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.