Fresh Apple Juice!

In my previous blog I mentioned the purchase of a Fruit Press. As is always the case, time passed and things happened (it’s good to be busy!) so it was only this week that we got around to trying it out.

The wind has been strong recently, so we’ve been able to collect plentiful supplies of windfalls from the various apple trees with which to make a ‘mixed flavour’ juice.

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Being new to the game, we made the rookie mistake of not chopping the apples finely enough at first but, once we had learned our lesson, then the juice really started flowing!

From a fairly full tub-trug of apples we produced 4.5 litres of juice. Due to the colour of some of the apples, it is a much darker liquid than you would buy in the Supermarket, but it tastes really nice! I imagine we could also dilute it, like squash?

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Having done a little research, we are assured that it freezes really well so, in preparation for the event, we’d been cutting down our old plastic milk bottles to form moulds in which we could put half-litre bags of juice. That was really successful, so now we have nine ‘blocks’ in our freezer.

New Arrivals

After the excitement of the Tawny Owls fledging (see https://www.facebook.com/100006322028114/videos/1778990112321706/), things settled down to the usual summer routine, here at Inglewood House – longer days, adult birds bringing their youngsters to the feeders, young squirrels being shown around by their parents (with particular attention being given to the Walnut tree!), deer barking in the orchard and lots of lovely guests attending Weddings and Birthday Celebrations.

In recent days the Combine has made its annual visit to harvest the fields around us, followed closely behind by the Baler. It doesn’t seem very long since the fields were being drilled – and how did they turn from green to yellow so quickly? Once the bales have been collected they will, no doubt, be turning brown again and the sequence will start all over again.

Meanwhile the Buzzards are enjoying being able to circle lazily over the wide open expanse!

Our own flock has increased recently, too – a local farmer’s daughter was contacting everyone she knew, desperately trying to find new homes for some hens that she had heard of, who had outgrown their ‘commercially useful’ life. Realistically we could only take two, despite her efforts to encourage us to take more of the ‘several thousand’. To start with we kept them in the run of the larger coop, in the middle of the covered run. They settled in well and fed happily. The others went to see them but soon wandered off, having shown very little interest.

After a couple of days they were introduced fully to the others and soon ‘found their place’ in the pecking order. We have named one Aggie (as she was a little scraggy – although she has already started to grow new feathers) and the other is Meg (short for Nutmeg, as that is her colour). They lay lovely brown eggs which nicely complement those of the Speckledy hens, the lighter ones from our Silver-laced Wyandottes and the smaller Bantam’s eggs.

In past years, we’ve had so many apples we couldn’t eat them all, so we’ve invested in an Fruit Press so that we can make our own apple juice for serving at the breakfast table alongside the homemade bread, jams and potato scones. As I write this, it seems that the damp weather we had earlier in the year is also a distant memory – perhaps we are in for an Indian Summer, once again?

Meg
Meg
Aggie
Aggie

Of Birds & Bees

A couple of years ago we put up an Owl Box in the Oak tree at the bottom of the garden. I was specifically aimed at the Little Owls that we knew lived in and around that tree but it very soon became home to a family of squirrels instead!

Although strongly secured, it blew down in the gales last autumn and the squirrels decided to find somewhere else to live. We mended it, returned it to the tree and waited to see what would happen.

Once again the Little Owls have missed out – but this time it’s due to a Tawny Owl nesting in it! We have set up a camera and think that the eggs have probably not yet hatched as she leaves the nest at dusk to feed – joining the bats in swooping low over our patio as she flies in each direction.

Owl Box - with tail sticking out
Owl Box – with tail sticking out!

The Little Owls, meanwhile, continue to be heard so we can only assume that they are happy where they are. There is a Barn Owl roost in some nearby farm buildings and they can often be seen coursing the field at the foot of our garden, so that makes the set.

