Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Half Term Ideas: Trevella Park, Cornwall....

I'm an organised goddess this school year. Gaze at me in awe, never have I been more ahead of the game....... if it lasts till Chrimbo I'll be gobsmacked. All the children's clothes are labelled, we haven't forgotten a guitar, sports match, Birthday. I've pre-booked dinner parties, Birthday parties, Christmas hols AND I've even MADE a Nigella inspired Christmas Cake which I feed weakly weekly. I am Superwoman by Shirley Conran (incidentally, do you remember your mothers all raging about how good this book was in the '70s? I'm determined to read it, needing tips on household management... 1p on Amazon!)

My zen-like skills were honed during the summer when the sproglets and I camped with two other mums and their broods. Having planned, and that my friend is the key; planning! having planned to camp during week 1 and 2 of the hols we were chilled, relaxed, content, smug even.


There was no one about, it was fantastic. The sproglets played, chatted, laughed and the mums drank wine, explored intellectual subjects such as the latest top gadgetry from Lakeland, Ikea food and the reason why Bodin continually send costly catalogues in the post, even though we just light our fires with them.... Y'know, imponderables...

Anyhoo, I have since been determined to continue with my euphoria of forward bookings, ensuring a vague sense of control rather than the surprised look I seemed to have all last year. So I was delighted when Trevella Park in Cornwall enquired whether we intrepid Archers might consider a stay in a Luxury Caravan for our half term holiday.

Would we? Yes in-deedy.

Close to Newquay Beach and its quaint seaside town, Trevella offers a beautifully appointed site from which to explore Cornwall. From May to September it boasts a heated swimming pool, though in October I think we'll be more interested in blustery walks along the beaches and rock pool adventures. There's an Adventure Playground on site and, for those in need of the outside world (not I) Wi-Fi is on tap. For those keen on fishing their two fishing lakes offer a challenge and for the softer hearted the Pets Corner is just the ticket.

It was a bit tricky to find a house, alpaca, sheep, cat, chicken sitter for half term (and not at all easy to say) but I've done that too. Sighs smugly. So we are set.

Having bragged at school about our intrepid adventure I feel there may be a convoy to Trevella Park... thank gawd we're already booked in.

Right, I'm off to read all the paperwork now and check out the 50 Inspiring Activities suggested by Trevella in Cornwall.... may be a bit of a stretch for 4 days but hey, we're up for the challenge. Eden Project here we come.

Thursday, 19 September 2013



I'm not often lippy but the poultry auction makes me nervous. It's not the birds, it's the Welsh fella. I went there today to collect the wages of the 10yo, following the sale of her Salmon Faverolles. If you haven't read about the poultry auction or if you need some serious (not) tips about conducting yourself at a poultry auction, click here.

My nervousness was well founded. I strode into the vast, chilly shed this morning, determined to be a grown up. I was dressed decently enough in my autumnal grey poncho, (the one that drank my coffee that other time, leaving me with Damp Tassles....sheesh!) and my high-heeled brown boots. Obviously that wasn't all I was wearing. [Shakes head in disbelief] I'm trying to tell you that I was looking serious; Marks and Spencery.

I couldn't see the Welsh fella anywhere, I think he's a poultry dealer, but in order to decrease a chance encounter I studied the caged birds intently. Close to the Indian Runner duck section I heard an unmistakable lilt of Welsh calling to me.

'Pardon me?' I foolishly enquired, turning to see the twinkly rogue standing with his pals.

'You get that poncho from Clint Eastwood see?'


'Clint Eastwood - Poncho.'

'Yes, as a matter of fact I did.' I replied hotly. 'And I'm packing under here, so watch it!' Bring it ohnnnn.. I can do gun-slinging analogies with the best of them. So there!

His friends nudged him, giggling.

'Oh,' he said smirking, shifting his position slightly from the rail he was leaning on. 'Lift up your cape then and we'll 'ave a look...'


[Exit blushing blonde stage-right....]

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Village Show... Queen of the Peas.

It's tricky if you don't read the exam question correctly. So it was with my horticultural entry for the village show this year: I eagerly awaited the booklet in late spring outlining the categories to be judged and was delighted to be able to tick off a good many that were already underway in the garden; beetroot, cucumbers, courgettes, sweet pea, soft fruit, it looked like being a bumper year. I was also pleased to see the onion category was still key as I was determined to defend my 1st place title of two years. Queen of the Onions me.

So, last Friday, between storms, I hurried about the garden, pantry, shed and greenhouse gathering up my harvest for show prep. I was particularly pleased with my carrots which I'd grown in a stack of 5lt pots, one on top of the other with the bottoms cut out to give height and hopefully length to my crop as well as deterring the dreaded fly. It worked a treat and as I gently excavated, beautiful, perfectly straight (though slim,) 6"to 8" carrots were revealed. Next year I will thin more ruthlessly and water more but this is my chosen growing method from now on.

