CAMPSITE

There has been so much rain for many weeks that even Dave and Daniel Botting have not been back on the campsite to continue with their orchard work further down Bluntshay Lane.  When it was dry enough for a day or two I had to get the grass mown in November. (1)  Stephen Lee and his men help around the campsite and farm with jobs which are too big for my gardener/handyman to manage  (2)

FARM

My young stock went to market at the beginning of December, but more of that in the next newsletter.  The recycling company finally came in December and collected all the netting and black plastic from the silage bales from the previous 17 months.  (3)  This was done at 8 in the morning in the dark with strong headlights.

The only sheep we have on the farm at the moment are three rams and Eleanor’s Poll Dorset lambs that were born in May this year.  (4)  They are being fattened up for the inevitable.

CHRISTMAS GEESE

I reared my usual 20 geese this year.  I have four reasons for doing this.

  1. Is to give ‘structure’ to my day 
  2. Is for the children on my campsite to enjoy letting them out to grass in the morning, feeding, watering and bedding them down, and then bringing them in for bed in the evening
  3. To have a really traditional Christmas lunch available for my long-standing and new customers every December and 
  4. It has been a family tradition on my mother’s side for generations to rear poultry, especially geese, as my mother and her mother were both expert geese women.

Nowadays it is quite complicated to find someone to process them.  I am not allowed to do the deed myself as I do not have a licence.  Some counties do not allow goose farmers to process anyone else’s geese.  Other goose producers have difficulty in finding enough people to do the work involved with their own geese let alone anyone else’s. 

This year I had a mobile unit all lined up to visit Bluntshay to do them on the spot on 6th December.  All the contractor needed was electricity and water.  On 3rd December he cancelled the arrangement without any explanation.  I then had to frantically ring around to everyone I knew in the goose industry.  Fortunately a goose farmer who had done my geese in the past “took pity on me” and agreed to have them a week later.  So the geese were given an extra week of grace. (5)  I even invested in a stainless steel table for the last job in the process. (6)  The manure from the goose house was immediately spread on the garden.  This is a record!  (7)

I was very pleased with the final weights.  I usually need a mixture of small, medium and large birds and was fortunate to have quite a few large ones, the biggest one being nearly 20 lb which after being dressed came back to more than 15 lb. (8)

CIDER MAKING

Sam has been making cider for about 5 years.  He saw the potential in the Marshwood Vale with the very few orchards that were left.  From the 1960s onwards many very old orchards were “ridded out” all over Britain.  Sam has taught himself to make cider and last autumn came out to Bluntshay to pick up some of my cider apples.  (9)  By the beginning of November I had thousands of apples all over the ground.  (10)  The problem was so did everyone else!

Sam has lots of contacts so collects apples from quite a few different farms in the area.  (11)  He has a very good ‘cider house’ set-up located in his garage and the first process (after cutting any large apples in half) is to put them through the scratter. (12)  This machine, which is run with a small electric motor, will take up to 6 apples at a time.  The result of this process is apple lees (pulp).  (13)  The lees are then put into a fruit press which has a 12 litre capacity.  (14)  This has to be levelled off, (15) and pushed tightly into the inner bag. (16)   The lid is then firmly attached (17) and the “single screw” handle is gradually wound around and down to ensure that the maximum juice is extracted – (18, 19)  usually up to one and a half gallons of liquid in one pressing.

The new apple juice flows into a plastic fermenting bucket.  (20)  What remains in the fruit press is tipped out into a wheel barrow and composted.  (21)  There are various names for this – cider cheese, cider cake, or just plain apple pomice. The fermenting bucket then has a lid and air lock put into place.  (22) Some water is put into the airlock so that escaping gas from the apple juice/cider will be dissipated, and no air will be allowed into the process from the top.  The fermentation process begins within hours.  It can can be slowed down if the liquid is put in the fridge.  It should be consumed within 4-5 days if you are not keen on alcohol.  The liquid can also be put into demijohns with the necessary airlocks in position.  (23)  Sam does not sell his cider, but uses it for social drinking with his friends.

Sam is interested in the approximate sugar content of his cider and uses a hydrometer to measure the potential alcohol level.  (24)  He would expect a reading of between 1035 and 1060 which would be an average reading, meaning that his cider would be 6% to 7%.  Sam gave me a bottle of the juice made from my apples, which I had to drink in a fairly short space of time as I am a teetotaller. (25)

CHRISTMAS EVENTS

As usual many Christmas events started in November.  The first one I attended was the Art and Craft Fayre at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre.  This event had been going for a number of years.  Jan took over the organisation of it in 2013. (26)  The wardens at the Centre were suitably dressed and gave the Fayre a pantomime feeling. (27)  The stallholder who was selling some beautiful wooden pieces stood in front of the dinosaur which Sir David Attenborough has recently made famous. (28)

Bill Burns was busy signing copies of his booklet entitled ‘History of Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre and the Cement Factory’ which had just been published.   (29)  Friends of the Centre, myself included, were given free copies.  (30)

The front desk is always ‘manned’ by volunteers.  All volunteers have to be trained. (31) During 2019 the Centre had a staggering 134,000 visitors, plus 4,000 relating to school visits.

We do not go to many markets nowadays so it was a pleasant treat to be able to attend this one to sell our wares.

The event made £637 from stall holder fees, raffle and the sale of home produce.  All of this will go to the Centre and the money will probably be spent on a particular renovation or display project.

Eype Christmas Maker’s Market had its usual array of interesting stalls. (32)  One that caught my eye was Bridport Light House with its vintage and upcycled lighting showing ingenious ways of illuminating artefacts from bygone days. (33)  Another one was Spirited Image with beautiful equine and animal photography. (34) Bramblecot had wool from their rare breed sheep. (35)  I used to love knitting but daren’t start anything nowadays otherwise   I get obsessed and would be finishing off the sleeve of a jumper at 2 am in the morning.

Another local market was at Symondsbury. (36)  The tithe barn lends itself to such glittering events. (37, 38)  There were lots of attractive stalls (39) including one selling their delicious local wine. (40)  Outside in the forecourt people were being kept warm with mulled wine and hot mince pies. (41)

Blackdown church held a festive Christingle service and three people were ringing the bell to invite villagers along. (42)  Many oranges had been decorated in readiness (43) and the Rev Jo Neary led the service by lighting all the candles. (44)  Singing carols in the candlelit church felt very special.  (45)

One of the highlights of all these Christmas events was the Christmas Customs Around the World which was displayed at St Peters Church, Dalwood, near Axminster in Devon.  (46)  Arriving at the church was like stepping into a winter wonderland.

Individuals and groups from the local area had worked hard to produce a wonderfully thoughtful, well-researched and creative displays about countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand, the Pacific, North and South America and the Caribbean.  Nine families and nineteen organisation and businesses took part.

I have selected just a few to show you. The Polar Express, Alaska, (47) Italy, (48) Germany, (49) Hawaii, (50) Carol Singers from the UK, (51) Jamaica (52) and Australia. (53)

I hope that you have all had a good Christmas, and I wish you a Happy New Year.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Sam Milburn, Jan Coleman, Dr Michael Dods and Eleanor Lambert.