We've been using the shorter days to whip the raised beds in the yurt meadow into shape. We've now finished raised bed number 2 and it's manured and ready for the spring and the autumn raspberry canes are cut and resting, ready to burst into growth in the spring again!
The red onions are coming up well in raised bed 1, untouched by the wood pigeons. They should be plump and sweet by the early summer, ready to be gently pulled up and chopped into a salad or turned into a veggie kebab for the bar-b-q.
It hasn't all been hard work, fortunately. Christmas has been lovely up here - Holy Trinity Church at Blythburgh ("the Cathedral of the Marshes") had a lovely carol service and the church was filled with Christmas trees each dressed by a different person within the village.
Purely in the interests of checking out good walks for yurters, we tried out one of Simon Barnes' favourite walks, from Snape Maltings to the church at Iken, on New Year's Day. Nick spotted the kingfisher by the sluice gate within the first ten minutes and we saw curlews, shovellers, teal and widgeon on the estuary. Setting off from Snape Maltings was wonderful - we passed the Barbara Hepworth sculpture down by the reed marshes and a lovely piece by Sarah Lucas of the big Suffolk punch pulling a cart with what looked like one of our tromboncino courgettes after it had survived the first frosts and the ravages of the muntjac deer.
Struggling to find a special present this Christmas - why not give an Ivy Grange Farm gift voucher? We can offer vouchers for a two night break upwards (from £150) or vouchers in denominations of £50 for your recipient to put towards a relaxing yurt holiday in beautiful Suffolk countryside. Beautifully presented, with space for you to personalise as required, we can offer these vouchers right up until the final Christmas posting dates. And of course we can also offer birthday and special occasion gift vouchers whenever you're looking for that something a little bit special. Let us know if you are interested by e-mailing email@example.com and we can e-mail you details. We'll work hard to make your guests feel special, with a bottle of wine (or something soft) and flowers for their arrival.
We've been enjoying the still unseasonably warm autumn - fireworks on the beach at Aldeburgh to mark the switching on of the Christmas lights; lunches on the lawn (mushrooms on toast with lots of garlic); picking what must surely be the last of the marigolds; transplanting some summer fruiting raspberry canes into the bed in the meadow, to complement the autumn raspberries (which are fruiting nicely at the moment!) and a fabulous view of a murmuration of starlings on a Suffolk Wildlife Trust event at Hen Reedbeds in the last weekend of November. Of course, we're doing it all in the interests of research, so that we know what we can recommend to our yurt guests when they come to visit at any time of the year!
We've been enjoying sorting out the veggie beds in the meadow - the asparagus bed is now nicely mulched and manured ready for the spring, the autumn onions are in, with red clover as a green manure to be dug in when spring arrives; the raspberry canes are very happy in their nicely mulched bed where the sweetcorn were growing in the summer. There's just one bed to finish off and then it's all ready for next year! We're planning to have a good range of things growing throughout the year for people who stay to pick and enjoy (all included in the price)! And this year we had great success with peppers (as well as more cherry tomatoes than you could shake a stick at).
And, of course, now it's turning cooler it's the perfect excuse for baking bread rolls (if one were needed)!
We're now looking ahead to our next season and wizzed down to Somerset to collect the new Lapwing yurt - complete with soft green lining and sheep's felt for warmth throughout the season. Paul King at Woodland Yurts, who made the yurt, is also the author of The Complete Yurt Handbook and you can see more about what he's up to here http://www.woodlandyurts.co.uk/
The late autumn heatwave saw us squeezing in a few more "last of the summer swims" at Walberswick, along with plenty of others. We were lucky enough to spot a kingfisher on the river as well as a little egret. The kingfisher was far too quick to get a picture of, but the egret was far more obliging.
We managed to get some work in too; we've converted the vegetable bed in the field into a raised bed and the first red onions are in there and should be ready to lift next June (lifting onions is one of the easiest gardening tasks). We were keen to put red onions in as they're great for using raw in salads in summer if you don't fancy cooking; we'll be planning more delights (I spent today mulching the asparagus bed - the first spears should be ready for harvesting in late spring). If you have any special requests, do let us know.
We're working on some courses for next year and again, if there's anything you'd like to do, please shout. We might do something on building a bread/pizza oven, as we're keen to have one on site and we're also planning something around night-time activities including a night walk lead by writer and travel journalist Dixe Wills.
You can follow our progress over the autumn and winter by subscribing to the RSS feed for the blog (click on the button above) and by following us on Twitter (@ivygrangefarmyu) for updates on all sorts of things including the arrival of the fieldfares and on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002514607980
We've finally closed our doors for the year - and what a great time we've had. Lots of fantastic guests and it's been a delight to see them all enjoying all the things there are to do locally, as well as just relaxing on the decking and watching the sunset! We've had some fans of Roger Deakin's Waterlog book who've been tracking down the various wild swimming spots; others who've spent happy days crabbing at Walberswick and many have enjoyed discovering the excellent local food and drink, whether fresh fish straight from the boats at Southwold quay or the delights of St Peter's Brewery.
It's time now to think about next year and we have just placed an order for our 3rd yurt. This one will be similar to Barn Owl in design, though a bit bigger and with sheep's wool felt so that it will be cosy at the cooler ends of the season - next year we're planning to be open from Easter through to October. We'll post photos as soon as we have them.
Nick and I have been continuing to enjoy the delights of the locality - we celebrated our wedding anniversary at Baileys of Beccles. By day it's a fabulous Deli and in the evening it offers a Spanish inspired menu and smart dining. We ate really well (the strawberry soup comes highly recommended) and then cycled home through the dark lanes which felt very romantic!
Our neighbours at Valley Farm took us for a trip round the village in their Victoriana trap, pulled by Mouse. It was a great treat - a wonderful way to see the countryside and the lanes are wonderfully quiet. I felt as though I had been transported to a Jane Austen novel and was sorry when we were dropped back at the gate. Valley Farm are offering a range of local trips - the longer one via Spexhall Church would be lovely, it's very pretty round there - and we're already looking for an excuse to go out again. If you have ever thought about a horse drawn trip round quiet country lanes, this is definitely something for you to try!
We'll be thinking about residential courses for next year - if there's anything you're particularly interested in (or anything you feel you could teach!), do let us know. We're thinking about bird watching, painting, singing and building a pizza oven - watch this space!