Wednesday, 21 September 2011

At last!

We have our pigs! It's taken 7 months but at last they're here. They haven't had far to come as they're staying on the small holding site where they were born but were transferred from their home with their Mum into the Diss Community Farm paddock.

Unfortunately they don't seem too keen on their new home, the squeals of protest they made at being picked up had to be heard to be believed. Then, within minutes of arriving, they calmly pushed their way through the squares in the stock fencing and strolled back to Mum! We played porcine hokey cokey all weekend and then decided to leave them where they were until we could order an electric fence. Fortunately it shouldn't be too long til they grow a bit bigger and won't be able to fit through the fence any more.

Willow and Xanthe are in their element, Xanthe in particular has no fear of the pigs but I don't think it'll last when they get big, ugly and slobbery. Their cuteness (the pigs, not the children) is the main weakness in our plan at the moment, I worry that they'll become too pet like and we'll have tears when sausage time rolls around. We've deliberately not named them and I'm banking on the big, ugly, slobbery factor to make the goodbyes a bit more bearable.

I've found myself leading the DCF Livestock project almost by accident, our illustrious leader is having a baby soon so pig wrangling with an advanced bump is not the best idea. I offered to help out over her maternity leave, not realising that I was the only volunteer. So here I am, zero pig husbandry experience, no diy skills, no van, no truck, no trailer, an electric fence kit propped by the back door which is too heavy for me to lift and an 8' pig ark on it's way with no clue how I'm going to get it to the pigs.

Fun and games ahead I think!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Runner Bean where is thy string?

Last year I grew quite a lot of runner beans, which would've been nice if they had been edible. They were shot through with the weird, remarkably tough, plasticy fibers. This year I made a conscious decision to remember that I hate runners and not grow them again .....

but .....

I went to visit the vegetable project part of Diss Community Farm where Gabbi the Grower waxed lyrical about the variety of runner beans she was growing. Her description of them when slow cooked in a spicy tomato sauce was beguiling. I think she was growing Enorma which I couldn't find but she also recommended Hunter. After my broad beans failed I found myself with a spare bed on the allotment so I planted some Hunter.

And, yes, this tale does end in the manner I think you're expecting. The Hunters are divine with an amazing and unexpected silky texture. I even enjoy the feel of them in my hand as I pick them. I think I'll stop there before I embarrass myself further with the gushing.

In other Diss Community Farm news, we are finally taking delivery of our pigs on Saturday. Many things have been happening on the livestock front so I'll save all the news for dedicated piggy post with pictures of our tasty new friends over the weekend.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


Nasturtiums have a special place in my affections. My food growing odyssey started with a packet of Nasturtium seeds in the back yard of a northern terraced house.

The house had an extension which occupied 80% of the original yard, leaving us with a tiny paved square bordered on all sides by walls at least 6 feet high. On sunny days we'd dash out with our plastic chairs to sit in the single shaft of sunlight which managed to peer over the walls for 15 mins at mid-day. At least the brevity of the sunbathing meant we didn't have long enough to be over powered by the stench of the bins stored out there.

In 1999 I watched Escape to River Cottage. Somehow or other, the disparity between Hugh's reality and my own didn't sink in. Instead, I eyed the small concrete planter built at the base of the wall by a previous tenant and thought I could get me a piece of the rural idyll. I planted Nasturtiums and wild rocket.

I can't say it was a roaring success. As I'd planted the only greenery for miles around, every single creature, winged and 4 footed was magnetically attracted to it. The Nasturtiums were rapidly covered in blackfly so I planted marigolds to attract the lacewings and therefore the ladybirds. Literally overnight half a dozen marigold plants were reduced to stalks by the monstrous turd-slugs, still the biggest slugs I've ever seen and big enough to make me fear for my limbs if I stayed still for too long out there. On the plus side, the neighbourhood cats seemed to appreciate the thoughtful toilet facilities I'd laid on for them. I really should have added cologne and a gilt dish for tips.

It didn't take much to distract me from the disastrous concrete planter. Life moved on and I moved out, the grow my own dream was neglected for almost a decade until I moved to Norfolk and acquired a small garden. When we got our first allotment last year, one of the first things I planted was the Nasturtiums. Just 'cos I can.

This year I've tried Nasturtium Seed Capers for the first time. I used Pam Corbain's recipe but the basic method is to soak the green (not yellowed or pinky) seed pods in brine for 24 hours then pack into a sterilised jar and cover with vinegar. Leave to mature for a few weeks before using. No idea what they taste like - I'll let you know when I find out!