Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Christmas and a Fantastic 2009 to all!!!
I have been channel hopping not the TV sort but across the English Channel to France!
I went over 2 weeks before Christmas to see some friends and check out the work I have had done on my little French house........which incidently you can hire out for a very reasonable fee!
I have had the pointing redone at the side and back and a bit of work done looks great! I am borrowing a small field down the road of about an acre from a friend so we have somewhere to store our logs, have a bbq and relax!
After arriving at Berrien where my house is I left early the next day, in the dark and frost, to drive to my friend Celias house on the Normandy border.......Now I am getting a bit long sighted and when driving alone have to keep stopping, find my glasses, take a look at the map, drive a few miles and then do it all over again! SOOOOO.....I have bought a sat nav.....or sat nag depending on how its behaving!
Its wonderful.....I eventually get to my destination often with quite a tour of very small (it really CANNOT be that way, can it?) roads and lanes, and the odd farmyard where it tells me to carry on for 3 miles blissfully unaware that carrying on will take me through a barn full of cows!!!
Occaisionally I will follow a signpost down a new bypass and it gets all confused and appears to be travelling off road!......saying to itself recalculating, recalculating!!!
However I have managed to get to my destinations!
Having had a great time in nearly Normandy including a lovely Christmas concert attended in company with Blu of blucamels blog I returned to Berrien to put up a door curtain and chill.
Returning home a few days later with some wool to felt for a friend and a woodburner that was for sale and I couldn't resist a bargain......I had a few days and got back on the ferry!


Well the reason was the fantastic Ouessant ram Merinos des Lutins de Montana who won the Champion white ram 2008 at the Ouessant breed show in Argol in September!
He travelled home in a large crate and is now enjoying being a celebrity and learning to baa in English!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I have been tagged for this green meme by Willow

These are the rules:

2. Link to whoever tagged you

3. Include meme number

4. Include these guidelines in your post

5. Answer questions

6. Tag 3 other green bloggers.

I have to answer ten questions.

1. Name two motivations for being green

I always have been!.......I was 'green' before I knew that was the term for being a person who lives lightly!
I have a highly developed moral conscience .........probably due to being bought up by god fearing evangelical relatives!!!!!...................I am not religious but want everyone to have a fair shair and no more.
2. Name 2 eco-unfriendly items you refuse to give up

I have to have a car as there is no public transport......
I have a house in France and use ferries.....

3. Are you at peace with, or do you feel guilty about no.2?

Partly guilty about both car and house but.....

I have a van that runs on deisel and bio deisel and do average mileage.....I need it to get to my work place and generally get around. I also have a 4x4 which is old and used for pulling the sheep trailer and heavy jobs it was designed to does under 2,000 miles a year

My French house....
It is my pension as I havent got one and is my bolt hole for when I need a break. It was derelict before I owned it for 40 years so it lives again! Everything in and about the house is second hand or home made! Even the kitchenis made of recycled wood. It is 30 mins from Roscoff and can be got to by bike.

4. What are you willing to change but feel unable to/stuck with/unsure how to go about it?

Would love to be carless.................but would have to live in town and therefore could not do my woolly job!...........dilemma!

5. Do you know your carbon footprint for your home? If so, is it larger/smaller than your national average?

We are well below!

6.What's eco-frustrating and/or eco-fantastic about where you live?

'We have the wrong kind of wind' for a wind turbine and too much shade for a solar panel!!!
But living here means I can keep sheep, harvest our own wood and grow loads of veg etc!

7. Do you eat local/organic/vegetarian/forage/grow you own?

We grow lots of our own veg, grow all our own meat and source everything else locally

8. What do you personally find the most challenging in being green?

Don't find it particularly difficult as thats how I am!!

9. Do you have a green confession?

I drive my bike to the canal to go for a bike ride.....but I do try to combine it with other things!!

10. Do you have the support of family and/or friends?

Oh yes............we are all in it together

I now tag these 4 bloggers, notaproperfarmer , Blu at Blucamels
Compost woman , and Tpals place

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sorry to all those who are regular readers, I have been sooooo tired that blogging has been a bit neglected!
Our pigs are now relieved of their offspring and mighty relieved they were too! 3 gilts went to their new homes last weekend where they will be breeding sows eventually. I now have 6 boars that will be going in our freezer or sold as pork and sausages if there are no takers for them. If anyone reading this would like to buy a pair for raising for pork and bacon let me know! Mums and dad now have their pig paddocks back to themselves and are enjoying not being pestered by lots of children!

