Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Lazy Dogs in the Sun

No sooner do I complain about the rain in this morning's post than the sun comes out! The rain has stopped, the sun is trying to shine and the temperature is rising. It's what's known as "growy" weather. Stand in a field long enough and you will see the grass grow. But, not only the grass. The weeds have smelled the sun and rain as well, and if we don't act now dockings will be a nuisance.

No more nasty chemicals for us! Just a farmer and a nifty bit of kit from the Lazy Dog Tool Company. Each weed loving lifted by hand.

Here Comes The Sun

Is that our weather forecast? No, I'm just been optimistic, I can't promise instant sunshine, but I thought it was a more upbeat title than "Down Came the Rain" etc. After 21 days we had our first April shower on the 22nd - nearly half an inch, and then yesterday it was over 1 and quarter inches. And it's still raining.

If you look at the Live Weather page on our website, you'll notice slight anomalies in how we record the weather - temperature in Centigrade, wind in mph and rain in inches. It's all down to me I'm afraid, I can visualise how hot 13 (or 30!) degrees is, but have to pause and think about 13 cm. It's an age thing.

And here's the real forecast - "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall".

Friday, 20 April 2007

On track with Organic Certification

Nearly one year into conversion, we had our first major Soil Association Inspection. Someone (nameless) asked me if that meant they came and tested the soil! Would that it was that simple.
This link gives a brief outline of the record keeping required, but only scratches the surface of the real work involved.
After more than six hours of examination (records, stock, buildings, land) were were passed with "No areas of non-compliance". All credit to James who has worked hard updating records, checking them and gathering everything together when he would probably rather have been outside doing real farming, such as playing/working on our new "digger" which is arriving this evening.

It's not just a digger (I'm told), but a more of a tele-handler that will do much more. (Will it put the star on top of the tall feed bin next Christmas?).

Now I know it's not a JCB (and nor was the old one), but have you ever heard a song about a Manitou?

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Back to the real job . .

Back to the real job . . well, the one that pays the bills.

There's advantages and disadvantages to working a rather unique shift pattern. The main advantage is time off during the week (3 days together every six weeks), which gives me time to keep on top of things (farm paperwork, shopping, cooking and cleaning - if there's time left over and/or we're having visitors). I've been at home 5 days now, and miraculously the first two days at the weekend were hot and sunny, so I did that very rare thing - worked in the garden. I also sat out and read a lot (well, it might be all the summer we get). Then it's been three days of mainly paperwork, with enough shopping to get us by. But now the bills are all paid, the PAYE end of year has been submitted, I'm on top of the VAT and the bits of paper are all filed (or stacked in the woodburning stove waiting to be burnt), and I'm ready to switch off one hat and put on my IT one. And that's the disadvantage, if I immerse myself in home and farm life, it's very hard to go back into work. But needs must.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Website Update

Just a brief reminder that if you really want to know about Strickley, visit our website.

On Sunday James took about 100 photos of the cows in the Paddock, two days after turnout. Some will feature in the Shorthorn Society's Journal later in the year, and some in its Summer Flyer, which should be published in time to hand out at summer shows.

In the meantime, I posted a selection on the website, with links to lactation and progeny details, so you've no excuse not to know everything about them.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

The Thermometer Never Lies!

If you looked at our Weather page yesterday, you would have seen a maximum temperature of 29.7 degrees. And if you then looked at a "real" weather site (such as the BBC's) it would have appeared to have been a bit cooler.
Traditionally, the recorded temperature is "in the shade", but as our gauge is in direct sunlight, we are recording the actual temperature. While not strictly scientifically correct. it is accurate in its own way - that was the actual temperature in the Teapot Field yesterday.

We are planning to fall into line with the rest of the meteorological world, by building a Stevenson Screen. We've got as far as buying some louvre doors (from a car boot sale), but so far they are languishing in a shed.

I can confirm that it felt like 29 degrees, as I was planting up the newly created flower beds round the patio. Watch this space for photos of my green fingered expertise. Though, those who know me, may suspect that the results will not be quite as spectacular as I envisage.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Test from phone

This is a test post from my mobile phone. If it works I will be very impressed and surprised.

Friday, 13 April 2007

Who Let The Cows Out?

How do you know that Spring is turning into Summer?

The first swallow?
Hedges starting to blossom?
Lawnmowers coughing into life after being hidden away for 6 months?
Gardeners with bad backs from unaccustomed exercise?
Easter Eggs replaced by barbecue charcoal in the supermarket?
Caravans on the roads?

No - the real sign that summer is on its way is the sight of cows in the fields again.

The sun is shining and the grass is growing so this afternoon our cows get to run around like school children at playtime, as they go into a field and eat fresh grass for the first time since last autumn.

"Turnout" is a welcome milestone for farmers as it means (in theory) less time "doing up" and more time for other work (not time off of course!). Not all the stock go out at once, it's staggered, with the milking cows first, then the dry cows, younger heifers and finally young calves.

