Sunday, December 13, 2009


Cows.....methane....vegetarianism.....cows......climatechange......milk.....cows.....cheese.......grass.......conservation.....cows.... ......ooooo and a few million sheep, deer, antelope, bison, buffalo......cows......methane....global warming....

This has been a reccuring theme on tv over the last few weeks......
I have a veggie husband.....yep Pete is a veggie.....he always has been....for over 30 years....and yes I grow meat.....
I have had some interesting anonymous comments posted on the blog from those who want to bash me for murdering my animals, causing climate chaos or a combination of the 2!.....I usually delete them as they cannot be bothered to leave their name or because they are rude!
So I got to thinking and doing some asking around.....what do people really know about ruminants....the vegetarian grazing animals with 4 stomachs that include cattle, sheep, goats, deer, buffalo and antelope to name a few!
They are animals designed to graze and browse large quantities of plant matter, then sit down and regurgitate it, re chew it (chewing the cud) and then swallow it again.
They all belch methane as part of their digestive system....
So why are cattle suddenly so bad, why are we all supposed to go veggie and is it as simple as all that to stop greenhouse gas?

Wellllll.....noooo!
Lets look at it bit by bit...
Cattle (and other ruminants) are designed to eat herbage....grass etc....and if that was all they ate plus hay in winter when the feed value of grass was low, they would be ok, if given a huge area to roam.....about 4 acres per cow...They would be able to produce and feed a calf, but that would be it....just like a bison or buffalo.
However man has developed 'breeds' of cattle accentuating their atributes for rapid growth, big muscules and milk and as a result we have beef cattle such as the Hereford that produces only enough milk for its calf but puts on loads of meat!.....it has a good frame designed to carry beef!
On the other hand there is the Fresian that is a large bony cow that produces lots of milk ....more than a calf can manage and often if not milked for humans can suckle 2 or 3 calves!(not its own as cows generally have one - foster calves!)
So we have beef and dairy cattle.
All cattle breed annually with a gestation of 9 months...so eah year a cow will calve and if a beef breed she will raise her calf and if a dairy breed she will not as the milk is needed for the milk and dairy products industry....
Now the beef cow and calf will be kept extensively on lots of grass, and little corn/grain feed will be given....therefore less methane will be produced as more grain fed to cattle = more methane produced by the digestive system!......The calf will grow on and eventually become prime steak etc!
The dairy cow will also eat grass and hay BUT will be fed huge quantities of grain to keep milk production going as she must produce well..... more milk from less cows is more efficient! She needs a high protein diet containing a lot of protein, usually soya based.
The dairy cows annual calf will be either a beef cross bred (its father being a beefy bull) or a dairy calf (its father being a dairy breed like mum) The beef calves will be reared for meat, the female dairy calves for herd replacements and.....the dairy bull calves.....which are skinny and not at all beefy....are often shot at birth now the veal trade to which they used to go to is not popular....(some are raised as rose veal)

So......the beef animal is extensive, lower in methane, is a good conservation tool as it grazes areas that need cattle to maintain biodiversity, may consume some grain, but not high protein....and provides beef for meat eaters.....however....
The dairy cow needs lush grazing, often rye grass which is poor for biodiversity, needs huge quantities of maize and grass silage, needs large ammounts of concentrate grain feed containing a lot of soya, produces huge quantities of poo.....which is collected in big slurry tanks...and produces huge quantities of......methane!
And the produce.....all vegetarian....plus an annual calf.....

So what can we conclude from this.....?
Well its complex....if we want to eat meat we have to demand local extensively farmed grass fed meat (if its beef or lamb) free range pork and poultry and that is going to be expensive as its been produced slowly and conservatively without a lot of cheap grain feed with a lot less animals to the acre. Therefore the decision must be to eat a lot less meat but make it much better quality meat that has done a good job for biodiversity and has not 'cost the earth'.....
If we want to eat meat every day we must face up to either spending huge amounts of money to feed our meat habit or buy cheap mass produced meat that has been pushed to weight by feeding lots of grains (as in the picture in the cattle parks of the USA and S America)
The dairy cow which produces the milk and therefore the butter and cheese is a bigger producer of greenhouse gas....because of course everyone wants to eat tons of cheese, butter, yoghurt etc and drink gallons of milk and there is the sticky question of the fate of the calf it must produce each year to keep it milking! Therefore there is just as much of a dilemma with dairy products as there is with meat eating!!!
So veggies next time you yell from the rooftops that meat eaters are causing global warming take a hard look as how much you consume in the way of dairy produce!

Personally I don't have any problem with anyone eating anything......so long as they have thought long and hard about the consequences.......food for thought eh?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Climate change is being discussed...on every programme on tv and the radio it seems...why? Well of course all the great and the good are currently discussing whether we are going to save the world or not in Copenhagen at the Climate change summit....
Save the world...oh come on...really? YES REALLY!!!
We just cannot carry on behaving like idiots and I mean really dumb stupid idiots! We have finite resources of many of the things we take for granted like oil! Trouble is so many people expect to carry on regardless of the consequences......a lot of people say to me how lovely it is to see a green business thriving and thats great, until they then buy the cheapest option....

For example say they need some roof insulation....they consider wool,....( "but well really, it IS expensive isn't it?").....so they pop down to the local DIY store where there is a BOGOF (buy one get one free) on rockwool, polystyrene board or fibre glass insulation (" Oh it was soooo much cheaper we bought enough for the garage too")

But what is wrong with that approach I hear you say? There house will be warmer and emit a lot less in carbon and they will save money on the heating bills, surely there is not a problem?

Well....sheeps wool insulation may be a bit more expensive to buy but it does the same job in lessening carbon emmissions and lowering bills BUT it does a whole lot more besides.
Firstly the energy required to make the same amount of rockwool is.....approx 85% more!!!
add to that transport costs = lots of oil AND then once installed if it is to be disposed of years later is not recyclable nor compostable and has to go into landfill!
Fibre glass....often marketed as recycled glass bottles....has a similar problem....the cost of transporting, recycling and reprocessing is enormous, and again is not re recyclable nor compostable.....and must go to ......landfill!
Polystyrene and foam board.....well what can I say.....made of oil, and very difficult to dispose of...I saw lots of both in a load of builders waste at the local tip!!
Wool..... is readily available within possibly a max of 20 miles of your front door presently keeping a sheep warm, renewable, recyclable, compostable, and its NOT going to cost the earth.....

So to those who think they can do their bit by going down to the DIY store, buying some cheap insulation, changing the odd lightbulb and possibly scrapping their gas guzzling car to take advantage of the government scheme to reduce older cars on the road to by a smaller one....
who then pat themselves on the back for being so 'green' and then go and book a 5p flight to Barcelona .......well done.....but its not quite this simple.....

Friday, November 27, 2009


Devon Environmental Business Initiative......

I entered the awards after lots of arm twisting.....

I knew that lots of huge and top businesses entered......like the National Trust and Paignton Zoo (who won last year)......

So when we were shortlisted in the Environmental Goods and Services category I was amazed....

Off we went last night to the awards ceremony to collect our certificate for being a finalist....

But to my total shock we won the category....

We then watched the other categories being presented with their awards and thought wow!

