Archives for posts with tag: countryside

Private road1My brother says it is just a private road. But actually it is The Private Road. There is a sense of mystery and ominous foreboding as the long linear line of trees overpower with their shadows and their height. But we still dare to use it, openly by foot or bike and if in an emergency skulking along in a car. It feels like such a bygone route running parallel to another ancient route – The Ridgeway.

And I wonder where the path ahead leads as we wait on the eve of a new year. May you travel courageously and safely remembering to enjoy the journey and slow down to appreciate the views. Don’t always let the signs stop you either!

Much love to all, Tessa

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About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

My mother interviewed my daughter about her recent business enterprise which draws out principles that are relevant to any small business, and I so enjoyed reading it on her blog, I thought I would share it here:

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My grandchildren have just started a business, and the complete business plan is in place. I interviewed Isabel who is 9½. I was inspired by her lovely packaging.

Decide on your product
Lin: I saw a box of eggs that Grampy bought and it had your and Nick’s names on it. How long have you been an egg farmer.
Isabel: Ummm we’ve had the chickens for two and a half months but they have only been laying for about a month.

Work out the details of your product
Lin: Tell me about your chickens.
Isabel:We have four chickens and their names are Willow, Maple, Tulip and Lime and they are Neros.

Start-up Costs – outlay
Lin: How much were they and how much money did you have to put into the business?
Isabel: They were £12.50 each and Nick and I each put £25.00 into the business.

Estimate running costs
Lin: How much do they cost to feed. How many eggs do they lay per week. How much do you sell the eggs for?
Isabel: They cost Nick and I £6 every three weeks to feed them. Well, Mummy has three chickens and we have four, but we each pay half for the food.

Insurance
Lin: Are there any other costs?
Isabel: Daddy said he would insure them for the first year. Dad insurance works like this: We had to each pay £1.00 (a one-off payment) and then if they die in the first year, he’ll replace the chicken.
Lin: What about the hen-house?
Isabel: Mummy said the chickens can share her hen-house, so we don’t have to pay rent.

Estimate production
Lin: How many eggs do the chickens lay?
Isabel: They lay about one egg a day, sometimes we get three eggs and sometimes five eggs a day.

Estimate selling price based on recouping outlay and making a profit
Lin: How much do you sell the eggs for?
Isabel: £1.40 for 6 eggs.
Lin: What about packaging costs?
Isabel: Our egg boxes are donated and I make the labels.
Lin: Have you got your outlay back yet?
Isabel: Yes and now we are making a profit.

Estimate labour time
Lin: What work is involved?
Isabel: I collect the eggs and feed the chickens on weekdays. Nick does it on weekends and cleans the hen-house every second weekend. Mummy cleans it every other weekend.

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Who is the target market? Building a customer base
Lin: Who do you sell your eggs to?
Isabel: We have three regular customers: You, and two of our friend’s mothers.
Lin: How do you promote your eggs?
Isabel: We have an honesty box with the eggs outside our house (passing trade) and we told our friends, and Mummy told her friends. (word of mouth)

Contingency Plan
Lin: What will you do if any of your chickens stop laying?
Isabel: Get rid of it. (Country children are rather matter-of-fact!)

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Well Done Isabel. I wish you and Nick lots of success.

And as you can see, these are the same issues we have to address ourselves…

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What I love about this time of year is the new start. We let go of the lazy summer days and return to a little more order and routine when September comes around. I love summer but it is also invigorating to ‘get a grip’ on the day and jobs that should be done. The countryside is likewise; winds clear away the leaves, excess greenery dies down, the fields are ploughed ready for winter crops and then we are rewarded with a little extra glorious sunshine. I didn’t take the best photos on this morning’s walk but they do capture the vastness and clearness of the countryside with its crisp fresh air as we ready ourselves for winter.

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About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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This month the countryside was a little different as we were in Spain and I had great pleasure in photographing the almond trees. I love the way the silky covers cocoon the shiny shells. When the trees are shaken the almonds fall like clackity rain and the harvest is ready. The children found that the supply of almonds was perfect for writing messages which provided endless pleasure. It is delightful to wander around enjoying the different fruits and foods that grow in Spain from olives to grapes to carobs to figs. Although figs will never be the same since I’ve discovered they are pollinated by wasps and EVERY SINGLE fig contains wasp lavae which is part of the pollination process and some larvae haven’t had the decency to vacate by the time we come to eat the fig. I’m sure I’ll get over it eventually! Thank you Marilyn and Nick for making us so welcome.

