When I first heard that phrase, in Sunday School as a child, my mind conjured up a very sticky scene akin to ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ with waterfalls of honey and rivers of milk, it sounded rather sickly – not somewhere I wanted to live. Yet, over the years, I’ve realised that milk and honey are simply the evidence, the fruit, of a very fertile, lush land where everything is living in harmony. Bees can only make honey with bountiful flowers around and milk flows strongest when the animals are happy in pasture. This month I’ve milked a sheep and harvested honey, with minimum sticky mess…
Andy and I spent a couple of lovely weeks in Italy, starting in Florence, visiting Pisa and enjoying 9 nights in a beautiful villa in Maremma Tuscany, before heading home via Naples and the island of Capri. This was our first proper holiday without the children and we wanted to get a good balance between resting and exploring. Italy is famous for its fabulous food and wine, there will be more to come in future posts, and I was keen to learn some new skills whilst we were there.
Regular readers, you can subscribe below, will know that I regularly chirp on about wanting to keep a goat for milking. We run regular Cheese Courses and wouldn’t it be wonderful to use milk from the garden? Well a dream came true this month when we visited a Sheep Farm in Grosseto and I had a go at milking by hand, I’ll be the first to say that it wasn’t particularly easy and I have huge appreciation, and respect, for those who have persevered with dairy farming back in the early days before pumps and machines were available.
It was a wonderful opportunity to see, and join in, the whole process from beginning to end. The young farmer, Francesca, walked us around the farm, introducing us to the working dogs (that fend off local wolves), their flocks of sheep and the newborn lambs. After visiting the milking parlour where the sheep are milked twice a day in groups of 12, it was time to meet her parents in the old chapel to taste their homemade charcuterie, cheese and olive oil, served with bread and wine, before separating the curds and whey to make pecorino.
As usual, the milk was warmed, rennet was added and the curds were allowed to set. We then broke the curds with a traditional wooden tool and I was delighted to learn a new cheesemaking technique that used the warmth of our hands to extract extra whey as we shaped it in small moulds. A simple sprinkling of salt left the cheese ready to eat, it was absolutely delicious served with local honey!
Talking of honey, it looks like we are in for another bumper crop this year! We usually harvest the honey towards the end of August, but this year, one of the hives was so full that I couldn’t lift the supers (honey boxes) off the top to inspect the bees inside. So we took two rows of frames off and now have it settling in a huge bucket.
Last week, we filmed the whole process of harvesting the honey, from hive to jar, see how we did it below.
Coming up at Hen Corner:
- Wednesday 12th July Introduction To Making Pasta
- Wednesday 26th July Family Feathers & Fun
- Saturday 29th July Full Day Bee Keeping
- Tuesday 1st August Bees for Children
- Friday 11th August Pasta Together
- Tuesday 15th August Where Does My Food Come From?
- Wednesday 16th August Introduction To Making Cheese
- Tuesday 22nd August Introduction To Making Bread
- Wednesday 23rd August Urban Hens – Keeping Chickens In London
- Wednesday 30th August Introduction To Pickles & Preserves
- Unfortunately a couple of colonies of bees at the allotment have lost their queens, possibly didn’t return from their mating flights, and so the workers have started laying eggs (quite problematic)
- We had a great Corporate Team Day meeting the bees
- We’ve got our first quinces growing nicely at the allotment!
Jobs for the week:
- Bottle up some honey for sale
- Post off the pre-ordered books
- Plant up some fabulous Root Pouches, made out of 100% recycled materials (both water bottles and natural fibres), with squashes, cucumbers and melons
We are about to start our events promoting Living the Good Life in the City here’s the programme so far, come and say hello if you can…
July, 4th – 9th RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival
July, 15th Brentford Green Fair
July, 19th – 23rd RHS Flower Show Tatton Park
September, 1st-3rd BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair
September, 6th-13th Chiswick Book Festival
October, 1st Chiswick Flower Market
November, 8th-11th Country Living Christmas Fair – London
November, 16th-19th Country Living Christmas Fair – Glasgow
November, 30th-December 3rd Country Living Christmas Fair – Harrogate
As we enjoy the warmer days and holidays, we hope to see you soon at a course, event or online!