It’s been a while since I updated news from Millstream, as usual we’ve had a mix of events, & the weather has influenced things. Five of our lovely lambs died, which was very upsetting for us, &  after some investigation we learnt that they had most probably died from Pulpy Kidney. They died over a period of about 3 weeks, usually with no sign of sickness one day, then dead the next. Most were in great condition, since feed has been abundant this year.Ironically it seems that the extra feed could have been the catalyst.  As I understand it, the  Pulpy Kidney is a result of a rapid rise of certain bacteria in the gut, that release toxins, which overwhelm the sheep. The bacteria exist in the gut usually…I think, but can also be picked up from dust & dry soil under trees, & it reproduces rapidly in certain feed conditions. Traditional farmers  vaccinate against it, before the ewes lamb & the lambs carry resistance for about 2 months. We’ve vaccinated the rest of our flock & I think we’re over the worst of it now. We’ll vaccinate our ewes before lambing & see how we go. I think a lot of farms have had a problem this year. We’ve been told that a drench of Garlic & Gingko might work, but at the moment we have $75 worth of vaccine in the fridge, which lasts 12 months, & is probably enough for about 10 years supply for us. Gardening is so much easier to cope with, when plants look sick they can be relegated to the compost with little trauma, but the whole thing of dealing with sick & dead animals is hard & distressing. Luckily our new Suffolks have survived, but our sturdy new ewe lambs are much diminished, aaaah me.

On a positive note, we met Julian Matthews in January, he used to be the editor for the Gardener some years back & now works freelance. How odd is this? writing about someone who wrote about us? Anyway Geoff said he knew right away he was a good guy, as his opening words were ‘are those Inula?” (a kind of ‘in joke’ for gardeners) we love people who talk plants with us. Anyway, cups of tea, several rolls of film  & much talk later, our chance meeting turned into an article in the April edition of the Gardener. What a great bit of publicity for us.

How is it there is an old song  about gathering nuts in May? which must surely be an English song, but seems like quite the wrong time of year. I’ve been humming it today as I’ve photographed some of our crop, I know it’s April, but close enough. After moaning the last few years about our dirth of walnuts, we are inundated this year. I have trays of them drying in the greenhouse & drying caravan, & still they come. The Almonds have been amazing too, we realised that usually the sheep eat the fleshy outers, & since the sheep are in a different pasture we are having to split them open, they are red fleshed inside & have plump, reddish nuts which are quite wet. They too are drying in the greenhouse.

The Horse Chestnuts are falling, they are so beautiful, I love them & always gather them up into little baskets. This year however we have a use for them. After watching, “Grow Your Own Drugs” we are going to whizz them up in vodka to make a tincture, which we’ll mix with Aloe vera gel as a remedy for varicose veins.

I think it’s so satisfying to grow beautiful things & then discover good uses for them as well.   The Sweet Chestnuts are dropping too, I’d like to have a go at making Hummus this year, in my spare time!! We have manged to freeze a lot of fruit, & make 2 big batches of our Golden Autumn Pickle, which uses up peaches & tomatoes.

The plan is to convert some of the frozen produce into edible delights over the winter months.We’re heading towards getting our work kitchen registered, so we can make some condiments to sell. We have had a water filter sitting under the spare bed for a year, & kept saying ‘we must get onto that’ as one does. Finally we decided that Geoff should crawl under the house,( it was a consensus decision, honestly) & look at the maze of pipes & make a plan. About here, fate stepped in, the drainpipe from the bath had been leaking under the house, for quite a while, as Geoff was manouvring himself in the narrow space he knocked a waterline. The fittings were all 25 years old & brittle…you can guess the rest. Happy ending is that our trusty plumber Andy & his stalwart & rather muddied side-kick Emma sorted us out, repaired the worn joints & wonder of wonders we now have filtered water. Pure luxury.