About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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One late July evening I saw countryside drama unfold as the gigantic combine harvester rumbled relentlessly across the fields annihilating everything in its path. Poised for unsuspecting game was a gunman at the ready. The tension of him waiting and me watching while the harvester ground towards us was stretched to breaking point. At the last possible moment, three muntjac deer flew out but they were reprieved – this time they were not the quarry. The harvester broke through the final barrier with no shot being fired and the hunters exchanged a few rueful words against the gleaming dust. I was the only one shooting that evening.

About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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I inherited a greenhouse with my new garden and was not quite sure what to put in it. This dilemma was removed when the UNSUPERVISED poppies took over. Before I knew it I had glorious poppies growing and as my daughter pointed out, they were unsupervised and unplanned. They gave me such a thrill, the flower lasting but a day before disintegrating into floating petals and leaving a very stylised seed head. I now have an unsupervised sunflower taking up residence – the only one that survived is the one I didn’t plant.

Inspired by my own greenhouse, I wandered over to the village allotments where I very much enjoyed taking surreptitious photos of other people’s sheds. One is even rumoured to be a salvaged Nissan hut. I love studying allotments which appear chaotic and confusing but as you walk within, you can see each has its own order. We garden differently just as we file papers differently. I also love the joy that allotments bring: growing vegetables from seed is deeply satisfying.

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About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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In April, the fields around where I live turn violently yellow which is eye-wateringly bright as the oilseed rape blooms. I love the sensation of being surrounded by yellow, yellow, yellow. When my children were very little it was a wonderful way to introduce colour as we got sucked into yellow contrasting with brilliant blue almost like being engulfed by a Van Gogh.

About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month during 2015.

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We had snow in February which transformed the countryside; the familiar is viewed afresh and everything becomes monochromatic. This is a view from my bedroom window which has become quite poignant as we have recently moved away from this home after 10 very happy years. I have memories of walking down the road with my son aged two who would stop to throw pebbles down the grates, snail-paced walks with baby girls to visit the ducks at the stream, cycling to school in all weathers and more recently walking up the hill in the dark to meet my son’s school bus.

About this post: I plan to have a countryside photo session once a month for 2015

bluebellOn Saturday mornings I go cycling with a few friends in our local hills – nothing too strenuous and not so fast that we can’t chat – but it is so invigorating. Getting out in the morning away from the children and seeing skies and glorious views invigorates and inspires mes. I love our cycle rides so much and I have just discovered a whole new route. My friends have often spoken about the ‘Bluebell Woods’ which sounds mysterious in itself (or something out of Enid Blyton) but it is at the top of a particularly steep hill. However seeing it is May, we decided to explore it and the deep blues against sparkling greens with hints of caustic yellow oil seed rape in the background was food for the soul.bluebell2

winterwinter2Jack Frost has come and even the sheep in the fields are frozen.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Each week WordPress provides a new photographic theme for creative inspiration. We take photographs based on our interpretation of the theme, and post them on our blogs anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme is announced.

postaweek reflections1postaweek reflections2postaweek reflections3For some years now the village minutes have read that GR has inspected the horse-chestnut tree on the bank by the play park and has suggested that because it is somewhat diseased it may need replacing. The local gossip is that this magnificent tree was planted by a school child when the village hall was the local school. It seems so sad that its days are numbered and perhaps if a new oak tree is planted, it should be done by a pupil of the current school to provide continuity. I often admire the reflections created on clear winter days and this week’s topic motivated me to capture them. In the third photo I was annoyed that the building was in the background but when I reviewed the images I realised how significant it was to have the hall there as that was the old school and the chestnut’s history is linked to that of the school. Not only was it planted by a child but it has provided chestnuts to play with, leaves to collect and branches to hide in by generations of children.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Each week WordPress provides a new photographic theme for creative inspiration. We take photographs based on our interpretation of the theme, and post them on our blogs anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme is announced.

Amethyst Deceiver (edible)

Amethyst Deceiver (edible)

Richard identifying Oyster Mushrooms

The New Forest rang with the words “Can I eat it?” as I and my fellow foragers hunted amongst the fallen leaves for treasures. This weekend I attended a very exciting course on Mushrooms run by Hedgerow Harvest with James and David as our knowledgeable guides. Mushrooms is a much more complex subject than other foraged foods because you will come across poisonous ones that can kill such as the Death Cap, Destroying Angel and the Funeral Bell – the names say it all! I now fully understand that mushrooms are merely the fruit, a bit like apples on a tree while the bulk of the organism is underground. Mushrooms are the reproductive organs and that is one of the reasons they are so hard to identify as their form is simply a matter of function and so they all look similar. As John Wight says in his book, ‘Mushrooms‘, “Imagine you were given the task of identifying mammals by their reproductive organs alone, and you will see the problem. (Don’t imagine it for too long!)”