The sheep are very well and the coloured Wensleydales and Dorset x Wensleydales are running with my new Gotland ram Fred and 3 pedigree Gotland ewes. We should have some very pretty coloured wiggly woolled lambs next year!

The Ouessants are all running with my French Ouessant ram that I imported last December, called Sarkozy in honour of the French president (ie small & randy!!) I hope to be importing the French white Ouessant champion of 2008 in a few weeks time.

The wool washing machine is now awaiting a new hot tank and will be ready to wash by the end of the year and the new picker is having a picker box built......all will soon be revealed! If you require your wool washed, carded or felted please book your slot now or send for a price list.

AND......what every woman needs......a big spanner...........just look at the size of this one (used to adjust the feet on the felter if you were wondering!)........thats a large teaspoon for scale!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Well I have not had much time to blog recently! Why? Because I have been spending every waking hour surrounded by wool and machinery! The feltmaker is amazing and lots and lots have been made by myself and my new employee called Taffy!
The wool washing machine has arrived from Ludlow and is awaiting a plumber and a new hot tank to supply it, but will be functional in December. The picker is a wonderful machine with nasty looking teeth that open and blend fibre ready for carding! This is having a blower box fitted in the next 2 weeks..........all very exciting!
We have a few other large bits of machinery on order and we need another unit as we are outgrowing the one we have!!!................more news soon!
On my one day off we went cycling along the Taunton - Bridgwater canal..........reccommended!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Natoinal Hedgelaying Championships were held this year at Sandringham........yes the Queens estate in Norfolk.........and Pete by virtue of having won a class at the Blackdown Hills hedge event in March was eligible to compete (you have to have either won a competition or have attended a certified course run by the NHLS I believe....but don't quote me!)
So off to Norfolk we went on Friday.........and I can confirm that its a bloomin long way with no direct route as in Britain all roads seem to go from north to south or east to west and we wanted to go from southwest to north east!.............6 hours later we arrived at the b&b and collapsed exhausted.
Next morning we arrived at the hedgelaying competition that also had a ploughing match attached to it....a real country day out and having met all the other people who had travelled up from the southwest for the Devon & Somerset Style class the draw for which bit of hedge was whose was made.
Now to those who have no idea what hedgelaying is I will let the pictures speak for themselves save to say its a way of turning a row of small trees into a stockproof barrier with different styles from different parts of the country.
Pete had a decent bit of hedge to lay and they all had 5 hours to complete their sections. One of our local Blackdown Hills hedgelayers called Roger Parris who is a real charecter had a Japaneese film crew following him all day!
Pete did not win anything because the standard was amazing, but gave a very good account of himself as would be expected of a man who hedgelays as part of his business. The standard in the Devon & Somerset section in which he was competing was in fact so high that the supreme champion hedge was Terry Coombes from the Blackdowns!!! To go all the way to Norfolk and win was a terrific achievement for our area and style of laying!

The top 2 pictures show a Welsh style and Yorkshire style which has a fence built in it! The next one shows Roger Parris laying his hedge, the one with the car wizzing in the background is thw Champion hedge of Terry Coombes and the last id of Pete making the finishing touches to his hedge with an enormous pile of 'brash' or waste cut from the hedge behind him!

We left as it was getting dark and arrived home at midnight, tired but happy after a brilliant day

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I have had a very busy time recently and it shows no sign of easing up! The felting is going well and it is possible to make fantastic bits of felt so here goes mulch mats, hanging basket liners, slippers, bags etc....its limitless! I am going up to Wales on a a trip to look at insulation machinery in the next few weeks....exciting!
The piglets are growing like mad, and spend their days exploring the fields with their doting mums who dig small holes for them to rummage in! Unfortunatly we lost one that had been attacked by we think, a fox! There were canine teeth marks in its head and under its jaw so now we have a humane fox trap leant by the local hunt set next to the chicken run........we have had 2 broad daylight fox attacks on the hens in the last 2 weeks too grrr!
We have a long stay Wwoofer called Duncan a graduate from Bristol uni who is here until mid December and is making a real impression on the place! He is concreting the unfinished bit of the pigs yard at the moment and this will deserve a report all of its own when finished....its looking so good.
The sheep are all in big fields of lush grass and are looking well and happy. I have some new Gotland sheep that are beautiful and the ram called Fred will be tupping the coloured Wensleydales (the rasta sheep) and the 2 big white Dorset Down cross Wensleydales I have.
Sarkozy my French Ouessant ram will join all the Ouessant girls in early November.
I have recently lost the use of a nice field I often use to graze the sheep on in the winter in trying circumstances but as my limited french would say c'est la vie, ne ce que pas?
Anyway here is a selection of nice pics I took when in Brittany recently of some amazing trees....old oak pollards, and of course the old railway line that I'm continuing to explore.....its so so quiet on that old line the silence is almost deafening!.......And the amazing calvary in Pleyben....the best in Brittany I'm told

