How often do you get to see the sunrise? Many Midlanders rise early to start countryside chores at hours that would make city folk gasp. Sharon Barnsley, considers it a privilege to share the early morning with her cows, rising at 4.30am to spend time in quiet contemplation as she milks Buttercup and Clover, always sharing generously with the new calf, Speckles. Fresh, frothy milk is a breakfast treat her family take for granted along with homemade yoghurt served with seasonal fruit picked in the garden. It’s gooseberry time right now, but before you know it Spring will be here and there will be an abundance of plums to enjoy.
After delivering happy milk to a few customers – even riding up the hill on her horse to deliver to neighbours -excess it turned into cheese.
Creamy feta is really easy and Sharon makes mozzarella, cheddar and butter too. She sells to local restaurants and at the Dargle Local Market on the first Sunday of every month. Lunchtime salads are just picked and during winter, home-grown potatoes, roasted fennel or lima beans liven them up. June provides a feast of produce for delicious dinners – broccoli, cauliflower, leeks and cabbage with plump pumpkins stored in the sun waiting to become stews and pumpkin bread too!
Harvest time can be daunting when courgettes turn into marrows almost overnight and orange trees are absolutely dripping with fruit. Sharon enjoys the challenge of finding creative new ways to serve the seasonal abundance, believing that her family deserve nothing less than wholesome, organically grown food for their personal wellbeing. They adopt unwanted lambs, name them, bottle-feed and gently rear them to become delicious roasts in time for Christmas celebrations.
Right now, after saving seeds from lettuce, beans and butternut, Sharon is planting peas, broad beans and beetroot in her garden. Mulching as much as possible to keep everything snug in the cold weather and feeling pleased that the comfrey border she planted last year is doing a good job of keeping the kikuyu grass in the cow pasture next door, out of her garden.
Sharon recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. An inspiring account of her family’s life of eating only what they grew themselves or food which was produced close by. Get your hands on a copy if you can. Before you know it you’ll be a locavore too!