History of the Binder

In this addition of my blog I will be talking about the binder and knotting mechanism. The binder is a later improved version of the reaper. The reaper was an implement that just cut the crop, rather than combining it with the processes of cutting and tying it into sheaves.

Picture 1 - Binder

The binder was invented in 1872 by Charles Withington. The binder cuts the cereal crop a couple of inches of the floor and ties the cut crop into sheaves. These sheaves are then ‘stooked’ in the field, resembling tipis, by the farm labourers who are following behind the machine. The stooks were then left to ripen out in the field before they were carted in.

Picture 2 - Carting Corn

The original binders used wire to tie the sheaves, but this gave various problems during operation and also when it came to harvest, so, William Deering then invented a binder that used a twine knotter that was invented by John Appleby.

The knotter is a bit like the sowing machine: the machine pushes a needle in and pulls loops in nanoseconds as it passes by. In the same way, the knotter on the binder loops the twine around the cut crop onto the knotter beak, which then opens and grabs the twine as a knife cuts it to length. The beak then turns to tie the knot and releases once it has done its rotation. This all happens in the space of a second. Below is a picture of the knot the knotter mechanism produces.

Picture 3 - Tied knot

The knotter mechanism revolutionised agriculture and the same mechanism is still used today. There have been variations on the knotter, for example, August Claas adapted the knotter with a limited floating beak. It was then patented in 1921 and is still used in their bailers to this present day. Below is a picture of the CLAAS logo on one of their combines. You can see the knotter needle and beak is used as part of the company branding.

Picture 4 - Claas Logo

Ben Preston – Heritage Farming Apprentice

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Haymaking by Hand

A few weeks ago, my fellow trainees and I were lucky enough to go on a one day scything course.
Since that day I have become slightly obsessed with the satisfaction of the job and how much fun making my own hay is!

A scythe is an agricultural hand tool used for cutting, mowing grass, or reaping crops. Since its heyday (please excuse the pun!) it has largely been replaced by horse, and then tractor power. It is still used commercially in some areas of Europe and Asia.
The scythe has been around for many hundreds of years and according to the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, the scythe was used by the ancient Romans. It was first noted in around 500BC and has been widely used ever since, with many developments (such as the cradle scythe) being devised from it.

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Hay is a vital crop on any farm, even on a modern commercial basis. It is dried grass stored safely for animal fodder, particularly for grazing livestock such as sheep, cows and horses. Haymaking is a multi-step process beginning with the growing of grass then cutting, curing (or drying), processing and storing.
Initially hay was cut by teams of scythers, left to dry in swaths (or piles) – which have the colloquial name of ‘haycocks’; on the field then pitched loose onto a horse drawn wagon.
The loose hay was then taken into an area designated specifically for storage of the hay. It had to be an area that was slightly raised up, or positioned on top of a hill in order for the ground to be dry. A haystack was then built. Due to the haystacks own weight, the hay would compress and cure by the release of heat from the residual moisture in the hay. The haystack was separated from the rest of the farm (to prevent eager, hungry livestock!) and was often thatched or sheeted to keep it dry.

On the scything course which we attended, we managed to successfully mow the top end of Gressenhall’s orchard.

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Once the hay was cut, myself and my fellow trainee Lee, returned over the week in order to turn the hay. The hay must be turned once a day in order to allow the air access to as many individual strands as possible. When turning it is also important to ensure the hay is moved onto a dry patch of grass. The moisture from the hay will seep into the ground below it, therefore if you turned the hay onto the same spot then it would stand less chance of drying out correctly.

On the Thursday (4 days after it was cut) we brought Bowler, one of our 5 Suffolk Punch’s, and the wagon, up to the orchard and collected the hay. It was a beautiful sunny day and the experience is one I will never forget! Bowler was fantastically well behaved (having never been up to the orchard with the wagon) and Lee and I were taught by Richard (Farm Officer) how to correctly use pitch forks to the optimum ability. Jpeg
JpegThe hay was then stored on the wagon by piling up the sides first, then filling in the centre. This method ensures the hay supports itself, and theoretically won’t fall off on the return journey. Once the team returned to the farm the wagon was stored safely in our front barn (we are hoping to make a haystack soon but in the meantime the hay remains on the wagon). Ever since that day we have been feeding the hay to the cows and sheep which are in the yards.