And then the announced the overall winner for 2009.......

And it was 'The Woolly Shepherd'........and there was a picture of me and my logo up on the big screen......gobsmacked!

Thanks to everyone who reads the blog and supports us by buying our products......this is just amazing!

Monday, November 16, 2009


Sheeps wool insulation was discussed on a programme called Countryfile on the BBC last night! At last people are realising that sheeps wool is as good if not better than man made materials and other more damaging to the environment materials!!!The U value is very comparable with rockwool yet the energy used to make it is 85% less....!!!
I make this from 100% British sheeps wool.....better than that even is that a fair price is paid to a lot of the farmers from whom I buy direct!......and ALL the wool in our insulation is from West Country farms!! - cuts the fibre miles down to a minimum!
So if you need some....let me know!

Monday, November 09, 2009

More good news! I have been awarded a loan by the Fredericks Foundation
to buy a needle felting machine!!! We will now be able to process all the waste cut offs from our insulation and make more!!! Of course this is a small machine, a mere 60 inches wide, but it will be brilliant! We can also make prefelts and very detailed fashion felt on this machine as it can process metre after metre in a continuous roll!....Wicked!

I also want to have a bit of a rant about homelessness......
Inspired by something that has happened locally......

There is a lovely family that are homeless....yes really....in 2009.....without water and sanitation....and with only basic cooking facilities....
A situation originally caused by circumstances involving domestic abuse, violence and debt...
A family who have picked themselves up, do not 'live off the state' but work hard in the casual work found across the west country, mostly horticultural seasonal work.
They are seen as theives, scroungers, mingers, which they most certainly not....by some and genuinely in need by others....yet no one will let them rent their available houses......in an area full of second homes and holiday lets....all standing empty whilst a small boy smiles and says....'I'm just a bit hungry'.......


Saturday, October 31, 2009



Somerset is famous for its amazing night time carnivals......if you are ever in this part of Britain at this time of the year you really must not miss the chance to see one!
There are several 'circuits' some being dictated by float size and road bends!!! The Wessex circuit includes Taunton and you can see below my attempts to photograph and record some of it last weekend. However the biggest circuit is the Guy Fawkes circuit and the 2 unmissable carnivals on that one are Bridgwater and Glastonbury. We are off to the Bridgwater carnival next Friday night. It starts at 7pm and finishes at about 10.30 after which squibbing takes place.....over a hundred people line the high street with amazing squibs....fireworks that shoot silver rain.....on poles....take a look at this link here to find out all about the carnival and how to get there!
video

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Time! Where does it go? How can anyone ever be bored!
Well lots has happened here....the judges came and went for the awards, and now I must sit and bite my nails! We will know the outcome at the awards ceremony on the 26th November and it seems our category had the most entries and some are HUGE companies.....I am now getting a bit scared.....especially as Taffy my assistant says I MUST wear a frock for the do, which is like the oscars with the envelope opening etc.....I don't actually posess a 'frock' and having lost 2 stone in weight the 2 skirts I do posess look somewhat tent like!! We shall see!
We are now processing wool for an arts project....where they knit a sweater for a bench.....interesting! Some felt shrouds.....!! A load of felt for individual commissions, lots of wool to be sent for spinning....and loads of insulation....its great to be soooooo busy!
At home all sorts going on too. The last of the veg, chillies, peppers, spinach, spuds and stripy aubergines have been cleared from the veg plot by the fab helper Carolyn, who has also painted one of my sheds a lovely greeny bluey colour and my shepherds hut green!
We had a young couple from the USA here for 10 days too and whilst here they did some incredible stuff....took the hedge out at the front of the house to let more light in, redirected the stream back to where it was supposed to go with the aid of a ditch and were stars in the wool cutting dept!
Another friend has been in and built a smashing compost loo for us in return for pulling a caravan back for him......pics to follow when i have time to take some.......phew....see its all go here!
Add to that tons of jam made, elderflower and grapefruit, and rhubarb wine racked off to clear before bottling and 40 pints of home brewed beer about to be bottled as I type....well its no wonder I am tired....but happy.....hic!

Friday, October 09, 2009





Celebration time at Woolly Waste! We have been shortlisted for the Devon Environmental Business Awards!!!
We are now up against 3 other businesses for the Environmental Goods and Services Award!!! I am so chuffed as we have worked really hard to get this far. The next round is on the 20th of October when we get a visit from 4 judges for an hour and then we have to wait until the awards ceremony at the end of November to find out!

What else have we been up to? The Ouessant sheep are happily chomping their way through lots of lush autumn grass and Merinos is enjoying being top ram!
We have some volunteers arriving to do some mass vegetation clearance in the front garden.....and we have just turned half a tonne of waste wool and rugs, some pictured below, into fluff by putting it through our garnet machine. The 'fluff' in the bag is being used to insulate an eco house!!!
The pictures show the before, during and after!

Saturday, September 19, 2009




Did you buy french beans beans or flowers this weekend?.....Did you see where they came from.....Did you care? Just look at the result! Just imagine if it was Britain, with water tankers being mobbed by folks desperate for water! Imagine if you will our countryside strewn with starving people and dying cows.....Of course it won't happen here will it?......most likely not to be honest, but neither should it be happening in Kenya. I went shopping in Sainsburys this morning and the African grown flowers and green beans are still there for us to buy and having seen the huge version of the above picture of dead and dying cows in the front of the Guardian yesterday I felt a huge rush of revulsion for a global market that insists that its ethical and fair to import green beans from a drought ridden country......Of course many argue that the bean(and other veg) growing improves lives, brings in foreign capital, uses less energy than freezing beans grown in Britain etc etc..........but at what cost to the lives of those cattle herders, and the Masai people, whose culture and nomadic life are almost at an end.....what of them? What of the cattle and goats that are dying....about 50% of Kenyas livestck are dead....the cost of a green bean or a red rose....thats what. We in the west, who cannot be bothered to salt our beans or preserve them by bottling, we who protest loudly about animal welfare ....... are stealing the lives of people..... mums, dads, grannies and grandads...... and little children by stealing their precious water to grow.......beans!
Progress, international trade, globalisation.....call it what you will its immoral!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Its tough sometimes being a person with a sustainable environmental business because a lot of those who love to use the words and phrases environment, conservation, sustainable, green, save the world, get in touch with the earth, make a difference, transition to a new future etc find the word 'business' sits very uneasily with them.....now before you all bash me I know what the problem is or seems to be....businesses are seen as efficient, occasionally dishonest, pushy, low levels of morality, brash and just a bit to normal....
Maybe I have got it wrong? But its very interesting as I have come to these conclusions reluctantly through reactions to what I do by the folks who need to be the most supportive!
Lots of people want to 'come and pick my brains' about what I do, they come and visit the unit, often because they would like to be involved in a similar project....great! I don't mind chatting and telling it as it is!
Others have wanted to work with me, and a couple have for a bit but have found out that running an environmental business is not 'fluffy' .....that its hard work!

