Kilduff Farm's Lucy Calder on why it's never too early to prepare for the Pumpkin Festival
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I quickly realised when I married a farmer and swapped city living for a life in the country, that long lies would become a distant memory. Throw three children into the mix and I’m fighting a losing battle. My morning starts with a strong coffee while I review the daily to do list. If I’m ahead of the game, I’ll chuck something in the slow cooker and start a loaf of sourdough. In the summer I don’t mind being up with the lark. You can’t beat the beautiful bright mornings when the sun shines in East Lothian. Full disclosure: January mornings are a different story and a real struggle.
Breakfast time at the zoo is over, packed lunches are stashed and missing PE kits and water bottles are relocated. There is always a missing shoe to be found and a teenage disagreement to referee.
The children have been dropped off, I’m home and the kettle is back on. There really isn’t a quiet time on the farm but the summer months are particularly busy. In recent years, with the introduction of the pumpkin festival and orchard, the harvest starts in August and continues until the end of October. This means early starts and late evenings for my husband Russ so I’m in charge of fuelling him and often the rest of the team. Meal planning and batch cooking really helps. When Russ is in the fields, I pick up the day-to-day farm management. Emails are first. We, like many farms, rely on social media to tell our story, keep our followers up to date and try to engage with the outside world.
As well as being an arable farm, growing wheat, oats, rapeseed, and beans, we grow pumpkins, and produce honey, apple juice and bread flour. We are currently in the process of installing a new press as we have developed two types of apple juice and plan to expand our offering. We sell via our website, and it falls to me to check orders and arrange for them to be delivered to our wonderful customers. Our pumpkin festival is fast approaching, and while Russ spends his days tending to the pumpkins, I plan and oversee the event itself. This is where I really get to unleash my creativity. At this time of year much of my time is spent updating the website and making sure everything is ready for tickets to go live. I also have a weekly call with my lovely friend and communications guru, Helen Cross. We brainstorm ideas, which usually grow arms and legs.
Routine has always been a struggle, and I find it hard when working from home. Cooking is my thing though, so I always try to make myself something decent for lunch. We are spoiled for choice in East Lothian and have so many incredible producers right here on our doorstep. Brands Family Larder is great for fresh seasonal produce. Even in the summer I like to make a pot of soup and fresh bread which I make using our own flour. Earlier this year I started attempting to make sourdough. I’m a bit late to the party, but I love a challenge and James Morton’s Sourdough book has been my bible.
Back to my desk. Our Pumpkin Festival is the equivalent of Christmas here at Kilduff and is a massive operational exercise. There are lots of pieces to pull together to make the festival come alive and I’ve learned over the years that the key is starting early. While the weather is good, I take stock of the signage and props that we use on the patch. I love an excuse to get a paint brush out. This year as well as our very own home-grown pumpkins, visitors will also be able to take home some beautiful dahlias. It’s a first for us but something I am really excited about. We are so pleased to have the support of local businesses and are delighted to have Drift and Wee Green Events joining us to feed our pumpkin pickers delicious treats on The Patch this year.
Once the kids are home from school, we take our dog Sula out for a run. I try to drag them through the pumpkin patches once a week to see how they are growing and to get some photos for social media. We often take a detour through the orchard we planted at the start of 2021. It’s home to 1500 apple and pear trees, the fruit from which will be harvested for the first time this year. It has incredible views and is also home to some of our beehives. Obviously, family time is incredibly limited during harvest time, so we often move dinner time out to the field. Sometimes, when the team have been working ridiculous hours, so the children and I will pick up fish and chips for everyone and head out for a ‘treat tea’ in the field. On a beautiful summer evening there’s nowhere else we would rather be.
By the time I’ve managed to get the children clean of combine stoor and settled in bed I try and make time to switch off. I love sewing and crafting and find it wonderfully therapeutic. So, in the evenings I try to head to my sewing corner. After the success of the little shop we created last year I’m turning my hand to creating some new paraphernalia to sell alongside our produce at the festival this autumn. There will be a few late nights sewing to go before then.
Tickets for Kilduff’s Pumpkin Festival go on sale at the end of August, www.kilduff.co.uk