So the first few days of the Nuffield Scholarship has been spent in london with intense days spent discussing the direction of British agriculture. Mind blowing stuff and particularly hard to adapt to keeping to a tight timetable with 21 very strong individuals all wanting todo their own thing! day 2 include a visit to the houses of parliment and never being able to miss an opportunity here is a fellow scholar in Westminster Hall delivering some Higher Fingle bags filled with Duck eggs, Scottish honey and Welsh mutton Salami to Baroness Byford. Then we were off to the DEFRA headquarters with more bags and lots of intelligent questions. Not much time for site seeing during the day but heres some nighttime shots of travalgar square with the Lion especially for Elsa!
@ 2010-03-18 – 11:50:07
@ 2010-03-18 – 11:46:21
So here I am contemplating my exciting adventure, starting with a trip to the Nuffield scholars conferance in Washington DC. To find out more about the Nuffield Scholarship read the website
In a fit of despondancy on the general state of farming and farmers attitude to change, back in November I applied for the scholarship and to my great surprise i was awarded this great opportunity to see the world and hopefully add to the debate on where farming should be going.
In the way that Life tends to be, the last five weeks have not been the easiest time and i have so far had little chance to plan what and how I will go about my study, hopefully the coming two weeks will give me time to really get to grips with what i need to do. However i am determined to still work by the rule of one day at a time and just see where each meeting or visit leads me on to.
So now I am busy writing lists, finishing invoices and wages, Labelling egg boxes, washing and ironing and trying to cook enough cakes so that my five darlings don't starve. Of course they will be fine and if they are hungry i don't suppose it will harm if they eat just Chocolate for 12 days.
At Higher Fingle Farm the weather continues to be wet and the ducks are a sea of mud. The hedges are now getting big enough to start laying, but we haven't managed to get as much done as we would like, getting badly behind with the snow and rain. With the cold weather nothing has started budding yet and i reckon we have another week or two to finish a bit more off, well Nevil will when he isn't getting costumes ready for World book day and helping with homework!
@ 2009-12-13 – 23:12:19
We would like to introduce our new chilled boxes. These new fully recyclable cardboard boxes are insulated with wool liners to give us a box that keeps your meat cold using natural products. The wool liners are made in Devon using local wool, in fact some may contain wool from our own sheep. This wool is washed and combed then made into insulation felt that is then cut into strips that are packed into plastic sleeves (recycled of course!) and carefully used to line your cardboard delivery box. They have been tested and proved to be even more effective to keep your meat cold when packed with ice packs then our original polystyrene boxes.
To make these boxes even more environmental friendly we need your help. Please can you fold the wool liners up as small as possible and put them in a large envelope and send them back to:
Higher Fingle farm
Why not use the sticky label that should be attached to this letter. Then either reuse or recycle the cardboard box and ice packs. The postage should cost no more £2.30 second class. In our trials we found it easiest to keep the liners together with an elastic band or string.
To thank you for your help when you return the liners we will issue with a voucher for £3 off your next order (don’t forget to include your name!)
Email or give Rona a call if you have any further questions 01647 281281 firstname.lastname@example.org
@ 2009-11-21 – 14:40:22
Spanish marinated quail eggs
This is a tapa, to accompany a glass of sherry or wine. It is a very tasty dish, which can be made a day in advance if necessary. Quail's eggs are perfect fingerfood, they can be eaten in one bite. This dish wouldn't be the same when made with chicken eggs. The dressing in which the eggs were marinated can be eaten with a piece of bread.
Huevos de codorniz en salpicón.
18 Higher Fingle quail eggs
for the dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil e.v.
2 Tbsp. xerez vinegar
1 shallot, very finely chopped
2 Tbsp. dill leaves, also chopped
1 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp. pimiento (roasted and peeled red bell pepper)
Preparation in advance:
Boil the quail eggs for five minutes with a dash of vinegar.Rinse them under cold water, peel them.
Roast the bell pepper in the oven (200 grC) for ten minutes, turn and roast again for ten minutes. Let it cool, and pull the skin off. Cut the pepper in small cubes. Chop the capers if they are large.
Mix all the ingredients for the dressing. Add the eggs, and put in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Add some salt just before serving.
At room temperature. Serve the eggs in an attractive dish with picks for the eggs and pieces of (toasted and garlicked) bread to dip in the dressing. This dressing is also very good with green salads.
@ 2009-11-15 – 22:25:31
The quails are now laying well and the eggs are now available to buy on the Higher Fingle online shop.
These delightful eggs are perfect boiled for 2 minutes and served simply with celery salt or mayonnaise. Or why not get adventurous with poached quail egg starters or browse the web for other exciting recipes. We just love to take them to the beach and boil them on the gas stove and have hot eggs after a spot of body boarding!
Quails are funny little birds quite similar to partridges with a chirruping call and little scurrying movements. They are ground feeders and have a jump jet type flight where they shoot up into the air suddenly. They need to be kept in stable groups as they can be quite aggressive if new birds are added to the group.
Our quail are fed an organic diet but currently there are no organic standards for quail so we can not call them organic. They are in arks with lots of straw and sawdust to scratch in and they have an Aviary type pen to free range in. The aviary has to be of a fine mesh so no passing crow or buzzard and cats make a snack of a tiny quail.
The quail have been a summer project for the Amiss children, after visiting a farm with quails in cages on mesh floors they were keen to find an alternative way of production especially allowing the quail a chance to scratch. We hope that you will agree that a happy quail produces a delicious egg!
@ 2009-10-20 – 23:27:02
Luxury Lemon Curd
This makes a creamy lemon curd perfect on toast or for filling sponge cakes. I use this when we have lots of eggs in the spring. Try ringing the changes and try orange curd by substituting the lemon for a large orange.