Thursday, October 09, 2008

We have piglets and very cute they are too, all 10 of them! Here they are at10 days old. They are growing very quickly and are for sale......ready in late November.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Felting!!..........we are up and running with the first felting training morning for those who want to learn how to use the machinery set for the morning of the 15th October. This will be FREE!!!
In the pics you can see we now have guards around the carder as there are lots of running parts that could be dangerous un h&s when it was built! Felting courses will follow with the first being on the 16th when participants will be able to take home a huge bit of felt of their own design.

The felting table is wonderful and big rectangles are very quick to make.................approx 30 minutes in total! The whole kit is available for hire from £50 per day depending what you need and a couple of entrepreneurs could easily base a new micro enterprise around the unit making hats or handbags etc.

Finally our other amazing find has been a 1940s mangle which is just perfect for remooving all the water from the felt and whats more you can just see our biomass boiler down the end of the unit to keep us all snug and the state of the are compost loo.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The National Ouessant Sheep Show 2008 took place in Argol in Finistere, Brittany, France on a wonderful sunny Sunday afternoon. I was the sole person who had travelled all the way from England to attend te show though not the only persin from the British Isles as two friends who live there were there of whom, who has some smashing sheep won the Prix d'honneur for white rams............WOW!!
The pictures here show the judging of the white juvenile ewes, with very animated judging!
The next picture is of the top five ewes in an enormous class of black senior ewes
The next is of the winner of the junior black rams, this man also won the junior black ewe lamb class and his stock are all very good.

The show was held at a museum of old living rural crafts and what a place! There were lots and lots of people demonstrating everything from making Far Breton (a sort of sweet yorkshire pudding with prunes in it) to blacksmithing and sabot making (sabots are wooden clogs and a fascinating fact is that the word sabotage originates from people breaking machines in the industrial revolution by jamming their sabots in them!) Also there was spinning, weaving and basket making among lots of other things going on!
It was a lovely day which ended in true French style with my friend Celia and I sharing some good wine and a good laugh in front of a roaring fire.

Friday, September 12, 2008

FELT!!!! I have my first trial ompleted and wow is all I can say!
I spent a while carding a load of waste wool from Coldharbour mills Fibre Harvest and piled it on the felter as I wanted to see how thick I could go with it. Once sprinkled with water and washing up liqued I turned it on for 15 mins......and waited......

After 15 minutes had passed I turned it over and gave it another 15 mins and whilst it could have done with a bit longer I had to go as I needed to collect smallest son from school.

