Farmtastic

Captain,his Valet and the Boss

Captain,his Valet and the Boss

 

There I am sitting at home nursing my arthritic hips and I start to wondering why do people visit the farm.

I kind of get people with my background coming: grew up in London never seen a farm moved to the country and thought hey lets go look at a farm. Why do people who live in the country want to visit the farm at Wimpole – whats different to the other farms round about them -Is it just because they can get access is or is it different?

I guess its a farm with visitors rather than a visitor farm ie its not a farm theme park but a working farm that people can visit. So is there a compromise here? On the farm you get to groom the donkeys watch the pigs being fed, watch the cows being milked, stroke the Shire horses even go on a carriage ride with the Shire horses. Do all these things mean its not a real farm? I suppose we could try and time warp the farm and say it is only going to function the way it did in 1800 and dot – but when is the right period to time warp it? Bronze Age, last week some guess of what it will be like in the 22Century?

My personal view is its about showing people how a farm works, protecting rare breeds and giving the visitors a good day out.OK to do this there may have to be some compromises around authenticity ie on a Victorian farm the Shires would be pulling a plow not a carriage full of people, but people like to ride on the carriage and they like to see the Shires do it.

The more people that come and enjoy themselves the more people support the estate and what its trying to do. Its a Win Win

SUM AMICUS VISITATOR

DSCF0725Grand Canyon because I like it

 

So there I was sitting on a train to London on my way to a seminar on what was originally thought to be “Dealing with difficult situations in the outdoors”. It transpired that the seminar was actually about, and I paraphrase a tad, “dealing with difficult volunteers” The participants were all volunteers or managers of volunteers in charities of the ilk of the NT.
Anyway the essence of the seminar appeared to me to be about managing volunteers as if they were employees ie facing up to the possibility (as a last resort) of running a full disciplinary that could result in the “sack” – which as an outcome I don’t have a problem with.
So there I am sitting on a train back from London post seminar and I get to thinking what is it that makes us volunteer; what is it that makes us a good volunteer; what is it that as a volunteer I get out of it; are volunteers different to manage than employees and should they be managed differently?
Wikipedia says: Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life. In return, this activity can produce a feeling of self-worth and respect. There is no financial gain involved for the individual. Volunteering is also renowned for skill development, socialization, and fun. It is also intended to make contacts for possible employment.
So why do I volunteer? I grew up on a rough council estate in London in the late 50’s early 60’s and despite the passing of the years I still get a buzz from the difference of being on the farm.I am completely animalphylic and can’t get enough time being with the Shire Horses.
Those who know me at Wimpole will testify to how shy I am (or not).A major plus in my day on the farm is talking to the customers (some prefer visitors!) mainly about the horses but also about the farm and the rest of the estate. The people who make the trip to visit the estate are its lifeblood and it could be argued the very reason for its being. A bit management speaky this but it is a win win: I go home happy having done something useful and the visitor goes home happy having had a good day and maybe having learnt a little.
I shall ,I think, ponder this more.

 

Attention on deck Captain is on board.

 

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My chap (George) has asked me to contribute to his blog by way of giving a Senior Officers view. It is paramount for the smooth running of any ship that Senior Officers maintain an awareness of whats happening in all parts of the vessel, as I spend all of my time in the stables or fields surrounded by crew members I am fortunate to be able to do this.

George has asked me to comment particularly on our newest recruit Lady our 10month old Shire Foal. Capital young foal who is going great guns and growing at a rate of knots, must be close to 14 hands now (that’s 14 x 4inches high to her shoulders for those that don’t know).

lady_resized (2)

She had her 1st vaccination in February and the second one  in March and then there will be another one after 6 months. She seems to be enjoying the sunshine and Emma (CnC Heavy Horses) says she is being a good girl and stood beautifully to be vaccinated with the assistance of a piece of apple. Lady spends most of her time in a field with Daisy and Clementine our two Donkeys excellent types who can be relied on to keep an eye on her.
Right must go suns over the yard arm and all that.

