It seems that spring has sprung. Trees are bursting into leaf, there’s a froth of early blossom in the hedgerow and the grassy banks of the ditches are a covered with violets, primroses and cowslips.
In Grove Field, the land has been pulled down and the beans have been drilled and rolled in. I love it when we have beans growing near the house as the scent of the flowers is wonderful. These field beans look like broad beans as they grow, but instead of being picked green, they’re left on the plant to dry out. When the stalk is black and everyone thinks that we farmers have gone mad and left the crop for too long, the beans are dry enough to harvest with the combine. Our field beans are used for animal feed or exported to the Middle East for human consumption. Sometimes, I pinch a few to make a bean and tomato dish that we eat with a fried egg.
While work on the land is going full tilt, the outside landscaping around The Barley Barn has become a frustrating exercise in balancing the constraints of an old building with the regulations concerning public access. Decisions can no longer be made on aesthetic merit or practicality but have to be referred to the “manual”. Railings have to be erected to cover the actions of the stupid, paving installed for visually impaired visitors, ramps built for physically disabled people, everything measured to the millimetre, checked and rechecked to make sure we have it all exactly right before the official inspections by various authorities. Obviously, we want to provide safe and inclusive access, it’s just very time consuming making sure we comply with every last rule and pushes the finish time back further.
As ever, I work out my problems by taking a long walk and making something frivolous in the kitchen. This week it seemed appropriate to celebrate with a spring like jelly because somehow, jelly is the thing for spring. It’s easily made by adding dissolved leaf gelatine to diluted rose syrup and then adding the juice of a lemon to the amber liquid, taking the edge off the sweetness and miraculously turning it a vibrant pink. Similarly, the violet liqueur that I make soon turns a slightly browner shade of violet than is desirable, but squeeze in some lime or lemon juice and it takes on the hue of methylated spirits (but thankfully not the smell). The jelly is made in layers, with a few primrose and polyanthus petals encased between each layer.
With a spoonful of sweetness, a few pretty flowers and spring sunshine, life’s not bad.