Country Diary: 22
The Idler’s Editor, Tom Hodgkinson, has retired to a Devon farmhouse. Here’s the twenty second part of his diary.
WE HAD THE FIRST beautiful day of the year on Sunday, and we took Arthur and his friend Purdey for a walk across the fields. We found two deer skulls, beautiful things with a sort of Aztec pattern on top, where the plates of the skull join. But each one had had its antlers sawn off, which gave rise to speculation on our part. Had the deers been shot for their antlers? And why just take the antlers, not the skulls? To add to the mystery, we found a pit at the foot of one of the fields which contained two dead deer and two dead foxes, plus a load of bones and entrails. Something to do with hunting, perhaps? Or do people go out shooting the animals for sport? Can any readers enlighten me on this one?
IT IS MARCH and my vegetable books tell me it’s time to start sowing seeds. I have spent a couple of winter evenings working out my crop rotation system. Seems you’ve got to follow roots with potatoes, brassicas with peas and beans, peas and beans with roots, onions and lettuces with brassicas and potatoes with brassicas. I’ve been poring over the books for a long time and I think that’s it. It’s all rather confusing, as of course I didn’t have to worry about rotation last year as it was year one. Also, last year I didn’t pay any attention to varieties of the vegetables, of which there are many. I just bought the seed packets in the farmers’ shop. But now I am a little wiser, and on the advice of a friend I went to the website of the Henry Doubleday Research Organisation (www.hdra.org) and ordered some seeds on the Internet, plus a seed catalogue. Henry Doubleday sells organic seeds and old-fashioned varieties, which are supposedly much tastier than the supermarket vegetables. I went up to the patch and pulled up all the kale plants, which look like they’ve had it, as well as the two remaining tiny little cauliflower plants. The purple sprouting has yet to sprout anything and I have to admit therefore to general failure in the brassica department. Yes, we did have lots of lovely kale leaves, but, as my neighbour rather cruelly pointed out, they looked liked Bonsai kale. My mistake, I think, was to plant them too close together. But maybe I didn’t prepare the soil properly. Who knows.
MY CORRESPONDENT Mr Lahood writes concerning chickens. He says that the bantams should co-exist reasonably well with any new hens that we bring in. I’ve really got to sort out this chicken problem. The bantams are quite nice looking, and there are two of them now, and they come and visit the front garden each morning looking for scraps, but no eggs, as far as I can tell.
WE USED the village hall for Arthur and Delilah’s joint birthday party. The hall is a great resource, a huge room with high ceilings and wooden beams. It’s packed with tressle tables and chairs, there is a little stage and five hanging heaters. It looks like it must have been built in the 1930s, and our neighbours are helping to get it renovated and used more often. I’m thinking of getting myself on the Village Hall Committee, as I can imagine putting on some good events there, folk nights, medieval banquets, barn dances and that sort of thing. The birthday party seemed to go well. Some mothers complained about the cold, but the magician, the product of a more innocent age, seemed to go down well. Then the children ate sausages and cake, and hit each other with balloons and I put the Kinks Greatest Hits on the stereo. I congratulated myself on this choice, as it pleases both kids and adults.