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Archive for May, 2008

This beautiful white foxglove was part of a flower arrangement at the Bath and West Show.  I grew a foxglove last year – just one – and felt very pleased with myself.  It was only a common pink one so nothing as elegant as this.  It got as tall as the garden wall and the wind whipped it around for the rest of the summer.  I have a couple more planted this year, but they are literally doing nothing.  It’s true, my horticultural skills are pretty appalling!

I milked this morning, did the accounts after breakfast, then visited a craft fair at Watchfield Village Hall which is so tiny that it took me all of two minutes to walk round.  If it hadn’t been for the fact that I knew a couple of people there and stopped to chat, I could have been in and out again in minutes.  I had to come back to fetch the cows for Gordon and by the time we’d done that, the girls had gone – Alex with Jack to Woolacombe and Steph with Ben to his house for the rest of the weekend. 

Alex only has another week at Uni then she’s home for the summer and Steph has about six exams left and she’s home until September when she’ll start Bridgwater College.  I hope they don’t get too bored.

We had friends round this evening for a meal and now it’s off to bed.  I’ve got another early start in the morning and will probably do it on automatic pilot again. 

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Yesterday was the first day I’ve missed an entry, but it wasn’t really my fault, honest.  I couldn’t keep the internet connection in the evening for more than a minute at a time.  Normally, I struggle, dial my mobile which seems to pick up the line, cuss occasionally and hope it will come back eventually, but I didn’t have the enthusiasm or patience to wait!

Yesterday mum, Terri and I went out to lunch with my friend and her mum, who is currently undergoing chemo too.  She hasn’t been as pain-free as mum and her treatment is continuing as she has pancreatic cancer.  She is improving though, which is great news.  Our lunch break lasted for something like two and a half hours and involved lots of catching up, laughing and gossiping.

The photo, totally unrelated to anything from yesterday, was taken at the Bath and West before it started to rain, although the ground was so soggy around the enclosure that it was difficult to get closer.  Terri suggested she could pretend to be dead in order to encourage the vulture over or at least cause it to turn around, but we decided that lying down in the mud would ruin her clothes and it would be easier to use a zoom lens.  It’s called a white-backed vulture I think.

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It’s a well-known fact amongst friends and family that Gordon hates the Bath and West Show.  One reason is that it used to be an agricultural show and still advertises itself as such, with farm animals of all kinds, including some of the more exotic ones like these alpacas, but it is now open to the ‘general public’, many of whom just go for the shopping experience.  A lot go with young children who are bored within an hour, tired and whiny within an hour and five minutes.  It presents an idyllic picture of our ‘rural heritage’ and suggests that all is peachy in the farming world by pointing to how well farmers have diversified into things like rare-breed chickens/pigs/sheep, etc.  A small minority of the owners of such animals are farmers in the traditional sense; that’s not saying that some of them aren’t, or that they’ve done a bad thing by giving the public what they want – top-end cheeses, sausages, apple-juices, etc, but just as many are smallholders or hobby-farmers.  I’m not putting them down and good for them; at least they’re in a position to keep these rare breeds alive, but there isn’t a lot of profit involved when done on a large-scale.

This morning he asked whether I fancied going.  Apart from the surprise I have to admit I was a bit suspicious, but it turns out that he’d been thinking about it and as the weather was so unreliable there wasn’t much else he could do.  We can’t start silage-making until the ground is drier and he cleared up other chores in preparation for that.  I jumped at the chance of course and he suggested asking Terri and Steve if they’d like to come along too.

We didn’t have a clue what the weather would be like, so layered our clothes accordingly with sensible shoes and waterproof coats for good measure.  When we got there the ground was already muddy as a result of the rain yesterday, but apart from being hot in a humid way, the day was clear.

Until …….

At about four o’clock there were a few spots of rain.  Before we’d had a chance to put our coats on we were starting to get wet.  Within minutes the rain was constant.  We were up around the far end of the showground and found a cider-bar that also served apple juice so ducked in there out of the rain, which got heavier, and heavier, and just when we thought it was at its worst, heavier still until it was impossible to see through.  There were a lot of people worse off than us who’d turned up in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops in preparation for a warm and sunny day.  We stayed in the bar and watched as the trickle of rain running along the road outside the door turned into a torrent.  After a while we realised that it wasn’t going to stop, or even ease, so donned our wet (and by now cold) coats, zipped everything up and went out into it once again.  The roadways resembled rivers, and rapidly-flowing rivers at that, full of mud that was being washed off the hillside.  We soon discovered that our boots, although sensible, weren’t actually waterproof, but we were wading through several inches of water in places.  We made it back to the car over totally waterlogged fields and leapt in.  Once the heating was on we all sat there and steamed, fogging up the windows in the process.  Luckily we took the Discovery so were able to negotiate through the mud but we did see some wheel-spinning going on.

