Happy Stacking Hoedown
Happy Stacking Hoedown

Today we got down and dirty on the organic farm just outside the village. The family who run this farm are forward looking and keen to work with the company on developing new ideas. They already have a deal with the company that they produce only organic food, mostly vegetables, tea, eggs, chickens, pigs etc, and supply the hotel restaurant. The company hope that the farm will be an example to all the other farmers in the valley to increase the quality – and added value – of their product.

In exchange for lunch we offer to work in the fields or help them on the farm as is needed. The idea is sown that this can become a working farm hotel, whereby guests work on the land in return for room and food. Whether they pay for such a privilege is up for discussion, but the principle is that you start to diversify the tourist offer, as its known in the trade (or the tourist offal as its known in the Lake District), and create a more complex and rewarding relationship with the visitor. Two way respect and all that.

Set to work in the fields, we help the female workers weed a field, which is like a paddy but with no water in it. These fields on the farm, only small, say 10m square each, are filled with immaculate rows of raised soil, like raised beds without the walls. This field we are in is full of weeds, but their system is straightforward, if slightly a fine art to be mastered:

Scrape the weeds and the top layer of soil back to one end of the bed, into a pile of loose soil and weeds.

Dig a 30cm deep trench at one end, across the narrow end.

Dig trench wall back moving the soil along, filling the trench with the scraped weeds as you go (putting the nutrients back into the soil)

Tidy up broken soil bed until it is as perfect as any corporation flower bed.

It takes a bit of mastery, but once in your stride it’s very therapeutic and relaxing even in searing heat.

Lunch is cooked on a giant wok in a back room kitchen over a wood fire. We have dofou, parsnips, mushrooms, choi, rice, radish leaves, something like sugar beet soup and soya milk all home made and all organic (including organic human waste compost of course). It tastes great and we feel super healthy until we are told its all been sprinkled with MSG. I think they can miss that bit out in the new plan.

After lunch Maria and I dress one of the rooms to show how it could look to attract their new city tired, rural craving, free range organic seeking customer base. Well, Maria dresses the room and I remove the giant spiders, bugs and weevils. We do our best with limited resources, but sort of admit defeat when it is clear that the furniture is so grotesque that it makes Stollers of Barrow look like http://www.poliformuk.com/

We arrange to return on Tuesday armed with a few more tricks, but the idea is launched and this relationship will continue, no doubt with a few awkward conversations about why poverty chic furniture is so sought after.

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