Meanwhile, a Sparrow Hawk has built a nest in one of the trees on the boundary between the side of our garden and the neighbouring Orchard. Add the Kestrels that are also often seen over the field behind us and the three Buzzards that regularly soar overhead and it appears that Inglewood House is fast becoming a Raptor magnet – we are just waiting for the Red Kite from Bressingham Fen and the Marsh Harriers from Redgrave & Lopham Fen, which is about a mile away, to hear about us, too!

Most of our small bird nesting boxes are occupied by Robins, Great Tits and Blue Tits and we are looking forward to seeing the fledglings being brought to our various feeding stations by their grateful parents – and it has been great to see adult Dunnocks, Woodpeckers, Jays, Pigeons, Doves and Magpies visiting them to collect food for their youngsters.

We are hoping that the Swifts will soon be back in the skies of Norfolk and will be attracted to one of the Swift Boxes we have built into the gable end of the house.

On the other side of the garden we installed a Mason Bee habitat about a month ago and are delighted to see that four of the little residences are already taken.

Bee Habitat
Bee Habitat

Now all we need is the sun to remember to come out and warm us all up a bit………

Raft Spiders and Mechanical Street Music – it must be Spring!

We’re just back from a lovely walk around Redgrave & Lopham Fen on a beautiful Spring afternoon, during which we admired the blossom on the hedgerows and watched three buzzards lazily soaring on the thermals, and I felt in the mood for writing another blog!

The Fen is only about a mile away from Inglewood House and is home to the extremely rare Great Raft Spider. Although found in various parts of Europe, Redgrave & Lopham Fen was the first site in the UK at which a population of the Spider was ever recorded. That was in 1956 and, despite the fact that their body is 2cm long and their legs can span 7cm, I’ve still yet to actually see one! You can read more here.

Much easier to spot are the very colourful (and noisy!) street organs which will be coming to Diss on May 14th. This brand new event aims to be the biggest celebration of Mechanical Music in the UK. Over FORTY instruments, ranging from Dutch Street Organs, Fairground Organs and Concert Organs to Busker Organs and Musical Boxes will be ‘in play’ throughout Diss from 10-5pm. Something I didn’t know was that the world-famous organ builders Hill, Norman & Beard can trace their roots back to Beehive Yard, Diss while W.A. Boggis, another internationally known organ building company, originated in Louie’s Lane, Diss. You can read more here.

As an added attraction there will be a Rally of vintage tractors, cars and military vehicles in the Park alongside Diss Mere – I won’t know where to look first!, but I must say I am really blessed to live in such a beautiful and vibrant part of the Country.

Happy New Year

Firstly, let me wish all our guests past and present a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Today, after the misty and murky weather over the Christmas period, 2017 is greeted by beautiful sunny scenes over the Waveney valley as I look out of our office window – very promising for the year ahead.

I was browsing on the computer and noticed that there are many diverse events happening in East Anglia in the coming months and in particular our local area such as The Peddars Way Ultra Marathon at the end of January which starts at nearby Knettishall Heath – in fact we were only walking off the Christmas Dinner pounds there the other day! Also ‘Take That’ are bringing their Wonderland Tour to Carrow Road Stadium, Norwich in June.

From an historically interesting point of view, this year marks the 75th Anniversary of the “Friendly Invasion” of USAAF troops to this region. We are surrounded by ex-USAAF airfields with Fersfield, just a mile up the road, being the most notable as Operation Aphrodite, a secret plan for using stripped down war weary bombers as explosive packed, radio controlled, flying bombs was carried out from there. One such mission resulted in the death of Lt. Joseph P Kennedy Jnr, brother of future President John F Kennedy, when his plane exploded over the village of Blythburgh in Suffolk.

The 453rd Bomb Group flew 259 missions from nearby Old Buckenham airfield between December 1943 and April 1945. Both James Stewart and Walter Matthau were stationed there. This airfield is still in use and there are Memorials at both the airfield and the village hall which also has a Roll of Honour and wartime memorabilia. See http://oldbuck.com for information. Also within easy reach are many other ex-USAAF airfields such as Thorpe Abbots which has a restored control tower with the 100th Bomber group memorial and Snetterton Heath, home to the 386th Bomb Group for a few days then 96th Bomb Group. Snetterton is now a motor racing circuit but there is a war memorial window in St Andrew’s Church, Quidenham. Look at https://norfolksamericanconnections.com/the-friendly-invasion/ a very useful and interesting website.

