MIDDLE CAMPSCOTT FARM, December 2012
20 years on and we are still here!
Our farm is a wonderful place to live, in sight of the Bristol Channel and the Atlantic Ocean when the visibility allows. Sometimes we can see for more than 50 miles across the Bristol Channel and deep into the distant Welsh landscape. At other times we are lost in low cloud blown in from the Atlantic and visibility is only as far as the nearest hedge bank!
Karen has now been in Barnstaple Pannier Market so long that she realises that not only the passing parade of Barnstaple folk is aging, but that she must be aging too. It is a shock when children who used to come for cheese tasters are now returning with their own children...
Our milking flock of sheep is hardier but less productive than our original flock. It now includes big dark Zwartbles, descendants of our original British Friesland and we even include the Shetlands now. The grazing near the farmhouse is shared by the free ranging geese, ducks and chickens.
The sheep do provide for us very well. With the mixture of breeds, the fleeces have a range of natural colours, ranging from creamy white through to dark chocolate, almost black, with all the shades between; and the resulting knitting wool is keeping many people cosy and warm. Our lamb killed and butchered in a small local abattoir, is delicious, full of flavour. And the ewes’ milk is still fundamental to our cheese, which continues to be our main product. Karen, who is the cheese maker, has developed new cheeses over the years. As well as the original ewes’ milk cheese there is a subtly flavoured variation with cumin seed added, a couple of varieties of goats’ cheese and a cow’s milk cheese. (We do not milk our own cows: but we buy superb milk from a friend’s dairy farm nearby.)
Our herd of Ruby Devons continue to produce the most delicious beef. They live outside all year round, and grow and fatten on grass and silage without any concentrates in their diet. We take the steers to the same abattoir as the lambs. We are very fortunate to have a small abattoir with an organic license and a craftsman butcher at Come Martin, so near to the farm. There the beef is hung for about three weeks before, like the lamb, being cut and vacuum packed for sale in chilled boxes for next day delivery orders or from the Farmers’ Markets.
When we came to Middle Campscott, there were two pigs in residence. One was an Oxford Sandy and Black. A rare breed designated ‘mythical’ by the Rare Breed Society. Over the years we have had one or two of these to consume dairy waste and the very occasional set of piglets. About three Christmas’s ago Emily gave Lawrence Esmeralda and Ermintrude, sister piglets, and a year or two later we found Percy to join them. We knew that sows lose their fertility if not mated young, and a few weeks ago we were about to give up on Ermintrude, and put Percy in with Esmeralda, when Lawrence found a delightful little orange spotty piglet exploring the pigpen. Just the one! Perhaps she will do better next time.
At present we have three Border Collies, Poppy our oldest one considers herself semi retired, while daughter, Floss, and Lily her half sister, do the work. Each one has a different style!
Bennet is often around to lend a hand and other help comes from our wonderful volunteers who have joined in with family life, given generously of their assistance and even returned from time to time.
It is hard work, in very fresh air. We have managed to ease some tasks. We now leave the lambs with their mothers, separating them at night and milking once a day from lambing to late Autumn; and it is not unknown for us to go down to Lee Beach for a swim, or for Lawrence to go surfing at Woolacombe. We are also regulars (as audience) at the excellent music nights at the Grampus Inn our “local” in Lee.
Here’s to the next 20 years!
Karen and Lawrence