I often muse on why businesses that are very successful with terrifically high morals and ethics like Riverford and Cafe Direct are often criticized to death by the 'environmental types' and to be honest I just cannot understand it........they are very successful businesses.....is that the root of the problem? Do we all like an under dog, someone who tries but fails, a reason not to be successful, a reason to moan?........... I just don't know!
But its got me thinking a lot! .........and I think somehow its a British thing! We are not radical in an ordinary way......we like to look the part for the lifestyle we choose so an environmentalist is often seen as a person with hippy clothes and hair, several piercings, maybe a tattoo of something celtic..........but never as a bloke in a smart suit with a crisp shirt!!!

At home here we are possibly at our most sustainable but we look very ordinary.....too ordinary at times! I wear very boring normal clothes...most second hand. We shop very ordinarily in supermarkets and local shops but make a point of demanding local produce and buying nothing that is out of season or from the other side of the world. We drive.....and yes we have 3 cars....horror of horrors.....but we use them responsibly and for the purpose intended eg we do not use the 4x4 except for towing logs or livestock or wool!
We do not fly.....at all, and never will.....! We have a tv, the kids have an X box and a DS (those who are in the know will know what they are!) and we have computers.
We grow wood, veg, meat and reuse every last thing we can eg the cereal box insides are used to wrap the packed lunches.
I am not claiming sainthood but just pointing out we do not live in a yurt, a green wood building, nor an eco home, just a house.....we don't wear the 'right' clothes, we don't cycle everywhere because we cannot...BUT we want sustainable and ethical to be normal!
And when it comes to my business we want people to get involved.....come along and help for a day!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Just take a look at this article and picture sent to me by a fellow blogger and friend!

Sheep are the most perfect animal for so many things and this really is brilliant!

Grazing sheep are a practical means of controlling weeds and grasses that otherwise would block the sun from ground-level solar arrays. The practice, begun in Europe, may well become a world standard, and has already spread to America (see below for example).

The requisite fence around the solar farm perimeter not only 'keeps the sheeps,' it fences out peeps who might otherwise steal the sheeps...and panels. So, it's something insurance companies have come to insist upon.

How to keep the wolves at bay, though?

Sheep dogs may definitely have a renewable energy future.

And, by sheer coincidence, wool may become a co-product of solar power generation. Marketer types will have fun branding it.

Why not goats? Because they would eat the equipment.

Solar panels are pricey, and putting them on public display is not without risk. BB&T, the bank that financed the project, required that the $4 million solar farm be surrounded by barbed wire.

To further promote the green theme, Carolina Solar Energy will arrange to have sheep brought in to trim the grass. Jim Stovall, chairman of the Person County Economic Development Commission, said sheep are a natural fit.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

A month since I posted....!! I have been sooo busy! We have been to France for a well earned break...however it was not much of a break to start with as there has been an ongoing problem with water getting into the house we own there under the roof....the brand spanking new roof put on by the builder from whom I bought it.....who made it about 6 inches too short at each end! Me not being a roofer meant I didn't notice and thought the water dripping into the fireplace was coming through the wall which was in need of new pointing....but after having it re pointed at great cost to no avail I realised it was the roof! So this time when we arrived we found lots of water everywhere and mould growing on the walls and wet rot!.....which is just not on in a newly renovated house!
Pete spent 3 days in howling gales and horizontal rain (yes it was July!) up a ladder clinging to the roof installing some zinc flashing which now renders the roof watertight....great way to spend ones relaxing break!
The builder has thank goodness admitted liability......
So other than the roof what did we do? Well we went to Vieilles Charrues music festival and saw Moby, The Killers, The Ting Tings, Francis Cabrel, Tambours de Bronx, Bruce Springsteen and lots more!.....and was so tired I slept most of one day after getting home at 3am....we were not camping as Carhaix the town where it is located is about 20 mins down the road!
Later in the week we drove accross Brittany to the Normandy border where we left the boys with the amazing Celia and went off to Mont st Michel for 24 hours by ourselves to celebrate 10 happy years!

Well the holiday was soon over and back to work and we are flat out with lots of woolly work....all machines are working to their full capacity which is nice! and we have produced some lovely things.....mostly beautiful felt!

We are looking for an amazing person to come and work with us, as a volunteer/work experience person to start with and all training etc will be given.....paid work will be available when we have a big rush on too and eventually a possible paid position ! We are looking for someone who is very keen on wool, sheep, using old machinery, who loves getting grubby, working funny hours at times, is any age over 16, who may want to start a woolly based business using our units facilities......in fact we want people passionate about wool, sustainability and more wool! If you think you may be that person or knows someone let me know......and just to warn you its hardand heavy work....!

Friday, July 10, 2009


Well here at last are some pics! We have just finished production of a huge batch of woolly insulation for RiverfordOrganics and while I hop over to France for a bit my wonderful team will make a start on the house insulation we have to start installing in September! We have a great wool cutting machine.....pictured here.....now if you want one please don't try and copy it as we are copyrighting the design, ask and we will gladly give you a quote to make one for you!

Also here are the wonderful Ewe Boots.....which will go into production soon....designed and made by a team of students headed by a lovely young lady called Holly!

And as if thats not enough here are our sustainable recycled wood
farmers market boxes!

It is very exciting times at Woolly Waste!

We have been able to put a lot of local wool into the current mix of wool going into insulation and we have also now got the washing machine going flat out along with the drying racks.....the first processing customers will get their finished products as soon as I get back ......

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Just a quickie....

LOOK!!!! we are on the front page of Riverford Organic meat boxes!!!!!!

I am so thrilled to be able to supply Riverford who incidentally have just won the Observer ethical business award!!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Sheeps wool packaging.....we are about to start production of a cool bag....watch this space as its coming soon!

And what else have I been doing? Well the 6 remaining sheep have had a haircut and are looking trim, as is the orchard which had to be strimmed to find said sheep it had grown so long! the veg garden is a bit neglected but still full of potatoes, beans and other yummy stuff and the polytunnel full of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers!
Super helper Molly has decorated the caravan and we have become regulars at the local recycling centre....10 demi-johns for £1.15 being the best buy so far. Gallons of elderflower wine are bubbling away and even more gallons of elderflower champagne are maturing in bottles scrounged from the local farmshop restaurant. Rhubarb wine is next to be brewed and as for jam....a veritable tonnage has been made with bartered fruit.....we are not going to go short in the wine and jam departments!
I recently bought 6 ex free range unit hens for £3 the lot, they look pretty bald and ugly but we get at least 3 eggs a day so they are already paying their way, and having a better life!

Do I get time to sleep?......occaisionally! Wool is the main preoccupation with it being shearing time and lots and lots of wool enquiries! We are producing lots of fabulous wool insulation and incorporating a lot from local farms! We can safely say we are the only producer of woolly packaging that is fairly traded AND locally and ethically sourced....! Whats more it will contain more and more local wool.....today I took half a tonne from a local farm to add to the mix and some of it will feature in their farmers market boxes.....picture tomorrow!

I will post a lot over the next few days about our growing range of woolly products......keep watching....you will be inspired by 'Ewe boots'!!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

I have lots to comment on about the woolly waste open day, the wool washing machine and so on but today I want to admit to being a michael Jackson fan.....if you actually care to look on wikipedia and find out a bit more about him you may find therewas more to the man than his eccentricities....one of his less well known songs can be heard here
Sums up the compassion and thoughtfullness of a sad misunderstood man...RIP

Monday, June 22, 2009

And finally......

