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Information for Volunteers

Before you contact us please click here to find out what we need to know about you!

The Farm

Ewe Close Farm is a small lowland hill farm in the north of Cumbria overlooking the Solway Firth - the large estuary in the north west of England lying between England and Scotland. It lies just north of the National Park known here as the Lake District.

For details of how to find the farm Click Here

The Daily Routine

This website will give you a good idea of the sort of animals that we have here. Depending on the time of year and the weather, (which has - at the time of writing - been very wet and cold - we have animals either in the farm sheds or out in the fields - or both.

There are five or six undercover areas in which pigs, goats, goatlings, goat kids, poultry, sheep and other livestock are kept and these need to be cleaned out daily and the animals there fed, watered, milked, etc. etc.

We have two Shetland ponies which are broken to harness (i.e. they can be driven as well as ridden) and three donkeys. In addition we have three cats and two dogs. Occasionally we also have grandchildren staying!

Most of the daily cleaning and feeding work is done by hand though we have two elderly tractors and a variety of other (rather more modern) pieces of equipment to assist us. Our volunteers to date have shown themselves to be very adaptable in getting used to the routine which they seem to enjoy.

We anticipate the birth of around 40 kids this spring which have to be bottle fed - initially four times per day. We already milk some 60 adult “nanny” goats and this number will rise over the summer to around 90 as the kids born in 2011 produce their kids for the first time.

We milk the herd twice every day in a small semi automatic goat milking parlour which will enable 14 animals to be milked simultaneously.

The animals in the fields have to be visited and fed and around 120 ewes will produce lambs. We are still having to supplement what they eat as our grass is only just beginning to recover from our long winter.

The daily routine is interspersed from time to time by visits to Rare Breed sales where we buy and sell breeding stock.

Occasionally we entertain groups of children from local schools for whom we design activities which are closely related to what they are studying in class - a process which we work out in advance in consultation with their teachers.

We are also regular visitors to the local livestock markets where we sell our animals either as “store” animals (i.e. they will be bought by someone else who will fatten them before they enter the food chain) or as “fat” animals - when they will be sold direct to the local meat industry and end up on a plate somewhere - we hope not far away. We also sell meat privately to local customers who wish to fill their freezers.

We have in the past been open to the public but at present we remain closed except to school visits and large parties by arrangement.

When we are open to the public, we offer our visitors the chance to see round the farm, meet the animals, feed the poultry, eat lunch or tea in the barn “tea room”, have a ride on a tractor and trailer, bottle feed goat kids, milk nanny goats and take a walk through the woodlands. We aim to provide them with an experience which will encourage them to come back and visit us again - with their friends.

Between the morning and evening feeding and cleaning routines, there are always jobs to be done around the farm - equipment maintenance, fieldwork, grassland management, hedging, walling, fencing and so on. We also need regularly to cut and collect firewood. We have a wood burning stove here and we supply logs locally to others with similar systems. We also have a very large wood burning barbecue on which, for suitable occasions, we can spit roast a pig.

If you have any particular skill (or just experience) which you think would be useful then please let us know. If you have any special agricultural skills or qualifications then please let me know about them too.

For details on accommodation and eating arrangements Click Here

Working Hours

We don’t recommend that volunteers consider coming here for less than 2 weeks since we've found from experience that it takes the better part of a week for a visitor to get used to and fit in with our routine.

As far as the working day is concerned, we are aware that WWOOF hours are technically 5 days per week for a 35 hour week. In fact Lynn and I both work here 7 days per week and very long days they are. We are a working farm - sometimes a visitor attraction - but always a cheese making (and selling) business - all rolled into one! That is what our farm life involves.

We have so far been very fortunate in that our volunteers have thrown themselves into the routine and have probably worked much longer hours than those shown above - though having said that it is perhaps worth pointing out that the working day is not continuous - there are breaks. We suspect that the number of hours which you will work will not actually exceed 7 per day, but the work is spread over a period of perhaps 12 hours.

Anyway, we are happy to agree whole or part days off per week so that we conform to WWOOF guidelines and if there is more than one volunteer with us (as we hope will be the case throughout the summer) it will obviously be easier to make sure that we still have enough people around to help with all the work. For those who want to stay for several months we are happy to discuss arrangements for longer periods of leave away from the farm.

For details of the clothes you'll need Click Here

People You Will Meet Here

We have two full time adult employees here - Michael and Irene - and a number of part-time employees. We are assisted at weekends by Simon who is an agricultural student and we are also helped on a regular basis as their studies permit by Miranda and Joshua who both live close by. Other local people assist as volunteers from time to time.

We try to have two WWOOF or HelpX volunteers staying with us at any one time. We have (just about) enough space to accommodate three volunteers in the house for a short period but you would need to be prepared to share a bedroom if necessary for a short while. If a volunteer was intent on camping, we could certainly arrange it but so far no-one has suggested it.

We look forward to welcoming you to Ewe Close to share our life with us!

Thomas and Lynn Ballantine Dykes - March 2013

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what's been happening down on the farm...

new arrivals

lookin at sheep

Newton Rigg visit

sheep

winter wonderland

woodmizer

from trees to wood