Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Too much to do, not enough time

Far be it from me to complain about the upturn in the weather, but the sudden emergence of the sun brings its own problems.

The grass has been growing all through the past wet weather and now everyone and their dog is itching to cut it and get it either chopped or baled. But there's a queue for the contractor, who isn't going to get much sleep while the weather holds. (But they've all had the past month to catch up on sleep).

The 10 acres we cut on Sunday is now baled and waiting for the wrapper. The barn pit has been cleaned out and the door put in. (No more taking a shortcut from the house to the main silage pit). And the tyres are even now being taken off the big pit and the sheet loosened.

But now here's the dilemma - we know that the contractor will probably (breakdowns permitting) get to us sometime on Thursday, and there's 80 acres to mow. But tomorrow is Cartmel Show. We've being showing there for about 40 years, and we've already missed out on 2 shows this year (cancelled due to the weather), so we don't want to miss it. And of course we've got some very good stock. So we've had to split our resources; James is going to the show, and Henry is staying at home to mow. (It only needs one, for as everyone knows - "One man went to mow; went to mow a meadow. . "). I'll be tagging along at the show (with a basket of food) along with Michelle and the boys, and we're hoping for a good day.

Watch this space.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

A Break in the Clouds

At last the weather seems to be turning a corner. This is the second fine day in a row - so it's time to roll out the tractors and make the most of the weather. James is mowing 10 acres to make into big bale silage (we had hoped to make hay of it, but the weather hasn't been kind to us) and Henry is discing the ploughing in Wellbank.

Yesterday should have been Penrith Show, one of the highlights in the Shorthorn calendar. But it was of course cancelled due to the state of the field. But part of it lived on. The North of England Calf Show still went ahead but at Strickley. It does us good to host an event every so often, as it makes us tidy up and clear out a load of junk etc. There were 25 calves and handlers from 2 to 20+, with a mulitude of family and friends. Paul Harrison (scheduled to judge at Penrith) opened the day with a talk and demonstration on handling, stressing the need for both the calf and handler to be turned out well (not like James who was showing how not to do it), the importance of the right halter (we're off to buy a new one), and of course watching the judge.

The handlers were then put through their paces in three age groups, followed by the Overall Championship. We barely had time to draw breath before it was time for the calves to be judged (again in 3 classes dependant on the age of the calf)

Champion Handler - Shaun Dixon

Champion Calf - Cactus - G A & D W Dent
Reserve - Goldie 181 - W H & K M Robinson
Hon. Mention - Goldie 176 - W H & K M Robinson

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Let's Do The Show Right Here!

Yesterday we heard that Penrith Show (28th July) has been cancelled. That's two shows we've missed so far this year because of the adverse weather (Royal Lancashire was also cancelled). But Penrith is a major part of the North West Shorthorn calendar - not just because of the numbers of Dairy Shorthorns on show (more than any other breed), but because it incorporates the North of England Calf Show. This gives young handlers (some as young as 2, but many more up to 20) their first experience of showing. It's taken seriously but with a real sense of fun for everyone. So while us adults can grin and bear it, no one wanted the young handlers to miss out. It was decided that we didn't need the surroundings of a big Show to still go ahead, so guess where it's going to be - that's right - STRICKLEY!

Saturday, 21 July 2007

The Naked Cleaner

No pictures - I leave that to your imagination - but what's the best thing to wear to steam clean the shower?

That's right - nothing!

It wasn't me - I was paying the bills - so let your imagination run riot.

Most popular destination?

Today's the last time Henry and I will be on our own for sometime. It seems that Strickley is the destination of choice this summer, whether you're travelling from the Midlands or the other side of the world.

Tomorrow my Australian cousins arrive to spend some time with us, at the end of an extensive tour of Europe. I hope that they think the continuous rain is a worthwhile feature. Then next weekend Victoria, Glenn, Elliot and Fletcher are coming up, especially to go to Penrith Show (which I hope doesn't succumb to cancellation due to waterlogged fields like so many others). Then some friends from Bristol are coming with their caravan as part of a tour of Northern Regions, and finally, for now, the week after a young family of second cousins are coming to camp for a week. They had such good weather last year they're coming back again. I fear their optimism may be misplaced.