Here is the result..........3ft x 4ft and half inch thick!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Hoorah! The children are back at school! We have had a busy last week to the holidays with some lovely friends from Cumbria staying for the week and giving us a hand outside in between the torrential downpours! The week before we had super wwoofer Pat with us..........a lady of mature years, age unknown but suspected to be older than most of us here she was a human dynamo! We took a load of rubbish to the dump in the stock trailer and whilst there liberated a brand new top of the range folding chair complete with its carrying case and joy of joys a roll top cast iron bath!!!!! (and a pale green one at that) Getting the bath was a dastardly deed.............the man at the recycling centre (dump) said we could not have it as it was going to be chucked in the metal recycling skip when there were enough hefty blokes to shift I pointed out that cast iron was not recyclable.......which fell on deaf ears!
So...........we argued.............and argued and I pointed out that I would be recycling it in my garden as a hot he relented but told us he had not seen us!
So we put the trailer between bath and security cameras and Pat with the strength of several men and me with the strength of a mouse hoicked it quickly amid lots of puffing into the trailer and sped away feeling like a couple of naughty school girls!
It is perfect.......and will be made into a wood fired hot tub for next year!
Pat departed and we now have Domenic a German student who is an ace painter and we are making use of his talents on sheds and in my eco business unit!
Now back to the weather...............
Friday dawned in torrential rain and countrywide weather warnings, I drove up to the Permaculture convergence in Ilkley Yorkshire in the most terrifying conditions. On getting there we were warned that the adjoining river was about to burst and we were stuck.......I have to admit I was so relieved to be there in one piece I would have happily been flooded in for a week!
On the Friday evening there was a Ceilidh and we danced until midnight including Breton was great and helped 300 people get to know a few others!..........helped of course by good food and good beer!
Next day I ran a pegloom workshop which was so popular it ran over into the afternoon and the following morning!.................but also had time to hear Permaculture Magazine editor and publisher Maddy Harland speak (she is very good.....I reccommend listening to her talk) and had a chat with her and husband Tim...........if you read it look out for an article by me in the future....! I also had a chance to hear Roberto Perez from Cuba speak about the Cuban experience which was amazing listening and all I can say is listen!
All in all it was the most positive experience of permaculture folks I have had and several of us met together and are working on joint projects re teaching and livestock!.............the food was superb over the weekend and the journey back complimented by seeing a pair of red kites!
Talking of permaculture I want to show you all an interesting example! Above are 2 photos taken from our raised patio of a bit of land that was used by our property for years but was owned by another neighbour but about 5 years ago was split between our property and our next door neighbour. It is about 3/4 acre in total. We made a garden, orchard, duck lawn with raised beds, and wildlife corridor with willow bed soak away from our bit which is low maintenance, but high output as its now grazed by geese, ducks or sheep, full of fruit trees, has beds of soft fruit, a willow fedge, basket making willow, etc and is a haven of productivity and biodiversity.
Our neighbours levelled theirs and mow a mono culture of grass with a ride on mower. strimmer and push mower weekly!!!..........theirs is very high input and very low output.....they don't even sit out and enjoy it!
And finally my bike! 2 weeks ago I escaped to my house in Brittany and cycled 24 glorious flat kilometres on my bike along the cycleway between Morlaix and Concarneau...........passing 1 dog walker 3 pedestrians and 2 elderly men on rickety bikes.............bliss!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A couple of weeks ago we went to the Big Chill festival as we had free tickets courtesy of having been washed out at the Sunrise Festival......see previous blog from May!.........our Sunrise tickets were exchanged for Big Chill tickets and the Sunrise held part of their festival in the other festival! Well there were 45,000 people there and it was huge!.......and more importantly very very hilly! We parked our car and headed for the camping fields....
Half an hour later we got to one and pitched on the side of a hill making staying on the lilo whilst asleep challenging! can see from the 'view from our tent' pic that we were overlooking the other tents! This was one of many guy rope to guy rope camping areas. It was a further walk and scramble of about 40 minutes to get from tent to main festy site first along the track, then up the hill then along another track and then the site of the main stage, pictured above unfolded below, so then down and in through the check point. Exhausted from all the lugging of stuff the excitement was just beginning, no wonder the porride with everything food stall was the first thing you came to......after all that walking sustenance was needed!
Talking of walking........once you made it to the main site it was soooooo big it took 30 minutes to walk from one end to the other.........if 1. you didn't get caught up in the crowds leaving one of the stages or 2. you didn't get distracted!
AND add to the equation my bad knees (ouch ouch) and the fact that due to the hilly ground the only people who could get a vague signal on their phone was vodaphone customers.........if you lost someone you never found them again!!!
The Sunrise end was an oasis of peace in a dizzy round of clubbing and comedy interspaced with main stage acts. Below are 'The Buzzcocks' on the second stage. While there I enjoyed some interesting music but thought it a little boring to be honest! Also I thought the amount of overt drug dealing and rubbish dropping was appaling!
Last weekend, on my return from the Permaculture teachers course we went to Beautiful Days Festival.........Foul weather but great line up including Squeeze, Gabriella Cilimi, Stiff Little Fingers, Seth Lakeman and the ever green Oysterband.........It was great, and despite leaving early and missing the Levellers and the firework finale because of extreme rain we loved it!

