Thursday, 29 September 2011

Here comes the sun

At last! The summer we were hoping for, and a chance to get the remaining  fields of grass.

And it's not just the sun and mower that are out again - but Henry's knees. After being hidden by jeans for a couple of weeks - it's back into shorts.

Yesterday did mark the end of the season in one way - it was our last school visit until Spring. So the Strickley Education Suite can revert back to cattle pens ready for winter.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Here we go again

Well, it hasn't rained since 02:30 am yesterday, so the mower has been unearthed again and James is whizzing round the fields for third cut (as I expect a lot of farmers round here are doing). There's 60 acres earmarked for big bales. The forecast is good (at least until the weekend), so it should have a chance to dry out a bit before the baler comes. Though with a long queue of farmers wanting his services, he's eager to get started as soon as possible.

Our apple harvest is underway. The apple tree that some friends gave us for our Ruby Wedding suffered in the recent gales and most of the fruit dropped off. We managed to get most of it ahead of the rabbits. We've an older tree of cookers in the field - not Bramleys, but don't know what they are, and Henry has picked a small batch. There's loads more - plus the pears - to get after we've dealt with the silage. First things first.

Friday, 23 September 2011

A Bit of a Hectic Week

I'm not too sure why, but this past week seems to have been a bit hectic. The weekend after our holiday I did as little as possible (slowly coming down to earth). There was no cooking to do - the Aga was out till Sunday, so cold meat and cheese for dinners and one takeaway and one meal out didn't take much effort. But by Monday I had to buckle down and tackle some paperwork and pay some bills. My massive bakathon before Kendal Show had dwindled to a couple of small cakes, so the tins needed replenishing.
On Tuesday morning we sold two cows to a new breeder, who is planning to make cows' milk cheese as well as his sheep milk cheeses.
In the afternoon someone else came to look at our cows, with a view to buying a batch of new calved ones. They'll be leaving Cumbria for Yorkshire next week.
On Wednesday our vet came up to finalise some of the documents and reports we have to include in our upcoming RDPE grant application. Everything is almost in place now, just the final bits of paper due in next week.
On Thursday Michelle and James "entertained" a group of school children. The morning was spent down the wood and round the pond (a much more interactive version of what was called a Nature Walk in the Olden Days), and the afternoon round the buildings. We were lucky with the weather - the best day of the week.
Today Henry has been to Lancaster Auction with a batch of bull calves. We haven't the resources to rear them ourselves, so sell on when they're about a month old. So tonight there will be a bit more milk in the tank, with less hungry mouths to feed.
Henry's been out to meetings twice in the evening (it should have been three, but for a clash), and tonight we're babysitting - James has just found out he's won £50 in the New Hutton 200 Club and is off out to celebrate.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Back Home

Warning - this is a rather long rambling post. It's typed over a couple of days, so doesn't reallty flow - sorry!

Last Saturday we were up at five and left the house at half past. This was according to my carefully planned schedule for our Irish holiday. Normally when we go away we take our caravan, and leave when we're ready (i.e. when Henry has finished work). But this time we had a deadline - time and tide don't wait for us and we were booked onto a ferry leaving from Craigryan. I had worried about a lot of things that could go wrong, and the first on my list was missing the boat. I imagined traffic hold ups, roadworks, slow moving wagons etc., and allowed plenty of time. In the event none of these happened and we were lined up waiting for the ferry in plenty of time. We sat in the car in the allocated lane and watched the boat come in and unload.

The next of my worries was parking in the boat, and would there be room for me to open the door and get out. But of course there was no trouble at all. (I've taken lots of photos of the boat at request of Grandson 4).

We were lucky (or maybe not everyone wanted to see the sea) to get seats right at the front (bow or pointed end) and could look out over the rather choppy sea. Worry number 3 concerned seasickness, but either the pills worked or we're not susceptible.

We even relaxed enough (well, it was only really me who was worried) to have coffee and cake. Gradually the clouds lifted and we could see the Irish coast. More photos for Fletcher to show the front opening and us driving off at Larne.

We drove south round Belfast to our friend Helen's near Millisle. This was the start of a reunion of seven girls who first met 44 years ago at Edge Hill College. Unfortunately one of the others was on holiday and poor Liz fell and broke her ankle the day before. But with husbands and partners we were still a lucky party of thirteen.  We were the last to arrive and Helen gave us a quick tour of the Ards Peninsula and I tried to take as many photos as possible. Not all have come out as well as I hoped, but this is one of the best - the harbour at Portavogie (I think!)

We drove past sandy beaches and rocks, through Ballywalter, Ballyhalbert, Portavogie  - where I think I took this (George Best lived (and drank) round here).

