Fruitful endeavours

Inspired by the urge to grow as much of our own food as possible, I bought a whopper of a fruit cage five years ago. I’m ashamed to say that all 18 x 24 feet of it has lived in the barn ever since. At the time, James and I were still in the midst of renovating our now-nearly-finished home and spending our time furnishing our garden with berries wasn’t very realistic. Consequently, we’ve been seriously lacking in the soft fruit department ever since. So, this autumn I’m determined to make amends and establish this important part of the Smallholdings plot. Not being particularly knowledgeable in this area, though, I called on an expert gardener friend of mine, Lucy Chamberlain, former editor of Grow Your Own magazine and all-round-greenfingered guru to help me plan this not-inconsiderable exciting new space. As usual, Lucy was full of excellent advice – recommending where to site each kind of plant so they get the best possible conditions in our south-east facing garden:  full sun for strawberries; shade for the blackberry and rhubarb.  

Not only this but she reeled off the best varieties to choose, recommending early-, mid- and late-cropping types that would ensure we’re provided for as long as possible. What took her a matter of minutes would have required extensive study and time on my part and I’m hugely grateful. In conclusion, we settled on the following – the cherries will be trained along wires:


10 x Honeoye

10 x Alice

10 x Symphony 

10 x Cirano


2 x Glen Moy

3 x Tulameen

2 x Leo

4 x Polka

3 x Fallgold


1 x Ben Hope

1 x Big Ben


2 x Stanza 


1 x Blue crop 

1 x Herbert


1 x Livingstone

1 x Early Champagne


1 x Reuben


1 x Lapins Cherokee

1 x Sweetheart

Trouble is, not sure I’ve a skill to offer Lucy in return, but a pub lunch is definitely in order. I’m thoroughly looking forward to getting stuck into this new, mouthwatering project when the plants arrive.  

In the meantime, James and I have our work cut out preparing the ground (above) – what better way to spend these sunny autumn days than weeding and digging over a patch of soil? 


Jeff and his ladies are enjoying various sunny spots around the garden this week
As we’re yet to test them, perhaps we’ll call on the ploughing capabilities of his vintage tractor… Happy weekend all.


The charm of chickens

  Audrey (above) and Margot spent most of the Easter weekend edging their way into our house. First, they loitered with the dogs on the porch, drinking from the canine water bowl and even attempting to nibble on some kibble at breakfast or teatime (controversial, to say the least) – their confidence knows no bounds. Then, they eased their way into the utility room and, on Sunday morning, were practically knocking at the kitchen door. Who knows where they’d end up if we welcomed them in… But we can hardly resist their sweet trusting natures. Our two Labradors and German Shepherd bound around them and it always amazes me that they’re not in the least perturbed by these goings-on – they just stand by or patiently sit it out and watch. 

 Perhaps this nonchalence is due to the fact they’ve other matters on their mind. The pair are being courted by Jeffrey the Araucana cockerel who’s set his sights on these fine ladies as his favourite companions. They regularly take a turn around the garden a trois and all parties concerned seem very happy with the new arrangement. It’s certainly given five-year-old Audrey a new lease of life.  It was lovely to be reminded of the flock’s zest for gardening yesterday. As James prepared our potato bed yesterday, the brown hybrids and old Black Rock jumped straight in to feast on the worms (not so helpful) and other bugs that he turned over as he weeded and aerated the soil.  Again, the sheer confidence of the chickens was staggering – they pecked and scratched right up to the tines of his fork as he rapidly dug away. Of course, our hens’ most endearing quality is their ability to lay eggs that are beautiful inside and out. There was a bumper crop over Easter which complemented home-grown bacon and sausages for a leisurely breakfast yesterday. And there’s nothing like a freshly laid egg with its rich orange yolk and perky white to start the day. Thank goodness for chickens!