The past few weeks seem to have revolved around flora and fauna, judging by the current crop of photos. Despite the wet August and September, we've been having a good time working on the meadow, roping in gallant friends and encouraging them with copious amounts of food and drink.
And we've been visiting one of our favour local nurseries, Woottens of Wenhaston - if you don't already know them, they're definitely worth checking out. Woottens send out a fantastic weekly e-mail which, even though you know you don't need anything more for the garden, is always tempting. These dahlias were looking glorious when we went on a very wet day in August, after lunch with friends at the Queen's Head Inn, just up the road in Blyford.
That's where we saw this beautiful creature (I guess it's a hen, but that doesn't seem a sufficiently powerful description) strutting its stuff. The Queen's Head has pigs, geese, chickens and lots of vegetables dotted around outside, most of which find their way into the kitchen at some stage. They're supporting the current Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival - yet another good reason to head to our bit of Suffolk over the coming weeks.
And finally it was time to take the yurt down after a good season trying it out on friends and relations. The wood burning stove was a definite success, and we can't wait to get it up again next year complete with rugs and furniture which we'll be aiming to source or build/create over the winter months.
The strawberry plants are now bedded in to the long trough bought from Diss Auction Rooms a few weeks ago, freshly painted in a lovely British racing green (though applied to cast iron it feels more like an old steam engine). Here's hoping it's relatively rabbit proof.....
And we were really lucky to get this photo of one of "our" hares nibbling at the grass on Sunday morning! It's fantastic seeing them around. If they can't be bothered to run away, they simply hunker down and hope they won't be spotted. And it seems to work with Jet the dog, she simply pootles past without paying attention; it's only when they start running that she gets excited.
We are the proud owners of a really good crop of Desiree and King Edward spuds - they've done brilliantly in our newly dug bed in the garden. We're planning to plant International Kidney (like Jersey Royals) Anya (a salad potato) and Pink Fir Apple (a main crop which keeps) in the veggie bed in the yurt meadow. You can't beat the fun of ferreting around in the warm soil for new potatoes, and then there's the wonderful taste once they're freshly boiled with mint! We hope they will be popular with our first yurt guests, who we're hoping to entertain next summer if all goes well with the planning application.
Speaking of which.... the local press took an active interest in our application, and gave us front page status in the Beccles and Bungay Journal! We were rather taken aback. Fortunately it's a very positive piece, and we've since spoken to the journalists and invited them to come along once we've got the yurts up and are ready to roll, all being well (that's not us in the photo, by the way).
We saw our front page news splash when we returned from a marathon trip to Wales to collect our Monglian yurt. Some of the key pieces are loaded on the back of the tractor trailer here. We were lucky to have a window of good sunny weather, which meant that the layers of felt and the thick canvas cover weren't quite as wet as they might have been. We've been drying them in the barn. Whilst we were packing our yurt, we took photos of one of the others that was still up, so we can remember how it's all supposed to look when we next put it up!
And this is what it should look like once we've re-assembled it next spring! The yurts come from Hidden Valley Yurts in Llanishen, who import them from Mongolia and have their own successful yurt campsite. They've got a really interesting business model going, and some lovely alpacas. There's a link to them on our site if you want to see more.
It's been a busy few weeks, with the fun, heat and mayhem of Latitude followed by serious work on planning and building regulations during a damp August!
Latitude is just a few miles from Ivy Grange Farm, and Nick and I worked out a great cycle route through the quiet lanes, and pedalled over each day, taking advantage of our comfy bed by night (wimps, I know). With just one puncture, we did pretty well. It was our first Latitude, and we had a great time: Tom Jones; Florence and the Machine; Sadler's Wells; the local Hightide Theatre group and the fab new contemporary art prize, the place was buzzing.
It's official - these are horse mushrooms, and they taste yummy, especially in an omlette made from our neighbour's bantam eggs. Highly recommended!