Who makes money from a pint of milk?
WHO, WHAT, WHY?

Dairy farmers warn they are struggling to survive on what they are paid for milk. So who gets the money when you buy a pint?

HOW FARMERS LOSE MONEY
  • 61p - cost to farmer to produce four pints
  • 58p - paid to farmer by processor
  • 3p - farmer's loss
  • £1.07 - paid to processor by supermarket
  • £1.45 - cost to customer to buy four pints from supermarket Source: DairyCo
  • Times are not good for many dairy farmers. The gap between how much it costs to produce milk, and how much they are paid for it, is being squeezed ever tighter. And one of the industry's biggest cooperatives has gone into receivership, leaving hundreds unable to sell what they are producing.

    Milk is a staple of the average Briton's daily diet. According to industry figures, 98% of households in the UK buy the white stuff, and on average we each consume over two-and-a-half pints a week.

    We pay on average 39p for a pint, according to the milk trade body, DairyCo. It comes to this figure by dividing the average cost of a four-pint carton in the supermarkets. So where does that money go?

    Getting milk from a cow to the chiller cabinet involves the farmer, the processor and the supermarket. The first produces the milk, the second collects, pasteurises, bottles and distributes it, and the third sells it.

    Each has costs and overheads to cover, from feed and vet bills for a farmer, to staffing and electricity bills for the supermarkets. When all these costs are taken into account, it's the farmers who are missing out.

    Farmers made a loss of 1p for every pint they sold last year, according to DairyCo figures for 2007/2008. Obviously, this is an average across the industry. Some farmers, with more cost-effective operations, will be making money.

    But no one disputes that times are hard, with the farm-gate price of milk - what the processor pays the producer - falling month on month. In May, it was down to just 23p a litre, on average.

    "Prices are simply unsustainable. The average farmer is losing money on each litre of milk produced, leaving no room for reinvestment on the farm," says a spokesman for the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF).

    Processors on average make money from each pint they sell, but the story isn't straightforward here either. The Dairy Farmers of Britain cooperative (DFOB), responsible for 10% of UK milk production, went into receivership earlier this month.

    The co-op had been struggling to pay its 1,800 member farmers a competitive price for their milk, and large numbers were leaving. It also lost the milk contract for Co-operative supermarkets.

    The supermarkets' margin on fresh milk has increased steadily over the years, according to DairyCo figures. The big few enjoy considerable bargaining power with many of their suppliers, so can keep prices competitive for customers.

    "Farmers have been placed under extreme pressure by retailers and the service sector for far too long to produce milk at the lowest price possible, and they continue to make a loss," says the RABDF's spokesman.

    But retailers say paying farmers a fair price is important. While Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket group, will not discuss margins - "it's commercially sensitive," says a spokeswoman - in 2007 it signed up its own group of dairy farmers, paying above the market rate for their milk.

    "We were credited with bringing up farm-gate prices," she says.

    Story from BBC NEWS:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/magazine/8103119.stm

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    More News on the milk front......
    Taken from an article in the Western Morning News....

    Read it carefully.....Lubborn Cheese...makers of Somerset Brie and Capricorn Goats Cheese has been sold......TO THE FRENCH!!!!
    Now don't get me wrong I love France and as many will know spend a lot of time there and have a tiny house there but .......sell out to the French!
    There were apparently several British bidders but the recievers of course sell to the highest bidder....
    Could it be that now we will see Lubborn Cheese close as uneconomic and further imports of 'President' brie take over? Or will Somerset Brie just be anonymous with President brand on it?
    Will milk be imported from France.....who knows....
    All this has been so under reported its not true......
    The writer used to be the SW rep for the NFU.....unless there are 2 of them?
    His assertion that

    "In an ideal world, there would be only one dairy co-operative in Britain, big enough and strong enough to do business with the supermarkets and other major buyers on its own terms.The collapse of DFoB takes us halfway there."

    just smacks of going back to the old Milk Marketing Board and its centrally fixed prices.....just like the Wool Marketing Board and you know how that monopolises prices and stops enterprise.....Yes the bigger farms will be ok but the small family farms will disappear and not a sound will be heard at their death....because most people will not know nor care, I could just sit and cry!
    Come on all the folks out there.....those involved in transition towns, in permaculture, in going green, in becoming 'eco'........shout loudly about where your food comes from!

    WHISPER it not in Haverfordwest, but the demise of the milk co-operative, Dairy Farmers of Britain, could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the sector as a whole.

    That is not, for a moment, to deny the very real human and financial cost of the co-operative's collapse. Scores, possibly even hundreds, of workers in its liquid milk business, face losing their jobs.

    The average DFoB farmer member stands to lose £14,000 for milk delivered in May and the first few days of June, for which he will not now be paid, as well as investment capital of £25,000.

    For some of DFoB's smaller members in the more remote areas of Wales, who may find it difficult to identify an alternative buyer, it could even spell an end to milk production. In total, DFoB's 1,800 farmer members will be around £66 million worse off.

    That is money that the producer side of the dairy industry can ill afford to lose.

    But there is, most definitely, another way of looking at it, and it is a perspective that is much more comfortably adopted from a South West standpoint – given DFoB's relatively small presence in the region – than it would be in the co-operative's heartlands of Wales, the Midlands and the North. At a strategic level, a rationalisation of processing capacity and a further concentration among the producer co-operatives was exactly what was required.

    The disappearance of DFoB provides both, albeit in singularly brutal fashion.

    The South West dairy co-operative, Milk Link, has already snapped up one of DFoB's most prized assets – a state-of-the-art cheese plant at Llandyrnog in North Wales – for what one must presume was a knock-down price. That will reinforce Milk Link's position as the number one player in the cheese market and, in time, give a boost to its membership as well.

    The other remaining co-operative, First Milk, which operates in Scotland and the North, will also be seeking to cherry-pick the best bits from the wreckage of DFoB, to its own and its members' advantage. And OMSCo, the organic milk co-operative, stands to pick up most, if not all, of DFoB's organic suppliers, which will leave it that much stronger, as well.

    There will, of course, be casualties. DFoB's ageing liquid milk dairies are unlikely to find buyers. But for all but the people who work in those plants, that too has to be a good thing, given that there is surplus capacity in the liquid sector, and that it was paying too much for these factories that got DFoB into trouble in the first place.

    DFoB's only processing plant in the South West is Lubborn Cheese, at Cricket St Thomas, near Chard. It is a small, modern factory, making first-class products, including the award-winning Somerset Brie. Talks have been going on for some time on a possible purchase by the French dairy giant Lactalis, and even as I was writing this, word came through that the sale (which is actually outside the receivership) had been completed.

    That must be good for the South Somerset dairy farmers who supply the plant and who I know take a fierce pride in its products, although whether Somerset Camembert survives in the hands of a company famous for its Le President brand of that cheese remains to be seen.

    Of course, those dairy farmers still stand to lose tens of thousands of pounds in unpaid milk and now worthless capital contributions.

