Tuesday 25 February 2014

Trench Digging On The Smallholding.

" Problems, problems, problems.  Don't give me your problems."

Classic Neo Progressive rock fans will recognize those Marillion lyrics from "He Knows You Know."  If I remember right it's from that brilliant album: "Script For A Jesters Tear."

Any road.  We have been digging out for a new concrete base and we hit an old flag drain.  It's one of those stone tippler drains and it was squeezed to the last in the Haggard (where the cattle and the feeding lives during Winter) and blocked with clay.  I think the drains must have been dug by one of my ancestors.  I recently found out that my great great grandfather was farming this farm in 1830.  So the drain was either dug by my great great grandfather, my great grandfather or my grandfather.  All dug by hand with shovel and pick.  Wonder what they would think of our Smalley digger?

Number one son dug the trench (with the digger) in less than an hour and we placed some black 4 inch corrugated pipe in the trench.  The black corrugated pipe is much better than the yellow plastic pipes of the last 20 years or so.  I believe the Romans use to use brushwood for drainage.  It's rather humbling to work with drains that your ancestors dug with a pick and shovel for nothing.  They stood their test of time and sometimes we find an old broken smokers clay pipe in the drains.

Today's modern tractors, track machines  and silage bales squeeze the old stone drains to the last and then  we end up with blocked drains and lots of soft rush and buttercup.  I reckon we have nearly paid for our Smalley digger with the work she's done in the last few months.  She's nearly 40 years old and her Lister engine runs off a thimble full of diesel, not quite, but you know what I mean.  My ancestors horses that carried the flags would have run off Oats and Mangels in the winter.  Not forgetting the Furze (Gorse) and Hay.  They didn't rely on oil did they?  Have you any drainage plans for your smallholding this year?

I would love to dig a small fishing lake and stock it with Coarse fish like: Perch, Tench, Crucian Carp and may be a few trout.  Then I could make a few pegs to fish on and spend my mornings and evenings fishing.  What about you?


  1. That album reminds me of sixth form college

  2. Yes, never ceases to amaze when old workings are exposed by modern digging methods, cleaning ditches out with a shovel wasn't much fun, digging them must have been really hard graft, they wouldn't believe the scale of some of the big diggers now
    I remember when they open-cast for coal here, a massive drag-line differ called Big Geordie they used, the bucket would hold 2 transit vans, it could shift some tonnage rapidly. They exposed old workings from bygone times, very narrow tunnels with wooden rails and bogies, they said made by monks. Brave men indeed, and no oil or mechanical devices.

    Like the sound of the fishing pond, I saw one on a farm locally, only about 30' in size, looked natural but probably had a liner of some sort, the farmer said it was full of trout which he fished for when they fancied trout for dinner.
    Also a trout farm with fishing, 3 well-stocked ponds with various sized fish, £6 a day to fish, limited to 2 fish each to take home though. Seems to do well, No 2 son took me there one day.

    Weather continues wet windy and bleak, but seems to be a little warmer, lots of snowdrops in the garden, and I was a display of early daffodils today.

    Raggy cat regained its plump appearance, helped by lots of milk, biccies and a big duck leg Mrs didn't eat. It's getting very domesticated.

  3. Hi Frugal Queen, Yes it's good old fashioned 1980's Rock music. The ex Marillion lead singer: Fish has got a new album out called A Feast Of Consequences. It's got a First World War theme. You can hear some of the tracks on good old You Tube. The Best British Rock band I ever saw was Emerson Lake and Palmer. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Hi Cumbrian, Yes the miners have never been praised enough for risking their lives for us extracting coal, Iron, Lead... A lot of the dry stone walls here are made in the traditional Herring bone style pattern. A physical stone autograph left by the Cornish tin miners.

    I once use to fish on an old pond. An old farmer said it once was a Marl pit from back in the days when they used it on the land for fertilizer.

    Use to go to Roman Lakes near Marple in Cheshire to an excellent fishery complete with tuck shop. The owner didn't allow barbed hooks or keep nets. It was a marvelous place stocked to the brim with fish.

    The British Waterways did some magnificent work restoring the canals and rivers of the UK. Fishermen are nature's watchdog against pollution. I am seriously thinking of getting some Coarse fishing equipment again. Ireland is supposed to be one of the best places for fishing in Europe. Mainly because there wasn't much of an Industrial Revolution. Meaning very little pollution.

    Still too wet to spread the farmyard manure. Think I will probably do it at potato planting time. Potatoes are usually planted and cattle put out on St Patrick's Day. Can't see it happening this year. Showers today.


  5. Yes, mining was a hard trade, lots of coal mines in West Cumbria, it's riddled with them from past centuries, small shafts and no records kept of where they are.
    3 landed families dominated the mines ownership, Lonsdales (Egremont), Curwens (Workington) and Senhouses (Maryport) and employed may thousands of men (and women and children sometimes) in terrible conditions with accidents and fatalities. Most of it was exported, to Ireland I think, from Whitehaven, Workington and Maryport harbours, these once rivaled Liverpool as the country's busiest shipping ports.
    And there were pits operating up until the Thatcher years, when she imported American Ian McGregor to finish the industry here, still employing a lot of men (but no women or children)
    And some iron ore mines, smaller industry producing high quality hematite ores, but important to the local economy, now finished, they were owned by British Steel, also a casualty of Ian McGregor. They made one of them a museum type place at Florence pit, Egremont, the last one to close.
    And a similar thing at Haig Pit, Kells near Whithaven, the last coal mine to close, where they restored the pit-top winding gear ad machines.

    No, I can't see potatoes going in or cattle going out by St Patricks Day either, fields here still sodden, some with standing water even, and mostly clay, it takes some drying out.

    Bit brighter this morning, started blue sky but white clouds starting, still feels damp.

    Raggy cat in late this morning, must be a bit warmer outside.

  6. Hi Cumbrian,

    Yes Thatcher and McGregor dismantled the coal industry and destroyed mining communities. Making us all totally reliant on oil. I bet the powers that be wouldn't allow any new mines or steel works to be built in Britain toaday.. They want to have clean air, no manufacturing, mass unemployment and everything imported from China. Two hundred years of coal still underground but never to be harvested.

    My slatted tank should last another month and we have plenty of silage and straw. So we should be OK. It will also give the fields a chance to dry out and the grass start to grow.

    Showery here today. Woke up to a sprinkling of frost on the distant mountains overlooking Bantry Bay.

    Terrier and cat asleep in front of range.



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