Sophie at the Cottage & her favourite countryside things February 28, 2017 22:05
This week at Pheasant Plucker & Son, we’re delighted to welcome guest Instagrammer Sophie, from Sophie at the Cottage. We can’t get enough of her feed which is packed full of beautiful country scenes, inviting pub corners and relaxed, laidback cottage interiors (not to mention a good sprinkling of Labradors!)
We asked Sophie a few quick questions about her life in Oxfordshire as she shared some of her Instagram photos with us:
Favourite country pub?
I think one of my favourite country pubs is The Bull in Charlbury, it has the best fire, interior and is so cosy. The food is fab too!
The Bell at Hampton Poyle does the an epic Sunday roast! I can't fault it at all (it's another pub I would definitely recommend)
My favourite thing to do in the countryside is…
without a doubt walk the dogs.
If I didn't live in the countryside I'd live in…
Bournemouth, I absolutely love the sea, it's just so peaceful on the beach.
What are the first three things you’d put in your perfect picnic hamper?
Definitely prosecco or champagne as you need some fizz at a picnic! Then it would probably have to be a scotch egg from the butcher and Tyrells crinkle cut cheese and pickled onion crisps (not the healthiest hamper!)
(But it sounds good to us!)
Best place for a weekend walk?
I live really close to Blenheim Palace so it’s always been somewhere I can walk to with my friends and family and enjoy a wander around.
I couldn't live without…
My labradors. We’ve had them as part of the family for as long as I can remember so I can't really envision a home without them now. They are just the most loving animals.
Tell us a secret!
This isn’t a particularly juicy secret but I have an obsession with reality TV - I watch all of it - Keeping up with the Kardashians, every Real Housewives, TOWIE, Made in Chelsea, you name it I have probably watched it! Sitting in front of the fire with a glass of wine in hand - HEAVEN! My boyfriend does sit with me whilst I do this funnily enough!
Thanks so much for sharing your photos and favourites Sophie! We love them.
Have you seen Pheasant Plucker & Son's Instagram feed yet? We'd love to see photos of you using our products.
Easy weekend muesli biscuits February 03, 2017 14:19
The weekend is right around the corner, so we thought it would be a good time to share this deliciously easy recipe for muesli biscuits, courtesy of Ma Pheasant’s friend Sandra. They are sweet and crunchy and perfect with coffee on a lazy Sunday morning. We have a load of hazelnuts left over from the Autumn so I chopped some of these up into chunks and added them as well, which made them a bit nuttier than normal. If you don’t have hazelnuts to hand, just leave them out, or you could add a few chopped almonds or even peanuts.
4oz plain flour
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
handful of chopped hazelnuts (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°
- Put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir thoroughly with a wooden spoon until combined.
- On a sheet of greaseproof paper, place little spoonfuls of the mixture (about the size of a 2p) leaving plenty of space in between them as they will spread out as they bake.
- Place on the middle shelf in the oven and cook for 8 - 10 minutes until golden brown, then leave on a rack to cool thoroughly (they will crispen up as they cool down so if you prefer a chewier biscuit, take them out earlier).
And that's it... a plate of homemade biscuits, almost quicker than you can say "HOBNOBS". Have a great weekend, everyone.
(Have you seen our gorgeous Pheasant Plucker & Son teatowels? They add a stylish, humourous touch of the countryside to any kitchen).
Ghosts of Christmas past December 22, 2016 22:49
On our landing growing up we had a large mahogany chest. It was highly polished and we loved sliding across it on our tummies in our pyjamas before bedtime. I have a very clear memory of doing this one Christmas Eve and pausing mid-slide to look out the window. I pictured Father Christmas being pulled by the reindeer through the sky and squeezed myself in excitement at the thought that he was on his way and he'd be here with us soon. There's nothing in life quite like the anticipation of Christmas Eve when you're a child.
Christmas was always a busy time with us. We had a large family, with 9 cousins on one side and 10 on the other so our festivities weren't for the faint hearted. Between us, the cousins spanned about 25 years and although we saw some of them regularly, there were a glamorous few who lived abroad or who had better things to do than hang around with a bunch of kids so Christmas was often the only time we got to catch up with them.
We'd generally spend the day with Ma Pheasant's family and then decamp up to Gran's to see rest of the herd in the evening. With such a wide spread of ages there were always a few little ones at Gran's on Christmas night and we'd all squeeze into her sitting room, kids on the floor and the adults jostling for space on the sofa or grazing on cold meat and pork pie in the dining room.
Gran was a hard working and benevolent matriarch who adored her grandchildren unreservedly. She was liberal with sweets and puddings, didn't nag us to eat our greens and had the patience of a saint, so only very rarely got cross with us. She wanted to make sure the smaller children had the best Christmas possible so every year she'd enlist one of the uncles to dress up as Father Christmas and arrive at the front door with a sack full of presents. The doorbell was an old fashioned handle that when you pulled it, actually rang a bell suspended from the ceiling in the hall. We'd hear that jingle and be part terrified, part bursting with excitement as we quickly did an unspoken stock-take of who was the bravest to answer the door. One year before my time, one cousin, not quite bold enough to answer the door himself but courageous from the crowded comfort of the living room had whispered loudly: "Tell Santa I wanna see dem reindeers" and we always shouted it at whichever dressed up uncle came through the door.
Looking back, those childhood Christmases were magical, not just for the generosity of our family, but for the security and long held tradition that they represented. There was something timeless about them and we couldn't imagine them ever changing. That side of the family has dispersed now and we've moved on with families of our own but those years left an indelible impression of laughter, love and fun that we'll never forget.
Happy Christmas Pheasant Pluckers. xx.
We're on holiday now for a couple of weeks but don't worry! You can still shop our Pheasant Plucker & Son range as normal. All orders will be sent by 1st class post on Monday 9 January.
