29 December 1995

NEW PEN ON DIARY DUTIES…

New Year greetings and a

welcome to our new diarist, a Dorset farmers wife who will be letting us into her life for the next few months. Readers will also get a glimpse into the lives of a lot of other farm women who were

runners up in the contest

"A WINDOW into my life" was the theme for the third Veronica Frater memorial competition which offered a first prize of £100 plus a six-month contract to write a diary column for Farmlife and £40 to the authors of the other entries that we publish.

Response was excellent and the standard so good that, as the "possibles" pile outgrew the "no thank-yous" some serious re-reading was required. The difficult part was not so much choosing the winner – there was something about this entry that had it earmarked at an early stage – but whittling down the "possibles" to the number of "runners-up" that could be accommodated within our Farmlife pages.

We chose 19, two of which were published last week. The others will be slotted in over the next few months.

The overall winner is Ellen Box who will be sending us diary entries from Holt Vale Farm, Holt, Wimborne, Dorset, for the next six months.

Ellen and her husband, Tim, have three children, William (10), Rosie (9) and George (5) and farm approximately 60ha (150 acres) of mixed livestock with Tims parents, Ken and Doreen.

Until the first BSE scare they were intensive beef producers, but they now run 30 suckler cows plus youngsters, and an outdoor pig herd finishing about 180 porkers and baconers a year. They also finish about 100 sheep and 2000 poultry, including turkeys, and have a laying flock of about 50 hens.

The majority of their produce is sold through their farm shop. "I was fortunate in knowing an old-fashioned butcher who was prepared to let me in on the secrets of making top-quality sausages and burgers as well as showing me how to cure bacon and ham," Ellen explains. They also sell local fruit, vegetables and cheese.

In addition to farming Tim runs a building company, specialising in the restoration of historic buildings. Their workforce is flexible: "Farm foreman John Wheeler lends his expertise as a landscape gardener to the building company," says Ellen, "and all the brickies are dab hands at bale hauling and turkey plucking!"