spot on

At 8.10 Ernst and his team of 5 arrived. No time for coffee, eggs and bacon refused. They'd travelled from South Western Germany the day before, bringing the tractor and planting machine, arriving at their Dorset base at midnight. Food, a quick beer, sleep, then up, and here 8 hours later.



An hour of setting up, with lines, wires and lasers, fitting the wheel that plunges the vine from the back of the tractor to the required depth at the required spacing. And away they go. Line after line, perfectly straight. Perfectly. And (despite the tilts, bumps, mounds and crescent shape of the field) along both axes. Somehow Ernst's love of life sidesteps the limitation of language - everything he does is so obviously undertaken with total enthusiasm, with such complete respect for the task that I can't stop smiling while I watch: I couldn't have put the vines in better hands.

A couple of minutes less than 5 hours later, he and the team leave. 3500 vines planted. I'm chuffed as nuts.

get in

A real turning point for the farm, and a real landmark in my life. After a winter and spring of planning, drawing, calling and researching the vines have finally found their home in three and a half acres of Otter Farm soil. Half are fairly reliable Seyval blanc grapes - capable of giving us average still wine but staggering sparkling - the other half shared between the less-than-certain Pinot noir and the altogether more marginal Gerwurtztraminer and Sauvignon blanc vines. This iffy twosome finds its home in an English vineyard for perhaps the first time today and tests our view that climate change is already with us

early warning ants

Ants on the broad beans. Lots of them, and very busy apparently doing nothing in particular, but they stayed in my mind long enough to prod me into googling and I'm glad I did. The ants themselves aren't causing any harm to the plant, but they are there for a reason - looking for aphids. Aphids secrete honeydew which the ants can detect in minute amounts so it seems that my broad beans are about to come under attack from the aphid militia....spray hose ready...

stop start

Totally bored solid of snow, hail, wind and rain this April

worth matravers

Park up and walk down the hill a little. Don't stop for a pint. This isn't easy if you've stopped for a pint there before. Turn left and follow the road along for a few hundred yards and then follow the footpath across the fields to the cliffs.



When you hit the edge follow the coast along to your right. Keep going. Down and lungbustingly back up the sharp valley. Chapman's Pool ahead and to your left. Keep going and turn inland at the footpath sign. Here, you may get the first slight tickle of scent. Keep going. If you're lucky and the farmer hasn't decided to grow some stupid biofuel you may well find a full field of broad beans. In flower. Trying not to breathe or listen walk quickly to the centre. Stop. Close your eyes and breathe in the loveliest flower smell there is from the tens of thousands of broad beans, and take in the insect buzz.

When you've had your fill, follow the path back into the village for the finest pint (and pastie) there is.



Here on the farm, it's all muddy knees trying to catch the slightest whiff from our few lines

pigless

With all the new planting and the resulting squeeze on space we've decided to let friends in Dorset have our two sows. In return we'll get a couple of weaners each Spring and only have to find ground enough to keep them through til end of Autumn. The perfect solution perhaps. Today our last two went to the slaughterhouse so for the first time in four years we are without pigs, and I'm not sure I like it. Four years not only of eating our own meat, making our own (okayish) bacon, our own (magnificent) sausages, our own (poor to outstanding) salami, but four years of daily feeding and care after the previous 15 not eating meat



After a couple of days of enjoying getting stuck into whatever straight away and not having to go out to feed them first thing the place now feels a bit lacking, and without movement and punctuation to the farm day. And after all that time as a vegetarian I thought I'd totally adjusted to the end of the cycle, perhaps even relaxed about it - but as I drove off from the slaughterhouse today I realised that it's only then that I put the car stereo on

onscreen tall stories

First in an unoccasional series

In 24 Hour Party People, Tony Wilson explains that James Bond producer Cubby Broccoli invented broccoli by cross-pollinating cauliflower and a green thing, using the profits to fund the Bond movies



Purple sprouting broccoli - a desert island veg and conveniently filling the start of the hungry gap

images

and some more images from this month

recovery

Too many tasks, too many new projects and too many distractions led to too many plants not getting the attention they needed last year



Luckily most have proven far more resilient than my lack of care deserved, including the moroccan mint

sunburnt and snowblind

signs of another mad spring - sunburnt on friday, snow everywhere on saturday



fingers crossed that the tree guards protect the emerging apricots from the worst of the cold nights

get the kettle on

I’m afraid I suffer from what Simon Hopkinson calls ‘asparagus fever’, a terrible impatience for the green spears to poke forth. It’s a disease that’s easy to catch, this is after all one of the best reasons to grow your own veg...I thought it was a May harvest, but here it comes....can't be long until we get the water boiling

Go to Otter Farm | by Mark D