CAMPSITE

December was a very quiet month on the campsite, which gave me time to sort out my farm and campsite accounts ready for the auditor – although I still have to finalise everything. There is always lots of tidying up to do around the farm out of season including the fire pits being moved for the rest of the winter to the cabin. (1) Roses had to be pruned (2) and leaves cleared away. (3, 4) All the goose fencing (and there were lots of it) had to be put away for the winter to dry off. (5)

Some surprise American campers arrived last night on the campsite. All of them slept in a converted LDV school bus (originally with 17 seats) which had been transformed into a camper van that snuggly sleeps five. (6) The parents live in England and both work at an American school, whereas the boys flew over from the States to holiday with the ir parents. (7) The sleeping arrangements were ingenious with 2 in a double bed, one along the front seat, another slept above the double bed, whilst the fifth person slept on a mattress on the floor. (8)

The polytunnel, which was originally erected in the late 1980s, was in drastic need of repair with plastic sheeting and wood dangling in mid air. (9) I found it impossible to buy the same quality plastic that I did all those years ago, so had to make do with a lesser one but with a double thickness. (10) It was necessary to replace all the wooden ‘stays’ which give strength to the ‘doors’. (11, 12) Once this was completed the doors can be completely shut to the ground secured with wooden posts (when very frosty) or rolled up halfway to allow warm air to creep in. (13) It would be good if this polytunnel lasted another 30 years. I think that they are only guaranteed for about 10-15 years.

FARM

Benji, the Aberdeen Angus calf born in May 2017, (14) was finally big enough to be sent to market this month. Its mother jumped over a gate and met up with an unknown bull and Benji was the result! This was the only calf I had during 2017. The bull I had hired for my cows didn’t do his job properly and his 6 weeks stay resulted in no calves whatsoever, which was very disappointing. Benji’s progress was carefully monitored by children on the campsite (15) and returners who stayed this last summer couldn’t believe how much he had grown. (16)

Benji had to be separated from my other animals the night before his departure to make loading him into a small trailer simpler early the next morning. We had to do the loading in 2 stages because when the cattle lorry arrived it was far too big to even attempt to get into my yard. (17). It was then just a case of driving the trailer out into the road and reversing it back towards the awaiting cattle lorry. (18) Benji did take some persuading to co-operate in doing this! At market the steer did not make the price I had hoped for, but now at least there is one less animal to feed during the rest of the winter, as fodder is so short after such a hot summer.

In July I picked up 20 goslings from a dealer in Devon. This was 2 months later than usual, but fortunately the breeder had still been hatching eggs right into June, (which is unusual) She assured me that the breed of goose was bigger than I had had before and that they would develop into heavy birds by Christmas. This turned out to be the case and by early November, when the geese had their early morning “flutter”(19) not one of them had “lift off” which meant that they were quite heavy by then. All the geese were sold by the beginning of December to old customers and new. The cold storage unit kept them cool enough during the time they were hung “long legged” and after they were dressed. Customers picked them up during the week before Christmas. (20)

In doing some research on geese it seems that they were domesticated around 3000 BC. The goose is often associated with Rome and the empire is credited with spreading the bird across Europe and into Britain. Although the first turkeys arrived in England in the 1520s it wasn’t until the agricultural innovations of the 20th century that the larger, and to many, less succulent bird replaced goose as the most common Christmas roast. Nevertheless my parents, grandparents, and probably my great grandparents always had a traditional goose for Christmas Day. Goose is more expensive to buy as they live outdoors all their lives – except at night when they have to be “penned up” (put to bed in a shed) for fear of foxes. This is a photo of children taking the geese to their paddock after a night in their goose house. (21)

THE WOW GROUP

In the wake of Whitchurch WI, which finished meeting at the beginning of 2018, the Women of Whitchurch group was formed. (WoW for short.) Some of the ex WI members joined up with lots of other ladies from the local area, including myself. We meet once a month, usually at Whitchurch village hall. We draw on our members for a talking point and have had some very interesting talks including hearing about the Metropolitan Police Explosive Search Dog training programme . (22, 23), Bell ringing, patchwork, and food tasting. The group also had a meeting over coffee and cake at Groves’ Ivy House café, (24) and visited the local cinema on several occasions.