Then cut across to Portaferry. This was were we saw the first obvious signs of the affects of the recession. Whole streets were boarded up, but there were still impressive houses overlooking the lough.  We watched the affects of the tides and winds on the water, which generate electricity through SeaGen - click on the link which explains it better than I can.

I took more photos from Windmill Hill then we drove back up the side of the lough to Helen's house. We were staying in a nearby B & B, but met up with the rest of the party for supper, drinks, catching up and to play Canasta. When we were young penniless students we regularly played, and some had kept it up over past 40+ years. Henry and I hadn't played for about 15-20 years (and not in pairs for much longer), but after a quick reminder of the rules it came back and despite my rustiness and recklessness I came out a winner.
Next day on Sunday we headed up north, through the outskirts of Belfast and up the Antrim coast. By now the weather was definitely worsening and though the views were dramatic, it was not a day for photographs, so here's a link to the route we took. We cut across from Coleraine to Limavady to the shelter of our hotel, where we were spending two nights of luxury - still with our party of what someone called "recycled teenagers". On Monday the weather was no better, as the tail end of Hurricane Katia hit Ireland, but we decided to head west into Donegal. We were armed with a map, SatNav and camera and set off for foreign parts. With no border controls the first time we realised we were not in the UK was when our phones beeped to tell us we were "roaming" and the speed signs changed to kph. We wandered up the west coast of the Inishowen peninsula. We had no real route planned and just followed what looked like interesting roads. Eventually we saw signs to Malin Head, which looking at the map, seemed to be at the end of the world. We stopped at a small gravelled viewpoint and looked out over the Atlantic. By now the wind made opening the car difficult, but in the interests of photography I got out and leaned against the car to try to steady myself. The photographs don't do the experience justice, but as I was buffeted by the wind and rain on all sides I was pleased with what I got.

So, back in the car, close the door and prepare to head back to civilisation and shelter. Disaster! The car wouldn't start. It seemed to be the same, or similar symptoms, to the problem we had earlier in the year when we were in the caravan. That time we were on a campsite near Carlisle, knowing our exact location, and called the AA who were out in 30 minutes. This time were on an unmarked road (before we stopped,  the SatNav seemed to be placing us in the middle of nowhere), that may be one of several on our map (no road signs for the past 5/10 miles) and nothing but the sea on one side and unoccupied wilderness on the other. We could see a white house in the distance but nothing else. Could we call the AA? We had a signal on the phone (but can't get it one in our house!), but as we were in a foreign country, didn't know whether they could help - and how could we explain where we were? We got the handbook out. Sat and panicked a bit more and tried the car again. Nothing. Panicked even more and tried one more time - a flicker of life and the engine started! Deciding our luck wouldn't last any longer, we headed back down the track and found the quickest route back to villages, towns and safety of garages etc. We didn't dare stop the engine and I breathed I sigh of relief as we crossed back into Northern Ireland.

We put our troubles to the back of our minds (out of site, out of mind in the car park) and enjoyed another good night of food, drink and nostalgia.

Next morning, after another lie in (could get used to it), we said goodbye to our friends who were flying or sailing home. We had another two days in yet another posh hotel. We took our cases downstairs and Henry went to fetch the car nearer. He was soon back - but with no car. Dead again. This time there was no hesitation. I called the AA. In about an hour a local AA man had started the car and advised us to get the battery looked at. He led the way to a tyre place about a mile away and they confirmed the battery was definitely useless. Twenty minutes and £96 later we were on our way again. We went back up to the coast road, vaguely following our map. We headed for Magilligan Point (passing the prison and firing range), where we could look over to part of Donegal we missed the day before). For once the sun was out and the sand was golden.

Still following the map, we ended up at Bushmills and the distillery. The next tour was due in 10 minutes so things were working out for us. We've been round a couple of other distilleries, but this was the most geared up for tours - a good insight to what was happening (it was all working), but very safe. And of course, as all tours do, it ended in the shop. And of course you have to buy something. A good job we have a whisky drinker in the house (but in this case whiskey).

We continued down the coast, detouring down a side road to Ballintoy. By now the weather had closed in again but that made the seas look more dramatic.

We had hoped to visit The Giants Causeway, but our delayed start (re car) and several detours meant we had to miss it this time, as we were heading for our next hotel. We also missed crossing the Rope Bridge at Carrick-a-Rede (not that I would have been crossing it), but stopped off a bit farther down the coast and got it on film.