So if you're stuck for somewhere to go - give us a ring! But preferably not all at once.

But seriously, we don't mind at all. I love having people to stay, and a house big enough to accommodate them.

We plough the fields. . .

On a summer's evening it's nice to look out of the kitchen window towards Wellbank and see the cows. It's particularly picturesque (in a not too chocolate-boxy sort of way) when the sky's deep blue and the sun is low in the sky casting a deep golden glow over the cows.

But I came home on Thursday and there was a bit of an agricultural whiff in the air. No cows in the field now - just brownish streaks. And by last night, there was not a blade of grass to be seen. We've ploughed up the old grass prior to reseeding.

But if you want to see the cows in Wellbank, well click on this link to Google Maps.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Cold Spare

I'm well known at home for forgetting to lift out Ice Cream before we want it, and having to scrape slithers instead of scooping scoopfuls. But this week it hasn't mattered. It's come straight from freezer to table as "soft scoop"; very soft scoop. So when I was able to stick my finger into a previously rock hard bowl of homemade Orange Ice Cream it was time to act. We've had our suspicions about this fridge-freezer for some time, as a vital looking bit at the back of the freezer compartment is hanging off. But opening the door with my eyes closed I've been able to ignore it.

Now another thing I'm well known for is always have a "Hot Spare", or in this case, a "Cold Spare". So I did a stock take of what was in the Drink and Drugs* Fridge - 33 cans of Boddington, Carlsberg and Fosters, plus a shelf of miscellaneous drugs*. It was a time to prioritise, so the drink has been relegated to the slate slab in the Back Kitchen. If you are passing by and get offered a beer, it won't be as cold as it used to be.

I've moved all the food from the pantry fridge to the spare fridge and as soon as I can grab a strong man to help me move the fridge to get at the socket, it will be switched off prior to further investigation.

* veterinary only

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

The Camera Never Lies . .

. . . or now you see her, now you don't.

Last month saw us (well Pansy) triumph at the Royal Highland Show and I was quick to post a photo on here. I know it wasn't the best in the world (she was standing wrong) but it was instant. We've now got hold of a better photo - almost perfect, but of course it still shows the handler, so I enlisted the help of a touch up artist (Rob) and Pansy is now standing perfectly as every Show Cow should with no one holding her!

So sorry Wendy, you have been rubbed out.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

What's the weather like today?

July 15th - St Swithen's Day

But what has the weather been like?

OK this morning, then sunny enough to cut the grass and oil the patio furniture, then back to miserable drizzle.

So will that be the pattern for the next 40 days?

St. Swithin's Day, if thou shalt rain,
For forty days it will remain.
St. Swithin's Day, if thou be fair,
For forty days twill rain nae mair.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Hay Wrap

Well not really hay - but 77 silage bales are now lined up and waiting for the Wrapper.

But a good excuse to watch this video.

It Was Forty Years Ago Today (well nearly)

I knew I was getting old, but just in a natural unstructured sort of way, but hadn't really thought about how long it was since I left school. But yesterday it was brought home to me how long ago it was. I had a phone call from a girl (well, we're all still girls aren't we?) that I hadn't seen since we left school - in 1967. She's organising a reunion for later in the year and was ringing the Class of '67.

I'm not sure if I want to go or not. I have put off answering with a definite yes or no, as it will be on one of a my Saturdays at work. But do I want to meet all these girls again? I can't say they will be younger than me, but the chances are their lives will have gone in different directions to mine. Will they all be tall and slender? Rich and famous? Well, I'll never be any of those, but happy and contented? Yes. What would we talk about? There will no doubt be lots of "do you remember. . . " and "whatever happened to. . . . ", but how much will we still have in common? Are we all grey haired Grandmothers, with photographs of our families (and in my case cows as well)?

Someone wrote "The past is a foreign country" - and I don't know if I want to go there.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Window of Opportunity

At last ! A chink in the weather!

After a fine weekend, we're feeling optimistic and the mower is back on the tractor, on it's way to cut a few fields for (I think) big bales.

