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A Week on the Estate: Buff Chicks, Dry Weather & Dutch Courage

This week, the estate continued to make the best of things in fine, spring weather. We’ve been blessed with ideal conditions for our work on the land, despite some dustiness in lighter areas. A few short months ago it seemed that the rain would never cease – now we wouldn’t mind a drop or two to get our newly drilled crops off to a good start.

 

DMJ Drainage worked quickly to improve the drainage in two fields prone to waterlogging, finishing in time for us to drill the last of the spring crops. The hard-working folks from A.W. Smith & Sons were then out and about with the rollers, following up behind the drill to retain moisture in the seed bed.

Closer to home, work on the gardener’s store in the Walled Garden began in earnest. The store’s walls are being underpinned and made safe as the first order of business. We also had a welcome Easter gift in the form of a fine brood of Lincolnshire Buff chicks. Hopefully, they’ll help make the future of this fine, heritage breed more secure.

 

South Ormsby Hall received a thoroughly modern make-over in the online world of Minecraft. Laura Dexter won our Minecraft competition with 82% of the vote in the final poll. Her 3D vision of the Hall stood out for its intricacy and its artful use of shadow, colour and texture. A screenshot of the Hall’s façade will be used as our Facebook banner for the month of May.

Tristan Jørgensen has been working hard to meet demand for Burrell’s Dry Gin as online sales get underway. With a passion for the history and traditions of his craft, Tristan shared his insights into how the humble juniper bush gave us an enduringly popular beverage.

 

Native to the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia and North America, the humble juniper bush has a long historical pedigree and a truly global reach. As long ago as 1,500 BCE, its usefulness against tapeworms was recorded on papyrus by the ancient Egyptians. Rich in vitamin-C, juniper oil has many uses, from flavouring food and producing liquor, to treating indigestion or acting as a diuretic or detoxifier.

 

The juniper’s berry-like cones are produced only by female bushes. Dark blue with a very firm texture, their flavour is sharp; similar to rosemary but with a sweet, citrus undertone and a finish like pine or turpentine. The berries are normally foraged in the late summer and early autumn. Not only are juniper’s berry-like cones healthy, but they’re responsible for gin’s distinctive and endlessly popular flavour.

The Dutch, who are said to have pioneered gin, called their early version ‘jenever’; literally ‘juniper’. England became a market for jenever from the 1570s when sailors brought it home from the low countries – an early form of duty-free shopping. During the Thirty Years’ War of the early 17th-century, British troops acquired a taste for jenever when they joined Dutch soldiers in combat against Spain. Used to fight fear and fatigue ahead of bloody battles, the liquor earned the nickname, ‘Dutch courage’.

 

In 1690, distilling was liberalised in England, leading to an explosion of small, artisanal distilleries. The result was a mass-produced, juniper-based spirit inspired by jenever, but of generally dubious quality due to poor standards of equipment and expertise. This period in British history transformed the word ‘jenever’ into one intoxicating, monosyllabic word: gin.

 

* Image of ‘Batalla de Rocroi’ (1643) by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons