Last week we had to stop replacing the lost and loose tiles on the roof at Cobbs Wood Farm until the sycamore tree had had a hair cut (actually the side limbs needed lifting off the roof). So on Monday we started on the sycamore tree and, in less than three shakes of a lamb’s tail, the offending branches were sent thundering to the ground.
With all that mess on the floor the easiest way to dispose of the arisings was to chip them. Now we haven’t used the Timberwolf chipper for a while as it has had one of those extremely annoying intermittent electrical faults and we could never fathom out the cause of it. We fiddled around with the wiring for a bit and then ‘phoned up a friend called Cliff (who knows all about these things) who suggested that one of the safety sensors might need a thorough clean and … he was right! Everything under the tree was chipped up and that allowed us to finish weather proofing the farm building roofs.
Had another mowing session in the evening; this time we mowed the birdsfoot trefoil by the allotment (Very tricky stuff to mow when it gets older- it tangles up making it exceedingly difficult to mow). However a high, sweeping, flailing motion seemed to work best (against all advice) and we mowed quite a bit. This trefoil was full of seed so we spread it down the South Avenue on Tuesday; the sheep absolutely loved it and the hope is that they eat the trefoil, the seeds then go through the sheep’s gut and pop out the other end in pellet form all nicely packed in a parcel of nutrients. Not only that, but the sheep will walk about spreading the seed even further. Well …that’s what I hope will happen!
The Massey combine had decided it needed a rest (darned things do have a habit of breaking down just at the wrong moment) so Albert went and cultivated the harvested barley fields. These will shortly be seeded with white clover and later drilled with oats.
Had a day off on Wednesday- time off in lieu, or TOIL as they call it. (When you work for the National Trust you don’t get overtime, just a day off in lieu.) Anyway, first thing in the morning, I got the essential oil still working again. I had a little job to do for a friend as they had given me all their lavender heads ( as it turned out there was only enough to fill the still once). The heads go into the central section and water is put into the bottom, round section. The water is heated to give off steam which goes through the lavender and then goes out through the top pipe and into the condenser where the steam and oil cool down and form water mixed with lavender oil. This is collected in whatever you have at hand and the oil (which is lighter than the water) floats to the top. This is the essential oil, but the water still has some soluble oil in it and is called the hydrosol which can be used for loads of things but is best just poured into a nice hot bath. Managed to get over 100ml of essential oil this time.
Having cleaned up the area behind the farm buildings we hastened to clear the area behind Cobbs Wood Farmhouse; it was rather overgrown and we needed to get at the items belonging to the rural bygones farm collection in the tin shed. We found one Hurlingham wagon and six local iron ploughs (although one was actually from America and was partly wooden). There was also an old Massey Harris reaper binder made around 1895 and originally horse drawn- this was used on the estate some years ago now to make the sheaves for the threshing drum as we used to have a threshing demonstration in the autumn with a steam engine.
Unfortunately the reaper binder was left outside and has suffered the ravages of the British weather. It would seem that this would not make a viable restoration project. The wagon may also be beyond hope as it has extensive dry rot but the same is not true of the ploughs- a little bit of TLC would soon have them looking fit for work. However, before this can happen, the whole area will have to be cleared to allow us to extract the items and put them with the rest of the farm collection.
Work was a lot easier with the Mighty Massey and Bomford Bandit but even these two couldn’t deal with the trees and shrubs that had grown up alongside the buildings. These had to go as they had been knocking the roof tiles off and the ash stool had jacked the brickwork up ( you can just see an upward curve of the brickwork in the photo). These stumps will have to be treated with an organic stump killer aka salt – you drill holes and fill them with salt or put a thick paste around the stump.
Once we had started to clear up around the farm buildings we had to carry on. Some seven years ago I had to tackle this area which had been a dumping ground for all sorts and manner of things and, over successive years, it has built up again- the elm, brambles and elder had taken over. As we cleared the ground I remembered how big the area actually was… quite a substantial size in fact. The only thing was that there was a nasty bit of dog rose and bramble left… and a few annoying wasps. Time to bring in the Mighty Massey and the Bomford Bandit again… one pass and most of it had been reduced to shattered sticks but, on the second pass of the MF390, the side of the front nearside wheel knocked the upright telegraph pole that once held up a pole barn. It fell with a thud and an explosion of wasps appeared. Seems the bottom of the post was completely rotten and the wasps, aka jaspers (as I know them), had built a huge nest. Unfortunately for me the MF390 was missing its front window and they all came into the cab. Time for a sharp exit but not before the little blighters had found me… they got me a dozen times by the time my feet hit the ground and didn’t stop until I had run nigh on a hundred yards away. The MF390 was left chugging away, that was until Sean Philips turned up to replace the front window, nothing for it but to fetch the Massey out of the thousand strong wasp swarm! Never fear – I donned a bee suit and foiled any more of their nonsense. The next day we had to dust the nest as the wasps were really causing a nuisance; found a further three jasper nests during the week in the same area and Paul got a bit of their venom too.
That done we then needed to collect up all the tyres that had been left all over the place (some however had already been collected from areas on the estate where people tend to dump their unwanted rubbish; quite a few tyres turn up on occasion). An 8 yard skip including haulage is £250 but it’s also a further £275 per ton of tyres to get rid of- blimey that’s expensive! Then there were the rolls of chicken wire and old metal gates to throw into the metal skip- this one’s free as metal still fetches a reasonable price, enough to pay for the skip and haulage… and it gets recycled (maybe it’ll be your next car 🙂 ). There was plenty to do- general rubbish into the Biffa skip, waste wood collected and piled up ready for proper disposal and even more metal from the buildings but alas, what were we going to do with the 6 or 7 metal oil tanks? Gosh it’s really expensive to get a job done properly.
I for my part, with Jayne’s help, had to replace the lost tiles on the roof we had just exposed when removing the ash tree next to it. This building was probably built in the time of the fourth earl but was originally thatched- you can tell that because the roof pitch is so steep plus, in some of the records in the Cambridgeshire Archives at County Hall, they refer to new building works and the thatching that was done. So these buildings are from about 1840-1850 although the range of buildings extended further north and east but these have gone and one has been replaced by a tin shed.
Meanwhile, staff from the Farm were hard at work harvesting the organic oats in Pond Field and, having done that, they went into Little End to combine the oats there. When the weather is dry harvesting carries on well into the night.