Sheep & Shepherding on the Downs

From my Owslebury blog –

Shepherd leading a flock c1950 through Longwood Beeches, Hants.
Photo by Dennis Kendal

This photograph was given to my Dad by the photographer and it has hung in our house for many years , a glimpse into the pastoral life now gone but not forgotten.

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The article that follows is thanks to – The Shepherds Hut Company it provides an insight into the important roll of Sheep and Shepherd on the Hampshire Chalk Down lands , one which is completely lost today.

 History of the Shepherd’s Hut

In the nineteenth century, farming customs on the light chalky soils of
southern England were far different to modern day practices.
Labour was cheap and plentiful and sprays and artificial fertilisers were 
unheard of.


In order to get any kind of production from these thin and often impoverished
soils, fertiliser in the form of farmyard manure had to be applied. However,
the physical problems and cost of hauling vast quantities of manure from
the farmyard to the distant fields were too great.
To overcome these problems, farmers employed animals to do the work for
them – sheep. The era of ‘The Golden Hoof’ had arrived.

History of the Shepherd’s Hut

The sheep that were used to perform the task of fertilising the uplands were
very different from those you see on the hills and downs of southern England
today. Almost every farm with downland or chalky soil would have had a
flock of downland sheep – Hampshire Down, Dorset Down, Oxford Down,
or South Down.

These sheep were not allowed to roam free but were kept tightly enclosed
behind hurdles. Once the forage crop or grassland had been grazed, the
hurdles and flock would be moved on to new pasture, leaving behind manure
that would be ploughed in ready for a crop of wheat, barley or oats.
Without this organic fertiliser, it would not have been possible to grow these crops
in such light soils.
If you owned a downland farm in the 19th century, a well managed flock of sheep
and a hard working shepherd were essential, so much so that your shepherd was
the most important worker on your farm. As most downland villages were set in
valleys and downland fields were the farthest away, the shepherd had to have
somewhere to store his tools and medicines.

It was hard, physical work with flocks having to be moved daily and the
shepherd also had to have somewhere to eat, rest and sleep, especially during
the lambing season.
Thus, the Shepherd’s Hut was borne.
The shepherd’s hut was a kitchen, dining room, bedroom, sitting room and
storeroom all rolled into one. The designs vary but all were constructed to
provide the shepherd with practical and durable accommodation.
The old huts had a stove in one corner for warmth and cooking, and a
window on each side so the shepherd could see the flock. A hinged stable
door, which was always positioned away from the prevailing wind, enabled
 him to hear the flock, and strong axles with cast iron wheels were used to
withstand the constant movement from field to field.
The durability of these huts is evident today with many fine examples still
being used by farmers, mainly as storerooms, and can often be seen parked
up alongside fields. Many more have been consigned to agricultural
museums giving testament to days gone by.

The pub ” The Shearer’s Arms  in Owslebury Bottom (sadly closed in 2004) has a long history back to the Doomsday Book and Henry VIII was thought to have hunted rom there. Its name speaks to the importance of Sheep and Shepherding on the downs over the past 800 years.

Now a residence but once a popular pub with an 800 year history

Courtesy of – The Shepherds Hut Company
David Cherrington
01822 612 720
07966 593 208

S-L-O-W TV – Superimposed Vingetteing

24th Oct 2016

Opening shot from “All Aboard the Canal Trip”

In an earlier blog – . I wrote about this style of film . One of the things that caught my attention was the way they incorporated interesting tidbits of historical information onto live imagery without audio.

This was done very softly using a combination of effects; the first being a vignette of the overlay was applied then a very slow subtle slow fade in and out effect added so the live footage was gradually and partially supplanted by the monochrome image containing text or images.

I have been able to replicate this to some effect in FCPX using two Effects built into FCPX – ie Vignette and Fade to Colour.

Here is a link to a 4 min excerpt of the original BBC screening I think you will enjoy the opening sequences :

Maybe Larry Jordan will do us a tutorial on how to do this properly 🙂


Whisky – Organoleptics

18th Oct 2016

Whisky is Brown Vodka

Bottled from the first batch of CC produced in BC

This story was prompted after watching a BBC Infodoc “Scotch – The Story of Whisky” and goes back to the early ’70’s when I lived in Kelowna BC.

Let’s begin wee a bit of Whisky’s history :

Hiram Walker had just built a state of the art distillery in nearby Winfield and were looking for an engineering type to record all the “As Built “drawing corrections to the project . I applied and was given the assignment .

