Sowing our oats

Posted: Mon, 03 Dec 2012 09:10

Sowing our oats

It's cold and wet outside, but lovely and warm inside. All our four cottages have real fires – a real treat on wintery days. But what could be nice and healthier to warm you up at the start of the day than a nice steaming bowl of Cheshire porridge?

Yes our oats have arrived! This time last year on a very bleak early November day, our oats were sowed. 'Winter' ones, not the wild variety! Eight acre's worth to be precise. I thought it was futile to even sow them under such miserable conditions but unbelievably, through winter's worst, little green shoots pushed through.

Our little plants flourished to our astonishment and the seasons cared for them as they matured into fully grown golden oats swaying in the breeze!

Obviously being in a Northern location, September breezes can turn into mini tornadoes, but to our utter luck and good fortune, the combine arrived on a gloriously warm day and the gentle breezes had dried our oats to a premium condition. We caught the only two warm days of late September for our harvest.

Our initial visit was to Stretton Water Mill. A must visit if staying at Carden Green or Brassey's Cottage. Here we learned that the millstone grit wheels were capable of 'breaking off' and so weren't legal tender for milling for human consumption. Livestock on the other hand don't have as much say in the matter so a possible broken molar for them is deemed ok. We were advised that Bunbury Water Mill with their superior French limestone wheels, newly restored mill workings and little tearoom was the place for us. So again, a long suffering father, two squeaky children and two very excited dogs were boarded up along with our samples and still lots of enthusiasm and off we trekked!

On our visit to Bunbury Water Mill we learned our harvested oats couldn't be milled. Firstly they had to be stabilized – nothing is ever that simple!

Hence the sample box was taken over to Mornflake in Crewe to check the moisture content. We were now on a steep learning curve. The moisture content of the oats has to be sixteen or less – happy days, ours were!

They were on the upper limit but accepted as a sample all the same. By undertaking our own small endeavours of farming, it was making us a lot more aware of many farmers who literally have to make their living often at the mercy of the weather. A bit similar to having holiday cottages in some pretty parts of England!

Our fourteen tonnes of oats were collected from the agricultural contractor's storage by a Mornflake truck and then transported back to their mill. We have brought back several bags of our jumbo and porridge oats. Environmentally friendly packaging was sourced and so was a hugely expensive rodent proof metal storage unit! Our Carden porridge oats will soon adorn our welcome packs and possibly some flapjack too – if time and energy allow!

We've also bought some 'scroats' back that now just need to be rolled. We will do this at Stretton or Bunbury Mill and hopefully then feed them to our newest addition – a lovely four year old traditional Hereford beef cow and her three month old bull calf – grazing on our heritage meadows at Bank Farm. Stars of a future blog!

Didy
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