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THE CAMPSITE

The summer holidays are getting booked out and it will be necessary to open up the field adjacent to the campsite to accommodate more caravans and tents.

The annual testing of the 14 electrical hookups came around again in July followed by a 12 page report from the electrician (1 and 2). At the entry to our Sheepwash field it was necessary to put wider double gates (3) to accommodate the ever increasing size of farm machinery. This then created a gap on one side so we had to put up a new stile and a fence so that no one would fall in the river! A post driver was used to get the posts in securely (4) and the stile was made with precision (5 and 6). The first person to use the stile was my great niece to prove that it worked (7). Plenty of people have done the conservation walk this season so far. I occasionally do a conducted tour for friends, or if part of the walk is closed (8).

THE FARM

The annual sheep shearing (9) was done during May and June. There were 130 Texal and Dorset Cross sheep to be shorn. The contractor worked on his own and did one sheep in 2 to 3 minutes. The sheep looked quite skinny after the job was done (10). Our first calf was born on 26 June (11). We have had three since, and have another three to arrive. The bull was with the cows for 6 weeks from 19 September last year, and I had hoped that all the calves would be born in the first two weeks to get it over with, but I expect the last one will be born on very last possible day. We have had two bull calves so far and they have to be castrated within a few days of birth. We put up a new gate at the bridge of the tributary from Pilsdon Hill which flows into the River Char (12). This has to be an exacting job with a spirit level. We have an ancient sheepwash on the farm (which fortunately wasn’t filled in in the 1960s as so many were). It is still intact after hundreds of years and had a water system with a series of hatches to feed the sheepwash where the sheep with immersed in order to raise the nap of the wool to make sheep shearing by hand easier (13). We have wild hop growing in one of our road hedges (14). As Bluntshay used to be a medieval manor (and we think that the manor house and garden were over the hedge from the plant) the hop plant could have originated at the manor when they used to make their own beer.

BEE KEEPING

A company asked us to be involved with writing an article with photographs about beekeeping. All the equipment was set up next to the bee hives behind the cider cellar (15). As I am allergic to bee stings I had to take photos from a distance and the other side of the fence. The photographer particularly wanted one of my husband using a smoker to move the bees (16). Of course everyone involved had to wear a bee suit, as bees get very cross when they are disturbed (17). I was hoping to get the professional photographers photos to put in this newsletter but they won’t be available until after the article is published. We have had several swarms of bees recently with one gathering in the top of the apples tree. Malcolm tied a skep to a long pole in order to catch them (18) but they eventually took off and went into one of the hives on the new site in the small orchard. A skep is made of straw and bramble to bind it into shape (19).

THE GARDEN

I am usually late with my garden so the sweet peas are only just blooming. It takes hours tying them to the canes to make sure they grow up straight (20). I had makeshift black current and blue berry cages made up to stop the birds eating them (21). The privet hedges have to be cut on a regular basis (22). We have a patch of comfrey plants on one of the bee site (23). We wonder whether this has been here since my grandfather’s time when he kept pigs as the plant was fed to them in the past. It can also be used as a liquid manure. The rose patch is the best its been since taking all the roses out of pots about 5 years ago (24). The pumpkin plants have really taken off now in the new raised garden constructed last December and try to escape through and over the wall (25).

GOSLINGS

The goslings are quite beautiful birds now and costing me a fortune to feed. The regime for their diet is chick crumbs for the first 6 weeks, growers until the end of July, wheat from the beginning of August and then six weeks before they are to be killed growers mixed with the wheat.

THE MARSHWOOD VALE

Crabbs Bluntshay is situated in the Marshwood Vale which is enclosed by a circle of hills. It was mainly dairy farming in the past, but because of the decline in this type of farming we now have a lot of sheep as well. Until the 1950s there was a spectacular patchwork quilt landscape which dates from the 12th century when there was massive forest clearance because of increased population. The expansion wasn’t systematic. This resulted in irregularly shaped fields and very windy roads which linked ancient farmsteads rather than villages. Unfortunately from the 1960s onwards farmers were encouraged to rip out hedges to rationalize the size of fields. When you see a field with oak trees growing down the middle of it, it is because a Saxon hedge once stood there (26). When you look down from one of the surrounding hills and see a very elongated, strangely shaped field it was probably 4 fields in the 1950s (27). Hundreds of miles of hedgerows have disappeared under the bulldozer in Britain which also means that much wildlife habitat has disappeared for ever.

LOCAL EVENTS

We attended the Dorset 2013 Festival at Poundbury, Dorchester (28). This is the Duchy of Cornwall’s estate which has been master minded by Prince Charles. It seems that it is only a third built to date (29). We also attended a local fair which was very entertaining and included a town crier (30), Irish dancing (31), a young blacksmith (32), alpacas (33) and a wood carver (34).

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