Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Something Old and Something New On The Smallholding.

It's been hectic on the smallholding the last few weeks.  All this dry weather means that our little farm in the countryside, next to the sea, is starting to look like it's loved again.  Grief gives you great strength and keeping busy and dry weather certainly helps combat any depression and the profound sadness that life is so transitional and cruel and short.  Oh how I wish my dad was telling me that I need to get "somebody proper" to do this and that job.  It's so awful to think that the telephone will never ring again and my mother and father will never speak to us again.    I just try to keep busy and that's all you can do.  Mother's Day on Sunday.  Best get some flowers and visit my parents graves.  You can do without it can't you?

Any road.  Number one son made me a new harrow the other day.  He's a bit like that inventor in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  Nothing daunts him and he believes anything can be fixed or made again.  The harrow works fine and it keeps bringing up the stones and pieces of old turf for us (me) to pick.

New 'home made' harrow.

Another picture of our home made harrow on  'Anna Ford' my little Ford 3000 tractor.
Ancient horse shoe resting on 'Maggie'' our Ford 4000 tractor.
Me spreading FYM with 4 prong pike and 'Maggie' the tractor.
Yours truly again spreading farmyard manure.  Don't I look grumpy?  

The tractors have also been working hard and 'Anna Ford' stopped dead in the field yesterday.  'Number One' got a good rollicking for  not keeping the diesel (tractor pop) topped up.  He went back to the shed for his number thirteen spanners and bled her there in the field.  Then he noticed one of her diesel pipe injector thingummy jig pipes had a pin prick hole in it and was spurting out the diesel.  He wasn't to blame for her running dry and I ate humble pie and  almost apologized.  Well the intonation in my voice changed and I walked away silently.

Spent most of yesterday spreading FYM with my four prong pike and tractor and transport box.  Everybody seems to disappear when I turn into a peasant farmer.  What's wrong with muck spreading and a bit (lot) of manual labour?  Did I tell you about my bad back?  More of the same today.  Then we should get some lovely silage or hay this year.  Isn't easier to just spread some granulated fertilizer with the tractor spreader?  Probably.  But you're not a proper farmer if you haven't got a Sisyphus complex, are you?  You know that Greek chap who was condemned to carry a big boulder up the hill, for eternity?. Sounds like an allotment holder or a smallholder, doesn't he?

We also found an ancient horse shoe yesterday.  Looks like an heavy cart horse to me.  What do you think?  Suffolk Punch or a Shire maybe?  God speed the plough.

Time for a song me thinks.  Here's Jethro Tull playing: 'Heavy Horses'.  What a great band.  I have seen them four or five times and they rock!


  1. Weather's looking good there, and refurbished harrow seems to be working OK, just a bit of discing left to do.

    Sounds like you've got your work cut out spreading a full field by hand without assistance, be nice to have somebody on the transporter box flinging it about as you drive slowly accross the field.

    But at least you've got a mechanic handy, and a new piece of diesel pipe isn't going to cost too much?

    Wonder how long the horse-shoe's been buried? Is it big enough to have fitted a heavy horse?

    Good weather here, a bit of a cold East breeze; we've been threatened with rain before the weekend.
    Raggy cat in as usual, a creature of well-defined habit, it's started waiting in a tree for me to let it in, jumps down and runs to the door when I open it.

  2. You are right Dave, nothing beats keeping busy to take our minds from sadness. Hopefully we shall have a decent summer this year to keep us all cheerful. Look after your back mate, but you know that.

  3. Hi Cumbrian. Sorry it's took a while to get back to you. Been busy all day spreading FYM and making a French drain with stones and corrugated plastic pipe.

    Yes I get brassed off at times working all day on my own. Rural Isolation isn't good for the spirit. The Jack Russell is good company though, even though she insists in rolling in the muck and then coming into the kitchen and lying on the pipes under the tiles.

    Number one son is a great tractor mechanic. He knows more than I will ever know. That's a teenager for you.

    The horse shoe is off a very large horse. Maybe a Shire or a Suffolk Punch. Wasn't that a lawnmower?

    Keeps trying to rain here. Very cold here.

    Raggy cat is a very clever cat.


  4. Hi John. Yeah I hope we all have a summer like 1976. Keeping busy is the only way to cope with the profound sadness we all carry around with us. How's the grey Fergie doing? Any chance of a few pics of her? Number one son says he wants an hundred tractors.


  5. Sounds like busy times, but as you say, make hay while the sun shines, and you get the satisfaction knowing the job's been done.

    The dogs can be good company, they seem to pick up on your moods, and most of them like to wallow in muck, the smellier the better. Sadly though, although you can talk to a dog, the conversation isn't very stimulating, all you can do is try to keep busy. Bring back the days when every farm had a few hands, jobs seemed to go faster in company.

    Haven't heard much from Bracken and Bramble and the cattle, are they still thriving?

    Weather's broke here, started gentle rain yesterday, and continuing a bit heavier this morning, overcast and cool breeze.
    Raggy cat waiting up its tree this morning, came in dry so it must have good shelter.

  6. Hi Cumbrian,

    I got the field spread yesterday. And the diggerman dug me some drains and a neighbouring farmer brought us a tractor and trailer full of old field stones (you shouldn't throw anything away should you?) and it was great to have a talk with a few souls.

