Headlines

Trust Funding We have been offered some funding from a charitable Trust to help with the costs of a farm visit to your school - please see our news page for further information.

Handwashing We can hire out mobile hand washing sinks which provide soap and hot running water - the ultimate in recommended hygiene practice! Contact us for details.

Recent updates

News archive for 2009

2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007

10/12/2009

[What's in Santa's sack?]

We are all geared up for Christmas! Having always had an anti-"plastic-doll-in crib" syndrome for this time of year, MCFE has decided to look at the more light hearted side of Christmas and has developed a scene which the animals (and visitors!) love. See right for our outing to Leatherhead town centre last weekend. This Saturday we are in Alton Market Square for the Farmers Market / Craft Market from 10am-3pm - come and see what the goats make of Santa getting stuck down the chimney!

All but two turkeys have found a home - there is nothing like eating local! We are keeping the two geese we hatched out this year as we have one male and one female. Hopefully we will hatch some of their eggs out next year.

Borat the boar is back visiting us (hopefully he won't go on walkabout this time!), so more piglets are planned for April. The last of his August babies were sold this morning.

We are delighted that already the bookings are starting to roll in for next year - residential homes, schools, fairs, preschools and children's centres. Now with two trailers on the go at any one time, we are hoping to be able to keep up with demand!

Thank you to everyone who has helped us over the past year and we wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2010.

04/12/2009

More news on E coli - from last week's Farmers Weekly, an article on the subject.

Also, a reminder that the clear, uncluttered, reasonable guidance from the HSE has not changed (make sure you see the video about halfway down).

18/11/2009

Children from Year R at Wootey's Infant School were in for a treat on Tuesday when they were visited by all the animals from Mill Cottage Farm Experience. As part of their topic studying the book "Farmyard Hullabaloo", the visit reinforced what the youngsters had learnt when they visited Finkley Down Farm earlier in the term.

The children stroked Stephen & Jenny the goats, Crystal and Garnet the lambs as well as Treacle, Spice and Ginger the piglets. They learnt about the different feet and mouths each of the creatures have to help them find food, and they even had the chance to see which foods the piglets liked best (apples were the favourite!)

Next, the children became detectives to discover how the chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese were adapted for eating and moving before being able to touch the feathers and webbed feet. They particularly enjoyed watching the turkey show off his beautiful feathers to his wife!

"By the end, the children were experts at identifying where their food came from and they all had a really enjoyable time with the animals" commented Sarah Main, MCFE Manager, afterwards.

31/10/2009

By Stephen Angliss, Review Kingdom
Following on from MCFE's tremendous success at the Easter open day, the decision was made to capitalise on these superb achievements and hold a second open day of the year: and thus The MCFE Autumn Festival was born.

With a lot of the usual suspects making a welcome return, the set up of the day remained similar to the previous events and anticipation was high that this day would be as well received as all the other MCFE events. This was, of course, so long as the rain held off - bad weather can have an adverse effect on such occasions. There is a rumour that the day started off poorly in this respect with heavy rain falling at 6am; though we at the Review Kingdom have no way of verifying if this is true or not - all those awake and out of bed at 6am on a Saturday morning are now locked up for their own safety. Once a respectable time of the day arrived and the gates were opened, whilst looking a little grey, the weather was fine, and as the day went on we were treated to blue skies and sunshine.

The most dramatic event of the day happened before the grand opening however, as Georgina the goat performed a cracking dramatisation of The Great Escape and dodged the gates to have a cheeky preview of what the MCFE open day had on offer. Alas, she did not get to have a go on hook-a-duck as Sarah was quickly on hand to "Shepherd" Georgina back home before reinforcing its parameters. As well as Georgina the goat and her friends, other animals there to provide entertainment included pigs, turkeys, ferrets, chickens, rabbits, sheep, geese, ducks, guinea pigs, a hawk and, of course, Tom's trusty sidekick Chester the dog. All pulled in a great deal of attention from the many paying visitors of all ages, as everyone who attended enjoyed a fun and educational experience.

As well as these star turns of the animals, there were plenty of activities and stalls around to keep everyone entertained - highlights from these included the ever-popular cake stall, as well as a spinning demonstration with wool crafts, Rose Claire jewellery, Usborne books and MCFE toys, Spring Cottage farm poultry, Farm and Country Supplies, Cavalier Paperbacks, Natural Candle Company, Hampshire Honey, Phoenix Cards, Love Food Hate Waste, whilst any empty tummies were happily filled by Soup In A Bun, Dylan's Ice Creams, Pampered Chef, Blackmoor farm shop, with apple bobbing and bouncy castle providing even more entertainment for the younger guests among us. In addition to all of this, the local Girl Guides group were also hand to demonstrate their crafty skills and allow visitors to further their interactive learning.

So to summarise... a fantastic day was had by all who attended the day, helping to raise money for two worthy causes: Epilepsy Bereaved and Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Thanks for the hundreds of people who attended and helped out throughout the day to ensure significant contributions were made to both of these causes, and ensured MCFE continued to provide a safe and exciting environment for all to get closer to the animal world.

22/10/2009

We had the letter through this morning... unfortunately we have not been shortlisted from the final six to the final three of the Smallholder of the Year 2009 competition. We had already thought we probably wouldn't be as we had picked out the finalists we thought would go through. It will be interesting to see if our choices match those of the judge - we will find out in the next Country Smallholding magazine out at the end of the month!

