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CAMPSITE

We have had a steady stream of caravans and tents during May and in June so far, with a busy weekend just gone.

Repairs to some of the stiles on the Conservation Walk had to be done with new steps or bars to be replaced. The outside of the disabled toilet was completed (except for the installation of the shower token meter) at the beginning of May. It has yet to be painted the same colour as the garage. Large pots with various shrubs have been placed around the area.

The cutest caravan to be on our site so far this year was this “bubble”. (Can anyone tell me the trade name for this model please?) UPDATE: A kind reader has informed me that the caravan is called a “Teardrop”. Read full comment below.

We had our annual Camping and Caravan Club inspection in May. They have to make sure that we are not having people staying on the site permanently and that our facilities are up to scratch. They also check that the details in the Big Book listing our site are correct.

FARM

The cows were late in going out to grass because there was so little of it, so they stayed in the yard and ate silage. Eventually the field next to the campsite had sufficient grass to move the cows out to summer grazing, but before they could get to the water trough our 1954 Ford tractor with roller attached had to be moved backwards by a 2004 New Holland tractor, (the battery being flat on the Ford).

The apple blossom this year was magnificent, and hopefully that will mean plenty of apples. We had very few last year. The photo shows a Stubborn tree on the lawn (in Devon they call it Plum Viney). It usually produces thousands of apples, which do not keep. They either have to be made into cider for an early August pressing, or given to the cows to eat. If left on the ground to gradually rot they will attract wasps.

On the fields which are not under a conservation scheme we do spread a little fertilizer to increase the grass for silage production. The plant Himalayan Balsam has become a big problem over the last few years. When the pink flowers mature into seeds they explode and travel down the river banks and into nearby meadows. If every last plant is not pulled up at the stage shown in the photo it will overtake and swamp meadow flowers and in no time wipe them out. Unfortunately some beekeepers will encourage the growth of this awful plant because bees like it.

GOSLINGS AND GEESE

The goslings have gone through the ugly stage where their webbed feet seem way out of proportion to the rest of their body and whilst they are feathering up their wings look rather ragged. We have had several instances of a dominant gander bullying smaller goslings when wings and flesh have bled profusely. These poor birds have had to be extracted from the group and kept separately in a hay box until they have recovered. Another one went off its legs and had to be kept in a makeshift hospital ward until it regained its strength. The four birds affected by all this trauma could not be put back into the big group so now live in a separate hen house and cause more work what with the feeding, finding grass and cleaning out. Goslings before they are fully feathered up need protection from strong sun (sunstroke) or torrential rain (getting a chill) so tarpaulins have been erected in each eating area in the hopes that the goslings have enough sense to rest under them if necessary.

We have two very old geese, which could live on until at least 20 years old. They are totally non-productive but we don’t have the heart to kill them. The old goose has the odd habit of perching on her water bucket to have a drink. She was made homeless by the 4 goslings mentioned above and now has to live in the old toilet. The old gander does not like female geese or women and will chase me if I don’t grab him by the neck first.

THE GARDEN

This work goes on apace. I have had two of my bonsaied oak trees repotted. We have very few oak trees on the farm because one of my ancestors decided to have a timber sale in 1919 and he cut them all down. We did have an oak tree over the road which always produced lots of saplings in my garden, but as this was chopped down some years ago (deemed to be unsafe) there are no more saplings. All the sweetpeas and sunflowers are now planted out in the garden and should make a glorious sight by late July – if we have enough sun.

BEEKEEPING

Beekeepers are busy all year round with maintenance and cleaning of hives and equipment. Old brood comb has to be removed and melted down to obtain wax from it and then the residue is burnt. Propolis can be scraped from frames and supers. This can be used in herbal remedies etc. Supers, brood boxes, floors and crown boards have to be scorched with a blow lamp to make them sterile. Hives can be moved, at dusk, to different sites for oil seed rape, beans and later in the year to heather. After the honey has been extracted and put through fine sieves and a strainer into the bottling tank it can then be bottled. The photos show this being done in 4oz jars by a friend. We usually sell 12 oz and 1 lb jars at markets and at the door.

WILD FLOWER SURVEY

As a parish councillor interested in wildlife I volunteered to do a wild flower survey along our road, Bluntshay Lane. Unfortunately the number of wild flowers has diminished over the years, mainly due to the verges being cut so late, hence leaving larger plants to suffocate smaller ones which cannot survive. I was pleased to find a Early Purple Orchid just up the road, only for it to either have been stolen in the last 10 days or demolished by a tractor. When it rains the tall plants on the verges are bowed over and cause the narrow lanes to be even narrower to travel on.

LOCAL EVENTS

The local area is a hive of activity at this time of year with cream teas, an Auction of Promises and the Dorset Knob Throwing event. The Auction was particularly interesting with items such as organic farm yard manure, ½ day sausage making course and a dumpy bag of fire wood delivered locally. Jim Rowe, the Auctioneer, worked the crowd very well and the whole event including the inevitable raffle, made nearly £3,000. Phil Page was the barman for the event. We have a stall every year at the Dorset Knob event at Cattistock, selling our honey, cider and preserves.

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