Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy New year to all our readers, hope you had a fantastic Christmas too.....we did! We are off to Berrien and will see you in the new year.....leaving the house, dogs, pigs, hens and sheepies in the hands of my eldest son.....yikes!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ouessants part 4!!
The good news is that the tests for blue tongue have all come back negative! (which is what I would have expected!) The other tests for thediseases not present in France of GB are yet to come back.....if they were positive I think it would be rather strange!
DEFRA however now tell me they need to "do a risk assesment" to decide whether the sheep pose a risk to local farming and wildlife.....hmmm!(basically they need to know they are still healthy)
They also informed me they have not ruled out sending them back to France due to the errors in the paper work...........This is a little baffling as if one considers it carefully the word 'jobsworth' springs to mind! Conversation something along these lines....
OK so the sheep arrived with the wrong paperwork which was not for the want of trying to get it right! I am apparently personally to blame for that as it is the "importers responsibility to ensure the correct paperwork".......I retreat for a cup of tea and to summarise it I am responsible for DEFRA not being able to advise me what forms I needed, having all blood tested negative for blue tongue they could require me to export the sheep to Brittany, from where we start again, expose them to the possibility of blue tongue, get the paperwork right and re import them as French sheep, and re test them for all the things they were tested for last week.
I think I am beginning lose faith in common sense!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Very cold here! The hens huddle around the polytunnel and look chilly, the sheep sport a fine crusting of frost and the pigs are not keen on leaving their beds except in the prescence of food! (I know just how they feel!)

I just had to share this picture found by a friend......! A good giggle does one good!
I am awaiting the results of a funding application for money to buy a felting machine and huge carding machine to be installed in an eco business unit a few miles away in order to start processing woolly waste! This will be processing local waste wool into felt for a variety of uses....more info soon

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ouessants in Somerset episode 3!

These ouessant sheep are very long suffering! They have to be as this morning bright and early not one but two DEFRA vets turned up to blood test them all. I had already taken 4 suffolk cross ewes to market in Taunton so a quick cup of tea and we were off. It took all of us plus the long suffering Pete (who had helped me catch the suffolks the night before when it was almost dark after I had trouble trying to persuade the sheep to leave their nice field and get in the trailer with a villagers dog sharling and barking the otherside of the lane from the gate!) to pen up the Ouessants who obviously have the same thoughts as me on officialdom!
Two had already lost both eartags they came from France with and so we retagged them with their new UK inmport tags which have the usual UK plus 6 numbers unique to me on one side and the sheeps unique number plus .F eg UK234567/202.F. Some of the sheep now have 3 tags in one very tiny ear!......we are apparently not allowed to remove the French tags even though they have a new identity.....hmm we will see!
Blood testing then commenced.............
Sheep were held at the correct angle and needle and phial inserted......nothing! Vet tries again with same result.....and this is how it continued untilall sheep looked like pin cusions and the vets had.....wait for it.......3 large phials of blood from each animal. It took 3 hours and the sheep and me were right cheesed off by the end, I think it is diabolical that as well as a phial to test for blue tongue they also took 2 further samples to test for brucellosis and contagious agalactia...... France and GB are apparently free of both these diseases so what the bl##dy h#ll are they taking such a lot of blood for!! mind boggles!
Well now we wait for the results....back next week..........and then wait until the 4th January when, if they haven't decided to throw the book at me some of the sheep can go to their new homes as only 4 are staying to join my flock of Ouessants