Well, now we are going to walk off a few more pounds – this time at the close by Redgrave and Lopham Fen, while seeing how much wildlife we can spot!

Bye for now and Happy New Year!

Nature studies at Inglewood House – What a Hoot!

This year has been a very good one both for the crops in the fields surrounding Inglewood House and for the birds nesting in the trees, hedges and boxes in the garden – we have seen plenty of fledgling Blue-tits, Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Blackbirds being brought to our various feeding stations by their grateful parents while adult Great-tits, Robins, Dunnocks, Woodpeckers, Jays, Pigeons, Doves and Magpies have also been visiting to collect food for their youngsters.

In recent days the damselflies and dragonflies have been performing their courtship dances – such wonderful colours but so hard to photograph, as they never stay still for more than a few seconds!

Raptors are well represented: a Barn Owl is often to be seen coursing the field margin at the bottom of the garden and there is a family of Little Owls who live in the Oak tree at the far end – their ‘hiccoughing’ calls never cease to amuse me. One of the offspring of the Tawny Owls who live in the orchard next to Inglewood House obviously hasn’t quite worked out what it is and regularly hoots away as we are having our afternoon cuppa. Overhead two, or sometimes three, Buzzards are an increasingly common sight while a Red Kite has been reported nesting in one of the former nurseries at Bressingham Hall. Lopham and Redgrave Fen – the home of the famous Raft Spider – is about a mile away, where Marsh Harriers can often be seen.

After a lengthy conversion, Bressingham Hall, itself, has now opened as a Wedding and Conference Venue, set in the wonderful gardens designed by Alan Bloom.

Smokie, the fluffy grey feral cat who we adopted earlier in the year, is a very loving animal that has really become one of the family. She has now adopted a feral kitten, herself! We are calling him Tiggy and estimate that he is about 16 weeks old. His confidence is building as they play together and she seems to be showing him things, including where her food bowl is!

After all the preparation, we really enjoyed opening our garden as part of the Bressingham & Fersfield Open Gardens, in late June. Despite some heavy showers, it was very successful and over £4,400 was raised for the Churches & Village Hall and we are already looking forward to doing it all again in 2018.

Open Gardens and Smokie the Cat

As I sit at my PC writing this blog another of the thundery deluges we have been having this week carries on outside and I am joined by the newest member of our family – sitting on my lap and purring loudly.

Smokie the cat started off in our garden as a feral who tentatively came to the back door for the food we put out. We decided to ‘do our bit’ and contacted the wonderful Cats Protection League in Roudham who lent us a trap. Once trapped we took her to the League’s headquarters where she was neutered and checked over by their vets before being handed back to us. We have been very lucky that just six months later, and after a lot of patience, we have a tame, but still very timid, loving cat. See gallery photo. Smokie is very shy indeed and our guests so far have no idea that we have a cat at all, as she hides away from any unfamiliar voices, footsteps and happenings.

I mentioned the weather earlier which is a double edged sword as we are getting the garden ready for the Blooming Bressingham and Fragrant Fersfield Open Gardens event on the 25th/26th June in aid of our two churches. On one hand we can’t go out to perfect it but at least the downpours are doing all the watering for us!

http://opengardens.co.uk/open_gardens.php?id=1709

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring has Sprung

Spring has definitely sprung in Inglewood House’s garden – and the grass has risen enough to need cutting, too. The birds have all paired off and are busy nesting. We have several nest boxes dotted around and most already have residents. There have even been tree-top fights between magpies, crows and squirrels over ‘prime real-estate’. A very elegant cock pheasant, resplendent in his full breeding plumage, struts his stuff each morning and then stands guard while his ladies visit our bird feeder just outside the dining room window. Once they have gone, the smaller birds such as robins, finches and dunnocks come for their ‘turn’, followed by the blackbirds and pigeons – a real pecking order!

