It took a few days to get the Chapel in the Hall full of the fruits of this year’s harvest. Shane, Jayne, Paul and John all helped to acquire the vegetation, fruits, preserves and jams etc. Olga did the hard work of designing and decorating the Chapel with the help of Steph from the house team. (This has been the first weekend on show so we are hoping people will enjoy it.)
Quite a bit of work has gone into making the corn maidens and willow dragonflies (best thing about the dragonflies is that they fit into the very large decorative plant material obtained from the Octagon pond). The apples, pears, potatoes, maize, turnips etc came from the Gardens and were carefully selected by Matt.
Olga had been busy making sweetcorn husk dolls- you can make all sorts of characters so I have included a link to the instructions on how to make them: here
Made a whole family of corn maidens- these are supposed to be the Hardwicke family with a dog to boot. In another corner there are the wheat and oat sheaves (all are heritage varieties); we also put in all manner of other things related to straw, including straw hats and mice.
Of course you can’t have an empty chapel so the necks of wheat have been positioned on the back pews to make them look like parishioners. In Victorian times seed merchants would have placed these outside their shops so that the farmers could see the quality of the varieties before they bought the seed. I guess the straw was almost as important then as it was used for thatching in most areas.
On Saturday Shane and Jayne came in to press some apples to make juice for themselves. They collected all the windfalls from the Walled Garden (most of these apples and pears would have been composted otherwise). The public are always interested to see this demonstrated but this time were also wondering what was in the demijohns… “That be plum juice Sir! We are making plum wine!”. Many of the men were showing a great deal of interest once they found out we were going to make cider too! So much so that some asked where they could purchase a press like mine from, so I have included a link to Winegrowers where I bought mine. I have a 95 litre press, and you get 50 litres from it in one go, but he does have smaller ones or, if you like, much bigger ones. He also sells pasturisers too- a very worthwhile investment as mine cost £125 and will do 25 litres in one go. I pasturise my juice at 63c for thirty minutes and then it goes in a ‘bag in a box’ -it will last easily for one year and is perfectly good at two years old.
A little bit from Wiki about the pre 1964 blue Fordsons or E1A:
“Post-war shortages delayed the development of an entirely new tractor. In 1953, the E1A “New Major” entered production with an all new diesel engine. The 4D engine was designed and manufactured in UK at Dagenham and was available as diesel, gasoline, or kerosene. The tractor had a modified version of the E27N transmission. The driver sat significantly lower, which led to the E27N being nicknamed the ‘High Major’. In 1958, – the Power Major – was introduced with 51.8 hp and an improved transmission and ‘live-drive’ hydraulics, and then in 1960 the final version, the Super Major came out with a weight transfer system and differential lock. The Super Major was produced until 1964. These tractors were exported to the US – the first since 1939 – badged as Fords”.
Friday and the contractors were harvesting the remaining spring wheat at Valley Farm… all was going well. Simon Parrish’s Lexon combine was motoring through the crop and the cloud of dust coming off the field was immense.
By the time I had turned up (after 5pm) almost all of it was done, only one small field left to do which at this rate was only going to take an hour…
The Cobbs Wood grain barn was brimming with spring wheat… would it all fit in?
Oh no! With 15 minutes of work left to do the Claas Lexon had a blow out- the rear wheel sprung a leak. Could the lads get a spare wheel, take off the offending wheel and refit? Trouble was the Lexon weighs about ten ton and the axle was on the floor which meant it was nigh on impossible to jack the combine up. Matters were made worse by the soft ground and the large planks we used to spread the weight failed. We threw the towel in as it was getting a little more dangerous than had first appeared. Abbey tyres would have to do the job with their air jacks- a much safer option and, in any case, Saturday was set to be fine and hot with no rain.
With so much time owing me I sort of took the week off (still had to come in and sort odds and sods out tho’) and left Paul and Jim to carry on putting three-inch limestone down onto the farm track that is in desperate need of it. It’s one of those smaller jobs you use to fill the odd hour between major ones ( a hospital job), but at least once it’s done we’ll be able to get access to the northern part of the estate without taking the sump off the Land Rover. We were pretty pleased that Abi, Martin or Mark from the Farm could load us up… now that would have been really hard work otherwise!
Next on the list was the Woodyard. Having removed most of the unwanted stone, bricks and rubble the forestry department then tackled the regrowth around and about. Loads of suckering elm needed to be cut and removed ( just as well the Timberwolf chipper was up and running- this made short work of all the brash). As usual Shane was taking photos and, as usual, the forestry lot took photos designed to wind me up; but alas… what they didn’t plan for is that I’ll post them 😉 hard luck!
