Friday, 31 August 2007

And Some Fell On Stony Ground

Now this might look like an alien lunar landscape, or a dried up river bed in a land that never sees rain . . . .
But it's only a few miles from here on the A684. Have you read the Blog entry from yesterday? This is one of the fields we reseeded. And where do you think it comes in the sequence of events? After the ploughing? Or maybe after the harrowing?

No, it's after sowing the seed - on very stony ground.

It has been said that . . .

"This is the sort of field which, when picking stones, you have to 'walk around with your eyes shut!' "

James took the photograph and suggested a musical link to go with it. Listen to the chorus, and change the stoned to stones and be standing by the phone when we ask for volunteers as "Everyone must get stones".

P.S. - do you know that if you click on a picture it will (usually) open up full size in a new window.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

We Plough The Fields And Scatter . .

Well there's more to reseeding than that . .

We're reseeding a field on the Lots, plus the Front and Back Bank - ie

We plough the field
We pick stones
We power harrow the field
We pick stones
We level the field
We pick stones
We scatter the good seed on the land
We pick stones
We roll the field

Then it's up to God to feed and water it.
I hope there's not too much snow in winter, enough warmth to swell the grain (make the grass grow), not too many breezes, some sunshine and just the right amount of soft refreshing rain.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

A View From An Expert

As you know we are reseeding some fields this autumn, and after the contractor had finished ploughing on The Lots we had an expert (aka Henry's younger brother) give his opinion on the soil. So I take no credit for the following, quoted word for word from Arthur's report. Normal Blog rambling will resume in due course.


Brownearth is on the slopes and higher areas where drainage is better, and gley is on the flatter slopes where drainage is impeded.

The gley is blue-grey because the iron in it is ferrous, which means that one iron atom combines with one oxygen, because there is little oxygen in the soil. The lumps in soils are called peds. Gley is fairly structureless, so there are large peds, and plants don't like growing in it. Where there are rust-coloured spots these are called ferric mottles, and they occur where roots have gone into the soil, rotted, and allowed oxygen to get down to change the ferrous compounds to ferric (two iron atoms to three oxygen). The gley soil is also shiny because the ploughshare has streaked out the wet clay (like wetting a palette knife to smooth icing).

Brownearths are rust-coloured because of the ferric iron. They are well-drained with plenty of oxygen, so plants grow better. This means there are more grass roots in the soil, which break it up into breadcrumb peds (crumby peds sounds nicer!), and they keep it well-drained
With grateful thanks to Dr. L. A. Robinson, B.Sc.Hons., Ph.D., PGCE, Adv.Dip.Ed.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Surely it's not the end of Summer?

A long time ago when we had proper weather and real summers August Bank Holiday was at the beginning of the month and heralded in four weeks of non stop sunshine, days at the beach, picnic and ice creams - and no need to think about school for ages. But now the Bank Holiday is at the end of the month, and seems to just remind us of what we have missed. It's no longer a time to look forward to summer, but a signal that it's rapidly disappearing. Shops are full of school uniforms and pencil cases; parents and teachers are counting the days till the start of term.

And the next Bank Holiday? Christmas!

Maybe I'm just a bit fed up as instead of making the most of the weather (which is actually quite good) I'm stuck in a cold air-conditioned office.

Back at home the farmers have been busy all week. As part of our Organic Conversion we have taken The Lots back in hand. The parcel of land away from Strickley has been let out on a grazing licence for a few years, while we rented in some fields that joined onto ours. We may have continued with this for a few more years, as it is very handy for stock, but the landowner doesn't want to be involved in our conversion plans and we will be giving it up at the end of November. So this week Henry and James (with help from young farmer Robert) have been on The Lots tidying up wall gaps, moving sheep pens etc - getting ready for the contractor to plough two of the fields. We're reseeding about 30 acres this year, with the sort of mix that suits our organic plans.

And there's no time off this morning either - one of the ACR's in the parlour is playing up, so that's to be sorted before tonight's milking.

Maybe I do have the best of it in a nice cool office.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

All wrapped up

What's been happening at Strickley this week?

Monday - we unloaded a load of barley straw bales and stacked them on top of the barn silage pit.

Tuesday - passport applications and Shorthorn registrations for all the latest calves.

Wednesday - repaired a drain on the Lots that was silted up.

Thursday - found an optimistic weather forecast and mowed the Back Bank (5.83 acres).

