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Scaredy cat

As you may recall we currently have four cats: Cinders, Thomas, Gizmo and Scamp.  Cinders and Thomas are both fairly advanced in years and have perfected the art of getting we humans to open the door for them rather than exert themselves by going through the catflap.  Of course if there’s no human to hand they will manage unaided.

This afternoon Cinders was meowing by the door, I opened it for her then turned to fetch Dan’s coffee.  The catflap rattled and she was back through again.  I cussed her for wasting my time, told her she should make up her mind where she wanted to be, opened the door and found myself face-to-face with a very startled fox in the porch. 

That would explain her reluctance! 

Yoghurt and crochet

For Christmas I requested and received a yoghurt maker from Lakeland.  I had the equipment to make yoghurt years ago after mum bought me a contraption that looked a bit like heated rollers with individual glass pots at a jumble sale.  When I turned it on to test it there was a slightly odd singeing smell which made me nervous so rather than make a decision about it, I tucked it in the back of the cupboard where it stayed unused for years.  I do this often, but I’m not sure why.  Perhaps I’m under the impression it will improve with age.  It’s gone now and has been for some time although I can’t recall exactly when I decided it wasn’t worth keeping.

Part of my ‘do a thing’ resolution is to stop clinging to these old and unnecessary items.  If I ever need the item and have thrown away the old and decrepid version, let’s face it, nowadays we aren’t far away from the new and improved model for probably a third of the price.

Back to my yoghurt maker.  Normally I would plan to make yoghurt for some time, read the instructions, contemplate them and then maybe get around to doing it.  Not this time!  Out of the box, cleaned as per instructions before first use and switched on.  Two teaspoons of live yoghurt, a pint and a half of boiled milk and eight hours later I had a large pot of my very own yoghurt.  It’s good too, creamy and fresh, and I have the satisfaction of knowing I made it myself from our own milk.  Now I’ve done it once it’ll be more straightforward next time.  I’ve even frozen some to use as starter for the next batch.  I also received butter-making and cheese-making equipment so that’s on my schedule, but I’ll keep you informed.

Another thing on my virtual list (it hasn’t yet made it to paper) is to do something with my very basic knowledge of crochet.  I’ve been researching various stitches online and yesterday I designed (as I went along, truth be known) a crochet flower to use as a brooch.

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It looks black but it’s a shade of blue.  S’alright, isn’t it?  I’m quite chuffed. 

Today my ‘thing’ will be to pack away Christmas and sort out the cupboard I store everything in.  At this rate, by next Christmas I might have a handle on it.

Do a thing

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?  I usually resolve not to, refusing to jump on the bandwagon and suffering the remorse when I forget all about them in a very short space of time.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about it this year though.  While I’ve been milking every morning I’ve given it a bit of casual thought and think my New Year’s resolution might be to ‘do a thing’ every day.  I often think that perhaps I’ll bake tomorrow or organise a cupboard but when the time comes I make an excuse or forget all about it.  Consequently I have frozen fruit in the freezer for when I get round to making jam and a whole heap of stuff waiting to be listed on ebay to name a couple of things – there are many other things waiting to be done.

The thing is, I need to make a decision to do it and then just do it instead of getting distracted or finding something else to do.  Does everyone do this?  I refuse to believe I’m the only person with this problem, but I do know I have it pretty bad.

Consequently and in preparation of a bit of organisation I bought a shoe rack online last week. It came yesterday and I spent almost the whole day assembling it, sorting my shoes which were in the bottom of the wardrobe, sorting my clothes into the space created at the bottom of the wardrobe and generally tidying.  I felt very happy with the end result and was surprised at how satisfying it was.  I even threw things away.

Today I made wholemeal bread with my stand mixer and the dough hook.  I’ve been meaning to do this since I had the mixer for my birthday in 2014, but never got round to it.  It took me less than quarter of an hour.  Quarter of an hour for goodness sake! Then I let the dough prove on top the aga covered with a damp cloth until it was big, stuck it in the oven for twenty minutes and voila!  Bread.  Rather good bread actually, some of which we had with tea.  After that I got a bit carried away and thought I might make scones.  Well, I made something following the recipe but it didn’t look like scone mix to me so I improvised and ended up with something like baked dumplings that taste a bit scone-like, but that’s ok.  Maybe next time?

I haven’t decided what my thing will be tomorrow but maybe I should make a list so I can have the pleasure of ticking things off.  It will be an incredibly long list!  Things done already and the year has yet to start! 