When I joined Hiram Walker’s staff I was offered an opportunity to try out for a position on there product testing team . In these initial tests in their laboratory each candidate was presented with 5 glasses of water from different local sources which you were only allowed to sniff. If you were able to differentiate or recognise these again in later tests you became a candidate for further tests on their products . This testing is called Organoleptic Testing and is the standard method used throughout the distillate industry.

Following a long series of these tests I was told that I had a very good nose and was to join the Organoleptic Panel. This meant that not only did you go to the lab several times a day to sniff and compare samples of every sort of liquid, but you had unprecedented access the production process .  The secrets !

While what is described following was the practice of Hiram Walker, since the modern distillation processes are all based on the same science you can be pretty sure it universally true for all except gin.

Fermentation – This is a continuous process carried out in a pipe where some form of starch bearing organics ( Barley ,Wheat , are classics but also Adjuncts as they are known are added such as Corn or Rice ) are milled then inoculated with special high tech yeasts and water (the liquor ) to make a mash which is heated and converts the starch to sugar which then ferments to convert to alcohol.  Then end product is run through a centrifuge to separate the liquid from the solids . These solids are then toasted like pocorn and sold for animal feed.

Distillation – The liquid now passes onto the distillation department and is run through a giant still 50  plus feet tall . Condensates taken of at various heights and temperatures have differing properties . Many of these are used for other purposes other than making ” Vodka” . The distillers do not call their alcohol Vodka but New Product meaning raw alcohol at 180 proof. This is placed in oak Sherry casks for a number of years , in this case seven for maturation.

Blending – After the predetermined maturation is completed the casks are emptied and the contents filtered and the process of creating the “finished” product begins . This is carried out under the supervision of the Master Blender.
He uses his knowledge and experience to combine a huge variety of ingredients to create a replica of the “standard” of the product . This initial blend is the subjected to noses of the organoleptic panel for comparison with a sample of the “standard “.  any discrepancy mean  back to the blending room for amendment. the the process is repeated until the standard is matched perfectly.

So what do they do to pure 7 year old Vodka to make say, Canadian Club Rye Whisky – that’s is a secret !

However, some of the ingredients are known because we also tested them , organoleptically of course 🙂 for Canadian Club, such as Irish plum wine was included to provide colour and character.

That said, the recent so-called “rye renaissance” that never really happened, drew attention to the fact that in North America, Canadian rye whisky consistently outsells all of Scotch whisky, Irish whisky, Bourbon, and American rye combined.

Here is a link to another account of Hiram Walker’s distillery in Winfield BC. which was adapted to produce Ethanol for while , and has since been demolished .

Should you be further interested here is a link to the BBC webpage :


Plein Air Watercolour- DIY Easel Kit

17th Oct. 2016

Plein Air Watercolour- DIY  Easel Kit


My Plein Air Kit

Crystal Cove – McKenzie Beach, Tofino


Making do using the Walkstool as a table 🙁

I occasionally , and usually while camping take along a small watercolour kit to do some travel sketching . Finding a spot where it is both comfortable to sit and have good sight of the subject is not easy .

On a recent trip to Crystal Cove on my first day found a conveniently sited picnic table . The following day I moved to the beach proper where I spread my stuff out along a beached log and impovised a table on my folding 3 legged stool . While this worked it was not very satisfactory as brushes rolled away my water pot slipped off which caused me to hasten my work and retreat thinking I needed to think of ways improve my setup .

The outcome of this is described  here.
“Light and Compact ” being the two main criteria .

Working Desk top

A compact camera tripod from a local thrift shop became the foundation.
First I made a work surface from a piece of leftover 3/8″ polycarbonate twin-wall greenhouse material by gluing a plywood block to it with a 1/4″ UNC threaded insert centred in it . This serves to conveniently attach the board to the tripod.

Kit Box


Lid opened ready to hang on tripod

That done I began to think in greater detail about how to have my painting gear arranged and handily accessible. I decided that a tray hung from the tripod legs was the best option – this idea grew, just like topsy, it evolved into a box with hinged lid and swing out extension on the right side on which I could mount my pallette and water reservoirs and magnetic strip to retain those errant rolling brushes.



Clasp Catch


Box joints & hinges


Pallette arm with imbedded magnets

I have two travel painting kits – One being ultra light minimalist one made from a VCR tape case . A more complete Plein Air kit was small video camera travel case about 12″ w x 10″ l x 3″ deep with shoulder strap and handle .


Ready to paint .

The two water reservoirs are a shallow a lidded tin & secured with magnets. The adhesive magnet strip in the center is to retain the brushes.


All Set!

