Thursday, 30 June 2016


Briefly this afternoon we observed a very strange phenomenon in our Big Field: sudden and isolated clouds of pollen appeared looking like patches of smoke and drifting in the wind, it was a truly extraordinary sight. Our hayfield is overdue for cutting but we haven't had a period of settled weather during the last couple of weeks in order to get it cut and baled.

Happy days

Someone is enjoying visiting us at Hill Farm! Harry managed to surprise a pheasant which was hiding in the long grass but was amazingly well behaved when told to leave a little vole that decided, rather recklessly, to cross the ground right in front of him.

Speckled wood

This is our first speckled wood butterfly this year. It was enjoying the sunshine that appeared briefly today.

Blue sky

Who would have thought that blue skies would be so rare this summer as to warrant a photograph! Unfortunately despite the lovely sunshine, this was taken just after six in the morning and by seven the cloud had returned. I was outside early hoping to watch the barn owl but he made only a very brief appearance.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

A swan perhaps?

No just a verbascum growing rather surprisingly amongst my vegetables. It didn't like the rain and so started to hang it's head in a decidedly swan like pose. Dave staked it as an emergency measure to prevent its total collapse!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Progress report

After delays due to my birthday and general busy-ness I am now back on the task of digging out the new flower bed. You'll be pleased to know I was hard at work before 7 this morning (mainly as rain was forecast for later and I'm keen to have the area ready to plant (although this is some way off). The birds have been appreciating my labours though and keep darting down to feast on little creatures which I've disturbed.

The barn owl

Each night and early morning the barn owl is out hunting across our land. It's a magical sight but SO difficult to photograph as the camera can barely focus before he's moved away again. Later when the light was fading I saw him swoop down and catch a vole, he then flew back over our barns with it, presumably feeding young on a nest nearby. We are privileged to share Hill Farm with them.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Morning mist

Morning mist is the name of this David Austin rose and not a reference to the weather! This year it is covered in flowers and is looking very happy despite the wind trying to blow the petals away. I don't know what's become of our summer but it's distinctly chilly here.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Gooseberry pie

Our first proper harvest of gooseberries! Last year the new bushes produced about a teacup of fruit between them but today I got a bowl full and used them to make a fruit pie (completed with custard and cream!) I love their tartness and so keep a light hand with the sugar. For me it has to be shortcrust pastry and as my nice blackbird pie funnel has temporarily disappeared I had to improvise and invert an egg cup instead.

Guest readiness

Preparing for today's guests I'm arranging flowers for the rooms - a lovely task. Everywhere is looking especially smart and Dave's newly cut grass means the outside is looking and smelling good too. I love that freshly mown smell. Farmers around us are still turning their grass into silage, our poor field of potential hay is looking a little weather worn, first the rain and now the wind.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Afternoon tea

I've finally managed to track down an afternoon tea stand (from Nisbets in case you need one too) so of course I had to try it out! I found it was perfect for displaying two sorts of sandwiches (home cooked ham and egg and cress) with room for the little sausage rolls on top. The reason it's taken me so long to find what I wanted is because most cake stands have a central fixed pin which pierces the plates, but this design means I can ring the changes and use any of my special plates (I seem to have quite a collection!) For this tea I used inherited Royal Worcester ones which fitted perfectly, however as they aren't secured in place you need to be a little careful!

Bathing facilities

We have recently added additional bathing facilities for our guests ... this pair of sparrows were amongst the first to come and play!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Evening sky

Tonight we have a very pretty sunset. In fact it's been lovely to see the sun today as originally rain was forecast. Waking in the night there was a very bright full moon. I love that we have these wide skies here after years of my view being enclosed by trees.


The first of our vegetables are ready to harvest along with not quite so new potatoes - once again they seem to go from 'nothing there' to 'very large'! Tonight we had pasta with smoked salmon and lots of dill as there is a thicket of it growing in the front garden which I've had to weed out.


Today I thought we were going to have a helicopter land in the garden. It turned out to be surveying the electricity cables (again) although it wasn't their usual yellow one so it took me a moment to realise that that was what it was doing. I was busy making more jam when I heard it fly so close over the farm.