On yet another sad note we lost one of our Ouessant sheep today, Two days ago she was seen to be a bit quiet and on closer inspection was found to have a very acute, fast acting mastitis known as 'blue bag' This is where septicaemia happens before you even know the sheep is ill and less than 25% survive. We kept her going for 2 days following vets advice, but yesterday we took her in as an in patient at the vets.........unfortunately despite the best care she died. Luckily this is a very rare condition......but of course it was one of my best ewes and I have a very large vets bill!
Below are some very jolly drummers etc in the Sunrise field at the Big Chill

Friday, August 15, 2008

Well news update is that the felting machine has arrived and is in the unit awaiting a plug and installation! It being the summer holidays progress is slow, but we are getting there! I have been on a training of trainers course, primarily to brush up my teaching skills as I am about to embark on a lot of teaching and awareness raising about felt, wool and sustainable textiles, but secondly because it was a training course aimed at permaculture teachers and as far as I'm concerned what I'm doing is all part of permaculture......or is it?
I am beginning to dislike the 'P' word and have come back from the course reflective, sad, disillusioned and angry......yes very angry!.........not the sort of anger that is violent or aggressive but the sort that will mean I keep battling on.
You may well wonder what on earth i'm muttering on about, well I will try and explain!
I am a small farmer, a smallholder, hobby farmer, backyarder, good lifer,..........there are so many terms, some like hobby farmer rather derogatory.........I'd like to see the face of a farmer with 200 acres who works his butt off farming, but has a day job to make ends meet when he is called a 'hobby' farmer!
Most 'farmers' in developing countries have postage stamp size plots and they are called subsistance farmers.....its certainly not a hobby to them!
I digress, forgive me!
I have been this past week on a lovely little 5 acre smallholding in Dorset called Ourganics run by a lovely lady called Pat Foxwell, with the help of wwoofers and other volunteers.
I thought attending a course there would be great.....a fantastic resourse that we would be taught how to use in teaching permaculture, sustainable living wrong can I be!
To be quite honest the wonderful setting, the local countryside was totally ignored and we were in a yurt or sitting outside on the grass, depending on the weather!
I will not go into the course itself here as that would be wrong and I will consider the feedback I will make about it to the convenors carefully.
The thing was that it felt to me as if I permaculture was a religious order! Holmgrens principles = the ten commandments, meditation to me equates with prayers, a mandela/altar, songs of permaculture = hymns, closing ritual ceremony = eeeek I want to get out of here and now!
I felt like running home and staying there!
However I am going to use one of dear old Holmgrens principles to explain...........
'Use the edges and value the marginal'
In a nutshell these are "complex interfaces between one habitat and another.......for example increasing the 'edge' betw
een a field and a pond can increase the productivity of both"
I have been a smallholder for most of my life! I was recycling before most had heard of had my dad....he kept his nails and screws in old baccy never threw things away! I had been making my own and cooking slow food as opposed to fast food and heating my home with wood long ago!..........I however just did it, I lived it, I didn't label it! So did many of the people I knew! My love for the land and my life is integral, my friends consist of farmers, huntsmen, conservationists, butchers, smallholders, vegans, anti hunt protestors, etc life is across the divide and all encompassing! When I met my husband I was a paid up hunt supporter, he a paid up member of the league against cruel sports! I produce quality meat from my animals, he is a vegetarian. Neither of us have changed our views but we love, respect, understand and tolerate each see I am an edge! I have a foot in 2 camps I can identify with both but am neither ..........I am not a hunter, I am not a mainstream farmer, I am not a 'normal' person with a 9 - 5 job I don't quite fit there..........but neither am I a 'weirdy beardy in sandals ' type(apologies to strange folk in sandals who happen to have a beard!) nor am I a hippy, a traveller or an 'earth activist' whatever that may be ..........its a lonely road being an edge as both habitats see you as not quite belonging to them.......but its an edge that can increase the productivity of both habitats, so really I'm quite valuable.........

Permaculture is a challenge to me..............I didn't' see the permaculture light!' It didn't 'cha
nge my life'...........and I want to show and teach sustainability without props, structures, principles, functions, elements, acronyms ..............without morning circles, reviews, and bloomin spirals AND without the dreaded 'P' word

I could walk away, shake my head, tell myself that they are winding themselves into a web that alienates themselves from normal people, but what would be the point.? No I am going to hang on in there clutching hold of the shirt tails of permaculture with one hand and the collar of farming with the other, whilst yelling
my head off from the edge with a vengence!
I end with a picture looking from the A37 Yeovil to Dorchester road where it crosses high along the Downs beloved of Hardy....I took the picture on the way home from the course when I stopped to look at one of my favourite views across towards Rampisham and think for a while leaning on a gate.