    But there is another side, even to that unpromising coin. DFoB members were being paid what was comfortably the lowest price in the industry. Since the emergency price cut imposed last November, it has been running at between 2p and 4p below the level offered by other comparable buyers. At a differential of 3p, a million-litre DFoB producer will have been £15,000 worse-off than a Milk Link member of the same size over the past six months.

    That will now change. Milk is in short supply, and the larger DFoB members in the more accessible areas are being offered good money to sign up with alternative buyers. There is talk of Dairy Crest offering 24ppl in Somerset, and of Milk Link being prepared to pay Llandyrnog suppliers 23.5ppl.

    Writing on one of the online farming forums, one DFoB member has worked out that he will have recouped his milk losses from the receivership by Christmas, thanks to the higher price being paid by his new buyer.

    It is important to recognise that the demise of DFoB is not symptomatic of wider problems, either in the dairy industry in general, or the co-operative sector in particular. What started the rot was when the co-operative bought the ACC liquid milk business for almost twice what it was really worth. What finished it was the loss of what had been the ACC contract to supply milk into the Co-op.

    The moral of the DFoB story is not that farmer co-operatives don't work, it is that badly run farmer co-operatives don't work.

    During the same period that DFoB has been on the slippery slope to receivership, Milk Link has been going from strength to strength, thanks to good management, excellent products, a sound strategy and a loyal membership who are, at last, beginning to reap a return on all of the money and faith that they have invested in the co-operative during some distinctly bleak years.

    In an ideal world, there would be only one dairy co-operative in Britain, big enough and strong enough to do business with the supermarkets and other major buyers on its own terms.

    The collapse of DFoB takes us halfway there.

    One can but hope that the next major step towards consolidation is taken on the basis of carefully considered choice, rather than of harsh necessity. Because while the sacrifice of DFoB's suppliers and staff may prove not to have been in vain, it remains a very real sacrifice, nonetheless.

    Anthony Gibson is a freelance writer and may be contacted at anthony.gbsn@googlemail.com

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009


    Where do you think your milk comes from if you live in Britain? (and your butter and cheese).....its those lovely cows milked by those rustic fellows called farmers......? Or is it?? Do you care??
    Well you should! Click on the link above to catch up on a scandal hitting the dairy industry.....and get up and do something.....email your MP, write to the PM, boycott the imports.....Um what imports?

    Well.....let me explain!
    Most of us drink or use milk, eat cheese, enjoy yoghurt and fromage frais etc....but do you know where it comes from, do you know what is happening to our dairy farms? This week 10% of the milk still produced in Britain was under threat with the receivers being called in to the group known as 'Dairy Farmers of Great Britain' (DFoGB) a co op dedicated to fair returns for its members. The reason was because they lost the contract with the Co-operative supermarket chain....a supermarket group that prides itself on its fair trade principles and ethics..........well I will not be going there anymore!

    We are losing 2 dairy farmers a day, 10% have quit in the last 10 years, we have 200,000 less dairy cattle this year than last year. Many have been culled due to TB known often as the silent killer as its not reported the same way foot and mouth was, The average age of a British farmer is 58 years old.....so give it a few years and there will be very few family dairy farms left......

    We eat a lot of Somerset Brie.....as do I suspect some of my blog readers....have you noticed its abscence in the last few weeks.....or Capricorn goats cheese...notably absent too....both made by the DFoGB group. It costs 27p per litre to produce milk, the farmers belonging to the group who were producing 10% of Britains milk are currently being paid 10p per litre......and have a look in the shop next time you buy milk......how much are you paying for it? Just think how much is going to the producer?

    But of course we must not worry, because the milk bottles of Britain will not run dry.....they are importing record amounts of milk from Holland, Belgium and Ireland.........have we totally lost the plot?

    Friday, June 05, 2009

    What lovely weather we have been having......makes a change from all that rain! My solar panels were producing almost boiling water!!!!

    I had a great couple of weekends recently. On Saturday 23rd May I was working all day on the Big Green Idea bus talking to folks about fibres and wool as well as anything related to eco textiles. It was a tiring but worthwhile day and lots of discussion was generated.
    On Saturday 30th I was on a course in Cornwall learning to make biodeisel....well my van is a deisel van and I have wanted to do this for ages so bit the bullet and went. It was really good and I understood everything and made my own litre of the golden liqued!.........fantastic. I am now in search of 2 small bulk dairy tanks....one for me and one for Dick and Jim who were running the course. I am so chuffed as I had kept putting off the day when I did this course and I thought it would be too technical.....but its not and its amazing what you can do with an old hot water tank, an immersion heater, some pipe and a fish tank aerator! (among other things!)
    I know I should have taken my camera.....but I was so engrossed in my task that I would have forgotten to take any pics!!

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009


    At last here are the solar panels that power the wool washing water! They keep the water at 60 degrees on a sunny day and even on a dark stormy day they are at about 40 degrees! The immersion then only has to heat it a bit thus saving an awful lot of electricity! They are Navitron units as Navitron are a really environmentally responsible firm!.....Our installer Solar Sam has been a hero and done amazing things with electrical and water pipes!

    The wool washer is fantastic, after a few hiccups its going quite nicely!
    The last bits of the machines are being put together....things like safety plugs and shut offs, a batting roller has been constructed by the wonderfully resourceful Pete out of a scaffhold pole, some land drain, beautifully turned wooden cogs and a proper drive belt. He has also invented a wool felt cutting table which will speed up proceedings considerably!
    We will be having an open day between 10am and 8pm on Thursday 25th June so come along to Woolly Waste and see what we are up to......there will also be biscuits and cakes!

    If you have wool to be washed, wool to be carded or wool to be felted......or need all three get in touch as we are booking up fast!
    We also sell fleeces to those who havent got their own sheep but would like some fleece!

    Thursday, May 21, 2009


    Greenwash......its everywhere and driving me nuts! So many people are jumping on the bandwagon of 'eco' and 'green' and 'environmentally friendly' and 'organic' that it makes me mad!

    Why am I having this rant? Well today a friend emailed me regarding our recycled wool.....she had seen the ideal website with seemingly ideal values that would be perfect as an outlet for our recycled wool.

    Now when I say recycled....it really is! We have access to lots and lots of waste British wool....actually its better than that..... it has been processed in Devon, dyed lovely colours in Devon, then used for making designer carpets by hand weavers (our waste is the ends and bits from looms) 400 yards from out unit!!! so talk about keeping fibre miles down!
    We sort it into colours and then chop it up and put it through the Garnett machine which makes it into fluff again for felt, stuffing, hanging basket linings, re spinning etc etc. It looks like the stuff in the picture here and is lovely!

    Well the problem it seems is it may be local, it may be recycled, it may have amazingly low fibre miles, it may be 100% British wool......BUT
    .......its not organic!
    Flippin heck.....nobody is going to eat it ....are they?
    Well apparently nice eco folks don't want stuff like this, they would prefer to buy organic wool......but why?

