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Archive for June, 2012

Saturday 30 June 2012

Yesterday after breakfast and after Gordon had peered gloomily at the rain he suggested an outing!  Yes!  Another one!  This time he thought we should go to Minehead on the West Somerset Railway from Bishops Lydeard so that’s what we did.  It rained and was cold, but we sat like an elderly couple on the seafront eating our fish and chips (becoming a habit) and discussing things for an hour or so until it was time to return.

The steam train was great.  I’m not a train enthusiast by any means, but there’s something about a steam train chuff-chuff-chuffing along the track beside the sea and past fields.  We didn’t have a cream tea from the buffet car as we’d already eaten fish and chips but it was still an enjoyable day out.

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Still Waiting

Thursday 28 June 2012

The rain continues and we continue to wait for it to stop.  There are certain farming tasks that carry on as normal whether it’s raining or sunny, but silage-making isn’t one of them.  We been discussing the options and have decided that if it doesn’t dry up soon we’ll have to make a start regardless of the ground conditions, but none of us are keen on the idea of silage contaminated with mud.  It doesn’t keep well and will be inferior feed with which to over-winter the animals so in the meantime Gordon tweaks and tinkers with the machines until we need them.

Tiger is much improved and now putting on the weight he lost whilst so poorly.  This means that he’s permanently hungry so gets stepped on frequently!  Every time a cupboard in the kitchen is opened he’s there scrounging: I’ve stepped on his toes twice already this morning.  He has one more appointment with the vet but last week they were pleased with his progress.

This week we have a young lad called Jacob with us on work experience from King Alfred School in Highbridge.  He’s worked on a beef farm before during the summer holidays and was keen to see the differences between that and dairy farming.  He’s mostly working with Dan and learning how we occupy ourselves when we’re waiting for the rain to stop.  He’s helped with the milking several times this week and I think he’s quite enjoying himself.  He’ll probably report back that we’re all quite odd here, but that’s what happens when you don’t have to conform to the ‘work ethic’.  He has a booklet to complete detailing how effective our website is, how we deal with customers and several other totally irrelevant points so most of that will be not applicable.

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Friday 15 June 2012

Stephanie came home last week in preparation for silage-making.  She’s finished her uni work for this academic year and was kicking around whilst her friends had either gone home or were working.  It was raining when she came home and continued to do so for the majority of her visit, so she went back again to wait until we really need her.  The silage-making is, in the meantime, on hold.  The ground is waterlogged to such an extent that even the cows are struggling to walk across it so the prospect of driving tractors over it looks bleak.  To add insult to injury, the forecasters are gleefully telling us the horrible weather is set to continue for the rest of the month, but I’m sure it will eventually stop raining long enough for the ground to dry.  The delay has given Gordon plenty of time to get the machines ready to roll so we wait.

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned this before (I could look back, but probably won’t!) but since Gordon has given up smoking (last July and still counting) he’s got a bit ….. well, odd!  He’s taken over the cooking for a start, something I did for the first twenty-four years of our marriage.  Not only has he taken up cooking, but he’s inviting people round and cooking for them.  The other day whilst I was out lunching he took it upon himself to do the weekly shop!  The weekly shop, for goodness sake.  Now he’s suggesting outings.  Day-time outings for no good reason.  Never one to look a gift-horse in the mouth, I’m just going along with the whole thing and enjoying spending a little bit of extra time with him, even though I’m a bit perturbed by this whole new person.  I’m beginning to wonder if he’s mentally winding down in preparation for giving up the whole farming thing, but time will tell.

Subsequently, on Tuesday we went to Lyme Regis.  I thought it was only a year or so ago that we went there for a walk along the Cobb, but when I looked back at my photos it was in 2007 so another visit was overdue.  It was his suggestion and the reason for it?  He “wanted to eat fish and chips on the seafront”!  We helped out with the morning milking then set off in the rain.  It took an hour or so to get there and was pretty cold initially, but we walked along the Cobb, looked at the boats and even spoke to a couple of fishermen before coming back to find fish and chips.

This is Gordon’s idea of funny!  The Cobb is narrow, high and sloping and I asked him to stand on the end so I could take a photograph.  He stood on the very end with his heels overhanging, grinning at me like a loon whilst I worried he was going to drop on to the rocks.  It doesn’t look high, but it’s a good twenty feet down!

This has to be the biggest plug I’ve seen – plug for what though?  Whatever it was, it hasn’t been used for a while judging from the rust.

I don’t actually like seagulls ‘in the flesh’ but still think they’re impressive looking birds.  These two were very noisy.

Almost a dance!

As usual, I’m fascinated by texture.  This rope looked like it was tied up to the remains of an old cannon!

It was still too cold to go paddling and these pebbles were pretty uncomfortable to walk over as well as constantly shifting.

We bought fish and chips from a kiosk that was advertising the fact they’d been mentioned in The Times, and once we got the meal we could see why!  The fish was very fresh, came with two sachets of tartar sauce and a quarter of lemon whereas the chips were crunchy and cooked to perfection.  By then the rain had stopped so we did get to sit looking at the sea whilst we munched our way though them.  Neither of us could finish the whole meal.

On the way home we saw a sign for the Lyme Bay Winery so followed that down a country lane until we got there.  Gordon did a little ‘sampling’ and we came away with four bottles of speciality wine as well as some cider called Jack Ratt.

Last night he took me out for tea and now he’s hankering to have cream tea on a steam train!  Odd indeed.