More babies

Today's crop of baby birds are blue tits, they are paler than their parents and still adorably fluffy. I put up my washing line this morning and by the time I'd returned (minutes later) to hang my washing one was already perched on it!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

A summer garden

After all our efforts working on the garden it's looking really good with a lovely contrast between the long meadow grass around the apple trees and the lawn. This year though the grass is growing amazingly and Dave seems to be forever having to cut it ... maybe a ride on mower should go on the wish list!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Baby birds

We've lots of baby birds here at Hill Farm right now. The wagtails were the first to appear with their babies and they perched on our garden hose whilst the poor parents spent all day racing about to catch insects to feed them, by evening I noticed them hopping about behind exhausted adults who were trying their best to ignore them. The baby robins must still be on the nest but the parents keep darting about on our newly edged beds to collect little 'tasty' morsels. Funniest were the swallows, Dave noticed that they kept flying into our plum tree and when we looked we noticed four babies arranged neatly on the branches. Each time a parent returned (every minute or two) four little beaks all opened. They have obviously had to be resourceful now that we no longer have telephone and electric cables for them to perch on.

Sunday, 19 June 2016


At the moment the garden is full of the sound of bees. Fortunately I love the flowers that they also enjoy!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Strawberry jam

Not just any Strawberry Jam but Hill Farm Scarlet Beauty!

While I was away last week my little alpine strawberries ripened en masse. The variety is 'Scarlet Beauty' and I was very keen to use them before they got snaffled by the slugs or the pheasant. I looked on the internet to find a recipe using just the small amount (200g) that I had ... the result was 'one punnet strawberry jam'. My quantity made two jars and although it looked pippy it tasted delicious. I mashed some berries but kept half of them whole and added them once the sugar had dissolved. Now I just need to make the scones!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

My birthday

I started my birthday with fresh fruit and yoghurt topped with a petal from my birthday pinks! These are a tradition because when I was born my father wore a pink 'pink' in his buttonhole to indicate that he'd had a daughter and he continued to do so on every subsequent one of my birthdays. This year I had wonderful pinks sent from the Isles of Scilly (thanks Liz) and decided to garnish my breakfast with a petal (the whole flower might have been a bit of a mouthful!) Later I went swimming, Dave thought I'd gone mad but I discovered that Hathersage (further north in Derbyshire) has a pool which is both outdoor and heated, so I spent a happy couple of hours floating about while Dave nursed a cup of tea in the spectators pavilion. Then in the evening Joe and Jade made me an amazing cake (so delicious and of course it MUST be healthy as it contains carrots!)

More birthday photos!

Wearing my pink birthday 'pink'.
Everywhere we went today bunting was flying, this was photographed in Hayfield (there are some advantages to having a birthday so close to the Queen's official one). We stopped for a picnic lunch near Stanage Edge and could hear the curlews calling, a magical sound. Later several sheep attempted to sing Happy Birthday to me, although I have a feeling they were hoping we'd feed them!

Monday, 13 June 2016

Time out

As a very, very special birthday treat I got taken to Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons for a once in a lifetime stay. It was glorious and I had an incredible time ... a huge thank you to a very thoughtful husband.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

A birthday BBQ

Bunting, light up balloons and a BBQ. Although the weather didn't co-operate we still enjoyed eating outside and I sat until dark enjoying the fire and the view (the others retired eventually to watch football). It was lovely to sit and listen to the rain falling on the barn roof whilst being snug and dry. Incidentally we don't normally measure our balloons but these 'light up' ones came with specific instructions about their inflation!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Felley inspiration

After my late night weeding the 'Felley' effect became even more dramatic as I decided that what I really needed was another border for all the plants that I love and haven't found room for yet, plus all the seedlings that are germinating and need somewhere to go. I planned (two scented beds separated by a seating area), Dave strimmed, I raked up the grass and trimmed the hedge. Watch this space ....

Flat peaches

These peaches are strangely flat but having ripened them in the sunshine they tasted delicious and were perfect for my breakfast. Soon though, probably only a matter of days, I'll have the first of our strawberries to pick, that's if I can beat the birds to the crop!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Dust bathing

Hard to see I know but the photograph shows our sparrows enjoying a dust bath just underneath my rhubarb! There were three of them and for a good ten minutes they whirled like dervishes, enjoying the dry soil. It is very dry, we must have had at least a fortnight with no rain and have had to resort to watering our newly planted roses and some of our vegetables. Storms are forecast but so far we haven't had anything (plus I really just want gentle rain).

Smarter edges

Dave bought some new plastic twine and using this as a guide I was able to cut back my edges so that they look much neater. The soil though is like concrete and the half moon edging tool badly needs sharpening ...