    So I looked into the issues.....most people it seems trust the word 'organic'...dosent seem to matter where it comes from so long as its organic....because organic is 'safe'
    Mmmmmm I agree to a point and when buying food I buy 1. local, 2.local organic, 3.organic 4.Other, in that order and if the organic is from the otherside of the world often 'other' will get my vote!
    Why? Because I know there is nothing magic about words! Because I know most food produced on the small farms of the West Country is not full of pesticides and herbicides nor boosted by tons of artificial fertilisers.....farmers cannot afford them, must comply with cross compliance or lose their Single Farm Payment (lots of environmental conditions) and if in a scheme Higher or Entry level Stewardship.....lots more conditions.
    Livestock farmers are very careful with medicines which are strictly regulated and very expensive. (Intensive chickens and pigs are slightly different but thats another can of worms)

    So what makes wool organic? We looked into this when we looked at and decided not to go down the organic route with our sheep. Sheep have to 'go into conversion' when born non organic....they are never organic but their lambs are. However the wool is considered organic....confused.....I was!
    It seems that the theory is that whilst a sheep farmer can worm and use pour ons propylactically if an 'ordinary' farmer if organic he, or she can use the same products but to treat a problem rather than prevent it......However this is what most sheep farmers do!.......as treating 'just in case' causes resistance to medicines, problems with meat withdrawl and is incredibly expensive....which with the prices of lambs and sheep being until recently rock bottom made no economic sense at all.
    But we don't eat wool......no but we wear it and what about all those terrible toxic dips farmers put their sheep through?................Well dipping is practically unheard of except in huge hill flocks and even then the regulations are very tight and organo phosphate dips are virtually a thing of the past!..........their danger to human health is well known.
    So just about all British wool is incredibly safe.....
    The sting in the tail is that we export 70% of British wool and import 70% from abroad .......Heaven knows what some non European nations use on their sheep!!!

    Wednesday, May 20, 2009



    Manic wool cutting describes the last few weeks! We cut 1400 packs for Riverford Organics
    for their meat boxes that go from Devon all over the UK. The boxes and wool packs are then collected and reused umpteen times.....good is reuse....goes with reduce and recycle and the boxes and plastic are recycled consumer waste and the wool is local thereby reducing fibre miles!

    We are now well on the way to the start of machine cutting of wool....watch this space!
    We are also working on......yoga mats, felt boots and wormery mats!!! More ideas please, we have loads of wool.
    The washer is up and going after a hitch caused by me and an allen key.....doh! Resulted in a very costly spare part coming from Canada..........however it arrived in less than 48 hours....why oh why can I not get post to shift so quickly within Britain??

    At the weekend we went to the Smallholders Show at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells. We met loads of amazing people, sold lots of wool and lambskins, took lots of orders and came home very tired but happy!
    This pic is of my stand!

    Saturday, May 02, 2009

    Right....I promised to tell you why sheeps wool insulation, knitting wool, woollen jumpers etc are SO expensive....here goes!

    There are about 24 million sheep in this country (UK) and they all produce wool....even the very primitive native breeds of unimproved sheep such as Soays produce wool!

    Many breeds of sheep esp the primitive types (that means unimproved) will actually shed their wool if not sheared....it will fall out in clumps leading to a very motheaten appearance!
    Man caused sheep to produce lots of wool by selective breeding for all sorts of types....eg Herdwicks and Dartmoors for carpets, Devon Closewool and Southdown for hosierey (knickers and socks etc!!) and Wensleydales for worsted cloth (from which mens suits were made).........in Britain we have the most diverse breeds.
    Meat was a by product of the woollen industry and only latterly wool became the by product of meat as man made fibres took its place!
    In 1947 the Agriculture Act came into being setting up 'boards' to guarentee prices for producers and make sure Britain never went short again if we had a war....there was a Milk marketing board, a potato board .....and the British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) among others.
    Wool was very very important as nylon was in its infancy and acrylic had not yet appeared.
    Every sheep keeper with more than 4 sheep had to register with the 'board' and good money was paid for wool.....approx average 54p per kg in 1954.....and that was a lot, the wool cheque often paid the rent on a farm!
    Today in 2009 wool prices have just gone up.....to an average of 54p per kg ....but somehow I don't think 54p is worth the same....do you!
    Now to get this average there is a lot that is cheaper than that.....some poor quality coloured wool will fetch 5p or less per kg.....
    ..........Now shearing costs about £1 per sheep and the average sheep has approx 3 kgs.....do your own maths!.............the amount paid for the wool hardly covers the cost of shearing and often dosent get anywhere near covering it!

    So we know the wool is pretty worthless and a lot is poor quality....so why are jumpers and insulation SO expensive?
    Well.....once the wool has been delivered by the farmer to the depot (more costs as there are only 2 for the whole of the SW of England!) it it graded and baled (compressed into big rectangles)......
    And then it is sold on the wool stockmarket!!! This electronic trading is where registered wool buyers buy on the basis of the report on the wool supplied by the wood graders....The wool has not moved from the depot but its been sold! The wool buyer will then sell to the wool processor, someone like me....
    So The farmer may get 5p per kg for the wool he sent to the depot, where it was sold to a wool buyer for maybe 30p per kg who in turn sells it to me for 45p per kg.....the wool has still not moved but everyone takes their cut.....and I in turn have to pay for scouring, carding and felting.
    Now sall scale scouring, carding and felting....no problem...I have all the kit....but for the meat box and house insulation I must have 2-3 tonnes scoured at a time so I have it scoured commercially......You can notice the pennies adding up here if you are mathematically inclined!....Scouring costs are around 50p per kg.....and about 40% of the original weight of the wool is lost down the drain in dirt and grease.....feels expensive!
    So you can see that whilst the farmer may have got 5p per kg by the time I have the washed dried wool in my hands its cost me about £1.60 per kg!!!!
    You have to sit down to actually digest how something that was worthless suddenly gets so expensive, but this is how ALL wool is processed whether its for spinning, felting or whatever....and this is just to get it to the point where it can be processed further.

    Many people say th me they cannot understand why woolly goods ranging from jumpers to insulation are SOOOOO expensive, well here lies the answer!

    People really do not like having to pay the real true prices for their goods and baulk at the price of meat box insulation such as the product that we make as it is more expensive than polystyrene! For example a large recycled cardboard box and 2 liners will cost the person who sells them a bit more than a polystyrene box.....so they may decide not to buy....
    Sheeps wool insulation costs more than rockwool or recycled plastic insulation....so they choose rockwool!
    I would however like to cut my processing costs a little, buy my wool direct from the farmer, via the baling facility at the BWMB depot, giving the farmer say 15p per kg.....cutting out the wool buyer, more than doubling the price the farmer is getting for his poor quality wool, nearly halving the price I am paying for it AND paying the BWMB for storing at the depot and baling it.....so I pay the farmer 15p per kg, pay the BWMB 5p per kg to bale it and then 5p per kg transport it in bulk to the processing facility....In effect cut the middle men who never see the wool yet trade it!
    15p to the farmer still sounds terrible andit is.....I would prefer to pay the real worth....BUT
    Whilst the consumer is unaware of this chain and how much it costs to process the wool in to a useable product they will not pay for it....catch 22!

    So I appeal to readers of this blog.....find out about wool and if necessary pay the proper price!