1 Organic Duck Egg 1 Large organic lemon
75g (3oz) Castor sugar 50g (2oz) Butter (salted or unsalted)
1. Cut butter into small pieces, place in large glass bowl with lemon rind, lemon juice, egg and sugar.
2. Put bowl over saucepan of simmering water.
3. Stir until the mixture thickens and if you lift a spoon out you can see a trail across the surface.this should take around 20 minutes.
4. Pot into clean glass jar or dish.
5. keep refrigerated and use within 5 days.
Order your eggs online from Higher Fingle shop
@ 2009-10-08 – 23:16:39
Farmers tend to be naturally careful, which means the green mantra ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is not new on the farm. In fact farmers have an extra phrase ‘collect and keep any junk just in case.’
The other year saw the amazing Agricultural waste registration documents (printed on recycled paper of course) arrive. I make no apologies to including the following extract, which explains what each farmer needs to understand to apply for their waste exemptions
Usually any waste treatment, recovery or disposal activity needs to have a waste
management licence. In some cases, lower risk, small scale and less polluting activities may
be exempt from licensing. These activities are known as exemptions. Under the new rules
agricultural waste now has to be dealt with in the same way as waste from other businesses.
Most farmers will need to register one or more exempt activities. If there is no relevant
exemption to cover your waste activity you may have to apply for a Waste Management
Licence or change the way you operate.
There are more than 50 different exemptions. Some of these relate to specific
industries/businesses, and others can apply to all industries/businesses. Some apply to
farming and agriculture, those listed below are the most common, however you may need
Exemption 40 - Storing non-liquid waste not at the place of production.
Exemption 41 - Storing waste at the place of production.
Exemption 15 - Beneficial use of waste.
Exemption 21 - Chipping, shredding, cutting or pulverising waste plant matter.
Exemption 54 - Spreading of agricultural ditch dredgings.
Exemption 27 - Baling, compacting, shredding, pulverising waste at the place of production.
Exemption 30 - Burning waste plant tissue in the open.
Exemption 47 - Spreading diluted milk on land for agricultural benefit.
Exemption 48 - Deposit of plant tissue at the place of production.
These exemptions are further complicated in the explanations to what they mean, for example the simple question, what can I do with my hedge trimmings? Gives the following answer:
‘Hedge trimmings are not a waste if they are left where they fall becoming mulch around the
base of the hedge they originated from and they do not cause pollution. The trimmings can
be disposed of or recovered elsewhere, either on your farm or off-site, but you may need to
register an exemption. They can be spread as plant material onto your own land (Exemption
7A), they can be composted (Exemption 12), burned (Exemptions 5, 29, or 30), chipped or
shredded prior to recovery or reuse (Exemption 21) or sent for disposal or recovery at a
licensed or exempt site elsewhere. Similar rules apply to grass cuttings.’
It is hard to believe that some one has spent time and money creating these rules, let alone expecting anyone to apply them. As you’ve guessed it’s not just filling forms but the agricultural industry has had to bear significant extra costs. The need to recycle all waste plastic and cardboard will be a good thing in the long term, but the financial burden is an extra cost the industry has had to take on board with a small farm using around 200 bales of silage having a black plastic recycling cost of around £150. The practical problems of sorting plastic, keeping it dry and getting it collected by a registered waste collector are a real headache. Currently most of the plastic seems to be going to china, in empty ships going to collect cheap toys and goods, where it is processed and sent back as bin bags. Maybe with predicted oil shortage plastic will become a valuable commodity for the farm to collect?
25 years ago many farmers viewed farmyard manure as a waste product, now the N, P and K values (the fertility) are carefully analyzed when applying to reduce the cost of bagged fertilizer. On organic farms careful manure management is critical in the planning of production. At risk of the wrath of Crockernwell, the use of manure and sewage sludge may not be pleasant but we all produce waste and is not better that it is used productively and reduce the need for artificially produced fertilizers.
@ 2009-09-24 – 22:10:40
The dust is settling now everyone is back to school. This includes the twins that have happily gone of withe the big ones without a backwards glance! Being left at home alone means i have ample time to tidy up and get all those accounts down and bills paid. But somehow it is just not that interesting, so i have been spending time picking blackberries, trying out my never used bike and drinking cups of coffee with the farmer. After going to a 'get Devon modernized' computer course I am trying again to make our website more interactive and exciting, so back to blog writing! I am also trying to get my head around twitter, or i have been threatened that technology will leave me way behind. But will we ever sell a duck through twitter, stranger things have happened....
Not sure how I do a link but go to Twitter.com and then our user name is Organicduck
@ 2009-03-05 – 23:32:14
It surprises me sometimes that it is not really clear that organic poultry must always be free range. As part of the organic certification we have to let the ducks out unless the weather would be so bad that their welfare would suffer. The Soil Association (our inspection body) are very strict on this rule and we have to provide food, water and shelter from predators on the range to make sure the birds really do go out. After reading a free range duck egg producer's marketing material that reassures it's customers that in the winter the ducks don't go out as they don't like wet weather, i was intrigued to find what if any rules actually made sure that these ducks were really free range. There are EU rules about range size and access but the area is quite small and there doesn't seem to much regulation of them. When i see how far our ducks range in the day and how they enjoy dabbling in the mud it seems a shame not to let them have loads of space. Mind you all that walking probably means that they are not efficient egg laying machines and with the price of organic feed being over £400 per tonne we could really do with an egg a day. I'm sure that like the slow grown meat birds, a completely stress free duck must lay a better tasting egg and they do taste fantastic, but it may be a while before Elsa makes her fortune!