Friday, 25 February 2011

Fix one thing, then something else breaks

Earlier this week we had a problem with the diet feeder, which we managed to fix in between milkings, but in the process it acquired a puncture (temporarily fixed).

Over the past few weeks we've had intermittent problems with the weather station and/or PC running the analytics. I think I have stopped the "flat lining" and we had a (brief) period of stability - but now we are getting sudden momentary drops in temperature (down to -25). It could be because the wireless signal (between the instruments outside and the console inside) is dropping. I have set it to ignore anything below zero, and I'm constantly checking and amending the data - but it may be that the weather station's days are numbered.

So, do we invest in something newer and hopefully better (but probably more expensive), or go back to the seaweed?

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Caught on camera

What do you think it is?

We set up the camera by the beck down in the wood, hoping to film some otters (having seen the footprints). No otters so far - but what do the eyes belong to (on the left of the photo)? We've adjusted the sensitivity of the camera and will put it back in a slightly different spot - so watch this space.

The photo has been lightened as much as I can without losing all definition. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Getting warmer

The Aga is finally lit and warming up. It's been taken apart as much as possible and the flues dismantled and cleared. The ovens have been vacuumed, the riddling bits have been taken out and put back again. Everything is sparkling and dust free.

I could have been videoing the whole process, but you can see someone else do it here and here. And if you want to assemble your own, look at these engineers instructions.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Touch wood . .

. . . and whisper it very quietly, with fingers crossed - but the weather seems to be working again.


There's more to farming than milking cows  -

This week Henry and James have been lumberjacks (or is it woodcutters?). Years ago we planted some pine trees in the top corner of the wood. We used a few at Christmas, but mainly they were left to their own devices. We've taken advice, and are now chopping down some of them. We won't get rid of them all (popular with owls and buzzards), and we're leaving all of the branches for wildlife. The rest are now stacked up and drying out for next year's fuel supply.

And this afternoon Henry has been an Aga engineer. Our Aga (installed 1950) is very solid and reliable and is powered by solid fuel. This has advantages (keeps going in a power cut) and disadvantages (needs filling, riddling and emptying daily, and produces a film of dust on every surface within range). It can go for several months with no problems, but lately the temperature has been more than usually erratic, and this morning there was a definite smell of old steam engines. So, we had to let it cool down - open the lids and doors and remove as much ash and unburnt coke as possible - and Henry has attacked the build up of debris in the flue. It's not modern technology - more brute force. He'll finish off after milking, then light it again. And in about 12 hours it should be back up to a usable temperature.

And just after dinner, Henry put on his mole catcherr guise. The total so far is ten (with two in one trap on Tuesday!)

There may be videos on Aga servicing and catching moles, but nothing could beat this Lumberjack Song.
Click and singalong!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Technical hitch

After working perfectly for 2 weeks, the weather station is once again refusing to cooperate. The data gets as far as the console on the wall, but doesn't update the PC (so no update to the web).

Assuming the fault to lie with the computer, I had planned to switch to an old laptop. But, having copied over all the files and configuration, I realised it had no serial (RS-232) port to connect to the console.

I'm considering our options -

Serial to usb convertor (I know this doesn't always work)
New basic bottom of the range computer (but none seem to have serial ports!)

I'm not sure where to go next, but for the time being -
 there is no weather at Strickley

Sunday, 13 February 2011

If in doubt, make it up

There's nothing different happening on the farming front at the moment - some bull calves went to Bentham Auction on Wednesday (better prices for dairy calves than Kendal) - hedging in progress (following on from the competition last week) - paperwork being kept up to date - heifer calf yesterday; so I thought I would go off at a tangent and share a recipe with you.

When we went shopping this morning (Booths) Rump Steak was reduced, so (ignoring the fact that the farmer was probably subsidising the offer) we bought a large steak, just planning to have it plain with baked potatoes. Then out of nowhere came the idea to make Peppercorn Sauce. The world is full of things I've never made and Peppercorn Sauce is one of them. So I Googled it and came up  with enough recipes to have a different version every day for a year. The few that I looked at didn't seem to be exactly what I wanted  - so,  if in doubt, make it up. Here's my version to add to the hundreds out there.

Word of Warning One - measurements are very approximate
Word of Warning Two - temperature of Aga is subject to fluctuation

Grind some black peppercorns in a pestle and mortar (this is not a green peppercorn sauce)
Put in pan with a dollop of butter and leave on the slow plate of the Aga until you think they have flavoured the butter, but not started to burn (maybe about 5 - 10 minutes)
Throw in a glug of brandy that you found at the back of the cupboard.
Continue on the slow side for a few minutes to imbue the flavour.
Move to the hot plate for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol (leaning over the pan to breath in the fumes).
Take of the heat and stir in a few spoonfuls of double cream (the proper thick stuff - not Asda's).
Put back on the slow plate for a few minutes (maybe 5) until thickened and reduced.
Pour into a small dish or jug and keep warm on a trivet on top of the wood burning stove (temperature also variable)

Friday, 11 February 2011

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday
to two little boys

Henry and Arthur
another year older today

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A busy day

It's fine at last and no wind, so we're busy spreading muck - down the fields with the normal tanker, and a contractor is blowing it over the hedge from the road.

Henry's just gone to load two cows to meet up with the wagon that takes them to their last destination.

And James has gone to the local school in our tele-handler. The school is learning about "people who help us", and inviting people from different professions etc into school. As well as the real life big machine, James has a selection of Britains toys to help him show how we care for the cows that produce milk for us all.

Everyone will be back in for dinner (now cooking), then we have a meeting with the NFU and tonight Henry and James will be going to the North West Shorthorn Society AGM.

And a warning to all moles out there - the mole catcher has dusted off his traps and is on the case

Sunday, 6 February 2011

New weather links

I have added a couple of new links to the list on the right

Will it rain today? This is centred on Old Hutton, but you can input your own postcode

Satellite view of weather This shows the UK, but can be changed to other countries.

Clicking on the links will take you away from the Blog and I have no control over their content (sorry about the advertising on them).

There is also a new Widget - from the Met Office. As you can see, I'm fiddling about!

If anyone has any websites they would like adding to the list, please let me know. Though of course the editor's decision is final!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

They must be keen

Today Friends of the Lake District are holding their annual Hedge Laying Competition at Strickley. As you know the weather this week has been wet and windy, and the hedge to be hedged is not next to the road. It's at the bottom of Brant Strickley, so all the equipment has been taken their by bike and trailer, and the mobile toilet by tractor and trailer.

click on the photo to enlarge
If it had been a better day , I might have been their with my camera and camcorder - but I 'm a fair-weather film maker. So, if you drive along the B6254 today and wonder what all the cars are parked on the roadside, you now know. I think there are about 30 competitors, and as I said, they must be keen.

Another Birthday

Happy Birthday
7 today

Robert had a Lego themed party yesterday, including this large edible brick

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday

A teenager today

P.S. - I think the Weather Page is now working normally (saying that with my fingers crossed)