Saturday, 30 April 2016

Breakfast is served

Not quite the 'Full Derbyshire' but almost! This is the breakfast you want if you haven't been in training for consuming its bigger brother.

Ready for action

Well the big day has finally arrived and I'm ready to prepare breakfast for our guests! I hope you like my smart new apron reserved especially for this occasion!

Friday, 29 April 2016

Finishing touches

After all the hard work Hill Farm Bed and Breakfast is finally ready to receive our first guests.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016


We are so delighted to see our pair of red legged partridge back again this year. They believe in living dangerously though: walking straight down the lane ... a few minutes later one was running back up in front of a car, but fortunately both are together tonight at the top of the Big Field. I decided to label our latest Hill Farm Vino Tinto in their honour.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

And after all that

Amazingly, by eight o'clock it looked a lovely evening again with the light catching the hillside and picking out the edges of the clouds. I think though that frost is forecast for tonight, my potatoes are well earthed up as a precaution.

April snow showers

This definitely went beyond what I would classify as 'April Showers'. When it stopped being hail and began to settle as snow on the ground I puzzled at how Dave could possibly be playing golf!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Earth, water and fire!

 I did lots of gardening today and have sown my peas (2 varieties), radish (4 varieties) and beetroot (3 varieties)! They say 'variety is the spice of life'! I also made a frame for my runner beans using branches cut from the hedge during the winter and put in twiggy supports for my peas. I then carefully watered our newly planted seedlings as it seems a while since we've had any rain. Dave had probably our last bonfire now until the autumn, burning the mountain of brambles that I'd pulled free from the hedge and great clumps of nettle roots which came from the top of the big field. At least this time he managed to avoid scorching his hair and seems to have both eyebrows intact!

Happy Birthday

I wanted to do something to celebrate Her Majesty's 90th birthday today so I arranged a vase for our kitchen table with one of my red tulips (couleur cardinal), white damson blossom and blue forget-me-nots, I also remembered that my paper napkin collection included these very appropriate ones. (I collect paper napkins like other people collect shoes - but then I like them too much to actually use them!)

Tulip time

My tulips are looking happy and enjoying the sunshine that we've had over the last couple of days. This is their third year, one in pots and two in the garden. They are Sarah Raven's 'Venetian Collection' and include Havran (the darkest flower), Prinses (Dutch spelling) Irene (orange with a red flush) and Couleur Cardinal (a bright 'Cardinal' red) which is a very old variety first introduced in 1845.

Blossom breakfast

These pigeons were dining on a blossom breakfast this morning. Guests will be relieved to discover that our Hill Farm 'Full Derbyshire' is rather more substantial.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Outside cows

This morning one of my first sights was the cows on the hill opposite enjoying their breakfast of grass. They have to be housed indoors during the winter so I think they must love the freedom of being back outside, especially when like today there is sunshine to warm their backs.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Hot air balloon

Watching the swallows swoop across the sky this evening I saw that they had been joined by a hot air balloon drifting rather more slowly. It was such a treat to sit outside in the warmth and smell the scent of the newly cut lawn. The pleasures of a country spring time.

Also maybe less of a pleasure but a key feature of this time of year, is the anxiety of my men folk, as the football season draws to it's finale and yet again Burton Albion supporters are feeling the strain with the team hovering just inside the automatic promotion spot at the top of League One.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Watching Jupiter

Jupiter was very close to the moon tonight at sunset. The cloud was moving fast and created the optical illusion the the planet was also moving straight towards the moon.

Changeable weather

It was down below freezing this morning, but after the frosty start has cleared to a lovely sunny day. Yesterday we didn't get the forecast snow but had a brief hail shower instead. Despite the changeable weather the hedges and trees are really starting to turn green and everywhere seems full of promise.

Damson blossom

Our damson trees are in full bloom at the moment and it's lovely to have a blue sky to see them against. Today began cold but now we have sun and little wind.

First swallows

The first pair of swallows flew over the farm on Friday and by this morning they were sitting and chirruping up on the barn roof. Fortunately for them the outbuildings are just as they left them last year.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Another project

This is not really 'another project' but a continuation of the 'Front Garden Project'. There was an old and partly rotten oak gate here on the farm which we are salvaging. Dave has managed to replace the most damaged parts and now just has to work out what to fix it to as the gap is about a foot wider than the gate! Do other people just have straightforward projects? All of ours seem to be full of challenging complications.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

A pigeon tree

Looking out very early this morning I saw a tree full of pigeons; whilst the night-time had been a sky full of stars. I love living here.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Surveying our planting

We now have our second early potatoes, onion sets, parsnips, broad beans, carrots, herbs and salad planted. The soil is perfect so we work hard to complete our tasks and I transplant some strawberry runners and just sprouted, self sown borage plants. Dave, finally out of his work clothes, surveys the plot ... it's looking good.

