‘I tickled his face/ he bumped me on the nose’: how to feed a bottle lamb

Here’s the Poetry Fence, after I’d added another ten poems sent to me over the weekend.  It does look rather beautiful.

The Poetry Fence sunshine

Then I followed Rob, the bailiff, on his rounds, and learned how the brick farmyard at Acton Scott was built purposely in the late 18th century as a model farm.  I waved a wooden flail to appreciate, instantly, the value of mechanisation, and learned how the horse gin has an underground shaft which runs a flywheel and belts in the threshing barn.  It’s still in use, and eleven people have to be there to operate it effectively.

Cade lambs & hen

Here are the cade lambs waiting to be bottle-fed, and a Silver Dorking preening herself on a bale.  After the feeding I had a great time writing a poem about it with Lucy, who was three and three quarters.  She was very articulate and bright as a button.  I scribed her thoughts, then we agreed what order to put the words in. Then I wrote it on an Acton Scott Poetry Postcard for her to take home.

Here she is, with her poeLucy's poem Bottle Feedingm.  She did the colouring.

And here are visitors starting to read the Poetry Fence!

Readers at Poetry Fence


A Poem for a Pig

The Half-And-Half Pig

The Half-And-Half Pig

On Easter Monday The Half-And-Half Pig was surrounded by constant admirers.  I lost count of the people who asked for a poem about him.  So I’ve written one, to his orange eyelashes.

The Half-and-Half Pig

Snout to shoulders he’s dipped
in Tamworth orange, smooth
as a carrot, his father’s son.

Ribs to rump he’s paper-white,
coarse as a yard brush, ink-blotted
by his Old Spot ma.




‘the pole bent down like a goose’s neck’…

Easter Monday brouShepherd Poet's Hut mrght sunshine to my Shepherd Poet’s Hut.  Yesterday’s poems are all fluttering inside it, and today brought many more.

First I put up the poems that are already coming in for our Poetry Fence… to see them click here for the Poetry Fence Page.

George and Half&Half Pig mr

The Easter Sunday piglets had admirers gathered around them all day.  This is George, with the quite remarkable Half-and-Half Pig.  He’s half Tamworth (dad) and half Old Spot (mum).  It’s as if he’s been dipped in chestnut paint up to his middle.  I can’t count the number of people who asked me to write a poem about him, so I am.

Ansel (6) was very taken with the hens and the Shell crack poem Anselwhole question of eggs and chickens.  He wrote:
Shell crack
Shell crack
Chicken inside
Peck, peck, peck!


Elin (9) came to the Shepherd Poet’s Hut straight from the bodger and his Elin 'Pole Lathe'pole lathe, lucky for me, because she proceeded to write a wonderful poem.  I was able to go over later, and read her poem to the bodger himself, and a group of visitors who were watching him. They loved it.

Elin & poemHere is Elin, sitting on the step with her poem.





Catherine's Found Farm Poem mr


And this is Catherine’s Found Farm Poem, created from my Found Farm Boards, with additions she chose herself from the Seed Poem Tray.  I noticed today there were many people, children and adults, just choosing words and phrases because they liked them.
We should do more of this.

Easter Sunday: of eggs, luck and the pleasure of spring

20Apr Simon & CharlieEaster Sunday and the first day of #poetonthefarm at Acton Scott!  I stood with a group of early morning visitors watching Charlie getting his feet cleaned and trimmed by Simon.  Talk turned to shoeing and farriery, and cultural differences focused on which way up you nail a horseshoe.  Simon’s conversation provided me with an instant poem:

Is luck lighter
or heavier than air?
Which way up 
is the horseshoe?

I made m20Apr Zak poemy way back to the red Shepherd Poet’s Hut (just look for the bunting!) where I met Zak and his family.  Zak was into Egg Poems, and in no time at all he’d made his poem, which considers what’s in an egg, and the whole cycle of existence.

one chick dies
20Apr Evan poemone chick alive
next time I feel dead
                I’ll just hatch another egg

20Apr Finlay poem

After that it was just all go.  The Shepherd Poet’s hut filled with poets young and old.  I went with some of them to bottle-feed the lambs, read poems about chicks hatching, Stewart Conn’s poem about a travelling combine machine, a Ted Hughes poem about a young calf falling asleep…

And I wrote with visitors of all ages about hens, eggs, kitchens, lambs, the arrival of spring and how ‘green smothers black’… and a poem by 5 year old Eleanor, which I scribed.

I looked in a hedge
and saw a hen
on a nest.
The nest was as soft
as a lamb’s back.
Dark and warm, 
under the hen,
I imagine

20Apr Mazza & x BedfordshireThank you, all of you! Keep in touch with Acton Scott!  Lovely poets from Bedfordshire, Gretchen from Shrewsbury, please send me your short poems for an old farm – click here for more info – I want to publish them on our Poetry Fence!

20Apr Katy & Dave poems 20Apr Eleanor's poem in the making 20Apr Amelia poem

First Poems & Found Farm Poems

Acton Scott Poetry Fence Mary Webb mrI hung a short Mary Webb poem on The Poetry Fence this morning.  My first ‘proper’ day as Poet in Residence is Easter Sunday… but while I put up posters and created the Found Farm Poems trail, I met lots of curious people who wanted to know what I was up to.

Better still, I met Ella, who wanted to write a poem.  Since Ella is only 5, Acton Scott Ella's poem mrshe talked and I scribed.  For Ella, it was all about Dusty, the donkey.

Dusty was lovely.
I looked in his brown eyes.
His coat was soft 
like feathers.

The project’s very first poem written at Acton Scott in 2014!

Acton Scott Joe & Charlie mrActon Scott Found Farm Poem Board 5  mrAnd then Charley and Joe powered past us, on their way in for a break. Dust rose, and the noise, and size and weight of them passing stops visitors in their tracks.

I got on with putting up the Found Farm Poem trail.  There are five Found Farm Poem Boards, and you pick up a sheet to fill in words on.

Each Board has ‘found’ language on it, from farming books, catalogues and histories.  You shut your eyes, use the little stick tied to the bottom of each Board to point to a line of words, then write that line down on your sheet.  When you find another Board (they’re all over the farm) you do it again.  And lo!  at the end you have a Found Farm Poem, absolutely personal to you, and created by purest chance!

Here’s one we, um, made earlier…
Acton Scott This is a Found Farm Poem mr


Making Plans for Poetry

A glorious 1st April morning at Acton Scott!  Sunshine warmed my back as I was shown round the farm.  A Norfolk Black turkey cock gobbled at us and fanned his tail.  A small hen took a dustbath under a waggon.

Acton Scott Roadman's Poet Hut lr“Would it be alright if you worked in this?”  said Sal.
It really would.  Very alright.

You’re looking at the Shepherd Poet’s Hut.

From here poems will be read, written, shared and hugely enjoyed.


We Acton Scott dairyexplored the bailiff’s house, which contains a dairy whose years of cheese-making have permeated its cool walls, so that you breathe in a faint sour scent of milk just as the door opens.

Acton Scott schoolroom



Upstairs is a schoolroom, with single wooden desks and an authoritarian atmosphere.  This is the kind of place to write poems that require syllables counted (on the abacus?), or a very strict rhyme scheme…

We’ve got an outline now of the days I’ll be on site at the Farm – for more information just click here.