Tag Archives: England

Pick Your Own Apples and Memories

18 Oct
GrangeFarmShop
appleboxes
 by Deanne

One month ago today I landed at Heathrow and began an amazing three week visit with Francine and Scott. Last time we traveled to England, I discovered a new pastime: visiting farm shops! It didn’t take long to make a list of more to visit while I was there. One weekend we went to one for lunch and then went to another to “play” in their pick your own (PYO) apple orchard.

Scott drove us on narrow winding roads, next to pastures of sheep and through sudden patches of deep dark forests. We stopped for lunch at Cowdray Farm Shop and Cafe. Satisfied by a wholesome meal made with veggies and other goodies from the farm, we eagerly got back into the car so we could ride past more pastures and through even more woods. After a wander near a historic Tudor country home that is in ruins, we arrived at Grange Farm Shop. Photo of Cowdray House

Between picking apples, eating apples (they really do invite you to taste them) and snapping pictures of apples, we remembered the times we made applesauce, apple oatmeal cake and discovered a new-to-me fruit called a damson. I will share pictures and discuss damsons in the next post.

Photo of Apples in the Orchard

Photo of Fallen ApplesWhen I returned home, I learned that Steve had attended an event here in Des Moines called Forgotten Tastes.  He had the opportunity to taste over 60 varieties of heritage apples.(I am not sure how many he actually tasted. ) The event highlighted the work of Seed Savers Exchange near Decorah. In the late winter he will be helping to graft some trees so these old varieties can be re-introduced.

What apple memories did you make this year?

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Spring Lambs

11 Mar

by Francine

On Saturday, we took a 30 minute drive to a nearby farm that advertised they had a ‘lambing experience’ from now until mid-April. A photo of a lamb

It’s definitely not uncommon to see sheep in the fields around here, but there’s only a short period of time when you can glimpse little lambs jumping in the fields.

We didn’t find any jumping lambs in the fields at Coombes Farm, but we did find newborn lambs.

And loads of baa-ing ewes…soon to be mama sheep.

A photo of the ewes

Two big barns, with hay-covered pens, were filled with expectant ewes–some would have triplets and some would have twins.

As you walked around, it was possible to see ewes in labour. When we were there, there were no births, but we did see some very recently born little ones.A photo of a newborn lamb

Many of the lambs were sleeping (being born is hard work) or having some milk. 

There was one lamb who was very noisy, friendly and active (see below…this was the only non-blurry photo I could get of the little guy).A photo of a lamb

There were some sheep and three older lambs (can you spot them?) out in the field. They were very curious about us. A photo of curious sheep

I loved visiting this farm! 

It’s hard to believe that spring is nearly here especially because it’s snowing today!

When we visited on Saturday, the grass was green, yellow daffodils were standing tall, the sky was grey and A photo of flowersthe only snow was the dainty snowdrops announcing that spring is almost here.

Have you ever seen the birth of an animal?  Do you know any spring lambs?  I’d love to hear!

PS. Deanne once helped a ewe in labour: reaching in and re-arranging the little legs so that the ewe could deliver the lamb properly. Go Mom!

Francine’s Five Favorites of 2012

31 Dec
by Francine

This year was a big one for me…I moved to England, got married, became a UK resident and started a job in marketing…phew! 

But in between those huge milestones, life was really pretty normal and filled with boring (and A photo of the castlesometimes stressful things)…things like heaps of paperwork, cover letters and a never-ending, slowly drying pile of laundry (we don’t have a dryer in our flat).

Thankfully sprinkled amongst all of those stressful things were heaps of delicious food, sunshine-y memories and a few castles. ;)

I thought I’d take a moment to share five of my Real Local Cooking favorites from this past year.  It was hard to narrow it down when there are 105 posts (!!) from which to choose, but here they are…

1.  Making a Watermelon Radish Salad was really fun because it allowed me introduce my family to a vegetable I discovered in China and it brought some vibrant color to a cold MN winter.

A photo of the inside

2.  Since moving to England, I’ve enjoyed many store bought oatcakes, but before moving here, I made my own oatcakes after discovering the recipe in a River Cottage cookbook.  It was fun to create something different and many of you also enjoyed finding out about this recipe. 

A photo of Oatcakes

3. Early in 2012, I began making FarmerChef specials with seasonal and local products/produce.  Once a week, we put these specials on the menu at my parents’ restaurant.  I enjoyed the challenge and creativity involved in coming up with dishes. 

After moving to England, my parents continued preparing and serving FarmerChef specials, and I loved finding out about all the creative dishes they were coming up with.  I thought their Kohlslaw…coleslaw from kohlrabis was especially fun.  I made this salad in September when we picked our own Kohlrabi.

Photo of Kohlslaw

4.  In England, the summer of 2012 was very cool, wet and un-sunny; perhaps that’s why it made me so happy to see the Garden Tours of the raised bed garden throughout the MN summer.

photo of a tomato

5. Last month, mom, dad and Luke came to visit us in England.  We discovered the beauty of the Lake District…oh my!

A photo of Littletown Farmphoto of salad in a jar

And some runner-ups…

Having my first scone with clotted cream and plum jam, picking strawberries, trying out this FarmerChef quiche (and making it many times since…any time I have eggs, vegetables and no idea what to fix for dinner), making both strawberry+rhubarb crumble and cobbler and seeing that mom made an oh-so pretty layered salad.

It’s been a fun year of blogging, filled with many good memories and tasty recipes

Thanks for stopping by our little corner of the internet and sharing your own memories. thoughts and recommendations in the comments! It’s always so great to hear from you!

We Break For Farm Shops

25 Nov
by DeannePhoto of Wall Quote at Farm Shop

Remember when we first heard about farm shops?   Francine wrote about the Village Greens Farm Shop in June.  My first visit to a real UK style Farm Shop and Tea Room was on day one of our 13 day trip to visit her earlier this month.

