Share Button

CAMPSITE

I continue to have an array of very interesting campers staying at the site. A couple travelled down from The Wirral on Merseyside to this area to attend the Wessex Working Dog Trials at Upottery in Devon. (1) This is a Kennel Club competitive dog sport and is open to any type or breed. Milo, a male 7 year old border collie, had been trialling for 5 years (2) The slot the Bells had for Milo was Thursday 20th June. (3) The tracking chart (4) shows a typical exercise for a dog on a long line and harness to follow. This is laid out by the judge who will walk in straight lines, with corners and angles for between half and hour and 3 hours earlier for the dogs to follow. Tracking surfaces can be grass (long or short), wheat, oil seed rape, ploughed fields or stubble.

Small articles are placed in a square area marked by a corner pole. (5) (see red crosses on the chart) The dog has to locate them and return them to the handler. The handler must not enter the square. There are special dog whistles (6) which are used during the trials. Unfortunately, Milo picked up a false track along the way and went completely off course, so he did not win a rosette. If he had been successful at this stage Milo would have done the second part of the trial the following Sunday. This involved Agility, Control, Sit/stay, Retrieve a dumbbell, Steadiness to gunshot and Sendaway (to send the dog out to a point nominated by the judge which may or may not have a marker [a cone or a pole]). They had brought another collie with them, Sam, (7) which was in training (usually 2 years).

The Bells travel all over the country for dog trails. Sightseeing is obviously an interesting bonus along the way.

A lovely couple from Switzerland arrived on two bicycles. (8) One of them had a small bicycle attached to the back for carrying the little girl, (9) whilst the little boy was strapped safely to a seat on his father’s crossbar. They also had a little buggy attached to back of his bike which presumably they used on occasions. (10) I thought that they were incredibly brave to travel like this.

FARM

The animals were finally turned out to grass rather late this year. It was a case of having enough fields to mow for silage (for the winter) with a spare one for the cows to eat in the meantime. We have a lot more grass this year than last as there has been more rain. Fortunately we managed to eke out the silage we made last year so that it didn’t run out.

It was quite a performance putting them out in the fields after being in the covered yard all winter. Gates had to be tied across the yard so that they went straight into the road. (11, 12) I then drove up to the field where the grass was to be eaten and had to block the road off. (13) Then it was a case of driving the cows up the lane (14) and into the field (15) where they went slightly crazy at the smell of fresh grass.

Silage making has been in full swing now for a few weeks with the glorious weather we have been having, and Alisha is expanding her skills turning the lines of mown grass into bigger swathes ready for the bailer. (16)

Tonight the field next to the campsite was mown. (17, 18) This will hopefully be full of campers during the summer holidays.

A new puppy, Lola, has just joined the extended family and will no doubt spend time at the farm when she gets older. (19)

GARDEN

All the sunflowers were finally big enough to plant out for staking. (20) The six pom pom dahlias which were ordered last September arrived in June and put out immediately. (21) As the front garden had to be partially dug up last year for drainage work I have decided not to do anything with all the weeds that have sprouted. (22) I have allowed a few teasels to grow, although they take up so much space. (23) In the distant past they were used in the wool industry. Nowadays I let them mature and use them for Christmas decorations. They are also good for wildlife.

Foxgloves used to be banned from my garden, but now I allow them to pop up all over the place. (24) The plant is also known as Digitalis purpurea and has been cultivated in the UK for centuries. Besides from being a great garden ornament, Digitalin, which is extracted from foxglove seeds is used in a number of modern medicines. This potent poison is an ingredient in many of today’s important drugs, particularly those used to treat heart complaints.

I am not quite sure how the horseradish arrived at Bluntshay but now it grows in the cracks between the cement path and the wall. (25) Horseradish is a native of Russia and Hungary and has been grown throughout recorded history. Mention of it has been made in Greek mythology and in Shakespeare. Both root and leaves were used as a medicine during the Middle Ages. If horseradish was to be grown commercially the root would be dug up and divided, after the first autumn frost kills the leaves. These roots would be replanted ready to reproduce next year’s crop. The intact horseradish root has hardly any aroma. When cut or grated enzymes from the now-broken plant cells break down to produce mustard oil (which irritates the sinuses and eyes). Grated mash should be used immediately or preserved in vinegar for the best flavour.

‘Double poppies’ have been self seeding for years particularly in the polytunnel. (26) They need no maintenance at all except pulling up at the end of the season.

Not a lot of pruning was done in the garden earlier in the year because my gardener was convalescing after an operation, hence this magnificent array of roses on the front of the house. (27) Hopefully we will get it back into shape later on in the year with some sharp secateurs.

APPLE GRAFTING

During the spring of 2019 people were invited along to a workshop at Filford Farm, near Broadoak, to try their hand at the ancient art of apple tree grafting. This was part of the ‘Pylon Project’ funded by the National Grid to support environmental improvements near the power lines. It is run by the Dorset Wildlife Trust and administered by Dorset AONB.