14/10/2009

We have once again moved our rams back in with the ewes ready for the Spring lambing. The timetable has been somewhat set for us as we must finish lambing by the beginning of April when my sister gets married (or we'll be in trouble!) so count back 147 days, count back a further couple of weeks just in case and there you have it. Let's hope Abraham and George (and the girls!) are working to the same timetable as us!

We look forward to welcoming you to Holybourne Theatre for our Autumn Festival on Saturday 31st October from 10:30am-2:30pm. The entrance fee covers our costs, and there are will be lots of activities, most of which will be free once inside the gate. There are also plenty of stalls to start that Christmas shopping, and food available for lunchtime! On leaving, we will be asking for donations to our two chosen charities - Breakthrough Breast Cancer & Epilepsy Bereaved.

In addition, if you have any excess fruit, vegetables or plants, could you bring them down to us (or we can collect if you let us know) on the Friday and we will then sell them for you at the Autumn Festival. At least 10% (or more if you prefer) will then be donated to our charities. Please see poster (PDF - 471kB).

Finally, we feel our Annual Open Day & Autumn Festival events are becoming too big to be successfully and safely accommodated on the Holybourne Theatre site. Whilst the venue has everything we require (indoor, outdoor, kitchen & bathroom facilities), the size is starting to restrict what we can do. We could easily have had many more activities and stalls this year but the physical space cannot accommodate it. Therefore, can anyone suggest a venue (preferably within Holybourne, but certainly within the wider Alton area) which would suit our needs and which the management would be agreeable to us hiring? All ideas gratefully received! We are also flexible in our choice of charities and would like to support a charity with local connections if possible.

07/10/2009

With Learning Outside the Classroom, and getting back in touch with where our food comes from being buzzwords in schools at present, what better way to tick all three boxes than with a visit from or two a farm?

Dr. Frances Harris, Kingston University, has completed an excellent piece of research this year: Perspectives on educational visits to farms: a report on research with farmers, teachers, children and parents

Research on educational visits to farms involved interviews with farmers who host school visits and teachers who have taken school children on farm visits, and questionnaires sent to the parents of children who have been to farms. The results show that many farmers make great efforts to offer farm visits that are stimulating and offer cross-curricular learning opportunities, through a range of educational access programmes. These visits link in with many government initiatives, including the new Learning Outside the Classroom initative, as well as campaigns to promte healthier eating and exercise such as the NHS 5-a-day and Change 4 Life campaigns. Teachers identified many ways in which farm visits contributed to learning in the national curriculum, from science to citizenship, literacy and art. Children enjoyed the outdoor learning environment, which provided memorable learning experiences, an opportunity for hands-on-learning, and were beneficial for some with special education needs or those who found a desk environment challenging. Two bottle necks to promoting farm visits were establishing links between farms and schools, and teacher training. Kingston University will be incorporating training in outdoor learning and farm visits through its PGCE at the School of Education, as well as continuing professional development courses offered by the Sustainability Hub.

Recommendations from the report:

Further reading:



21/09/2009

How clean is your... farm?

Just an update on the e-coli scaremongering that is going on. E-coli is still all around us, just like it has been for centuries! There are only a handful of cases that MAY have come from Godstone Farm... there is no proof yet that it is linked to the animals rather than a food outlet or from a child simply not washing their hands properly after visiting the bathroom and then passing the bug from person to person. Three out of the four farms that have closed have either not had any cases of e coli, or there is no proof that the cases are linked to the farm. The media have whipped up a bit of mass hysteria! It is important to note that, according to the Health Protection Agency, only 1 in 50 cases of e-coli stem petting farms, so there is a lot of scope for the media to be barking up the wrong tree.

So we at MCFE are taking the common sense approach. As most people are well aware, e-coli is naturally present in animals (or can be assumed to be so, so testing the animals and pens at Godstone is a pointless task). It can be picked up from any animal or bird that one might come into contact with (including pets & wild ones) as well as from food that hasn't been cooked properly, or from restaurants and food outlets whose hygiene isn't 100% etc. (See the Health Protection Agency for more information.)

Some e-coli cases could be stemming from the home, as Hampshire County Council points out.

It is a shame any air time was given to the professor who mentioned children under five - he obviously has no understanding of Under 5 education! As a teacher, I know that the most important thing is to make sure that, whatever procedures are implemented, they are done so in a sensible and accessible manner. To insist that children have no contact with any animals is impractical and would be devastating in terms of a child's education - whatever the age. We weigh up the relative risks and benefits involved, reduce the risks as far as we are able and allow children and adults to benefit from hands on time with our animals. We have never had any cases of e coli or any other bug linked to our farm.

Good hygiene practices are paramount - something we at MCFE think very carefully about. We would not want to put ourselves, our staff or our animals at risk let alone any of our clients. The problem with Under 5s is that they are not old enough to wash their hands properly, they like to put their hands in their mouths and have even been known to lick the bars of the animal pens! Whilst I would say it is good for children to build up their immune system to a certain extent, obviously this is not good practice and there needs to be vigilance from adults. The Health Protection Agency has handwashing advice here and here.

So what (regularly reviewed) procedures have we had in place since we first started running MCFE visits in 2007?

Let's hope something more newsworthy happens soon in the UK so the media has something worthwhile to get its teeth into!

And here's to many more successful and happy visits!

15/09/2009

We have had several phone calls regarding the current e-coli scare along the lines of "is it still ok for you to come out?" - of course it is!

