Good morning everyone. Here is the last of our guest posts. We are very lucky to be off to the UK today to visit with Anne in East Anglia. She blogs at Life in Mud Spattered Boots. I will be back on my farm on Sunday night and see you all bright and early on Monday morning. Until then: Welcome Anne!
One of the best things about reading blogs is discovering how different life is on a farm in another country. I come inside complaining about the cold and damp only to switch on the computer to see Cecilia struggling through snowdrifts and farmers in Australia battling with dust and parched fields in 40C heat. Perhaps the only constant is that farmers everywhere depend on the weather.
So, welcome to Slamseys Farm where daytime temperatures currently hover around the 8C mark, the fields are wet but spring is just around the corner (fingers crossed). We live about forty miles from London, neighboured by housing estates to the north and a racecourse (the newest in England) to the south. Sometimes it feels as though Essex is disappearing under a sea of new roads and houses, but look eastwards and westwards from the farm and the fields stretch out in the traditional patchwork pattern of the English countryside.
On the farm we grow wheat, oilseed rape (canola) and field beans, willow trees for cricket bats and Christmas trees that we sell from our Christmas Tree Barn each December. The name Slamseys is thought to come from the Old English for “sloe tree enclosure on the hill” and there is still a great deal of blackthorn (which bears sloes) in the hedgerows that form the boundaries to our fields. One of our daughters has a successful business making Sloe Gin and other fruit gins using fruit and flowers that we pick from the fields and hedgerows around the farm.
At the heart of the farm is the farmyard with its mixture of traditional and modern barns, a pond that would have been used for watering livestock and the farmhouse. In Essex, our traditional barns are timber framed with steeply pitched roofs and walls clad with horizontally laid black weather-boarding above a brick plinth. Many traditional barns and farm buildings are too small or awkward for modern machinery so farmers rent them to other businesses or convert them into offices, houses, shops or wedding venues. We recently renovated The Barley Barn with its beautiful medieval timbers into an art gallery. Twenty years ago the yard was very quiet and a little bit lonely with only Bill and one other person working on the farm, but now the yard’s a bustling place again with other businesses based here in various buildings. Even the fields are busy at weekends when people walk their dogs along the public footpaths that criss-cross the farm.
There haven’t been livestock kept commercially on the farm for over fifty years but we have a few hens and guinea fowl that wander around the yard, ducks on the pond and horses kept at livery, which means I can gaze at beautiful horses grazing in the fields without the hassle of looking after them. Oh, and pigs. We used to have a beautiful Gloucestershire Old Spots sow called Ermintrude who raised over a hundred piglets but now we just buy in a couple of weaners to fatten through the summer. They may all be pets, but I don’t think it would feel like a proper farm without them.
Thank you Cecilia for letting me share our farm with your readers.
From one Essex lass to another I was born in Basildon)..well done….If you tell me where you are in Essex I could drop in to visit on one of my few visits back to UK….It has been an honour and a privilege to read about Slamseys Farm and learn about Sloe Gin…daughters bottle design is delightful…so carry on the good work…and thank you so much for letting us peep into your life
Another Essex girl! We’re a bit further north than Basildon, in Braintree.
Wow! The green is a feast for my eyes at this time of year! Beautiful barn, and it looks like a big operation you have there. I wouldn’t mind trying some of that gin, either :*)
The gin is very good. I get to help with the tasting sessions when my daughter is trying to perfect her recipe, which is a pretty good job and certainly makes up for all the cold fingers picking the sloes.
So lovely to see you here, Anne, as c’s guest writer. I’ve followed your blog and interests and developments on the farm for years, and thoroughly enjoy it. Here’s to the quick arrival of spring (although we had snow this morning in West Sussex!) xx
Hello Misky. Snow this morning! It looks overcast here and is cold this morning but I hope we don’t get any snow.
This was a lovely post, thank you. Reading the word ‘hedgerow’ in your post seems so very…British, and quaint, and fills my head with visions of farming and that countryside you describe.
Thank you. Hedgerow does seem very quaint doesn’t it? We have no stone walls around here so we have lots of hedges.
Beautiful story and loved the photography!
Lovely post Anne. I’m a big fan of sloe gin and your daughter’s bottle looks very tempting. Can I ask what you are using on your oil seed rape now that the neonics ban is in place?
The oilseed rape was badly hit by flea beetle and now getting decimated by pigeons. We’re looking for a crop to replace it, so may not grow it much longer.
Sorry to hear that. Was the crop hit as a result of not using neonics, do you think? Or is it hard to tell?
Neonics. Several crops around here were re-sown so at least ours weren’t that bad.
What a beautiful picture of your fruit bounty. I have never tasted Sloe Gin. Thanks for showing us around your Farm and I am definitely going to explore your blog quite a bit more. Laura
Thank you. Sloe Gin tastes very good, which is surprising as the sloes are disgusting.
Just love the picture of all the colorful fruit lined up! Gorgeous! And to read about your GOS sow Ermintrude! We have these heritage pigs too, and just love them. They are rather rare in the US. You certainly do have a lovely piece of paradise. Thank you for sharing it with us!
