Sunday, May 25, 2008 is so easy to make your own I cannot believe it!........well I can as the pictures prove I have made some!
I have always wanted to have a go at making one time long ago when I had at least 3 dairy goats producing 5-7 litres of milk per day each I was literally awash with milk and made tons of soft and hard cheese as well as feeding calves, kids, pigs and the family on it....but I never made butter! Partly the reason was that goats milk fat globules are smaller than those found in cows milk so wholst it separates it is not very easy to skim by hand and a cream separator was always out of my price league.
Well I got to thinking I would like a go, spurred on by seeing cartons of double cream marked down in the supermarket due to reaching their sell by date.
I knew Blow a company that has long gone out of business used to produce hand churns in the past and decided to look on ebay......where I discovered a whole new world of butter pats, moulds and....yes churns! So I bought a small one called a 'dazy mazy' from a seller in the USA for a very reasonable price! Now it must be remembered that most people collecting butter making paraphernalia want to display it....I wanted to use it and this has fascinated everyone!
I then purchased 2 very large pots of organic double cream from a supermarket for under £2 for the two and set to work turning the handle.....
First it went thick like whipped cream followed by thin like single cream......and just when I thought it had gone wrong chunks of golden yellow butter magically appeared and very quickly the butter was a big blob completelt separated from the buttermilk!

The buttermilk was poured off and the butter scooped out and salted, shaped and refrigerated....the buttermilk was used for scones........yummy!...........AND there was still a pot and a half of cream left for the next attempt!

Thursday, May 15, 2008 last! I know its unpopular but after 10 days of continuous wonderful weather all the butts were running dry and I was getting a bit fed up with continually watering my seeds! I have a weed problem in one of the raised beds with creeping mint! Worse than bindweed it is and I have resorted to painting each bit that pops up with a paintbrush dipped in glyphosphate as pulling it disturbs my tiny carrot and parsnip plants and beheading it with the hoe makes it pop up 5 new ones for everyone I chop off!! I have horse tail(equisetum) in that bed that is a different fight completely as it is a plant descended from the time of the dinosaurs and as you can imagine is nigh on impossible to get rid of! Both these 'weeds' have their place.....but not in my heavily mulched no dig raised bed, and certainly not in the middle of my seedlings thank you!
I have started to shear the Ouessants last evening while waiting for my regular shearer Jock to phone to tell me when he will come and see to the large sheep. Last year when presented with the Ouessants he laughed and commented on needing a magnifying glass but did a reasonable job considering they wriggle like eels! Well I have a nice set of shears I use for the odd dagging job(tidying up bottoms that are grubby) or sorting out and flystrike that occurs when it is vital that the area is sheared clean of maggots very quickly....uggh!
But I have never in all this time sheared a whole sheep......I have clipped plenty of horses in the past and just regard sheep as a rather larger woolly version when it comes to clippers.
Well I did a reasonable job on the chosen 2 that were first in the queue as they were starting to lose their wool......primitive sheep such as Ouessants 'rue' their wool which means that when it starts to get a bit warm the oils and lanolin in the wool 'rise' and the sheep gets a bit itchy and rubs and the wool breaks and falls out!..........not ideal if you want to use the wool!
The Ouessant has more wool on it per pound/kilo of sheep than any other in the world and so from under a large fleece a very small sheep emerged! The first who is a bit of a tearaway got a couple of small 'nicks' from the shears which were sprayed with some purple antiseptic and the second one got away with no nicks at all to her.....but nicked my finger top with the shears and she had blood everywhere on her.....MINE!

I am doing some work for Dorset Community Actions 'Three Rivers Partnership' at the moment called Friends and Neighbours and at the moment am meeting all the agencies involved (known as the stakeholders) before surveying the general public in the chosen case study areas. Whilst on my travels I went to Shaftesbury for a meeting and after getting a sandwhich ate it at the top of Gold Hill in the picture. I am very familiar with this area having spent most of my adult life in North Dorset and it was interesting and sad to discover how things only notice when you go back to an area and I had not really been back very often for about 10 years except to visit I went to see what had happened to my good friends old farm........

They had a County Council farm on the Dorset County Council farms estate near Shaftesbury where they worked harder and harder over 25 years for an ever diminishing return! My friend (I will call her S) and her husband (R) had a dairy herd of 60, raised rare breed pigs, rented a little attached cottage as a holiday cottage, did B&B, AND S worked nights in an old folks home and R did fencing contracting. Yet everyone who met them but did not know how hard they worked commented on how lovely and relaxed it must be to live in such a beautiful place! When 3 years ago they could no longer make ends meet they were forced to give up the tenancy of the farm........the County Council decided that the farm was too small (60 acres) to be a viable unit for anyone else (?) so decided to sell the house with 12 acres as one lot, the lovely old barns as another with a few acres and give the rest to an adjoining Council farm (the only one left in that area now) Well S & R were given first refusal to buy........but having few assets except that from the sale of their cows could not dream of buying the home that they had lived in for 25 years......!! They received notice to quit with the offer of a council house on a local estate.....well they had been good council tenants for the past 25 years hadn't they? Their lovely house was the only ones who could afford it....downsizers from London. So S & R left the farm.....they have never been back although they rent a small cottage 5 miles away........its too raw for them to return even to see their old friends and neighbours.....they meet them elsewhere!
I drove slowly past remembering all the good times we had had there and drove on seeing that some of the other council farms had changed into art galleries, alpaca filled smallholdings etc, the farming community long gone. The fields I noticed were rather unkempt along with the general feel of the area and hardly a cow in sight.....sad as this is the Blackmore Vale described by Thomas Hardy as 'The vale of little dairies'........subtle changes are going on and this description will soon no longer apply as we import our milk from elsewhere whilst those who can afford to buy up the little family farms who had the little dairies.....I will say no more as it causes lumps in my throat and tears in my eyes.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I have added to my solar powered world with a solar powered oscillating fan in my polytunnel! I got all the bits from.....ebay for a good price..... and connected them all up to one of my electric fence batteries. To my amazement it works and keeps the hot air circulating rather than becoming humid and its very good! I have also connected one to the ducks fencing along with a little gate made from a pallet to get in rather than climb over the electrified netting. Itworks so well and keeps the battery topped up so well the ducks, who are prone to diving through the netting and raiding the hens food have not been near it!
I also planted my tomatoes in the polytunnel a few weeks ago and mulched them with good old waste wool and installed a 'leaky pipe' a recycked rubber hose pipe with deliberate leaks that trickle feeds the bed with water. Its great and the aubergines are now planted too. peppers and chillies will follow when big enough as will the cucumbers any day. Pete obtained a tomato planter in a job lot of bits and bobs at an auction, it is now lined with wool, filled with compost and home to 2 totem variety basket cherry tomato plants

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Just before I found out I had got the funding for the felting project I went to Wonderwool in Builth Wells. I had my knee surgery 2 days before and was told not to drive for 2 fact the pale and pasty indoor type surgeon (who is very nice really!!) had said I wouldn't be doing much farming for a few months........what planet does he self employed folks don't get sick pay and the sheep won't feed themselves!.........Anyway off I went with the most splendid person as my co conspirator....Lucie Wilby sheep artist extrodinaire!

I must explain..........when I booked my stand at Wonderwool I had a double stand including a pen for some sheep booked. I was due to exhibit the Ouessants but due to the Blue tongue movement regs could not. I had a brainwave (it occaisionally happens) that if not real sheep some pictures would be good....and the artist responsible sitting painting them too!
So Lucie and I set up our wares and retreated to an amazing b&b with the best hosts ever thouroughly shattered!
On the following morning we were back at the showground bright and early and sampled some of the foodie delights as the show was sharing with the Mid Wales Mouthful starring Anthony Worral Thompson........and yes he is very short and very plump!!!
After a very hectic busy day selling a lot more than we could have hoped for we had some dinner and followed a fellow sheep breeder (coloured sheep and Ouessants) back to her remote Welsh farm to look at some rams with a thought to buy.
Now I live in Wellies and am even seen in the supermarket in them.......but of course both Lucie and I had our glad rags and shoes.....we had not even contemplated buying sheep. So whilst Lesley sent her sheep dog over a distant mountain to find the rams we found ourselves in a boggy field being approached bu a herd of Dexter cattle intent on loving us and rubbing their heads all over us. Well I was still not to steady on my feet so rather than be knocked over by the amiable cattle we climbed a gate into the next field where we had 2 stark choices 1. go back through the cows who were convinced we were bearing gifts of food and were all looking longinly over the gate and were too tame and friendly to be shooed away or 2. ford a small stream that in our normal wellied state would be easy but was like crossing the Nile in new shoes!!
Lucie decided to do the stepping stone hop.....and promptlu slipped and got her feet soaked. I decided that as I could neither jump nor hop due to my knee a cold paddle was in order and removed socks and shoes and waded across much to the horror of the flock of sheep who were making up the spectators!
Eventually we both got to solid ground, the sheepdog found the rams and I agreed to purchase Josh a Wensleydale x Charolais x Icelandic coloured ram and I also put my name on a nice little Ouessant ram to be collected at weaning.
Sunday passed with hectic sales and Lucie and I returned home tired but happy with several purchases too! I bought some icelandic wool tops to knit and felt into bags, some dye stuffs and a skein of Colinette yarn that I took a fancy to trying out as I am having some of my wool made into slub yarn later this year. I made a cosy for my coffee pot and am making a tea cosy with the you can see I am a wool producer not a knitter!!
Thanks all for the very positive response to the felting project.........its going to be amazing and will hopefull raise the profile of wool!

Thursday, May 01, 2008


The funding for the felting plant has been successful so we will be up and running by the autumn!!
The eco business unit that the project will occupy is a recycled ww2 building on an old ww2 airfield at Dunkeswell in the Devon bit of the Blackdowns! It now has a new roof, good insulation to the roof and walls, a latest technology compost toilet and a wood pellet stove that will use local wood chips! is fab and I saw it today!! This felting plant will hopefully be up and running by the autumn..........more news to follow soon!