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    Now here are those lovely lamb pics I promised all taken before the lambs were 2 weeks old....in fact the white one and her black brother pictured here with their wensleydale mum were only a week old!
    All the lambs were huge and all born very easily and quickly....I have concluded a Gotland x Wensleydale is a good idea!
    I also want to show you some machinery.......that is very exciting!!
    First take some weaving waste wool ends or old knitting wool, felt waste, insulation waste etc.....second take a chopper...thats the green machine dating from 1960 and feed in the wool and watch it shoot out of the end all chopped!
    Next picture shows the chopped wool....different colour to the stuff I photographed going through the chopper....goes onto the wooden conveyor belt and is taken in through the rollers.....very well protected by a mesh guard as if you got caught in it ....you would come out in bits too....!!!
    Third picture shows the other end and the beautiful web of blue it has turned into which can be made into batts for felt and insulation or tops for spinning or just fluff for blending with other wools and colours.
    Final picture is a close up of the result.....amazing eh? We are the only people doing this as far as we can tell!

    Get in touch quickly if you want a product made, want to make felt, want to recycle your wool, want to wash the wool from your sheep.....pics of the new solar panels powering the water for the washer next time.....

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Gosh its nearly a month since I last posted.....where does time go?
    I have finally decided to give up livestock, so have sold all.....yes all my sheep. Some have gone to a nice home in Gloucestershire, some are going to Hereforedshire (The whole Ouessant flock, as soon as they finish lambing) some are going to Yeovil to a big flock and some have already gone to Yeovil....more in a minute and one ewe and her lamb to Devon. The pigs have gone too.....to Wales and Somerset and the 2 remaining porkers depart for piggy heaven (and my freezer) next Thursday........why?

    Well after 28 years I decided that it had to be my family and sanity first, business second and sheep...a very consuming hobby....had to go.
    Some people have asked if I couldn't have kept a few about the place, but when its in your blood a few tend to become a few more and.....

    I sold some in the market, where they were bought by a farmer I know well from Yeovil who has since bought the rest privately.....It was hard taking the ewes and lambs to market, harder than I thought it would be as I often buy and sell there. But this was the last time.....the last dance....the end of an era.....and I sobbed my way through talking to friends, eating my bacon buttie in the market cafe and washing out my trailer in the washout queue.

    Some people dabble with smallholding for a while, its an experience they say, one we wouldn't have missed. But other of us live and breathe it.....very hard to put into words how it is....which is probably why many cannot put it into words and probably why the market is full of old ex farmers who just cannot keep away....who need their 'fix' who need to watch the cattle, prod a few sheep, talk of the old days, rue progress and the dawn of the new age of electronic ear tags and multiple choice trailer tests. At nearly 49 I am a young wipper snapper in the market and a woman to boot.....yet I am retiring from livestock......never again will I call my sheep in and watch them all run and jump across the fields in their race for the troughs and never again will I sit in the midst of them enjoying their appreciative company. But life must go on.....new beginnings and all that.....
    All my equipment, collected over the years is being sold, some has gone, some is even going to France!......keeping it just in case would be like placing a glass of beer in front of an alchoholic...
    So sad days......
    But I will still be involved indirectly.....just think of the 30 tonnes of wool I will be processing this year.
    I took some pictures of this years lambs before they went....I will post them soon as a final reminder and then the blog will update and move on.

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009






    Woolly Waste packaging is now in production and the business has moved to a new unit!! Here are some photos of the packaging and the move..........Also some students using our facilities to create recycled felt boots have won a local 'mock' Dragons Den.........yay!!! Their product is amazing and more details will follow of 'EWE BOOTS' as soon as i have a minute!

    The green macjine is our new chopper....a 1960s machine that will chop up old wool such as knitting wool, jumpers etc into bits to be recycled beck into knitting wool or felt, the other 2 pics show the new unit and things being assembled..........we have an upstairs too!

    Now awaiting the solar panels that will heat all our water for scouring the wool.........and all fixtures and fittings such as sink, loo and kitchen have been bought from the local recycling centre....we are committed to this being the most ethical business possible!

    Anyone wanting to buy woolly packaging please get in touch....new page on website soon........we are proud to say our packaging is made in Devon, processed in Devon, grown in The West Country (from sheep!!) and has the lowest carbon footprint possible.

    Monday, March 02, 2009

    My goodness its been ages since I posted! last time we were under nearly a foot of snow and now its March!
    The sheep are about to lamb and are waddling about and the weather which has been rather mild since the big freeze is set to turn cold again! I have been busy so time for an update!
    We managed to raise the needed finances to take on the new unit and we (Me and Taffy my lovely assistant) hopefully get the keys at the end of the week and then it all goes mad!
    Machinery arrives from 'up north' for processing waste weaving wool, we have installations of a huge woodburning stove, water tanks and solar panels to organise to provide hot water for the scourer.........not to mention all the associated plumbing!
    We then have to move the current machinery, build a drying room full of racks for drying wool and get up and running again.........
    AND even more excitingly I have been developing wool packaging along with a local packaging company and we are about to start supplying a very well known organic box scheme! This is really cutting edge as it will be made from virgin wool and waste recycled wool all produced and processed in the West Country and will be squeekily eco as there will be no empty lorries or vans travelling around and fibre miles will be kept to the very minimum!
    We are looking for a small needlefelting loom and hope to have one in situ soon meanwhile we will be working with another processor to fulfil our commitments.......This is all very very exciting!
    On another topic I watched a tv programme last week about the future of farming and was struck by the inclusion of permaculture as a mainstream solution..........brilliant! I was a little troubled over the assertion that forest gardening could feed us all.....everytime I hear this in temperate climates where a holding of several acres is seen supporting a few people I feel like yelling 'how are we going to feed Birmingham?'.........people are not going to change habits and lifestyles that quickly..............more importantly we should, I feel, be addressing more pressing issues............the food programme on BBC radio 4 was hilighting that of the 130,000 deer in Britain currently culled each year to keep their very high numbers under control most of the meat (venison) is exported!!! At the same time the majority of the venison we eat in the UK is imported from New Zealand....but because it is packed here it can have the lable 'produced in the UK' stuck on it!!!! Are we missing something here?

    Tuesday, February 10, 2009






    Snow!!!...........lots of snow.....We rarely see snow in the south west and if we do its up here on the hills and usually lasts a day and then departs. The last substantial fall we had was in 2003.....well enough to make a snowman with anyway! So when we heard all this snow had fallen on Monday we were not too worried as we didn't have any whilst London was bought to a standstill!
    Monday evening and it started.....Tuesday the school was closed so after feeding and checking animals we went sledging over on the hill......the sheep looking on from the nice barn where the ewes are overwintering thought we were mad by the looks on their faces as they stood in a long line observing us!
    Wednesday it was still not good up here but ok and getoutable....!
    Thursday they said it was going to rain in the evening and into Friday but on looking out at about 10pm it was clear the weather people had got it a bit wrong as it was snowing heavily..........and the following morning it was STILL snowing and it went right over my youngest sons wellie boot tops!!! The cars had become blobs and the 3 Ouessant rams in the field were up to their stomachs in it and were not amused at having to bound around like rabbits. The pigs had retreated indoors and refused to come out and the ducks had to be dug out to get their door open!!
    An erie silence had descended as not a sigh of a snow plough had been seen and the road was blocked.
    We struggled over to feed the sheep and 15 year old son walked to village to feed sheep there.
    ...........we then joined the crowds for snowman building, igloo making and sledging as we could not do much else as we were stuck!............and this went on until yesterday when we finally broke out .......!
    Overnight it has rained and snowed again but now on Tuesday we only have 6 inches left......and hope it will go away fast as we need to work and resume normal life.....whatever that is!