A Modern Country Christmas December 12, 2016 00:00
We'd like to extend a very warm Pheasant Plucker welcome to the completely gorgeous Katie Anderson from Love French Style as a guest stylist this week. Katie lives deep in the heart of the French countryside and is a one stop almanac for country chic - here, she shares some ideas and photos for a beautiful Modern Country Christmas that won't break the bank.
"You needn’t spend a fortune dressing up your home this Christmas – in fact the Less is More rule certainly applies to your country Christmas decorations.
My parents have had the same family decorations for years and they look great to this day. It is worth investing in the traditional kind which will go on and on and on – unless you have a very happy Labrador whose cheerful tail takes a few of the glass baubles with it every time it brushes past! We had a very greedy retriever when I was a kid who used to eat all the chocolate money – naughty so and so!
Nowadays, I love a traditional Christmas but I do like to add a modern touch. If you fancy a change, by using a few on-trend colours you can combine classic and contemporary harmoniously.
Black, White, Gold – Repeat!
I am a country girl at heart but I have waved Au Revoir to my tartan ribbons and gone for a fresher neutral scheme. I love black, white and gold together, it’s such a nice fresh country/scandi combination. Try to keep to the same colour scheme all the way through for a really strong effect and always go for warm white lights. Unless you’re really good at being bold with colour, you could end up with a living room looking like Santa’s grotto.
Celebrate the Seasons
I only just discovered recently that quinces have the most amazing perfume. If you add them around your home you’ll have a lovely fragrance following you about wherever you go. Once you’re finished with them, you can always turn them into quince cheese, or, even better, quince vodka, here’s a fab recipe. I also love fresh eucalyptus, it’s so cheap to buy, makes a huge statement in a tall vase and has a luscious, fresh alpine smell.
I love using vintage finds as much as possible and this large vintage French table cloth is perfect for a special banquet like Christmas lunch. I cut up and hemmed some natural linen for the napkins and added a small sprig of eucalyptus for each place setting. If you don’t have a table cloth you could always dye a sheet, the more crumpled the linen the better.
Get the gold paint out!
Secret graffiti artist? You’ll love spray painting your decorations so bling it up! I lightly dusted these walnuts with gold spray paint to add as decoration to the Christmas table setting as well as some apple tree branches to add to my door wreath later on.
The great thing about adding a modern touch to your country Christmas is that you can do it on a shoestring so no need to blow the budget before you’ve even started the Christmas shopping.
My Pheasant Plucker & Son Wildwood candle is hands down my signature home scent for this year and I think it looks lovely and smart on the Christmas table too. You could also add tall candles to add height and decorate the bases with holly or berries. I love guinea fowl feathers so I added them under this glass dome with some fairy lights and then sprinkled more micro LED lights across the table too.
There’s nothing more pleasing than receiving proper hand written note inviting you for a glass of Sloe Gin on Christmas Eve or an all night party on NYE. So, don’t forget your Pheasant Plucker & Son party invites, who could refuse an invitation from this sweet little bunny?
Bonfire Night and a spicy pumpkin soup recipe for Ma Pheasant November 03, 2016 00:00
Pheasant Plucker's always loved this time of year - mild and misty autumn afternoons of grey flat light, occasionally brightened by quiet sunshine, followed by long, cosy evenings in front of the fire. Pa Pheasant loved this time too – the adrenaline and stress of harvest was over, drilling was done and lambing was a good few weeks away.
When we were really little he always made a fuss about Guy Fawkes night and we’d have fireworks and a bonfire in one of the paddocks – I don’t think organised bonfires had really been invented in Lincolnshire back then. It was always exciting and a bit nerve-wracking watching him light the fireworks but we’d stand well back, sparklers firmly in hand and watch the colourful sparks light up the night sky.
We always had bonfire food, consisting mainly of hotdogs made from Lincolnshire sausages and toffee apples bought from the shop with toffee so hard you could crack your teeth on them.
Ma Pheasant will happily make soup at any time of the day or night and has saved thousands of pounds on therapy by calmly chopping and stirring it all out, serving up bowls of steaming goodness that nurture both her soul and ours.
In her honour, but in no way taking her mantle, we’ve created a special recipe for bonfire night. It’s warm and comforting but with a bit of a fiery kick, just like Ma Pheasant herself.
Spicy Pumpkin Soup for Bonfire Night
(greedy little fingers just couldn't wait until this photo had been taken!)
For the soup
Knob of butter
1 large pumpkin
1 large onion
5cm grated root ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 green chilli, chopped with or without seeds in
1 litre chicken stock
1 tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
For the toasted pumpkin seeds
Raw seeds from the roasted pumpkin
Splash of olive oil
1tbsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper
Quarter the pumpkin and scoop out the flesh, reserving the seeds for later. Lay the pumpkin on a roasting tin, pour over a good glug of olive oil and sprinkle over the cumin, coriander and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper. Roast at 180c for 90 mins or until the flesh is succulent and beginning to blacken.
In the meantime, melt a large knob of butter in a pan over a medium heat and add the roughly chopped onion. Sweat the onion, along with the ginger, chilli and garlic, in the butter for 15 minutes until it is softened but not browned.
When the pumpkin has finished roasting, peel the skin off and then roughly chop the remaining flesh. Add to the pan with the onions, the juice of half a lemon and a grating of fresh nutmeg. Pour in the chicken stock, bring to the boil and then liquidise with a hand mixer or in a food processor.
To toast the pumpkin seeds, pick away any stringy bits of pumpkin and wash them thoroughly in the bottom of a sieve with cold water. Spread them out on a piece of parchment on a baking tray, slug some olive oil over them and a teaspoon of smoked paprika and roast in the oven for 15 mins until they're crunchy and beginning to caramelise.