I leave you with our first recipe using Wimpole’s finest comestibles:

Steph Turners Honey and Mustard Wimpole Sausage Recipe

You will need:
· 2 tbsp rapeseed oil (sunflower will do just as well)
· 6 Wimpole’s own Stockman’s special recipe sausages
· 4 tbsp clear honey
· 3 tbsp wholegrain or Dijon mustard
· Two roasting tins
· Small mixing bowl or jug

1. Preheat your oven to 200C/Gas 6/fan oven 180C. Pour the oil into a large roasting tin and heat in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Tip the sausages into the roasting tin and toss to lightly coat in the oil. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until browned and cooked through.
2. While you wait for them to cook, blend the honey and mustard together in a small bowl to make a yummy sauce.
3. Check Sausages are cooked by opening one of them slightly (if still pink give another 5 minutes)
4. Drain the sausages well on kitchen paper, then, tip them into a clean roasting tin, pour the honey and mustard sauce over the sausages; stir and shake them so they become coated. Return to the oven for 5 minutes, turning them over halfway.
5. Now you have a delicious edition to any hearty meal. Tuck in and enjoy!

Room with a shoe

Wimpole_Shoe (C) NT

If you’ve read earlier posts on the blog you will know all about our cabling project, but one discovery you might no be aware of is our seventeenth Century shoe, found under the floorboards.

The shoe was found by an asbestos contractor, Darren, it is a gentleman’s shoe, which remarkably had lain undisturbed for over 200 years.  The shoe we think dates to the mid-1700s and would have originally been fastened with a buckle. It would also have had a low heel that appears to have been lost.

When our Project Conservator Mary Luckhurst spoke to me she said  “The burying of shoes in walls and under floors was a well practiced method to ward off evil spirits. This shoe was found under a floorboard directly in front of a window, presumably to stop any evil spirits entering the house through it.  Shoes were usually concealed in this way during alterations to a house.”

The 1st Earl of Hardwicke commissioned the architect Henry Flitcroft to reconfigure the Hall in 1742, so it’s possible the shoe was hidden at this time.  It is very common for concealed shoes to be well worn. 

IMG_0126Shoes can show a lot about their owner, including the foot shape and even abnormalities in the foot. This appears to have given rise to the belief that they contained the spirit of their owner.  This shoe shows the last wearer had a pronounced bunion and it does make you think how he would have hobbled about, maybe the servants helped him!

The six month cabling project at Wimpole has involved removing floorboards on each of the floors, which gave us a great opportunity to see what had fallen beneath the floorboards over many years, if not centuries, including more recent items such as Skittles wrapper, I wonder who ate those and posted the wrapper between the boards?

DSCN6618As well as plenty of dust and the Skittles wrapper, some of the other 320 artifacts found during the project include, letters, sewing items, food, children’s toys, animal bones, pieces of wallpaper and newspaper cuttings, offer a glimpse into another era.

Some of the artifacts including the seventeenth Century shoe, will be on display in the Documents Room at Wimpole Hall from Saturday 1 March 11am-5pm, so come and see what archaeology has lain undiscovered under our floorboards.

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View from the stables

George & Captain

My name is George and I have been a volunteer since April 2013 in the Heavy Horse Dept. on the Farm.I don’t have a background in anything remotely to do with farming and I had never been near a horse in my life before last April. But hey if you’re going to get to know a horse you might as well choose a big one.

Funny thing occurred to me the other day while standing shovel in hand contemplating the varied contents of Queenie (only Mare) and Lady’s (Queenies Foal of 7months age) stable; here I am top of the food chain and they are out in the field sunning themselves and here I am, well I’m the one with the shovel!