James and David taught us that you don’t flick through a book to find the mushroom photo that looks most similar to the specimen you have found but you work through a list of questions (a key) about the colour of the spores, the type of gills, the presence or absence of a ring and volva and where it grows. This will help to narrow it down to the type of mushroom and whether it is edible, poisonous or inedible but not fatal. As a rule of thumb ignore all LBJs (Little Brown Jobs). Mushrooms are certainly an intriguing subject.

We were then released into the woods for a four-hour tramp and to make our discoveries. I was delighted to find the beautiful mushroom called the Amethyst Deceiver is edible and perfect in salads. Amongst other edible finds there were Hedgehog Mushrooms, Autumn Chanterelles and Oyster Mushrooms. We also found a Cep which is in the top league of tasty mushrooms. A frisson of excitement ran through our gang to see the Beechwood Sickener and the Fly Agaric which is the classic fairytale toadstool although it doesn’t actually kill. In fact it contains a substance called ibotenic acid which gives psychological effects including euphoria, confusion and floating and this acid can be recycled. If you drink your urine you can relive the experiences. Think I will give it a miss though, anything that red is red for a reason! Back at the village hall with our edible finds and under the close scrutiny of James (no rogues allowed), we prepared our mushrooms and enjoyed the tasty samples.

Hedgerow Harvest offers a range of foraging and wild food courses and I can’t recommend them enough. I completed the Spring Greens course in April and look forward to doing Fruit and Nuts next year. I feel duty bound to add that some fungi are very poisonous and many will make you unwell or you may have an allergic reaction after eating certain species. Make sure you can identify fungi by attending a field course led by an expert before you start collecting them.

Fly Agaric (poisonous)

Beechwood Sickener (poisonous)

Preparing our tasty samples

I love autumn walks and even more when it includes a little foraging, which is a growing interest of mine. This is the time of year to collect sloes which are blue-black bitter fruit growing on blackthorn bushes. Sloes need to be collected in October after the first frost, but if autumn is mild or you want to beat the birds, collect them early and put them in a freezer. Sloes are too tart to eat but are perfect in gin, making a tasty, sweet and glorious ruby sloe gin. Below is the recipe I am using courtesy of National Trust.

For 1 litre of Sloe Gin you will need:
– 450g sloes
– 300g caster sugar
– 1 litre gin any brand – cheap gin works just as well
– A 2 litre Kilner jar
– A bottle for decanting

Step 1
Wash your sloes and remove any leaves or stems. Prick as many as you can with a needle or sharp fork. This helps to release the juices. If you have frozen them make sure you de-frost them first.

Step 2
Sterilise your jar with boiling water. Put your sloes, sugar and gin in the jar. Seal and shake the jar every day until sugar has dissolved, then once a week.

Step 3
After 10-12 weeks decant your sloe gin into a bottle and enjoy at your leisure.

Top tip:
Sloe gin gets even better with age, you could make two lots and hide one away for next year. If you do this every year you will always have a vintage supply of this delicious tipple.

When I read the new topic, my heart sunk – how would I get an exciting photo? But then I realised that what may seem mundane to me will be extraordinary to someone on the other side of the world. So here is the photo taken today that represents everyday life for me.

I feel so privileged to live in the countryside and daily be able to cycle my children half a mile across the fields to school. Many of my neighbours cycle their children too and the furlong is abuzz with bikes as we beetle along. We are a hardy bunch and children from the age of three are cycling confidently without stabilisers.

I love my walk and enjoy the changing seasons so much that for one year I captured the essence of each month and recorded my daily journey to school. I designed it as a book consisting of photos, recipes and emotions that make the months unique. It is a short walk but a rich and rewarding journey. You can read more about this project by going to the category ‘Seasons Journal’ (at the bottom of this blog) or by clicking this link.Weekly Photo challenge: Each week WordPress provides a new photographic theme for creative inspiration. We take photographs based on our interpretation of the theme, and post them on our blogs anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme is announced.

First Prize: ‘High Days and Holidays’ category

First prize: ‘Something Different’ category

Second prize: ‘The Garden’ category

Second prize: ‘Village Views’ category

Third prize: ‘Village Views’ category

The most important competitions are those closest to home and entering the local village show is a serious business when one’s honour is at stake! So I was delighted to walk away with the Photography Trophy this afternoon. And our family won the cup for the Largest Sunflower – although ours was the only entry.

The Robeys Cottage Cup