The prototype hammock has arrived and after a lengthy period of assembly, Nick is taking a well earned rest during one of the occasional bursts of sunshine. Our friends have been enjoying it so much over the summer that we're planning to have one by each of the yurts.
The auction rooms in Diss are a fantastic resource for essential farmyard goods! We spent a productive day bidding and returned home (courtesy of a flatbed lorry) with galvanised tubs which will become water butts, a couple of lovely benches/pews, a cast iron table, a chapel door (don't ask) as well as half a dozen troughs (including a slate one which is too heavy to move) which will be turned into raised beds (bunny-proof, hopefully) for more blueberries, strawberries, beans as well as herbs. Another 40 sacks of horse manure arrived at the weekend, which joined the pile for rotting down over winter. Roll on next year's Horticultural Show!
August is a great time of year for combine harvester fans! I love the look of oil seed rape as it's being harvested.
And finally, time for some R&R by the fire pit.
The grass in the field is being cut, with our very own hay bales to follow shortly. With no rain for the past couple of weeks, the process was very dusty, but lovely to see the shapes the tractor makes while avoiding our willow beds and elders. The hay is being cut by, and going to, the cattle farmer just round the corner, which feels good and local. The local birds of prey were out as soon as the tractor had finished...
And this is how it looks now it's finished (before being turned) with the lovely lines of drying grass/hay that I remember from childhood. The grass ridges proved to be great hiding places for the red legged partridge and her 9 chicks as they made their way up the lane. Our attempt to seed yellow rattle seed in the field didn't work, so once the hay is baled, we'll dig up some of the plentiful daisies from the goose paddock and transplant them into the field. There are good wide margins round the edge of the field, with plenty of vetch (and in spring lots of cowslips and primroses), which we'll hope to encourage further into the field. And we've spotted lots of lovely red field poppies locally, so it'll be time for a seed collection outing soon.
Nick and I emptied an old water trough and shifted it so that it's positioned close to the yurt pitches at the top of the field, in a spot with plenty of sun. It is now filled with ericaceous compost and 4 different varieties of blueberries, the first of which is already in fruit. We've covered it with a thick woodchip mulch from the leylandii, which hopefully will help to keep the blueberries nicely moist throughout the summer months. Our plan is to move some of the raspberry canes across to the field from the garden, so that throughout the summer there will be a good range of blueberries and raspberries available to yurt guests, as well as the blackberries we planted in the hedgerows over the winter.
The yurt is up, and the sun is shining! As we didn't have the instructions for folding the roof canvas when we dismantled the yurt last time, it took rather longer, and was a more unconventional assembly than it might otherwise have been. But there were no rows! The wood-burning stove is fitted and working - it's recycled from old hub caps and other assorted metal, and looks both rustic and oddly elegant at the same time. And with the cold nights we had over the summer solstice, the stove proved its worth in heating the inside really effectively. I think we might just leave it up for the summer...
I have to get the plant identification book out in order to be sure, but I think this is an orchid, growing under one of the apple trees in the orchard. And once I've identified it, I need to work out how to encourage more. We've had great fun over the spring and summer, identifying various flowers that have emerged, as well as mushrooms and assorted fungi. They love the compost heap, and I've put a whole load in a box full of the best local manure and tucked it away in the dark of the tool shed, hoping for a bumper crop. We've had some St George's mushrooms, and last year we enjoyed horse mushrooms, and it looked like a good crop of field mushrooms growing on the compost heap. It would be great to have someone with local knowledge on tap for some of the more exotic looking ones; our Collins guide is useful, but sometimes it feels as though bravery is required
This is the first of many bonfires. We're getting rid of the various cuttings from last autumn, when we stacked them up to provide habitats for hibernating and then nesting creatures, very successfully in some cases; the mallard found our big heap of brambles a secure site for a nest. Friends Sarah, Laura and Alicia helped cut down some of the cherry tree saplings in the Goose Paddock, and once the fire was going well, they piled them on and we spent a happy Sunday morning poking and adding on whatever we could find, including an old horsehair mattress.