My lightweight three legged alloy stool is from Lee Valley – called “WalkStool”,120,43456,65663
It is light and very stable and available in 3 heights.

All of this is very light and can be slipped into a small backpack making it both comfortable and convenient to carry a distance over rough terrain .


The MAJOR & The Bucket Sweeper Project

13th Oct. 2016

Major 8 ft Bucket sweeper working on a JCB Telehandler

Just had a visit from a friend that I met in 1968 while working at Western Star Trucks, Kelowna. We have shared much since those halcyon days .

Later I worked in the field as sales rep for “The Major” in Western US and Canada . During that time there was much talk by those responsible for road maintenance to be more environmentally sensitive about how they dealt with road sweeping . It being then considered inappropriate to simply sweep debris off into the ditches , drains or watercourses .

With that brief the Major, a specialist manufacturer of attachments for construction equipment set out to build a “Better Sweeeper”. One that was an improvement over the existing commonly used Open Broom .

The aforesaid friend , Tony Hagger owned The Major, and for this he was the leader the design team . I became directly involved in field trials and demonstrations .

To further promote the concept I shot movies of these and used my video equipment to create promotional Video CD’s of these demos  for distribution to dealers and potential customers or State Highway departments.

Cleaning out a cabinet recently I found copies and decided to post them on YouTube .

Fourteen years on I don’t think it has been widely adopted, in fact The Major seems to have disappeared 🙁


S l o w !- Escapism in a racing digital world

5 th Oct 2016

Nice and  S  l  o  w  & Easy does it !

The current enthusiastic embracing of “S L O W  TV” by the England’s populous was highlighted when 800,000 tuned in to watch a 2hr , 38 mile journey aboard the Northern Dalesman through the Yorkshire Dales on a Sunday evening. This is 1 in 60 and 20% of those over age 65.

This follows an amazing response to recent films of a similar nature ” Sleigh Ride ” made following a Simi Herder walking with a Reindeer sleigh across the Arctic Circle. Later a 2 hour canal boat journey was filmed in real time on the Avon-Kennet Canal . There is no commentary to these films, nor music in the background ,just the eerie near silence of the scene drifting by.

A Brit magazine summed it up with , “Viewers who find the pace of modern life a little too frenetic may seek solace on BBC4 as it embraces the concept of “slow TV”.
A two-hour canal trip down one of Britain’s historic waterways, an hour of uninterrupted birdsong and a close-up, real-time examination of the making of a glass jug are among the “deliberately unhurried” programes beginning on BBC4 on Sunday.
The season of programmes is intended as an antidote to the digital age, reflecting a recent Scandinavian TV phenomenon that can be traced back to the earliest days of film.” 


Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) -LUFS Loudness Level Metering

4th Oct. 2016

Update 19 Feb 2017

Larry Jordan writen a valuable in depth adition to this  :

Thanks Larry !

Loudness standards are gradually being required around the world with all broadcast media . These are defined in LUFS or LKFS .  Media producers are or will be required to ensure all media meets this requirement.

So firstly what is LUFS ? and secondly how do you measure it ?
The answer to the first is way over my head ( so best you look at this ) .
The answer to the second is far simpler, you need a LUFS Meter .

There are several available via Google , but let me save you some time and a lotta money. They range in cost from well over $500 to $25 .
Cost effectivness is me, so I purchsed LUFTS Meter plugin from for $25 . Which seems to do the same or better job as the more expensive ones .

Having installed it on my Mac mini on opening FCPX it was found under Effects > Audio > Klungfreud As below :

LUFS Meter Plugin in FCPX

I am not an audio tech. and my audio knowledge is limited to working with audio in my video projects and since audio is 60% of the message it is important to get it as good as can be . 
An audience will tolerate poor imagery, but NOT lousy sound -’nuff said !!!
The plugin should be placed at the end of any effects chain to achieve accurate readings . The really neat thing is that the plugin will also modify or correct the audio to comply with the standard set in the plugin’s Settings .
Larry Jordan is a highly respected FCPX guru and here is a demo of how to access and adjust audio effect and meters  in FCPX –

Update 5th Oct.: 

Wow! – I have just been trying out this plugin on past projects. 
First I reloaded a project in FCPX from my 2016 fcpx.library .
Using Command A, to select the entire movie, I then clicked on the selected clips and created a “New compound clip” Next I applied the LUFS plugin using drag’ndrop .
Now opening the LUFS Plugin graphic from the Inspector window I clicked the ” Adjust to ” My -23 setting and played the full length . FCPX then saved the revised/ corrected audio in the video project . 🙂

Now could that be any simpler ?