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A change of tune (Bridport Times, May 2020)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

Written by Ellen Simon

On a recent brilliant sunny day, I was riding our pony Salix, at speed, up the committee fields to visit the cattle and sheep littered in the fields at the top of the farm; the phrase ‘in May, I sing all day’ came to mind. The road at the top of the hill and the sky above were quiet because we were already in ‘lockdown’. Maybe part of the reason these words came into my mind was that this silence matched the quiet days of my childhood. For me, the words are from a time when the world had less noise and the rhyme from which they derive is part of my primary-school lore:

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From Winter to Summer (Bridport Times, April 2020)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

Written by Ellen Simon

April is the changeover from winter to summer. In the winter the animals depend on us for their food and comfort. Most of them, all the ones indoors, would be knee deep in muck if we didn’t clear it away for them and give them fresh bedding; they would be without food unless we gave it to them, and that depends on our having saved the grass from last summer. In summer, by contrast, the animals are all outdoors and don’t really need us. We see them daily but, if all is well, that is all we do: we look, we see that they are comfortable and that they seem happy and we leave them to themselves. April is the month by which the big change-around has happened. It is a relief to finally return to the summer pattern; we have by now become weary of feeding and bedding and it is a pleasure to see the animals enjoying the weather and the sweet spring grass. For the vegetables, there is an equivalent shift around now. Through the winter and well into spring we are dependant on last year’s plants and last year’s work and now we are setting out this year’s and just beginning to crop the earliest of them.

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Why did the caravan cross the road? (Bridport Times, March 2020)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

Written by Ben Scriven

Visitors to West Bexington may have noticed a rather strange pair of caravans sitting in a field and wondered how they seem to mysteriously move around periodically. They represent my latest (bird brained?) idea: can we produce eggs without importing feed?

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Rain, rain, go away… (Bridport Times, February 2020)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

Written by Adam Simon

Do you remember playing with water and building dams as a child? Something we all learned very quickly was that water runs inexorably downhill. You can channel it, slow it down or hold it temporarily but ultimately it insists on going downwards. On our farm, water ends up harmlessly in the sea quite soon, but it can be troublesome en route. Readers will have noticed that, after the dry summer, we had a lot of rain early this winter and we have needed to help some of our water find the ways we wanted it to take rather than letting it choose its own.

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Bess’s Tail (Bridport Times, January 2020)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

Written by Leila Simon

Just thirteen years ago this month, Ellen returned from Puddletown veterinary surgery with a roly-poly, black, tan and white collie called Scamp. Probably between 2 and 4 years old, Scamp was, we hoped, to be our new sheepdog. We’d spent two months without one, struggling to gather and move the sheep alone. Perhaps more difficult than that, we’d had no loving doggy presence in the house or companionship out and about. For years we had been looked after by a golden retriever who thought we kept the farm especially for her to play in, and then we got Moss as a puppy who we trained up as a sheepdog ourselves. She had died suddenly at 8 years old from an undiagnosed liver cancer that haemorrhaged. She had been asking for gates to be opened rather than jumping them, however she had seemed fine and was working well – just the evening before, she had moved the cattle very neatly from below the car park at Cogden to the field next door. The day she died had been spent apparently enjoying herself as a passenger in the tractor cab but when she got out she clearly felt bad, and we were on the phone to the vet when she died curled up in her basket. We had mourned the loss of a companion and a working partner and felt we couldn’t wait for a puppy to grow and, as we couldn’t afford a trained adult dog, we tried out a rescue dog.

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Between you, me, and the gatepost (Bridport Times, December 2019)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

Written by Ellen Simon

Bhutan, we hear, measures its success in gross national happiness instead of gross national product. Provided we stay above the breadline and can pay the bills, I think we might measure the farm’s success by whether the gates are good. Gates in good order are a joy. A gate should unlatch with one hand and easily swing open with just a light push. It should stay roughly where it is left, neither swinging wide open nor closing onto the person passing through. It should not touch the ground or have space underneath it to allow lambs to find their way through. It should have clear space at head level for the user, with no bramble shoots or sallow whips to catch unwary faces. It should close readily and latch securely when given a gentle nudge in the right direction. It should make a distinctive noise as it latches so that one can be totally sure without going to check that it cannot be opened with a shove from the next passing animal.

Continue reading “Between you, me, and the gatepost (Bridport Times, December 2019)”
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The times they are a-changin’ (Bridport Times, November 2019)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

Written by Adam Simon

Leila and I were speaking in the Houses of Parliament recently. Farming organisations are being consulted on the proposed Environment Bill, which is to replace CAP as support for agriculture, and the Landworker’s Alliance invited a few farms to illustrate to MPs, DEFRA and policy makers how we are delivering ‘public goods’ via agroecological farming as well as making a living and producing good food. Jyoti from Fivepenny Farm brought a feast using only local organic food for them to share as they listened. Many came to understand the issues, others came just for food but were drawn in by the ideas. Our presentation was mainly about what we are doing well and are proud of, however planning what we would say made us think again about why we are doing what we do, how we got here and where we might go next.

Continue reading “The times they are a-changin’ (Bridport Times, November 2019)”
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An Apple a Day (Bridport Times, October 2019)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

Written by Ellen Simon

When we first came here in 1960, my father planted trees into a windswept landscape. He planted them to protect the gardens from wind and salt spray. In the places which would in the future be sheltered he then put apple trees. As the years went by, they became productive and, for as long as I can remember, we have had as many apples as we can eat from the end of July through to at least February.

Continue reading “An Apple a Day (Bridport Times, October 2019)”
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Shades of Green (Bridport Times, September 2019)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

Written by Ellen Simon

As my eyes rest from work they fall on the fields and hedges, and what is within them and around them. Sometimes this is without attention and I see not the things which are there but the patterns they form in the colours of the season. We are in September which, to me, is part of the dark green phase of the year. For now, green is ubiquitous. Green is the colour of life and growth. It is the domain of the Green Man and it defines England’s pleasant land. Soon the green will start to depart and in preparation for that is becoming muted.

Continue reading “Shades of Green (Bridport Times, September 2019)”
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Talking ’til the cows come home (Bridport Times, August 2019)

We write monthly for the magazine Bridport Times. To see this article as originally published, view the pages on Issue.

Written by Leila Simon

One of the things we feel strongly about is showing how we farm and why we believe in farming the way we do. We want people to understand how their food is produced. We want them to feel happy about it, and to use their buying power to encourage methods they approve of. It’s been said we actually get three votes a day on how the world around us looks and works: they’re called breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Continue reading “Talking ’til the cows come home (Bridport Times, August 2019)”

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