Steve and I arrived in Edinburgh on a Tuesday morning and Francine, Scott, and Luke  met us at the airport.  After a quick visit to the dramatic Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park, they drove us 17 miles south to Whitmuir Farm. Photo One of Whitmuir Farms

We loved eating a wholesome meal in their organic restaurant and tea room and then we bundled up for a self-guided tour of the farm. Photo of Farm Shop Produce  It didn’t take long to get a little Scotland mud on shoes.

After a wander around the farm we shopped in the store and settled back into the tea room for a pudding with another round of tea before we started our drive to our bed and breakfast. For those who live in the US, a pudding is more than just the smooth creamy stuff we eat.  It is more like a rich baked dessert.

The next farm shop we found was on day four of our trip.  We discovered  it as we were driving toward Barnard Castle just outside of the Yorkshire Dales park. 

Photo of Sheep on a Roof

Scott, being an agile driver, quickly turned the car around so we could check to see if we really did see sheep on a roof. The sheep were on the green roof of  Cross Lanes Organic Farm.  They also had a cafe but unfortunately we weren’t hungry yet.  So we just purchased a few items in the store and took lots of pictures.

Photo of Cross Lanes Organic Farm Shop

The third farm shop we visited was called Manor FarmA photo of Manor FarmSince it was Sunday we ordered roast beef dinners.  The food was outstanding and after our meal we meandered around until we found a barn.  Inside there were pigs who played a game of chase the pumpkin after an employee tossed them one.

A photo of pigs playing pumpkin

Have you ever visited a farm shop?   Each one is unique and special because they are real farms which make them even more fun to discover.   If I visit the UK again, I’d plan the whole trip around Farm Shops.

Photos of Scotney Castle…continued

15 Sep
by Francine

It was gloriously sunny and perfectly warm last weekend so we headed to Kent (a county over) to visit Scotney Castle. A photo of the castleThis property and its landscaper garden is a well-known example of the Picturesque style, which literally means “in the manner of a picture; fit to be made into a picture.”  The castle was first built in the 13oo’s and it may or may not have ever been completed.  Then in the late 1700’s the family decided to build a house on the hill which over looked the castle ruins.  The owners then created a magnificent garden with the moated castle ruin being the main feature (sheesh…most people use gnomes or flamingos as focal point of their garden;).

A photo of a flower and the castle

A photo of the castle

A photo of the castle

A photo of the castle's reflection

A photo of the stairsSteps for a princess?

A photo of the gardenThis part of the garden was behind the main tower you can see in the photos above.  It was ruinous, calm and overgrown.  Favourite. 

A photo of a flowerA photo of the sunA photo of the gateBye bye Picturesque garden.

A photo of sheep And one more photo of meditative sheep because I spent a long time watching them.

A what nut?

12 Sep
by FrancineA photo of cobnuts at the supermarket

Last week I was poking around our local supermarket when I noticed a new item.

“Cobnuts,” I said aloud to Scott (my plus one), who was on the other side of the aisle rustling through onions.

“Cobnuts!” he said excitedly. 

“What are they?” I asked.

To which he selected a handful for us to crack open at home, promising I’d enjoy them.

After turning to the internet for answers, I’ll tell you what I learned about cobnuts.  They are commercially cultivated hazelnuts, the most popular is the Kentish Cobnut which has been cultivated in the region since the 1500s.  I also discovered that you can buy  cobnut oil, grown and produced in Kent.  (Remember when we visited a Kentish tea room?  Click back tomorrow, I’ll share some photos from our weekend day trip to the prettiest castle in Kent.) A photo of cobnuts Even though cobnuts are technically grown and sold commercially, Scott recounted childhood memories of checking to see if the cobnuts on the bush-like tree in his childhood garden (yard) were ready for picking.  He told me that the nuts required frequent checking to ensure you got a handful before the squirrels started munching on them too.

A photo of a cracked open cobnutAfter my internet research, we cracked open our cobnuts.  The green frilly casing was soft and easy to remove.  We cracked open the strong shell with a pair of pliers.  The next step was to remove ALL of the skin… I was told that even a small speck of skin will turn your tasty treat bitter and vile.A photo of the skin peeled

Once all the skin was removed, it was time for my first cobnut…the taste was sweet and earthy, it reminded me of the smell of freshly shelled peas, but since then I’ve heard it described as similar to coconuts.

We quickly munched through our handful of cobnuts and purchased some more on our next visit to the store. They are only in season for a few weeks and the wild ones are probably available for an even shorter period of time due to the gastronomic preferences of grey squirrels. A photo of a ready to eat cobnut

I loved discovering them at the store.  When I was in China new food discoveries were a near daily occurrence, but it hasn’t happened as much in my new home.  But when it does it makes me as excited as squirrel discovering a cobnut tree!

Do you know, can you pick wild hazelnuts in your area?  Have you ever tried a cobnut?A photo of the cobnut stages

Look what I found!

7 Aug
by Francine

A photo of blackberriesA photo of the refernce bookI was cycling along this afternoon and I spotted some blackberries along the lane.  I ate a few ripe ones then and there!

And then I had a look in a reference book when I got home to confirm that I hadn’t just eaten poison-berries. ;)

Thankfully I had an empty container in my bag (that previously contained a eat-at-my-desk snack).  There weren’t too many ripe berries, but I did manage to pick a few.  I’ll definitely stop back in the next few days to pick some more…fingers crossed no one else spots them. A photo of my bikeBicycle and blackberries in a box.

Are there blackberries to pick where you live?

p.s…Do you like my bicycle?  I don’t go very fast, but it sure is fun to ride!