spring at last...

The first blossom is out on the fruit trees and the grass has suddenly started growing as if it somehow knew there was time to be made up. The dairy cows are now outside by day getting their first taste of the real stuff for five months. After a Winter of chewing their way through about eight tonnes of silage each, you can sense their pleasure at being back at pasture.

The first lettuce, onions and cabbages have had a good drenching and are growing roots at up to 10mm a day. We are already having trouble with the crop covers, having lost some in gales over the weekend. After a fortnight the first onion sets are just peeping through and have had their first burning. As with other members of the allium family, onions are remarkably heat tolerant allowing us to run over the rows with propane burners mounted on the front of the tractor. This is effective in killing the first flush of weeds. We will do it once more in about ten days time before starting to cultivate in between the rows. By then the onions will be large enough for the cultivatiors to throw enough soil into the rows to smother the newly germinating weeds without submerging the onions. If the weather is kind and we get all the timing right the amount of hand-work required is minimal.

The Riverford Field Kitchen is now open right through to Christmas. From speaking to some of you I realise that, though the food is incontrovertibly wonderful, we have done a lousy job of communicating how you can come and enjoy it. Part of the problem is some planning constraints. Essentially you must book and you must be coming for some sort of activity in addition to your meal. I really recommend the tractor and trailer guided tours but, if you have been before or are of a more independent nature, you can walk one of the self-guided trails. These can be anything from a few hundred yards to two miles, through our fields and woods. We are experimenting with some audio guides on MP3 players this year. You will normally be able to pick some of your own veg on the way, particularly later in the season. Booking is essential, even if at the last minute (call 01803 762074 or use the website), both because of our planning conditions and because we are sometimes closed or are busy with pre-arranged groups.

The Field Kitchen, like the box scheme, is all about sharing the best the farm has to offer in a way which is fun, not financially exclusive and perhaps a bit informative on the fringes.

Guy Watson