A new column in which rural business entrepreneur Periwinkle shares his decades of experience in making money from people outdoors
It is the end of the season and all my bell tents have gone green. What’s the best way to clean and store them ready for next year? (Bob Cumberland, Stockport)
My sympathies, Bob. Bell Tent Greenage (BTG) as it is known in the trade (at least that’s what I call it) was first noted during the Crimean War. It is caused by malign life-forms known as corner-cutting cowboy traders. These nasties shave a bob or two off their overhead by refusing to treat their tents before sticking them on eBay. If you bought your tents from eBay from just such a life form, it jolly well serves you right, Bob.
For those of you suffering from BTG through no fault of your own, I recommend painting your tents. An undercoat of Dulux Verdigris Weatherseal, followed by two coats of yacht varnish and you’re home – and quite literally – dry. Also worth considering: Actually encouraging the growth of the offending greenery and harvesting mushrooms off the tent flaps for the infinitely renewable eco-breakfast (just add two free range eggs and a rasher of streaky).
On a cautionary note, there are those who suggest replacing tents at the end of each season and building the cost into their business model. These are the same dullards who also suggest finding a manufacturer of renown – one that treats their canvas before selling it. They’ll bang on about an eco-friendly method of defeating BTG. This involves the meticulous positioning of tents so as to avoid each other’s shadows and the shade of trees. Good luck with this one, Bob, because only a druid henge-master could pull this off.
My stately home is busy with weddings at the weekend but it is pretty quiet mid-week. Any ideas for monetising things Monday-Friday? (Eddy Currents, Isle of Wight)
Eddy, the conventional approach would be to hook yourself up to the corporate event circuit. You could offer team-building programmes to middle managers who can’t stand the sight of each other but have been coerced by their CEO’s into feigning bonhomie for an afternoon in order to lock down their year end bonuses and satisfy shareholders.
An afternoon spent clambering about in your trees and they will go home happy – about the Christmas bonus if not each other.
Publicise the types of activities available at these events by driving through local villages with a couple of your mates standing on tea chests in the back of a flat bed Transit, each trying to dislodge the other with swinging blows from rain-sodden, duck down pillows. Invite bystanders to see whether they can beat your pillow-fighting champion. Just make sure your public liability insurance is up to snuff to cover villagers sent sailing over the tailgate and through the cafe window.
I am thinking of organising a Christmas event but I am unsure of what entertainment to offer and if livestock, such as reindeer, is a good idea? (Denise, Blackpool)
You ask about Christmas entertainment, Denise. This is of course a matter of personal taste. The smart money’s on Christmas market type stands, perhaps a giant snow globe, live brass bands and carol singing. Even a ‘live’ nativity provided your insurances are in place and you’ve covered the ground as far as Health and Safety is concerned.
But, for me, that sounds all too familiar, Denise. Should you use livestock? Absolutely. That’ll pep things up a tad. Wildebeest would be my choice but you’ll need several hundred to get the desired effect. Get your sheepdogs to chase them across your property, running every which way in blind panic (the wildebeest that is, not the sheepdogs, or indeed you if you’ve bottled it). Alert readers will have noted that this has nothing to do with Christmas but paying guests will probably be too scared to notice.
If you would like to benefit from Periwinkle’s words of wisdom, please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org