Serve the soup in warmed bowls, or mugs if you're having a bonfire party, with a dollop of cream or natural yoghurt and a sprinkling of the seeds on top. Delicious, healthy and comforting.
Happy Bonfire Night!
Step away from the screen. Take time out with a digital detox. October 17, 2016 07:58
At this time of year, it's very easy to start feeling a bit frazzled. The long, lazy days of summer are well and truly over and the short, dark days of winter are just around the corner.
It's a good time to pause for a few moments and slow down for a while, before the mad hectic rush of December starts and a good way to do this is to literally press the off button for a couple of days and have a break from your phone, laptop and tablet. We're as guilty as anyone of being slightly addicted to the virtual world but after we lost our phone for a few days recently, we started to see the benefits of not having the internet at our fingertips 24 hours a day.
Here are five simple ways to reap the benefits of taking a digital detox:
1) Cosy up with a good book – studies have proved that reading can alleviate stress and also suggest that mental stimulation helps retain brain power. So pile on some stylish wooly knits, snuggle up under a blanket, light some scented candles to create a comforting, calm atmosphere and spend an evening reading. There’s nothing like a gripping page-turner to while away an evening.
2) Pamper yourself with a long, hot soak in the bath or shower. Slap on a mudpack, play some relaxing music, light some more candles and indulge yourself for a while. Our Bathing Beauty soap is so gentle babies can use it and with a tiny added splash of organic lavender essential oil, it’ll help you chill out and wash your cares away.
3) Keep in touch with old friends. Let’s not pretend that it isn’t easier than ever to keep in touch with people now we have all the benefits of social media. But when was the last time you sat down and really thought about what you wanted to say to someone? Receiving a hand written letter is so much more personal than a text or an email and who doesn’t know someone who would love to have a beautiful card land on their door mat one morning? Set yourself a challenge to write to one person every week for the next month.
4) Take a moment to take stock of your life. Write down 10 things that make you happy and use a page for each to explain why. Then think of five things that make you sad or frustrated and write down what you can do to make these things better. Finally think of 10 things you want to achieve over the next year and how you’ll go about them. By writing them all down in one place you can then come back to them periodically to check in with yourself and see how you’re doing.
5) Throw a party. It doesn’t have to be a big one that costs a lot of money but go to a bit of effort with it. Send out old-fashioned invitations, dust off your records and have some fun with real people. Your instagram following will never be able to dance round your living room with you the way your mates can.
We’ve put together a special digital detox package full of things to bring your focus back to the here and now and away from the screen. It contains:
- One of our luxury hand-poured scented Dusk candles, with relaxing notes of lavender and thyme.
- A bar of our Bathing Beauty soap
- A pack of five Jack Russell ‘Hello’ notecards
- One of our best selling Blue cockerel notebooks
- A mixed pack of our bright pink and citrus green invitations
All this is available for just £37, a saving of over 15% than if you bought the items separately. SHOP NOW
The inspiration behind Pheasant Plucker & Son September 13, 2016 08:17
Today is International Roald Dahl day, which this year marks the centenary of the author’s birth. Pheasant Plucker is a bit of a bookworm and read Dahl’s books voraciously as a child – the excitement of receiving a hard backed copy of Matilda the year it came out for a birthday present somehow became ingrained in our DNA and has been a marker for judging all other gifts we’ve been given later in life.
Our favourite Roald Dahl book is his collection of short stories Ah Sweet Mystery of Life, which includes an early outline of Danny Champion of the World, where a lovable poacher hatches a plot to poach all the pheasants in a wood using only raisins and sleeping pills.
This book, and this story in particular, is one of the main inspirations behind Pheasant Plucker & Son as, having been away from the countryside and lived a city slicker existence for a few years, we picked it up again and were reminded of the wonderfully eccentric characters we knew and of all the scrapes and adventures we got up to as children on our farm in Lincolnshire.
The book resonated with us as it paints an idyllic picture of country life without shying away from some of its darker aspects, which chimed exactly with our own understanding of it. One story tells of a hayrick infested with rats and of the rat catcher coming to exterminate them – the rat catcher is described as a twitchy little man with a rodent’s nose who seems to have taken on the characteristics of his prey. At the end of the story, the grim, unpleasant source of the rats is discovered and it’s this angle that struck a chord with us. For all our wonderful experiences, we knew without being told, that there’s a cycle to life and that it can often be hard. Witnessing the devastation after a fox got in the chicken coop and killed 30 hens or seeing a puddle of blood in the yard after a horse had to be shot left an undeniable understanding that country life, for all its perks, could be cruel and incomprehensible.
However, as in the book, we were never far from a joke or doing something fun and we learned to take the rough with the smooth. There is a sense of eccentricity, solidarity and friendship running through the book and we’re lucky enough to have those in spades to this day. We try to appreciate what we have and we make the most of it. So today, we're toasting Roald Dahl, not just for all his wonderful stories, but in appreciation for making us remember our childhood again – without him, there would be no Pheasant Plucker & Son.
Introducing our latest products September 07, 2016 00:00
If you’ve been following our Facebook and Instagram posts over the past couple of months, you might have noticed that we’ve been carefully developing some new products. Being a small, independent business means we’re always on the lookout for good things and we love having the freedom to experiment with ideas that don’t break the bank.
We begin by sourcing manufacturers who share our high standards of quality and good service and we’re proud that everything on our site is made right here in the UK. We then begin working on the designs, not just for the products themselves but for the packaging as well.
We launched our new iPhone covers a couple of weeks ago and we’re already ordering more stock. They come in two designs – Rabbit and Owl – and have a tactile, matt finish which offers superior protection for your phone without being cumbersome or clunky to carry around. We’ve been using the prototype we had made since April and are pleased to report that so far the case hasn’t scratched or worn at all (despite carrying it around in our back pocket and dropping it more than a few times) and the design is as clear as the day it arrived.
