Monday, 8 October 2012

'Summer' 2012 roundup

Well here is another posting to anyone who is vaguely interested...!

This whole year has been hard work to say the least mainly due to the weather and plans not going as well as I would have hoped. There have certainly been upsides but it has been a bit of a slog on the whole.. We have however been pleased with the shows on the whole and we still have a few left to do on the run up to Christmas. One plus point is that the whole range of ciders have done remarkably well indeed and we have found it tricky to keep up. We are still unable to offer the whole range of ciders both through our retail outlets or online which is disappointing but it is a lot of work just keeping up with the demand from the shows particularly and the farm shop. We also have the situation that certain ingredients are finite as in the elderflower and also our damson crop has utterly failed this autumn.

 Hay making has been hard work too trying to find a slot of decent weather. I planned to make 4 fields totaling about 9 acres. The first field went well and I am so pleased with the work that was done on the baler. The bales are popping out brilliantly and are holding their shape. This was a problem with mis shaped bales. Finished the field go the bales in and attended Far Forest show next day AND it also rained! The second field was cut and was making during the biggest show that we attend which is Ludlow Food And Festival. It was just as well I could call on some of my buddies to help at the show as I had to leave early each day to turn it. On the sunday I managed to bale it and get the bales in just as it got dark and then went back to Ludlow castle to pack up the stand and then celeberated by going to the pub! The third field was made as autumn was knocking on the door and the sun was lower so some of the headland did not get the sun. The whole job was particularly hard going. At this time of the year the heat is just is not in the sun and on the day I was hoping to bale it it just was not ready which was gutting and then that night it rained.... Anyway mangaged to eventually get it in but it all took longer than I had hoped. The last small meadow I was hoping to do has had to be left which was disappointing..

The weather as we all know has been dreadful for months and has certainly made everything more hard work. The relentless rain we have had, has been very heavy indeed and has caused a certain amount of damage. The drive has occasionally doubled up as a substantial stream and has not only made it rough but funneled a heck of a lot of water down to where the farm buildings are. I am convinced that the water table has been so high that water has been coming through the floor in several barns which I have never seen before! The fields have had very little chance to ever dry up and so I had very little opportunity to take a tractor onto the fields without making a mess.

The festivals however have done pretty well and we were pleased with the results. It was a great shame that Burwarton show was cancelled however we have been very lucky that on the whole we escaped these ridiculously  heavy rain showers.

We have had several barn events which apart from the weather went quite well. Weekends have been really quite busy either doing a show or and event at the farm. My whole summer has gone really quickly indeed. I did manage to go and see a very good buddy over in Belfast for a few days and had a fantastic break. The gutter is that it was the time that it was a few days of good weather back here which meant I missed an opportunity to make some hay.

Just recently I have been able to gather myself as the hectiness of the show season has eased up. We have a handful of shows to do on the run up to Christmas so hopefully might see a few of you before the end of the year! 

We were planning to sort out a special halloween weekend at the farm with lots of owls, decorations and mulled cider to build on the success of our last falconry event but the Falconer has recently been ill so we have decided to try and organise one closer to Christmas if possible. We wish Chris a speedy recovery.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Spring/Summer news

Yes I am aware that it has been some time since I have posted.. to be honest I was very close to abandoning my little Blog for several reasons however if anyone is interested I have had a change of heart for the meantime.... This years spring and early summer has of course been quite hard work due to the weather. The farm has experienced falling water, moving water and standing water like never before... Luckily only a small amount of damage has happened as a result. I feel for the people who have really suffered. The farm track was ripped apart down to the foundations and we had several barns that flooded albeit only a small amount. I have never known the water table be so high. Below is a photo of the farm trail boardwalk which usually only has a trickle of water going underneath it.
The plus side is that we have been very lucky with the shows due to a break in the weather. Ellesmere and Oswestry were a great success! We also went to an event at Battlefield farm shop at Shrewsbury was was great fun. I have at last managed to replace the carpet in the barn which I am pleased with.It is a different 'green' but it looks fresher and newer. Many thanks to the powers at be at the NEC ! We had a great couple of open days on the farm where quite a few people were treated to sandwiches, a talk (projector sometimes failed badly) and a tour. Thanks to the Shropshire Hills AONB and also to Local To Ludlow. Missed the first opportunity to make hay which is disappointing but the fields needed to dry out and quite simply did not have enough time to dedicate to it. Hoping for a nice August to get it. Still have a number of things to cross off my endless list but quietly hoping that the next couple of weeks I can carry on and work through a few..

