Don’t let your sons grow up to be cowboys

Today was the last day on site for this year. Although it’s a big wrench to be leaving I think we’ve got a fantastic amount out of this season and, very importantly, we’ve got it all properly recorded and finished on time. The next job is to start the post-excavation work by processing all the finds, transferring the soggy paper records to computers and, most importantly, starting to think about what all the evidence means.

We started the morning with the turf. All the grass in the areas we excavated was carefully removed four weeks ago and laid out on tarpaulins the right way up to keep it alive. This worked very well but. of course, it all had to go back on today. This is the time when you really wish you had remembered to cut nice small turves when you were lifting them. There are two schools of thought about what is the best way to do this job. Either you get everyone to pick up turves, walk over to the trench, put them into place and then repeat until no more turf is left. This is effective and boring and you don’t spill much soil doing it. Or, you can organise everyone into a long line with an expert turf fitter at the business end to look after the giant grass jigsaw. Everyone else then gets the fun of trying to pass a heavy, muddy, thistly lump of turf along the line as if it were a rugby ball. This is marginally quicker but you spill more and it hurts if you get momentarily distracted. Whichever method you choose there is always slightly more turf to go back than space to put it, I think it must swell up in the rain, and you finish up having to squeeze bits in around the edges.

We also got a bit distracted because John’s cows are now calving. This means they have to be brought down off the hill to graze in the fields that were being cut yesterday. One particular new mother was having none of this and had carefully roosted herself and her calf on such a steep bit of hillside that even a quad-bike couldn’t get near. We were delighted to leave off our turf-handling and form a foot posse to gently shoo her towards the open gate at the bottom of the slope. We were feeling quite pleased with our stock-handling skills and all went well until she was about half way down. Then she suddenly made a break in completely the wrong direction and John had to set off again on the bike to get her back. We went back to our re-turfing.

Earlier John had kindly been up in the tractor to fetch all our kit down to the farm, so by 12.30 we were folding up the last of the tarpaulins and getting ready to leave the hill. It was actually quite a nice day today, although you wouldn’t think it to look at this photo.

We just had time for a final group photo before we went down the hill to begin cleaning and packing. Sitting down, left to right: Danny, Vanessa, Alex F, Irene R, Simon, Alex B, Irene van Z, Ella and Jas. Standing, left to right: Mike, Joanne, James. SItting in his tree: Karl.

Wildlife of the day today: I saw two hares playing on the higher slopes of New Laund Hill when John and I went up on the bike to get the last of the kit, but the prize goes to this splendid frog that Ella and Jas found living in the turves in the morning.

I’m off on holiday now for two weeks so there won’t be any more daily posts for a while. However, I will keep the blog up to date with all the discoveries and interpretations we make during the post-excavation work. Thanks to everyone involved in the project this year for a fantastic season. We have had outstanding results and it is all a product of your hard work and professionalism. Thanks especially to Mike and Pete for supervising and to everyone at New Laund Farm, particularly John and Daniel, for all their help.

Great singing in the bus on the way home

Rick

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