Monday, 17 May 2010

Showman's Waggon and bottlefeeding lambs!

I was going to do some gardening this afternoon but since my legs are aching too much for crouching down to pot up tomatoes (after the crazy late frost killed my other batch), I'll post part two of our weekend trip to Wales instead :)

We were going to stay in a B&B for a couple of nights while we were in Wales for the Smallholder Festival but then had a look on the Under the Thatch website and noticed something rather exciting was available on the dates we had in mind...
Showman's Waggon from the side

It's a Showman's Waggon, built in the 1940s as the home of a travelling showman from a circus! Happily, there were no traces of the circus left and I managed not to think about what it would have been like in there when the clowns and monkeys came round for a cup of tea... aargh!

Showman's Waggon and Ade

I didn't get many pictures from inside but there are some on Under the Thatch's website here. It's an amazing little place, perched in a fantastic location on a 200 acre farm in mid-Wales.

This is the view you get from the kitchen while doing the washing up...
Kitchen window view 2

And this is the view you get if you walk around the back while Ade's peering out of the bedroom window...
Ade at the bedroom window close up

The views across the valley are stunning and the area was teeming with wildlife. We saw several pairs of Pied Flycatchers, lots of Red Kites flying over, Redstarts, Nuthatches and many other birds. There are water voles and otters in the river Wye at the bottom of the valley (although we didn't have time to look for them this weekend) and there is a special tree-house hide to watch badgers from!

We went down to the tree-house at dusk on Friday night, armed with peanuts to put out for the badgers. After sitting quietly for half an hour or so, one or two badgers started appearing on the ground beneath the tree-house. Two of them spent ages snuffling around to get the peanuts we'd put out for them and we got fantastic views from right above them!

There are 400 sheep on the farm and the hard winter has meant a bumper crop of five orphaned lambs that need bottle feeding twice a day. I've always wanted to bottle feed a lamb so I was very excited when we got the chance to help out!

We didn't get many photos of the momentous event unfortunately. This is about the best one...
Me bottle feeding the lambs
The lambs were lovely and once they'd drunk all the milk they hung around for a fuss, leaning on your leg or chewing a shoelace. I wanted to take them home! :)

It was a great place to stay and the badger watching and lamb-feeding made the weekend even more enjoyable. It was a shame to have to leave after just a couple of days and we'll definitely try to go back soon for longer so we can explore the area more.

Smallholder Festival 2010...

We were in Wales at the weekend for the Smallholder and Garden Festival, which we went to last year and enjoyed so much that we had to come back! Its a great show, with lots to see and plenty of inspiration for would-be smallholders. I seem to have come away with a lot of animal photos so I'll start off with a few of those.

Goats first (mainly baby ones!). Here's a lovely Golden Guernsey kid...
Golden Guernsey goat kid 1

An Angora goat with her kids...
Angora goat and kids

Some Toggenburg goat kids posing in formation...
Toggenburg goat kids in formation

An adult Toggenburg having what looks like a very uncomfortable nap...
Uncomfortable goat nap 1

More Toggenburg kids (I think Toggenburgs might be my favourite type of goat)...
Toggenburg kids in the straw

Two very large and impressive goats that are trained to pull a carriage...
Harness goats

And Ade chatting up a black Anglo Nubian goat whilst knocking back some farmhouse perry...
Ade and an Anglo Nubian goat

Sheep next, starting with an enormous Jacob ram with impressive horns...
Jacob ram

To my shame, I can't tell (even after looking in my sheep books) whether these are Llanwenog or Clun Forest. There's a mean looking set of teeth on the front one though...
Llanwenog or Clun Forest sheep

And a pretty Soay ewe, almost camouflaged in the straw...
Soay sheep

There were plenty of other creatures at the show, including a noisy pavilion full of chickens...
Three black hens

A shed full of pigs, where I saw this sleepy family of Tamworths...
Tamworth pig family snooze time

A pretty Welsh pony with a little foal...
Welsh pony

And a reasonably cheery looking donkey...
Donkey in the shade

As well as taking endless photographs of animals (the full set of which is on Flickr here, or you can check out last year's photos here), we ate A LOT of food. The farmers market at the show has some fantastic food on offer, including tasty Scotch eggs from the Handmade Scotch Egg Company, amazing cakes and tray-bakes from the Love Patisserie and delicious ice cream from Wild Fig. Cider and perry fans were spoilt for choice, with Ralph's and Gwynt y Ddraig getting plenty of visits from a certain someone over the course of the day...