You’ll all be happy to hear that they love it!

Dani Chatten- Heritage Farming Apprentice

The Dyer’s Garden

One of the lovely things about being a Heritage Gardening Trainee is the fact that we are able to garden in so many different heritage settings. Even within the walls of Gressenhall there are different focuses for each gardening area.

My focus has primarily been on the Dyer’s Garden and the Farmhouse garden. It has been a joy to get to know the volunteers who have spent many years in some cases caring for the different areas. Carol and Jenny who look after the Dyer’s Garden are extremely knowledgeable about the whole process of dying, from which plants to grow for which colour, through to the processes of dying fabric. Carol loaned me a fascinating book about the history of wool industry in Norfolk and how dying yarn and silk was a highly valued skill.

Dyer's Garden at Gressenhall FW

Dyer’s Garden at Gressenhall FW

Starting the traineeship in winter was a good time to begin as the Dyer’s Garden was pretty much a blank canvas. Many of the perennial plants had died back for the winter and much of the remaining space is left for last years annual plants to self-seed. Once spring had begun it was an education in itself learning how to distinguish which tiny seedlings we needed to keep and the rogues which needed to be weeded out. Once this was completed which took us about 3 sessions together we could see where the spaces were and we could thing about what to fill them with.

Gardening in the Dyer’s Garden almost forces you to throw out much of the theory of normal gardening – adding feed and compost and mulching in the winter for instance, as many of the plants like bare, dry, stony and impoverished conditions to thrive. After a delightful trip to Norfolk Herbs, a nursery in the tiny village of Dillington, we rushed back to the Dyer’s Garden to place Echinacea and Marjoram, whilst leaving gaps for the Dahlias which wait quietly in bags ready to be planted. Hummocks of daylilies and ? have quickly grown up in the last few weeks. Rustic plant supports, made out of Hazel have been used to allow the Madder to scramble up and the Cotinus has been moved forward after struggling in the shade. I had propagated at home some Achillea Cassis and Rudbeckia fulgida which have also filled some holes. I‘m really looking forward to seeing the blaze of colour later in the summer, when the Dyer’s Garden reaches its peak.

Me with tractors at recent trip to Avoncroft Museum.

Me with tractors at recent trip to Avoncroft Museum.

Sam Kemp
Heritage Gardening Trainee

Ploughing

As with all my blogs, I like to talk about machinery and equipment. So this one is going to be no exception, in this edition I am going to talk about the plough and ploughing.

Richard Ploughing

Richard Ploughing

Ploughing is a type of cultivation and the purpose of ploughing is to turn over the top layer of soil bring all the fresh nutrients to the surface. As the ground is being turned over it is also burying all the weeds, remains of last years crop, allowing them all to break down under the surface. Once ploughed, you normally leave the ground for a couple of days to dry, and then you can harrow the ground to produce a finer seed bed.

Ground diagram

Ground diagram

The first ever ploughs used to be human powered, but once animals started to be used, this became a lot easier and efficient. The first animals that used to pull ploughs used to be oxen, and then in many areas the use of horses became more popular. It was said that a horseman and his team of horses could plough an acre a day, and in that day he would walk 11 miles whilst ploughing.

Richard Ploughing

Richard Ploughing

Whipple tree set up for a team of two horses

Whipple tree set up for a team of two horses

Ploughs also could be pulled mechanically, This was first done by a team of ploughing engines. These were specific traction engines that had a winch on the underside of the engine. One engine would be one side of the field and the other engine the other side. The plough would then be connected to each winch cable and then would be pulled up and down the field.

Steam Ploughing

Steam Ploughing

Ploughing engine

Ploughing engine

As you can see from the picture below (Picture 8) this lists all the bits on a horse drawn plough. Here is a brief description of all the parts:-

Hake – Is connected to the set of whipple-trees and you also use this to set the angle of draught.

Furrow Wheel – Sits in the furrow against the furrow wall and determines the your depth.

Land Wheel – Sits on top of the land and give you stability.

Skimmer – Clears trash into the bottom of the furrow so it is buried by the cut slice of land.

Coulter – This acts with the share to cut the side wall of the cut slice of land so it folds over into the furrow.

Share – Aids in cutting into the ground to start the process of turning the cut slice.

Mouldboard – Lifts and turns the cut slice of soil.

Plough Diagram

Plough Diagram

Ransomes YL Plough

Ransomes YL Plough

Above you can see a Ransomes YL plough we still use on the farm today. Ransomes, Sims and Jeffries (also known as Ransomes, Ransomes, Sims & Head) based in Ipswich Suffolk, was a British agricultural machinery manufacturers producing a vast range of products including traction engines, ploughs, lawn mowers, combine harvesters and other farming machinery. They also manufactured aeroplanes during the First World War.

Once again I hope you have enjoyed another one of my machine orientated blogs, and I will now have to think hard of another bit of equipment I write about next time.

Ben Preston – Heritage Farming Apprentice

Gressenhall is to have bees again!

Gressenhall is to have bees again! An update from Daniel Johnson, Landscape Heritage Management trainee.
We have begun cleaning up the old WBC hive that was set up in the wildflower meadow at the top of the farm. ‘WBC’ stands for William Broughton Carr; the man responsible for the design of this traditional hive first constructed in 1890. A modern hive complete with a colony of bees belonging to Venetia Rist, a local beekeeper living in Gressenhall village will soon be inserted into the WBC structure following its renovation.
We are at the first stage in the clean up process- deep freezing the outer frames or ‘lifts’, along with the drawers or ‘supers’ as they are known, and the old foundation frames onto which the worker bees graft their wax cells and store their honey.
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Temperatures in the freezer will drop to -32°c. Once the extreme cold has killed off any woodworm and other bugs or grubs the hive will be treated to a pressure wash and gentle sanding before being finished in a resplendent white paint (bee-friendly, of course!).
Honey Bees have had a difficult time of late with many colonies collapsing or in serious decline. It may be some time before we are fortunate enough to be producing much honey here at Gressenhall, but the presence of the bees and a traditional, functioning hive in a historical setting will be a welcome site this summer.

Training a Young Horse

As I’m sure you are all aware, on the farm we have 5 Suffolk Punch horses. They vary in age from 14 to 6 and this age difference aids us in bringing on our younger horses to match the abilities of the old horses, and eventually allows them take over, when the elder ones become too old to work. To start this process off we introduce the youngest horse to the eldest horse and put them in a field together. The hope is that the older horse teaches the younger horse manners, and puts them in line.

Currently, our youngest horse, Jimbo (who is 6) is going through a rigorous winter training program to bring him up to a set standard for when we re-open for the new season. It is important that this training is done over winter for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it is much safer to train a young horse when there are a limited number of people around- it minimises the risk to others and to the horse. Secondly, due to the nature of the work we wish for him to be able to complete on the farm, it is logical to train him when the work needs doing. Jobs such as ploughing, harrowing and sowing fields are the vast majority of his life as a working horse, and these jobs need to be completed during the winter months. Also, we are able to increase his fitness much quicker due to the fact we have more time to spend working with him when the site is closed.

Jimbo arrived at the farm and was then ‘broken in’; to include pulling a sledge with a load behind him. Therefore, our training with him this winter hasn’t required us to start from the beginning. Due to the fact we knew Jimbo was capable of working alone and pulling objects, the next logical step was to introduce him to another horse and get him working as a pair. Our choice was Bowler to begin with as Bowler’s enthusiasm for work would mean he would pull the load forward without aid from Jim. This would allow Jim to get used to the situation and encourage him to get on with the job.

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This is a photo I took of the first time that Jim worked in a pair. Bowler is on the left of the image and Jim on the right. They are pulling the horse drawn cultivator. This was a sensible piece of machinery to begin with as it is ground based (therefore gives some resistance and allows the driver to have a way of stopping the horses) however since the land had recently been cultivated, the soil was already soft and therefore not too hard work for the unfit, green, horse. Jimbo did extremely well on this task and was praised through oral encouragement and given a small extra feed to finish off his day.

The next stage was to see how well he dealt with being driven. This task was more complicated than the cultivator as the hitch cart has no breaks. There is a certain amount of calculated risk involved in this step. You shouldn’t complete it too early as the horse may become frightened and bolt, but it isn’t wise to keep playing it safe with land based machinery otherwise the horse would never learn other tasks. Once again Jimbo was very well behaved, and Bowler made sure the hitch cart kept moving, even when Jimbo did not want to go. There were a few occasions in which he became spooked at unusual objects along the side of the track but due to the skill of the driver, with words of encouragement, and the enthusiasm of the paired horse, Jimbo became used to the task very quickly and settled down.

At this point in his training we placed Jimbo with other horses and repeated the hitch cart process. He went beautifully with Trojan (our eldest horse) and very well with Reggie (who is 8), however, being the cheeky horse that he is, he used the fact he was strapped together next to Reggie as an opportunity to give his mate the occasional nibble. Other than the nibbles, Reggie and Jimbo worked brilliantly as a pair and we have driven them around the track continuously for weeks since their first encounter.
It is important that work on the farm is completed over the winter months in order for it to be seen at its best when the site re-opens. Due to this, the fields need to be prepared and sown. We attempted to use the seed drill with just Reggie and Bowler pulling it, however, it was very hard work for both horses and staff, therefore, the following day we decided to insert Jimbo into the mix to make the going easier for the horses and allowing the work to be completed faster. This was the hardest task yet for him, as working in a triplet involves much more teamwork and turning corners is rather exciting!

Corners are difficult, even for the more experienced horses because, the horse on the inside of the turn must slow their pace down to a minimum and the horse to the far side of the turn must increase their pace to a rapid walk, or even a jog.

The ground was very sticky underfoot and we placed Jimbo on the outside (if something were to go wrong it would be easier to remove him from the other two, and it would be less claustrophobic for him). Due to the fact we were using the Smithe drill there were 3 people required to operate and control the situation. The driver, who would have ultimate control of the situation (who was experienced in training and working horses), a leader (a person who led and guided Jim around the corners and encouraged him forwards), and a person in charge of the machine (keeping the seeds topped up and making sure it didn’t clog up).

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Jimbo was slow to start and inexperienced around the corners but despite the occasional spook he was an absolute star!

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We were all very proud of him, and he received a large amount of praise (and the odd secret cuddle!) at the end of the day.

The next steps with Jimbo for the rest of the winter consist of repeating all tasks. This will ensure he knows his job and is happy in all situations. We are all very proud of his progress and we are hoping that by the time the open season begins we will have him thoroughly initiated into the strong workforce of horses down on the farm!

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Danielle Chatten
Heritage Farming Apprentice

Oats-So-Simple

In this addition of my blog I am going to be writing about the life cycle of oats down on the farm here at Gressenhall.

Drilling with horses

Drilling with horses

To start you have to get the seed into the ground, this is called drilling. (As you can see from the above picture). Here at Gressenhall we use a 92 inch Smyth Seed Drill. This drill can cope with the smallest of seeds from clover, to the bigger bean seed. The drill is horse drawn and the momentum of the horses pulling the drill drives gears, which are connected to the wheels, and this in turn drives the seed cups which then drop the seed down the spouts into the soil.

Rear view of drill

Rear view of drill


Seed cups

Seed cups

Around the year 1800, in Peasenhall Suffolk, James Smyth set up a production line in a field behind the church producing seed drills. James was born in 1777 which meant he was only 23 when he first started to produce his seed drills. There were many skills in the generations of the Smyth family ranging from woodwork to metal work and this is what played a major part in James Smyth’s initial success as he had a multitude of skills to start producing his machinery. Smyth drills were know as the Rolls Royce of machinery of its time and were even shipped out as far as Jamaica.