The media do like to hype these things up and basic common sense should prevail. The biggest risks of illness are through putting hands in mouths (eg thumb sucking) and not handwashing properly. This is a general risk, not just with the current e-coli scare, and is relevant whether or not people have been near any type of animal. E-coli can be picked up in many places, including restaurants, schools and any other public place, person-to-person... the list is endless!

As the Health Protection Agency clearly states, handwashing is the key, as it is with many illnesses.

"Good hygiene is very important in preventing person-to person spread and small children should be supervised with hand washing after using the toilet and before eating... Hand washing in young children should be supervised, especially after handling animals or their surroundings, for instance on a visit to a farm."

We always display handwashing signs and parents need to be responsible for their own children and ensure handwashing is carried out effectively, and that little fingers are not put into mouths.

14/09/2009

Well, the final lambs have arrived... finally! And it could be said that Saturday was "one of those days"!

Having been saying "it can't be much longer" for the past three weeks, Caroline decided to go into labour late afternoon on Saturday 12th September, just as we were getting ready to go out for the evening. In some ways she was sensible. Had she waited another hour or so she would have been in trouble as we wouldn't have been around to help immediately. Had she been a couple of hours earlier, both Tom and I were running separate trailers to MCFE visits so we wouldn't have been around - and she needed help!

The head of the first lamb was huge and Caroline wasn't making any progress, so with James (our wanna-be-vet work experience student) in attendance, Tom talked through what he was doing down "that end", while Sarah hung onto the head end. A couple of people have asked me whether sheep suffer labour pains: Caroline didn't scream for the gas and air, but she did make some very funny noises (possibly due to the sheer size of the lamb being pulled out) and she also took to biting my clothes, so I take it that she wasn't altogether comfortable!

And so Pugwash was born. We waited around in case Caroline had a second lamb brewing, with a growing audience of dog walkers, neighbours and others using the public footpath (we like the public education bit!).

Sure enough, half an hour later, Birdseye slipped out with less fuss and bother, although he was completely encased in his sack so needed a bit of "lung clearance" help. He was quite a bit weaker than his older brother and by this time Pugwash had also gone a bit dopey; Caroline wasn't showing a great deal of interest in either of them, so we moved the new family up to the field shelter, in a pen so they could all get used to one another and work out what the game plan was now. We kept plugging Pugwash and Birdseye onto the "milk bar" and eventually Pugwash got the hang of it. Birdseye was a little more reluctant, and as we know Caroline is notorious for not having enough milk for two lambs, we decided to give Birdseye a helping hand. We are now topping Birdseye up twice a day, breakfast and supper, with a bottle. This milk is mixed up from powdered ewes' milk, or we sometimes use any excess goats milk we have.

Needless to say, after all this, we did not make our evening out. A hot shower (lambing is a very messy business!), a glass of wine and collapse on the sofa was more the order of the day - in between wanders up to the field shelter every 30mins or so for the first few hours, and also at 3am just to check all was well.

On top of all this we also have to report that, unfortunately, Scruff (one of our longer standing guinea pigs) had to be put down on Saturday evening - yes, she had timed it well! She had begun to have fits and it seemed kindest to put her out of her misery. She came to us quite a while ago, as an adult guinea pig. Her companion, Snowbell, is sharing Boris' hutch at the moment, so hopefully she won't miss Scruff when she is back in the girls' hutch again.

I think that is all the births now until next spring - hopefully it may get a bit quieter, although Saturdays are still the most popular days for visits, and bookings are still coming in! The annual maintenance of everything starts now: first up is a couple of stronger wooden milking cows - Buttercup has been joined by Daisy who enjoyed her debut outing to Farnham Church Fete on Saturday. The job for this week is to make Daffodil - our 3rd milking cow so no matter how many bookings we have, there is always a milking cow available - the children love it! Maybe when we only have one booking, we can have a herd of cows?!

08/09/2009

We have bought four more ewe lambs to join Abraham's flock this autumn. They were born last year and are called Polly, Molly, Dolly & Holly. Abraham's flock had been slowly decreasing - we had taken Fiona out as soon as we found out she was too closely related, Janet died last year and Colleen didn't have any lambs in the spring. This leaves Abraham with just two ladies for the spring lambs, so we decided to buy in some fresh blood!

Two out, two in - Tom left on the one way journey with a couple of lambs and a couple of pigs this morning. I still find it hard, but we have to be realistic. We can't keep them all, and we have to stay true to the original aim of being self sufficient. We haven't bought shop meat for a very long time and it is certainly happy meat which jumps into our freezer.

This afternoon, Colleen gave birth to a couple of live lambs named Jonah and Amethyst. She needed help with the first one but then surprised us by quietly popping the other one out! They are very small, but that won't be for long as Colleen has plenty of milk! Only Caroline to go now - and then I think we have finished the birthing thing for this year.

04/09/2009

Not content with getting into the final round of the Smallholder of the Year competition, we are now starting on the national media!

The Daily Mail ran an article today in their Property section on the joys of "greenshifting", and featured our Mill Cottage Farm Experience and our smallholding. Of course, what you don't see is that the picture is just one of over 150 the photographer took of us and our animals!

28/08/2009

There must be something in the air... Fiona gave birth to two ewe lambs this afternoon - Crystal and Garnet. Both are healthy lambs.

Already, less than 24 hours in, the piglets are exploring and getting up to mischief! It is incredible that within minutes of birth, the piglets instinctively left the straw nest to defecate - they will not soil their bedding. Amazing!

Have a look at the movies of the new arrivals!

