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Archive for the ‘Days Out’ Category

Long Time Gone

July!  And now it’s almost the end of September.  Sorry.  

Whilst I’ve been gone we’ve done more silage-making, the company putting in many acres of solar panels have almost finished, we have our own array on the new barn roof (that’s new roof, not new barn), Gordon bought a new (second-hand) tractor, mower and hedgecutter with some of the money the solar company gave us, I have a new car (Ford Fiesta automatic) and sold my beloved PT Cruiser to a nice man who promised to look after her, we’ve had many calves (and sold most of them) and worked a lot.  

I went on a short trip with friends to Cornwall where we went to a regatta at Charlestown (where they’ve filmed some of the Poldark scenes), Mevagissey and the Eden Project.  I have photos to prove all of this but they’re on my computer and I’m not, so hopefully you’ll see some later unless I disappear for another three months which is, to be honest, entirely possible.  In Mevagissey I was pooped on by a seagull – don’t tell me it’s lucky because it really didn’t feel lucky.  It was such a large amount of poop that some went on my friend sitting next to me and we had to find a bathroom to wash it all off.  I actually had to remove my shirt to get the majority off, then wore a damp shirt until it air-dried, but luckily it was a warm day.  Apparently the seagulls have learnt to do this whenever they see food produced from bags according to the locals, with the aim that they’ll manage to poop on the food and it’ll be thrown away in disgust.  Ours was still in the packaging so no harm was done – to the food at least.

I’ve been kicked in the boob by a cow which hurt a lot and made it difficult to breathe for about ten minutes until I could determine whether ribs were broken. Fortunately it doesn’t seem as if they were and although I’ve been meaning to get it checked by someone medically inclined I haven’t got round to that either.  The bruise is fading now anyway and I’m (slightly) obsessively checking for damage – if anything untoward happens I will be sure to get it checked (before you tell me I should get it checked!)

We’ve had visitors aplenty and many social occasions which means that when I’m not working I’m simply tired.  However, I will try harder to visit you more often, especially now you’re caught up. 

If not, have a lovely Christmas :D🎅.

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Bishops and Bees

Hasn’t it been hot this month?  Terri and I have been out and about courtesy of Groupon (discounted tickets) and our first port of call was the Bishop’s Palace in Wells.  We’ve lived near Wells all our lives but never been around the Palace or gardens even though we’ve walked around the outside many times.  I’m not really sure why we never made it past the gates as once we did we spent a long time in there.  The gardens contain the ‘wells’ or springs that gave Wells its name and although I don’t know how big the grounds are, they’re beautifully laid out in a series of gardens.

I took lots of photos!  When do I not?  The bees are out in force and I can’t resist a good bee photo.

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Today we went to the Bishop’s Walled Garden in Cannington where I repeated the experience.  I hope the bees avoided the last plant as it is sticky and bug-eating.  I’m not sure it could manage a bumble-bee, but I’m sure it would have a good attempt.

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Silage-making is once more upon us.  Gordon and Dan worked hard and sorted out the gearbox on the newer of our two foragers, getting it ready for action last Thursday.  The older one requires a pump originally sent off for repair in Scotland, but it came back with an incorrect shaft fitting so had to go again.  Since then until today we’ve been mowing, foraging and rolling with the assistance of our other nephew Chris (Dan’s younger brother).  Despite him telling me it’s ten years since the last time he graced us with his presence as a tractor driver it seems to have all come back to him and we’re making very satisfactory progress.  Yesterday was interesting with the addition of a drizzly rain for the best part of the day which made everything sticky and the failure of one trailer when we were almost finished.  To add insult to injury and with just one trailer-load to go, the trailer I was hauling hopped off the hitch and buried itself in the ground which meant Dan had to rescue me with the loader.  Today the boys have been making repairs so I’ve had a ‘day off’ to catch up on various things (like accounts, yuck!).