The other new product to hit the Pheasant Plucker & Son shelves recently is a range of artisan-made soap which comes in two lovely flavours: Bathing Beauty is so soft and gentle you can use it on newborn babies and it’s lightly fragranced with organic lavender essential oil to promote relaxation, making it excellent for long soaks after hard days; Peppermint and Pumice is designed especially for hardworking hands. Its volcanic pumice removes dirt, grease, mud and grime whilst the organic peppermint essential oil soothes and refreshes. The soaps are cut by hand in our studio so they're all slightly different and we individually wrap each one in its distinctive packaging. Neither of them are tested on animals and they don't contain any of the chemical nasties that find their way into some commercial soaps.
Both the iPhone covers and the soaps make wonderful gifts – the phone covers are an inspired choice for people who are tricky to buy for as they’re both sophisticated and practical. The soaps are great as a little 'thank you for having me’ gift and or to have on hand if you have guests to stay.
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Beautiful Blackcurrants August 23, 2016 15:15
Pheasant Plucker would make a very good witch. After all, the concept of a sisterhood of like-minded individuals and the opportunity to concoct new recipes and potions in the company of a cat is an appealing one.
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve spent a considerable amount of time hunkered over a heavy black cooking pot, bought for 50p at a village fete, stirring with great intensity and muttering to ourselves. In the absence of a cat, Louie the chicken has stood guard by the kitchen door and inquisitively poked her beak in from time to time.
Unfortunately we haven’t been mixing up hexes or evil spells but just making jam. This is the high season for it, and although raspberries, redcurrants and strawberries are more or less over, there is still time to turn your attention to blackcurrants, plums and damsons. A lot of people think there’s something complicated about jam making and are put off by scary-sounding recipes that use terms like ‘jam thermometers’ and ‘test for pectin’ but Pheasant Plucker has no time for any of that. We like our jam quick and easy and on a piece of toast as soon as possible.
Here then, is the easiest blackcurrant jam recipe you could think of. It contains only four ingredients and once you’ve prepared the blackcurrants, you can be done and dusted within half an hour.
800g granulated sugar
Medium size knob of butter
To prep the blackcurrants, remove the stalks and any large, dried heads where the flowers used to be and wash them thoroughly. Put a saucer in the freezer.
Place the blackcurrants in a large, heavy bottomed cauldron (or saucepan) and pour the sugar on top (it’s important to put the sugar on top of the fruit rather than the other way round, so that the sugar doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom of the pan). Then pour in the water and bring to the boil over a high heat.
As the mixture comes to the boil, skim the surface if you need to and add the butter, which will prevent it from frothing too much.
When the fruit reaches a rolling boil, so that it can’t be stirred down, look at your clock and time 10 minutes. In the meantime, sterilise some jam jars by washing them in hot soapy water and drying them in a warm oven. (You could swish them out with some boiling water out of the kettle without too many problems instead of the full sterilising method but to be honest, it’s not really that much effort).
When the jam has boiled for ten minutes, take the plate out of the freezer and pour a teaspoonful of the jam onto it. (Be careful because it will be HOT). Leave it a minute and then poke it with your finger – if it wrinkles a bit and isn’t too runny, it’s done. Use your initiative at this point, you may prefer a slightly runnier jam or you may like it really thick. If you think it needs a bit longer, continue to boil for another five minutes and then test again. I’m of the opinion that it’s better to have a slightly syrupy consistency than a jam that’s too hard and chewy (if you decide it’s too runny when you’ve put it into jars, you can decant each jar as you use it and boil it up again for a couple of minutes in the microwave. It usually does the trick).
When you’re happy with it, let it cool for 5 minutes and then very carefully ladle it into the jam jars. Let it cool further and then seal with some greaseproof paper circles and put the lids on. Once it’s cool completely, store it unopened in a cupboard for up to a year or in the fridge when you’ve opened it.
And that’s it. Delicious blackcurrant jam in the time it takes to learn to fly a broomstick.
Lovable Labradors August 11, 2016 13:50
Baby bro with Duke the Labrador at a pet show. Literally nothing runs like a Deere.
We had a succession of adorable but stupid Labradors when we were little.
First up was Sam, who was already old when we came to know him. Poor old Sam was epileptic and from time to time would have fits out in the yard. He was always very embarrassed about them afterwards and would hang his head sheepishly for the rest of the day and lie listlessly in the shade. He probably felt awful, the poor old boy.
Next came Duke, star of a previous blog post and the most stupid of them all. If Duke was an actor in a film, he’d be an exasperating rogue that the leading lady, despite her better judgement, fell head over heels for in the end. You couldn’t help but love him, with his big brown eyes and endlessly wagging tail which somehow worked independently to his body. He lived in a kennel out in the yard and would chew anything he could get his teeth round: wellies, toys, sticks, school shoes, large rocks… he really didn’t mind. His food bucket was an old, large plastic tub that had once contained something to do with the horses and he would wander aimlessly around with it in his mouth, tail going non-stop, making funny whining noises with his dog biscuits spilling out behind him, like some kind of doggy Hansel and Gretel trail. We spent hours trying to train him to be the good gun dog he was supposed to be, hiding dummy pheasants around the garden for him to find and trying to make him recognise different whistle sounds but it never seemed to have much effect. He just snuffled around chewing stuff and trying to lick us. However, apparently out on the shooting field proper, he would rise to the occasion in front of the other, posher retreivers and didn't let himself down too badly most of the time.
A classic family portrait with Duke and Sam the Labradors. (That pink jumpsuit paired with blue jelly sandals and extra thick plaits is still a favourite go-to fashion choice.)