Just a quick one

You may have noticed my blog has been ‘resting’ during December and I wish to hell I’d decided to do the same thing.  I’m not really AWOL – more like regrouping – but just so flippin’ weary.

In November (following a punch-up with an inanimate object), Daniel broke a bone in his hand and hasn’t been able to milk since.  This means I’ve been up before the sun for about six weeks and milking on a regular basis.  The doctor originally told him to stay home but that lasted for about two hours until he got bored and appeared in our kitchen.  I’m sure there are all kinds of implications – Health and Safety and insurance being just two of them – as to why he should be resting safely at home, but he’s used to working and gets bored quickly.  We had a reshuffle whereby I milk in the morning while the boys do outside things like feeding, cleaning and bedding-up, Gordon milks in the afternoon, Dan does outside stuff and I occasionally feed the calves if he’s busy.

We haven’t had anything calve for a little while and all calves are gathered in for the winter.  The youngest seven are still being bucket-fed and a further five are in a larger pen but not yet weaned.  In total this year we’ve had fifty heifers and there have been serious discussions about actually selling some of them – we haven’t sold any but we have talked about it.  For Gordon this is progress as he doesn’t even like selling the old/lame/barren ones from the herd and has to be persuaded to let them go.  The year before our first bull (Ferdinand) came into the herd we had a total of three heifers born with many bulls or Hereford/freisian crosses so this figure is what we were aiming for at the time.  Floyd is coming to the end of his time here as his eldest daughters are due to start calving in April after spending the summer with Felix the Red and although he’s still ‘functioning’ (unlike Ferdinand, you may recall) he isn’t so good on his legs and may have to go to slaughter rather than as a stud bull.  We’ll decide nearer the time.

I hope you all had a good Christmas Day?  Both the girls came home and Christmas Day was lovely this year.  The Aga behaved itself for a change and Christmas lunch was cooked just when it was supposed to be.  We all had presents we were pleased with and spent a lot of the day talking.

Anyway, I’ll catch up with you again in the New Year I expect.  Hope it’s a happy one for all of us.

Misinformation

This afternoon Terri and I decided to go to a Christmas craft market at Blackmore Farm near Bridgwater.  The stallholders were local and the farmhouse itself is ancient and interesting.  I treated myself to a willow trug and haven’t stopped admiring it since.  It was made by a lady called Sarah Webb who chatted whilst I made my choice and gave me a card with her website address on when I paid her.  Unfortunately the address doesn’t seem to work so there’s no point in linking to it, but should I find where the website is I’ll let you know.  Here’s my beautiful trug – as you can see, it’s quite large and I love it.  It will be perfect in the summer for gathering my ‘harvest’ from the garden.

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Whilst wondering around afterwards I got into conversation with a lady selling Christmas puddings and almost immediately she brought the subject round to how healthy her puddings were, only using good products, etc.  She then announced proudly that “of course, I only eat New Zealand products myself”.  When I asked her why she informed me it was “because New Zealand is the only country that doesn’t ‘pump’ its animals full of growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics”.  Terri, sensing an impending storm, moved out of range and left me to it.

I told her that this country doesn’t use any of those things either and in fact I was under the impression they’d been banned for the past twenty years or so.  She rather grandly stated “oh, I don’t think so dear, they’re very much in use here.  I know lots of farmers who use them”.  Now, if I’d have been an average consumer, impressionable and likely to believe such a tale, I could have accepted this as the truth, gone away and told all my friends to only buy New Zealand meat.  But, here’s the thing – I’m not!

I told her that I was in fact a dairy farmer myself and was sure that growth hormones had been banned in this country, and steroids or antibiotics were only used for medicinal reasons rather than to aid growth.  She looked confused, but adamant she was right.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that most New Zealand lamb is now considered halal and killed appropriately so it can be sold to both the Muslim community and non-muslims.  I’m not even sure she would have understood what I meant and I couldn’t face the prospect of going round in circles verbally.

Changing the subject slightly she asked “what kind of cows do you have on your farm?”.  When I told her ours were British Friesian she pulled a disgusted face and said she only really liked Guernsey cows, implying that anything else was inferior.  I walked away before I became any further embroiled in what was turning out to be a pointless discussion.

As I was leaving she turned to her companion and said “do you hear that Mabel (or whatever her name was)?  I can eat British meat again.  They don’t put growth hormone in it any more.”