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Spring time on the farm

I love this time of year! Not only is the countryside waking up with spring but we have summer to look forward to as well.

Heck - lots of things going on and only some I can talk about freely !!

The toilets have had the electricity supply uprated so there is now hot water for the sinks in both of them and also there is a shower too! I still have to do the tray and also the walls of the shower but that can come later.

I have been spending a great deal of time in the barn and I am very pleased with the progress. It was however unfortunate that during the spell of the lovely weather we had, I was painting the inside of the beams right up in the top of the shed which was really hot, and the fumes from the paint did not help either.

I have spent quite a bit of time installing a false wall at the back of the new 'Wagon Bar' which adjoins the main barn. With the addition of over 30 Wheel Back chairs from ebay it is taking shape and as time goes on it will get better and better. I am wanting to support wagon wheels on the roof which are lit up !

I also have acres of replacement carpet courtesy of the NEC which I will lay probably next month. A little more of a deeper green than the present one but it will lok a lot fresher and newer than the current one.

I have also have now invested in a projector for the barn with an 8ft square screen. Invested may be too strong a word as it was purchased from a local pub... but money did change hands. Anyway it is quite a machine for me to start off with. Not full hd but I can see that being on the menu in times to come. I wanted to have a better set up for the talks that we do about cidermaking etc but progress has certainly been made! I have always enjoyed doing the technical things at a few local pantomimes and now I have the opportunity to have a go on the farm! I am really looking forward to seeing its potential !
The bird of Prey event went very well and I am very pleased with how it all worked out. 50 people turned up and the sunny weather has also helped. Below are a few photos

I have never seen so many birds of Prey in one place before! A fantastic variety of both hawks and owls and everyone seemed to have good time. Unfortunately I overordered the beer situation and I am having to work my way through it in the next few days.... There was also an interesting display of 2 spaniels (who were extremely well trained) working with the birds by flushing out a pretend rabbit on a string and the Birds swooping in to catch it! Great to watch up close.

Many thanks to Hawkeye Falconry and Ashton Owls for bringing and displaying these magnificent creatures.

We have also got a replacement van which is quite exciting - I am just hoping it will do the job. Looks a lot smarter than the old one and I am looking forward to putting the signwriting on.

Our next event is Bird Of Prey Photographers class at the farm on April 29th.

Monday, 20 February 2012


Not a great start to 2012. I was hoping for a gentle cushioned entry to the new year with the essence of a bit of relaxing and clearing of ones head. I had great Christmas time and also a fun new years eve around at some friends house. A couple of weeks into January and it all seemed to implode slightly. The van required a lot of work to get through the MOT which was an unfortunate surprise. It seems to have suddenly gone downhill. So the hunt is on for another van. This was a shame as we were wanting to have a whole load of bottling done and deliveries etc. The discovery's head gasket blew at the same time and I also had to wade through my accounts to submit my tax return for the end of January. I never find January an easy month as the days are of course quite short and the countryside while sometimes it can look great in the winter is usually quite drab and dirty. It should be a time for us to regroup and do lots of planning. We have started to book a few shows for the following year which is quite exciting as I do enjoy being on the front line so to speak.

February is usually a little bit better as there are little signs of life such as snow drops to just remind you that you are on your way out of winter. And as hoped it has been a bit better. It might just have helped that we managed to at last grab some time to go away on holiday. Off we went to Norway for a quick week. We went on a whistle stop cruise all the way up the norwegian coast past the arctic circle right up to a place called Kirknes and then flew back. An interesting experience to say the least and it was not too cold.

Now we have returned home I am determined to kick start the plans we have for 2012 but there is a lot to do. It is heartening however the fact the days are getting longer already which enables me to to do that bit more outside during the day.

We have decided to sell our extra dry strong cider through some retail outlets to see how it goes. We did some figures with how the 'new' ciders went during 2011 and we were very pleased indeed with the results! The strong dry did far better than we envisaged so we are planning to add a little bottle neck label to explain that it is 'extra' dry to make it quite clear to customers. There is already a bar code on the label so it is more or less ready to go.

We are planning to have another go at doing an owl event at the farm and we have pencilled in April 15th as a potential date. Watch the website for any news. Talking about the website me and me good mate Bob the tech, have at last managed to swap webite servers to a more user friendly set up which will hopefully enable us to get the new online shop up and running. I am well aware I have been saying about this new shop for some time now and believe me there is no one more keen to see it up and running than me...

So fingers crossed for 2012 as we have a few plans up our sleeve!