27/08/2009

Charity has given birth this evening to six piglets - three boys, three girls - and four of them are ginger! All seem healthy but Charity is very unsettled, as we have had to move her and babies because Faith was showing signs of going into labour (i.e. she wasn't interested in food!) and we thought she was going to hurt Charity & babies. Can you believe we can fit them all into a Curver box?

Faith also has seven babies - five boys and two girls (four of them ginger). I never thought I would enjoy sitting in a pig ark for an hour, but watching two of them arrive was amazing!

Pictures of the piglets are in our photo gallery

Also, the broody chicken has hatched out one cayuga duckling. There are two other eggs under her but I am not sure whether they are doing anything.

Brillo the guinea pig is looking very large and could produce any moment so we have moved Boris out of her pen to give her some peace and quiet.

The lambing ewes are STILL keeping us waiting...

24/08/2009

[Cosy rabbits] [Baby rabbits]

News just in: Flopsy the rabbit gave birth in August. Gestation is 28 days. Strangely Gordon died just 28 days prior to the birth - was it a result of his final act in keeping the MCFE rabbit numbers high?! Or is there an impersonator in the camp?! For the first time, Flopsy has been a really good mother and has guarded the babies rigidly. Despite the little black one having a blind wander around the main part of the hutch at just 4 days old, they seem to have all made it this time! Now they are over a week old, and she has finally allowed us to take a closer peek - four baby rabbits: one grey, one white, one black and one mottled.

They are available to buy from the beginning of October.

04/08/2009

[Country Smallholding Magazine]

The latest edition (September 2009) of "Country Smallholding Magazine" is now on sale - and we are featured as one of the finalists for the Smallholder of the Year competition on pages 14 & 15. We feel as if we are very modest sized smallholders compared to the other finalists featured in the magazine! However, we are delighted to be in the final six for the competition.

Our latest Poultry Course on Saturday 1st August was another resounding success. Those on the course found out about different breeds, feeding, housing, breeding and incubation. Chicken Week was celebrated with all things fowl in conjunction with Farm & Country Supplies, Selbourne Road, who supplied some examples of chicken houses, and Spring Cottage Farm who brought along a variety of chickens. Unfortunately, due to personal circumstances, the lady from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust was unable to attend the course, but we felt the whole day offered a complete guide to chickens. Some delegates even left armed with their first few chickens. The feedback forms were 100% positive - the course was just about the right length, offering the right amount of content at a fair price. As one commented "the course was very informative and enjoyable... and there was lots of food and tasty!"

We look forward to our next courses in the autumn - dates to be confirmed.

22/07/2009

Unfortunately, Gordon the white rabbit died in July 2009 - he leaves his two gorgeous babies, Tom & Jerry.

15/07/2009

I spent an interesting morning last Wednesday at Sparsholt College at a conference entitled "Understanding the Countryside through Education". It brought together those of us in the field (literally!) and teachers in secondary schools. I certainly learnt a lot about the variety of qualifications now available to young people (e.g. Land Based Diplomas and apprenticeships) and was able to see how school visits to farms were working. The primary curriculum was touched on, which was useful as this is what MCFE is mostly involved with at present - we hope to work more with secondary schools in the coming year, with land based science, applied science and also business studies - is a smallholding economically viable?

The work which interested me most, however, was how schools themselves are using their grounds to great effect. I have been able to make contact with a school which has developed a food and farming area within the school grounds which has enabled those young people for whom the classroom is not an ideal environment, to learn. I listened to a chap who had enthusiastically taken his pupils out to see a whole range of land based activities - from forestry to sheep maintenance to butchery - what an experience for these pupils!

I am looking forward to future farm to fork projects in which MCFE can be involved, in the Hampshire / Surrey area....

[Fantastic pond] Since attending the conference, I have visited an Infant School in Twickenham who have made fantastic use of what at first sight seemed somewhat limited grounds - i.e. lots of tarmac. There was little grass, but the site was a haven for wildlife and learning! There were herb borders, trees were identified and labelled by the children, bug boxes had been placed in various locations, there was a beautiful "Bug Garden" with mosaics, wind chimes, herbs, insect friendly plants etc - a true interactive & sensory garden. There were two "best bits" for me though:

[Top of the pond] Firstly, our farm visit happened to coincide with a "harvesting day" for the vegetable garden - the children had obviously been involved throughout the process and were spending time picking the fruit and vegetables, watching them being prepared / cooked and then they were sitting down to a home-grown feast! I wasn't offered any, but it looked delicious!

Secondly, the school had the most fantastic pond arrangement. What looked like a ten sided picnic bench, with the centre gap overlooking a very well established pond. The children could sit at the bench and safely look into the pond, the covers could be removed for dipping and best of all, it wasn't shut away and locked most of the year - it was a central feature to the garden. Brilliant! There should be awards for this sort of thing!

Anyway, I will stop raving - but I will be keeping a good look out for innovative use of grounds when I am on visits. I may not pretend I was an Ofsted inspector checking up on how schools use their grounds like I did at the above school! It's ok - I did tell them I was joking!

06/07/2009

Swine Flu or Influenza A(H1N1)

At present, there is no evidence of flu passing from animals to humans or humans to animals.

It is therefore perfectly safe for you to touch our pigs!

We check the DEFRA webpage on swine flu daily and comply with any guidance they offer.

