Oh how the weather can be so fickle! Home Farm wanted 250 small oat straw bales for public events, so hired in Matt Radford with his in-line Massey baler (the same one he had when he did the hay baling last year). Unfortunately, after about 40 bales, it began to play up – typical! (Can’t believe how these machines know the exact worst time to start breaking down, always when it’s going to rain the next day.) Would we get the other 210 bales done?
Replaced the shear bolt that stops the ram hitting and destroying the needles but, alas, after another handful of bales a loud rumbling came from the innards of the baler, Matt quickly switched off the power take off but… ‘bang’- another shear bolt broke. Oh heck! This’ll take ’til the early hours of the morning at this rate! After much scratching of heads and conversations leading up dead ends ( and a load more broken shear bolts) we finally realised that the play (minute) between the pin that stops the ram killing the needles was enough to cause the problem… some washers and a wrench had the baler ticking over nicely.
Three hundred bales later and, as dusk slipped to nightfall, Matt finally finished his job- somewhat late and in need of a beer or two down the pub at Barton. That little problem was going to be fixed properly the very next day.
So, did the rain turn up? No, that fickle weather of late allowed the farm staff to rush out and collect the small bales to take back to Home Farm. All that was needed now was for Simon Dudley to turn up with his super duper big square baler to do the rest of the oat straw (which incidentally has a lovely golden sheen to it and makes excellent bedding for the livestock).
Another job I needed to do was to fix both Justin’s grey Fergie (which had a fuel problem linked to the carburetor and also needed new tyres and exhaust) and my Super Major. Boy, those tyres took ages to change- couldn’t break the beading so drove the tractor around for a bit with flat tyres, it eventually worked and I was able to remove the tyres. Next was the exhaust- that wasn’t so easy either, it needed a bit of heat and a pretty big hammer (don’t tell Justin). The carb was taken off and blasted with air from the compressor and, after a quick clean with petrol… hey presto! His Fergie burst into life, job done :-). Next was the Super Major- some parts added and fitted down and a new linkage to the throttle soon had the blue beast running up and down the farm track (well actually over to the Hall as well).
Bank holiday monday, what to do? Well Mr McVittee had a plan! We were going to the National Forest Wood Fair in Leicestershire but that fickle weather changed again… and for the worse. Rain before seven, gone before eleven!!!!!! Well, it rained all the way to Leicestershire and it was still raining when we went into the wood fair. First item we saw was a replica Iron Age dugout canoe made from oak and from the SW of the country (pretty impressive and I want to make one!). As it turns out Matthew Robinson (who lives and works in Huntingdonshire) has also been asked to make an Iron Age canoe but based on six they found near Peterborough. The challenge? Make a 2-3 metre dugout canoe from oak and race it down the River Cam 🙂
Of interest to the bodgers – we watched Mike Abbot make a baby’s rattle. For my part I have always been rather hopeless at making these but I have now found out the secret… you need to use a ferret!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Not sure what the ferret’s going to do? Oh, not that sort of ferret – a tool called a ferret!) Because it gets into those hard-to-get-at corners and is an ideal tool to make the captive rings that make the rattling. Mick’s rattle was very decorative and made from apple wood.
Another interesting pole lathe was the bowl making lathe but, because of the incessant rain, it was not in use unfortunately. Then there were some spoons of the most handsome sort- I especially liked the small bowl-like spoons which were made from burr wood by Martin Hazell.
It poured down even more but the demonstrations carried on regardless and the horse logging was no exception- they had put up a tricky course that showed you how the horse fared with normal forestry obstructions.
There was a clog maker but what I was very interested in was the gentleman showing people how to play mancala. It’s a very simple but clever game and I have a board from Lamu in Kenya. There seem to be hundreds of variations and I have often wondered why it’s never taken off in Europe. I have pasted some info from Wiki below.
“Mancala is a family of board games played around the world, sometimes called “sowing” games, or “count-and-capture” games, which describes the gameplay. The word mancala:منقلة comes from the Arabic word naqala:نقلة meaning literally “to move.” No one game exists with the name mancala; the name is a classification or type of game. This word is used in Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, but is not consistently applied to any one game. More than 800 names of traditional mancala games are known, and almost 200 invented games have been described. However, some names denote the same game, while some names are used for more than one game. Some of the most popular mancala games (with regard to distribution area, and numbers of players, tournaments, and publications) are:
- Bao la Kiswahili – widespread along the east coast of Africa, and an integral part of Swahili culture; one of the most difficult games to learn because of its rather complex rules
- Chisolo – widespread in Central Africa, from Uganda to Zambia
- Congkak – close variants in South Asia from the Maldives to the Philippines, known by many different names (e.g. Dakon, Ohvalhu, Sungka)
- Kalah – a modern game played mostly in the USA (where it is simply known as “Mancala”) and Europe
- Oware – close variants are played in the Caribbean and throughout western Africa, also in immigrant communities in North America and Europe
- Toguz korgool – extremely important in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, where it is considered superior to chess. Mongolian modification of this game called Eson xorgol
Mancala games vary considerably in size. The largest are Tchouba (Mozambique) and En Gehé (Tanzania). Tchouba employs a board of 160 (4×40) holes and needs 320 seeds. En Gehé (Tanzania) is played on longer rows with up to 50 pits (a total of 2×50=100) and uses 400 seeds. The most minimalistic variants are Nano-Wari and Micro-Wari, created by the Bulgarian ethnologue Assia Popova. The Nano-Wari board has eight seeds in just two pits; Micro-Wari has a total of four seeds in four pits.”
At the next stall was a gentleman making willow hurdles as opposed to hazel ones- here you can see that a bunch of withies are used (carefully mind) to make a chequered curtain of willow. Interestingly, as willow can be harvested at any time, these can be made all year round BUT those made from spring and summer wood tend to rot a lot quicker due to the fact that the sap has more sugar in it which allows the bacteria and fungi to break the woody tissue down more easily.
Another demo in the pouring rain!!!! This time it was the mad axe men from Wales; they were making it look far too easy but I did notice that they were using poplar which is incredibly easy to cut with saw or axe unlike the hard timber of oak. That’s not suggesting they were cheating, as poplar is the main wood used for this sort of demo.
There was the usual charcoal burning and basket making but… what caught my eye was this willow snail- a lovely little item that could easily be made by children to take away and would get them using their hands.
One stall was selling Swedish logs made from pine so that they burnt more easily. I have to say that, since trying out the rocket log, I much prefer the latter.
On a more commercial point- it was very good to see so much planking for sale (and at a reasonable cost), there seemed to be a lot of activity around those stalls that were selling the planks.
The elm seemed to disappear first as this is very sought after especially if it is very wide as these will make chair seats.
Food for thought! I got loads of ideas when it came to the treen but also the gate hurdles caught my eye- these could be extremely useful on Wimpole Estate and can be made from ash or willow. They would certainly fit with the Victorian period as this type of hurdle was used to pen off areas to make hay in the Park in the nineteenth century.
Altogether there was plenty to see and enjoy but the weather wasn’t going to give up- seven till eleven?!!!! Well that didn’t ring true for the Wood Fair… more like seven in the morning to seven at night!!!!!!!!!!!! But… what was this? It rained well into the night too…
The final demonstration we saw was the log to leg race, never found out who won it but did find out that earlier on in the day they had a log to candle race ( which was a bit easier apparently), maybe we should have a log to candle race at Wimpole?