The last Lab we had was our golden girl Molly. She wasn’t anywhere near as crazy as Duke and didn’t feel the need to chew everything she saw, although she’d have a quick gnaw of your trainers if you left them in her way. Poor old Molly once had a problem with her legs and had to be taken to the vet, who said she needed an operation and would have to stay in for a few days. Pa Pheasant hated to see animals suffering and it upset him to see her in so much pain. However, the operation went well and the vet called a few days later to tell us she could be collected. Pa Pheasant duly set off to get her and bring her home. Molly was in a pretty sorry state – she’d had to have her front legs shaved as part of the operation and was obviously sore and tired. Pa Pheasant gently put her on the backseat of the car with a blanket and began the drive home.
Halfway back to the farm was a village called Blyton where a dairy farmer had diversified into making delicious ice-cream and we often called in for a treat in the summer. Being from a family where food, particularly sweet things, was seen as a tonic for all ills, Pa Pheasant couldn’t resist it and called in, got out and came back with two vanilla cornets, one for himself and one for Molly. Although I wasn’t there to see it myself, I have an enduring image of Pa Pheasant, with Molly next to him in the front seat, enjoying an ice-cream together in the sun and slowly feeling better with the world.
Do you have any photos of you as a child with your pet you want to share with us? Email them to us and we'll send a bag of Pheasant Plucker goodies to any that we feature on the blog.
Which Pheasant Plucker & Son animal are you? July 15, 2016 15:31
We challenge you to take our quick and easy quiz and find out which Pheasant Plucker & Son animal you most resemble. Apparently we're a rabbit and we're happy with that - it means we're resourceful and quick witted apparently!
Follow the link below or click on the picture above to start:
Summer Loving: guest post from Lincolnshire's very own @jamesmason_photography July 06, 2016 19:19
Ok... so we can't exactly say this summer has been notable for its long, lazy sunny days can we? But there have been some beautiful sunsets over the past couple of weeks and one Lincolnshire Photographer-Lumberjack-Gardener-Explorer has been setting our Instagram feed alight with his gorgeously golden snaps.
James Mason (@jamesmason_photography) lives in North Lincolnshire and takes some beautiful countryside photos as he travels around. He's a proper dyed in the wool yellowbelly and we were thrilled when he agreed to let us showcase some of his pictures on our blog.
Here then, are our top 5 favourite James Mason sunsets of the past few weeks... (and a cheeky extra one squeezed in at the end which we couldn't resist!)
Golden, pink and blue after a storm (this one even made the TV!)
Who can resist cow parsley?
Landscape over the Brocklesby estate
This one was taken at Woodall Spa country park (we used to go on holiday there... don't remember it looking like that!)
Hazy sunset looking up to the Wolds.
And finally... check out the chops on this guy. Cute. as. a. frickin. BUTTON.
Benji, you'd better look out because if we find you, we are taking you home.
Thanks James for letting us show your photos in our blog. You capture Lincolnshire summer evenings perfectly!
See more of James's work on Instagram @jamesmason_photography
And if the weather isn't as beautiful as this outside, come indoors, light a Wildwood candle, close your eyes and pretend you're walking through Brocklesby woods. It's nearly as good as the real thing.
Sweet Williams and the first flush of love May 23, 2016 13:45
As teenagers growing up in the country, we were lucky to have on hand two indispensable manuals for our impending adulthood: Jilly Cooper's seminal showjumping novel Riders and its gripping television sequel Rivals. Twenty years later and relevant passages still pop up, parrot fashion, in our minds in certain situations or at particular times of the year. To paraphrase the beautifully wise and insightful Mrs. Cooper in Rivals, there comes a time in May when even the most dedicated workaholic feels the first breath of summer and longs to stroll hand in hand through the fields with a new love. Well, we've reached that point this year and it's got us thinking back to one such time many moons ago.
Lambing season April 25, 2016 21:30
These months of the year irrevocably bring back memories of lambing season – a tense, exciting, tiring, happy time with all the ups and downs you can easily imagine. Our lambing shed was in the main barn, a large, corrugated tin roofed building that smelled of the accumulated cycle of farm years – cattle in the winter and the potatoes and hay they were fed on; a dusty tang from storing barley, wheat and oilseed rape in the summer, dried mud all year round, oil and exhaust fumes from the tractors and the particular wooly, milky, ovine smell of the spring.
The shed had an atmosphere of quiet calm and it was dimly lit, with warm, intermittent spotlights above the newborn pens. I remember watching my first lamb being born and the ewe quietly panting as her stomach began to contract more frequently. Pa Pheasant had a very easy way with animals, years of experience and a natural empathy and kindness towards them paying off as he carefully pulled the lamb by its back legs out into the world. We looked on in fascination, as this tiny, slimy, yellow bundle slipped out onto the straw and Pa cleared its airway before passing it up towards the ewe to clean. A few minutes later, the lamb struggled up on its wobbly, gangly legs to suckle. Some of the lambs, for all sorts of reasons, had to be bottle-fed and we had to hold the bottles tightly as they sucked forcefully on the teat, gulping the milk down and waggling their tails behind them.
Everyone learnt to give Pa a bit of a wide berth during lambing and to choose their moments carefully, as he’d be up at night checking the ewes and feeding the babies himself. He would bed down on the sofa in the hall in between shifts and be bleary eyed and a bit snappy in the mornings (so many things learned on the farm jump back at you when you have your own children).
As the lambs got bigger, they were taken outside into the fields and one of my earliest memories is watching them gambol around the paddock outside the kitchen window with Gran. There was a slope with a slight lip at the top of it which they’d race to the top of before jumping off, twisting their little bottoms in mid-air in what seemed to be a general celebration of life.
Lambs’ wool would often get caught in the fence wire and it felt soft and kind of slippery with an oily smell of lanolin. We docked the lambs’ tails painlessly with elastic bands, and they'd drop off in the fields. I didn’t realise at the time but they were also castrated in the same way and I shudder to think what the wool collection that I kept in a glass jar next to my bed really contained.
It always seemed a shame that the lambs lost their sparkle and grew up. I guess if there’s a lesson to be learned it’s to try to be more like the lambs in the fields, experiencing the joy of fresh air and life, rather than just simply turning into a boring old sheep.
Things you learn when you're a farm kid April 04, 2016 22:25
Baby Bro's Bunnies March 26, 2016 23:56
When Baby Bro was 16 he appeared home one day with a new pet rabbit. Ma Pheasant isn't the world's biggest animal lover and certainly doesn't like them at close quarters so she wasn't thrilled when he announced his plans to housetrain it and keep it inside. Poor old Ma tried in vain to keep the house in the region of clean when we were all living at home but with a herd of scruffy, clumsy teenagers, it was easier said than done. The thought of a large fluffy bunny added to the mix was probably a step too far but Baby Bro was banking on Ma's easy going nature and she let it slide, on the proviso the rabbit lived outside. Which he did. Sometimes.
The rabbit was named Mayot, which is Lincolnshire for Mate, and whenever Ma Pheasant went out, he was smuggled in for 'housetraining' which entailed him going about his rabbity business and Baby Bro cleaning up after him. He was a friendly little thing and we got used to him hopping about the living room or appearing from underneath a pile of dirty clothes in Baby Bro's stinky bedroom. It was strangely comforting to have him curled up next to us on the sofa, happily dozing away, while we watched tv.
Everything was going well until one day when Baby Bro picked him up to put him back in his hutch outside before Ma got home. Our old cat happened to prowl past at the same time and she glanced in Mayot's direction, licking her lips with possibility. Mayot smelled the whisper of anticipation in the air and, faced with fight or flight, decided to make a run for it. He jumped out of Baby Bro's arms & landed on the floor in a heap, breaking one of his little legs in the process. It was devastating. We took Mayot straight to the vet who said the only way to save his life was to amputate the broken leg, at a cost of over £150 (I'd recently seen a similar operation involving a guinea pig and a pair of scissors on Vets in Practice and so generously offered to do it for half the price but sadly my services were declined). The distant spirit of Pa Pheasant was heard scoffing and humphing loudly in the background at the idea of spending such a lot of money on a rabbit and Baby Bro made the sad decision to have Mayot put to sleep.
One of our aunts heard of Mayot's sad fate and, worried that poor Baby Bro was irreparably heartbroken, bought him another rabbit, this time a little grey doe called Jenny. Alas, Jenny was not the generally chilled out specimen that Mayot was and yearned for wide open spaces and adventure. She made a break for it one morning and was last seen heading for the hills. A few weeks later Baby Bro found out that one of his friends had found a small, pale grey rabbit hopping down the middle of the main road and had stopped to pick her up. She'd taken her home and a few days later, the rabbit had given birth to a litter of kits, half of them pale and fluffy like their mother and half of them brown and wild like their father.
After Jenny, there were no more rabbits. Baby Bro moved onto girls, skateboards and underage boozing but at this time of year with rabbits everywhere, it felt a fitting time to remember Mayot, Jenny and Baby Bro's attempts at housetraining.
Happy Easter everyone xx
Illustration by Hugh Brandon-Cox, from Wandering with the Woodman, 1948
Signs of the countryside March 10, 2016 10:46
When you live in Lincolnshire there are things you see on a daily basis that you take for granted as an everyday part of life. We were downloading some photos the other day and noticed a subconscious theme unfolding that someone with a more city-slicking inclination than us might find quaint and charming at best or downright eccentric at worst. This then, is the first in an ongoing, sporadic photoseries highlighting some of the signs we see around us.
If you lived here, wouldn't you be hotfooting it off down that path every night of the week? We would.
You can do almost all of your weekly shop at gate stalls and judging by these prices, they'll save you a pretty penny too:
There are reminders all around that the countryside is a living, working environment which can sometimes be hazardous. This sign reminded us of a time when Herbert, who worked on our farm (introduced last time in Happy Birthday Crofty), forgot the electric fence was on and climbed over it. Poor old Herbert. If only we'd had these signs back then it could have saved him a double dose of excruciating pain and severe piss-taking.
And finally, our favourite: Ma Pheasant is a very keen and accomplished gardener and every summer hundreds of middle aged ladies flock to her gate to look round her garden. The poor old duck was going through a tough time a few years back and driving past a sign like this we suddenly saw a sure fire way to cheer her up. On slammed the brakes, out we jumped and two old feed bags of horse muck were chucked in the boot and duly delivered to her door. She was so touched she burst into tears.
Happy Birthday Crofty February 29, 2016 00:00
Isn’t it funny how some people leave a lasting impression even though you hardly knew them?
When we were kids, there was an old man called Crofty who lived a couple of villages over where he worked on the local large estate. He had a lot of brothers, including Herbert who worked on our farm, and although we knew him by sight, we didn’t know him to speak to. He didn’t have a car but cycled all around on his push bike instead. His cycling style was unmistakable: like all the old farming boys in those days he wore loose fitting, thick wool trousers which he secured tightly at the ankle with a bicycle clip. He would pedal determinedly with slow, leisurely laboriousness and with his knees turned out almost at right angles. For some reason, he really captured our imagination and there was always great excitement if we saw him when we were out and about; we sometimes even played “Crofty” in the yard and tried to ride our bikes like he did.