Swine influenza is a contagious respiratory disease of pigs that occurs worldwide and is caused by infection with influenza A viruses. The virus is normally found in pigs but human cases can and do happen. The current human cases were first reported in Mexico and the USA in April. Further cases have now been confirmed in several countries in Europe and South America. Transmission between humans is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu. This current strain of influenza (H1N1) causing the problem in people has shown some of the genetic material of pig, bird and human flu viruses. More is of pig origin therefore, people started to refer to it as "swine flu". The World Health Organisation (WHO) is now referring to the virus as Influenza A(H1N1).
Dr Ian Brown, UK Disease Expert on Swine Influenza and Head of the OIE International Reference Laboratory
Although this novel H1N1 influenza virus has been termed swine influenza, the definitive scientific evidence base to support the origin of the virus in pig populations has not yet been confirmed.
Professor Peter Borriello, Chief Executive, Veterinary Laboratories Agency, UK



08/06/2009

Our biggest news is that Tom has now come on board full time with MCFE. We have at least one if not two or three bookings every day at the moment (except our day off, Sunday) and so it makes sense for both of us to be committed to the business. It has also meant that the allotment should have more time spent on it and the day to day care of the animals & associated paperwork won't run too much into the small hours... we hope! It is a relief that the business seems to be doing well, despite the doom and gloom of the current economic climate, but maybe it is because of the financial situation that people are looking at easier and cheaper ways to entertain and educate. Tom is also starting to set up his own accountancy business (inventively named "Tom Main Accountants" so that he will still have some work if the farm business is quiet. We will see where this new chapter takes us, but unless we grasp the opportunities as they come along, they may just pass us by.

In addition, we are in a position to run more courses - Poultry dates have been confirmed and Pig dates are under discussion as we speak. Our Poultry Course will be repeated on two consecutive dates - Friday 31st July 2009 and Saturday 1st August 2009 from 10am-4pm. The venue will be Chawton Village Hall, near Alton, Hampshire, GU34 1SB Bing Maps Google Maps. We are running these courses in conjunction with Farm & Country Supplies, Selbourne Road, (01420 83254) who are holding a Poultry Week from 27th - 31st July, with money saving offers on poultry products available from Monday 27th July - Friday 7th August. More details to follow as soon as we know them. Please contact us direct or on 01420 86206 if you would like us to send you a booking form for either of the above courses.

Looking ahead, preparations are already under way for our Prepare Your Own Christmas Turkey Course. By preparations, I mean the turkeys have hatched and are enjoying visits out with MCFE at the moment. At two weeks old, they do look sweet, but believe you me, they won't in six months time!

Meanwhile, Dot is successfully raising her three ducklings (and making a lot of noise about it!) The question is, what's it worth to keep her and her brood here rather than release them all onto the village duck pond?!

On the allotment, we have already taken off the gooseberries, elderflower, rhubarb and radishes. The potatoes, onions, peas and raspberries are looking good and the sweetcorn, aubergine and pumpkins are waiting for space to be made available so we can plant them out. I still have plenty of aubergine seedlings available to anyone who wants them - free to good homes!

Finally, we look forward to attending Andrews Endowed School Fair on Saturday 20th June from 11am-2pm. That date seems to be endlessly popular and we have had to turn down several other requests as we just couldn't fit any further bookings in. Let's hope the sun shines!

27/05/2009

Today I had another of those phonecalls you don't expect. I had a phonecall from a local builder asking whether we could rehome a Call Duck who was making their life difficult at a house they were demolishing. Apparently, he (the Call Duck not the builder) kept trying to play dodge with the diggers etc and the chaps were getting distracted from their jobs! These builders think they are tough cookies, but they were the first ones out there making sure Charlie the Call Duck had a comfortable bed each night and was looked after! Anyway, the boss decided enough was enough so Charlie has been rehomed with us. This is perfect for us as he is pure white so will make an excellent pair with Beaky.

Dot the duck hatched out a trio of ducklings at the beginning of May and they are all doing well - best not release them back onto the village pond eh?!

26/05/2009

Another big job is over for a few months... the annual haircut for the sheep! Although we didn't quite manage it this fast or catch up with the "experienced shearers" who apparently can shear 200 sheep in 8 hours! On Saturday we managed 11 ewes in 4.5 hours and then on Bank Holiday Monday we did the 3 boys in about 2 hours. We weren't going for a speed record, nor were we trying to get the fleece off in one piece. And I am afraid we did accidently 'nick' the sheep slightly with the shears - it is very difficult not to when sheep have awkward folds of skin. The little cuts are sprayed with purple antiseptic to make sure they do not attract flies or infections. Tom's back is now a different shape, whilst the bit the video camera missed was when one of the ewes managed to push Sarah over and then kept running - over the top of her! No damage done fortunately, although she did find she had landed in something warm and squishy that she'd rather not have!

The folks who have Abraham, George and Charlie staying with them at the moment (grazing their paddock down) had an unexpected treat this Bank Holiday when we offered them to chance to help shear. I'm not sure whether they will be jumping at the chance again, but given a few more sheep to practise on, we may have our own team of Sheep Shearers here in Holybourne! "How many people does it take to shear Abraham?" springs to mind...

We will re-shear the sheep at the end of August, including the lambs to make sure we do everything we can to avoid fly strike this year - see last year's news for why we do NOT like flies / maggots being able to get near the sheep.

15/05/2009

Sadly, after many years with us, and with a previous owner too, Fluffy passed away last night. She was nearly ten years old, which isn't bad for a bantam chicken.

[Ready for two visits] On a good note, this summer is a bumper one for MCFE and after just 15 months of Sarah running the business full time, we are now at maximum capacity. There are very few gaps in the diary and anyone hoping to book us should try to book at least three months in advance to avoid disappointment. Tom will be full time with the business too from 1st June - not something that was entirely planned to happen this early on, but it is certainly not a bad thing. We aren't quite an international business yet, but maybe that is on its way!

14/05/2009

We have had a few minutes of fame this week when Borat the Boar decided to investigate the industrial estate on Tuesday. Fortunately, the workers at Elstead Lighting saw the funny side of it and kept Borat company, giving him plenty of back scratches, until Tom got there and walked Borat back home again. He doesn't seem any the worse for wear but has laid low since! Newspaper articles and live interviews on Delta radio were a must - I hadn't realised Borat had become such a local legend!

Meanwhile, we have had the first six turkey chicks arrive - I am resisting the temptation to say "order yours now"! We have also had two goslings arrive - very sweet with lots of character. Our incubators have been a success in schools, although some schools seem surprised at the lack of 100% hatch rate! Unfortunately, nature does take its course.

An exciting development is that from June 1st, MCFE will be run full time by both Tom and Sarah - a major step forward. Although the situation has arisen sooner than expected, it may mean that we really can live entirely off the land as the veggie plot will be kept more under control. With at least one if not two trailers going out nearly every day, it can only mean that despite the credit crunch (or maybe because of) our mobile educational farm business is going from strength to strength.

I am off to pot up my aubergine seedlings - I think I have planted a few too many but we will see!

13/05/2009

Well, it didn't involve tunnels or motorbikes, but Borat assisted us into the headlines yesterday with his very own Great Escape. He seems to have decided life with his three ladies was on the slow side, so managed to get out and go for a wander up the river. He was spotted in the Focus and Elstead Lighting car parks, and cornered until Tom could come and retrieve him. However, this was not before he got his very own prime time spot on Delta Radio.

Sarah meanwhile got her own interview slot on Delta Radio this morning!

Thanks to Elstead Lighting for the photos in our photo gallery, and to everyone involved in getting Borat back safe and sound!

12/05/2009

[Popped up to say hello] We had a lovely (if windy) few days in Wales - Pembrokeshire coast - walking and camping. We visited Skomer Island, a lovely place managed by the Wildlife Trust. I have wanted to revisit since I did a field course there as part of my biology degree 13 years ago. [Puffins, guillemots and razorbills] Going back in May meant the bird life was at its best and we saw guillemots, razorbills and most importantly (for me) puffins at close quarters. Mum and Dad managed excellently here at Mill Cottage, but couldn't be persuaded to stay for another week so we could extend our holiday! We came back to two very different visits on Saturday - a birthday party in Croydon with one trailer and Alton Market Square with the other!

05/05/2009

Things are not quite so busy now - not so much staying up all night making sure lambs & kids are being born ok / feeding ok. The four bottle fed lambs are being fed every 4-5 hours during the day but do not need feeding at night so at least between 10pm and 6am we have some peace. The two goat kids, Stephen & Jenny are both doing well and growing fast. They are full of mischief and enjoy climbing on anything / anyone in order to get to the highest possible spot. When it looks too high to jump down again, they look bewildered and bleat! Both goat kids had their horn buds removed by our local vet when they were under two weeks old. This is to make sure they are safe to be near us, any children and any other animals. A sharp horn in the face would not be pleasant. Once the fur grows back over, they will look a bit tidier.

Meanwhile, on the smaller animal front, we have had many newcomers. We have finally cracked this "breeding like rabbits" thing and Mopsy the rabbit (with help from Gordon) has given birth to two babies - both still alive after nearly two weeks which is a record for us! Boris and Snowbell the guinea pigs have also become parents - to two very differently sized babies! The smaller one was named immediately as Tiny Tim (let's hope it turns out to be a boy). Again both babies are doing well after ten days so we hope they are out of the danger period now.

On 10th April we hatched one duckling out (from eight eggs we placed in the incubator). It is a Cayuga duckling and is just starting to get the first signs of its adult feathers. It is coming out on visits along with some Maran chickens that were hatched in one of the incubators we lent out to a school at around the same time.

Not to be left out, Dot the duck laid a clutch of twelve eggs in a really stupid place. We tried moving her and her nest but she wasn't interested in sitting once we had moved it, so we threw that lot away, whereapon she laid another twelve eggs in a much better place hidden in a corner of the field shelter. We have left her alone for four weeks and this weekend she hatched out three of the eggs. We moved her and her ducklings to a spare rabbit hutch to make sure she was rat/fox/cat proof and she is looking after her babies well, hissing loudly at anyone who tries to change her water. We candled the remaining nine eggs but unfortunately they were all rotten. (Sorry, no photo of Dot's ducklings... yet...)

In the incubator, we successfully hatched out two goslings over the Bank Holiday weekend. We had got eight goose eggs in the incubator, but five proved to be infertile, and one did not hatch, despite being fully developed. Sometimes this happens for whatever reason. The two incubators are now filled with about 40 turkey eggs - we will see what success we have with them now: Christmas may depend on it!

We are off for a few days now - hoping for fine Welsh weather and the opportunity to see some puffins on Skomer Island. We are leaving our trusty house / animal sitters (aka Mum & Dad!) to look after the one or two pets we have. Their job list stretches onto several sheets of A4 and they have phone numbers for every eventuality. Coming from London, they are now fully trained in Fly Strike Treatment, Sheep Catching, Incubator Management, Pig Persuasion, Turkey Removal (from the shed roof) and Egg Hunting. They have learnt to recognise signs of various conditions and to choose the correct treatment methods. They have instructions for taking Phone Calls & Bookings and next Saturday they will be accompanying me on an MCFE visit to Alton Market Square. I believe they will go home again for a holiday! We are truly grateful to them as without them (and others who volunteer for the job from time to time), we would not be able to go away at all.

Let's hope the sun shines, the animals behave and we are all still speaking by next Saturday!

29/04/2009

We visited Halterworth Primary School yesterday and enjoyed our day there with the Reception children, but there was a problem: Lauren and I had been invited into the staffroom to make ourselves a cup of tea... but they had run out of milk! How can a school run out of milk, I hear you ask! It's a good job we bring our own supply on four legs. With the pupils watching (it was lunchtime), we milked the goat, showed the children, poured it into our tea and enjoyed a good cuppa - another learning experience!

See the photo gallery!

24/04/2009

Swine Fever - There is no evidence that there is a human strain of H1N1 in pigs and therefore there is no need to worry that the presence of pigs at your booking will spread swine fever.

"It has been suggested that this strain of influenza virus may have originated from pigs. The virus has not been isolated from pigs and there have been no reports of unusual disease in pig herds." (DEFRA 28th April 2009)

We are still able to move our pigs, and so as far as Mill Cottage Farm Experience is concerned, it is business as usual.

More information on swine flu

Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any further questions.

17/04/2009

By Stephen Angliss
MCFE's open day carried on despite the snow and rain, and delivered a good day for all who attended.

But enough about last year's event; Easter Monday 2009 brought with it sun, ferrets and plenty of entertainment at the fourth Annual MCFE Open Day, and the second to be held at Holybourne Theatre.

After last years strong crowds, despite the adverse weather conditions, preparations were made to ensure that the event this year was able to build on this previous success, and an estimated turn out of 300 paying visitors reflected the hope that this years would be bigger and better. Any pre-made plans were soon laid to rest however, as just two hours after the the gates were opened, the numbers had already surpassed this estimated turn out for the full day. This in turn was met with immediate panic by some (you know who you are), who feared that the supply of cakes would soon run out, not leaving enough "extras" for the hard working staff.

With activities provided both inside and out, there was plenty for all to enjoy and do; from guessing the weights of the resident Kune Kune pigs, witnessing the baby lambs being bottle fed (a select few lucky individuals actually got the opportunity to do the feeding themselves) to learning how to spin authentic MCFE wool and doing Easter crafts courtesy of the local girl guides. If an award for most popular characters on show for the day existed, there could surely only be two winners. No, not Tom & Sarah who dedicated so much time to preparing the event, nor S&S Inc, the specially trained farm bouncers who ensured order was kept as the ever growing queues stretched back. The winners would have to be Jenny and Stephen the goat kids; two of the more recent additions to the MCFE clan, born less than a couple of weeks prior to the event. Getting the opportunity to climb in and hold these two in their pens was surely one of the highlights of the whole weekend for many people. No one was allowed to get hungry either, courtesy of the world famous "Soup in a Bun" stall, cake stalls and Crown Ice Cream.

Outside, there were bouncy castles, a hawk and ferrets, Greening Alton had a stand, and our local bee keeper was on hand with honey tasting.

By the end of the day, through various activities such as seed planting & hook the duck, and also the sale of cakes and handmade cards, a cheque for £400 was sent to Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Many thanks to all those who ensured the day was such an overwhelming success for all, especially to those cooped up inside on the stalls: your dedication in not just abandoning the goods and going to soak up the gorgeous bank holiday weather did not go unnoticed! These heroic figures included Pampered Chef, Phoenix Cards, Glass Design, Bright Sparkles gifts, Hampshire Spinners and Weavers, Usborne Books, MCFE toys, and Christina Angliss wool craft.

Roll on next year's event, where the desire to improve once again burns strong!

15/04/2009

Monday was really good... So pleased the weather was perfect, nothing like last year!

I thought you would be interested in a few facts and figures:

700 people were "clicked" through the door - double last year.

The fundraising stalls took the following:
Craft Table £43 - thank you Holybourne Guides (and their leader!)
Hold a Ferret: £22.49 - thank you Marion & John
Hook a Duck: £69.39 - thanks to my staff!
Guess the Weight of the Piglets - £18.80 - thanks Jacob
Plant a Seed: £30.27 - thanks Dad

On top of this, a couple of stallholders donated much, or all of their takings to Breakthrough - thank you

We donated the entire takings from the cake stall (thank you Louise for your hard work in that department) and 50% from every stall fee.

The correct weight for the piglets was 66.6kg. Rather embarrassingly, the nearest weight to the correct weight was guessed by Jacob's father, Charlie. I can assure everyone that only I had weighed the pigs previously (to ensure I had a chart with roughly the right numbers on it!) and since buying more accurate digital scales on Saturday, my prior weighing would have been no help to anyone!

I have just paid in a cheque to Breakthrough Breast Cancer for £400. This is in addition to the amounts raised on the Holybourne Ladies Walk in March. The total raised this year from the walk and from our Open Day now tops £2100... wonderful!

Photographs are now available in our photo gallery. We should also be in the Petersfield Post. Keep an eye on it!

Thank you to all the stallholders for making the day a success. Finally, thank you to my staff (paid, voluntary and bribed!) - you were fab! Here's to next year!

04/04/2009

Helen the ewe gave birth this morning to two huge but healthy lambs - MacArthur & Sapphire - she is looking after them both well. No pictures yet as they are shy!