Up until the Sixties and Seventies, many cows were housed in shippons over winter, usually tied up. So their exuberance on the first day out was more exaggerated than it is now, when they are housed in large buildings, with space to walk round, lie down and feed. I wish I had a film of our cows running down the Paddock, but as I'm stuck indoors this one (see link) will do.

I don't want to criticise the video, but it's maybe too simplistic in implying that only Organic cows get to eat real grass. The vast majority of conventionally reared dairy cows live outside in summer - and are only brought inside when the weather, grass growth and conditions underfoot demand it.
And - most importantly - don't forget
SHORTHORNS - A Native Breed for the 21st Century

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Back to Reality

As I scoured the house for empty glasses and bottles (how come there's always an empty Stella bottle under the piano?), and checked what stock was left in our "Drink and Drugs" fridge, I was running through several suitable titles and musical links for this Post. I thought of calling it Drink and Drugs, but thought that might attract unwelcome attention. At the same time what seemed an apt link popped into my mind - so click on the link below for a Seventies icon at his peak.

And just to reassure you, in case you've never experienced our hospitality, the drugs in the Drink and Drugs fridge are purely for veterinary use. Our inside fridge is far too full of wholesome goodness to hold any liquid refreshment.

So, a good Easter was had by all. I hope yours was everything you hoped.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Final Tally - 70

The Mole Catcher has put away his traps and contraptions for another year, with the comment -

"I've got to save some to catch next year".

There's an unearthly air of peace and quiet at Strickley now. After fours days when the house was full of family (twins, children, grandchildren and dogs), we are suddenly alone. Miraculously everyone seems to have loaded their cars with the right bags, dogs and children. I haven't checked the bedrooms yet, but wouldn't be surprised to find a stowaway grandchild or dog. Any moment now the phone will ring as someone realises why there was an empty corner in the car.
The next time we all get together there will be an extra one (here in principal over the weekend, but not quite ready to make an appearance). Watch this space.

Friday, 6 April 2007

I'm a Lumberjack . . . .

At last the patio has been suitably christened. We put out the new table and chairs (bought last Easter in anticipation of having somewhere to use them, but kept in storage for a year), and cracked open a bottle (not French Champagne, but sticking to our usual principals of eating and drinking all things English, English Sparkling Wine).

Today it was back to work on the next phase, laying a path round the house to link the patio to the front of the house. We've a deadline to meet as we're committed to hosting a big family party in June. No time now for sitting around in the sun - which it turns out is not always possible. An Elder bush has been spreading and casts an unwelcome shadow over the patio in the early evening.

So here's where today's title comes in - Henry did what he called "a bit of light pruning". But it involved a chainsaw (and suitable safety equipment of course), and now the tree is a heap of logs.

I'm sorry there's no dramatic photographs - but nothing could surpass the link below.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

We don't just sell milk . .

You might think that being Dairy Farmers that we only sell milk. And while it is true that we now don't have any sheep, and our regular income is from Dairy Farmers of Britain, we also sell a considerable quantity of pedigree stock. Over the past twelve months we have sold all ages from weaned bull calves (to a local farmer to be reared as beef), heifer calves (to another Shorthorn breeder), cows and calves to a young farmer just starting out on his own, cows in calf to Southern Ireland, young heifers to a local organic farm (experimenting with coloured breeds), a cow in milk to a smallholder as a "house cow", an in calf cow to an Open Farm in East Yorkshire, as well newly calved cows and heifers at the Shorthorn Society's twice yearly sales.

So wherever you are - look out of the car window at the cows in the field, and you may see some Strickley cows, and remember the future's not Black and White - but Red, Red and White, White and Roan!

If you're visiting either of these places, look out for the Dairy Shorthorns - they are almost certainly from Strickley

Drink Pinta Milk a Day

Did you see the BBC programme on Monday night - Shopping the Supermarkets? This week it was "Milking the Suppliers" and for once came down quite heavily on the side of the producers. In the confines of a half hour programme it managed to convey the hold that the big Supermarkets have over suppliers. If you saw it, I bet you never buy a cheap lettuce again without thinking of the farmer selling to Somerfield for 1p each.

And saddest of all - the continual demise of dairy herds in this country, illustrated in the programme by the dispersal sale of a whole herd.

This is a light hearted Blog, so I won't get on my soapbox, but in a selfish way try to spread the word that


As with most things in life, adverts are not what they used to be - click on the links below to see how we used to advertise milk.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Mole Count

65 and rising. .

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Mole Count

61 so far
to read about moles click the links

Sunshine on my shoulder

A sunny day at Strickley, so just in case it's the start of a long hot summer, we've been putting in an outside tap on the new patio (so I've no excuse for not watering the plants - so I'll probably drown them instead). When I say "we" I'm using a bit of artistic license, my role being that of plumbers mate (passing the tools).

Our gardening is restricted these days to plants and herbs in pots, but James has been busy planting vegetables in his garden - first and second early potatoes, onions, shallots and cabbages.

Following on with the theme (do two instances make a theme?) of using song titles, click on the link below for more "Sunshine on my Shoulder".