An August Day at Cottage Farm

We were recently asked to write a piece for Sofia Restaurant Week about a day on the farm, so here it is! 

It’s a busy, varied life here at Cottage Farm and never boring! The first round of milking starts at 8am. We open the barn door to a chorus of chatty goats; they all know it’s time for some food and then a day out in the mountains grazing. Our pigs, geese, ducks, chickens, cats and dogs also need feeding in the morning. It’s amazing how quiet it becomes here when everyone has had their breakfast!

We have eleven goats right now – four milkers, five babies and two old ‘aunties’ who look after the babies when their mothers are out with the village herd. We take part in the village ‘co-operative’ where each owner takes their turn to herd everyone’s goats for the day. We walk ours up to the village square to meet up with the others and hand them all over to the goat herd for the day. It’s a great time to catch up with the neighbours, sit for a coffee and buy the delicious ‘village bread’ which is delivered at 8.30 every morning, still warm from the oven. We come home and prepare the cheese from the morning’s milk and then decide our plan for the day over breakfast.

We grow a broad range of fruit and vegetables here, including many heritage and more unusual varieties and at this time of year, when the planting has all been done, it’s a matter of keeping on top of the weeds (we use absolutely no herbicides or pesticides) and watching everything ripen . It’s a wonderful time of plenty, reaping the rewards of our hard work earlier in the year. Right now we are enjoying a beautiful mix of tomatoes, peppers, chillis, beans and a huge glut of courgettes!  Soon we will have sweetcorn, onions, cabbages, pumpkins and later, the root vegetables; celeriac , Jerusalem artichokes, carrots and turnips. For the first time we are experimenting with growing quinoa this year. It is growing well, so we are looking forward to seeing what the harvest brings us.

Some days we have visitors to the farm, who come to see what we do, meet the animals and enjoy a traditional English Afternoon Tea, sitting outside next to the flower garden. It’s a treat for us to share our antique linens and crockery that we brought with us from England! On other days perhaps we’ll have a project to complete – building a fence, repairs to the barn or painting. The farm was derelict when we bought it three years ago and after a lot of time and effort spent rebuilding the farmhouse and setting up the garden, we now have a little more time to make everything ‘look pretty’!

Our produce is harvested to make our jams, pickles and chutnies, which change with the seasons. At the moment, our basil is perfect – rich and fragrant – so we make delicious fresh pesto with it (it’s a real hit at the farmers’ market!) We take photographs, write articles, blogs for our website and facebook pages and regularly are asked for media interviews – something we never expected when we set up our little small-holding with the primary aim of self-sufficiency!

We love to cook and one of the key drivers for our self-sufficient lifestyle is the high quality produce we can grow for our recipes. We always cook everything from scratch, using as many of our own ingredients as possible. As we often have volunteers here helping us over the spring and summer, this means we spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing dinner for everyone! We suspect the good reviews of our food on the volunteer website is, at least partly, responsible for the steady stream of applicants we receive!

At around 7pm, it’s feeding time again. The pigs will enjoy the whey from the cheese (along with a healthy portion of courgettes to go with their grain mash!). The geese toddle their way into their house for the night, the chickens hop onto their roosts – they all know the time and where they live! We meet the goats in the square and bring them home for their evening milking, then tuck them all away safely in the barn. Then it’s our time to relax and think about the changing seasons, with something delicious for dinner and a glass or two of wine.