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We are the Birbs, persistence is fertile!

The difficulty with the birbs is that once you become interested in them, you will be assimilated! However, persistence is fertile.  Each day brings new challenges, and new millet. Each playtime brings us closer to home.

Our continuing mission is to allow them to explore strange new worlds, beyond their familier boundaries, to seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no birb has gone before.

These are the voyages of Kes and Neelix. Their cage is the final frontier. Just one month ago these two love birds left the only place they had ever known. They had made contact with no other intelligent life forms but their own.

We have come a long way because when tameness seemed highly improbable we stuck to the prime directive. Today we learned that the birb can be integrated with other life forms, and with that trust comes freedom.

The coming weeks and months have much to teach the Dartmoor Sheepskins crew. As Kes and Neelix demonstrate a huge amount of courage, we need only patience and a gentle hand.

Live long and prosper.

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Sacred Substances – Now In Stock; Frankincense, Myrrh, Palo Santo, Cobal

We have sourced the most sacred Frankincense and Myrrh, Palo Santo and Copal and can supply these precious resins and woods from within the UK. Our incenses are sustainably produced and hand-picked for exceptional quality.

Natural plant materials have been burned in ceremony for thousands of years, to clean the energies and refresh the spirit. They smell amazing and give a sense of peace.

A sacred moment comes upon you.


Frankincense – Boswellia spp

Copal – Copaifera officinalis

Palo Santo – Bursera graveolens / lambayeque

Myrrh Gum – Commiphora myrrh


There is still time to order for UK delivery by Christmas, as a very special gift or to add a special touch to your own home over the festive period. See our range of incenses here.

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Baby goldfish update – 12 weeks old

The breeding mop has been removed and we can finally count the fry. We have ten baby goldfish!

It seemed a bit risky to just pull the mop out in case there were any fish caught up in it, so we cut the strands off one by one.

They are starting to get more ‘colourful’, that is to say their transluscenece is diminishing. True pigment will develop over their first year, with it taking two to three years before they reach full adult size.

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If we all communicated like foreigners the world might be a better place

I ordered some Bowl Lily seeds from China that were hard to get hold of in the UK. The communication from the seller has been beautiful and it makes me realise if we all communicated like foreigners the world might be a better place.

“Hello dear friends, thank you for your patronage, we have been trying to do better, hope you leave precious opinions, we prepared a small gift for you, hope you like it. I wish you a happy life” – Chwy Long Store

I think you did just fine Chwy Long Store and I’ll leave you a precious opinion. I wish you a happy life too! You’re welcome to check out my store if you wish.

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Sometimes things die in order that new life can be born

I got drunk the other night and when I woke up the memory of the night before slowly crept up on me. I winced at my behaviour and realised that sometimes things have to die in order that new life can be born. At least, it felt like was dying.

This wasn’t some wild party. It wasn’t even a late night in a pub. I was sat right here at home posting rubbish on Facebook.

I was engaged with a couple of people, having a right laugh, but then took it upon myself to abuse someone’s naivety as to how Facebook works. The person in question is a lovely guy. Despite him being unfamiliar with the workings of Facebook, he has a powerful account with a full quota of ‘friends’. He’s relatively famous in certain circles, and wanted advice on how to accept more friend requests. I won’t mention his name, I’ve done enough already.

I suggested that he was bragging.  “Look how many friends I’ve got without even trying”.

The deepest thing in any one is the conviction of the bad luck that follows boasting – Gertrude Stein

So I tried to make fun of him. But the hangover of this communication stuck around just as stubbornly as the alcohol induced  headache. I went for a long walk by the river to clear my head. It was painful, this realisation.

This is how I felt the morning after

When I got back home I apologised via message, I asked if he would accept my apology and told him how bad I felt about it. I offered to say sorry in public if he wanted. I also realised that getting drunk on social media is a behaviour I can’t excuse. It’s the wrong thing to do. A friend once told me that when you are drunk you think you’re funny, attractive, behaving reasonably etc. But that when you are drunk you are ugly.

In this case he was absolutely right.

