Blog

May

by Dodgson Wood

Although we’ve finished lambing now, we have four orphan lambs to feed 3 times a day and having clipped a few sheep, spotted a gimmer with a bag (translation: young female sheep with an udder). No idea how that happened but by the look of her, she’ll lamb very soon.  Having been pretty much focused on ewes and lambs for the past two months, and working 16-18 hour days, it’s been quite a struggle to find the energy for all the other jobs that need attention… and then we get sidetracked anyway! Last week, Tony came round with some fertilised goose eggs, so we’ve got two incubators running and 19 eggs slowly rotating for 28 days. We will ‘candle’ them soon to see if they’re developing. I have to say that it’s just magical to shine a torch on an egg and see a life developing in there. Over the last week, we’ve been taking our cattle out. We have to keep most of them in over winter otherwise our fields would be mud baths with nothing green left for them to eat in Spring. When we do let them out, it’s wonderful to see mature animals prancing and klicking their heals together like Fred Astaire. For the calves, it’s a whole new world to discover. Not all our animals stay close to home – we do a lot of conservation grazing for various organisations. So, at the moment you can see some of our cattle at Hay Bridge Nature Reserve in Bouth and some on The Helm in Kendal which is owned by Friends of the Lake District. The pastures closer to home have to provide food for the coming winter; in the form of silage. It is time for the grass to grow thick, sweet and full of goodness.

Posted 16.05.17

Soap School

by Dodgson Wood

I have just returned from a 9 day intensive course on soap making at The Soap School in Huddersfield. I started making soap as a way to make our beautiful Jersey cow’s milk profitable. Lupin produces too much milk for our household to drink but we can’t sell or let people outside of the family drink it or eat the cheese I was making from her milk without having it regularly tested. This would have set us back £5,000 a year so unfortunately it was just too expensive. So, I had a cow that I loved and wanted to keep, but needed her to be useful on the farm. Some farmers buy in dairy bull calves and rear them on Jersey milk but this can bring disease in and wasn’t something John wanted to do. So then I thought about making traditional cold process soap with her milk. I watched a few YouTube videos, bought a book, gathered some simple equipment and materials and had a go. It worked! It was so nice and creamy. John, who has very sensitive skin, loved it. It cleans really well but is very moisturising. I was so used to using moisturisers and hand cream after a shower or washing my hands. I didn’t realise that the soap companies remove the glycerin (which is the main moisurising element) when they make soap and sell that separately as it’s more lucrative than selling soap. So really, the majority of shop-bought soap is a by-product of the glycerin trade!

I now have an Advanced Diploma in Soapmaking from the Soap School so I am well on my way to developing this side of the business. The images are from soaps I made as part of a group at the Soap School but I’m looking forward to making our own unique range and launching them this year.

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Posted 28.02.17

Future-Proofing – First Steps

by Dodgson Wood

Happy New Year! It’s already been a very busy start to 2017 as we just completed a long and detailed funding application form. It kept us awake at night and although there was always a ton of other jobs to do, we stayed focused, got it done and sent it in 5 minutes before the deadline! The project is to convert the old shippon (or milking parlour) into a production kitchen and multi-purpose room. This is were we can vac pack meat, make soap, host events and run workshops. With the uncertainty of farm subsidies looming, we have to have alternative or additional income sources and the developing of this new space is part of our future proofing plan. It’s really exciting so fingers crossed!

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Posted 15.01.17

A Flood of Flood-Blaming

by Dodgson Wood

It has been two months of near continuous rainfall. Fortunately the flooding on the farm was minor compared to what others have suffered. It has been truly horrendous for so many people and for farmers who have lost livestock. And with the rain came floods of articles and sound bites playing the blame game. Some blaming farmers. Some imagining taking livestock off the hills and planting trees will end the flooding of homes and businesses. Here’s a voice of reason that we can relate to, an article by fellow farmer Anton Coaker. Read it here.

 

Posted 26.01.16

High Nature Value Farming

by Dodgson Wood

If the general media was anything to go by, farming seems to be neatly divided into two polar opposite camps: Organic and Industrial or Factory Farming. However, there’s lots of farming practices, not certified with the UK Soil Association (so not rubber-stamped Organic) but also very much not Industrial. Our farm, like many, falls outside of the two ‘good v’s bad’ systems and we often talk about how to name what the farm does that can be understood to be a positive way of farming.  There is a lot of thinking that resonates with  what we do on the farm, so, we will use the blog for such purposes, and will begin by looking at High Nature Value (HNV) farming. Not a term the general public is too familiar with, unfortunately, but one that applies to a sizeable proportion of farmers in the UK, and in particular upland farmers. Much of this is to do with Conservation grants from Natural England, but much of it was already being done, it was just work that wasn’t being quantified and measured and rewarded.

HNV farmland comprises semi-natural pastures, upland heath, wood pasture, meadows and orchards, as well as species-rich arable land. HNV farming is not a new method of farming, but it is a way of highlighting and recognising good farm practices that play an important role in maintaining valuable habitats and landscape across Europe. The contribution of farming to nature conservation is an important one and one that the public should be made more aware of as the general perception of farming is not a positive one despite so-called factory farming actually being a minority in land based terms. There is currently no accreditation system to show a farm’s environmental credentials. We think this is something that should change. Currently, buying meat from the supermarket, the package might say Organic, have the Red Tractor logo or Freedom Foods sticker, but there’s nothing to say the animal played an important role in conservation. You can read about some of the benefits of HNV farming here. And in the meantime, we’ll be thinking about how we, as farmers, can raise the voice of High Nature Value farming. 

Posted 02.12.15