Hey, little hen

This month, we are mostly obsessing about our beautiful new Sussex hens, courtesy of James Baty at North Acomb Farm, where we first saw them when they were mere chicks.

The first sun of the year has also brought about a lift in spirits as the kitchen team have planted thousands of seeds and seedlings, including carrots, rocket, radish, Little Gem, rainbow chard and more.Our organic supplier, Delfland, has brought us kaibroc seedlings – a cross between kale and broccoli renowned for its juicy stems and leaves. The broad beans we planted last year are coming on, the sprouting broccoli is going berserk and the kale is in fine form. Meanwhile, in the greenhouse at home we are nudging on produce for our new herb yard (yes we are also going to become ‘yardeners’) including lemon balm, rosemary, sage, chilli courgette and cucumber, so that we can invite couples for wedding tastings and a glass surrounded by edible plants.

It’s also ice cream weather and my husband Peter has been developing flavours, my favourite of which is Parma Violet, whose flavour takes me back to Mr Gustard’s amazing sweet shop next door to my dad’s office in Hexham.

We ran out of leeks from the garden the other day so we nipped to Corbridge to see Roddy at Stoboe’s. He topped us up with a box in a flash. Ever charming and so kind, the faces in the longstanding shops in the village are familiar and friendly.

I love the village for so much, including the brilliant Walton’s Cookshop and the many independent food, gift, artist, vintage, recycled and book shops. It’s the perfect place to meander and discover, and there are numerous choices for coffee and cake. Which brings me back to the hens, their eggs and the wonderful cakes yet to be made. Happy summer – long may it continue!

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