03/04/2009

Overnight, Gemma the goat gave birth to a huge female kid named Jenny, Mother and baby are doing well, Jenny was already on her feet and looking for trouble by the time I got there! See the gallery for pictures!

28/03/2009

Gilly the goat kidded overnight, producing a male kid, Stephen. Despite having to spend some time in the oven to warm up and a shaky start with the feeding regime, he sems to be getting stronger as time goes on.

25/03/2009

Amanda has also given birth - to triplets again. Captain Cook, Ruby & Diamond are small, but getting stronger each day. However, Amanda has not been very well since the birth and so we are helping her out by feeding all three lambs. Mealtimes can be noisy affairs!

20/03/2009

We are delighted to let you know that lambing has begun! Late last night, Heather gave birth to two ram lambs - Nelson and Noah. She promptly rejected Noah (she has always rejected the smallest, weakest lambs), and so we are helping feed him. Both lambs appear to be strong and healthy!

I am also pleased to let you know some of the details for our Annual Open Day, being held on Easter Monday 13th April 2009 from 10:30am - 4pm at the Holybourne Theatre, London Road, Holybourne, GU34 4EL Bing Maps Google Maps. There will be many activities, stalls, crafts, competitions and, of course, all the animals - fun for all the family. We will also be running a few fundraising activities for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. We look forward to meeting you on Easter Monday!

17/03/2009

I am writing this on St Patrick's Day having just got back from taking our three boar pigs (June litter) on their "One Way Journey". I hope I never become hardened to thinking about where my food comes from. Abattoirs are not often frequented by females, and certainly not by those who bring their named animals. I do take comfort though when I am allowed to lead the animals in without any manhandling and I am aware they are "next in the queue" so there is not much waiting around for them. There are many people we have met who would rather not think about the above section of a farm animal's life. That's fine if you're a vegetarian, but otherwise, get real!

It was with some amusement that as I drove back, I passed a couple of minibuses from the school where I used to teach. I can hardly believe it is nearly a year to the day since I swapped the classroom for the field! 363 days ago it could have been me driving those buses - and now I was driving in the opposite direction with my empty trailer attached! There is no comparison!

Earlier in the year, we watched "Jamie Saves Our Bacon" with interest and have put together our response. Whatever else the programme did, as long as it got people thinking before buying then it served its purpose.

This is being written just before our busy season starts. Lambing should begin any day now, followed by the goats kidding. We had ten piglets arrive earlier in the year, from Faith and Charity, two of our sows, but I think we are waiting in vain for Hope to give birth. Most of the piglets have already been sold as pets.

On a visit front, MCFE has been invited (with the animals) to our second wedding! We are now fully booked three months in advance, which is incredible. Will it become a full time job for us both? Watch this space! Our courses, whilst not "standing room only" were successful and certainly worth running. We have been pleased to send a few more people up the Good Life Road.

28/02/2009

The third course (and final for the present as we are too busy!) was held on Saturday 28th February for those keen to learn all about keeping pigs. They were joined by Faith & her litter of piglets and learnt about handling, welfare, equipment and regulations surrounding the keeping of pigs. An entertaining day for all, as the pictures show! (Acknowledgements for the photos to LH who attended the course.)

02/02/2009

Despite 8 inches of snow, all animals are well! We gave the sheep some hay and put hay bales in a block to give the pig(let)s some shelter. All animals seem to be enjoying the change - see the gallery for pictures!

Faith & Charity have each given birth to litters of five piglets - all seem to be doing well. Faith and her five have been moved into the pig ark in the small field so sometimes you may see small piglets running circles around her within the safety of the electric fence. Hope has obviously "been there, done that" and is keeping us waiting for her litter to appear!

We are keeping Crocus close under our eye (and giving her a helping hand in terms of additional feed). She was born March 2008 but as a bottle lamb has not grown as quickly as her sisters. Larch and Ivy are our remaining lambs from the August lambing as we lost the other two to worms (not something you would expect in November). They too are having a little extra feed to help them through the winter. The ewes that should lamb at the end of March 2009 will be moved back into the big field in the next few weeks.

We have been delighted with the uptake with both of our first two courses. A total of eight turkeys (we had none to spare!) were prepared on the "Prepare Your Own Christmas Turkey" course in December. On 31st January, we ran a successful "Introduction to Keeping Your Own Poultry" course at the Sustainability Centre, East Meon. We have now inspired another nine people to join us on "The Good Life" road! My only regret is that we were so involved, we forgot to take any pictures!

We are looking forward to running the "Introduction to Keeping Your Own Pigs" course at the end of February.

Our Annual Open Day is being held on Easter Monday 13th April 2009 at Holybourne Theatre, London Road. Put the date in your diary!

26/01/2009

The first lot of piglets arrived safely during the night on 23rd January. Faith had 5 piglets - four sows and a boar. They are beautiful, with a range of colours. See the gallery for pictures! Sow and piglets are all doing well, and although you can see that one (the all black one) is much smaller than some of the others (e.g. the one looking like a tiger), she is standing no nonsense about making sure she gets her fair share at the milk bar!

Charity gave birth to five healthy piglets this morning - she has four boys and a girl and are more of an even size than Faith's! Faith's five piglets were up and play fighting this morning while Auntie Charity was working out what she was supposed to be doing with her five.

All ten piglets seem healthy and vigorous and are very soft and velvety to touch - beautiful!

Just Hope to go now - and she doesn't look like she will be long!

We will have a few to sell as pets by the end of March. We only sell piglets in pairs. Contact us for more details!