Richard on binder

Richard on binder

Once the crop is fully grown and is ready for harvest we then have to cut it using a binder. The reaper binder does not only cut the crop but also binds it into sheaves. The cut stems fall onto a bed canvas, which then transports it to two other elevator canvases which nip the harvested crop together whilst moving it to the binding mechanism. The binding mechanism bundles the crop and ties a piece of twine around the bundle. Once tied, it is ejected from the side of the binder. You then have a workforce going behind the bind ‘stooking’ the sheaves enabling them to dry out in the field.
Our binder is an Albion 5a and dates back to the 1940’s. It was produced by The Harrison McGregor Works at Leigh who were established in 1873 by Henry Harrison and Alexander McGregor. The ‘Albion’ range or harvest machinery achieved high sales and a high reputation around the world.

Thrashing set up

Thrashing set up

To get the seed from the cut crop we have to thrash it. To thrash this year’s crop of oats we used a Marshall thrashing drum being driven by a Burrell traction engine. Marshall, Sons & Co was a British company founded in 1848 making agricultural equipment. The company was based at Britannia Iron Works, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. Early equipment consisted of steam engines and agricultural equipment and then later production saw diesel tractors such as the famous Field Marshall.

Drum feed

Drum feed

To start you feed the sheaves into drum at the top of the threshing machine. The grain is then separated from the straw by spinning teeth on the drum. The straw exits the threshing machine at the back via walkers. The grain continues its journey through sieves and eventually comes to the front of the machine where it is fed into bags.

Pitching up sheaves

Pitching up sheaves

Sacked Seed

Sacked Seed

This last month I have been working on a project that will enabled us to roll our own oats that we have grown here on the farm. This has involved finding a roller mill, an engine to power it and a space where we can roll and store the oats.
Well I can now say that we are rolling our oats using a Bamfords rapid roller mill. The roller crushes the grain between two big roller wheels which produces rolled grain that has a much bigger surface area and is easier for the animals to digest. The grain is fed to the rollers via a hopper above the roller. You are then able to adjust the flow rate of grain through the machine and also adjust how close the two rollers are together. (This is called kissing!)
Bamfords International Farm Machinery was one of the country’s major suppliers of agricultural equipment. It was famous for its balers, hay turners, chaff cutters and hay rakes which were exported all over the world. Joseph Cyril Bamford from the Bamford family went on to found the company JCB.

Roller Mill

Roller Mill


Before and after

Before and after

I hope you have enjoyed my ‘brief’ overview of the life cycle of Gressenhall’s oats.
Ben Preston – Heritage Farming Apprentice

Horse Power! Day: Sunday 29th September 2013

Horse Power! Day took place a few weeks ago down here on the farm and it was both successful and fantastic fun.

Preparation for the event took place the week before with the fields having muck spread on them and the horses getting groomed until they shone.  The preparation was useful to both Ben and me as we learnt how to use the muck spreading machine (a machine imported by Richard from an Amish community in Canada).  It was amazing to see and is much more efficient than the old fashioned way of loading muck onto a tumbrel, forking it off onto the field then going back and spreading it out by hand. The machine is loaded with muck and then the forward motion of the horses initiates the table of the machine, pushing the muck towards the back where it is picked up by rotating blades and flung into an arc out onto the land.

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We were very lucky and on the day itself we had fantastic weather.  It wasn’t too hot for the horses to work and it didn’t rain either.  19 horses were on site during the day and they took part in a variety of activities for the public to witness.  We had a pair muck spreading, a pair disking, a single horse harrowing, and 4 pairs of horses taking part in a ploughing match. I had never seen a ploughing match before so it was a new experience for me.  The general idea always appeared to be simple- plough the straightest line and you win.  However, as I learnt throughout the day and have subsequently been informed on in much more detail, it is much more complex than it initially seems!

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The straightness of the furrow is vital- the first draw across the field is of the utmost importance, but you also have to consider depth, distance, working speed of the horses and how much soil you push over as your plough moves forward. The match on the farm was taken seriously, although there were teams competing that had done very little or no ploughing at all in a competitive field so the public were able to see all sorts of styles and techniques.

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Not only did we have horses out working but 2 of our own horses were on show in their stables, a pair of Shires were put together in all of their show gear and became very much admired. We were also lucky enough to have the fire service come down and demonstrate how they rescue horses and livestock from ditches etc with their rubber horse named Randy. This was very interesting and informative to watch and learn about however it did cause a bit of a stir when they left the very realistic looking Randy hanging from the grab of our tractor and people thought it was alive! Ray Hubbard also joined us in the farmhouse and entertained people with live music and stories from his past.