However, the most fascinating thing about him to us was that his birthday was on 29 February, which we found almost inconceivable. Did he really only have a birthday every four years? In our shallow, childish way we felt so sorry for him, imagining long years going by when he had no party and no presents and we loved trying to work his ‘true' age – could he really only be about 15 but be trapped in an old man’s body? It seemed like one of the great mysteries of the universe.
Thinking back, Crofty, Herbert and their brothers were amongst the last of a dying breed of people who worked the land before the modern mega-industrialisation of farming. There were three or four such men on our farm around that time who, when they retired, simply weren’t replaced – farming methods had moved on and there wasn’t the need for them anymore. Times change, for the most part for the better, but those old boys left a deep imprint in our minds. Thirty years on their faces and even their voices can still be recalled perfectly.
Happy birthday Crofty.
Note: unfortunately we don't have any photos of either Herbert or Crofty so the one used in this post is of two other men who worked on the farm back then: Jim Marshall the Foreman and George Brown. Jim had a heart attack and died in our yard one day in early summer and Pa Pheasant always treasured this photo of him.
An Ode to Valentine's Days past February 09, 2016 13:17
Growing up on a farm, whilst not without some incredible perks such as unlimited pets, learning to drive before we reached double figures and the freedom and space to tramp over miles of beautiful countryside whenever we felt like it, was not without its drawbacks. This was never more so blatantly obvious than during the awkward teenage years, when it slowly became clear that for some unfathomable reason boys aren’t particularly drawn to girls who can carry a bale of hay under one arm without breaking sweat, who sometimes smell a bit like they've just mucked out a stable and who enjoy scrabbling around in the bottom of hedges. Add this to the fact that you live miles from another house, most of your clothes come from Peacock and Binningtons and the hottest competition for your attentions are two brothers from the local Pony Club called Doggit and Tatty and you begin to get an idea of what we were dealing with.
As they surely are for everyone, those early adolescent years were a hormonal wilderness but Pa Pheasant, whilst not the most outwardly emotional man to walk this earth, tried to do his bit to make them easier. When he quickly realised his plan to set us up with two neighbouring farm boys*, on the basis that they wore leather patches on their sleeves so were obviously thrifty and good with money, was doomed to failure, he resorted to more subtle tactics to smooth the adolescent transition. Every year without fail, he would send all of us at least three Valentines cards, always anonymous and with mysterious messages inside (such as “to a devil, from a devil, who the devil sent it?” Or the even more cryptic “Now then?”). It was his way of demonstrating to us that he could begin to understand the complexities of youth, and although he always denied sending them, he knew we knew who they were from. If some inner voice shouted “ever so slightly tragic” at the back of our minds, we ignored it long enough to answer honestly at school, when grilled by the Mean Girls, that yes, as unlikely as it may seem, the postman had indeed been kind to us. Of course, we didn't let on who they were really from but they gave us the space to breathe on one of the most awkward days of the school social calendar.
Although no longer here to send us cards, Valentine's Day is synonymous with Pa Pheasant and it always means something more than a cheesy excuse to buy a bottle of cheap champagne and a box of chocolates. So thank you Pa Pheasant - this card is for you.
*It turns out one of those farm boys is now a professional tennis coach in Miami. If only we’d listened to Pa we could be living under palm trees now….
January's Retro Pet January 26, 2016 19:17
Every so often (we aim for monthly but sometimes we forget) we like to showcase a photo of someone with a pet from their childhood and this month we have a corker.
Please meet Kit Maplethorpe from East Barkwith and his black lab Pepper (or is it actually Macaulay Culkin circa 1990? We're not sure. Maybe he was taking a break between Home Alone and Home Alone 2 and decided to vacay in Lincolnshire?). We are particularly loving the Turtles t-shirt and mismatched laces, a look Hoxton hipsters bravely try, but fail, to pull off.
Kit - thanks for sharing your photo - a pack of Pheasant Plucker & Son treats is on its way to you.
Do you have any photos and stories of your childhood pets? Send them to us at email@example.com and every month we'll publish the one we love the most and send the winner a Pheasant Plucker goody bag.
After the Races pie January 09, 2016 22:20
Following on from our last blog post, in Ma Pheasant’s special handwritten recipe book is a mouth-watering dish perfect for these dark, grey, wet January Days. After the Races pie is one of the first recipes scribbled in her psychedelic notebook and it’s probably the one that’s been cooked the most since she first wrote it in, back when she was but a newly married slip of a girl and something called the Jumbo Jet had just been invented.
It’s essentially a chicken and ham pie packed full of slow cooked vegetables that have been allowed to simmer away on the hob for a couple of hours. It is rich, velvety with butter and perfect comfort food for rainy evenings. The antidote to fast food, it’s leisurely food and although it’s not complicated you need to take some time over it as it requires a lot of chopping, stirring and simmering.
After the Races Pie is easily adaptable - if you want to tart it up a bit, a handful of chopped tarragon and the juice of a lemon elevates it in a fairly cheffy direction; heated up the next day with big squeeze of brown sauce on the side is a failsafe hangover soother.
Large knob of butter
4 sticks celery
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp chopped parsley
3 bay leaves
750ml chicken stock
450g cooked ham
750g cooked chicken
1 beaten egg
Roughly chop the onions, peppers, celery, leeks and garlic. Melt the butter over a low heat and sweat the vegetables in it until they are soft (this will take at least half an hour but the longer you take with this stage the better). Add the mushrooms until they’re also soft and then stir in the flour and some salt and pepper. Allow the flour to cook out for a couple of minutes, add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and then simmer gently.
Add the ham and chicken and simmer for a few more minutes. Put the filling into a pie dish, top with the pastry and brush over the beaten egg. Bake in a medium oven for half an hour or until the pastry is done.
And the pie is done. Delicioso.
