Great year for growing vegetables, had the rain at the right times and the warmth from the sun has really made a difference. Good crops for the soups and Autumn has arrived, although I saw a swallow yesterday maybe migrating from further North, and was taking an early break. Annual rainfall this year we are about 13 inches down on average, by this time last year we had nearly had double our annual average rainfall, quite contrasting years. Hope you enjoy this years new batch of soups. Rod
The close of February gives us light but not warmth, extremely bitter wind makes the chill feel worse and bites to the bones, the soil after the wettest period ever is actually starting to dry up and I have for the moment parked my wellingtons back to the darkness of the cupboard. Its my weakness I do not like wearing wellingtons, and favour strong boots. Its time to start thinking of planting the vegetables for the year, less than 9 weeks before we start the summer range of soups and I think one or two crops will be behind.
The food scares rumble on but once again our method of organic food production stands fast. Traceability within organic systems is paramount and most importantly provable, I have spent the last 15 years explaining the problems I felt would come out one day and sure enough here we are. With CEO of huge companies running to the hills claiming its not our fault its “criminal gangs” I have a responsibility to know that the food I sell is nutritious safe and over whelmininly good for you, we visit our suppliers and have trust in them. The buck stops with me, come on folks except the responsibility and find a soloution.
As you know it was a wet one but what is amazing that we had a drought until April so the following figures relate to rainfall in just 8 months. I have been collecting the rainfall figures for 15 yrs and this is what is related to on the average rainfall amounts.
December 2012 9.965 inches
December Average 4.94 inches
2012 total 62.14 inches
average total 38.45 inches
The thing you must first understand
About both Rod and Ben
Is that they really truly are
Soup obsessed young men
They are very clever
You may not comprehend it
These guys took genius
And then they went and canned it!
It’s simple and straight forward
Recipes they use
Each item is organic
The rest they will refuse.
The finest ingredients
From their little farm in Devon
Homegrown and straight-forward
Yet a little slice of heaven
The talents of these chappies
I couldn’t praise much louder
I love their chicken and vegetable
And their haddock chowder
Their tomato and basil
Really is quite brill
Abel and Cole supplies them
Even bacon and len-til.
I know that you will think
That I am trying to pander
But I’m being honest
Just try carrot and coriander
Tell me that I’m wrong
You couldn’t couldn’t any day!
So 3 cheers for Rod and Ben
Hip, hip, hip hooray!
Where did July go, not sure really, except the wet theme continued, as many of you may know I used to grow a range of vegetables for our box scheme, last year I gave this up and focused on the soup, and thought that to grow a limited range of vegetables required by the soup would be easier than growing the wide range we used to, well, in principle it has been easier, lord knows what it would of been like to of tried to of grown the usual amount. The weather has not been conducive to good plant growth, you know that feeling you get when you have not eaten enough but you have still got to get something done, this is how I assume my plants feel, they need to grow, but there is no food about to make them grow, most of it being washed away by the unseasonal volume of rain we had in June and July.
Just come back from the field where my Leeks and Onions are, they have almost pulled through although quite a few casulties in the onion field. Seven weeks to go before we start to harvest the leeks for the leek and Potato soup, they are quite small at the moment, so hope for a bit of sunshine and a little rain to bulk them up.
The swifts are looking to me like they are about to leave, not been great for them but they have still been successful in rearing at least one brood which is great, today the kestrels came back to hunt on the farm, they disappeared after the magpies invaded their nests. But they are back now, I wonder where they went.
Just a quick one this time. Rod
The main theme since I last wrote has to be the water, oh boy have we had some. My office window looks out over a beautiful wooded glade with a victorian walled garden in front, I am looking at it now, swifts dart past, swallows swoop into the barn I am sat in, my sister in law calls it the idyl, right below the office is a concrete path which in extreme weather can have surface water running over it. Today it looks like the river Exe has moved its banks. How can two years be so different? this time last year twas a desert. The rain is cold ideal for soup! but not so great for growing crops, very pleased that I pleaded with my team of planters to carry on working late into the night a few weeks back otherwise those plants would still be sat in the greenhouse begging to be released.
A positive point of all this rain is that we have never had so much grass, that’s green grass that my Dexter cows eat, in case you were in any doubt. We have made a terrific crop of silage, which will feed the cows through the coming winter, sorry yes, I am thinking of winter already, designing this seasons soup with the help of the Soup Club. We meet next Thursday 21st June all welcome.
The cows are calving at the moment and very successfully, although the little calves must be wondering what sort of a world they have entered. I think it has been probably wetter outside the womb than in it.
Updated the website with some descriptions of the soups, and general tweaks, getting ready to do a new video, so keep checking.
Soups won third in the Independant taste test so we are all very choughed.
