'The garden is the most productive
and beautiful place'
Food at Pantry Fields
Our garden is the centre of activity at Pantry Fields. If Annie could spend all her time there she would. It makes us very happy to grow as much as we can, there is nothing like sitting down to a homegrown meal after a day's work. It is worth it, grow some vegetables, it is good for you, if you already do, grow some more vegetables! It is remarkable how much you can grow from a relatively small plot to a window box or pots in a yard.
We have a couple of polytunnels, a his and hers. Mine is very regimented: straight lines and tidy, Annie's is a wonderful organic wonderland, I have no idea what she is up to in there, but she keeps producing the most wonderful unusual veg. We use raised beds for most of our outdoor growing, it is essential in our climate to keep our veg above the water table. We do not grow many potatoes, firstly we do not eat that many and secondly they take up lots of space. A few first earlies in the ground or in bags will suffice as there is nothing like a new potato lifted, washed and cooked same day. We have a small orchard, tree fruit is a bit hit and miss this far west and close to the sea, however soft fruit thrives especially acid soil loving blueberries. Annie has been my inspiration and teacher in the garden, she has spent her whole life producing her own food.
We are not vegetarians, we enjoy rearing chickens and pigs or the occasional lamb for our table. It is a wonderful thing to rear your own meat, you are part of the process, you see its birth, its life and its death. Meat eaters should be more aware of how their meat is reared and slaughtered. Organic, local meat, fed on local feed, is the best and only meat you should eat. When we eat meat it is a treat, a wonderful, flavoursome feast. Let us celebrate the local production of food. By food I mean ingredients; fruit, vegetables and meat. I do not mean processed foods of any sort, from additive laden ready meals to spurious soya products posing as meat. Fast food and highly processed food is bad for you and the environment. Eat slow food, cook it yourself, grow it yourself, mostly vegetables, you will thrive.
I am a convert to sourdough bread, the process is so simple. Just flour and water combine with natural yeasts in the flour and my kitchen to make an easily digestible, delicious loaf.
There is no mystery, it just works. I started baking after Annie told me one day that she was never going to bake bread again, she had spent years at it. After persevering with two bought loaves that were revolting I set to and took over bread production. First a Delia inspired, no knead, wholemeal loaf, then I discovered the joys of sourdough rye bread, delicious.
The fermentation bug came from Annie's dabbling with fermented vegetables. She produces sauerkrauts and kimchi, that fiery Korean concoction that is so addictive and good for you too. I am also rather obsessed with my chilli and tomato production and all things chilli related. Anyone for sambal oelek or chilli jam?
Our preserving is not limited to ferments, Carrots are stored in sand. Runner beans are salted, a far superior product compared to the mushy, limp frozen bean. We can eat beans in May as fresh and crisp as they were when they were picked. We do use the freezer for things like tomato sauces and vast amounts of pesto and broad beans and meat and sausages... Hams are salted and salted sides of bacon smoked. Chorizo and salami are hung up to dry. We dehydrate tomatoes and chillies and herbs, and use the dehydrator to make tempeh. There is a myriad of ways to prolong the life of meat and vegetables.
"Real beer is a beautiful rich, slightly viscous, bitter, completely flat liquid, akin to the ambrosia of the Gods" - John Seymour
Then there is beer...I brew rather too regularly. I am a glutton for hoppy IPAs using my homegrown hops, I am a rather ageing hipster I am told. Nothing like a glass of homebrew of an evening. It is very cheap and easy to produce a rather fine ale. Cheers...
We have been members of WWOOF for many years. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is a charity dedicated to furthering the organic movement. It links volunteers, 'wwoofers', with organic farmers and growers, 'hosts'. The idea is to promote cultural and educational experiences for both wwoofers and hosts thereby helping to build a sustainable, global community.
A wwoofer lives alongside the host helping with daily tasks and experiences life as a farmer or smallholder or gardener. The wwoofer is given a bed, food and a new experience in exchange for help. No money changes hands. Wwoofers come from all over the world. We have had British, French, Belgians, Germans, Swiss, Austrians, Polish, Ukrainians, New Zealanders, Aussies, Americans even an entire family of South Koreans to stay here. It is a wonderful way for people to experience different cultures and work together. All wwoofers have something to offer, often in unexpected ways. It really is a wonderful organisation.
Come and volunteer! Check out www.wwoof.org.uk or www.wwoof.net for International opportunities.