The good/better weather is bound to continue as I'm due to go back to work on Thursday. I had better make the most of these last few days by either:

1 - getting up to date with the paperwork
2 - cleaning the house from top to bottom
3 - ironing
4 - sorting out the freezers (full of food, but never anything to eat tonight)
5 - sitting outside with a book.

Which should I choose? Difficult decision!

Friday, 6 July 2007

Dear Diary

When I started this Blog I thought it would be easy to scribble a few words each day. I never intended it to be a recital of my daily routine (got up at 6:30, had 2 slices of toast etc), assuming that there was always something going on that I could talk about. But it’s proving to be a bit difficult. I would hate people to think that we were sitting around doing nothing in between Milkings, and I’m sure most of you realise that there’s more to farming than that. Of course Milking is the backbone of all our work – without it, no milk; no milk, no income.
So this is a brief outline of what the two farmers have been up to today –

(and apologies to farmers for this Dummies Guide approach)

6:00 – alarm goes off in two houses. Henry grabs a banana and goes to get the cows in.
6:15 – James gets the parlour ready for milking.
6:30 – the cows are gathered in the Collecting Yard and start to come through the parlour. It’s an Alfa Laval 12/24 – which means that 24 cows come in at once, 12 down each side. As the cows come in James or Henry recognises them and presses buttons on the Feed Controller so that each one gets the right amount of dairy cake. The units are put on the first side, and the milk starts to flow, filling the large glass jars above the cows. As the flow of milk from each cow lessens the ACR (automatic cluster removal) kicks in and removes the unit from the cow. We then send the milk from the glass jar though to the Dairy next door. The units are then put on the cow on the opposite side. When all of one side has been milked, the exit gate is raised and they head off to the Cattleplan (indoor housing) where they get a bit of buffer feeding (the silage that James has put out). The entrance gate in the parlour is opened and the next 12 come in.
7:30 – as the last cows leave the parlour, the units are washed out and the parlour hosed down, so no traces of muck remain. Clean water and detergent is run through the system and the parlour left clean and hygienic. Meanwhile the milk is cooling in the bulk tank. By it reaches it, it is already several degrees lower than when it entered the system. It passes through a series of pipes which are cooled by the Ice Bank Cooler. It is kept at about 3 degrees until collected by the Milk Tanker.
8:00 – breakfast
8:30 – the cows are let out to the daily pasture. This may be the other side of the road to the buildings, so we try to avoid school run times, though most drivers accept that it’s a fact of country life that cows sometimes have priority on the road.
At this time of year there are not many animals inside to feed, just the youngest calves who are still on the bucket, and the stock bulls. The Cattleplan and alleyways and yard are cleaned up with the scraper tractor.
Most of the stock is outside, so at some point during the day one of us will go round and check them, especially the in-calf cows and heifers.
Most of this morning was taken up with a visit from what could be loosely termed our “feed rep”. I think the correct term might be “Account Manager and/or nutritionist”. This was a planned visit, to look at the whole farm. He took samples of grass, and first cut silage, so we can make informed decisions about feeding.
12:30 – dinner, and as it’s Friday, time to have a quick look at the 3 papers that matter (Westmorland Gazette, Farmers Weekly and Farmers Guardian).
13:15 – back out again.
More routine work – mucking out the two stock bulls (Radar, Hooton Perfection), fixing some spouting that’s been hanging off since someone (nameless) hit it with the loader, and other odd bits of maintenance. (What is sometimes known as “jobbing about”).
15:45 – quick drink and chocolate biscuit
16:00 – time to get the cows in again for milking
18:30 – no extra jobs today, so inside for supper.

And if you want to compare a routine day in 2007, with one in 1940, go to our website - and click on the 1940 Button.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Did Anyone Miss Us?

A gap of over a week with no posts!

We've just returned from a very wet week in Wales, with very little to report. We were in a caravan in deepest mid Wales, with no mobile phone signal, no television signal and certainly no Internet. But plenty of rain, rest, drink, sleep and did I mention rain?

But just to show it wasn't all doom and gloom, here's a farmer on holiday enjoying the one fine evening.
Normal blogging will be resumed as soon as possible