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We had a very busy season again this year with people coming from far and wide and from Europe, to spend some time on our site. We opened up the adjoining field and an orchard for a limited period during the summer which proved popular with both caravanners and campers. The children enjoyed the geese which were often next to the campsite. Many people did the conservation walk either conducted by myself or done with the aid of the map and details where they saw cows, calves and sheep in the fields. Cider and honey sales were also popular.

We have some bookings in November and hopefully will get a few through the winter and early spring if the weather stays reasonable and we don’t have a repeat of the dreadful conditions which occurred in 2009 and 2010.

Lamb being sprayedSheep inside barn with numbers of their backsSheep shorn in yard

sheep and ramsOn the farm front the sheep kept everyone busy during the late spring and summer. The lambs have to be sprayed with a number so that if they get separated from their mothers we know where to chase them back to. We had a lot more sheep to shear this year in May and it took hours, and they looked rather skinny when the job was done. This year 3 rams have been put in with the sheep. This is to shorten the lambing season to 2 weeks. Each ram has a different colour so it can be seen whether they are all “working equally as hard” as each other, hence the multi colours on the sheep’s backs.

Clover and ox eyed daisiesChildren in the ditch looking for fossilsTractor Spreading Lime

The hay meadows were as beautiful as ever with buttercups, red clover and ox eyed daisies. The bees are very fond of the clover.

The children continue to discover fossils in the ditches, streams and rivers and over the last few years have found ammonites, belemnites and a crinoid (part of an ancient star fish).

Early in the year we put lime on all the fields on the farm, except the orchards, to improve the soil. It had not been done for many years.

Cows and CalvesTractor making track way with chalk and road planingsChalk at the cattle trough

In May and June our cows and heifers produced 8 black calves which continue to grow at a rate of knots. We have just hired a bull to run with the herd so that we will get more calves next spring.

It has been necessary to put down a track way in the field which leads off to most of the other fields on the farm. Firstly the track way was dug out and levelled and then chalk was put down. As this will become a quagmire if left uncovered it was covered with road planings to make it solid and easy to drive over with large tractors. Cattle also tread down around water troughs so that area needs to have the same treatment with chalk and road planings.

Hedge trimmingRolling on ploughed landSeed drill sowing wheat

Hedge trimming can start in the autumn and is best done before the ground gets too wet to travel over. I have half the tops of my hedges cut one year, and the other half the next year. All the sides of the hedges and into the ditches have to be done every year as do all the roadside hedges.

 Bird scarerWe had a field ploughed up in October for the first time since 1966 when my father had his last crop of wheat. There seemed to be a lot of processes from start to finish. First the ditches need to be cleaned out to ensure that the water didn’t flood into the field over the winter. The hedges then had to be cut in advance so that the tractor didn’t spoil the wheat coming up. After the ploughing it had to be rolled, power harrowed to break down the soil and then a seed drill came along and sowed the seed.

Green stationary engine

Sorting apples for cider making

Malcolm at the Apple Mill

working at the apple press
Winching Down the Apple Press

Finally cider making started last Thursday in our original cider cellar. We had eleven volunteers for the event. The stationary engine had to be started to drive the apple press. (In the old days it took 5 men to manually turn the wheel) First the apples have to be sorted and really rotten ones thrown away and big ones chopped up. They are they thrown into the apple mill where they are ground up. Next they are shovelled out and put onto the apple press until the section is filled up and the hessian wrapped over it and new one put on top. The process continues until all the apples have been used up. The press is lowered a bit every day over the next week until all the juice has been pressed out and piped to a fermenting jack for the next process. The cows like eating the pumice that is left over.

Entrance flowersCrabbs Bluntshay Farm Campsite

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is an abundance of apples around this year so I expect that we will be cider making for a lot of Thursday before Christmas!

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