This western story begins with a big plan for a big trip to the near, middle and far East – across Asia and beyond.
The need to finance it brought us to a farm in England, in the picturesque West Midlands county of Herefordshire, just next door to Wales.
Pick your own (PYO) farms
Our farm happened to be a small family farm where people go to pick their own fruit and vegetables. The wonderful lady who now runs the farm told us that when she was little there used to be plenty of such PYO farms in the area. However, with the entry of large retail chains and the gradual change of people’s lifestyle over the past decades, the interest in such places declined and they slowly disappeared.
Nowadays, most people are preoccupied with more and more things and tasks, and find it easier and faster to pop in the nearest supermarket for a one-stop shop of all they need.
Yet, if you enjoy tasting and smelling your food before you buy it and if you prefer checking out in what conditions and surroundings it grows, or if you just happen to be in England and have a day off to spend outdoors, you should really consider checking your nearby PYO farms.
Kids meet plants and trees
Visiting such a farm is a fulfilling adventure, especially for the children. They get to see and learn that their favourite strawberries, raspberries and cherries do not just come from the shop but grow on beautiful plants, bushes and trees. They ask questions and are in a joyous haste to find and pick the biggest fruit.
There is no rush, no stress. Young ones and adults – everyone is relaxed, smiling, reaching for slow food in a slow manner. The connection with nature is restored as everyone roams around the open green fields of fresh veggies and wanders up and down the cherry hills. Visitors go back to earth, digging out their carrots, onions and beetroot and getting their hands dirty. It is not just children who love this.
Such places are best to visit in the summer months, between May and the beginning of October, when everything grows and everything flourishes.
Our experience with one such place – Court Farm & Leisure, in the village of Tillington, just north of Hereford, left us with vivid memories of a working summer among plenty of fruit and vegetables – some somewhat more peculiar than others.
We had our first close encounter with asparagus, rhubarb, gooseberry and tayberry, as well as with the various different types of cabbages, the purple cauliflower and with something really weird called Romanesco broccoli.
As early as 7am we were out in the fields to plant pumpkins or strawberries, weed the asparagus, or take various care for the special needs of the apple and plum trees.
The picking season starts already in June, depending on the weather. It lasts the longest for the strawberries and the raspberries, which could be collected until mid-autumn.
Meet the farm animals
Court Farm has a small zoo of several pigs, sheep, goats and geese to entertain the children while families have a picnic in the area just outside the farm shop.
The turkey cock was the guardian of all geese and birds in the farm yard – moving about gloriously trapped in his solitude.
Our farm was only some 15 miles (25 km) away from the border with Wales, where it rains every day, according to local people. The border in this area comprises a low mountain range (which would rather rank as hills, according to our Bulgarian mountain standards) that helps keep the Welsh rain clouds from crossing the border, but only occasionally.
As a result, summer rain and cloudy skies are a daily routine. Though often rewarding us with rainbows and sharply contrasting colours.