GOS pigs are my favourites. Apart from a scary time when Ermintrude tried to eat her first litter (we gave her a sedative and Bill went to the pub for a pint of beer for himself and a quart for Ermintrude) she was docile and a wonderful mother.
Thanks for sharing! I see you do a Taxidermy class. Might need to get some tips when our old Siamese kicks the bucket. 🙂
Taxidermy is a bit different but very interesting. I’ve only done a mouse so far but hoping to try something bigger.
Oh Jean, you made me laugh , thank you.
I loved your photographs! The barn is especially lovely, and I wonder who designed the label for the sloe gin bottle – it’s beautiful! Thank you for sharing about your farm! 🙂
Thank you. The labels were designed by a London company B&B; John Ray (who was a famous naturalist and classified flora and fauna) lived down the road and so the labels reflect the link.
Thanks for your lovely contribution to our guest week! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lovely photos!
Slamseys Farm seems a very enterprising place, as well as beautiful. The guinea fowl are lovely in the photo, but maddening to live with due to their constant raucous croak. They are definitely better on a plate! Do you run the art gallery, or is that one of the rented facilities? My husband is on his way home from Essex as I write – his son lives in Colchester and his daughter just over the border in Suffolk.
Small world! One of my daughters runs the art gallery. The guinea fowl are noisy but highly entertaining.
How wonderful to see your farm. And very enterprising to make products from the “fruits” of your labor. Tho not a drinker myself (I have a bit of a problem with all things alcohol, runs in the family), the bottle is beautiful and I love the graphics! The art gallery is a wonderful idea. I love the idea of turning what you have into something functional, productive and beautiful at the same time. Thank you for the inspiration, Anne, and for the look into your wee spot of the England countryside.
Thanks Kim. It’s very satisfying making the most of what we have.
Hello Anne, this is so wonderful, like a hand-picked, lovely, boutique blog hop! I loved seeing a glimpse of your farm and now will pop over to your blog to learn more about you. I also live about 40 miles out of London, OXON, but only part of the year. You know what? In late summer I also make hedgerow jam and pick sloe berries for sloe gin. Last year I bought a small bottle of gin, poured half out into a water bottle, stuffed them both full of berries and brought them to Vancouver, where I divided the sloe gin and berries into a third bottle. Lovely treat at Christmas time. I had very little idea of what I was doing, but it turned out great! Off to visit you now. 😀
It sounds as though you know what you’re doing with the sloe gin. Hope it tasted good. How wonderful to live in Vancouver and Oxon. I love Oxford and Vancouver is on my list to visit one day (trouble is that it’s a very long list and gets longer every year).
“Oh to be in England now that April’s almost here!” Such a lively farm with so much going on and only 40 miles from London. Sounds idyllic, Anne. I love the fruits and flowers so beautifully arranged. Wish I could identify them. I’m going to have to visit your blog now too. I could spend my whole day visiting farming blogs. City girl asks, what is that machine called? Is it a combine? And oh that barn! I just took a deep breath thinking of it and could almost smell it! Thank you so much for inviting us to enjoy your life. I’m amazed you have so many compatriots so close-by.
The fruits, from the top, are Hawthorn Berries, Wild Pears, Blackberries, Crab Apples, Rosehips, Sloes and more Haws. Yes, it’s a combine cutting wheat last year.
Beautiful photos of animals in green pastures are so deceiving. City people in California dream of owning their own small “farms” with scenes like that. Except it costs a fortune to irrigate fields here to keep them that green. We’re in our very short green season right now, trying to enjoy every minute of it before the annual grasses go to seed and turn dull yellow, which they are for 9 months of the year.
The green landscape photo was taken in May, which is the time of year that England looks its very best. At the moment it’s mostly brown earth and trees with no leaves, though the wheat in the fields is green. Luckily we don’t have to irrigate here.
Hi Anne, I visited your blog and love your little hand-made books. They look lovely. Your pigs look just like ones we have in my German village.
Thank you Anne. And also thank you so much for coming up with this lovely page so quickly. I also love the line up of wild fruits.. Just beautiful.. have a gorgeous day.. c
It’s been my pleasure Cecilia. Thanks for asking me.
Lovely photos. The barn looks so grand. The wonderful posts this week have made me homesick for the farm and I haven’t even lived on a farm ever! And now I know where the sloe comes from in Sloe Gin. Thank you for posting.
The sloes are so astringent that even the birds don’t eat them, yet them make a delicious drink. I just wonder who thought of using them.
What a lovely post. It is nice to see your barns can be reused to such good purpose. The craftmanship of your barn is awesome. It is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your home with us. Cecilia your have done us proud. This week has been very special. Had to check in first thing in the morning. Thank you to all who have contributed their time. Great pictures, too.
I find it amazing that some of the timber in the barn was first used in the fourteenth century and it’s still holding up a big barn.
sounds enchanting – loved the photos. Love the mixture of art and farm. Best wishes!