Friday - after the grass had dried out (from the inevitable overnight rain) it was scaled out and then rowed up ready for the baler. So far so good. But, our usual wrapper was away. However he trusted us to do a DIY job using his wrapper. So by 10:00 pm there were 38 neatly wrapped black parcels - and thanks to the wonders of technology (and Rob's camera) you can click on the link and watch James' expertise.

Saturday - slept in! Well, we woke up suddenly just after six and realised the alarm hadn't gone off - no electric. We got up quickly, knocked up James, and within twenty minutes were milking as normal - thanks to Operation Generator. About eighteen months ago we started to consider how we would cope without mains power, and bought a generator "just in case". It's powerful enough to run the parlour, dairy and house; and once up and running there is no noticeable difference in the supply (apart from the noise of the tractor outside the pantry window). This was the first time we had run it in anger and it's justified our decision to invest in it.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007


Driving to work on my own means I can listen to what I want as loud as I want (and repeat it as often as I want if it's a particular good track). I've copied a hundred or so songs to mp3 and put them on CD's for the car. By setting the playlist to "random" I am constantly surprised and usually (as I chose the songs in the first place) delighted by what plays.
I'm also sometimes struck by the aptness of the music. Last week my journey home was a nightmare - the M6 was closed both ways and all traffic was diverted through Kendal. The town and all approaches were gridlocked by the sort vehicle not intended for our roads. So what was on the CD player? Road to Hell (Chris Rea) of course. The extended live version from his last tour - definitely one to turn the volume up. And last night the rain was horrendous (look at the graphs on our weather site to see how much came down per hour). Somehow the right music came on - Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall". I just hope the first song this morning isn't a warning of what's to come - "Thunder Road".

Thursday, 9 August 2007

All is safely gathered in

Straight from the farmer's mouth - second cut silage all in the pit!

A huge sigh of relief all round (and maybe a refreshing drink of something or other tonight)

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

At last - some good news

All the grass is cut and the contractor came this afternoon, so at last the grass is headed for the pit.
But that's not the really good news -

Twin heifers about two hours ago.

If I was into similes it would be something like "a rollercoaster week" or "swings and roundabouts". Maybe it's "the sun shines on the righteous".

I wanted to use this link - it's maybe a bit too cynical, but as it's rarely heard, here goes.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Trying hard to find something positive to say

It's August 6th and we've still not cut for second crop silage. We can't remember ever having been so late. It's mainly due to the weather and being in a queue for the contractor. We only need three fine days - and and a half to cut and one and a half to pick up. But no matter how optimistic we are in the morning with the sun shining and the wind blow drying the grass, we end up dejected by evening when it rains just enough to wet it again.

But we have confounded one particular run of luck - in the past 7 days we've had 13 calves - four bulls and NINE HEIFERS!

The latest was born to Lady Serene 2 last night, after one and a half hours of hard physical work by the vet. Thank you Jane.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

A Black Day

Today should not have been like this. In our imaginary ideal world we would have finished silaging and be looking foward to getting suited and booted for our nephew's wedding.

But the weather has been cruel - only a measly 10 big bales instead of a pit full of clamp silage. And it's raining again - with not the tiniest chink of hopeful blue in the clouds. So it's a day off, of sorts.

But it's a case of "do you want the good news or the bad news?" - "sorry, there is no good news".

The bad news is bad - Foot and Mouth confirmed in cattle in Surrey. 2001 is too recent and we're all thinking of what farmers went through then. We don't deserve it again.

P.S. - on a lighter note - I didn't know they had farms in Surrey - I thought it was all stockbrokers' houses and golf courses.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Cartmel Show

A day of two halves - showing at Cartmel, and starting to mow for silage.
Those of us who went to Cartmel had a good day, despite a few hiccups and irritations (no water when we arrived, beef judged before dairy). There were more Dairy Shorthorns than any other breed - eighteen I think (from four exhibitors) with a very poor showing of Black and Whites. We only took one trailer with four animals and were very pleased with the results.

Calf under 12 months
2nd - Goldie 181
Heifer or cow in milk
1st - Pansy
2nd - Goldie 162

Dry Cow
1st - Geri

Geri was born in 1996 and is due to calve her 10th in September.

Pair of Shorthorn Females
1st - Pansy and Geri

The Lady Moyra Cavendish Perpetual Challenge Cup for the Best Exhibit in the Shorthorn Classes - Pansy


The Thomas Burton Memorial Perpetual Challenge Cup for the Best Pair of Female Cattle of any breed - Pansy and Geri.