Keep it Rural
Wheres my snorkel mum
Know your onions
Not sure where the phrase knowing your onions comes from but we certainly are getting to know our onions this week having planted 45 000 of them. The onions have gone in perfectly and are enjoying this sunshine, I grow a variety called Hystar and put just one or two seeds in a module to make sure that we get nice large onions. We use all the onions in the soups and peeling small onions is a lot more work than peeling large ones. We hope to get around 20 tonnes of onons this year which will see us through to next March.
The farm is alive again with all the summer migrants here now. Swallows, House Martins, and my favourites the swifts. The swift is a perfect example of nature working tirelessly to create the perfect shape for its purpose. Bickham Farm is blessed to have the perfect spot for them to both hunt and nest. The nesting site is the the real joy, the large barn that was restored last year by Natural England, provides the perfect place for the Swifts to be able to get under the eaves and most importantly then be able to just drop onto the sky when leaving the nest. The Swift can not land on the ground and sadly if they do they are unable to take off making them easy prey for farm pets. I am especially pleased to see the Swifts back this year as last year with the scaffolding up to make the renovations possible, the swifts had to work doubly hard to get to there nest sight. But the desire to reproduce is a strong one and the swifts managed some fantastic high speed manouveres to nest. The insects that these birds require, I fear are not in abundance yet, still cold and large downpours lowers the insect activity. However that rain has been most welcome, but now, we, here in the South West have had enough.We have plants we need to plant, no doubt we will get a window to plant them in soon. Just had confirmation that we will be getting an expert to come and look at the machinary within the old barn, hope to be able to make our own cider and apple juice from horse power this Autumn.
New range of soups, cattle out grazing in the fields, the sun getting higher in the sky, spring is here, always a joy. The courgettes that I planted in the greenhouse nearly 6 weeks ago are doing very nicely, by this I mean they have 4 full leaves and are close to flowering. I am hopefull that the first courgettes will coincide with the courgette and tomato soup which starts on the first of May.
We have a pair of nesting Kestrels who have taken up occupancy in one of old Oak trees. Not quite sure whats going on but they are making an absolute racket, either laying the eggs or the eggs have just hatched. Looking forward to seeing them hunting and feeding their young. Ground is being prepared for the leeks and onions and soon we will be planting the carrots and Parsnips, for the winter soups.
I have not written for a while, which is a shame for me, for I like writing, but there is something about physical work that seems to shut down my urge to write. The flip side of that is, whilst doing physical work I normally have my most inspired ideas, but I do not write them down – and so the vicious cycles of life continue.
Another growing year has almost passed – it’s been no more challenging than any before but certainly with its little points of remembrance. The double bank holiday, which so many people enjoyed, I found extraordinarily hard work, and the early part of the year was extremely dry and plants needed watering, to have left them would have been careless. In fact the main challenge this year has been water, we are currently running with about 8 inches less rainfall than last year, and last year we were 10 inches short of the previous average rainfall (recorded for 14 years since being here). The pond has been sucked almost dry, and I have feared having to re-house the fish (not sure if you re-house fish, but anyway, take them to a new pond) – we did have a few significant downpours which must have warmed the fishes’ cockles again – I know fish are cold blooded but I am sure that they smiled as the rain started to fall.
Fish lead me to soup as we started making a Fish Chowder this year with our leeks, onions and potatoes – it’s gone down very well. The haddock comes from the sea off the Cornish coast and is sustainably caught by small day boats – it is then smoked at Tregida Smokehouse. It’s a personal favourite of mine and well worth a try. The new winter range is out now and selling well in the shops, despite the amazing warmth we have been having.
Our beautiful old threshing barn has been restored and looks fantastic. I am now looking forward to getting the large external wheel working and then getting the horse, which will walk round inside, to drive the cider press and the cake crusher. We have put the horse in and walked her round and she was very un-phased by the process, so it’s looking good.
So what’s for sale? I am about to take some Dexters to the butcher – they supply the finest traditional beef available – good sized cuts with little wastage and a fantastic flavour. Meat boxes are available through the website or call me on 01392 833833 – a large box (12kg) is £120 and a small one (6kg) is £60. There are a limited number available.
Turkeys for Christmas – we have our normal Organic Kelly bronze turkeys available at the same price as last year (£11 per kilo) and they are available from 5kg upwards. Please order early, we only have a limited number available, and it’s first come first served.
Finally, I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine, Kate Yells, who is looking for your help. Speak to you soon,
Hello, my name is Kate Yells, I am a third year Geography student at the University of Hull and I have been working with Rod and Ben’s Organic Seasonal Produce to carry out research for my final year project. My research is focused on local food networks. It will aim to investigate how these networks are changing the relationships people have with the food they eat. I was wondering if you could please spare 5 minutes of your time and help me? I would be delighted if you could answer the following questionnaire by following the link below. https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RodandBens
Very many thanks for your time and your help, it is greatly appreciated. Kate Yells