Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Alder Carr Christmas Tree Guide

As you would expect, at Alder Carr Farm we have a great selection of real Christmas trees, available from the end of November. These trees are grown just outside Woodbridge by George Stephenson. George cares for these trees for 6 – 10 years, once they have reached their perfect size they are cut, trimmed netted and delivered fresh to us here at Alder Carr. Here's our guide to picking your perfect tree.

1. Pick your spot

Before you do anything else, decide where the tree is to go. It wants to be seen but at the same time, ensure the tree isn’t placed where it will be knocked or crashed into by mulled-wine-filled adults or galloping toddlers.

2. Which species?

The traditional British Christmas tree, the Norway spruce, is attractive but has a tendency to drop its needles, particularly towards the end of the Christmas period. In recent years, it has been overtaken by non-drop varieties, such as the Nordmann fir.

3. Tool up

Gloves are essential, as are clothes you don’t mind covering in needles, sap and bark. If the tree is more than 4ft high, and presuming you are not a bodybuilder, take someone else along to help you carry it.

4. Choosing the tree

First, make sure the tree is as fresh as possible. To test how well the tree retains its needles, drop it on its stump from a few inches above the floor. If more than a couple of needles fall, choose another. Find a tree that fits your space.

5. Taking a stand

Keeping a 7ft or 8ft tree upright for nearly a month can be tricky. At Alder Carr, we sell stands that will hold up to a 6' tree and hold water to keep the tree fresh. Holding a bigger tree can be done with a large outdoor plant pot, filling soil around the tree stem (you may need to trim some of the bottom branches, you can use these for wreaths).

6. Caring for your tree

The two most important things are to keep your tree watered and stop it getting too hot. If you’re not putting the tree up immediately, store it outside where it will stay cooler. Cut a slice of the base before putting it up. Once it’s been put up, water it. 

Friday, 9 October 2015

Buckwheat Mushroom Risotto with Butternut Squash

Although this dish has no cream, butter or gluten it is still as equally comforting and satisfying as the buttery heavy risotto you would be expecting. It also makes a great stuffing inside squash or mushrooms for all your gluten/dairy free guests!
The better the mushrooms you use for this the more flavour you will get. Dried porcini will work great, but the best for this time of year would be to go forage your own; as long as you know what your picking.
Besides for its delicious flavour, this meal packs a big nutritional punch. Many people don’t know that Buckwheat isn’t actually a grain but comes from a plant (despite its grainy appearance). It ranks low on the glycemic scale which keeps your blood sugars levelled – which helps prevent weight gain. Most importantly, this recipe is DELICIOUS and gluten, dairy and refined sugar free.


• 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (divided)
• 1 butternut squash (cubed)
• 2 french shallots (finely chopped)
• 3 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
• 3 tbsp toasted hazelnuts (chopped)
• 2 cups mushrooms chopped • 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
• 1 cup buckwheat groats
• 1 cup boiling water
• 2 cups vegetable broth
• 1/2 tsp dried oregano
• 1/2 tsp fresh or dried thyme
• 3 tsp cider vinegar
• 2 tbsp fresh parsley (chopped)
• salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 180c. On a large baking sheet, coat chopped butternut squash in 1 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for 45-60 min. Allow to cool.
2. In a bowl, place dried porcini mushrooms with boiling water and allow to reconstitute for 10 minutes. Place vegetable broth in a stock pot over medium heat and have a ladle on hand.

3. In a large skillet, heat remaining olive oil on medium heat. Add shallots and cook until translucent. Add garlic and mushrooms and cook for about 10 minutes or until mushrooms have reduced down. Add 1/2 tsp salt.

4. Add 1 cup of buckwheat into skillet along with oregano and thyme. Sauté for 2 minutes and then add 1 ladle broth. Stir until buckwheat absorbs all the liquid, then add another ladle of broth. Continue to do this until all the broth is absorbed, then add 1/2 of the porcini liquid and stir until absorbed. Add remaining porcini liquid. Chop the reconstituted porcini mushrooms and add to buckwheat mixture. Add apple cider vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
5. Toast hazelnuts in a dry pan for about 5 minutes or until oils are released.
6. Carefully toss cooked butternut squash into the buckwheat mixture. Top with fresh chopped parsley and toasted hazelnuts.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Ten ways to eat Almond Butter

Remember a time when there was no such thing as “nut butter.”
There was peanut butter, smooth or crunchy, and it was not very natural at all. It was full of sugar and hydrogenated oil and no one knew any different. Haven't times changed, now we have our pick of healthy nut and seed butters. But what to do with them?

If you've only had Almond butter on bread, or haven't tried it yet you're in for a treat here's our top ten ways to eat Almond butter.