Thankfully, the person I’d been so critical of accepted my apology gracefully, even suggesting I watch Paddington Bear 2 as a great antidote to the online angriness that is commonplace.

A stiff apology is a second insult… The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt. Gilbert K – Chesterton

Gall nuts are homes of to a type of baby wasp – mum injects the eggs inside the tree and this forces the tree to grow these little incubators. We sell a dye made from these empty sphere’s click image to see.

I’m committed to changing my ways. Like many lessons in life this one stung and I’ll not do it again.  But I’ve come away from it with a sense that in order for new life to come into being, old things must die. Old habits. Old patterns, people, plants, trees. Pretty much everything dies after it has run its course. Sometimes things have to die in order that new life can be born.

Click image for Google map of this location

I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it – Rosalia de Castro

Now that winter is here good and strong, I’m celebrating the new life that nature is already creating amongst the very skeleton of the old. I found these dead plants on that walk, poignant reminders of death and the new life that grows through it. Another friend once told me that regret is a signpost, once you have acknowledged it don’t dwell on it. Fix the problem and move on.

Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past – Tryon Edwards

I’m grateful for the good friends in my life. Particularly the ones who forgive me the lessons I’ve needed to learn. Especially the ones who help me to grow.

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Bravery isn’t being unafraid, it’s being afraid but doing it anyway

Today my dog learned that bravery isn’t being unafraid, it’s being afraid but doing it anyway!

Let me introduce you to Nelly. In this video you can see our brave water-dog attempting to climb the wall in order to avoid jumping from the steps to fetch a precious fragment of stick. She dived in eventually and after two or three goes she was right at home.

She’s a crossbreed between a Labrador and a Poodle, often called a Labradoodle. Nelly conforms to her genetic predisposition perfectly, like both her ancestral lines she LOVES water! So much so that on this recent trip to Roundham Head in Torquay we were puzzled by her reluctance to get into the crystal clear water.

Usually Nelly whines by the water’s edge and fetches a stick for you to throw in, but this time no amount of cajolery would persuade her to jump in.

We figured out what the problem was. This time, unusually, she had to enter the water from steps. For the first time in her life she was stood on a step between where she was, and the object of her desire.

She couldn’t do it because it was unfamiliar.

Everything was normal except her starting point. This is a dog who throws herself off rocks, leaping for several meters as she does so, scared to enter the water that she loves so dearly.

It reminded me of how I learn. When I approach a new thing it feels like I will never master it, as though I am too stupid to ever grasp what needs to be learned. My first attempts at using Photoshop, for example were quite, shall we say, vocal (none the images on this post have been Photoshopped btw).

The more you learn, and the more forgiving you can be to yourself whilst you learn, the easier it becomes. I now swear a lot less at Photoshop.

Doing new things is healthy. Feeling out of your depth is normal and it takes a certain bravery to try new things. In fact when you start doing something new, you are literally building synapses in your brain – connections between neurons. There’s hard work to do and it takes time and energy.

You literally lack the brainpower at the beginning, and overcoming this lack takes bravery. You can be afraid but still do it anyway.

The more you practice the new thing, be it using a knife like a professional chef, playing football or programming Javascript, the easier it gets to learn more. Sure, you learn that there is more to learn, but you grow to enjoy the growing.

It’s said that to master a skill one needs to dedicate 1500 hours to studying it. Nelly didn’t have time for study, she had to overcome her doubts and dive right in!

Recently I realised that our son didn’t know how to cook. It dawned on me that as a household we actually have a pretty dull diet. For the sake of our son’s education I’m learning new recipes – I started with this one when we were given a load of courgettes. What on earth can you make with courgettes, I thought?

I was unsure that it work, my son was unsure he would eat it, Shannon (the better half of Dartmoor Sheepskins) wasn’t particularly keen on courgettes.

The whole family grew synapses this week, the courgette bake was delicious!

The point is, try something new. In previous blog posts I’ve given instructions on how to make a bottle garden, create unusual planters, turn a tree stump into a garden feature, breed goldfish and dye material using natural mimosa powder.