Here's Ade tucking into a vegetarian Welsh Oggie and some farmhouse cider...
Oggie and cider man

We watched some exciting scurry driving...
Scurry driving

Saw some shiny tractors...
Yellow tractor bonnet

Admired the Welsh textiles on offer from Jane Beck but resisted the urge to buy something (which was tricky!)...
Welsh blankets and quilts

There were also several sheep shearing demonstrations over the course of the day and we managed to get a good view of an afternoon demo. The first part of the demo involved showing us how quickly an expert can shear a sheep with electric clippers...
Shearing demo with electric clippers 1

Then he showed us how it's done with traditional hand shears, which took quite a bit longer and looked trickier but was much quieter and is obviously a much cheaper option for smallholders wanting to shear a small number of their own sheep...
Shearing demo with hand shears 1

The shearer was obviously an expert and the sheep kept very still, despite only having been handled once or twice in their lives before. I don't know how he manages to keep track of which bit he's shearing as he flips the sheep from one side to the other...
Shearing demo with hand shears 3

This is how a professional grips a sheep between his thighs!
How to grip a sheep with your thighs

Check out the size of those pointy blades!
Shearing demo with hand shears 4

The finished hand-shorn sheep only looks slightly less smooth than an electrically clipped one...
Sheep after shearing with hand shears

Mmm... big squishy rolled up fleece!
Rolled up fleece
Rolled in the correct Wool Marketing Board-approved fashion, of course.

So that's it for the Smallholder Show 2010. I was going to include the story of the exciting place we stayed at in this post but since it's become such a whopper, I'll save that for another post! :)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Out and about during Compost Awareness Week 2010...

It was the last day of Compost Awareness Week yesterday and we had a great time in the Ulverston sun, talking to people about all things compost-related (and some things that weren't compost related!). The Recycle for Cumbria team did several events around the county during the week, a list of which is on our website's event pages.

Here's Katharine on the stall again (there are other members of staff in the team, honest! In fact, there's photographic evidence here and here), ready to talk about the different properties of male and female urine and which is best to put on a compost heap (I blame the National Trust for that particular discussion)...
Sunshine at the Ulverston Compost Awareness Week roadshow
But we didn't just talk about wee all day... there were lots of discussions about good composting techniques, questions about what can be composted and plenty of interest in Cumbria's new county-wide subsidised compost bin offer.

Mmm... subsidised compost bins...
Compost bins at a Compost Awareness Week roadshow
The theme for this year's Compost Awareness Week was 'give it a grow', with the aim of encouraging people to try something new. We wanted to persuade people who'd never made compost at home before to give it a try and we also hoped to encourage those that were already keen composters to put something extra into their compost bin.

Lots of people don't realise that you can compost such a wide range of things, so its great to surprise someone with a new composting suggestion. Human (or animal) hair and the contents of your vacuum bag? Shredded paper and cardboard toilet roll tubes? Tea bags, coffee grounds and egg shells? All good ingredients for a compost heap!

There's a great list of everything that can be composted (plus the things that shouldn't be, although that list is quite short) here. Its from the composting pages of the Recycle Now campaign website and the list is conveniently split into 'greens' and 'browns'. This is simple composting-speak for the wetter, nitrogen-rich things (greens) and the drier, carbon-rich things (browns) that can go in a compost bin. A happy heap has a 50/50 mixture of greens and browns.

Here's part of the display on our information stand...
Posters and information about home composting
We had lots of useful information to give people about making compost at home, plus some Love Food, Hate Waste leaflets and a selection of tempting (and useful) freebies, including pens and pencils made from recycled plastic, colourful compost-related fridge magnets and some brilliant promotional packets of lettuce seeds (spread out along the front edge of the table).

A company called Suttons provide a service where you can design your own 'custom' seed packet and fill it with a choice of several vegetable or flower seeds. We had some packets made with a composting design, following the 'give it a grow' theme and promoting the idea of making compost at home (as well as giving our website and helpline numbers) on the back of the pack.

We went for lettuce seeds because they're so easy to grow and can be grown in a pot or indoors if people don't have much space. I think they look really good...
Promotional lettuce seeds
And they were certainly popular 'giveaways'. We always like to try and choose promotional items that are useful and made from recycled materials where possible. It would be crazy to promote waste prevention with useless items that end up in the bin!

The lettuce seeds also linked well with the other aims of the Compost Awareness Week 'give it a grow' theme, which included encouraging people to try growing some of their own food (like lettuce!) and promoting the benefits of peat-free compost over the more traditional peat-based version, which can be very environmentally damaging. Peat-free compost is often made from the garden waste collections what many councils provide, so encouraging people to use that in their gardens is a nice way to close the recycling loop.

So that's it! Another week of roadshows over till next time (which will be Recycle Week at the end of June). I'll leave you with a picture of our leaflet holder, Billy the composting kid and his slightly disturbing blank stare...
Billy at a Compost Awareness Week roadshow
:)