Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Latest news just in . .

from our man in the field -

Brown Swiss heifer calf!

More details (and photo to follow)

Monday, 27 April 2009

Green Shoots!

Well, more a green haze when looked at from the right angle. Yes, the seeds we put in are starting to show.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

As if we've never been away . .

Hello - did you miss us? You maybe blinked and missed the gap in posts while we were on holiday. Last year we managed one and a bit holidays - a night in a hotel in Harrogate when we went to a Chris Rea concert (left home after milking on Sunday, back by dinner (lunch for those in the south) on Monday. Then three nights in the caravan at Ravenglass. James and family didn't fare any better (3 nights in the caravan - but it was near Thomas Land). There were various factors against us last year, including a new hip and protracted silaging because of the weather.

This year we were determined to start earlier in the year, so maybe we'll get two breaks away. Organisation and forward planning is everything. The dates more or less decided themselves. I noticed that The Saw Doctors were playing at Buxton on 22nd April, by which time most of the stock should be out (making it easier for James to manage on his own) and if we stayed until the weekend we could fit in a visit to Rob and Claire's at Belper. So tickets were booked. Campsite booked. The caravan given a cursory check. Loads of time to get it all ready. But as the weather got warmer and the days got longer, farmwork filled every available minute, and by last Saturday it became obvious that something had to give. One of the (supposed) advantages of having a caravan is that you can just up and go at a moments notice. Not so. It needed a bit of maintenance, a new battery (the old one is now on the old digger), and a lot of cleaning to remove the green tinge it had acquired. So there was nothing for it, but to give up the idea of roughing it and opt for the luxury of a B & B.

Isn't the Internet wonderful? When we were rallying I booked a lot of B & B's - by leafing through a paperback directory and phoning. All there was to go on were a few printed lines and the sound of the voice on the phone. Now I can search for any kind of accommodation anywhere in the world with the click of a button. So finding a farmhouse B & B near Buxton was easy. At the back of my mind I was slightly worried that it was too easy - other wise why wasn't it already booked up? I needn't have worried - Barms Farm was everything we wanted and more than we expected having left the booking so late.

We got away on Wednesday morning (after a bit more stone picking ) and with a car loaded with more than the usual suitcase set off. We had arranged to go to Rob's on Saturday and meet up with Victoria & Co who would come up from Wigston. So in the back of the car we had a large box of Lego Duplo (for Izzy), a large box of wooden train set (for Fletcher), birthday presents from us and Wellbank for anyone having a birthday in April and May, wedding anniversary presents (both Rob & Claire and Glenn & Victoria). I'm a hoarder (as I've admitted before) and have a large stock of toys that as well as entertaining children at Strickley travel round the country. In a few years they'll move on to someone else or come back home.

The SatNav took us safely round Manchester, past the Trafford Centre and out the other end to the edge of the Peak District. We managed to find a good pub on the way for lunch and arrived at Barms Farm with time to relax and refresh before the concert. We had a picnic in the Pavilion Gardens (forward planning and good luck with the weather) and waited for the Opera House doors to open. We've seen The Saw Doctors (click on the link if you've never heard of them) in a lot of different venues, but this was by far the grandest. The photos on the Opera House website don't do it justice. But the band was as good as ever - pared down versions of some songs, and gloriously souped up versions of others, finishing with a rousing version of Hay Wrap.

On Thursday we did a bit of shopping in Buxton, then drove down to the Crich Tramway Museum. Maybe it was me who didn't read all the blurb about it on the web and leaflets, or maybe they showed all the interesting bits and not just the highlights, but it was a bit of a disappointment. So no website link - but if you're really into trams I'm sure you'll find your way there. A bit more shopping at Masson Mills at Matlock Bath (Henry this time - he now has more shoes than me!) and a circuitous drive back. We passed Chatsworth (which seems to be very much a brand as well as the most stateliest of homes) but decided to leave it for another day, but couldn't resist the Chatsworth Farm Shop - and restaurant. A late lunch and back to Buxton to rest and refresh before going out for supper. Oh it's a hard life on holiday.

On Friday we drove across country to Hardwick Hall. The entrance price was the same as the Tram Museum, but this time was well worth the money.

There was a long drive from the road up through parkland and this is where I first got my camera out when we saw the Longhorn cattle.

One of my indulgences when we go away is to take an unread book with me. This year I was lucky as one of my favourite author's latest novel was published at the beginning of April. Stephen Booth's books take place in the Peak District and looking at the map (much more user friendly than SatNav in this instance) I could see many familiar places, including the setting for part of the latest book - Eyam. So with map on knee I was back in navigator mode and we completed our own Stephen Booth tour. I put off reading the book as long as possible - not because I didn't want to read it, but I love the feel and smell of new books (no e-books for me) and most of all because it will seem a long wait till the next in the series.

Saturday was a family day in Belper. The sun shone, we sat in the garden (admiring Rob and Claire's expertise with chicken, fruit, veg and flowers - including impressive rain-harvesting) and the children played.

But now we're back home. Henry's was out doing a bit of reseeding with the fiddle drill by 2 0'clock; and I've not really seen him since. The Landrover and trailer shot off with a bowser in the back a while ago, and I hope he will be in soon. This is back to reality - a cold house (we let the Aga go out), cheese and biscuits for supper and no prospect of a Full English Breakfast in the morning.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Managing the Landscape

Over the past few weeks diggers and dump trucks have been trundling down the fields at Strickley. There’s no new buildings secretly being constructed, but we’ve been making use of a necessary evil. As you may know we are plagued by pipelines and cables from every utility company you can think of, and some you probably never thought about. It all started in the 1890’s when Manchester Waterworks Corporation built the Thirlmere Aqueduct to take water from Thirlmere to Manchester. This passes through Strickley – click here to read what Henry’s Dad wrote about it. Since the 1980’s we’ve had gas pipes, pylons, more pylons, fibre optic cable and water (again). None of this has been trouble free, and some companies are easier to deal with than others. On the Strickley website there are photographs of the disruption caused by some of these intrusions.
The latest reason to dig up yet more meadows was National Grid’s necessity to install a souped up power line for Virgin’s High Speed Trains. This has meant that the fields on the east side of the road have been sliced up to provide the necessary working width. There is enough material for several Blog posts on the disruption caused by all of this. So watch this space.
However, back to where I started. The contractors laid out temporary roads for their vehicles, and crossing tracks for us to get stock and machinery through to the grass beyond. Now that the work is almost complete, the last thing to do is reinstatement. We are doing our own reseeding (the whole project has been complicated by our organic status), but the stone had to be removed. We’ve taken all the stone from our section of workings and used it to make a weather proof track from what is known as “The Tractor Bridge” up to Over Bleaze

Our contractors dug out the track and filled in and compacted the stone. It’s now dried out (it was very wet when we first started) and will prevent damage to the grass by stock and machinery. The final touch is a set of double wooden gates into the lane from The Mires (on order) to replace the rather ramshackle metal gate farther down the lane.
Today I was taken on a whistle stop tour of what’s been happening at home this week – using the new track as a starting point. Fine weather is good – but it does have its drawbacks. While the good weather is here we must crack on and get all the field work completed. We’re reseeding two fields this spring ( as well as the reinstatement of the fields cut through by National Grid). Last August we planned to sow a field of oats and ploughed Bottom Field. But that was the last of the good weather and a wet summer slipped into a wet autumn and the plan was abandoned. We’re now back on track and three fields have been ploughed and prepared – as I said in another post -

We plough the field
We pick stones
We disc 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

The two fields of grass are now just waiting of the gentle rain to fall. The other field still is a bit stony (we’re very good at growing stones) and after a bit more stone picking it will be sown with the oats from last year, then underssown with grass.

There’s pebbles, stones, rocks and then boulders – all in one field. But now heaped up as a testament to the back breaking work.

..but ..

More stones still to pick!

I know that has been a long rambling post, for which I apologise. But once started it’s hard to stop.
And - having seen the way the photographs are postioned on the Blog on the web - Sorry!
Not quite how I intended the layout. Blogger does it in it's own inimitable style.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Bank Holiday?

what holiday?

The weather's too good to be having a day off, so it's more Spring Work - rolling and seed sowing.
The muck spread last month is working as the grass is growing well, so well that the milk cows have galloped off down the Paddock for their first taste of fresh grass since last September. I missed taking a photo of the race to be first through the gate as I'm stuck indoors with the end-of-year PAYE.

Summer is definitely on the way.

Third sign of summer . . . .

. . . .

mowing the "lawn"

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Stop Press

Official news from our spotters in the field - it really is summer (3 swallows must prove it)!

Sumer Is Icumen In

One swallow may not a summer make - but cows out to grass do! Today was the start of Turnout - only 17 dry cows so far, but the beginning of the end of winter.

Read about other signs of summer here.