  1. Spread it over toast and eat plain or top with fresh or dried fruit.

  2. Make a dip with almond butter and cream cheese; use it with fresh cut fruit and veggie sticks. 
  3. Make almond butter cookies

  4. Use it instead of tahini when making hummus

  5. Add to smoothies, like cherry and almond. Just use Almond milk, almond butter and cherries! 
  6. Spread over pancakes

  7. Toss through some seamed green beans, 3tbps per 1lb of beans. 
  8. Use in salad dressing, almond and chilli!

  9. Have a dollop with ice-cream

  10. Spread over crackers, oatcakes and shortbread cookies.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Strawberry Fayre Saturday 20th June

We have a really exciting Strawberry Fayre lined up for you this year. We have some of the popular attractions again this year with pony rides, bouncy castle and face painting. Also in addition we have some alpacas and a mini zoo where you can see spiders and snakes and maybe hold an owl. The owls will also be part of a demonstration in the ring.

The ring is an addition for this year with lots going on including the boys brigade band and dog show. The dogs shows are open for anyone (with a dog) to enter. Entry costs £2 per person and there is even a rosette for the winner.

We have over 40 stalls this year a mixture of food and crafts some that have been before and several new traders as well.

We also have a bar serving several local beers – like a mini beer festival! Tractor and trailer rides and of course we have Pick Your Own Strawberries!

As always the Strawberry fayre is a charity event all the proceeds of the day are going to St Elizabeth Hopsice, our charity of the year. Our sponsers for the event help to make sure that more money goes to charity than would otherwise. 

What's happening on the farm in June?

We've got some new piggies! Here's a picture of our new arrivals. 

The growing season has definitely arrived! We have been flat-out on the farm trying to keep up with all the jobs that need doing.

The Asparagus is in full swing right now and keeps us busy picking this fast growing crop every day whatever the weather, nice on a sunny day but we have got soaked as well! the Rhubarb is growing fast now as well and it won’t be long until we pick our first big load for the ice cream.

All the fruit has now been strawed. This is a bit of an old fashioned exercise these days with many farmers preferring to use herbicides right through the summer, but we prefer to use straw and reduce the amount of herbicides that we have to apply; and it looks nice. We are also reducing pesticide usage in the raspberries this year by using insect traps, this will tell us if there is a population build up of insects that need controlling instead of routinely spraying for something that may not be there.

You may have noticed that the gooseberries have had nets hung over them this year. this is to reduce the amount of crop stolen by pigeons! A pigeon can eat twice its own body-weight in food every day and last year we had a nice residency of about 50 pigeons on the gooseberries each day and we couldn’t seem to scare them away. This year the gooseberries are safe: we hope.

We also have covers on the sweetcorn, sprouts and broccoli down the drive. The sweetcorn has a fleece covering it, this is to protect the young plants should we have a late frost. The brassicas have a fine net which is to keep pigeons away and will help fight of white fly later on when the plants are bigger.

Elsewhere on the farm we have planted our potatoes, pumpkins and squashes. Also in any bare areas we have put in green manures (mostly mustard) to help keep nutrients in the soil and maintain the soil structure.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Alder Carr Charity Fundraising

This year we have chosen St. Elizabeth Hospice as our charity. Each year we fundraise and collect money for one charity, we believe that this way our efforts can make a difference.

At Alder Carr we always fundraise for charity but this year it is on a more personal note than normal. Whilst I am sure lots of people are familiar with the work of St. Elizabeth's, all here at Alder Carr know a lady very special to us all who has benefited from the amazing work of this hospice.

St Elizabeth's Hospice helps people living with a progressive illness. Their work is centred around individual’s needs giving specialist support, wherever it is required. St Elizabeth Hospice is an independent charity which provides services free of charge, it relies on fundraising to offer these services.

We hope to raise £5000 for the hospice over the next 12 months. This sounds like a lot of money however the average cost per day of one bed on the inpatient unit cost £480. Our £5000 if we can raise it will buy just 10 days care in this unit.

How can you help? Donate! We will be fundraising in many ways throughout the year and will keep you updated about these. We currently have two things planned:-

  • Our Summer Strawberry fayre on the 20th June will be in aid of the hospice, all profits from the fayre will be donated to St Elizabeth's Hospice. So please come and support this. 

  • Farm Manager Barry Sheldrake will be walking coast to coast as a fundraiser. Walking 200 miles from St. Bees (lake-district) to Robin-hoods Bay (Yorkshire). Walking just under 30 miles a day to complete it in eight days. You can sponsor him at http://giving.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/aldercarrfarm/

We hope you will join us in supporting this charity and we will keep you posted about our fundraising efforts as the year progresses. 

If you would like to know more about St. Elizebeths hospice see their website 

Friday, 9 January 2015

Who let the Cows out? 

I love my cows and I really like working with them. However when I have to round them up at two O'clock in the morning I am not as happy as normal. 

Yesterday morning some lovely sole decided to let all my cattle out of their shed. It also looks like they then chased the cattle around the farm in their car. Aren't some folk just delightful: ass-holes. 

So I now have a young fertile bull in with heifers that are too young to see the bull. All these will need to be rounded up and given the morning after pill (or the cow injection version). So I have to waste time, effort and money just because of some idiot. 

That's my moan out of the way I had better go and get on with tightening our farm security now!