Why not learn how to buy a slither of Bitcoin (which we now accept as payment in our shop), take up ballroom dancing or learn another language? If Nelly can do something new, so can you.

View from Roundham Head looking south over Goodrington Sands, Torquay
Go get your stick you beautiful creature
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Dumnonia, ancient seat of power in the South West

Legend has it that King Arthur was conceived at Tintagel Castle (Cornish: Dintagel) it’s a medieval fortification on Tintagel Island, battered by the Atlantic Ocean on the north coast of Cornwall. Long ago it was known as Dumnonia, ancient seat of power in the South West.

The site was possibly occupied in the Romano-British period, as an array of artefacts dating to this period have been found on the peninsula.

It was settled during the Early Medieval period, when it was probably one of the seasonal residences of the regional king of Dumnonia – Wikipedia

Whether King Arthur even existed is a moot point. Nobody knows for sure. It’s interesting that the Royal family don’t name any sprogs ‘Arthur’ almost certainly to avoid having to decide whether he would be Arthur the first or Arthur the second.

It was a Royal palace.

Archaeologists have discovered the impressive remains of a probable Dark Age royal palace at Tintagel in Cornwall. It is likely that the one-metre thick walls being unearthed are those of the main residence of the 6th century rulers of an ancient south-west British kingdom, known as Dumnonia – The Independant

Walls still remain from the 6th century and you can lean over them and look down the cliff.

The oldest stonework we saw was on the upper outer courtyard. Much of this fell into the sea shortly after completion. What remains is solid and has stood strong over millenia. Looking west over this ancient wall is breathtaking. The Atlantic crashes hundreds of feet below and gulls wheel between you and the rocks at the base of the cliff face. One gets a realistic sense of danger.

Wall, built between 6th and 8th centuries, and shear drop onto the rocks below

Modern restorations have been carefully crafted to replicate the original stonework.

View west from the highest point of Tintagel Castle

Whilst the following photos show how easily the island castle would be to defend.

Ancient Tintagel was a larger, single, castle extending across the mainland and what is now the island.  Visitors must now cross a bridge to the island as the land between has been destroyed by the ocean.

It’s obvious that defending the island would be easy. A single point of entry up a steep stairway on a rock surrounded by the Atlantic. But why would anyone want to attack Tintagel? In short, they wouldn’t. Tintagel, Dumnonia, has no strategic significance whatsoever. If you were invading Cornwall you’d simply land elsewhere. Cornwall has a lot of coastline and much of it easier to land on!

Tintagel was useful as a trading point in late Roman times, a link with the Mediterranean. But interest in fortification has been sustained by the King Arthur legend.

The castle has a long association with legends related to King Arthur. This began in the 12th century when Geoffrey of Monmouth described Tintagel as the place of Arthur’s conception in his fictionalized account of British history, the Historia Regum Britanniae 

According to Geoffrey and the legend, Arthur’s father was Uther Pendragon, the king of all Britain. He goes to war against Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall, to capture Gorlois’ wife Igraine, with whom Uther has fallen in love. Gorlois defends himself against Uther’s armies at his fort of Dimilioc, but he sends Igraine to stay safely within Tintagel Castle which is his most secure refuge, according to the legend and the Historia Regum Britanniae.

Uther besieges Dimilioc, telling his friend Ulfin how he loves Igraine, but Ulfin replies that it would be impossible to take Tintagel, for “it is right by the sea, and surrounded by the sea on all sides; and there is no other way into it, except that provided by a narrow rocky passage—and there, three armed warriors could forbid all entry, even if you took up your stand with the whole of Britain behind you.”

Geoffrey of Monmouth’s story goes on to explain how the wizard Merlin is summoned and magically changes Uther’s appearance to that of Gorlois to help get them into Tintagel Castle, while also changing his own and Ulfin’s appearances to those of two of Gorlois’s companions. Disguised thus, they are able to enter Tintagel where Uther goes to Igraine, and “in that night was the most famous of men, Arthur, conceived. Wikipedia

No evidence exists of Arthur.