The crocus and snowdrop display under the Silver Birch is now over, but the carpet of cowslips and primulas under the fruit trees continues to be a delight to see, as always. There are plenty of buds on the fruit trees and the Pink Cherry, visible from the Purple bedroom, has burst into flower – see the photo on our gallery page. The White Cherry outside the Cream Bedroom’s window is always a couple of weeks behind so is something to look forward to in the next week or so.

In the pond there is also new growth, in the form of Marsh Marigolds and a host of squiggly tadpoles. We’ve given them a tub trug, sunken in the ‘shallow end’, in which to hide from the fish but I think they are very nearly big enough to swim free. Our guests love wandering around the garden, looking at the plants and chickens – I wonder how many frogs they will see, later in the year?

We are very much looking forward to the last weekend in June when we will be one of about 20 gardens participating in the Bressingham & Fersfield Open Gardens event. More on this next time but, meanwhile here is the link to the dedicated website: www.opengardens.co.uk/open_gardens.php?id=1709

 

Looking Forward to 2016

I can’t remember who coined the phrase “unseasonable weather for the time of year” – but it certainly has been!

As we bade our final guests of the year farewell, David & I noticed that the first daffodil shoots are already nosing out of the ground. Fortunately the extreme weather experienced by some other parts of the Country has not reached Norfolk, but the daytime (and night-time) temperatures have been well above average. Nevertheless, the male pheasants are now in their full breeding plumage and are often to be seen strutting their stuff to the ladies just outside the dining room window.

We spent some time, just before Christmas, decorating and preparing our Purple Bedroom for B&B use. Unlike the Cream Bedroom, it is not en-suite but does have sole us of the private bathroom, just across the landing. This means that we can now offer accommodation to two couples who may be travelling together or perhaps attending a Wedding at one of the many local venues that are now licensed for Marriages.

Bressingham Hall, which is less than a mile away and already well known to Steam Railway and Garden enthusiasts no doubt, has recently been refurbished and extended having been granted a licence and permission to be a wedding/conference venue.

When Wyevale took over Bressingham Garden Centre, the nursery beds and poly-tunnels that were no longer needed, fell into a state of disuse. Now a group of volunteers from the Steam Museum have set about returning it to nature and, already, Red Kites have been reported nesting.

How exciting to think that they may be looking forward to 2016 as much as we are!

Happy New Year to all our guests past and future.

Talking about the weather

Well, here we are in the second week of September. Shall I be terribly British and talk about the weather? Over the last few weeks we have had atrocious rain and there was even a mini Tornado in a village 3 miles north east of here! I am so pleased that the weather abated for our guests over the bank holiday as they were attending a wedding locally, with the day being sunny and warm.

Sitting writing this in our garden I am looking at a lovely blue sky and soaring high above is a Buzzard. That “Kee Kee” call always amazes me, as it make me think that I am holiday in the highlands of Scotland, but here they are thriving in Norfolk.

Other recent arrivals in the garden are a family of young Pheasants taking refuge from the hubbub of the harvest in the field behind us. They have obviously enjoyed it so much that they decided to stay. Some of them are pictured in the latest addition to the gallery. Bed and Breakfast for wildlife too!

A very handsome adult male Pheasant in his full and very colourful plumage can often also be seen strutting his stuff just outside the dining room window, a little confused by his own reflection. I hope he doesn’t take too much of a liking to our chickens!

A couple of years ago we planted a small wild-flower meadow area specifically to attract Turtle Doves as we had seen this very rare bird in our garden. After some initial success, they seem to have migrated to a village three miles away as you can see & read in a great blog with some superb images by local wildlife photographer Dawn Monrose: www.dawnmonrose.co.uk/2015/09/turtle-dove-2/ I am hoping that, when they return from Africa next year, they will come and visit us too.