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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Down on the farm

I've just got back from a fabulous trip to East Sussex with Felix and Ruth. On Friday afternoon I met Felix and Ruth at Reading station where we all piled into the Felix-mobile and drove to Beech Hill Farm near Rushlake Green in Sussex where Julia Desch keeps a flock of coloured Wensleydale sheep.

The Studio

[The Studio (exterior) at Beech Hill Farm]

The Studio

[Felix and Ruth making supper]

It was pitch dark and raining when we got there but we soon got the wood burning stove going and we had a lovely cosy evening eating butternut squash and ginger soup and watching Autumnwatch. One of the assignments on this week's show was to help the British Trust for Ornithology monitor the numbers of Tawny Owls for their Bird Atlas. When the rain let up later on we went outside to listen for Tawny Owls and were very excited to hear three! I've already added our "hearings" to the Tawny Owl coverage map.

The next morning was gorgeous so we headed out to meet the sheep and get some provisions for dinner at the Redlands Farm shop.

Hens at Redlands Farm shop

[Happy chickens at Redlands Farm shop]

Julia's black Wensleydales are so beautiful.

Coloured Wensleydale sheep

I love their mad dreadlocks and sweet little faces. These guys are six month old rams.

Coloured Wensleydale sheep

And this is Old Grey Owl. He's a bit lame and so Julia is moving him to another field to stop him being picked on by the other sheep.

Coloured Wensleydale sheep

On Saturday afternoon we had a spinning lesson with Wendy. Ruth and I are already pretty good spinners but wanted to learn to spin thicker yarn. Felix was more or less a beginning spinner so this was a great chance for her to get some 1-1 coaching and lots of time to practise on the wheel. I think she's hooked now.

Felix learning to spin

[Felix on the Ashford Kiwi]

Ruth and I both had a go on the Ashford Country Spinner which is for spinning really thick yarn. Ruth managed to ply some of her yarn using it but I just couldn't get used to the weighted wheel which kept going after I stopped treadling.

Ruth plying on the country spinner

[Ruth on the Country Spinner]

What I could get used to is the double treadle Ashford Kiwi that I used. So much easier to control the speed than my single treadle Wee Peggy. Having used a wheel with Scotch tension I'm now inspired to sort out the Scotch tension on my own wheel. It can be used with both double drive and Scotch tension and so far I've only tried double drive. I just need a new spring and to replace the existing thick twine with some nylon thread I think.

By the end of our session I felt much happier spinning a thicker yarn and had spun and plied three skeins of grey Romney from another local flock. I'm really looking forward to spinning some more heavier-weight yarn on my own wheel.

Today, once we'd tidied up at the Studio, we headed over to Lewes to spend some of our English pounds. The weather had turned bitterly cold overnight so we were more than happy to keep diving into the lovely little shops that we passed on our way to the Needlemakers craft centre. It was a good thing for our wallets that the patchwork shop was closed but Ruth and Felix still managed to spend a fair amount on buttons, I Spy books, and an incredibly hammy radio dramatisation of The Sea of Adventure which kept us in stitches for the first half hour or so of the drive back. Personally I was most tempted by a near complete set of Arthur Ransome first editions - the former property of an F. C. Baden-Powell of Hinksey Hill, Oxford - but couldn't quite kid myself that I could afford even one. If I was a collector then I probably wouldn't blink at £30 for a first edition but it's a bit much for a book that I just want to read (and re-read). I did get quite a way into We didn't mean to go to Sea whilst Felix and Ruth were browsing and I may have to make a quick trip to the bookshop tomorrow in order to finish it!.

I don't have any photos of the Aladdin's Cave that is downstairs at the Needlemakers but I'm sure Ruth will be posting hers soon. After all that rummaging we were very ready for a lovely lunch followed by cake at the cafe upstairs before heading back to the car for the drive home.

I did get some, although not much, knitting done over the weekend - there were about equal quantities of knitting and ripping - so there'll be a couple of finished object posts coming up in the next day or so.


tinebeest said...

That sounds and looks like an enviable weekend!

Felix said...

Thanks for blogging our adventure so beautifully and for being such great company on a marvellous advenutre! Hurrah! x

Anonymous said...

"surfing"on the world wide web, looking for good photographs os the dark Wensleydale Longwool sheep, I found your blog. It's a smal world, we live in the netherlands we have a few of the Wensleydale's ourselves and we spent a vacation on beech hill farm with Julia.

From now on I read your blog every day!

Greetings from Holland, Sonja