From June through to November, flowers and fruit flourish on our farm, keeping us busy with picking, pressing and bottling. From November through to Christmas is mostly markets and fairs, selling the liqueurs which we have been making throughout the year.
It’s always a lovely time, when we see customers who have been coming back year on year, meet new people, and get to tell people about our farm, it’s ethos and how best to serve the liqueurs and sloe gin. We also get to see just how much our customers enjoy the liqueurs; it’s satisfying to see people remark on how fruity and fresh they taste, and always a joy when our message gets across and the organic part of our liqueurs is appreciated.
We’ve had a bumper year for berries, our elderflower liqueur won a Great Taste Gold Star, and we’re experimenting with crabapples from the orchard to create a small batch of spiced crabapple gin.
Sloes, however, have been thin on the ground after an early frost this year. We’ve got plenty of sloe gin from last year, and enough sloe whisky (or did we drink it all?) to last us, but we are at the mercy of our weather. Because we don’t buy in any fruit, just using what grows on the farm, we won’t be making any new sloe gin this year, but instead have gathered armfuls of crabapples from the abundance in the orchard, and have created a delicious winter drink with star anise and other spices. And of course we’ll be making more mulled elderberry liqueur. We hope you can come and join us at one of our winter fairs, just check the What’s On page for details.
A little while back, the producers of Radio Four’s ‘Farming Today’ got in touch with us regarding a feature they were doing on soft fruit growing in Britain. The programme’s host, the lovely Sybil Ruscoe was duly dispatched to Westwell to pick Miles’ brains on the matter (he’s a veritable mine of information on different varieties of blackcurrant) and look around the farm.
Then there was possibly the most bizarre week in politics for a long time. Brexits, regrexits and exits, more resignations that you could shake a raspberry cane at, and Farming Today had to put Miles’ interview on ice while they addressed the slightly more pressing implications of leaving the EU on farming.
Well, fingers crossed the panic is over a bit, and the other day we were able to tune into a fantastic chat between Miles and Sybil as they wandered around the farm, tested the ripeness of the fruit, and finally quaffed a little of the finished liqueur in the winery.
You can have a listen here, and tune in weekly either on Wednesday mornings, on BBC IPlayer, or take a look at their website for a wealth of information on farming around the globe.
Just at the time the new growth is starting to come through, and we have heavily pruned away the old, we lay mulch matting around new plants (some transplanted from around the farm, or random ones that have popped up). Theoretically, this lessens the time spent weeding around the fruit bushes. Although we seem to spend a lot of time trowel in hand, cursing the grass growing right in the middle of the plants.
The fields have been so colourful this spring, bright yellow with dandelions and buttercups, and a carpet of blue speedwell. Miles uses the sturdy tractor between the rows of fruit and around the farm.