In December some members attended a workshop on decorative Paste Papers run by Nesta, who is a bookbinder. (25) I was hoping to go to this, but had the wrong date in my diary and missed it! There are many recipes for the paste but Nesta showed her students 3 types – a cornflour mix, a rice flour mix, and a mix or wheat and rice with glycerine and soap spirits (which add sheen and flexibility).

For the paint they used acrylic but any pigment can be used including powder paint, ink and dyes and any strong, lightweight paper such as cartridge, lining paper and craft paper will do. A small amount of colour is added to the paste, the paper dampened and then the coloured paste applied. The paste can be spread and colours mixed and impressed with combs, brushes, sponges etc to create striking patterns. Examples of work done on the day included the following creations. (26, 27, 28) These could be used for Christmas wrapping paper, or for covering books.

CHRISTMAS EVENTS

It is no wonder I have put on weight in the last few months, its been one meal after another to celebrate Christmas. Firstly the Family History group went to the Pickled Ginger Restaurant in Bridport for an early Christmas lunch in November. (29, 30) The staff were friendly and efficient, (31) and the decorations got me slightly into the festive mood. (32) Then there was the Bettiscombe Open Ladies Group who ate at the Broadwindsor Craft Centre. (33) I also attended the Chideock Discussion Club dinner at Highlands End, Eype. This was mainly retired farmers, except that most farmers don’t really retire, like myself, but work on the farm until they drop.

Whitchurch church held its popular Short and Sweet service recently having the theme of angels. Clare, a local artist, (34) demonstrated how to make two types of angels, one consisting of 8 strips of paper. (35) Both children and adults were involved in making these creations. (36, 37) The children stood in front of the Christmas tree to show them off, (38) after which Rev Sue Langdon blessed each angel. (39) The nativity scene was on display (40) as well as an interesting collection of angels. (41)

There was also wine tasting from Furleigh Estate, Salway Ash at Felicity’s Farm Shop at Morcombelake. (42) The vineyard is a relatively new venture which makes world-class still and sparkling wine from Champagne grape varieties. Felicity’s, (43) which was the winner of Farm Shop of the Year in the Dorset Magazine Food, Drink and Awards in 2017, was busy when I visited. (44, 45) with plenty of goods on offer. (46) The business, which is family run, has been in operation since 2010 and showcases a wide array of Dorset food produce as well as gifts and garden accessories. In addition to shopping, the Farm Shop has become a popular spot for the passing motorists to park up and enjoy one of Dorset’s most spectacular views looking towards Golden Cap and Lyme Bay. In good weather food from the cafe (47) can be eaten alfresco with this scenic backdrop.

HILL VIEW RIDING STABLES, CREWKERNE

My niece had her 6th lesson at Hill View today – the first one in day light! (48, 49) It was held in a purpose built menage and today was lit by bright sunlight. (50) Alisha started jumping here on her first visit and today she trotted, cantered and jumped in her half an hour lesson. (51) I have yet to get a good photo of jumping! During some of the lesson I had a wander around the premises to see many of the 15 school horses that live there. (52, 53, 54) The necessary yard cleaning is done every day. (55)

Mr and Mrs Congdon have been running a riding stables for 45 years. They moved to Suunyside Farm 32 years ago. It is less that 2 miles from Crewkerne Railway Station, and even closer to the town itself.

They are open all year round and cater for people of all ages, and from those “born to the saddle” to beginners. Riders can learn a broad range of equestrian skills in the indoors and outside areas. Riders can do leisurely “hacks” (ride outs) in beautiful countryside along many bridle ways and country lanes. The stables has its own cross country course on land owned by the Congdons. Twenty three hoses are also kept on livery here. This means that other people’s horses are accommodated at Hill View. These horses can be ridden at the stables by their owners on a regular basis, but the stables provide the fodder.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thank you to all the people who have helped me with this newsletter: Ros Woodbridge, Nesta Davies, Felicity Perkins, Sam Edwards, Peta Johnston and Hill View Riding Stables staff.