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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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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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The Best Laid Plans

We’ve switched bulls again and sadly Floyd went off to market on Monday along with three barren cows.  They were taken in a lorry but Dan went to the sale in the afternoon to see how they did.  Quite well, is the answer although Dan was quite sad when he came home.  This is why Gordon and I won’t actually take them ourselves – we’re obviously too soft.  Felix the Red is now in play although currently ensconced with about forty heifers on the riverbank.  He was originally turned in with eleven and the last of those calved this morning.  We’ve had a fairly mixed bunch: male, female and stillborn, but following a discussion between the three of us we decided all calves born to Felix this year should be sold.  For the first time ever we find ourselves in a situation where we have enough followers to keep us going for the foreseeable future and even before Felix’s offspring arrived we’d already had twenty heifers.  Also, we worked on the theory that if we sell his daughters for the first year we’ll be able to keep him longer before he starts serving them and needs to go.

That plan seemed excellent in theory.  This morning there was a spanner in the works in the form of the last heifer’s calf.  Do you remember the little red calf born some years ago?  She’s been in the herd for several years now and her own daughter calved this morning.  Of course, she has the red genes and Felix is red, so we now have a conundrum in the form of this:

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Excuse the terrible photos, they were taken with my phone.  She’s an Alexandra and red.  Red, for goodness sake!  Gordon and I both love red friesians so it looks like she’ll be staying.  Isn’t she adorable?  The trouble is, this was not in our plans at all.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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