    All in all I can report that snow is great to look at, brilliant fun to play in but really hard work if you are trying to keep livestock fed, watered and dry!!!

    The dogs loved it.....Humphrey spent ages being a doggy snowplough

    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    Its freezing cold here....except indoors! Very slippy due to our being on a hill and I hate it!!! Its lovely looking at snow, and I even went sledging up on the hill across the road with my youngest son.........my sheep who are in the barn up there looked on with incredulity........I think it confirmed their worst fears about the human who cares for them!
    On the whole though its miserable when you have to go out in it to do animals rather than have fun!
    I was supposed to have a meeting this morning and backed the van off the tarmaced slush of the vertical drive/lane at the side of the house and got stuck.....missed the meeting and had irritated man on phone who was waiting for me at the unit!......Apologies said I managed to remove van from lane but parked up and retreated indoors as he couldn't wait!.............

    I was musing recently on how our children always know best and it got me thinking! My older children have a slightly patronising attitude towards parents....poor old things! They always know best! We middle aged folks tand to do the same to our elders too.....it must be a parent child thing! But I was also thinking how it has affected history easpecially farming and food production.......
    In the 50s it was the bright young things that laughed at the older generation and bought in machine milking, higher yeilding varieties from cattle to wheat, pulled out the hedgerows to fit in modern machinery and bought in the chemicals to make sure we grew more efficiently!
    Old methods were laughed at, everyone wanted the latest, the shiniest, the quickest etc......and so it goes on.........no wonder we now have the global economy on its knees and an average of 3.5 worlds needed to support western lifestyles!
    I heard yesterday that China was running out of water to irrigate its crops so was starting to rent land in South Africa to grow cereals, South Korea too and Saudi Arabia also are doing this as they havent got enogh water.....and as if Africa has?????
    Perhaps it will be our children who take the lead in teaching us parents to save water, to be more sustainable, to use small and slow solutions, to save humanity from the crisis which inevitably has started?

    Sunday, January 18, 2009


    Busy weekend with a hedgelaying course at Ourganics in Dorset and a lambing course at Beech Hayes Farm just down the road!
    Pete set off with 2 of the hedgelaying contingent who had arrived on Friday night to lay a very prickly hedge with 5 others who met him there whilst I met the lambers, and introduced them to Ruth and each other before rushing home to prepare a lunch of vegetable and lentil soup, home made bread rolls and home produced sausages to which they were all invited. Then rushed down to the hedgelaying to grab a portion of Pat Bowcocks fantastic stew followed by crumble and local cream.......diet forgotten today!
    Did some hedgelaying and arranged 2 more courses for the 1st and 15th Feb.....do come if you can £50 for a day of fantastic training by Pete complete with fantastic hot meal and cake!! (and a chance to see Ourganics which was featured on the BBC programme 'The One Show' on Friday!)
    Absolutely shattered by the evening and couldn't keep my eyes open!
    Back to the money fight tomorrow.........the little cartoon is rather topical!
    The lovely friend who came down for a stay this week is one of the only people I know who understands the stress of being dedicated to something huge that is really 'ethical' and her stresses are so much more than mine at the end of the day because the end result affects so many people.........she is a real tough cookie with a soft centre who is the genuine article and really cares....she has a charity called The Big Green Idea....visit the site, its going to become something amazing!

    Friday, January 16, 2009

    Frustration is the only way to sum up my week....interspersed with a visit from a lovely friend!
    I am trying to raise the finance to go ahead with my expansion plans.....
    The good old British Gov have bailed and bailed out the banks and this week announced help for small businesses by underwriting the risks of banks lending them money..........sounded great, looks great.....in theory!
    However they would not play ball as they would only lend 30% of the finance needed and then only if I put in 70%.....but the whole point of borrowing is because you do not have the reddies.....is it not?!
    So we have decided to do a remortgage on our house to raise the bit needed to invest and take the business forward.....not a huge risk to us as we only wanted a small amount.....
    Fine said the morgage lender to our shock.....but urmm well oh.....oh well actually eventually NO!
    Back to the drawing board.....
    Mortgage brokers say......don't worry we will find you a mortgage!......and they did.....and I found a great unit and said yes to it.....and the paperwork for the mortgage arrived and I thought yipee.....
    And then the phone went and the mortgage company said.....no....apparently there was a problem....I keep sheep!!!!! 8-o
    WHAT the bleep bleep bleep has that got to do with it I ask dumbfounded?
    Ah umm well that means you are a farm and we don't do agricultural mortgages!
    No.....we are residential, we are and all ways have been residential......we just have 9 acres.
    But you keep sheep AND pigs......so you ARE a farm........
    NO we are residential......this property is NOT a registered farm business!
    Oh yes you are oh no we are not.......it was sounding like a pantomime!
    But urmm you have a countryside management business there too.....perhaps you are commercial premesis......where do you keep your heavy plant?

    At this point i was beginning to think it was surreal......how did they know I had sheep.....and how many AND the fact that I'd just imported one from France AND that Pete has a tree surgery arm to his countryside management business???? And more worrying were mentioning pictures of me dyeing wool in horror of horrors my kitchen!
    FROM THIS BLOG!!!! and my and Petes websites!!!

    Big brother is certainly watching! I had no idea that underwriters spent hours investigating their mortgage application clients websites to try and 'catch' them lying!!!
    I am horrified!

    So eventually it was decided we apparently were not residential because our garden was more than 60% of our total plot, we were not agricultural because we just kept sheep for pleasure and were not commercial as we did not have either heavy plant on the premesis not was my kitchen a dye factory.....that point we ran out of options and became unique!
    So we are still trying.....
    AND for the benefit of any underwriters reading this I have contacted the BBC and they are very interested in your activities!

    Saturday, January 10, 2009

    I have a very interesting dilemma at the moment! We are expanding the felt business! We are going to start processing waste wool into recycled felt and knitting wool and start making house insulation from the early summer when we have a needle felter.........if all goes according to plan! We are also going to be moving to a bigger building where we hope to put in wood and solar powered water heating for the wool washer and other environmentally friendly options! Wool is at last being taken seriously!
    The dilemma.......the variety of buildings we are being offered and that are becoming available! I am seeing 2 on Monday and one is within cycling distance of home!!! (less than 2 miles...... my cycling distance that is!!!)...all very exciting and amazing! I am also dyeing fabric for a top London designer which is also very exciting!
    It is still freezing here but that is preferable to pouring rain even if it means lots of hot water shifting to thaw out the pigs water trough twice a day! All the sheep are fat and happy munching on racks of haylage in their fields and now we just await Merinos blood test results (for blue tongue) though with current temps the chances of him having been bitten anytime recently by a midge should be zero!
    We also have bookings for the next litters of piglets due areound the end of April which is very encouraging! Here is a picture of one of the last litter....we are rearing 3 for pork and sausages!