Welcome to Piggy Palace!

15 June 2023

Hello hello!

We hope you’re surviving this heat! Thankfully our sheep were sheared just before the heatwave hit, or we’d be getting a bit worried… !

In this update… We study ancient crops in our crop field, welcome piglets to the farm, say goodbye to Tyson the lamb, get started re-roofing a roundhouse, and look ahead to Equinox Viking Boat Burn!

Goodbye Tyson 💚

It’s been a bit of an emotional one this week, as we finally said goodbye to our hand-reared lamb Tyson.

Tyson was one of two lambs we hand-reared this year; his brother Lord Lambington has already been re-introduced to our flock and is doing really well back with his sheepy family.

But Tyson never seemed cut out for the flock life. He’s always been a delicate little fellow — in fact, we think that’s why his mother rejected him. He was one of triplets, which is rare for this breed, and he’s been small from the start. He also struggled with health problems, and even seemed to have been in a scrap with a wild animal when he was still with his mother 😢

Luckily, the Butser team flew into action — and especially the wonderful Kat from our education team. She saved this little one’s life again and again with her hard work, patience, care, and incredible eye for his needs. Thanks to her dedication, Tyson has weathered countless highs and lows, and is finally ready to fly the nest — happy and healthy!

He’s now living at Orchard Farm Animal Sanctuary, a local farm with one other Manx Loaghtan sheep already. We hope he has a wonderful life, and we’ll definitely be visiting him soon 💚

Studying ancient crops!

We’re growing ancient crops at Butser! Earlier this year, we sowed our crop field with two ancient grains: spelt, and naked barley.

Spelt was first cultivated around 9,000 years ago. It came to Britain around 2,000 BCE and was a common grain until medieval times. Naked barley is even older — it was one of the most important cereal crops of the Neolithic and Bronze Age, but fell out of fashion during the Iron Age thanks to bread wheat.

This week, we’re hosting Dr Ulrike Sommer and PHD student Anna den Hollander from the UCL’s Institute of Archaeology, as they dig into our crop field to research some archaeobotany. They’re particularly interested to see how our crops are faring, but also what weeds have sprung up, and their effects on our crops’ growth.

One of the most exciting things about being an experimental archaeology site is the opportunity to help other archaeologists and experts in their research. From giving students a place to explore different roofing materials, to being a bit of a crop lab, it’s so exciting to be able to enhance other people’s studies!

Re-roofing a roundhouse...

We just finished thatching our latest Iron Age roundhouse build! And on the very same day, we started taking the roof off another…

The Wooden Danebury, as it’s mostly known to the team, is a really unique roundhouse at Butser. Like its name suggests, rather than the walls being our usual wattle and daub, it actually has plank walls insulated with sheep’s wool. It’s also the only roundhouse on site that is always laid out in a display of Iron Age living, complete with weapons, shields, and an Iron Age bed!

Unfortunately, it’s also starting to wear a little bit, and has been really starting to show its age since Storm Eunice hit last February.

Because of the way thatch works, it’s really hard to perform spot fixes; you kind of need to take it all off and start from scratch. So… Guess what we’re spending our summer doing!

We have pigs!

Say hello to our newest arrivals on site — pigs! These absolute sweethearts are Oxford and Sandy Black crossed with Berkshire, which are both rare breeds in the UK these days. In fact, the Oxford and Sandy Black breed were virtually extinct just twenty years ago 😢

Luckily, they’re starting to see a resurgence, and we’re so delighted that they are! We now have four of these piglets at Butser, and they’ve taken very well to their new home (nicknamed the Piggy Palace!).

If you visited recently, you might have been surprised to see our goats in the Piggy Palace. They made a temporary move while we completely revamped their paddock, which is now sporting swanky new fences! We’d like to hope they’re escape-proof, but we know Branwyn; odds are she’ll find a way out within the week!

Speaking of the goats, we’re still hosting their boyfriend, the billy goat Hogan. Hopefully we’ll be welcoming some goat kids very soon — if Hogan’s flirting techniques paid off!

Equinox Viking Boat Burn!

It’s that time of year — with the summer solstice on the horizon, we’re thinking ahead to the autumn equinox, and the fire festival we hold to celebrate it!

Tickets for this year’s Equinox Viking Boat Burn will be going on sale from the 22nd to the 23rd — or get them one day early if you’re supporting at the Pioneer or Hero levels!

Find out more about the festival and how to get tickets on our website. You can also watch the highlights from Equinox 2022!

Photos from the farm

Thank you for supporting us 💚