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On the top site we were visited by a previous trainee Alex who worked in the forge making horse shoes for our horses and we also ran themed art attacks for our visitors.

Overall it was a fantastic day where I was able to learn a lot about horses and farming, and I can’t wait for next year!

PIC 5

Dani Chatten

Heritage Farming Apprentice

Harvest Continued…..

Following up from my last blog explaining how we had been harvesting the rye, oats and barley down on the farm, (I hoped you all liked it) I thought that as my latest blog coincides with our potato harvest, I would explain a little further.

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 Richard with the horses

The way we harvest the potatoes here at Gressenhall is through the use of a horse drawn Ransomes potato spinner. The spinner we use is a later model dating from around the 1940s.

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Spinner

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 Bottom blade and tines

As you can see from the picture above, the spinner works by the bottom blade cutting into the ridged row of potatoes and then the spinning tines pushing the crop out to the side. As the blade digs into the row, the soil that is pushed up cushions the potatoes from being bruised and broken during the harvesting process. The spinner is powered by a land wheel connected to a gear box that then powers the spinner mechanism. (See gearbox picture below) When using the machine the operator has control over the depth the blade cuts into the ridge and also the controls to engage the main driving gear. The harvested potato crop is then picked by hand and loaded into a vehicle. In our case we use Trojan in a tumble.

Picture 3 - GearboxGearbox

Picture 4 - Trojan and TumbleTrojan and Tumble

A Little history behind Ransomes

Ransomes, Sims and Jeffries (also known as Ransomes, Ransomes, Sims & Head) based in Ipswich Suffolk, was a British agricultural machinery manufacturers producing a vast range of products including traction engines, ploughs, lawn mowers, combine harvesters and other farming machinery. They also manufactured aeroplanes during the First World War.

Picture 5 - Ransomes name plateRansomes plate

As our harvest is now coming to an end, I look forward to preparing the fields ready to sow next years crop. As I said in my last blog, I cannot wait to get some ploughing done with the horses.

Ben Preston – Heritage Farming Apprentice

Mammals

Over the traineeship there have been many courses which I have attended and last weekend Tom and I took part in a mammal identification weekend run by the Mammal Society. It was a very full schedule over 2 ½ days with a great amount of information to take in. Over the weekend we got the chance to set some small mammal traps (Longworth traps) and I was lucky enough to catch a common shrew in one of my 6 traps over the weekend which turned out only to weigh 7g!

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Longworth traps (with food and bedding inside for mice, voles and shrews to survive the night)

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Common Shrew

 

 

 

 

 

 

Field voles and Bank voles were also caught and it was great to be able to see the voles close up therefore allowing all the course attendees to see the key features of the different species caught.

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Field Vole

We were shown how to recognise tracks and trails of the mammals in the UK along with how to recognise the differences between calls. As well as being able to recognise live mammals we were also shown how to identify mice, voles and shrews from their skeletons and teeth which all differ slightly and there are distinguishing features in the skeleton which allow us to identify species within the family groups. At the end of the weekend there was a test to ensure we all understood what we had learnt and that we understood how to fill in official recording sheets correctly. Now Tom and I understand how to set traps for small mammals (and how to identify them correctly) we may be able to set up a small survey to see what small mammals are living around the farm and in Centenary Wood.

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Hannah and Dani with Trojan

During the Bank Holiday weekend Dani and I joined in the re-enactment and became land girls working on the farm. Using our lovely Suffolk Punches we moved muck and lifted a few potatoes which the public were able to come and pick and take home.

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Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service practising rescuing a horse

 

 

 

 

 

Getting ready for the Heavy Horse Weekend on the 29th September, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service – Urban Search And Rescue (USAR) have been practicing their skills on how they might rescue an injured horse for their demonstrations taking place during that weekend.

 

On Friday 30th August our first of four calves was born and he is doing very well. Mum is being very protective but has allowed us a few photos!

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Hannah – Heritage Landscape Management Trainee