Bed and Breakfast & Holiday Cottage

Bed and Breakfast & Holiday Cottage

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Country Sports

It's spring again and the wildlife and I can relax for a while and live in peace. No more hunting til autumn means no more worrying about whether my animals will be scared or hurt and no need to will the foxes to come and hide here.

I have spent all my life sitting on the country sports fence. Having been involved with horses as a child and teenager, I managed to avoid going hunting myself though my pony was taken by a friend a couple of times. I've always been an animal lover and couldn't see the fun in it but I've always been surrounded by people who do. And as a fickle youngster I managed to think nothing of going to hunt balls, (probably because the most handsome boys were to be found there - the rich have an annoying habit of being beautiful).

I once went fishing with a boyfriend - a beautiful spot and almost a nice way to spend a day. The moment when I first felt a tug on the line was quite exciting even for a split second, but then I immediately felt awful about yanking the poor thing out of its watery world, a barbed hook in the roof of its mouth. Ouch.

For several years I worked as a PA to the owner of a large country estate where one of my duties was to help organise shooting parties. I don't like the idea of shooting wild birds for fun but it's another one of those traditional country sports that amuses the county set over the winter. They're a funny lot... I should know, I married one of them.

Thankfully William had long given up shooting when I met him and had also decided a long time ago he was never getting on a horse again. He's also a zooologist by training so whilst he doesn't love animals like I do, he has some sort of interest in them. He stopped shooting when he was a student realising the idiocy of shooting wild ducks one weekend and counting them for a survey the next.

And so we sit here in our nice little place, both country people but with different backgrounds and experiences and we're surrounded by other country people with their own views and desires. Whatever happens nearby Brook Farm is, I hope, a haven for wildlife and therefore a quiet, peaceful place to stay. We like it like that and our guests like it like that.

'Harm None' is my motto - 'Live and Let Live' is William's!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

It's Not That Easy Being Green

Today I forgot the mushrooms. I haven't any B&B guests this week so I only needed a few to put in the Hen House breakfast hamper with the sausages, bacon and tomatoes. Should I drive the two miles back down to Tenbury for a few mushrooms or give my guests some lovely organic local yogurt instead. The yogurt it is.

I have dilemmas like this every week. Ideally I am buying local, organic and fair trade and also keeping an eye on how much I use my car. But local doesn't always have organic and fairtrade. So do I shun the small local shops and use more fuel to get to specialist shops or supermarkets further away or do I buy the best I can get locally?

I used to buy my bacon direct from a local farmer but felt bad because I'd taken my business away from the local butcher, so I switched back and now I feel bad about the farmer. The local butcher sometimes has organic chicken, but rarely anything else organic, but he does have local free range meats. Do my guests expect me to buy organic bacon from further away or buy the local free range stuff?

If I go to the Spar in Tenbury for some tonic water and I also need tomatoes for breakfasts, do I ignore their dutch tomatoes in the hope that the greengrocer has some english ones? He's at the other end of town and might only have dutch ones too. It's easy in summer because there is a local farm that supplies the greengrocer with the loveliest juiciest tomatoes which I buy by the box and keep out of the fridge where they ripen to their most gorgeous tasty best. But they're not labelled organic. Should I visit the farm and check what they are putting on them?

In an ideal world I would grow my own, but my success rate with tomatoes isn't impressive - if they manage to get off the ground without slug damage, they ripen so slowly that only one or two guests would get them on their breakfast during the summer and anyone who came in September/October would find only tomato based breakfasts on the menu. (And speaking of slugs - I garden organically and won't use pellets. And being a big soft veggie I am certainly not growing my own pigs.)

Marmalade and jams come from the lovely ladies at the WI - they're not going to fork out for an organic certifcation but I know their fruit is chemical free. But if they run out of marmalade which happens alarmingly often what then? At the moment I have delicious marmalade made by my friend Karen from Hopton House B&B nearby. Otherwise I buy La Vieja Fabrica made in Seville. It's very good and it's going to be the oranges or the jars of marmalade that are flown over here isn't it? You don't get many productive orange trees in Worcestershire.

And it's not just the food that causes hand-wringing - the laundry - OMG the laundry. For a few months I struggled to do all the washing and ironing myself, but was it such a good thing to have the washing machine and the iron running almost permanently? Now I use a laundry for the bedlinen and towels for guests, and whilst they are using environmentally friendly washing powders, they are of course using industrial sized washing machines, tumble driers and ironing machines. So though I can quite honestly say we don't have a tumble drier on green grounds and all our own washing is air dried, I am in fact paying someone else to use one for me. Oh, what to do, what to do.

It's not easy being green but, dear guest, please trust that I believe in respecting this planet and all that live on it and I am doing the best I possibly can.