Posts Tagged ‘cheese’

red sky in the morning, shepherds' warningA fine red sky this morning, so, of course, the early morning’s clear weather has deteriorated into a fine, drizzly mist, so thick now, that you need fog lights to drive up here in the Quantocks.

Luckily, though, the dry weather held out until we got back from riding. I was riding a much smaller horse called Joseph today, which was nice because I actually felt like I could get my legs down far enough to gee him up properly. Trigger is just so broad but Joseph was a dream, but perhaps I’m actually just getting better at riding.

We rode up to Fyne Court, a direction in which I’d never ridden before, and then back again. Did loads of trotting which I can now manage absolutely fine and, apart from sometimes feeling a bit fretful about what I’m doing with the reins, I felt quite in control. Cantering was harder and I need more practice at that. It was great to go riding with a group that didn’t include a total novice, so that we could actually do more difficult stuff than just walking. So many cars, though, on the roads and a tractor and rattly trailer came along, which really spooked Trigger and Harry, who were in front of me and went dashing off up a bank and into the woods. I wore my lovely new half chaps that the children gave me for my birthday. Thanks!

Sad news though of John H., who has just had to be taken into a care facility because he has suddenly got very confused; he’s probably disturbed by the new kitchen they are having put in at the farm, so hopefully it will settle down again, when the work’s finished. It’s only two weeks ago that I saw him driving past the cottage on his quad bike. Let’s hope he can come home again soon. He’s such a character.

It is starting to feel a bit more springlike. Quite a lot of bushes have got buds on and there are putative narcissi everywhere. In my garden, there is one single dwarf narcissus blooming and I saw a single daffodil on a verge as we were going along. I have a bush that’s covered in blossom but have no idea what it is. I will photograph tomorrow. Apparently, it’s going to get much colder again next week, with temperatures back down to almost freezing, so this mild spell has been a bit of a false hope. It’s still February, after all, but it feels like a very long winter.

After making some spicy vegetable soup for a late lunch, I went in to Bishop’s Lydeard to buy some supplies, which included a visit to the fabulous butcher’s. Everyone in there is always chatting away, so there were many apologies for keeping me waiting but it gave me time to look at what I wanted to buy. So instead of the single chop for tonight’s supper, I also came away with a free range chicken and some Exmoor blue cheese, which I haven’t tried before. I love the slower pace of things down here. Even in the Co-op, the staff are slower. In London, they are in such a rush to get to the next person in the queue that I end up feeling so slow and clumsy, fiddling around with my purse and my Onya bag, while the assistant taps her nails impatiently, as though I were about 105. There’s just no sense of actually ‘serving’ the customer there; it’s just all about taking their money and moving on the the next, so it feels like such an indulgence to shop here.

A hen chicken (Gallus gallus)

This is rather a long ramble and not a very interesting one, so I hope you’ll forgive me. So I’ll end with something that has been exercising me a bit today, given that I’m in the adoption mood. Through Twitter I came upon a farmer who has had to give up his business because the supermarkets are paying so little for his eggs; he needs to sell off all his laying hens before the end of March. His daughter has made a great video about them in the hope that they can be sold rather than sent for slaughter. Shame I really can’t have chickens… (There’s also some nice music.)

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With no real plans for the day, I set off today to Nether Stowey – home of the poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, for a time during the 18th century. I’ve been there before lots of times but this morning, I wanted to check out Cricketer Farm, makers of local cheddar cheese, which has a farm shop.

The farm I live next door to, and which Spring Cottage was once part of, in the days when the farm belonged to the Enmore Castle estate, is a dairy farm with over 700 head of cattle. Every day, morning and early evening, an enormous tanker hurtles past the cottage and the windows, which face straight out onto the lane, grow momentarily dark. The milk is on its way to Cricketer Farm, where it is made into cheese. The benefit of this daily disturbance is that the lane is always kept passable, even in the worst weather, and this is well worth putting up with.

packet of cheddar cheeseCricketer Farm looks like a popular destination (it’s on the A39) with quite a sizeable car park and a cafe attached. The shop sells locally baked bread, pasties (potatoey, rather than meaty – which, if I can’t get a proper Cornish steak pasty, I prefer to a gristly filling of processed meat), local ham and other meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit pies, cakes and the like. There’s also an array of condiments and preserves, such as you’d find in the ‘special selection’ of a supermarket or in a delicatessen. I stocked up for the weekend with ham, gala pie, cheddar, some spelt and honey bread, and a pasty for lunch.

On my way home again, after an hour or so touring Nether and Over Stowey taking photographs, I noticed a little sign for an organic farm shop at Halsey Cross, which I hadn’t properly absorbed before. So, in today’s guise of farm shop critic, I drove in down a long drive, past some gorgeous, black, red beaked, free range hens and into a proper farmyard. No marked out parking bays or any visitor conveniences, just a sign saying ‘farm shop’ and a room full of produce. You help yourself, weigh and pay, leaving your money in an honesty box. They have bread every Friday, eggs (although they were all gone) and a variety of seasonal vegetables ranging from squashes to purple sprouting broccoli. Marvellous.

farm shop I had fun using the electronic scales without anyone or thing telling me that I was doing it wrong (eat your heart out hated, supermarket self checkouts) and I’ll definitely be going back there for more muddy veg. What a great complement to this morning’s shop at Cricketer.

I also bought the first cut daffodils of the season and, on my return home, opened the door onto the smell of hyacinths, which had been warming themselves in the shafts of afternoon sunlight on the windowsill. So lovely!

daffodils in vase and pictures in frames

Postscript: Nether Stowey Reserve is delicious, by the way. Nicer than the usual West Country farmhouse cheddar that I buy from the supermarket. It’s somehow got a fuller, rounder flavour without any bitter tang.

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