Getting lucky on Boxing Day December 27, 2015 12:45
Pheasant Plucker’s Old Man, Pa Pheasant, loved a bet on the gee-gees and it was his ambition to visit every racecourse in the UK. Rather than being an out and out gambler, although that was definitely an appealing part of it, he loved horses and the glamorous sense of drama he found during a day at the races. I think some of his happiest moments were watching the horses’ leggy, graceful movement, ears pricked in anticipation, as they circled the paddock before a race. He loved hurrying over to the winner’s enclosure afterwards and seeing the victor, sweating and triumphant, three quarters of a ton of power, stamina and strength with its head held high and crackling with adrenaline.
It was inevitable that some of this would rub off on us and Pheasant Plucker’s baby brother’s fate was sealed one Boxing Day when he spotted a horse in the racecard called Master Cornet.
We often went to the races on Boxing Day and Pa Pheasant would always give us £5 – we could keep it or spend it, it was up to us. We were too young to put bets on but if there was a horse we fancied he’d go to the bookies on our behalf and place our 50p stakes.
Baby Bro was about nine or ten at the time and, being greedy like the rest of us, his eye was caught by a name that reminded him of ice-cream. He went uncharacteristically large and put his last £2 on – it was Christmas time after all. They were under starters orders and then they were off, racing round our local racecourse with all the focus and energy of the Gold Cup. Halfway around Master Cornet was third and Baby Bro was pissed off that he hadn’t backed it each way. Three minutes later, none of that mattered as our conquering hero romped home and Pa Pheasant was ushering us over to the Tote where he’d put the bet on. We queued impatiently and I remember standing there while Dad spoke to the woman behind the till. Then there was a slight commotion and the woman went away and came back with someone else – all three of them seemed to be studying the ticket incredibly carefully. Dad looked over at us and we looked back apprehensively – maybe there’d been some mistake, or maybe they knew that he’d put the bet on for a child and we weren’t allowed the winnings. Then Dad mouthed, almost inaudibly, “he’s won £400”. We couldn’t believe our ears – Baby bro had backed a winner at 205 – 1. The woman at the till had to go into the back room to get some more cash as she didn’t have enough, then she counted it out in crisp £20 notes and handed it to Dad. We walked away and Dad passed it over to my brother who stuffed it nonchalantly in his back pocket. £412! We had never seen so much money.
Over twenty years later, Baby Bro has never had such a big win again. Fortunately, he’s a fairly sensible lad and his stakes haven’t increased much since he first got the taste for gambling but every time we go to the races, we remember that little boy who came away with a bundle of cash and think “… maybe this time it’ll happen again.”
Stuffing our face Lincolnshire style December 06, 2015 13:16
This week we've been thinking ahead to Christmas but rather than the usual list of presents to buy / cards to write / things to do, we’ve been thinking about the serious issue of what we’re going to stuff our faces with. Pheasant Plucker is greedy by nature, which is lucky given the abundance of delicious Lincolnshire products being made these days. The amount of mouth watering food and drink that comes out of Britain's second largest county is not to be sniffed at, so here, in no particular order, are some of our favourites. You might want to let your belt out a notch now….
Lincolnshire's only soft cheese, with its velvety smooth texture and delicate flavour, would probably make Pheasant Plucker’s top 5 list of food anywhere in the world so we thank our lucky stars it’s made just down the road by a family who've been milking cows for over 30 years. However, for those of you not so lucky to live within earshot of Lincs FM, fear not. It’s now available to buy online so you can stock up to your heart's content.
Both are frickin delicious and worth being fat for...
2)... which brings us onto Duffy's Chocolate
We could go on and on about how this award winning chocolate is roasted by hand, produced in small, artisan batches and has incredible credentials to boot but seriously, just buy some and taste it for yourself. Chocolate will never be the same again.
Pheasant Plucker has long family arguments about which Lincolnshire sausages are the best and it’s an issue that’s unlikely to be resolved any time soon. We’re happy about this as it means we have to keep on tasting them to get a fully-rounded opinion. Newells, Curtis, Pettits – the truth is, there really are no sausages as good as Lincolnshire sausages. We bought some to take a photo of for this blog post but we ate them before we got the chance. Sorry.
Lincolnshire is not known as being particularly fashion forward but when Tom Wood started a micro-brewery 20 years ago on his family farm, he was one of the first in line of a trend that's seen London bars falling over themselves to get on the back of. Producing three core ales - Best Bitter, Lincoln Gold and Bomber County - as well as extra seasonal beers throughout the year - there are stockists across Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, as well as the Tom Wood taphouse, the Yarborough Hunt pub in Brigg. Again, we bought some for this post but drank it before we had chance to take a photo of it, although the bottle did make it into the picture (it washed those sausages down a treat).
One of Lincolnshire’s biggest success stories these posh crisps are sold everywhere from the Royal Opera House and Harvey Nichols to our local pub. Crunchy, moreish and in eight different flavours, these aren’t just any crisps. These are Piper’s crisps.
My Retro Pet November 27, 2015 22:47
This is Pheasant Plucker's brother with one of his best childhood friends, our black labrador Duke.
As kids, we had a lot of badly behaved dogs but Duke was one of the naughtiest. He'd chew anything - toys, shoes, wellingtons, buckets, stones, any old bit of wood he could get his chops round; he must have had the constitution of a soldier. He was incredibly greedy and once made the bold move, while Ma Pheasant's back was momentarily turned, of jumping up on the kitchen table to steal a freshly roasted leg of lamb. Needless to say, Ma Pheasant blew her gasket and Duke was chased out of the house in no uncertain terms, wellies flying past his ears, while we kids looked on and learned a few choice new words.
Do you have any photos and stories of your childhood pets? Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and every month we'll publish the one we love the most and send the winner a Pheasant Plucker goody bag.
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