou. One never knows when one might need some alpaca poo.' 'Quite.' said I. 

Next I was lovey-kissed by Ainsley Harriott, most excellent. He's even taller than Juilan! He walked away chortling when I passed my card over. Lovely man, I have his BBQ book somewhere.

I saw Judy Dench and the beautiful Duchess and countless other celebs, like all the Radio 2 BBC crowd; Chris Evans, Jeremy Vine, Jo Wiley, Anneka Rice. It's exciting but I'm not altogether sure if all these personalities were there for the flowers.....the real stars for me, of course, are the growers inside the Grand Pavilion and the garden designers outside. The growers, in particular, work their fingers to the bone 24/7, seeking RHS medals and caring customers to purchase their stunning plants. My top picks were:
Todd's Botanics, for drought tolerant plants, tree ferns, olives, the unusual, agapanthus and iris, garden design and wholesale planting solutions. T3 Wall End Nursery for unusual plants, salvia and abutilons. Avon Bulbs for stunning bulbs and seeds. HooksgreenHerbs culinary, medicinal and scented pot-grown herbs and seeds. Mamoth Onion  W. Robinson & Son, Seeds and Plants Ltd for fantastic vegetable plants and seeds. Check out their websites.

In my next blog post I'll share a little more of my pictures and comment on the gardens I liked/didn't, but for now I d like to say a massive thanks to my Poo Crew for the week; Kathy, AM, Ori, Cathy, Erin and Bryony plus French Antionne! You all rock.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The joys of living rurally.

Part of the joy of living in the countryside, is the thrill of having a septic tank. It delights me that our family outpourings are located in a field and that every two years a man in overalls, and presumably no sense of smell, comes with a lorry and a strange looking vacuum to suck it up and take it all away. Today is that day.

I have a sickly 14yo home at the moment. She is full of flu. I was loath to leave her in the house while I fed the livestock, in case the 'sludge-gobbler' came and she was forced off her death bed to answer the door, so I phoned the company first thing; I was told he was on his way and to expect him by 10am. He arrived at 12.30pm. Hungry livestock.

A small, unsmiley man, (but then, who can blame him,) he moaned as soon as I opened the door. It was a long way to our house, (correct, though to be fair it depends where you start,) he had a bigger rig than he was used to, he wasn't sure the access to our drive was big enough, the field was grassier than he'd expected and he didn't have a shovel..... Lordy. I suggested he start by driving onto site, I'd get him a shovel and I'd make him a cup of coffee. 'Weak,' he said, 'Very weak.' I retreated indoors to let him sort himself out. Not sure I trust those that drink weak coffee.

I made the insipid, watery beverage and even wrapped a home-made, mini victoria sponge in some tin foil: Us Poo professionals ought to stick together, (though not literally.)

On our driveway I was greeted by the unsmiley one, even more unsmiley than he'd been before. He'd managed to badly misjudge our overhead electricity cable to the barn. The very barn I need to lamb in shortly. The wire was draped over his lorry like a poor attempt at bunting. 'Is it live?' he asked. 'Yesss!' said I, with more force than I'd planned. 'Oh,' he said, 'I thought I could make it.'

Annoying.

Anyhoo, three hours later and our stinky tank is empty, the smell is slowly drifting away. Electricians from the company have been to see the damage and will return tomorrow to fix us. I am less fraught and I even had some kind words for the unsmiley one: I valiantly held back from telling him that I think he's in the wrong job.

The 14yo is feeling marginally better and I've baked some lovely granary bread. I'm expecting indigestion any minute now, not from the antics of the day, but rather from the slab of hot bread and equal slab of salted butter I've just sampled!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Remembering

It's hard to believe we are only just embarking on our 8th year here at The Larches. We've learned so much, forgotten so much. In my 50th year I have noticed that there is only so much storage capacity in my noggin. Sometimes, when I learn something new, something old falls out the back... I wish I was more like my phone; when that gets close to being filled with gorgeous pictures of the sproglets, alpaca, lamb or plant, I add a SD card and all is well.

Shrimp 2014
We've just sold our 2016 lambs at market. Raised solely on our natural grass paddocks and their mums' milk, we were commended on their health and size and were rewarded with a very good price. Possibly the top price for lambs at that market. #Chuffed. We seem to specialise in making small things bigger; lambs, alpaca, plants. Shrimp, born two years ago, is now indistinguishable from my other sheep and she will go to the tup this year and have lambs of her own next year. Similarly Cleopatra lamb is well on her way to catching up her peers, and yet, earlier this year, she was sharing a bean bag with the cats, her nappy on, in the sitting room!
Cleopatra 2015
I'm not as gullible as I used to be, more's the pity. When I first started to keep hens, I was surprised to find a tiny egg one morning and when I next saw a neighbour I showed him.
"Lord!" he said. "That's very rare." He looked at me dead on.
"That's a Rooster egg." he said. I looked from he to it and it to he. He had me for approx 6 seconds, but he had me.

We had a Rooster Egg this week again, though I suspect that one of my hens, who has been looking worse for wear, lacking feathers and generally not looking her best, is finally out of moult!

2p, Rooster Egg, Standard Egg.
 

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon