Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Winters Icy Grip

Well the snow came back at the weekend, not much for us but the temperatures were really low and all the dairy water froze again, Richard put us back on the mains as the spring supply is frozen . We have managed to keep one of the troughs for the milkers going by piling mucky straw round the supply pipe, but we are carrying water to the heifers, in 25litre drums, the children can fill them but cant pick them up so thats my job and boy can I feel it, ibufrofen is my friend.
These were taken at 4pm today on my way to feed the sheep, these are this springs lambs, and should be tagged and on their way to market but we were sent the wrong pliers and the new ones have been in the post for 2 weeks now.
I think the sheeps were worried when I stopped short and got the camera out rather than wrestle the sack of nuts into their troughs.
And yes that ewe lamb at the front is having a pee!!!!! I didnt notice till I got the pic on here.

This is happy sheep, 97 of them all competing for their share of the food.

We are giving them hay as well in a ring feeder but they spend a lot of time scraping the snow off the grass.

Our lowest night time temp has been -13 c , and we are not getting above 0 c during the day, even with sunshine. My days are revolving around watering and feeding beasties, ditto the family and a bit of christmas preparation. Tonight my oven decided to die, it cost us £40 about 8 yrs ago so no great loss, I dont rate my chances of getting a new one before christmas so all oven cooking will be in the solid fuel Rayburn, that will be fun.

I dont think we are predicted any more snow, just low temps till after christmas, and though it makes life hard it is beautiful.

We had a drink and a few candles for the Solstice yesterday, we couldnt see the eclipse as we had cloud, but we all thought about the days lengthening and the return of spring and summer.

Off to bed now with my hot water bottle to keep my toes warm.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Another Day

A wall of straw arrived today, it's actually a lorry and trailer but from this angle it looks like a wall. The driver was undoing the straps while Richard got out the Manitou handler to unload it all, nearly 22 tonnes for the cows to lie on.
We keep our cows in a shed on deep straw rather than cubicles, which means that we use a lot of straw over the winter, the shed is cleaned out every 4 to 5 weeks and the muck is piled up in the fields to compost after which it is spread. Our soil here is very sandy so the composted muck is really good for it.
On a completely different scale, I made a new cover for my ironing board. I have had that board for about 25 years, my iron is even older.
I have had several covers for it but am finding it difficult to find the right size, ironing boards seem to have grown, and the covers I could find were not what I wanted to spend several hours a week looking at.
So some fabric from Ikea and a short time with the sewing machine and voila new cover.
Well I'm pleased anyway.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Thats Life

Last night we did a ceasarian section on a cow, well the vet did it and Richard and I assisted, in my case mostly holding the light and other things.
The cow was due to give birth any time now but R was not happy with how she looked, just not right, so we had the vet have a look at her, the calf was dead, and had been for a couple of days, it was also breach, which is coming backwards.
We struggled for ages to try and deliver the calf but it was huge and eventually we all agreed it was not going to come out that way without damaging the cow seriously.
So we set to to do a section on her, lying down as we couldnt get her up, all the problems of a decaying calf and uterine contents, in the cowshed, in the dark with hand held lights.
Kate, the vet did a fantastic job, we flushed as much out as we could and carefully stitched her up, 4 layers.
We left the patient sitting up with a big bucket of water, some hay and chock full of antibiotics and painkillers. Richard then started milking at 7.30pm rather than the usual 4.30.

I was going to take some pictures of her stitches, which run for about 15 inches down her side, but Richard just came in and told me she is dead. She just put her head down and died.

So no calf, a huge vets bill and now we have to pay to have a dead cow taken away.

Sometimes I hate this job.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Winter is upon us

We had snow last week, and we've still got most of it. The night time temp got down to -13c which meant that most of the cattle troughs froze up and Richard had to try and drain every last drop of water from the milking parlour after washing or else it was frozen by morning. These are 3 of the farms 4 cats, Carrot is the orange female and the boys are Percy(longhaired) and Jack. The boys are brothers and started out as feral kittens born here, we trapped them when they were small and had them fixed at the vet and over the last 12 1/2 years they have become very tame. They dont come in the house but we do feed them as much as they need, ie a cat sitting by the empty plate usually gets biscuits. Carrot and her half sister Kitty came from the farm across the road, they too are fixed as I dont want to be up to the elbows in kittens.
It looks mean leaving them out in the snow but there are loads of straw bales in the barn and calves to cuddle up to and when they do come into the porch they want to go straight out again.

This was taken about 10am this morning, we had a high temp of -3c here today, but it's all beautiful to look at. We had a lot of freezing fog yesterday and everything is thickly crusted with frost today.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Baked a Cake

I turned this into that. This is my maternal Grandmothers Christmas cake recipe, which I make every year, when the children were babies it lasted us till the end of February, but with 3 extra hungry mouths I try to eke it out through January. Sometimes I wish the children didnt like fruit cake.
I put nuts on the top instead of icing it and this year it's almonds and walnuts, the walnuts got a bit too toasted but I'm sure they will be OK.
I need to wrap it up and feed it with brandy every week and it will be perfect for christmas and beyond.
There is a family tale about my father serving abroad, I think he was in Singapore, while my Mother was back in the UK with me and waiting to give birth to my next brother. She and my Granny made an extra cake for my Dad, filled it with as much brandy as they could, in the interest of preservation, and sent it out to Singapore. I remember being told that they sewed it into a pillow case to make sure it was safe travelling. I'm sure it was the best thing about my Dads christmas that year.

Stirring It Up

Yesterday I finally got round to making my christmas pudding, it's really not hard at all, and the only bit that takes time is steaming it, 4 hours now and 4 on christmas day.
In the bowl are raisins, currants, glace cherries, candied peel, breadcrumbs, grated suet and ground mixed spice.
To that I added 2 beaten eggs and a couple of tablespoons of alcohol, usually sherry or brandy but this year I had the end of a bottle of sloe gin so I used that.
Then everyone in the household had a stir for good luck, and I packed it into a pudding basin, covered it with a pleated piece of greaseproof paper.

Then a cotten square tied under the lip of the bowl and the ends tied together to form "bunny ears", this makes it easy to lift out of the steamer.

Then 4 hours in the steamer, making sure the pan is kept topped up with water.
I leave it to go cold overnight, then remove it from the steamer and when the cloth has dried out it can go in the cupboard till christmas day.
It goes really black from all the dried fruit, and if I remember I will add a sixpence carefully wrapped in foil.
I will be serving this with Brandy Butter, which is softened butter beaten up with icing sugar and as much brandy as it will hold. Its also great with mince pies.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Cold and Even Colder.

Yesterday morning (saturday) we woke up to a sprinkling of snow, not enough to do anything with but very pretty.
Richard came in saying that it had been -7c overnight but that all the water was still running.
It was very sunny and where the sun shone the icy snow melted but every where else it was still there at bedtime.
This morning the overnight temp read -10c and water has frozen to one shed, luckily with just heifers in it who dont need much water, so they are just getting on with what is already in the trough.
We decided that the rabbits and chickens needed more shelter than their respective hutches/houses could provide, so we spent the afternoon clearing enough space in the barn to bring in a group of heifers who were still outside, and in front of their gates are now two hen houses complete with runs. The rabbit hutch has gone in the calf shed.

So milking is late again but all the vunerable livestock is under cover.
Ill take the camera out tomorrow.
Its -7c outside already at 6.30pm.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Tup Tup Tupping

These are our four charolais Tups, big boys arent they? They have spent the summer doing nothing, bit of eating, bit of wrestling with each other, but mostly they have just spent the time in the paddock doing nothing, or not the thing we keep them for.

Now is the time for them to do their thing.

We brought them into the shed to check their feet are OK and dont need trimming, then we loaded them into the trailer and took them up to the field where the ewes are.

Here are the ewes, they all homed in on the LandRover and trailer as soon as we arrived. Richard is mixing up some Raddle, which is a sticky coloured paste we smear into the wool on the tups chest, so that when he rides the ewe it marks her bum, and we can see they have been working.
This is the last tup leaving the trailer, you can see his orange chest.
I think he looks keen.

This is the four of them heading off to sort out the girls.

Who were very pleased to see them.
If you look in the middle of the group here you can see the boys getting busy.
Richard went back today and reported that there are LOTS of sheep with orange bums.
The tups will be left there for 4 to 6 weeks then its all over for another year.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Stir up Sunday

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This is the collect for today in the Book of Common Prayer and gives the name "Stir up Sunday" to the last sunday before Advent, which is traditionally when christmas puddings are made.
It is traditional for all the members of the household to give the pudding a stir before it is steamed.
Christmas puddings like rich fruitcake last really well, and just need resteaming before use.