Just lovely…everything, the beautiful photos, the story about your farm, animals and art! And I’ve lived on this planet for (a very long time) and never knew what the sloe in sloe gin was…It blew me over to know that it is a fruit..Now I can drink Sloe gin fizzes, knowing how healthy they are for you! 🙂
Cinders, thank-you for introducing us to all these enchanting places and people! See you Monday morning back on the Farmy! 🙂
Must remember that next time I have a sloe gin. It’s fruit so must be healthy 🙂
If those wonderful old barn beams could speak, I bet they would have tales to tell! I am across the little pond in County Antrim. I am on the edge of a town but with green fields within a mile in all four directions. I loved my walk round your farm without the ‘smells’ – You would never guess I was a city girl, born and bred, would you? The Slamseys Sloe Gin looks real classy, I must watch out for it.
Thank you for minding the farmy for the day.Shortly I will join the queue over at Life in Mud Spattered Boots, but first, I must wave my duster about and hang up the bunting for the return of Celi, my sister by choice!
If only we could have smells to waft from the computer as we watched. No doubt it will happen one day. It feels strange without C here doesn’t it?
Hopefully she is sleeping right now before her long journey home. Is the bunting hanging straight?
am home and the bunting is fantastic!! who knew..love love love!!
G’Day from Australia Anne, I enjoyed reading about your farm and loved the photos. I am originally from the UK, and had forgotten about hedgerows in the English countryside (it is a lovely old quintessential English word), very English. It was nice to hear it again, reminded me of my roots!
The photo of the wild fruits all lined up would make a fantastic picture to put on your wall (or display in the art gallery). I love it.
I hope it brought back good memories. In the summer we’re having an exhibition which will include wild fruits laid out and left to age. I’ve worked it out in my mind, but not sure if it will work in real life.
Being a rather avid late-night watcher of ‘Escape to the Country’ I seem to have wondered around the hedgerows of Essex forever. Interesting post showing how the passage of time has changed your usage of land and buildings and brought both city ‘activities’, treechangers and weekend visitors closer: truly commuter country now – both interesting and yet a little sad . . . Wonderful end to a great series of farm visits, each different, each fascinating – thank you Celi 🙂 !
You’re right, we are truly in commuter country. It makes us answerable for almost everything we do on the farm as there always seems to be someone looking over our shoulder, but that’s not always a bad thing.
Love your blog Anne .. How wonderful seeing you here!
Beautifully captured Anne! Lovely photos, especially of the roof timber in that magical, story book barn! I love your fruit pattern too, a work of art. Happy farming days to you.
Wonderful to see these connections… my first encounter with Slamsey’s was via Celia at Fig Jam & Lime Cordial’s Festive Booze post earlier this year… now I know who Beth & Anne are. It’s wonderful how we are all tied together by these virtual webs and friendships 🙂 It was interesting to read about how you are commercially farming and diversifying but still also retaining something of a smallholding nature.
isn’t this one of the best things about blogs? I love all the connections.
I wish I had something more original to say but I just agree with most of what EllaDee said, lovely to have these virtual friendships via blogs and web, and very interesting to see your farm and the way you diversify. BTW, here’s an original tidbit, my family had a large Christmas Tree farm! That was all my Dad and brothers did, full time job between growing and cutting and planting, and digging for landscapers! xxx
Christmas Tree farming – another connection!
Very nostalgic reading this – I was born in Brentwood and lived in Loughton for years, emigrating to Australia in 1966. When I lived in the UK I never appreciated the beauty of the country and those delightful public footpaths. It would be a dream come true for me to walk along some of those footpaths with my goldens, it is so hard to find places to take one’s dogs in Australia, often you feel like a second class citizen when you have a dog with you. Taking dogs on public transport is out of the question. Love your beautiful barn. Thank you for telling us about your home. Joy
Yet another Essex girl. We’re very lucky to have so many footpaths in the UK that anyone can walk along – we walked from the south coast to North Yorkshire (roughly along the Greenwich Meridian Line) on public paths.
So much beauty! And thank you so much for sharing this with us. I’m a designer/art director type and I must say that Sloe Gin label is very beautiful. I love it. The moth illustration is exquisite. And the timbers in your old barn are breathtaking. Lucky they are still in such good shape. We renovated an old barn in France and were sad to have to replace so many of the old timbers. I had some of them cut into big slabs which I use for end tables. But it’s not the same as seeing those proud strong beams rising steeply over your head like the vaults of a cathedral. Again, thank you. I’m going to check out your blog now.
A few of the roof timbers were a bit dodgy but mostly they were in amazingly good condition. What a good idea to make tables from old timbers – much better to re-use than have to throw away.
What a beautiful farm you have there and a lovely and interesting diversity of business. Sloe gin too….lovely!
I loved the fruits arranged in perfect symmetry 😀
Nice to meet you, Anne. Thanks for sharing your lovely place with us.
I do not know if it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else experiencing problems with your blog.
It looks like some of the text on your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else please comment and let me know
if this is happening to them too? This could be a issue with my internet browser because I’ve had this happen previously.