Where does this misinformation come from?  Is it the British press or had she gathered her knowledge by word of mouth?  The more I dwell on it, the crosser I get because while the farmers of this country struggle to persuade consumers to buy British, rumours such as this abound and people are convinced they’re doing the right thing by buying something with half-a-planet’s worth of airmiles to its name.  There she was promoting her puds and telling me how wonderful they were, that they were produced locally and yet she was prepared to eat meat from a country half the way round the world.

I give up really.  You can’t fix this with a PR campaign.

 

 

Autumn at Stourhead

I haven’t been to Stourhead for a long long time, although my sister and I have been members of the National Trust for about three years now.  With the onset of winter and the sheer amount of colour around this autumn we decided it might be nice so on Monday we set off with a picnic lunch and a thermos of coffee to revisit.

I took many photographs and was completely blown away by the absolute beauty of the place with its temples, trees and lakes.  When I got home and checked my huge archive of scanned-on-to-the-computer photos it looks as though the last time I was there was in 1968.  I would have been six years old and Terri would have been four.

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Here we are sitting on the grass in front of the bridge.  I’m the one that looks like a little boy on the right.  In those days, rhodedendrons were perfectly acceptable and encouraged to grow whereas now they’re considered an invasive foreign plant and have been removed as much as possible.  This is the same view taken on Monday, but the bridge is now closed off so people can’t walk across it.

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As you can see, apart from the removal of bushes nothing very much has changed although the trees are more autumnal.  I’m assuming, since we’re both in frocks – same frock, different colours of course because that’s what our mother did – that it was the summer of 1968.  By then, both my father’s parents had died and we often went away with our maternal grandparents on days out or holidays.  My mother was an only child and would be about the same age in this photo as Alexandra is now, which is a really scary thought.

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Anyway, back to modern times.  This is a selection of the photos I took on Monday.  I hope you like them.

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Walkabout

A couple of weeks ago Gordon and I went on holiday.  Well, I say ‘on holiday’ but we actually went away for a couple of days to stay with friends in their caravan at Durdle Door.  I’ve been there before but it was a first for Gordon.  The day we arrived it rained a lot, but the second day was better although still a bit drizzly on occasions.  We went into Weymouth and visited Nothe Fort, took a trip to Portland Bill as well as dropping into Lulworth Cove.  Photographs were taken, of course.

This squirrel saw there was food being handed out on the other side of Nothe Fort grounds and literally made a run for it.

This squirrel saw there was food being handed out on the other side of Nothe Fort grounds and literally made a run for it.

Once he was there he fought off hungry pigeons for the spoils.

Once he was there he fought off hungry pigeons for the spoils.

This overlooks the harbour of Weymouth

This overlooks the harbour of Weymouth

This was taken at Portland against a clear blue sea.  The seabed is chalky which gives the water a reflective quality.

This was taken at Portland against a clear blue sea. The seabed is chalky which gives the water a reflective quality.

I should have tried to get a person into this photo so you could see the size of this chunk of rock.  It was huge.

I should have tried to get a person into this photo so you could see the size of this chunk of rock. It was huge.

Nothing like a good old red and white lighthouse to let you know you're at the seaside.

Nothing like a good old red and white lighthouse to let you know you’re at the seaside.

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The clear sea crashing in on Lulworth Beach. I love the look of wet pebbles.

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Despite the calm looking water, boat trips were cancelled.

Since our return we’ve managed to do most of our second-cut silage.  The vintage (old) forager limped along in the continued absence of our newer one (clutch problems) until she developed a major leak of hydrostatic fluid this afternoon in the last field.  A contractor has once again been contacted and will be coming to round bale that tomorrow.

When I went in to feed the calves this morning, one was missing.  The front of her pen had been knocked out and she was nowhere to be found.  We started off by looking around the yard, behind and under things, but there was no sign of her.  We then extended our search to the ditches but didn’t hold out much hope.  If she’d fallen in a ditch overnight and wasn’t still bawling then the chances of finding her alive were fairly slender.

This afternoon when Gordon went into the workshop for the quad in order to fetch the cows, he came out with a big smile on his face.  She was asleep behind the quad bike.  She definitely wasn’t so obvious this morning and the very large sliding barn door had been shut all day, but she’d made no sound.  We led a much subdued calf back to her pen and gave her a bucket of milk which was gone in no time at all.  Tonight we’ve shut the door to the calf shed just in case she decides to go walkabout again.

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