I am not making my pudding today.

I am not in the mood and so will make it later in the week, and no Mum I havent made my christmas cake yet either.

The fact that I know the collect for today can be blamed on a convent education, probably also to blame for my complete lack of belief in any sort of god. Its not just a kneejerk reaction but a result of too much thinking about it and having to defend my position to devout christians.
When it comes down to it I just dont believe, I accept that I might be wrong but if there is an all knowing God, then whatever I said they would know I was lying.
I am happy in my lack of belief, we come from nothing, we go to nothing, we are here by a happy accident and in the grand scheme of things we are unimportant.
Still I will make my christmas pudding and cake to celebrate the passing of another year.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Away Day

It's been a busy week, or rather parts have been busy and the rest seems so.

The Organic inspection went well, no slapped wrists, just record more stuff next time and more forms to fill.
That night we went to see Red at the cinema, we almost decided we couldnt be bothered, but having organised babysitting we had to go. It was a good movie that we both enjoyed, since I admit to having a huge crush on Bruce Willis, I am not the most impartial of critics but it also starred Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman and was funny. There are not many films I feel inspired to watch these days, no horror, no tragic endings, nothing too clever or too stupid, no boy meets girl. I like the Bond films, the Bourne trilogy and the Die Hard films, not sure what this says about me as a well balanced adult but Hey Ho.

On wednesday I left the children all ready for school, clutching their lunchboxes, for R to drop off, while I wizzed over to Crewe and got on a train to London to meet up with my sister. We had a lovely time, mostly talking with some eating and drinking, a small amount of shopping, mostly looking and lots of walking around London.
We started on Marylebone High St, home of Scandium and Divertimenti, then Piccadilly and Fortmun and Masons to buy their Fortmason Tea, we also had the most expensive cup of tea I have bought in my life and though it was good tea it was not that good! Then Covent Garden which I used to like 20 yrs ago but now dont, and finally a bar where we drank and ate till it was time to wend our respective ways home. I got home at 10.30pm, and as it had been rainy and windy all day I dont think I missed anything.

I had a great time with my sister, it felt very self indulgent , as children there was a lot of competition between us and I was a horrible older sister but now we are very good friends.

And no we didnt do anything cultural, no Galleries, shows or museums were visited on this trip.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Christmas is coming, soonish.

Well it will be for these birdies.
They belong to a friend of mine who is a bit of a smallholder, they have a couple of pigs, about 7 sheep, hens, ducks and these, oh yes and a pony but I dont think she is destined for the pot.
They live by the village hall carpark, where we all park while dropping off and picking up from school, and since turkeys are quite good at flying and like to roam around and forage, they are regularly terrorising both children and parents.
My children are very taken with them, they look kind of prehistoric, and are suggesting that we could rear a couple next year to eat. It would be fun especially if they nip next door to the National Trust to supplement their diet with a spot of picnic foraging.

I have made some Damson Vodka this year, mostly because the damson harvest was good and the local Tescos had a good deal on Vodka, its just sugar, damsons and vodka, left to infuse for 6 weeks or so, then strain out the fruit and bottle the now flavoured vodka. I'm not sure if I will keep it in the freezer or treat it as a liqueur, what do you think?

This morning was frosty and clear, my favourite kind of morning, and here it is easy for me to start the car early and leave it running for 10 mins to defrost before the school run.
We have a min/max thermometer outside which said that it was -3 overnight which feels wintery to me. Being parsimonious we dont run our central heating (lpg) unless we have visitors or the daytime temp is below freezing, but rely on the Rayburn in the kitchen and a wood burner in the living room, this means that the bedrooms are never very warm.
The children dont seem to notice, but last week they mentioned that they were cold in bed and I realised that they still had summer duvets on their beds. I dragged out the sorry pile of winter duvets and realised that some of them were very old, one was mine at boarding school.
So now they all have new 12tog winter duvets, and it is even harder to get them up in the mornings. Tom has been telling his sisters not to lie on his bed as they will squash all the togs and it wont be as warm!
The new duvets came from a company that supplies soft furnishings to the trade, hotels and suchlike and I have had sheets from them before. They are hollowfill rather than feather as machine washable has a lot going for it with children.
The best thing about the new duvets as far as the children are concerned is the BOX, which is huge and has stood up remarkably well to being worn by my three. I dont know at what age children grow out of wanting to play with the box, but not yet.

We have our Organic Annual Inspection tomorrow, so R has been doing his homework and making sure all the records are up to date, We also have our Farm Assurance inspection so he and our student are sweeping the cobwebs off the parlour ceiling and polishing the bulk tank.
The tank is doing its part by the thermometer choosing now to fail, there are 2,an internal one to regulate the fridge unit and an external one to show temperature of the milk, its the outside one that has croaked, last night it reckoned the milk temp was -5 and this morning it was reading 40 c, both wrong as the milk was actually about 4c which is where it should be. R has spoken to the refridgeration engineers and they are coming to replace it........ more expense.
Hopefully all will go well tomorrow and R can stop worrying about his paperwork, as a treat we are going out to see Red with Helen Mirren and Bruce Willis, who just gets better as he gets older.
On wednesday I am going down to London for the day to meet up with my lovely sister and have some quality child free time, its only 1 1/2 hrs from Crewe to Euston and R is in sole charge of the offspring, I will be back by 10pm and I am leaving supper ready to heat up. Its a carefully chosen date to have no after school commitments for either of us and has been planned for about 6 weeks now.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Blast from the Past

Yesterday The 1st Battalion the Mercian Regiment marched through town on their return from deployment in Afghanistan.
We went to support them, whatever I think of the politics of where our Armed Forces serve, I strongly believe in supporting the troops. And having grown up with my Dad a serving Officer there is something about a band and men marching in uniform that calls to me.

Most of the local schools gave us permission to take our children out early, I only had 2 of the 3 as no2 child was on a school trip. We drove into town and did some creative parking, then waded through the crowds to where a group of friends from school were standing.
As is the way of things we were in plenty of time and had to wait anout 30mins for the parade to arrive, there were about 500 soldiers of the Mercian Regiment and also some Gurkhas who had been deployed with them.
Little F was very happy waving her flag and chatting, but Tom was bothered by lack of information, when exactly were they arriving, where were they marching and what was going to happen? One of the primary school teachers had a programme which she lent to us, with loads of useful information in it including a map of the town center with the Parade route marked on it, he was much happier once he knew as much as possible about the situation.
Actually given that it was a big crowd of total strangers behaving in a fairly random way he did really well. I am constantly amazed at how well he manages so many situations that he would have crashed and burnt in a few years ago.
Both children loved the marching and the Band, also that the soldiers all carried guns, much discussion as to whether they were loaded, also the Gurkha soldiers with their Kukri knives on their belts.

I loved the marching and the shouted commands and the precision changes of position.
I'm really glad we went as they deserved to have a big crowd cheering and shouting, The Regiment lost 12 men and over 80 injured, many with lost limbs and some of those injured were there in wheelchairs.
The children looked at the soldiers and saw brave men, I looked and saw boys, other mothers children, and I was reminded of a book I read years ago called "The Gate To Womens Country" by Sheri Tepper.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

It's an Alien

I'm talking about the little brown and white heifer on the left, she looks like a perfectly nice baby cow to me, but thats not what her mother thought.
She was abandonned at birth!!!!!, as soon as she finished calving the new mother moved as far away from her baby as the shed permitted, and even after the calf staggered to its feet and went looking for comfort and the milk bar, the mum was having nothing to do with her.
Needless to say this is not the usual way of things, more often the new mums spend so much time licking the new arrival that it never gets a chance to sleep or feed. We only leave the calves with their mums for 24 hours, which seems cruel but the cows have far too much milk for one calf and dont let it down in the parlour if they still have the calf, leading to mastitis for the mum and the trots for the calf.
Also the longer you leave the calf with its mum the more attached they get and the more misery when you separate them. We dont breed for good parenting in dairy cows but we dont often get a calf quite as abandonned, anyway happily for "ET" (named by the children) social services (us) have saved her from a short life of neglect and she has a comfy pen with lots of straw, a friend to play with and a "magic mummy" to feed her lots of milk.
She is getting her own mums milk, we do a quick delivery after milking time while it's still warm.

On saturday we moved the lambs onto a new field, we needed to redeploy some of the same electric fencing so in the meantime they went in the farm yard....... and the garden.
They have done a lovely job on the grass, its been too wet to mow, and I moved my precious agaves in their pots to safety on top of the table.

Unfortunately sheep dont seem to like leaves so when the children offered to rake them up I was very happy, I didnt even mind having to wash all their clothes after they all rolled in them, then moved onto giving each other rides in the wheelbarrow.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Feeling Autumnal

The last few days we have come outside to a toast crunchy carpet of leaves, most of the leaves get blown away in our garden but we have a beautiful Acer tree next to the utility room that must be a bit more sheltered, since they do seem to stay around for a while. Well that is the ones that dont end up in the porch and the kitchen.
This is the tree midway through shedding, it's a lot barer now after a couple of days of heavy rain.

These were taken last week of this years lambs, we have separated them from their mums and brought them back here for a few weeks.
I was all prepared for a very noisy couple of days, and nights, as they bawled for their mummys but the timing must have been about right as neither the ewes or the lambs seem very bothered.

I took these out of the bedroom window early one morning last week when it was cold and clear, the lambs were camoflaged against the frosty grass, but soon went to stand in the sunshine.
We have eartags for them and will have to round them up, tag them, check their feet and sort out some of the males to sell, we are keeping the females to increase the flock.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Last Time, this Year.

Old tyres have to be one of the things I hate most, I dont think I ever thought about them before I got involved in farming, but now I hate them, and I must move hundreds every year.
We use them to hold the silage sheets down ontop of the silage clamps. Silage forms the main part of our cows diet during the winter when there is no grass growth in the UK. It is basically grass or other chopped herbage that is pickled in its own juice, for the spods it is anaerobic fermentation, that is without oxygen.
We dont make it all at once but throughout the growing season, and eachtime all the protective plastic sheets have to be rolled up and removed, another layer of grass added, rolled down to squeeze as much air out as possible and all the sheets replaced, followed by the dreaded tyres. These are full of rain water, dirt and the odd chunk of mouldy silage and are heavy, I dress up in waterproof trousers and top whatever the weather as even if the day is hot and sunny you get showered with dirty smelly water each time they hit the ground. Most importantly big gloves as the tyres also have sharp bits and occasionally a rat hiding in them!

This was one of our clamps today after we cut the last 10 acres of Lucerne yesterday and added it to the clamp, we finished putting tyres back on at 9pm as the contracters had been delayed with a sick cow at home, and didnt arrive till 6ish. It needs more tyres but we decided that we needed to eat and go to bed more, it has rained all day today so it may be tomorrows job.
This is the other clamp, you can see where we have already started to feed some of it, the cows are still out but will be stopping in at night soon.
This clamp doesnt need as many tyres as we have gravel bags and a better type of netting over it, when we have some spare money we will get more but tyres last forever and my labour is free!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Men are from Mars?

Since we have had such gorgeous weather this last week, I have worked my way round the house changing all the beds and towels, I try to do this when the drying conditions outside are good as we dont have a tumble dryer and it takes much longer on the airer.
I noticed that my husbands bath towel is completely worn out and actually falling to pieces, wheras mine, bought at the same time from the same shop and just a shade different in colour, is still fine.
We have the same number of showers, and they are always washed together and dried together, so why does his towel wear out ages before mine?
I suggested to him that he must rub harder than I do to dry himself and could he be more gentle on the towels!!! Needless to say this got a look of amazement.
I suppose I should rotate the towels taking turns to have each one to wear them out more evenly, but he has always used the darker shade, so I will probably just buy another dark one for him and carry on with mine.
Men are truly different from us, they just look similar on the outside.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Wish List

While we were in France this summer we finally went to explore the Ile de Noirmoutier, which is at the northern end of the Vendee and is reached by a big bridge or a causeway, we had a lovely time, picniced on a rocky beach, discovered that F is terrified of Limpets, but not what is so scary about them.

While we were mooching along a marina sampling the local ice creams we passed by a cafe with some gorgeous chairs outside. The style and the range of colours just called to me and I took a picture to remind me of them in case I was ever looking for some.

Much to Richards relief I spared everyone the embarrassment of me going over and looking for a manufacturers mark, I have a history of this sort of thing, and that was the end of that.

Till last week when I was looking through a magazine and saw the very same chairs pictured on the terrace of a house in Sweden, the article said the chairs were made by Fermob, a French company and widely available.

These can go on my wish list for when we have plenty of spare money......... unlikly ever to happen but till then I can look at the picture.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Bad Girl

Occasionally we get a heifer that gets into the habit of helping herself to some milk from another cow, we take calves away from their mothers at 24hrs old and rear them in groups with milk from buckets with teats on.

Most of the time they drink the milk, are weaned at 12 weeks and never have any interest in milk again.

Currently we have two heifers who still take milk from any cow who will stand still for them and this is bad for the cow being milked, bad for the rumen of the cow drinking the milk and bad for us because the milk is not going on the tanker.

The only way to stop it is to fit the sucker with a spikey nose ring so that when she is "making up" to her milk supplier the spikes hurt the cows udder and she wont let the other cow suck. Its unfair but it has to be done. It doesnt hurt the cow wearing it as it is only tightened to hold it in place and doesnt pinch or break the skin, mind you they do spend a while trying to shake it off and when they get kicked by the cows they spike it hurts.

It is very effective and now we have one heifer in the milkers wearing one and one heifer in a mixed group of dry cows and young stock wearing one.

Nice colour eh?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Nearly Headless Nick

About 5 or 6 years ago I found a lump in my neck, after the initial panic I made an appointment to see my GP, the first told me he couldnt feel anything and the second that there was a definite lump, probably a benign cyst. Still I found myself in outpatients having it checked out within a couple of weeks.

Checking it out meant an ultrasound scan and a needle aspiration, basically they stick a needle straight through the front of your neck and into the cyst then suck out what they can, giving it a bit of a wiggle to make sure!!!!!

Its not exactly painful but a really horrible feeling.

Everything came back OK, just a benign thyroid cyst, not uncommon in middle aged women,though they were at pains to point out that this only meant the bits they had checked and who knew what could be going on round the corner.

Since then I have been back every 6 to 12 months for continued checking and testing and my very nice consultant has continued to recommend that I have the cyst and that side of the thyroid gland removed.

Finally I gave in and on Monday I was admitted for surgery. After an initial panic that they might not have a bed for me, all went smoothly, I was first on the list and down in theatre by 8.50 and unconscious by 9.15, back on the ward at 12.30ish and managed to escape home by 3pm the following day. Mind you that took me threatening to walk out before the ward staff got the paperwork sorted.

It was a lot less painful than I was expecting, I wasnt sick after the anaesthetic and the surgeon had dosed me up with local anaesthetic along the inscision.

I just feel bruised and like I have whiplash, a stiff neck. I have an inscision along my lower neck, which currently is covered by some steristrips, a single stitch with a bead at each end. I'm not looking forward to that coming out as they just cut one bead off and pull it through, but as my sister reminded me they have cut a lot of the small nerves to the skin so it wont feel as bad!!!!

Heres a pic of the neck yesterday, 48hrs post op.
I dont think it looks too bad.

Sunday, 8 August 2010


While we were in France my mobile phone uses french networks, and we seem to randomly change between them, sometimes while staying in the same place!
It doesnt seem to make much difference, I dont use the phone much on holiday, and then mostly for texting.
When we got back to Portsmouth and were heading back up the motorway I was hugely entertained to recieve the following message from O2, my network.
"Thankyou for travelling with o2 in Iceland"

Iceland!!!!! I was in France

Monday, 2 August 2010

Happy Holidays

Me(after a few drinks) and Izzy one evening on the campsite.

Gosh a whole month has passed since I last posted, in that time the school year has ended and we have been to france for two weeks.
I think it has rained nearly every day since the beginning of July and the farm is now looking green and lush, while we were away in France Richard had left instructions for the relief staff to buffer feed the milkers and young stock with bales of hay and silage while the drought ridden grass recovered, and certainly despite being up to their knees in grass the young stock seem very disappointed each day that nothing extra arrives.

Our trip to France was not without problems, or its start was, our ferry was booked for 7.30am on monday the 12th and we planned to drive down to stay overnight in Berkshire with my Ma. On sunday morning I popped over to Tescos to pick up a couple of last minute supplies only to find that the car would not accelerate above 40 mph, catastrophe! I came home and got Richard to have a test drive which confirmed that there was a problem. Being sunday we could not get the garage to look at it till monday to I phoned and dalayed the ferry by 24hrs.
Then we just sat and waited till monday morning when we dropped the car at the garage and hoped it would be a minor and easily fixable fault.
No such luck, it was the Turbo and could not be fixed in time.
So we were down to plan B, which was go in the LandRover!

Anyone who has seen our farm vehicle would not choose it as a reliable method of carrying 5 people, 5 bikes and all the junk we need for a 2 week stay, let alone a trip to the Vendee.

But it was that or dont go at all, so it got a quick power wash outside, hoover inside, change of oil and grease some bits underneath. Then we loaded it up and set off to Grannys house..... at a steady 60 mph. I dont think I have ever driven that journey quite so slowly.
Richard decided that given the Landies advanced age, 20 yrs, and the fact that normally it does about 3000 miles a year, we had better take it easy. Also no radio and the roof leaks when it rains. Off to the beach for a picnic on the Isle de Noirmoutier.

But we made it, the LR did us proud and covered all 1400 miles with no problems at all, in fact it was a real handy place to dry swimming towels and cossies and started quite a few conversations on the campsites and in the various carparks we used.

It also makes a good drying rack.

We had a lovely holiday, mostly the sun shone, we ate and drank far too much and I spent many happy hours lying on the beach reading my way through the small library I took with us.

Routine maintenance.
The children swam and played in the pools, waterslides and even in the cold cold sea, we all rode our bikes, some further than others, and generally had a great time.
Really my only complaint was how long the travelling took us.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Happy Friday

We went to bed last night with steady rain falling outside. Normally there would be nothing special about this, after all we live in the wet north west of England, the west side of the country is much wetter than the east due to the prevailing winds and the Atlantic.
This year has been very dry, I have heard mutterings about an imminent hose pipe ban, and the crops and grass are suffering. Overall we will manage due to the extra land we took on last aytumn but the problem is grass that the cows can walk to. We only have 100 acres here and though we are rotating the herd around it the grass is not showing much recovery by the time we need it again.
Hey, what can you do, If it's not too little rain it's too much, or at the wrong time in the wrong place.
Good job farmers aren't in charge of the weather.

This morning it was sunny again but everywhere was refreshed and smelled green, lovely.

I cant remember if I said before but of the 150 ewe lambs we bought back in the autumn, one turned out to be of the male persuasion, well sort of, he had been castrated and under a woolly coat it's a bit hard to tell what sex they are.
We only discovered a few months ago when R noticed him having a pee, ewes crouch to pee while males just stand there with a vacant expression while the pee comes from under their belly rather than their rear end.
Anyway this was cause for great rejoicing here in the trenches as I wont have to wait for any of this years boy lambs to get big enough to eat. Barbie, the sheeps new name, and short for BBQ went off to slaughter this afternoon, he will be hanging up in a cool dark place for a couple of weeks before being butchered for the freezer.
I brought the liver home with me and we will be having some for supper and I will spend the next few weeks looking through my recipes for lamby inspiration. We have never eaten much lamb, mainly because it is so expensive, so I'm looking forward to it.

We are working up to going on holiday, we have a milker booked and someone to check the sheep, its a complicated business leaving a livestock farm and R will get totally stressed out covering all eventualities. Once we drive away he can mostly put it out of his mind and have a relaxing break. We are going camping in France again which suits us all, not expensive, space for everyone, french food and wine to drink and R gets his agricultural fix peeking over the hedges at french farms. I have not stayed in many hotels and I always feel like I am there under false pretences, and frankly the thought of taking the children to a hotel is not relaxing at all.

Have a good weekend, it's my oldest girls 12th birthday on the 4th July so we will be partying.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Something and Nothing

I cant understand why so many people dont use indicators while they are driving, do they forget, do they think its too much bother or dont they think about it at all.

Generally I am fairly law abiding when I am in the car, I try to only speed on the motorway and then only when the rest of the traffic is going that fast, I dont use my mobile in the car though I will pass it to a passenger to answer for me.

I'm sure I have lots of bad habits in driving but I do indicate. I think that not only is it good sense to let other drivers know what your intentions are but it's also good manners, in fact it is so automatic to me that I do it when there in no-one to indicate to. I drove back from Manchester late last night in splendid isolation on the roads and indicated at every turn and roundabout, very well trained.

The small town nearest to us has recently changed all the car parks to Pay and Display, there was a huge outcry and many meters of column in the local rag were devoted to all the arguments for and against.

As far as I am concerned it's fantastic, for the princely sum of 30 pence for one hour or 50 pence for two, I can always get a parking space. Frankly there is not much scope for spending longer than that in town, there is a WH Smith, Boots, Superdrug, sundry independent chemists, newsagents and lots of estate agents, banks and charity shops. Oh yes and the Library. Even including the Library I dont think I could spend longer than 2 hours there.

I realise that people who work in town have to park somewhere but it was almost impossible to find a space to park if you were just making a short trip. It still makes me smile being able to choose a parking space after years of not finding one.

I was coming home from Manchester last night after going to see the Scissor Sisters, I was thrilled by their performance which surpassed my expectations. I was not a big fan of Ta Da their last Album as I felt it was too middle of the road, nothing to offend anyone there and not very scissory but Night Work is worth the wait, and they do put on a good show.

A couple of nights ago I was locking up and evicting the cats from the porch when I heard a strange noise outside, I looked and then nipped back in to get my camera and take a picture of this little chap.
I'm sure there are lots of small wild things like hedgehogs round here but we very rarely see them, I'm not sure this one will be back as he scuttled off sharpish after I let off the flash in his eyes, he was tucking into the left over cat biscuits for the farm cats.
Last night there was a toad sitting in the cat plate but it was raining and I didnt take a picture.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Not a Gardener

I am not a gardener, not at all, and anyone that has actually seen my garden would agree that it is a wilderness. We keep the grass mowed and I do get occasional flurries of enthusiasm and tackle the weeds in some part of the garden, but mostly nature runs riot.
The children all know where the cream for nettle stings lives and how to apply it.
This rose bush thrives in spite of me, every couple of years I hack it back to a shadow of its former self and expect it to give up.

But no it keeps on growing and flowering, it smells gorgeous, particularly with the honeysuckle that has invaded and that I twine along the fence. I am less keen on the virginia creeper that takes over and strangles everything else so I might have to stir myself to pull/dig it all out.

Another welcome seasonal flower is this poppy, they are stunning and seem to glow in the evening light. They are made more precious by their short season of just a couple of weeks, still there is always next year.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Lambs are us

Just in case anyone was wondering how the lambs were doing, as you can see they are huge and very noisy when separated from the milk bar!
We think that this is Lettuce with her mum and twin brother Cucumber.

And this is the shearing platform, the flat bit where they are shorn is on the other side. The strange white blob high up on the right hand side is a (willing) volunteer sheep to encourage the others up the race. She seemed completely unbothered by it and the girls fed her handfulls of grass.
The shorn sheep came out by Tom's feet and went up into the mobile handling system where we could give them a dose of fly repellant and treat any sore feet before releasing them back into the wild.
There were a couple of sheep who shot out of the shearing rig and immediately hurdled the fence and headed for the hills.......... They will have to take their chances with the flies till we next have them penned up.

I Think We'll Call Them Shorn

These are our ladies in waiting, the big day has arrived, the shearer is here, we have the woolsacks, or "sheets" as they are known.
The slaughterman came with Moll the dog and son of Moll,( but he was confined to the lead as not being well trained enough for a big job like this,) and all the ewes plus lambs were penned up, about 150 of them. We brought the 4 tups from home, where they are waiting for autumn, and a few "sickies" who have been in the hospital field.
Harvey the shearing man arrived with a fantastic trailer that unfolded into a shearing platform with a race along the top to funnel the sheep to him, and a shute for the shorn ewe to escape down afterwards. Only a couple escaped the wrong way and had to be caught so we could apply the fly repellant they need in the summer.

And this is what they looked like afterwards, the children were astonished at what long necks they have. I just kept giggling as they all looked so surprised.

This is Harvey who has muscles like you wouldn't believe, actually if you saw him wrestling those sheep you would believe it!! That sheep didnt stand a chance.
We laid the fleece out and picked off any dirty wool then folded and rolled it up, then stuffed them into giant pillowcases which we will take to the collection center next week. This is Richard sewing up the woolsheet with the twine and wooden stake provided.

The children all worked like slaves, this is Izzy holding a fleece she has rolled, the pile behind her is the daggy bits we have pulled off.

It was a very long day, after milking in the morning they got all set up over in the field and shearing by 11am, I had to take the girls to ballet lessons in the morning then rushed back home, made sandwiches and got there at 1pm, they stopped for a quick lunch at 2pm them finished and got back home at 7.45, only to milk the cows again, who were not happy at being nearly 4 hours late.
Finally at 9.30 our student went home and Richard came in for supper, we were in bed by 11 and I think Richard was already asleep!
We had a great day but we're glad its only once a year and next year if it falls on a weekday I will be keeping the children home as essential workforce.