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ouessant sheep arrive part 2!
Well having read part one you would think part 2 is about how it was all plain sailing from the arrival of the sheep......wrong!
Having tumbled into bed at 11.30 still going up and down from the rough ferry crossing I had to be ready for the ministry vet at 8.45am!
Sheep were a little suspicious as they were penned ready for inspection and the first question from the vet...How many sheep have you here? answer: ( through bleary eyes) 16.....? Wrong you have 17 but only 16 on the form.....!!!!! Illegal immigrant now had taken on a whole new meaning as it was white, woolly and resplendent in 2 ear tags confirming it (number 700003 was indeed not on the form). My heart sunk...I should have counted...but they were all penned and ready to go and Rita assured us there were 16! What to do now! After vet had gleefully found a few more anomilies between eartags and paperwork he announced we also had the 'wrong sort of health certificate'...heart sunk even further!
We and Rita in France had telephoned, visited and asked in great detail about this and at no time did ANYONE show us or tell us what SORT of health form it was nor what it should LOOK like and Britain and France both being members of the EC surely they must be working along the same lines with the same paperwork?? Well not for the want of trying did we arrive with the 'wrong sort' of form!
The vet served me with several notices forbidding me to move the sheep on penalty of 6 monthe in prison, a £5000 fine or both and said he would be back later to issue me with more forms for illegally importing sheep which had in addition it would seem hell and damnation on top of fines and prison!....he also wanted to see me treat the sheep with insecticide in case they had any midges residing on them or had raging blue tongue and could infect the local animal population and wanted to watch should I fail to comply!!( I tried to point out that midges flew and did not live on sheep, and that blue tongue CANNOT pass from sheep to sheep but needs a midge which has bitten an infected animal...but of course he is a vet and what do I know!) He left smugly warning me that in the worst case senario they would all be culled (DEFRA wording for killed and incinerated)................He also informed me that whilst I could, due to a loophole, continue to move stock off my holding without the customary 6 day standstill for oncoming stock. I was now barred from anything else entering the holding in case I bought 500 pedigree sheep, DEFRA decided to cull, and if they decided that not only the Ouessants but ALL other animals on the holding would be valued and killed and I had bought them on just to claim compensation!!.... My God could it get worse!
I felt totally deflated and slightly sick and retreated for the good british crisis management tool - a cup of tea, where on reflection I started to feel rather angry.

It would seem I was being treated as if I had not bothered about the implications of importing the sheep and as if the paperwork anomalies were my personal fault. Actually I had spent hours and hours on the phone to various departments of DEFRA all of whom gave conflicting advice or contradicted what the last lot said! Had, at their insistance tried to ring the French Agricultural Ministry where no one could help as my French, whilst reasonable is not quite up to explaining about importing sheep and health related issues. Discovered that France operates on a regional level and that Rita should visit their offices in St Brieuc, which she did. Spoke at length to my local animal health office who set up apick up /drop off point and isolation facility on the holding.
...........So in retrospect I think we did just about all we could have done bar go to Brussels and collect personally the form needed for export! (which apparently is in French on the DEFRA website although I have not found it yet despite 2 hours of looking!)

Tomorrow another ministry vet arrives and we have to catch the sheep to be blood tested for lots of diseases not present in either Britain or France and we have to give them another eartag making 3 in total (double tagging in France) These tags are F tags (F for Import???) and Symtag our tag suppliers were quite excited as they had never been asked for any before!

So at this time we are yet to await our fate, but cannot think they will cull the whole holding as what would be the point? part 3 comming this space