Addendum....just after publishing this entry I got a phone call from one of my daughters to let me know that a contempoary of theirs from their days at pony club, a nice lad at whose mothers farm i had kept my horses and loaned their old eventer Misty had committed suicide from a Dorset clifftop aged 27...................

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My beautiful 1920s cotton carder that will be carding wool into webs ready to layer in the felting table!

Well its getting exciting here! I have taken posession of a fabulous carding machine which is now installed and working in my eco unit! The walls, bare wood in the pic (which is now alone in the next post due to editing probs with blogger!) are now being painted white and the felting machine has arrived in a crate from Canada and is presently in the container at Liverpool docks........can't wait for it to arrive! I have recently exchanged my little car for a van that now sports the Woolly Shepherd logo (pic of it parked by the unit) and we are applying for funding for a scouring plant to wash the wool prior to the felting this space for news!
I have a top of the range compost toilet in the unit as do the other units and a biomass boiler so its an eco business in an eco unit!
The veg plot is starting to produce well and we have salad with everything! runner beans are looking good and so for a change is the sweetcorn.....very difficult to grow up here. We have some new livestock, two new Ouessant ewe lambs, a white one called Lulu and a little chocolate one called Fleur, they have settled in very well. We also have two young geese and two Aylesbury ducks.......all of whom have an identity crisis as they were raised together since hatching........not sure if the ducks think they are geese or visa versa!! swapped them for two of the oven ready chickens from the freezer, a good bit of bartering methinks.
Last Wednesday I joined the Transition Taunton group. For those of you who are scratching their heads and wondering what that is I can only say look at this link 'Transition Towns '
The idea is that each town, city, village, area can start thinking about what to do when the dependence we have on oil comes to an end (called 'peak oil') and measures to reduce our carbon footprint and combat climate change.....I can see myself getting very involved in this as I really think its the only option, and wonder of wonders Somerset County Council has aparently just adopted it as one of its strategies!
Yesterday and today were beautiful summer days, and we ran our first Introduction to parmaculture course here with 10 people booked.....a full course! They came from as far away as Stoke on Trent, Chepstow and Banbury and we had a fantastic time discussing design, zoning and edges and constructing a compost bin from pallets, a water harvesting roof over a 1000 litre IBC to provide water for the pigs and had a charcoal burn with the charcoal kiln. Permaculture Magazine provided free copies for participants and all went on their way happily promising to keep in touch. I hope to repeat the course in the autumn and also run a design course next year. I will post some pics of our construction efforts in the next day or two.....I have to admit to being so absorbed that I forgot to take pics of the course in progress!
Last weekend it was Buddhafield festival 500metres from our house and it is a truely green festival, very peaceful, in fact so peaceful that you could miss the fact that it was there if not for the copious AA signs pointing to it. Pete and I went up for the Friday evening, meeting up with my good friend Brigit and having a fantastic meal in the Chai Organic cafe before watching Seize the Day on the big stage.......all powered by solar and wind power.........they were awsome!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Well I'm back from France....came back early as I was feeling poorly and changed my ferry for one in a force 8 gale....nevermind! Berrien was as lovely as ever and we went to the beach in the pouring rain too!
Back to the grind stone the weeds have grown at the same pace as the veg so lots of weeding! All the spuds were lifted before I went and we have a large sack of lovely first and second earlies. The mixd salad leves are amazing this year......we can eat salad with every meal! The tomatoes are ripening, the first cucumber has been eaten, and the radishes are taking on giant proportions! We have grown so far....tomatoes 5 varieties, tomatilloes, cucumbers, peppers, aubergines, chillies, spuds, parsnips, persil(a sort of cross between parsley and parsnips) carrots, kale, russian kale, cabbages , white sprouting brocolli, red cabbage, celery, round and long courgettes, 3 types of squash, sweet corn, black salsify, leeks, onions, french beans, runner beans, pumpkins and other stuff I cannot remember! Tomorrow the bed where the spuds were is being planted up with lots of new stuff!.........I love growing food! Talking of food the meat chickens were all killed this week and our freezer is stuffed! They weighed between 2 ad 2.8kg at nearly 10 weeks old. We ate a small one fed 5 people with more for a pie tomorrow! Fabulous taste and texture!
One of the pigs went to the abattoir on Thursday morning.........C Snell is one of the last family run abattoirs in the west country and is where Hugh Frarnley Whittingstalls 'River Cottage' livestock are killed. All my sheep and pigs go there and I wish people who think abattoirs are cruel could have seen my pig sauntering down the ramp to Trevor, the head honchos encouragement of "Come on sweetheart, this way" and the nice Spanish vets words of "come along darling" ..........this to the pig....not me! She is to be made into sausages by Somersets champion sausage maker!
I want also to tell you some good news and some bad/sad news!
First the good can hear me on Farm Radio!!! follow the link!
The sad/bad news is that Yeovil market has closed after over 150 years trading on the site in the centre of Yeovil. Why is this sad? Well Taunton market and Highbridge market closed earlier in the year, both markets that were in 'Market Towns' There are only 2 livestock markets in Somerset now........the new out of town shiny new Sedgemoor livestock centre near Bridgwater and The out of town Frome livestock centre. There is a certain poingnancy about all this because this is first of all a long way for many people to travel to market but more importantly it destroys a way of life, the weekly social outing for farmers and their families, a place where frmers, who are often isolated and socially excluded can chat, moan, laugh and talk the talk with others who understand their way of life. Often while the men talked prices, bid on the beasts, bemoaned their losses or rejoiced in their meagre profits over a fry up in the market cafe, the rest of the family who had come too hit the shops to stock up on rewritable CDs, school trousers, new wellies etc as well as a trip to the hairdressers and the bank or a quick rummage in Morrisons!
At these shiny new out of town livestock centres you can buy a few things, but they are too far from the local highstreet or indeed anywhere!
Our local rag summed it up with the following quote at the end of their report.........
'It was late in the evening before an erie silence descended over the site and the market gates were padlocked for the last time. A large chunk of what had been Old England, a place of tradition and community spirit had gone for ever'
What will replace it? Apparently a housing scheme including social housing, an old peoples home and some shops are to be built as part of Yeovils regeneration doubt called 'The old market'?

