I know that many of you struggled to place your orders last week – the gremlins were running riot in the updated website, which was frustrating for all concerned. The problem didn’t affect everyone, but judging by the number of double, triple & quadruple duplicate orders that I received it was a significant number of you. It took two days of investigation by the technical boffins to discover where the glitch was hiding and then to fix it. I am confident that the ordering procedure will now work as it should, because no duplicate orders were received after being told that the mystery had been solved. Apologies for the hassle; normal service is resumed….fingers crossed.

Well that was a blast from the past – a whole week of proper winter weather. Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone. The change from this evening is going to be dramatic, wet and mild, so the ground will revert to its pre cold snap quagmire condition. It has been so nice to have firm ground underfoot, and Nellie hasn’t needed to be hosed down after walking. One downside has been the need to constantly de-ice the hens drinkers, but at least their run has had a week of respite.

On my way home last evening I stopped the van by the upper part of the moat to test the ice. I gingerly put my toe on the edge and need not have worried, because it was thick and strong, like obscured bathroom glass, and as slippery as a very slippery thing. I was keen not to push my luck so I didn’t venture far out on to the polished surface – age makes one cautious. In the past I would have slid on the natural rink with gay abandon, but images of broken limbs, head bandaged with vinegar and brown paper, or standing in waist high freezing cold water made me retreat, intact, but disappointed in my cowardice. With some encouragement from enthusiastic companions I would have been on the ice, but the muttering in my ear from the monkey on my shoulder was not enough to embolden me. Instead I skimmed a couple of sticks across the surface on the moat, making that skittering chattering sound that is unique to frozen ponds, so evocative of winters past.

The ‘Big House’ looking picturesque early last week

The cold weather, as pretty as it was, has presented some issues with the supply of vegetables. Leafy greens have been particularly badly hit by the conditions, with frost damage affecting their availability; after the thaw we will have to see the full extent of the harm, but for this week there is not much available. Some root crops are also in short supply, purely because the ground has been too hard to lift them. However, there should be enough in storage to see us through until conditions improve. It does mean that choice is limited this week. There will be cauliflowers, sweet potatoes, swede, parsnips, carrots, onions red and brown, red cabbage, and a return of beetroot. Ginger, garlic and Turmeric, baking potatoes, ‘Cara’ for roasting and mashing, ‘Linda’ for boiling. Lemons, kiwi, blood oranges, Seville oranges, and ‘Gala’ apples are your fruit options. Mushrooms are in the shop, but supply continues to be so haphazard at the moment that I really don’t know what will be available. Order what you like, but temper your sense of anticipation to avoid disappointment.

I had my follow up meeting with the Soil Association last week. I had sent a whole load of information/records/plans for scrutiny as requested during the inspection, so this second telephone call was to discuss how my systems match up to the Organic standards. The woman conducting the assessment generally found my record keeping and adherence to the regulations very good, but…. On our first call she voiced her concerns over the labelling of apple juice and honey, so I made the descriptive changes on the website as mentioned a couple of weeks ago, making it clear that those items were not strictly organic. That wasn’t enough. Because my company name is Moyns Park Organics, it apparently makes it too confusing for customers if the ‘O’ word is on the label in any form. Therefore I have been obliged to have my logo redesigned specifically for the non-organic products. It seems a bit pedantic, but you can’t fight the system.

I had a very interesting Buzzard encounter last week. I was driving towards Moyns Park when I saw a pair of Buzzards on the ground by the road. One was on the verge close to a hedge whilst the other was beneath the hedge and seemed to be struggling to move. I wondered if it was damaged in some way, so I turned around to take a closer look. As I approached on foot the bird on the verge flew off, but only alighted in a small tree 30 metres away to observe proceedings. The second bird backed away from me into the ditch below the hedge, and as I got closer I could see that it had a hedgehog in its talons and was dragging it up the other side of the ditch and through the sheep fence behind it. Alarmed by my presence it relinquished its grip on its prey, squeezed through the mesh of the fence and then flew to a spot a few metres away. The first bird flew down from its perch to the other one whereupon they both rose into the air sparring with each other. My interpretation of the scene is that one of the Buzzards discovered a roadkill Hedgehog and decided to take it to the hedge for a leisurely meal. The second Buzzard spotted what was going on and thought that it would like to share the bounty, but the first bird wanted to protect its find. As I departed, both birds were heading back to where the Hedgepig had been left, I hope that they came to an understanding and shared the spoils.

Right, I’m off; it’s Jennifer’s birthday today so I’m chief cook and bottle washer. Thank goodness for Valentine’s Day meal deals!

Have a good week.

Phil

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