Friday, December 07, 2007

Our Ouessant sheep or rather moutons d'Ouessant to give them their proper title have arrived in England from Brittany in France after 9 months of planning and finding them!
Ouessants are the smallest breed of sheep in the world and also one of the rarest breeds. They originated many years ago from the Isle d' Ouessant also known as Ushant which is at the western extremity of Brittany with nothing but the Atlantic ocean between it and the USA!
We have had a particularly difficult year in which to try importing sheep what with the foot and mouth disease restrictions which were only lifted a couple of weeks ago and more importantly the Blue Tongue disease which has all of France except the far west of Brittany, the western coastline and part of the south under restrictions as there have been over 12 thousand cases in France, most since September....a taste of things to come in GB methinks. Well you may think i have been irresponsible bringing these sheep into the country but I can assure you they came from a BT free area and were transported through Roscoff which is also BT free to Somerset which is also BT free. They are now in isolation and will be blood tested next week for numerous diseases and only when they show negative to everything will they be given the all clear.
Now we went to great lengths on both sides of the channel to get the paperwork for this right and if you are not familiar with DEFRA I suggest a visit to their website with a plate of sandwiches and a flask and great endurance and you will start to have some idea what beaurocracy looks like! The wonderful Brian and Rita Edwards (pictured with their little patterdale terrier) who had collected the sheep together for us and kept them through the movement bans had visited the regional animal health office at St Brieuc to enquire as to the paperwork required, let their vet know and he duly came out to their smallholding and checked not only the animals for export but all the animals on the holding 24 hours before travel and issued what the regional office had advised him, namely a certificate of good health etc with each animal documented. We (Veronica from Yew Tree Horse Transport and me) arrived in Brittany on Tuesday morning after a rough ferry crossing at 7.30am and set off for Paimpol in her very smart lorry. We collected the sheep, filled in the movement documents and chugged off after a welcome cup of tea making for the next ferry, we even had cctv in the cab so we could keep an eye on the sheep!
Arrival at Roscoff was on time ready for the 3pm ferry and after the customs had inspected the sheep and the paperwork was photocopied and approved we were onboard the Brittany Ferries Pont d'Abbe . It was another rough crossing necessitating a visit to the on board cinema to watch The Bourne Ultimatum to pass the time!
We arrived in the Blackdown Hills at approx 11pm and unloaded the sheep in the pouring rain and pitch dark Veronica then driving back to her base in Shropshire and me falling into bed to get some sleep and await the arrival of the DEFRA vet at 9am the following morning.......part 2 to follow! (pics show the lorry on the ferry and the sheep on board)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lambing course anyone? Early this year we held a fantastic lambing course at Beechhayes Farm home of Ruth & Nick Strange of Blackdown bangers fame (you will knowwhat I mean if you have tasted their sausages!)
The next lambing course is Febrary and will book up fast so if you want a place book via the main Woolly Shepherd website.

Commissions also being taken for cushions and cushion covers.......example here made from Wensleydale hand dyed wool.

I know alot of people read this blog, so come on folks lets have some comments on what you would like to see or know about!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Rural Living Show 2007 at Kings Hall Taunton was fantastic as usual! Having demonstrated pegloom rugmaking last year to great interest I was invited back to demonstrate this craft for a second year, and this year I chose to demonstrate how to make a funky cushion cover and a white woolly to follow when they are finished!
This went down very well and lots of people came to ask endless questions which was brilliant! I also had people come especially to find me which was very nice and several came to order commissions which was even better. The event is in aid of the South West childrens hospice which is a very good cause!
Pictured is my stall at the event!
I have decided to give up keeping most of the sheep to concentrate my efforts into teaching about wool and sheep and to increase production of woolly things from local wool and other ethical fibres.....more about this soon too. However we do seem to have at last jumped the final hurdle in the importation of some more Ouessant sheep from Brittany and they will hopefully arrive in the next couple of weeks. This has been an amazing feat of endurance taking into consideration all the problems with various animal diseases we have had this year. I am travelling with the sheep and will let you all know the outcomes and post pics of them when they arrive! Watch this space!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Woolly Shepherd Courses are booking fast, especially the peglooming ones! Courses are also run in other venues such as the wonderful wool shop Spin a Yarn in Bovey Tracey Devon and the wonderful pics are of my last lot of students if you want to learn this traditional craft and have a new hobby take a look at the link to the Woolly Shepherd website where you can book a course and pay securely online! We also have a lambing course in February with amazing very experienced instructors, and we already know that last years lambing course aided some of the participants to save lives! I also run courses in sheep keeping, wool processing and peglooming in France.......get in touch for details