Monday, June 30, 2008

URGENT PLEASE READ............this link.
There is a problem all over Britain with this particular chemical which has got into manure, compost etc!............I have lost 2 tomato plants in my poly tunnel and I have, as far as I know not used any contaminated compost! I bought some tomato plants from our local country market and it must have been in the compost of the person who grew them..........this is quite awful!

And what is more, and whats worse, as a person who rarely if ever uses chemicals on plants we had one of the fields we use in the village sprayed by our local environmentally conscious contractor to finally defeat the huge quantity of docks (almost more docks than grass!) that were in it that had defied our efforts at puling and topping...................and he assured us he had used a reliable, selective (thistles, stingers AND docks) dafe herbicide, judiciously so as to leave some banks of nettles for the butterflies, but dispose of the docks.........and what did he use....Forefront!!!!!!

Therefore we cannot take hay, we cannot safely graze the sheep and then use any manure they may produce on our garden!..........and though we are assured that the meat from them is safe, we will not be grazing that field due to the contamination.............Oh I am sooooo cross!
The label on the bottle aparently says 'not for use on food crops', our poor contractor didn't have a chance....and we also wouldn't have guessed...........because it was used on permenant grassland.
This is my last brush with a chemical company...............back to topping and pulling and I swear never again will I spray anything even if we think its 'safe'
I'm off to Brittany tomorrow................after this I need a break! I will not be totally relaxing however as I am looking at 2 flocks of sheep and giving management advice, updating my accounts and attending the British Pigs in France gala where I'm demonstrating peglooming! See you all on my return!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Its often said that there is no culture left in Britain....and our traditions are dying! All of you who read this blog from France will know how local traditions are still observedand enjoyed by old and young, for example the Fez Noz (or night festival) in Brittany. Well yesterday we had a scarecrow safari around the locality folowed by a barn dance in Churchinford village Hall. Churchinford is the next village up from fact we are almost between the two! Nick and Ruth Strange of Blackdown banger (sausage) fame were hard at work on the bbq and inside the dancing progressed with great hilarity from old and young. Our youngest son....the small boy in the blue t-shirt aged 5 loved every moment!

I think it is true that this sort of thing does not happen generally....but in quiet backwaters like this special things happen!
More often unfortunately we let our traditions die........listen to the somg 'Roots' that is in my playlist. It is by 'Show of Hands' a local band well worth listening to.

And here are some of the 56 amazing creations that were dotted around the village and surroundong countryside