Today really has been something of a media circus, here on the Ffarm:
whilst Tony tackled the morning chores to spare my now sorely-swollen hand & wrist (albeit snoozing blissfully unaware, whilst I cheekily finished the gruellingly painful but absolutely neccessary & long-overdue task of weeding of the Arrivals Yard, at dawn) I rolled up my sleeves & cleaned the house, stoked up the Rayburn & started cooking our wicked but traditionally well-proportioned ‘Welsh hospitality’ roast lunch for today’s delightful, welcome guest – Inge, a BBC Bristol TV producer – who was visiting to discuss a prospective commission for BBC 2. Meanwhile the telephone rang: it was Patrick, another producer (but this time from ITV) who is managing a programme starring celebrity chef James Martin, focussing on celebratory meals; & they’re interested in filming our traditional Hay Tea (such a shame they weren’t here a month – or even a week – ago!). But he seems very keen to use our particular story. However, I honestly don’t think we’ll be able to involve our neighbouring farmers, owing to yesterday’s profoundly unwelcome FMD outbreak – which has unfortunately been definitely confirmed – with the dreadful culling of several hundred more animals, today. I gather this particular programme would ideally like to recreate the whole occasion, including a group of us throwing bales around in the barn before sitting down to eat said ‘magnificent’ spread. But whilst I’m sure it would make great TV, we are simply not prepared to sacrifice our ffarm’s biosecurity for the sake of a short, two-minute feature on the small screen. And this massive meal itself, is not prepared without significant, personal expense – which to be honest we can ill afford; struggling as we are to set up a business – & for admittedly no better reason than the benefit of some very brief exposure on national TV (plus we have, after all, been down this generally-unrewarding road a fair few times, before!).
Having fired up ‘Old Fat-Arse’ (aka our ancient, oil-fired, wheezingly faithful Rayburn) I popped in the home-reared pork joint I’d selected after sharply scoring the rich layer of fat, scalding open the cuts, & seasoning them with sea salt & cracked black pepper. Meanwhile I quartered some of our delicious potatoes (we never peel them, even for mash – why lose all those extra vitamins & fibre, especially when they taste so good?!) & dropped them in a pot of boiling water whilst preparing some fresh French beans, craftily-cooked celery & pan-fried herbed zucchini. I prepared a rather crude but wholesome ‘tarte tatin’ with fresh cream, for dessert (alas, no time to make the honeyed ice cream recipe I’ve been lovingly creating in my head); & I also had plenty of tasty, carefully-selected & mature cheeses lined up – including the now nicely-ripened Boreaux Chevre log I’d made a few days before – in case we had a little indulgent room to tuck away a cheeseboard (which alas, we didn’t – but all the more for meeee, later on – yummy!).
Inge – the producer for the proposed series who is responsible for such gems as ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’; a wonderfully engaging, effervescent character with a big smile & bubbly blonde curls – arrived at around 1.30pm, & we immediately started chatting about the ideas behind these programmes, which intends to focus on a variety of start-up artisan food producers & their goods. We spent an enjoyable hour or two discussing ideas before sitting down to a relaxing, late lunch & then venturing out into the afternoon sunshine to do some ‘taster’ filming, looking at our many different animal characters & talking about why we’re doing what we’re doing: the highs, the lows & the downright ugly. A classic moment I won’t forget came when we were standing next to our beautiful, traditional stone pigsty which Tony so lovingly restored last Spring; Inge had asked me “why cheese?” so I was waxing lyrical about the wonderful alchemy of starting with a vat of pure, wholesome white milk & witnessing its’ magical transformation into a perfect full moon of creamy curd, floating on clouds of whey; when one of the pigs squatted majestically, peeing & farting loudly lengthly & noisily ‘stage left’ throughout my paen of cheesy praise, completely deflating the gravitas of my words of wisdom & reducing us into paroxysms of helpless laughter. But at least Inge felt she’d got some good ‘sound bytes…!’
Having plied her with free-range eggs & home-reared sausages to ensure she enjoys a hearty breakfast at the weekend, Tony & I eventually escorted Inge back to her car which had been left at the top of the drive for biosecurity reasons, before bidding her farewell & returning to the Ffarm for the ceaseless treadmill of Evening Chores. For once we indulged in a relatively relaxing evening (having first fed the kids, of course) with a long, soapy soak in a wonderfully deep, steamy hot bath – owing to ‘Old Fat-Arse’s’ dangerously-rhymic thumping pipes, warning us to siphon off some hot water immediately “or else”, ooerr – accompanied by a good book (David Kennard’s beautifully written ‘A Shepherd’s Year’; my third read of this superb & richly-informative volume) followed by a light supper & a long, much-needed sleep. What a pleasurable day, despite the ceaseless shadow cast by the Grim Reaper of FMD.