That’s one of the things I like about volunteering on the farm it puts things into perspective.I have been a Scientist ,a Sales Manager and a Business Manager but I have never felt as content as I am stood in a stable shovel in hand. Not sure it warrants much investigation or deep thought its easy really.I did enjoy a lot of what I did in my paid work life and it for sure paid the mortgage but what I do with the horses is just more satisfying.I reckon I just feel that at last I am doing something useful. Hanky anyone? It helps that I am completely animalphylic not in a potty way but as a species we do need to share a bit more. I’d hate to see the world covered in concrete and empty except for us

Any way the plan is to keep writing to you with updates on whats going on at the farm and particularly with the horses. Although I am horse biased I promise not to neglect the other animals and to keep you up to date with whats going on with the crops.

Each of the horses is going to contribute a guest diary – up first is Captain (age before beauty). I aim also to include snippets on whats going on with Lady and how she is developing and changing over time.

One idea is to have regularly contributed recipes that are based around the farms produce eg lamb,pork.Looking for contributors for this- need to be all your own or hybrids with appropriate attribution

So treat this one as me saying hello and letting you know the plan.

Next issue Captains Diary, Lady update and hopefully the first recipe

Go Team Textiles!

By Neil Smith: Forestry/ Conservation Volunteer

Hello all, thought I’d contribute to the conservation blog and give you a taster of how I help in the Hall. For those of you out there who don’t know who I am my name is Neil Smith; one half of the textiles team, part of the current re-cabling project. I also volunteer in the forestry department but thought the re-cabling project would be a good opportunity to branch out! Puns aside, if you’ve been round the Hall in the last month or so and noticed the curtains wrapped up in white Tyvek and wondered what that was all about then read on…

Maggie and myself; directed of course by Mary Luckhurst, have been working from top to bottom protecting the drapes from the ongoing work. I’ll keep things brief here but the extended version will appear on my own blog very soon (preferably before Christmas!). If I manage to pique your interest and not send you to slumber land here is the link: http://wynpoljourn.blogspot.co.uk/.

neil smith pic

Anyway, on with the show so to speak.

This week it was just Mary and I doing the textiles as Maggie had been taken ill. First off were the lovely curtains in the Yellow Drawing Room as seen here (left). The task here was to create Tyvek bags to fully protect the curtains. Sounds easy? Put it this way, I was glad Mary was able to help me as it’s definitely a two person job! Something I came to realise that afternoon when I was making more bags on my own!

Simply put (or as simple as I can make it) we cut a length of Tyvek and fold it in half. When the bag is in place the curtain sits in this fold with the rest of the Tyvek running up the back and front of the curtain.

In between the folds of the curtain we place acid-free tissue sausages to pad out the folds to prevent possible creasing of the material.

With the sausages in place the two ends of the bag are then folded round and tucked into each other to fully enclose the curtain. A specially created draw string at the top of the bag is pulled tight (but not too tight) to secure it in place.

neil smith pic2

A couple of extra strands of tape (or in this case, Tyvek) are used to prevent the two ends from unravelling, usually tied middle and bottom of the bag. Hey presto! A fully bagged curtain ready for when the contractors move in to do their work. The photo right shows the completed piece.

I should also mention we do diversify occasionally and roll some carpets, it’s not all curtains!

With the Hall being wrapped up for Christmas this year it’s been a bit too and fro with the materials. I had to borrow the only remaining roll of Tyvek from the lovely volunteers wrapping all manner of things ready for the next two weekends!

So a big thank you goes to the ladies for keeping me out of mischief and managing to carry on with the curtains!

Unfortunately Mary was preoccupied with other jobs in the afternoon so I pushed on by myself.

Moving clockwise from the entrance hall, which had already been spruced up by the house staff, eventually found me in the Long Gallery (I think! If I’m wrong you’re welcome to correct me).

One thing that was noticeable bagging the curtains that afternoon was the effect of light damage on the curtain material as seen in the photo below. I know that Julia (Conservation Assistant at Wimpole) is working on a side project to monitor the light levels in each room to see how it affects materials.

neil smith pic3It may be difficult to see from the picture but there is a stark contrast between the lighter fabric on the edge to the true red of the material itself. Hopefully the results of the light survey will highlight the problems of light in a grand Hall like Wimpole.

Thanks for reading and hopefully you’ll be hearing more from us soon!