#Farm24

You may have wondered why your social media newsfeeds yesterday were filled with pictures of tractors, animals and views of the beautiful British countryside. The answer is that UK farmers were using #Farm24 to tell the story behind the food and countryside as part of “24 hours in Farming”.
Here’s a glimpse of yesterday at Slamseys Farm.

farm24 footpath through wheat
A walk through the fields before the combine started work in Gardeners Field where everywhere seemed very quiet. As we walked back to the yard, the pick-up drew into the field with a bowser full of diesel to fill the combine and the noise and busyness of the day fired into action.

farm24 office work
Back home, I had some work to do in the farm office. I trained as a farm secretary so while many people hate paperwork and book-keeping, I rather enjoy it.

farm24 picking raspberries
In the fruit field, there were raspberries to pick with Beth, which she took to her unit to make into Raspberry Gin.

Farm24 huffers for packed lunch
Never underestimate the role of Food Provider, I tell my son when he accuses me of doing nothing all day. Today, there were lunches to pack for meals in fields or in the barn; Huffers and Harvest Butterscotch Bars with tomatoes and plums picked from the garden.

farm24 combining wheat
In Lakes Field, the combine methodically worked up and down the field cutting the wheat, storing the seed in the large tank behind the cab as the wheat stalks and chaff were chopped and spread behind, creating clouds of dust. When the tank is full, the driver swings the spout out to empty the wheat into the trailer driven alongside.

farm24 full load of wheat

After a couple of empties, the trailer is full and the tractor driver headed back to the yard

farm24 wheat in barn

to empty the load onto the floor in the barn. This is the barn where we sell Christmas trees, so you’re more used to seeing it look like this.

farm24 loading wheat
Our wheat goes to a central co-operative within a couple of days of harvesting, so that some days, like yesterday, there are lorries being loaded and tractors tipping trailers at the same time. Things sometimes get a little frantic. I noticed yesterday that while Bill was buzzing around on the telehandler like a blue arsed fly, two waiting lorry drivers lay on the grass with their shirts off, sunning themselves. Had they been more photogenic, I might have taken a surreptitious snap.

Farm24 gateway secured

By late afternoon, the wheat had all been cut and the combine moved out. Barriers were replaced in gateways next to roads and bollards pulled back up to secure the field and (we hope) block access for joy riders, fly tippers and burglars. The joy of farming in Essex.

Farm24 ducks

By early evening, the last lorry had been loaded, the barn floor swept and barn doors locked. The ducks were fed and shut  in for the night and and we settled down after supper to watch the hockey at the Olympics.

Today, the combine has moved to another farm and will return in a couple of weeks to cut the field beans. There are more lorries to load and floors to sweep. Also, there are deliveries to receive because the lawn artist is returning to cut another piece of lawn art. But that’s a story for another day.

If you’d like to see what was happening on farms yesterday, check out #farm24 or look at the 24 Hours in Farming Media Wall

 

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oilseed rape crop

On The Farm In April

newly planted Christmas trees

The weather has been good here, with some gloriously sunny days that have dried out the fields so that land work has resumed on the farm. We managed to plant 1400 tiny Christmas trees earlier this week, mathematically agriculturally marked out using a spade, old electric fencing posts and baler twine. Standing only 30 centimetres high, these should be ready for cutting down in 2023, which seems an age away.

teleporter

Today they’re spreading fertiliser on the fields, which means the teleporter is running backwards and forwards between the barn where the fertiliser is stored and the fields. The fertiliser is delivered in enormous 1 tonne bags that the teleporter picks up and transports to empty into the spreader.

oilseed rape field

The oilseed rape is coming into full flower, which is a wonderful sight for those of us who don’t suffer from hay fever. This old tap standing in the corner of the field is a reminder of when this field was grazed by horses. After the crop has been harvested in early summer, the rapeseed will be sent away for pressing to extract the oil. If you buy a bottle of vegetable oil with a picture of a yellow flower on the label, it’s rapeseed oil. I can’t help thinking that somebody should think of a better name for the crop.

cheese and bacon flan

Packed lunches for tractor drivers call for solid food. I gaze in awe at pictures of bento boxes with their delicate salads and pretty arrangements of fruit but I know that beautiful as they might look in the kitchen, after a few hours bouncing around in a tractor cab, they would look decidedly unappealing. Apart from that, packed lunches destined for the fields need to be eaten with a minimum of fuss, preferably one handed. An old fashioned cheese and bacon flan fits the bill perfectly.

Essex huffer

Huffers are regularly packed into lunch boxes for tractor drivers and also into my rucksack when we’re walking. My family often tease me that I must be glad when we’ve stopped for lunch as my rucksack must be considerably lighter when we’ve taken out the huffers and fruit cake. Cruel. But true.

farm buildings

As the days lengthen and I no longer feel the need to close the shutters and sit in front of the fire in the early evening, it’s good to wander around the farmyard when everybody else  has gone home and enjoy the last of the sunshine for the day.

Even if nothing is growing in the cold soil of the garden, it really does feel as though spring has well and truly arrived.

 

Essex huffer

meals in fields

During harvest, meals become moveable feasts both in location and timing. At regular intervals through the day, empty flasks and cold boxes are dumped on the shelf in the grain store to be replenished.

Food has to withstand the rigours of bumping up and down on tractors as they rush down rough tracks and be easily pulled from the cold box and eaten while waiting for the next load. It has to be chunky and filling; indeed, glancing in the cold boxes you might be forgiven for thinking that you’d slipped back a few decades. I might start off with imaginative offerings but I soon fall back on old fashioned foods like Scotch Eggs, slabs of fruit cake and hefty huffers, firmly compressed to hold in the fillings.

Everyone seems to like something sweet in their cold box, even if they normally declare an aversion to puddings and cakes. One of Celia’s Butterscotch Bars* is always a hit and this year I’ve fiddled with the recipe a little to create a Harvest Bar packed with extra fruit and nuts, which I pack for the late evening shift when everyone needs a little extra oomph.

Sometimes I use a mixture of plain and milk chocolate chips, sometimes just plain. The nuts tend to be a combination of whatever packets are started; last time I used 100g pecans and 40g almonds but I’ve also used walnuts, Brazil nuts and unsalted cashews.

Harvest Bars

harvest bars recipe

  • 250g butter
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teasp vanilla extract
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 200g chocolate chips
  • 140g roughly chopped nuts – such as pecans, walnuts, almonds
  • 100g raisins

Blend together the butter and sugar, beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

Stir in the remaining ingredients and spread out evenly in a baking tin approximately 30 x 21 cms that you’ve lined with baking parchment.

Cook for about 45 minutes at 150C fan oven for firm bars or ten minutes less if you want squidgy bars. In the AGA – 10 minutes in the roasting oven with the cold shelf in and then 50 minutes in the simmering oven.

Leave to cool in the tin and then cut into bars or squares.

Are you a follower of recipes or do you tweak and alter? Some people get very upset when someone changes their recipe, which I find hard to understand.

Also, any suggestions for slightly more exciting meals to take to the fields would be more than welcomed (especially by those eating them).

*Such is the popularity of Celia’s Butterscotch Bars that I have passed on the recipe to many others and one of my sons has declared that they are on his list of “Last Supper” foods.