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wow what a week! We had a visit from 'Muddy Matches' and they arrived in this!!!!! Its quite something else!!
I will not bore you by telling the story of the day........its on their marathon blog
In the evening we went to the best pub in the world......well I think so! The Culmstock inn, renowned for good food, good beer and good and unusual company!!! ( in the last few visits I have encountered Joss Stone and her large dog who tried to eat my dinner and local racehorse trainer Martin Pipe.) If you happen along there take does not accept plastic!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Woolly Shepherds woolroom! Thought you ought to see where I do my dyeing and the large pots I use. I also have a wonderful sink that was rescued a few years ago from the local tip. Completing my recycled 'finds' is the spindryer and elecctric 2 ring worktop cooker liberated from the recycling centre at South Molton in Devon.......a place always worth a visit if you are in the area, the town is nice too. Of course the radio is there so I can listen to a bit of loud music without being told to 'turn it down' by my children (what is the world coming to!!).

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Chicken tonight!!!!.................for human and fox! We have been raising 11 SASSO table chickens from dayolds and on Friday our first 4 were killed at the local poultry abattoir down the road.......yes I know I should be doing this myself but for £2 a bird to wait 45 minutes for the live birds to come out oven ready, complete with bagged giblets and not a feather in sight is too tempting! They weighed 5lb each and 3 were consigned to the freezer and one to the fridge for sunday lunch. On Saturday morning disaster struck and before we knew it the fox had stealthily killed 4 and taken 2 of our remainining 7!( in broad daylight and so quietly the dogs didn't even hear!)
Waste not I plucked and filleted the two dead bodies into bags of curry meat and the remaining 3 are being despatched tomorrow before foxy returns with his friends for more takeaways!
The chicken in the fridge was cooked for lunch today and eaten before I could whip my camera out but it was wonderful, the best I have ever had and you can see from the picture a bit left for tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The rams have been busy! Harold has served all his quota of 11 ewes and all now have yellow marks on their rear from his yellow raddle crayon. I have now changed it to orange and we wait to see if any ewes come back in season. Henry is sporting a red raddle and is presently with his 11 crossbred ewes some od whom have not yet been served, he gets his crayon changed to green at the end of the week.
Finally young Hedgehunter my ram lamb who was supposed to have 2 ewes this year found himself put in with 11 pedigree ewes all of whom are related to Harold and for whom a new ram would have been purchased had it not been for the recent movement restrictions.........Henry will be coming along later just in case the youngster was not up to the job!!
Our move to Cornwall is now not happening as we have been gazumped by another buyer..........this practice should be banned! Also the estate agent dealing with the matter would not either let us know there had been another offer nor once we found out let us up our offer!!!
So Somerset it is for the moment!

Next week we have a visit from Muddy Matches and a TV company following my wool from the sheep to the knitting needles................I will tell all after the event!

Monday, October 15, 2007

We went to Cornwall the other day to have a look around........we will be moving to Camelford (hopefully, fingers crossed, by the end of the year). Whilst we were there we had a visit to the Eden project, amazing metal statues in the temperate dome pictured here.

The Rams have gone in with the groups of ewes sporting their raddle harnesses......Harold has yellow, Henry red and Hedgehunter, my ram lamb has none as he is too small but is running with a group of ewes that Henry will go to in November. If he does serve any it will be a bonus as he is a very good looking lad!
We still have 20 butchers lams to go before we move, most will go to the Queens Arms in the next village called if you want to eat fantastic lamb in a lovely pub you know where to go!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Well things have been a bit frantic here! trying to keep the house tidy for the continual troop of prospective purchasers has been a challenge. It is also our busiest time sheepwise with lambs going to the abattoir weekly to supply the demand from the pub and private customers. We have also been supplying Abraham Natural products
Prices for those selling commercially have been terrible due to the fact that we are banned from exporting foot and mouth susceptible animals ...........some have had to sell prime lambs for £10!!!
Saying that I sold some breeding ewes in the first market for ages today and got £10 per animal for the Shetland ewes!!! Others made between £30 and £42 which was about 25-30% less than they should!
There was a general air of resignation about the market as I spoke to friends and contacts, with feed prices increasing daily no one can afford to hang on to sheep until better prices come along.

