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Sparrows attack House Martin nest.

House Martins Under Attack.

We loved having some House Martins build a nest above our bedroom window, but when it was attacked we didn’t know what to do. The first sign was the change in tone from the babies. First they were sweet and chirrupy, then one morning they were raucous and unpleasant.

Little did we know there was a war on. The nest was being attacked. I saw a little brown bird land on top of the open window, I thought it might come in the room but it flew away and life went on.

Then a couple of days later the Martins were gone, all was quiet. This was odd because House Martins raise offspring who in turn help to feed the latest hatchlings. It’s a growing family (and an absolute delight to watched them fly like Swifts and land, belly facing, right above your bedroom window) The precision with which these birds navigate the world is awesome.

House Martins are also specially protected by law, dislodging one could land you in jail in the UK. So when they moved out so suddenly, Shannon was compelled to help. She discovered that House Sparrows will take a Martin’s nest, and the behavior we saw was typical. She also found the solution.

The Solution

 

Weighted strings solved the Sparrow problem

 

What she did was tie little washers to some string and hang it on the eaves.

“The strings should be about 230 mm long, 65 mm apart and no nearer than 150 mm to the nest hole” – RSPB

The trick works because House Martins can swoop in underneath the string but the House Sparrows, despite being nimble on the wing, can’t risk fluttering through those hanging strings. Science!

 

(If you feel sorry for the House Sparrows, and apart from complete psychopaths no one does) You can find instructions for ideal homes for them here.

 

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Rocombe Retreat – Pizza in a cob oven

Rocombe Retreat Cob Oven

Rocombe Retreat

Having spent the weekend at Rocombe Retreat, nestled in the rolling hills surrounding the teign valley in South Devon we have a new love for the Cob Oven!

We even managed to cook up some mussels fresh from the river teign mussel beds, and seared some tuna as well. (Not from the sea locally I’m afraid to admit)

We produced the classic spelt flour pizzas. With various toppings such as red onion and goats cheese, olive and anchovey and a classic Margaretta for some very fussy children.

We had also planned to do a little dying in the covered barn but time ran away with us. We ended up mainly eating and drinking by the oven.

All in all it was an awesome Holiday not far from home (although we could have been anywhere in Europe to be honest – what a classically tranquil spot)

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Madder dye and its magnificent colour change!

Madder Colour Change.

Madder dye is a spectacular colour changer, with our new kit you can watch it go through a colour change when you expose the freshly-dyed fabric to washing powder.

You can dye your own cotton bag with natural Madder dye and enjoy watching it change colour!

Our new kits contain everything you need to produce a gorgeously dyed cotton bag, including washing powder (although you can use your own).

Natural Madder Dye Kit contains:

  1. 20g Pack of natural madder dye
  2. Ethically sourced cotton drawstring bag
  3. 10g Natural alum mordant
  4. Elastic bands (for tie dyeing)
  5. 100g Salt
  6. 2 Pairs of latex-free gloves
  7. Simple instructions, including How To Do The Colour Change!

Watch the unveiling of this madder tie dye project, always an exciting moment!

Click here to order your own natural Madder Dye Kit now!

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Be childish, whilst there is still time

coin sparks cap. simpler things.

Enjoy the simpler things in life.

Happy bank holiday! Remember to enjoy the simpler things in life, a friend of mine was recently hospitalised. He recovered, but the gentleman in the bed opposite didn’t. Witnessing a guy dying has changed my friend somewhat, and as he returns to health his focus has changed too. Now he urges that we all enjoy family and friends while there is still time.
This Sunday we took a slow family day walking around a car boot sale and we spotted some old fashioned strips of caps. The ones we used to play with when we were kids. At home in the garden we took them out and struck them with a two pence coin on a slab.
More fun was had from that 50p spent on simple caps played with in the back garden than days that have cost far more.

Lots of love from your friends at Dartmoor Sheepskins – have fun, take it easy, hug your kids, spark some caps with a 2p coin.

 

Barney give instructions on how to spark caps with a coin

 

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Out of respect for mice I will not use pesticide.

in focus bindweed root out of focus dug bed

So, I find myself with a conflict but have decided I will not use pesticide. 