No proof suggests that Arthur even existed, or if he did that he ever lived at Tintagel. This may be due to the time period involved where legends would have formed an oral history and would have contained nuggets of wisdom from one generation to the next. Feary tales and archetypes.

It is owned by a Prince.

Prince Charles owns Dumnonia, and with it Tintagel, the site is operated by English heritage. There is a charge for entry at weekends throughout the winter. Despite this, no one was there selling tickets and the site was accessible. The bridge had a single bar across stating that the island was closed.

More of that local stonework around St Materiana’s Church

There is a car park at nearby St Materiana’s Church and parking all day for £2 in the village of Tintagel. The village seems to shut down to an extent over winter.  You’ll need to order a drink in a local pub if you need to use the loo.

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Garden plants for winter colour – November

Here at Sheepskin Towers we plan our garden plants for winter colour.

These November garden photos show some of the staple plants we use to create cheer through the darker months. See below for a couple of colourful special offers and free samples.

Winter Jasmine
Variegated Miscanthus (grass)
Female Holly with Berries


Special offers for Novemeber

Click here for a free sample of colour changing Butterfly Pea Tea, sign up for our newsletter for discount codes and special offers (we won’t spam you with rubbish).


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Trawlermen’s Lives [audio] find out why men do the most dangerous job in the world

Every year 1 in 213 fishermen dies or is seriously injured in British waters. Find out why they fish, what they fish, and what happens when things go wrong.

A radio documentary about Trawlermen’s Lives. Trawling is the most dangerous industrial occupation in the UK. Only being a soldier at war is more dangerous. So why would a man (and it is predominantly men) do it?

The sea is a dangerous place. The way fishing vessels operate is the exact opposite to the way most ships work. Most ships; load their cargoes in port, secure their hatches, people go down below deck and they go out to sea. Fishing vessels do the opposite. They come out of port and go to the middle of the ocean and the fishermen open the hatches and come out on deck. It’s like working in a heavy industrial factory with chains and cranes but you’ve got a moving floor so the chance of being struck by moving gear is much higher – Nigel Blazeby – Vessel Safety Inspector

Trawlermen’s Lives explores the highs, lows, what goes wrong and how the family on-shore cope with waiting.


I wouldn’t want Roy to do something different because it wouldn’t be Roy. They have a wicked sense of humour. I wouldn’t want to be on a bigger boat, which Roy’s done, ten on a boat. Put it this way you sleep with one eye open! Shaving the eyebrows is nothing! Permanent marker all over the face, permanent marker all over... fishwives can’t be easily offended! A friend of mine told me a decky learner walked into the galley and all the crew were there butt bold naked! Just to wind him up! – Fishwife

Trawling is 115 times more dangerous than the average industrial occupation.

They’d taken a twelve year old boy out with them, he was growing up through the ranks. The boat turned over whilst he was asleep. They managed to get out and were sitting on the upturned hull. They could hear him banging from inside and they shouted for him to hold his breath and get out through the galley door. To think upside down. You’d only have a couple of minutes but it would have been enough. But he just couldn’t do it – Ex Fisherman

Click play to find out about trawlermen’s lives.

If the player above doesn’t work, try here.

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Found One! Devon Rocks and Stones – a fantastic game for all the family

We stumbled across a brilliant game quite by accident on a walk at the beach, if you haven’t heard of it check out Devon Rocks and Stones on Facebook!

The group is dedicated to decorating, hiding and finding stones all around Devon.

It’s the perfect way to motivate little ones to go for a walk and a real delight when you find a decorated stone!

Just as much fun is had painting up your own stones and giving subtle hints in the group as to where you have hidden them. A delightful real-life treasure hunt.

Members are sharing painting tips and a real community is growing out of the phenomenon.

On the back of the stones you put a reference to the group.

There’s many very skilled members in the community making the stones very desirable. These beautiful stones were hidden at Oldway Manor.

Here’s the one we found at Brixham Breakwater beach with its friends!

Favourite characters make an appearance.

To join in send a request to join Devon Rocks and Stones it’s very active and very good fun.

See you out and about around Devon – Happy hunting!