We’ve just had a huge load of thatching straw delivered for the roof our new Danebury roundhouse! It was certainly a complicated task for the driver to position the lorry at our gate, but then he is used to delivering to tiny rural cottages in the middle of nowhere…
The thatch will now be moved undercover to protect it from the drizzle, and we will soon start bundling it up and securing it to the roundhouse roof. We still hope to have the new roundhouse finished by Beltain, so come along and have a look before watching the wickerman burn to the ground! It’s the perfect way to welcome in the summer months with our local community. Book your tickets here!
With only a few weeks to go until our spectacular Beltain festival on Saturday 29 April, our wickerman is beginning to take shape! The team have been out in the spring mists this morning, having made hazel hurdle pieces off site and brought them in to fix onto the body.
Ken, Darren and Mike are all professional woodworkers, with a range of skills including hurdle making, wood carving and treewrighting – you may recognise Darren as the mastermind behind our Saxon longhouse. They all work in sustainable local woodlands, using coppiced hazel and British wood to make our fantastic wickerman.
As always, the design will not be revealed until the night of Beltain, so book your tickets today to see the final sculpture and watch it burn to the ground! The Beltain festival is an ancient Celtic celebration that welcomes in the warm summer months, and the wickerman is a way to please the gods so they will bless us with a good harvest.
It seems only yesterday that our Christmas piglets were born, but they have already weaned themselves off the sows and are ready to find new homes. The first five were bought today by Park Community School, a fantastic education facility in Havant that has its own smallholding for students to learn all about growing vegetables, looking after animals, and taking responsibility for the food they eat.
Our piglets will be looked after and fed by the students and staff, and at some point in the future their meat will be used in the school kitchen to feed the students – a welcome change from turkey twizzlers, which are both unhealthy and unethical. Not only will the good meat be used in the kitchen, but the organs and offal will also be sent to the science department, where they will be used in biology lessons to teach the students about anatomy – waste not, want not! It’s a great way to teach the children to value the food they eat, and will ensure the pigs are greatly cared for, just like they are here.
At half past eight on Monday morning a large white van, towing a solid little trailer, trundled through the five barred gate, past the curious goats, through the Iron Age enclosure to the Roman villa. An auspicious day in the history of our Roman villa began, as Phase 1 of the Roman Renovations, paid for by the generous donations of Butser fans and supporters in last year’s crowdfunding campaign, was launched.
Last week, the site team and volunteers worked tirelessly to clear the villa, spending hours sorting, storing and sweeping to prepare the way for sandblasterer, John Grant. John, Director of Airstrip Ltd in Titchfield, and son Toby, quickly extracted entrails of pipes and nozzles from the van. Donning a spacelike helmet, John entered the villa. A man on a mission. A flick of a switch, and the compressor on the trailer burst into life with a hungry roar. The sandblasting had begun!
Throughout the day, dust poured from the windows of the villa and everyone kept their distance letting man and monster do their work. John methodically worked his magic on the beams and ceiling of each room, clearing off the flaking limewash paint to reveal golden wooden beams beneath. After a day’s hard work, John and Toby had cleaned all the wood they could reach and retired for the day.
The ground team then moved in, armed with brooms to sweep up all the sand before any moisture crept in, which would create a gluey mess on the floor. First day done and two more sandblasting days to go to bring the ceilings and beams to a gleaming finish. Once the sandblasting has been completed, the villa will be accessible again until the beginning of June, when renovations begin in earnest.
Staff and volunteers have recently been getting stuck into a new project at the farm. While most of our experiments are based on archaeological and scientific research from across the industry, sometimes we just want to use our skills to make something fun. So this month we have been making a bread oven, ready to use this summer to cook food and melt pizzas on balmy evenings!
This kind of oven has been used for thousands of years to cook food, and while we are following the basic design of an ancient oven, we’ve added a modern twist by using fire bricks, which can reach a high temperature without cracking.
First we built a layer of sand and clay, then a second layer of sand, clay and straw (cob mixture), both of which help insulate the oven in different ways and keep the food hot.
All that remains is to wait for the clay to dry over the next few months, and by summer we’ll be having pizza parties every day!