Hubby is usually my fluffer pre-show but he'd excused himself to Germany for a meeting and wasn't due back till late so I was left with the task of prep. The kitchen smelled wonderfully earthy with the aroma of herbs, fresh cut flowers and a multitude of fruit and veg. The cats looked on, slim pickings for them.

The sproglets weren't home from school till late and after a hasty tea they soon set about their chosen domestic entry, the 10yo making whopping great buttermilk muffins covered in pink icing with antenna of mint Matchmakers. They were obscene. I marvelled at the fact that she was totally in control, very Mastercheffy and looked at me funny when I offered to help. Love it!

The 8yo opted to make a pizza. Again I stood back and waited politely to be asked to help. I was proper redundant. Mummy for sale, two previous owners.... Boy read his packet of Tesco pizza base mix (well, you HAVE to cheat on a Friday night especially when there's Saturday school the next day!) made up his dough, rolled it out [the mess, the mess] and then placed red pesto, mozzarella, red onions, olives and Parma ham artistically around the artisan shaped platter. Lush.

When the sproglets were in bed I finished my prep and that was when I realised that my prize (possibly) onions couldn't be entered for the show. The category was for seed grown onions and I'd grown mine from sets. Bum.

[I say bum, but I'm secretly pleased, don't tell anyone...In my mind I am therefore undefeated. #insanelogic]

The show was fabulous and among other 1sts, 2nds and Commendations I won a 1st for my sweet pea display, even though it looked a bit pathetic and until an hour before the show was covered in greenfly. Apparently the judge admired my choice in variety - this year all my sweet pea were marbled purple or red with strong scents. Who knew.

Roll on next year, I might even enter some of the bigger shows round here - get me!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Rude Fruit...

With just three courgette plants I could feed the nation!

A friend came to dinner recently and exclaimed at my rude veg! One courgette plant throws out boob shaped yellow fruit, another offers green boobs and the last plant has prolific jaundiced phalli pointing in varying directions. Along with being rude their other common attribute is their prolific production. Turn your back for an instant and Katie Price is right there in the proverbial veg bed! [Tsk!]

Yesterday the rude veg was processed into a huge ratatouille for the freezer. Yum. There is nothing better than finding a pot of late summer in the freezer in colder months.

Mostly I love this time of year, it is a close second to spring in my book. This time of year I begin the task of storage for winter; collecting berries or fruit for freezing or processing into jars of goo and hunting seeds for sowing now or storing till spring.

The blackberries are particularly good this year, probably because they were not cut back last year due to the fields being so wet. It was so waterlogged that the hedge-cutting farmer didn't dare venture onto our land.

The hedge-cutting farmer is a lovely elderly gent who, when he stops to chat, dispenses farming wisdom from his cab with the door open. Mid sentence he shoos wasps away from his sandwiches and tea flask with kindly words. 'Get away with you, you silly,' he says. I like that, I do the same. I can't be doing with all the arm flapping and histrionics. My children have inherited my approach though Hubby prefers the flapping method. The farmer told me that last year was the worst weather he could remember. He and his huge tractor had to be pulled out of muddy fields three times!

The blackberries seem to have appreciated the weather and their stay of execution last year, in this summer's heat they have swelled and sweetened beautifully and now reside in bags in my freezer after being tray frozen, making it easy to scoop a handful for a pie or milkshake.

The hedges are now all cut. The farmer was merciless, his huge tractor bore down on the land carrying his monstrous cutter which ate away at two years of wild growth. Now, from the top of the house, you can almost see into all the fields and down to the woods, can almost count the livestock.

I said earlier that I mostly love this time of year. There are two reasons not to love it completely; first it signals the beginning of the end of the year and second, the balmy dewy weather always seems to bring on a flush of red mite in the hen coops.

For those of you with sproglets you may or may not have enjoyed the thrill of head lice. I have once, it is awful. Awful, awful, awful. But I think the war against red mite in chickens is worse. I spray, clean, dust, change bedding and while this has an immediate effect on the chickens environment I am left scratching and itching until I can strip, chuck my entire outfit in a hot wash and lash to the shower to adorn myself in Vosene (which works a treat.) Ugh. The trouble is I have wooden coops with tons of nooks and crannies, places for red mite to lurk.

If a steam cleaner company fancies giving me a portable, powerful gadget to annihilate the buggers (mites, not chooks) I'd be glad to give a full review. Right now I feel I need to go and burn my underwear.... Over and out

If you'd like more on the mites at The Larches, try this blog post Death to Bugs.... by The Human Buffet...

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon