Running a small B&B and holiday let, our gaggle of girls are always a valuable commodity – their fresh breakfast eggs are unbeatable and they also make the lightest and fluffiest of cakes to welcome our guests to Wainhill.
In these curious times, the hens currency has gone up tenfold! Woe betide anyone who does not check under their car before setting off for the weekly procurement of meat and veg and there are now strict penalties being meted out for those who do not thoroughly search the orchard before locking them up at night…
Our grandly named “Long Border” which in essence is a 60 x 3 metre strip down the back drive has in the past, been used to grow enormous Harry Potter’esk pumpkins and gourdes. Fragrant herbs and fresh salads as a PYO for our holiday let guests and latterly in these “Dig for Britain” times essential root vegetables. It is still strewn with gorgeous wild poppies which give it a whimsical feel regardless of its annual offering but is now also peppered with a succession of dambuster type holes which the hens have created as perfect dust baths. Normally this type of fowl vandalism would not be tolerated but at the moment anything goes and they so know that they are ruling the roost!
Suddenly finding I had time on my hands – no more rushing to the river to beat the sheets on the rocks – I have been creating in the kitchen. The Full English is always the popular breakfast choice but truth be told, it does get a bit boring for the cook – I am the bottle washer too! Moving with the times, I stocked up with some non-essentials such as chilli jam, avocado and crème fraiche and have happily been experimenting with sweetcorn fritters, smart bubble and squeak (not a leftover in sight!) and exotic sounding Shakshuka which I discovered is basically baked eggs in the most delicious fragrant tomato sauce. Home-made Hollandaise – who’d have thought it was so easy to make? And, to cap it all – a Club Burrito which took most of the day to make so has been struck off the all new breakfast menu!
Another project has been converting the Potager from fruit and veg to fruit and flowers. Just in the nick of time a big box of tiny seedlings and packets of seeds arrived and were safely squirrelled away in the greenhouse. With much muttering – this was no ready-made garden I quickly realised I turned to the world wide web to learn more about the care and comfort of these precious plants not expecting to have to take on the mantle of a full time nanny and nursery maid. They have finally made it out into the big wide world and bar the dahlias who are still sunning themselves under glass I have – Tah Da! the beginnings of a flower cutting garden. The blot on the horizon, however, is the two big fat pigeons who daily sit on the Eglu (the Bauhaus equivalent of a hen house) and are beadily eyeing up my baby plants. No amount of shrieking like a Banshee makes them take to the skies so I have graduated to a violent squirt from the hose which they think is a very upmarket spa treatment – sigh. History has yet to relate if I will ever produce a cutting garden and fresh flowers in the rooms would have been such a lovely touch!
With a boredom threshold of a goldfish and the attention span of a gnat I flit from job to job rarely completing a total task but can proudly report I have successfully seen through a few upcycling projects. A tatty old garden bench which in a previous life would have been chopped up into firewood has become a pristine piece of outdoor artwork and an old side table which was definitely past its sell-by date is now a vision of chalk paint loveliness and a practical desk to boot.
These newly discovered creative outpourings have also benefitted my fleet of vintage caravans. The first I bought on a whim with the thought of introducing a sideline of glamourous glamping in the meadow. It quickly became an all-out obsession and I am now the proud owner of several small vintage caravans and a classic campervan.
Each has been lovingly restored and like all offspring need constant care and attention – a spring clean, touch up and new curtains and cushions care of my mother. Alice is a 1953 English Eccles caravan, Emily a 1958 Eccles Bounty, Eric a cute egg-shaped Eriba caravan and the Hymermobil is the campervan without a name – suggestions on a postcard please!
Curiously on a few occasions, we get the leave the place I insist upon a de-luxe room with en-suite preferably marble-clad. The very thought of any form of camping renders me near hysterical and reaching for a paper bag to regulate any erratic breathing. Quite why then I chose to collect classic caravans is a complete mystery. Alice does at least serve some purpose by offering our guests a lovely quirky space in the garden with the best views in the house. The others are pure folly but so much fun!
So, with my weeded beds and borders, pristine paddocks and an infant flower garden in the ground my work is done. The new breakfast menu waiting in the wings for its first audience and the caravans are cobweb free and ready to roll. Bring on the good times once more and we look forward to welcoming guests very soon I hope!
Wainhill in the heart of The Chiltern Hills during March & April & May 2020
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