Yesterday a cow called Grace had twin heifers, so that’s good news although she’s only feeding one.  We’ve taken over the feeding of the other one with the teat bucket.  She had a heifer last year too on 27 July so in under a year has brought the number of Graces in our herd up from one to four!  Our current heifer count is twenty-five which outweighs the number of bulls born by quite a few.

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Thursday 7 June 2012

Several days ago Gordon and I walked down the road after milking to check on the dry cows.  Several were springing-up: their udders were filling in readiness for calving.  The biggest, an old girl called Alexandra looked about ready to pop.  We discussed her for a few minutes and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hmm, she looks pretty close to calving.  Shall we walk her back to the farm?

Gordon: She’s a crafty old bugger.  If we shut her in a pen she’ll probably not calf til the end of the week and she’ll only miss her friends in the meantime.

Me: Will she be alright up here?

Gordon: Yeah, I’ll come and check on her in the morning.  She’ll be alright unless she falls in the ditch or something.

The following day she hadn’t calved.  Yesterday she hadn’t calved.  This morning she started to calf – and promptly fell in the ditch!

I had a phone call from Gordon at 6.45 am, which severely interrupted my much anticipated lie-in by the way, to tell me he needed my help so we set off down the road with the matbro and plenty of ropes.  When we got there she looked chilled as if she’d been there some hours.  We couldn’t tell whether she’d calved or whether she was in the process of calving since she was up to her neck in water, but once we’d got the rope over her head and started to drag her out the calf was clearly visible – two large front feet, a nose and a dangling, swollen tongue.  Gordon gloomily pronounced it dead and since the cow was pretty knackered and chilled, we got the calf out the quickest way possible.  We attached the rope to the calf’s legs and the other end to the front of the matbro which Gordon then put in reverse.  As the calf was slowly pulled out it started to blink and struggle so despite having its nose and mouth underwater for a couple of hours, the umbilical cord had remained attached, saving his life.  The cow was then ‘airlifted’ back to the farm before we brought the calf back in the bucket with me leaning against him so he didn’t wriggle out.  He looks pretty weird since both his nose and tongue are very swollen, but he’s large and spirited so with a bit of luck he’ll make it.

We had to take Tiger to the vets yesterday.  He’s been losing weight for a little while and was gradually losing enthusiasm for anything, but we upped his diet to wet food and kept our eye on him.  By yesterday he was looking decidedly ill so off he went.  The vet said he was amazed Tiger was still alive since he had almost no red blood cells although he couldn’t find any reason for such severe anaemia.  He’s now on a course of antibiotics and steroids to see if that helps.  We have to take him back to the vets next week for another check up.

Now, tell me if this is a tad harsh but yesterday whilst fetching the cows I found a tag, obviously from a balloon which had landed in the field where our herd was grazing.  It had blazoned over the front ‘WHERE DID I LAND?’ as well as the name and address of a school in Chepstow.  I’m tempted to write back telling them it landed in our field, minus the balloon, and should one of our cows drop dead suddenly, be autopsied and the cause of death be as a result of eating said missing balloon, their insurance company will be hearing from ours!  Harsh?  Too harsh?  Possibly, but the amount of crap we pick up from our fields that gets there via balloon or even worse, chinese lanterns, is beginning to rankle just a little.  In my mind it’s glorified littering.  Surely in this day and age there must be other ways of raising money for schools without causing countrywide contamination?  On top of that our land is a seagull’s flap from the landfill site where scavenging birds pick up all manner of plastics only to drop them onto the ground when they find them inedible and alongside the M5 motorway where passing motorists think nothing of opening their windows and flinging their litter out with gay abandon!  We’re picking it out of the hedges almost constantly where the wind blows it to the edges of the fields.

I’m thinking of putting up a large sign – Welcome to our beautiful Somerset countryside.  Please feel free to chuck your McD’s boxes, KFC containers, aluminium tins and other general waste that could quite easily stay in your car until you reach home here.  By the way, don’t forget used nappies and condoms – we just love picking those up!

Seriously, it has been known!

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Tuesday 5 June 2012

Daniel is away on holiday and has been since last Wednesday, so all we’ve really done is work.  We’ve watched a little of the jubilee celebrations on the tv, but it’s gone on until late into the evening and we’re in bed early!  They were lighting a beacon on the top of our nearby hill, visible from my kitchen window but I forgot all about it and was in bed by ten so missed that.  I’m glad the weather was good yesterday: shame about the rain today.

When it was warm yesterday I walked out to fetch the cows with my camera, stopping by way of the garden first because Gordon said he’d seen a woodpecker.  I couldn’t find it to photograph, but did notice my foxgloves are out in force.  The seeds were ‘Apricot Beauty’, but the flowers say otherwise.  Of the eight or so I planted in the garden, only one is vaguely apricot-coloured and the rest are either deep pink or cream.  Never mind, they make a good show.

On Friday I made the trip to Minehead to visit my friend Julie of KC’s Court.  We went out to lunch (thank you Julie) and then to her local garden centre where I bought some lovely herbs.  I’m gradually allowing herbs to take over my garden but decided to pot these up for now until they get bigger.  The first night the basil was attacked by visiting snails so the following day I put slug pellets around them.

They are two types of thyme (at the front) a tricolour sage, applemint, basil and sweet woodruff in the centre.

The cows were reluctant to walk in as there was plenty of grass, but they were also quite thirsty.

The photo below amused me simply because this cow was happily grazing on stinging nettles.  You’d have thought they would have stung her tongue, but she was totally unconcerned.

Today when I walked out for the cows I put on my waterproof trousers and coat as the weather was completely different and the cows came in quickly.

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