Another hotel, another good dinner and glass (or two) of wine, another good sleep and another good breakfast. Next day we planned a different tour and thought we would drive round Lough Neagh, getting as close to the shore as possible. This was a less successful day - it was more urban and industrialised around the main roads, and when we ventured off onto minor roads we had a tendency to get lost (partly because of a complete lack of signposts on the myriad of junctions). When we passed a building for the second time in 30 minutes we thought we were destined to drive the same circuit all day. We had been looking for Washing Bay (no reason - just saw the name on the map). The weather was getting worse and we knew our hotel room was warm and dry with a comfy settee, so we put the postcode in the SatNav and took the more or less direct route back.

One more night of comfort and luxury and then a leisurely breakfast and drive to the ferry. For once the sky was blue and the sun was shining. The sea was calm and the crossing on the P & O Express only took an hour. The journey back from Cairnryan was not as restful as last Saturday - much more fast-moving traffic. We stopped off near Dumfries, and were back home by 5.30 - just in time for Henry to feed 50 calves (or did I mishear, and it was 15?).

We had let the Aga go out so the house was cold, but after supper at Wellbank we were glad to be able to sleep in our own bed (there's nothing like it). Henry planned to clean out and service the Aga ready for winter, so yesterday was still cold, but much earlier than last year we lit the wood burner and now it's almost too hot! This morning Henry has sorted out the Aga and by tonight it should be up to temperature and I can start to cook again, after nearly a week off.

I called this post "Back Home", meaning we are are back at Strickley, but in some ways it could mean I was back home in Ireland, as my great great grandmother, Elizabeth Cormack,  was born there in 1821

Friday, 9 September 2011

Oh dear. . .

. . . we haven't captured any different wildlife on the remote camera.

a nosy deer

a very nosy deer

a retreating deer

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Back from the show

A day of mixed weather and mixed fortunes - at least one of which was very welcome.

It's rained on and off all week, with the forecast for Thursday veering from scattered showers to intermittent rain. In the end it was fine enough for the judging (mostly) and wet enough to drive a lot of showgoers into the cattle tent. Before mentioning the highs of the show, I must say something about the lows - well,  one very deep low. Getting the stock off the field was a nightmare. The problem started with the wet field where the cattle wagons and trailers were parked. Once one got stuck, it held up all the rest. And of course everyone wants to load up and go at once (especially dairy herds who have to get back for milking). There isn't much room for several trailers to park near to the cattle lines; it's a bit like trying to pour a large amount of liquid through a narrow funnel - and it's a bit of a free-for-all. We had two trailers (for seven cows and all their stuff) and the first one got in and loaded reasonably quickly (then joined the queue to get off the field), but it took James an hour and three quarters to get from the parking field and loaded up.

However, I'm sure it's something that will be looked at. And there's nothing we can do about the weather (except moan!).

But the show is really about the stock, and there was a good showing from five Dairy Shorthorn breeders.  I was in and out of the tent (dodging showers), taking photos and noting down the results. I think these are accurate, and apologies for any errors and omissions.

Maiden heifer under 18 months on show day

1 - John Handley - Beacon View Starlet
2 - GA & D W Dent - Winbrook Cactus 13
3 - W H & K M Robinson - Strickley Oak Barrington 27

Heifer in calf under 3 years old on show day

1 - G A & D W Dent - Winbrook Cactus 11
2 - W H & K M Robinson - Strickley Telstar 14

Heifer in milk to have calved under 3 years of age on show day

1 - W H & K M Robinson - Strickley Lily 13
2 - G A & D W Dent - Winbrook Jill 146
3 - W H & K M Robinson - Strickley Starbud 42

Cow in calf

1 - W H & K M Robinson - Strickley Starlet 94
2 - G A & D W Dent - Winbrook Vi 114

Cow in milk having calved 2 or more times

1 - John Handley - Beacon View Ann
2 - W H & K M Robinson - Strickley Duchess 29
3 - W H & K M Robinson - Strickley Starlet 98

Cow in milk having calved 3 or more times

1 - N J & C Barker - Winbrook Digitalis 2nd
2  G A & D W Dent - Winbrook Jill 140

Best group of three animals

1 - W H & K M Robinson
2 - G A & D W Dent

Junior Shorthorn Champion - Strickley Lily 13

Champion Shorthorn - Beacon View Ann
Reserve - Strickley Lily 13

Judge - Richard Baynes

Strickley Lily 13

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Record rain

It's only eight o'clock in the morning and already there has been an inch of rain since midnight (not to mention the half inch yesterday). We had anticipated a bad night and kept the cows in - the first sign of approaching autumn/winter. Another sign was the disappearance of Henry's legs yesterday - after months of wearing shorts for work he's back in jeans.

A Big Day
for Izzy!

who starts school in Belper today.

Good Luck

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Just because you make a plan. . . .

. . . doesn't mean it will all go according to plan.

