Jun 20 2006

Flaming June

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It’s been the busiest of springs, no time to turn. We don’t seem to have caught our breath since lambing. Three ewes slipped through the net and, just when we’d taken our eye off the ball, decided to give us five more lambs thus successfully throwing all post-lambing-plans in the air.  Paul went for a wonderful sail on Jolie Brise. Late lambs meant I stayed behind to man the fort. I prayed  I wouldn’t need complicated midwifery skills in his absence. He had a wonderful time, ten knots in a force nine but, alas, returned in agony with strained back, not so surprising…. and was unable to move for days, hm ……Next it was my turn, an unscheduled trip to Torbay Hospital with an asthma attack; oxygen, ambulance lost in the lanes in the dark.

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And then the badger made an unwanted visit.. He gorged himself and fed his family too, no doubt, on my  Aracuana chickens and numerous bantams. Handsome Mr Lavender and all his pretty girls became the banquet. I can only hope he ate so much he was sick! He secretly tore a huge hole in the back of the chicken house. Poor little birds were all trapped inside. I sat on the grass and cried then I remembered all the really dreadful things going on in the world and got on with my life…..Some Aracuana eggs hatched in the incubator. I pushed the remaining blue eggs under a broody Maran and a Maroque lady appeared with six tiny children. So on we go once more..

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That very same day I learnt I must relinquish my two dear donkeys, Friday and Nutmeg to the Donkey Sanctuary where they will get the on going veterinary treatment they need for recurring sarcoids. I’m so fortunate to be able to hand them over to such expertise but it’s tough after nine years. Nutmeg was such a Prima Donna, such a beautiful Diva, when she arrived here. Within months she surprised herself and me by giving birth to the dear little Friday one late Good Friday night eight years ago. A teenage mother, she always looked to me like the one with the hand bag and the white high heels who went to the pub, or was it a rave, leaving the child alone. But I was wrong, despite being so young and beautiful and quite unready for maternal responsibility, she gradually adjusted to her role and mother and son became inseparable.  I miss them both so very, very much.

 

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And now the sun burns down on the valley and it explodes into colour. The boarders are packed like a beach on Bank Holiday, everyone pushing and shoving to find room to turn their faces to the

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sun. The roses are wonderful, they seem to have thrived on the dry, cold winter and even survived the constant downpour that was called May. I’ve never had such a profusion of colour.

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Sheep are shorn, thank goodness, and graze coolly with fat lambs on the top fields. Fly has grown but he’s a lonely little chap still wanting bottles and company. Phil says hand reared ram lambs turn into the most dangerous rams. “Knock you down and get you in the kidneys”, he says. He’d know, so Fly is a testosterone free wether now for our safety. I guess he won’t care long as he still gets attention.

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The blackbird snuck into the poly tunnel when my back was turned and feasted on strawberries but raspberries look promisingly out of his reach. Broad beans are covered in flowers and peas just romping away. Runners follow and sweet peas scent the whole vegetable garden. Tomatoes, of course, are out of control already. Oh lovely summer.

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Picnics have been on my mind for some time recently which surprises me because I usually hate them, rather in the same way that I hate barbeques, well, usually anyway.  Rain, feel cold, uncomfortable, food full of grit, stodgy, burnt sausages, charred raw chicken, beer, bon amie, please can I go home, oh Sally, so anti-social…..

But it was my father’s Ninety Seventh Birthday on Friday and Paul had the great idea of taking him a picnic. He was thrilled. Aunty Molly, ninety nine in August; was invited. She and Dad first cousins, friends and playmates since childhood, companions now, both razor sharp despite failing sight and hearing. Dad started planning the menu two weeks ago; each time I phoned he checked I had it right…. “Scottish smoked salmon, not that Dart stuff” ( sorry Dart salmon fisherman, we have now established some mis-information on his part….!), with lemon and black pepper. Avocado (I bought organic, they tend to taste less like soap I think….) with good olive oil. “Not that stuff from Boots, Dad, you put in your ears?” I asked wickedly thinking of my very un-foodie mother. “Don’t you remember, I lived in France,

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, 1927…” Ah yes, whoops , sorry. 

Main course: Rare Roast Beef, our own

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boys raised on the farm, probably be in trouble, it’s not Aberdeen Angus, but I’ll risk it. Must have mustard. Horseradish?” “No,” “oh, OK. “  “And Potato salad, Jersey Royals of course and a tomato salad, get English tomatoes, more flavour.” “Yes Dad.” “And a nice green salad with a really good French Dressing. Can you do that? And, if you can, make a big bottle and leave it with me.”   “Yes, Dad, yes Dad”

“Now, really crispy rolls, never get them here, I’ll probably eat two. Molly likes them, got all her own teeth, you know” … all her own teeth at ninety nine, good heavens. “And French Brie, must be French” Yes, yes, French brie, Brie de Mieux, ripe and delicious from Simon in

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. “I know its wrong, got into terrible trouble from a Frenchman once, but do I like butter and bread with my brie”. Yes Dad.

“Oh, and then we’ll have Strawberries, can we have yours?” “Um, no , that blackbird…” And 

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Clotted Cream”. Big hint here, Dad is a

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boy and Paul a Cornishman; ah, the ongoing cream debate, I’ll leave it there, I  think.

The day came, the sun shone, we filed into the dining room. Oh joy, not on the lawn. I served the whole from my old ice box onto a elegantly laid table. They live in a beautiful place. Why is it that older people so often have to put up with dreary, depressing surroundings and yet here at, The Old Vicarage at Otterton, all is uplifting? But that is a whole other story. I digress.

“Delicious” said Dad, tucking in, “I just wish I could see what it is I’m eating though” “Yes” agreed Molly “so annoying not knowing what’s on your fork,” as all before her vanished. “Hm “ said Dad, ever the actor,  “ It’s lovely, darling but I’m reminded of Shakespeares’ Seven Ages of  Man; sans teeth, sans taste, sans everything.” Later we sat together in the sun and drank coffee and I wondered if I had inherited the Windsborrow gene. Would I be doing the same in nearly forty years time? Best keep breathing, I thought, reaching for my puffer.

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5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Flaming June”

  1. ali & rog & winnie & harryon 22 Jun 2006 at 10:07 pm

    Hi Sal, Thanks for a good read, the pictures of the garden look good. Veg patch looks really posh !

  2. Chiaon 04 Jul 2006 at 9:54 pm

    What a lovely pictures you added.

    Kind regards from The Netherlands!

  3. addy Farmeron 13 Jul 2006 at 1:32 pm

    Lovely, lovely garden and enjoyed reading the recipes. Will definitely try some!
    Regards
    Addy

  4. Judeon 13 Jul 2006 at 8:27 pm

    The news of all the animals made for a lovely diversion from suburbia and how impressive that your dad is 97! Obviously you’re a sturdy healthy lot, or maybe it’s all that country air! Hope it all continues well with you.

  5. Nickyon 14 Jul 2006 at 2:34 pm

    What a gorgeous site! I can’t wait to try some of your recipes and am deeply envious of your beautiful garden and all your creatures.
    I’ve also followed one of your recommendations and have ordered Paula Wolfert’s book on “cuisine du terroir”.
    I look forward to visiting again.

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