On a more positive note (well I know its all been sounding depressing recently!) I thought I would post some pictures of Otterford lakes
This is the lost gardens of Helligan all over again, the picture of the gate in the trees being where there is an amazing walled garden hidden in the trees. There are 2 lakes, an old coach house that is pictured and the position of the house is still littered with bits of old gutter and rubble in the brambles! Its a wonderful place for a walk and very eerie too!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Well here are the photos courtesy of our agents Greenslade Taylor Hunt!

Very depressing time at the moment as I have 15 vewes that were supposed to go to the breeding ewe sales and now are stuck here due to the ban on movement except direct to slaughter, for an unknown period of time which means I am going to have to feed then....AND the day before we got stood still again I had sold over 70 bales of haylage as I knew these sheep would be going 3 days later...........what a mess! Thank goodness the pigs went to the abattoir last Monday!

I have 12 lambs booked for slaughter tomorrow and another lot next week so fingers crossed they can go.

I hate to think how much this is costing bigger farms than us as I should have made about £600 on the ewes.............and my cash flow is not good, at least I don't have huge loans to repay like many farmers inevitably do.

I feel especially sorry for those who have lost their stock over this and those who will go bankrupt as a result of the crisis.

Hopefully we can get sold and moved as soon as possible and have a brighter future!

Thursday, September 06, 2007


We are for sale! Well the house is! We have found are ideal small farm in Cornwall and now the race is on to sell! £455,000 or near offer will get you a 4 bedroom period house in the beautiful Blackdown hills with 9 acres of which 2 are pasture and 7 wonderful woodland. plenty of parking, outbuildings, etc and the opportunity to rent loads more land locally (I rent about 40 acres and a building within 2 miles) Pass this on to your friends and contacts, pictures to follow!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fibrefest 2007 was a resounding succes for a first go at such a big idea! The photos say it all really........the main tent went up on bank holiday Monday and it seemed huge! We spent several days and several miles of baler twine marking out the stall spaces..........which were then marked on the grass with orange sheep marker spray! Tables and chairs were aportioned and the toilets, bins and garden shed info booth arrived. I now know more about temporary toilets than I ever wished to know!
The stallholders started to arrive from Thursday and the tent started to fill with wonderful stalls such as the House of Hemp and Devon Alpacas shown here constructing their stalls.

Gradually things began to take shape including the little village fair that shared the site. The Blackdown Hills food group had a big marquee and that started to fill with local produce and yummy food from such producers as Beech Hayes Farm and Jackie Rees.

By about 9.30 on Saturday 1st September the tent was ready and the weekend was opened by Brigit Strawbridge from BBC 'Its Not Easy Being Green' the picture she is being introduced by the Chairman of Coldharbour Mill the local working wool museum.

The tents gradually became very busy and I had the opportunity to meet Ruth Paisley 'Woolly Wormhead' who had been running a hat design workshop and is pictured here with 2 of the participants.

On the Saturday night we had a relaxing evening drinking tea, spinning, knitting and chatting while the fantastic Cornish festival band Bagas Degol played in Ashill Village Hall