Yesterday after unloading/stacking the straw bales Henry briefly popped into the house before going out to get a new calved cow and calf. He put his waterproof jacket back on and felt something bite the back of his neck. He rubbed it and a bee fell off. It was painful so he immediately put some antihistamine cream on and went to get the calf. He was back in about 10 minutes, looking and feeling decidedly odd - tingling, itching, unable to hear, face swelling. We quickly decided that it would be faster for me to drive him to the hospital than wait for an ambulance. Five minutes later I dropped him at the door and went to park. He staggered into what used to be called either Casualty or A & E (now "Primary Care Assessment Unit", said "I've been stung by a bee" and was instantly surrounded by nurses. By I got in he was being wheeled into "Resuscitation 1". He was quickly assessed and given IV Piriton and injections of Adrenalin and Hydrocortisone and connected to a monitor. Over the next three hours he gradually returned to normal and after an ECG was allowed to leave (armed with pills for the next few days).

We were lucky that we can get to the hospital quickly, and were told with such an extreme reaction we did the right thing in not waiting for an ambulance, as time really matters. Henry has been advised to see his doctor as soon as possible for a prescription for an Epipen to have at home and in the car and tractor etc. If it happens again, a self-injection can give you an extra 40 minutes.

Westmorland General Hospital may not be like "E.R." (it's my Guilty Pleasure - I'm watching the entire series on Sky) or "24 Hours in A & E",  but they've never let us down and deserve all the plaudits they get. And they don't mind if you are wearing dirty smelly work clothes.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

I think we need a plan

Earlier this year we decided we wouldn't do any shows, so we could have the chance to get away for a holiday. Showing takes up more time than the one day at the showground. There's a lot of preparation in getting the stock to look it's best on Show Day - from haltering and ensuring they will walk quietly round the ring and present them selves well, to clipping and trimming so they look their best. We don't seem to have had much extra free time, but both Strickley families have managed a few days away.

The one exception to the No Show rule is Westmorland County Show, which we have been going to since 1875. Last year was a bit complicated as James took two cows to the Dairy Event in the same week, and travelled straight from the NEC to the Westmorland Show. This year ought to have been easier with no showing, but James has been asked to judge at the Dairy Event so will be away for as long as last year. At least he won't have to worry about transporting any stock. He has been asked to send a photo of him looking smart (for the programme/catalogue?) and after ferreting about, this is what we found. So if you're there, you'll know who to look for.

So the plan is:

This morning - finish stacking bedding straw onto top of the silage pit
This afternoon - delivery of organic feed straw due,to be unloaded and stacked on top as well
Sunday - Happy Birthday Michelle (a significant birthday!).
Sunday/Monday - Milk Recording (see a future post)
Monday morning - back to school for Michelle.
Monday afternoon - James leaves for the Dairy Event (NEC, Birmingham) in my car.
Tuesday - just another busy day, including baking for the show
Wednesday morning - back to school for Robert and Chris
Wednesday afternoon - Henry and David  take all the show stuff to the show field, including the in-calf cows, using the Landrover and a tractor
Wednesday evening - take the milk cows and more feed etc. James arrives back from the NEC in my car. Leave the Landrover James and the cows at the show field and bring my car back to Strickley.
Thursday - very very early start. Milk and feed etc. Go to show as soon as possible
Thursday evening - back from the show. Have a celebratory (or commissary) drink. Fall into bed.
Friday - unload all the show stuff and put away for another year.
Saturday - another early morning start, but this time up to Scotland to catch a ferry. Yes! We're going on holiday.

I may have got this all wrong (probably not listening when I should have been).

Friday, 2 September 2011

At last

At last it has been more or less fine for a couple of days and we have got (most of) the Triticale. We've been weather watching all week, waiting for the contractor to get to us, and for the weather to hold out. We just made it, as by we were on the last field it was raining again. If you've been driving along the B6254 you'll have seen which three fields we sowed. None of them are exactly flat, all having challenging slopes. The undersown grass also made the going a bit tricky. The big machine has been and gone, and most of the crop is in the big pit on top of first cut grass. A small  part of Wellbank that comes down to the yard is still waiting for (a) drier weather and (b) someone with the nerve to mow and maybe bale.

I was there with my camera and camcorder, but it wouldn't be fair to post the video, as it was mostly of when the combine got a bit stuck. But here are a few stills that show it in action.

And a few when it was parked up in the yard

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Setting up the camera

Having caught an otter on film, we thought we would try another location. There was evidence of something round the pond, so James set up the camera in a likely spot. You have to fix the camera to a suitable tree/branch etc, switch on and walk away.

This is James caught on camera just after setting it up

And the first shot of something else

I think we need to fix the camera lower down

And finally, James coming to check the camera

A big day for Fletcher

. . .who starts school in Wigston this afternoon.

Good Luck
(and to Victoria)