Plants you want will die if you so much as look at them wrong. Bindweed, on the other hand, can regenerate a whole new colony if you leave behind a single millimetre of it’s brittle root. Surely, this is when you get the pesticide out.
 I have a rubber bucket full, heavy, with its brittle root. I’m even tempted to try weedkiller for the first time in my life, but this little fellow stops me.
I was working in my garden, trying to remove the insidious bind wind, my son called me over. We have a tiny little wood mouse living in our garden.  The wildlife on and around Dartmoor is part of what makes living in such a beautiful place all the more magical. This little fellow has been hibernating under a forgotten wooden board in the garden all winter. He has come out looking for food after the long winter months.
He was so bold that he even took a sunflower seed from my hand. Going about things the natural way is often slower and can take more steps to reach where you want to go, but it is at times like this that I am reminded the the journey can often hold as much joy as the destination.
Our garden may take a little longer to clear from weeds and our dyes make take a little longer than a quick spin in the washing machine but over all, today, I have the joy of enjoying the slower path.

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Natural Dye Kits Now Available!

different dyes for dyeing cotton bags

Dye your own ethically sourced cotton bag with our super simple kits.

Natural dye kits! These kits contain simple instructions and all the ingredients you need to dye your own cotton drawstring bag. Each set of ingredients is ample for adding colour not only to the bag supplied, but also for dyeing/tie dyeing t shirts, pillow cases etc that you already have!

At just £19 they represent excellent value and a fun way to start your fabric dyeing career!

squares of cotton dyed in different natural colours
Which colour will you choose?

Each Natural Dye Kit contains:

  1. 20g Pack of natural dye (10g if choosing marigold and tesu)
  2. Plain cotton bag ready for dyeing
  3. 2 Pairs of latex-free gloves
  4. 20g Alum Powder
  5. Elastic bands (for tie dyeing)
  6. 100g Salt
  7. Simple Instructions

Super Dye Kit contains:

  1. 20g Pack of natural madder dye
  2. 20g Pack of natural woad dye
  3. 10g Pack natural marigold and tesu dye
  4. 2 Ethically sourced cotton drawstring bags
  5. 30g Natural alum mordant
  6. Elastic bands (for tie dyeing)
  7. 200g Salt
  8. 4 Pairs of latex-free gloves
  9. Simple instructions

stages of natural dyeing

Click HERE for our Natural WOAD Dye Kit

Click HERE for our Natural Marigold and Tesu dye Kit

Click HERE for our Natural Mimosa Dye Kit

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Introducing: The Lambkini!

Lambkini on male ready for the beach beachwear for men, made from sheepskin.

The Lambkini – Real Men Wear Wool.

As summer approaches we’ll be asked if our wardrobe will embarrass us on the beach, or indeed if our own bodies are up to the task of laying in the sun and attracting a mate. Don’t hide indoors this summer, instead tan your hide with a luxurious longhaired Lambkini™.

How often have you laid face down on the beach and cursed the way those tiny insidious grains catch in your soft, downy chest hair? No more will the irritation of microscopic crustaceans marr your sunny coastal man bathing. Finished your swim? No problem, just a quick shake and you’ll emerge from the water like Poseidon. Real men don’t let these things get in the way of being real – real men wear Lambkini™.

Pre order now to ensure that your summer is filled with comfort, style and dignity.

Coming soon: the new Micro-Lambkini™

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Sheepskin Seat Cover | Soft as a kitten, hard as nails

sheepskin seat cover on a motorbike

After an hour in the saddle without a sheepskin seat cover, many bikers experience ‘bikers bum’ and it can actually be quite sore.

It’s not just that some bikers are more suited to a Nissan Micra either, there’s nothing manly about ignoring the early signs of a pressure sore – quite the opposite. That’s why so many bikers are turning to a sheepskin seat cover, long used by the medical profession to make grandma more comfy in bed they serve admirably on a long haul. Not only this but they are surprisingly thermo-stable meaning your bum will stay cool in summer just as it will enjoy the utmost luxury on a cold winter morning.

The fact is, riding with sheepskin feels like a privilege.

One of the features you’ll enjoy with sheepskin is its ability to wick moisture away, keeping you dry (you understand I’m not for a moment suggesting that you have a sweaty arse, it’s just the other bikers, they have arses way sweatier than you).

The softest sheepskin makes for a perfect bikers holiday, in the summer it’ll be cool, in the winter it’ll be warm.

When you’re on a bike going fast you want the temperature to change slowly, so slowly that your own fat arse can heat the seat faster than those vibrating molecules can dissipate their energy. At speeds like this you really need sheepskin.

Bikers bottom? Long journey ahead? Don’t sweat that shit out, turn to sheepskin. These sheepskins are specially selected (each one is individually picked) to have a strong double layer of fur, pick a short cropped skin for easy care. Each skin is supplied whole, you simply cut the shape you need and apply to the sadle – you’re on the road, in utter luxury.

Your arse will thank you.

Sheepskins dry quickly in the tumble dryer, check out our cleaning guide.  Check out our range of sheepskins for your perfect partner.

Make YOUR ass happy, ride with sheepskin.

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Dyeing With Lac

lac dye with barney removing water from cloth

lac dye used for tie dye

Lac Dye is a fascinating product, made from insect secretion and harvested by inoculating trees with Kerria Lacca insects.

Cultivation begins when a farmer gets a stick that contains eggs ready to hatch and ties it to the tree to be infested. Thousands of lac insects colonise the branches of the host trees and secrete the resinous pigment. The coated branches of the host trees are cut and harvested to create the lac dye – Wikipedia

The results were way more purple than we were expecting, having originally been expecting a deep red result. This is a sign of an alkaline solution (acidic dye solution gives more orangey colours) – so much depends on the additional treatments used that each dye can produce a range of colours, sometimes dramatically different from each other. Indeed we expected this colour from mimosa dye, which in the event turned out brown!

Basic process:

  1. Wash fabric in alum and cream of tartar solution in warm water
  2. Squeeze out liquid, add fabric to Lac dye bath (1 litre warm water, 20 g Lac powder)
  3. Give fabric a soak in copper sulphate solution

Tie Dye:

  1. After the initial soaking, squeeze out the excess liquid
  2. Lay the fabric out on a table and twist from the centre
  3. Secure at intervals with string or elastic bands (the tighter you tie the less dye will get through and the more distinctive the final pattern will be
  4. Proceed to the dye bath stage

 

All our dyes come from ecologically aware producers, working to strict employment ethics and environmental responsibility standards. Our Lac comes from a producer certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards).

Rinse fabric treatments thoroughly

OK, it’s first efforts like this where you iron out the kinks, but not a bad tie dyed pillow case – deep rich purple colour (like what we were expecting from the mimosa)

 

 

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Why People Are Returning To Natural Dyes

Synthetic Dye Mauve can be replaced with natural Mimosa

The first synthetic dye ever discovered was mauve. Found accidentally by William Henry Perkin, who at just eighteen discovered a purple colour leaching out of some coal tar he was experimenting with.

He spilt some alcohol and the resulting solution stained his silk scarf purple. This was in 1856 and some of Perkin’s dyed samples remain colourfast to this day!  – And so William’s efforts to drive sales of his new synthetic dye lead to the birth of the entire chemical industry.

 

The Dyestuffs Industry.

The dyestuffs industry was largely based on chemicals obtained from coal tar, a black, viscous by-product of gas production from coal. Initially regarded as a useless and filthy nuisance, coal tar turned out to offer an unimaginably rich treasure trove of chemicals. It’s astonishing that until about 30 years ago, nearly all synthetic dyes were ultimately derived from coal tar (and not only dyes, but chemicals like carbolic acid, TNT and saccharin – Open Univerisy

The industry brought with it vivid colours and ease of use. However, with these advantages came toxic waste products and a reliance on fossil fuels. The dye industry produces over 500,000 tons of colourants each year. It disposes of it according to local laws – which are variable.

There’s been a reaction too against all manner of artificial colourings. Even within the last thirty years Smarties would have been used to test for allergies to colours. So maybe now is a good time to have a think about how we colour our world and to herald the return of some of the first pigments used by man.

Our range of natural dyes and auxiliaries are certified by GOTS – The Global Organic Textile Standard and are made by producers who care not only for the environment but also for their workers.

William Henry Perkin was somewhat a product of his time. While the industrial revolution was perfect for the launch of his industry, we feel that it’s time to properly move on. It’s time for a new revolution, a step forward to more natural dyestuffs and a sustainable management of people and planet.