    Yes dogs are great but they don't talk much apart from dog language. Said it before self supporting is too lonely and you get tired of struggling on your own. Wish I could afford to pay somebody to work on the farm every day. Women are great but they won't (most of them any way)do any physical farm work. Just been told:

    "No but we do cooking instead."

    Cattle have a few ringworm scabs on their bodies and faces. Vet says once they have had it never returns. Old people used to say you should hang a holly bush in the rafters of the stall. Rats are supposed to carry it. It's also supposed to live in the timbers. We put them in the crush and painted them with old engine oil (got to be petrol) and they looked funny in their war paint.

    Rained here this morning. Drain seems to be working fine. Raggy cat is clever and not like our number one son. He won't wear a coat, even if it's raining. All the kids think coats aren't trendy. I have stopped wearing the thermal vest. Summer must be on it's way.


  7. Sounds like good progress, and a good neigbour bringing some stone, a couple of fellow farmers to talk to for a while, at least they had the time to have the crack, the modern agricultural machine operator seems to have lost the ability to stop for a few minutes, it's all rushing about.

    Be nice to have a man or boy to help. so many jobs are simple with two but impossible by yourself. there's a girl works on one of the local farms, has done for years since she left school, it looks strange to see a pretty blond driving the big machines and taking the milkers in.

    Haven't heard of a case of ringworm for ages, it was fairly common in years gone by, never heard of the holly bush treatment either.

    No, the young people today seem happier to get cold and wet than dress properly for the weather, I see young girls in town, cold wet days, with mini-skirts, bare and exposed midriffs, saving trouble up for the future in the name of fashion.

    Saw our cock pheasant in the back garden this afternoon, looking at me quite regally, no fear, just continued his slow walk to the hedge. Nice to see him again, hope his lady is somewhere, we usually see them together.

    Keeping damp, but not actually raining now. Cool but not cold.

  8. You are so right about farmers (rural residents) not having the time to stop for a chat and have a laugh and a moan and put the world to rights. I remember when I was little all the farmers here, stayed at home and everybody grew at least a field of vegetables. Money was not their god and they had their freedom to do what they wanted. My grandparents used to go to town on a Thursday, church on a Sunday and the rest of the time they spent doing the myriad of farming and domestic chores. Neighbours helped with the hay making and they helped them with theirs.

    It must be wonderful to see the blonde lady working the farm and driving the tractor. I wonder if she talks about tractors and cattle at night, like me and number one son do?

    Ringworm is very common and you often get it when you buy cattle from different herds. It's more unsightly than anything and the oil soon makes the scabs dry up and fall off and the fur grows back.

    Rain came yesterday and really put the cat among the pigeons. I was walking about with the soil and clay stuck to my wellingtons. Still waiting for plough shoes. Not that we can use them. Thinking of planting some trees around the farmer for shelter belts, natural habitats for the pheasants.., and firewood for the future. Probably plant Sitka Spruce.

    Isn't fashion odd how it dictates what people do? I often hear the pheasants around about. Sometimes get one coming into the haggard (farm yard) picking up the beef nuts and duck food we have spilled. I read that they come from India originally. Another remnant of the British Empire.

    Thanks for your comment Cumbrian.

  9. Yes, in the good old / bad old days rural people seemed to have more time to talk to each other, of course there was more of them as well. Hay-time and tayty-picking were the most labour-intensive jobs, and the farm hands would be supplemented by lots of additional bodies, a good time if hard work, and tayty-picking week was when a small army of schoolkids made some pocket money. I doubt if the modern schoolchild would be interested in a couple of weeks picking spuds up in a cold wet muddy field for a few shillings.

    Yes, Ellie (the blond lady farm hand) is quite well-known in the village, I've never seen her dressed in anything apart from green overalls, muddy wellies and baseball cap. It's a fairly big farm by West Cumbrian standards, the last one left in the village, and she operates all the huge machines they use, apparently she's very good at it as well.

    Yes, we've got the rain back as well, thought the weather was too good to last, but it seems to be getting a bit warmer.

    Always a good idea to plant a few trees, maybe a few apples, pears and plums among them, fatten some free-range porkers in autumn.

    Plenty of pheasants around and about, there's quite a few shoots who put them down, so they've become a fairly common sight on some roads, but this is a pair we see every spring, don't know where they nest, but they seem confidant near people and houses, don't show any fear at all. A remnant of the (once Great) British Empire as you say.

    Dull and damp, cool and breezy, but not actually raining.
    Raggy cay waiting on the front door-step this morning, East wind so front door's in best shelter. I often think it's got more sense than a lot os people I know.

  10. The kids here in Ireland still finish for summer at the end of May. A throw back from the time when they were needed to helped with the hay making?

    I think rural employment ideas are good blog post subject later today. Lets see if we can solve the unemployment problem Cumbrian.

    Trees are excellent for shelter and create homes for the wildlife, firewood for the future and apples and pears for the smallholder and livestock. We planted a couple of apple trees and the wind (we live on a peninsula) seems to blow off the blossom every year. Perhaps we should plant taller trees like Spruce to protect them?

    I hate to see road kill. Wish somebody could invent something to stop it happening? Reduced speed limits (30mph) would help.

    Damp here. There's talk of snow in next few days. Cattle are in more than they are out now. Glad I bought the straw. Don't think they will go to pasture until the end of March.

    Raggy cat isn't daft.


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