The last pic is of my stall as I just had to show off my new banner!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I have been on holiday!! well a week in Brittany France which was bliss! Whilst there I ran a sheep keeping course for beginners near Lamballe which was fantastic and the weather in that day was smashing! We were hosted by Renee of Cani-Excel with her lovely Ouessant sheep and Esmi the biggest and most placid sheep in the world!
We also went to a BBQ at Chateau Neuf du Faou where we met the lovely host Salamander from Brittany Friends forum and a selection of other very nice people. The picture id of the maritime caves at Morgat on the Crozon peninsula which were superb and very worth a visit. All the livestock at home were left in the capable hands of my eldest son George and 2 students - Noemie from France a wonderful girl with a passion for knitting and Niss from Germany who is a pedigree sheep breeder.
Got back and moved the lambs to new fields, attended a very muddy Honiton Show and then just when I was looking forward to going to run a peg loom workshop at the Big Green Gathering for Brigit Strawbridge who was launching a new charity 'The Big Green idea' news of Foot and mouth disease hit!
I didn't sleep a wink with worry on Friday night and didn't go to the BGG as it is on a farm and that would have been rather irresponsible as at that time they didn't know where it had come from! Feel desperately sorry for those affected, the poor man who lost his pedigree cattle and was in tears on the TV was heartbreaking.
Went to Exford show with the wool today well disinfected and with not a sheep or cow in sight. I had a lovely day and sold a lot of goods..........things have to get better eh?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Will it ever stop raining? Hopefully in time for Fibrefest 2007 that is taking place on the first weekend in September! We are busy as ever and have the best volunteer ever staying with us! She is called Noami and is from near Lille in France. She is an amazing knitter and I will post pics of her hats soon!
Our lambs are getting bigger and the first ones went to the butcher on Tuesday along with 2 hoggets from last year (a hogget or shearling is a female sheep between one and two years) I am looking forward to the meat being ready as one whole animal is being made into sausages. Hay is going to be very expensive this winter and I am sooooooo glad I have 200 bales of haylage left over from last year! In this area no one has successfully cut and baled without rain yet and most people have not even cut any grass............a lot is flattened and rotting! Its going to be an even tougher time for farmers this winter.
I thought I'd post a pic of my champion goat taken in 1993 as several people have asked to see her. She was a British Alpine goat called Honeydown Mercedes and in 1993 became a full champion and also the highest milk recorded goat of her breed that year with 2,300kg of milk in that years lactation!!
She also gave the highest quantity of milk in a milking competition that year for her breed. I don't keep goats anymore but may start showing the sheep next this space!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

And introducing our new Kune Kune pigs! Kermit the little orange boar and the older and much bigger Miss Piggy! The little chap is 9 weeks old and his potential wife is 13 weeks old. They are so friendly and love to be scratched!
They will hopefully one day have lots of piglets, some for sale to other people who want smallish pigs and some to make sausages.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thought you might like to see what a participant on the knitted felt course made with some of my wool dyed with madder! It was made by Vanessa who just happens to be the owner of ROOTS the most fantastic deli/shop/cafe in Taunton, Somerset which is our nearest town.
I have decided to sell all of my sheep that are not either Dorset Down or Ouessant and concentrate on these 2 breeds so if anyone wants to buy some sheep I have a few for sale!

Rain...........I have had enough! This evening a year after the last flood and 3 months after the new plaster had dried and the new carpet was laid disaster struck!
Torrential rain caused the road drains to fill to bursting and then unable to cope the water came down our lane at an angle and straight under our front door in a spectacular fashion and a torrent sped across the hall and down into the study!!!

We ran for sand bags, and anything else we could get our hands on and stemmed the fast flow............we now have the carpet up, the underlay in the yard and the house full of fans and dehumidifiers courtesy of the insurance company!

NOTE added Sept 07

The local highways authority has admitted the fault was their drains!!
They have now completed major works on the road and the culverts and even put in a little 'hump' along the lane as a token of their kindness.....this was after the legal team at the insurance company helped me to write them a letter stating they had better DO SOMETHING!.........A house 900ft up a hill should not have to suffer from incompetant councils and now we will never flood ever again...........and assurances to anyone who might be tempted to buy our house..........It is now safe from water!!! YAY!!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Learn to felt wool!! I have just put 3 amazing courses on the website
They will take place in the fabulous setting of West Hatch in the tiniest village hall ever seen! First will be Felting for beginners, making items such as mobile phone cases as shown in the picture. Second on will be 'needle felt' making animals such as this sheep and pig and the third will be cobweb scarves which are just amazing! Book on all 3 and get a 10% discount!

The tutor is Andrea Coleman and you will be amazed at what she can do with wool!