David Squirrell, an orchard expert, led the course. (28) After leaving school in 1979, he worked on the local fruit farm in his home village, Petham, Kent, (which is very close to Canterbury). He worked there for 6 years and gained extensive experience in all aspects of orchard maintenance, skills which he has continued to use for the rest of his working life. He moved, with his wife Kim, to West Dorset in 1998 and started the Symondsbury Apple Project. Later on Kim and David started the Bridport Community Orchard (behind St Marys Church, South Street, Bridport). One of the new trees in this orchard was propagated by David using a graft from a tree in Beaminster which is believed to be a unique variety. The owner having been given permission to name it, it is now called ‘Granfers’.

Participants at the Filford event were asked to bring a sharp knife, 2 large pots and a trowel, (and to dress warmly as it was bound to be frosty!)

Firstly everyone was given a rootstock which would become the base of the new apple tree. It is basically a stem with a well developed root system. There are various sizes of rootstock which include dwarfing, semi-dwarf, half-standard and standard. The dwarf would produce the smallest tree, with the standard producing a very tall tree. Nowadays dwarf varieties are the most popular.

There was quite a large selection of apple scions (the grafts) to choose from. (29) Amongst the varieties were Tom Putt, Warrior, Melcombe Russet, Brownlees Russet, Rosemary Russet, Blenheim Orange, Charles Ross and Lord Lambourne. David had collected these cuttings a couple of months before, ready for the Filford course. The scions have to be cut back to just above the 4th bud after grafting. The method of grafting shown on the day is called ‘whip and tongue.’

All ‘students’ starting cutting away at the top of the rootstock, (30) and at the base of the scion. Then the two cut pieces would be placed together and eventually grow as one tree. (31) It is possible to cut out an extra nick in the angled cut of the scion (32) to help fix the joint in position. When both cuts are ready they can be taped together. (33, 34) The wax was smeared around the tape to make a seal and ensure that the graft doesn’t dry out. Wax had already been smeared on the end of the scion for the same reason. (34) One ‘student’ brought his own sharpening equipment to keep his knife sharp. (35) shows a grey and white whetstone, and (36) shows the knife being stropped on a leather strop fixed to a wooden block.

While this was going on Nick Gray was out in a nearby field digging up the excellent Marshwood Vale soil, (37) to be mixed with compost so that the new trees could be planted in pots.

David demonstrated another technique for doing the job which was called rind grafting, (38) which meant cutting off part of a branch and inserting the scions into a slit in the bark. (39)

I took three rootstocks and scions home and was successful in getting two of them ‘to take’. It is necessary to cut off all the side shoots from the root stock to let the maximum energy go into the developing scion. (40)

In the past 15 to 20 years, I have about 20 young trees that I have grafted in our orchards. This is probably the biggest one. (41)

CANADIAN FRIENDS ARRIVE IN WEST DORSET

After being ‘on the road’ since 28 February (when they left Australia) Sanford and Maggie arrived in West Dorset to visit me on 6th June. They are both seasoned travellers and on this latest trip they covered 10 countries which included Hong Kong, China, Mongolia, Siberia and Russia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Slovenia, Austria, Belgium and the UK. En route, they stayed in 26 hotels/hostels and visited 28 towns and cities. Sanford must have now visited at least 90 to 100 countries in his lifetime!

They were with me for 6 days and I tried to be a good tourist guide, although they had seen a lot of West Dorset on previous visits. As well as visiting local tea shops and pubs we went to Mangerton Mill (42) and Forde Abbey and a few other places.

WEST BAY RALLY

The 43rd rally at West Bay was held at the beginning of June in mixed weather. (43) I was unable to attend, but Sanford and Maggie did the honours, took photos and experienced a typical West Country Vintage event. Sanford, from farming stock, was familiar with some of the exhibits from living in rural Manitoba in his youth. They saw 110 stationary engines on show, the oldest being a Henrici Hot Air Fountain Motor dated 1900. A young enthusiast was showing how an engine could drive a milk cooler. (44) Tractors were in abundance (45) and vintage cars on show dated from 1933 to 1964. (46) Classic motorcycles, which numbered 46 ranged from a 1920 Raleigh to a BSA Dandy dated 1960. (47)

Of particular interest was a sawmill powered by a vintage tractor and rip-sawing a log into planks. (48) Later on in the same area there was a steam tractor powering a large wooden threshing machine. Long stemmed wheat was being threshed with the corn stalks stooked for later use as thatch. The thrashed grain was fed into a hopper and the loose straw was being baled up. What a hive of dust and activity! (49) There were a number of majestic steam engines on show, one being an Aveling & Porter 5 ton Tractor built in 1920 owned by Stuart Models, Bridport. This company had brought their own sleeping quarters with them (living van). (50)

The Canadians spent a worthwhile afternoon enjoying the farming history of yesteryear.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thank you to all of the people who have helped me with this newsletter: Brian Johnston, Sanford Larson, Dave and Barbara Bell, David Squirrell, Nick Gray, Caroline Lambeth

Share Button