Sunday, 10 April 2016


Although the garden is full of our amazing double yellow daffodils they don't last well in the house so I prefer to leave them growing uncut outside. These though were a £1 bunch from the supermarket bought in tight green bud, so I was really excited when they opened into such lovely flowers. They're on the kitchen table for maximum admiration.

Planting time

After a week on the front garden and re-seeding the field it's now time to catch up on what we were really supposed to be doing ... planting vegetables. We now have our onions and potatoes in and tomorrow it will be the turn of various seeds including rather urgently our parsnips. Last year we planted the variety 'Tender and True', we have half a row left and they are still delicious.

Sheep (again)

We are now enclosed by sheep. The new arrivals are seven tups (males) having a holiday here before their services are required again in the autumn. They arrived last week but stayed down at the bottom of the hill where they were sheltered from the wind. Today though they came up to our hedge-line to peer at the neighbours! Later I had fun with my Easter present of chocolate sheep, you have to eat them without looking at the little faces ...

Where's everything gone!

Woke this morning to the forecast frost but totally unexpected was the dense fog which accompanied it. Our views had gone behind a wall of white. By the time everyone else was up the sun was re-emerging but I had the photographs to prove that I hadn't imagined it!

Saturday, 9 April 2016


It's bliss to lie in the bath after a hard day's gardening. I'm loving watching the clouds which are racing across the sky and too small to show up in this photograph, are a pair of buzzards flying up high.

The front garden

I managed to finish planting out the front garden after a six hour slog, towards the end I was racing against black clouds approaching from the Doveridge direction. They did bring rain but not as much as I'd anticipated. You'll note on the left of the picture that the site foreman arrived to check I'd done an OK job and see if I fancied giving her a little extra food now that I was done. She got it of course!


I've been looking forward to buying and planting my roses for ages. Last year we drove down to David Austin's nursery (just about an hour from here) and I made notes of the ones I liked best. After lots of thought  I chose 'The Generous Gardener' a beautiful very pale pink fragrant climber, 'Francis E Lester' a rambler that resembles our native wild rose to grow against the barn wall and three of 'Lichfield Angel' a lovely rose happy in poor soil which is all we can provide in our front garden beds and with a local connection:
Named to celebrate an 8th century sculptured limestone panel, which was discovered at Lichfield Cathedral in Staffordshire during an archaeological excavation of the nave. The panel, thought to represent the Archangel Gabriel, is in remarkable condition and still bears the remnants of Saxon paint. 
David Austin

Friday, 8 April 2016

Bedroom view

Early morning, viewed from guest bedroom 2, just as the sun was starting to rise. At the moment, although the hedges haven't really come into leaf, they are full of little birds with disproportionately loud songs. Come to stay at Hill Farm and experience the dawn chorus for yourself.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Weather and a rainbow

Today we've had everything that the weather could throw at us: wind, rain, hail, sleet and sunshine. After a particularly violent bout of rain I realised that the sun was shining again and I ran outside to look for a rainbow. This was the brightest one I've ever seen, reaching across the top of our lane over what we call 'the chimneys house' for obvious reasons! Properly known as Somersal House.

Blossom and a dark sky

The sky this morning was so dark as I went to photograph the blossom. It doesn't bode well for the day ahead, we've lots of outdoor tasks to do and I hope the wind managed to die down and the forecast sunshine appears.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016


As the sun slipped away over the hill I noticed the first bats of the year flying outside our windows. There's no sign of them in our outbuildings and we only see a few here in the garden, but there are many old trees around us where I suspect they make their homes.

Living here

The earlier (hedge planting) frustrations of my day disappeared and were replaced by wonder at the beauty of our surroundings. If you'd told me all those years ago as I commuted daily between London and Essex that one day this would be my home I'd have struggled to believe you. Tonight the setting sun produced these wonderful landscapes and I raced outside with the camera once again.

Planting in a gale

Planting a hedge in a gale does nothing to improve one's (OK my) temper. As soon as I put something down or emptied a pot it blew away into the lane and I had to give chase ... most annoying. Eventually Dave managed to put in a line of bricks to stop our stony soil reaching the path and I planted the first half of the hedge, although the idea of 'dusting the roots with growing compound' was somewhat random as it disappeared on the wind. At least the weather ensured that it's well watered in.