I’ve bought new glasses from Glasses Direct which I thought were very reasonable (they’re not paying me for the plug, by the way).  They’re transition lenses so I’ve been driving the forager in them and realised that for the past couple of years I haven’t actually been able to clearly see the pickup hitch!  I’ve been able to catch it (it’s an acquired skill from years of experience), just not able to see it.  How weird that I didn’t notice.  If you ever need new glasses I can thoroughly recommend their website.  They even send you glasses to try on at home before you put in your prescription details and choose frames.  Should you fancy trying a pair, let me know – I have discount codes and if you’re recommended by someone you get £30 off, plus I get an Amazon voucher.

Both Gordon and I have been gardening this year.  Gordon has finally found the enthusiasm for more than just mowing the lawn and is nurturing tomatoes, peppers and melons in the greenhouse.

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He spends ages out there watering, feeding and ‘pinching-out’.  Since I’ve been struggling to do this single-handedly for years due to his complete lack of interest, this amuses me very much, but I let him get on with it.

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I’ve planted lots of herbs and random bits of plants I’ve been cultivating in various pots and tubs, including this tin bath we found when sorting out Gordon’s mother’s greenhouse.

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My enclosed raised beds are doing very well and for once I’m able to grow things the cats can’t get to.  We refer to it as ‘the safe house’ although someone did call it ‘Gordon’s splendid garden erection’ the other day which made us laugh.

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Radishes and beetroot.  We’ve been eating the radishes for a while, but the beetroot aren’t ready yet.  It’s nice to be able to keep them in the ground without something digging them up.  If it isn’t the cats then the foxes will usually have a scratch around to see if they can eat it.

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Our woodpecker is back for the peanuts and this time he/she has brought a youngster who sits on top the archway waiting to be fed.  Every time they’re both there I run for my camera but haven’t been able to catch them together, which is a shame.  Look at those claws though.

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I don’t really celebrate Easter, but thought I should wish you all a happy one, just in case you do.  Farming tends to rely more on the seasons than what ‘holiday’ we’re celebrating at the time.  The cows don’t know it’s Easter and still insist on being milked every day so we plod on.

We’re busy with calving at the moment and are already at our desired number of heifers for the year.  We still have about four-fifths of the herd to calve and are once again debating what to do with the extra girlies.  When we had our first bull we were desperate for replacements and kept all that were born, but considering there were fifty last year alone and twenty so far this year, I suspect we may have reached our target.

Our solar panel plans continue with the company who are putting them in informing us they’ll make a start after Easter.  Of course, they also said they’d start straight after Christmas so until lorries roll up we won’t be expecting too much.  Everything we do in the meantime is on hold, waiting for the first rent payment to roll in.  With milk prices dropping all the time, this is becoming a bit of a necessity.

The weather has been fantastic here apart from the odd little bit of rain.  I have some beautiful Christmas roses in the garden and despite a bad back, have been crawling underneath them to reveal their full beauty – honestly, the things I’ll do for a good photo.

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And the redness of this one.  Sadly they’re so much more attractive from underneath as the flowers tend to hang down.DSCN7511Due to the clear weather Terri and I have started visiting National Trust properties and started with Lytes Cary Manor (or Scary Manor as dad likes to call it).  They have some great weathervanes there – I think I may be a little obsessed with them although we only have an old one here.  Perhaps I should look into getting a good one for the top of the old barn in the yard?DSCN7590

Although it wasn’t too cold there the day was hazy, which gave a great effect to my tree photos with the stripes of hazy hills in the background.

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This morning Secret World, a rescue centre near here, had an open day and I went along with Terri and her husband Steve to see the animals.  There weren’t many out and about, but there was a lovely European eagle owl called Daphne, a male turkey strutting his stuff with his wings and tail puffed right up to impress the ladies and a strange, bedraggled-looking emu called, imaginatively ‘Emu’. He kept peering at us through the fence and when we walked around the outside he kept pace on the inside.  Emus are weird-looking things, aren’t they?

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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.

 

 

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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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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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