Cleared all the small trees by the brook (which incidentally was quite slippery and wet as Paul found out) – needless to say Shane had decided that he would emulate David Bailey again.
One of the reasons to clear the Woodyard was to get access to the old vintage items associated with Wimpole. In those bushes were elevators, old wrought iron kissing gates and an awful lot of natural stone which could be used elsewhere on the estate. There was even more scrap metal too. Where on earth does all this stuff come from?
Most of the vintage items were in such a bad state of repair that I think they may have to go for scrap eventually. Wish someone would invent a chainsaw cutting chain that doesn’t go blunt when you hit hidden stone and iron (copious quantities of it). Don’t you just hate sharpening a tool then instantly blunting it because of unseen rubbish in the bushes? Aaagggghhhh!
Now where did Shane get to? He falls asleep quite a bit and it had been nice, sunny and warm. What’s this? A pair of boots sticking out of a heap of wood chip! Was that Shane? Oh dear, how are we going to explain that to Jayne his wife? Man died of wood chip inhalation- blimey that’ll mean even more paperwork!
Down on the Farm all the corn crops had been harvested. The barley and wheat were at the Cobbs Wood grain barn and oats at the Cambridge Road grain barn. Prices this year are low and world markets are awash with good quality grain. Last year the prices were over £200 for conventional feed wheat but this year farmers are barely getting £120 for what could be described as the best year’s crop for many years. Even Wimpole’s organic crops are suffering with a difference of £100 per ton from last year.
Now the crops have been harvested we could go out after rabbits. John, Alan and I have been lamping the rabbits on Cobbs Wood Farm and Rectory Farm before the fields are ploughed up ready for next year’s crop. Hopefully we will reduce the rabbit population to an acceptable level. We use .22 rimfire rifles with silencers and in an evening normally manage to get 20 or so rabbits. Of late I have also taken out quite a few staff from Wimpole too and so there have been plenty of rabbit dishes on the menu in various households. When we can’t lamp the rabbits anymore (when the fields are ploughed) it’ll be back to ferreting them out.
No idea what the forestry team did on Friday except that they had to deliver a load of firewood for the re-enactors attending Wimpole at War at the weekend. Oh and the display in the Chapel had to be refreshed requiring another trip to the Octagon to get more rushes and reed.
The book conservators have been working in the Hall for two years repairing and conserving some of the rare books in the Library. These had got wet due to a leak in the roof so were in need of urgent attention to stop them decaying. Instead of working on the books in private it was decided to allow the public to see what they were doing and to talk to them and this seems to have been a great success. Along the way the book conservators came across some quite interesting books from my point of view- it was nice to see those books associated with farming and, to be truthful, you can learn a lot from the way farmers farmed all those years ago. However, sometimes some very odd things turn up and, in the book about horse hoeing, there was a bit about toads in cabbages and how some people seem to have lost their lives because of them- intriguing to say the least! (See photo and click on it to enlarge it so that you can read it.)
This book had some excellent plates which interested me. The horse implements were good, so were the fans that were used to winnow and dress the grains, but what I liked most was the turnip as, some years back, I found out that the surname Damant had a heraldic shield and… guess what? It had a
whopping great big turnip on it. What on earth does a turnip signify?
From the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia:
“Hardy biennial plant in the mustard family, cultivated for its fleshy roots and tender leaves. There are two species, the turnip proper (Brassica rapa) and the Swedish turnip, or rutabaga. The true turnip probably originated in middle and eastern Asia and spread by cultivation throughout the temperate zone. Both species are cool-season crops. Turnips develop rapidly enough to have an early-spring or late-summer seeding produce a crop before, respectively, extremes of summer or late-fall weather occur”.
There was another farming book and, to our surprise, it had been Rudyard Kipling’s book so Elsie Bambridge (his daughter) had it put into the Hall library many years back. There was a smutty section but not what you are thinking!!!!!!!!! It’s about a fungus that can be found on wheat and rye. It basically infects the seed and turns it into a package of smut spores. Before seed treatment it was a major problem and, when harvesting, clouds of black dust would flood the air. In itself smut doesn’t kill you but it has a very pungent, fishy smell and, in the days when seed dressing was crude, the smut grains would get included into the good grain used to make flour. This made the bread taste and smell of fish and apparently, to disguise the taste, people added ginger and so that is the origin of gingerbread!
Also in this book were some more plates- these two seemed to me most interesting. One is showing brick making and the other is mostly concerned about bees. In fact the rather ornate hive is made from straw (usually oats or rye).