We stopped at the Pipers Inn en route home for tea as we realised we hadn’t really had a proper meal all day, just snacks and free samples (mostly cheese, it has to be said).  After a hearty and very delicious steak and kidney pie with potatoes and vegetables, we ran back through the rain to the car.

It rained heavily until we were almost home then eased up a fraction.  When I asked Steph what the weather had been like here she said “we had a little bit of rain at about six o’clock”.  “Wasn’t it heavy?” I asked.

“No”, she said.  “Just a little bit”!

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Lonely Swan

I don’t know if you know this (and you may, of course) but swans mate for life.  If one is killed or dies, the other is usually destined to go through life on its own.  We generally have a pair of swans in this location and last year they built a nest on the side of the rhyne.  They spent their days tending their eggs/cygnets and hissing every time anyone walked past, which was at least twice a day since they were on the home-run for the milking herd.  They also brought their cygnets to the bridge by our gate and were quite happy to be fed bread-crusts, even stretching up and taking it from our fingers.  The male didn’t eat, but stood guard while the female and a brood of seven tucked in.  I think this may be the male although I haven’t had the chance for a close look, but he came back on his own.

Today has been terrible, weather-wise and where possible I’ve stayed indoors, although I had a couple of things to do mid-afternoon.  The garden is well-watered now so it can stop raining as far as I’m concerned.  The cows don’t like it and although they’ll stand in it, their ears droop and they hang their heads, which makes them look very sad.

It also means we’re on hold with silage-making until the ground dries out again.

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I like goldfish.  They’re very peaceful, except for when they’re being fed, when they go into feeding-frenzy mode.  Other than that they’re the ideal pet!

Nothing much happened today.  Four new calves and we still have nowhere to put them.  One of the cows that gave birth today was still in the milking herd and we weren’t even sure she was pregnant.  Well, obviously she was.  Another is 96, one of our Alexandras named in honour of the arrival of our eldest daughter back in 1989.  Gordon had officially ‘retired’ her to our old-girls’ field where he takes those that look like they’ll never join the milking herd again.  If he was a hardened farmer, these would be off for slaughter, but he doesn’t like to after they’ve given years of faithful service, so they’re retired to a small paddock and spend their days grazing and lazing.  We only put her up there a week or so ago as she was so slender we doubted she would ever get in calf, but she knew something we didn’t and produced a red bull-calf this afternoon.  One of the others was also an Alexandra, but one of the youngest in the line.

 

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Nettle

Daniel had the day off today, what with it being a Bank Holiday and everything.  It makes no difference to us of course as the cows need to be milked regardless of holidays, sick days and generally lazy days.  Consequently I milked a herd of very wet cows who stood shivering in the unseasonal weather.  The wind blew so hard that the irises I photographed yesterday were wrecked and lying across the top of the water when I checked the garden.  Shrubs were leaning and the black buddleia I planted at the beginning of the year is shredded in the wind.  It has just reached the height where its top leaves are above the garden wall; everything beyond that is tattered.

The cats, in their wisdom, haven’t budged from the chairs today, preferring to be warm rather than brave the weather.  This is Nettle, the first housecat we got from the Cats’ Protection League some ten years ago.  She was nervous when they brought her and hasn’t improved with age, still running away and meowing loudly if we go near her.  The only time she’s loveable is when she comes to you, usually in bed or relaxed in the chair.  She plays very hard-to-get, needing persuasion to get close, then collapses in a heap as soon as you start to scratch her ears or rub her tummy.  Alex and Jack call her ‘shouty-cat’ and she’s better than any alarm bell as you can always tell when someone’s coming up the stairs or past where she happens to be curled up.  Her calls definitely have a pattern and I’d love to know what she thinks she might be saying.

I can usually guess at four o’clock in the morning! 

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This iris was planted in a pot and placed in our fishpond two years ago.  The fishpond is actually a water trough such as you would find in one of our fields for the cows to drink from, but serves very well for fishes.  We stocked it with thirteen mature fish from a neighbour’s pond and within a couple of weeks it looked like a heron had taken them all.  Eventually we started to see babies; lots and lots of babies, so one of the fish must have laid eggs before being a heron’s lunch.  They’re now the kind of size you’d win at the fair and the majority of them have changed from black to orange.  After a while, three or four of our original fish emerged from the weeds where they’d been hiding.

Gordon was outraged that a heron had eaten his fish, in the same way that he was outraged when deer came into the garden and ate every rose, petal by petal.  They left the plants (probably too prickly), but the roses themselves were sweet and irresistable.  In order to stop the heron swooping in again he build a pergola around the tank and to stop the deer eating all the roses he planted climbing ones on the pergola so they’re too high for the average deer to reach, thus killing two birds with one stone.

The iris, in the meantime, just got carried away!

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