Apples in the Air
October has been a month of beautiful autumnal colours with the scent of apples in the air and harvesting taking place all around us. Farmers have been working until late into the night to bring in the thousands of acres of maize that have surrounded us all summer. The relatively dry and bright days presumably helped. The lack of wind, a welcome relief after the blowy summer, has slowed the leaf fall, making the glorious colours last a little longer than usual. Traditional Apple Days have been held at orchards around and about with a wide range of assorted apple fare being served, orchards open to visitors and, most importantly, apples being collected and pressed for juice and cider. Pictured is an old, originally horse-drawn, press being put to good use in a neighbouring orchard.
Here on the farm rather slower progress has been made, largely due to other commitments. However, much research and preparation has been made for the arrival of the woodland trees in the first week of December. Lots of garden planning has also been going on, a major project in itself.
One critter accidentally unearthed in the garden, identified, and then buried again, was a stag beetle larva (pictured). Stag beetles are the largest ground beetles in the UK, stunning to look at with a strange lifecycle and endangered across to the world, due mainly to their reducing habitat. They need decaying wood to live on and to lay their eggs in however parkland and gardens often get ‘tidied up’ and this valuable resource cleared away. Not the prettiest larvae, but they turn into the most magnificent looking creatures. I was surprised to learn that stag beetles spend the majority of their life underground, from three to seven years, only emerging as an adult one May day to mate, before dying by late August. For that short few months the males spend their days sunbathing and flying around looking for a mate, and if lucky, mating. Encourage them in your garden by providing piles of wood, leaves and compost and if you stumble across larvae, bury it again as quickly as possible. Should you be lucky enough to spot a stag beetle, here is the link to a research survey being run by Peoples Trust for Endangered Species and the Royal Holloway, University of London.
Talking of endangered species, we also had a welcome visit from a large hedgehog, the first we have seen here. Alerted to it by our curious dogs, the hog was curled up in a tight ball on the patio – I hope he or she lives close-by. It probably already has a home, but just in case I am going to build one or two ‘hog houses’ to encourage them. We’ve certainly got plenty of slugs to share with them!
http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/leaflets/L5-Hedgehog-Homes.pdf - no planning permission required!!
October also saw the launch of our preserve sales – jams and chutneys ‘hand made in Somerset’. Plum and Mulled Wine Jam is my favourite – it tastes of Christmas. We are also awaiting delivery of some very special works of art to our online shop. Beautiful cards and framed pictures created by The Barefoot Beachcomber in Devon. Made from fragments of natural materials collected from the beach along with vintage finds, the original cards are meant to be framed and treasured. Give them as a card, or as a ready-framed picture.
Check out the site for lots of Christmas present ideas - items can be gift-wrapped and sent directly to friends and loved ones, at no extra cost. Just drop us a line when you order with instructions.