That’s the trouble with goats, they can escape quicker than I can think of new puns. I’m thinking of Kidnapped and Do Androids Dream of Electric Fences? but neither of them are quite right.
We were on the way home last night. I stopped and looked left to check it was safe to drive out and…
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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…I was close to driving off, but my conscience got the better of me. At 7 pm I have better things to do than round up livestock for farmers who can’t keep their fences in order. On the other hand it isn’t fair on the goats or passing drivers to let livestock wander free.
Once we got them trapped and moving they went back in the field without too much trouble, which was good because they had escaped via a neighbour’s orchard and it could have been complicated to get them back. Instead we just got them moving in the right direction and waved a few branches (broken from nearby hedges) at them. They love eating hedges so they just followed Julia back to the field to chew on the branches.
It’s simple when you know how.
I’ve included a couple of pictures of the village pinfold. Under the 1959 Highways Act it is still lawful to detain an animal in the pinfold if it is found wandering on the road. This happened to us once – we had a phone call to say there was a goat on the road but couldn’t find it. When we did track it down someone had shut it in the pinfold, where it was busily chomping its way through the floral display. We were multiply unpopular after that.
Well, I was right about the sheep being less reliable than a calendar. The first lambs (twins) came a couple of hours after the last post, though only one survived. The other one isn’t looking particularly healthy either. It’s not an upbeat way to start a post, but that’s farming for you.
That’s the problem with sheep, too much drama. Chickens will lay eggs by the hundred and pigs will pump out dozens of piglets, but ask a sheep to drop a couple of lambs and it’s like a Shakespearean tragedy. Royal babies are born with less effort.
Julia and the group collected the eggs, planted bedding and measured the micro-climate in the agroforestry project today. We’ve also been watching the Peregrine Falcons on the Nottingham Trent University webcam.
Meanwhile I’ve offered encouragement, sent emails, done a couple of bookings, tweeted, blogged, had a neighbour in to discuss the Easter Egg Hunt, helped another with an email account and had half an hour on the phone to the NHS discussing the state of my health. They are convinced that I’m unhealthy because I’m fat, and though it’s true that I could be thinner and fitter I don’t generally feel too bad. However, by the time I’d finished with the telephone consultation I did feel a bit peaky. The NHS tends to have that effect on me.
We did establish one interesting point – I have more units of cake a week than I do of alcohol. Two biscuits is one unit. Two! I admitted to eight units a week. What has it come to when I am completely open about my smoking (gave up 15 years ago), drinking (almost none these days) and exercise (ditto) but find myself lying about my biscuit habit?
It doesn’t look like a particularly industrious day, despite the effort involved in lying about my biscuit intake. It’s certainly not, as the man from the NHS pointed out, been a day of exercise.
Now I’m going to brew tea and have a meeting, and no, I will not be having a biscuit.
For the second time this year we have had the first day of Spring. It was actually yesterday (Sunday 20th march) but for some reason I had the 21st stuck in my mind.
This time it’s astronomical Spring rather than an arbitrary calendar date, as it’s the time of the Spring Equinox. From now on the days will be longer than the nights. Next weekend we put the clocks forward and move onto the optimistically named British Summer Time.
Lambing starts in six days, though we had a good look at the sheep by the side of the lane this morning as they are not quite as accurate as the calendar.
First we did the measurements for the Woodland Trust, despite the low temperatures. Looks like they need a bit of pruning but short arms and long pockets seem to be in charge at the moment.
Then we took pictures of the new lambs. We have five now and, despite the dangers of stress we have moved them inside. It’s a trade off, but they’re soft lowland sheep and the snow could be a problem. So far they are all doing well.
We had our first lamb yesterday. We knew the accidentally pregnant ewes were near term, but weren’t quite sure. Now we know just how close. Mother and baby are doing well but they are outside and it isn’t practical to bring them in without causing additional stress so it looks like we might be lambing outside for this batch.
These are pictures from last year, most of the people shown cuddling lambs found out why farmworkers wear overalls…
That’s what happens when you buy a batch of ewes at market that have been served by a tup that escaped and passed on his genetic material two or three months early. While it’s a good thing, in evolutionary terms, for the tup at least, it’s not necessarily good for anyone else. And no, I’m not sure why we bought them, unless it’s a cunning plan to make lambing even more hard work than usual.
There are all sorts of lambing programmes when you start to look into it but “random lambing” doesn’t seem to be one of them!
You have to remember two things in analysing this, two things that could form the basis of a set of farming laws.
One, when something is going cheap at the local market there is usually a good reason for this and you should think hard before sticking your hand up. Good things seldom go cheap. Apart from chickens, but that’s a very old joke.
Two, a man is generally a farmer not because he is distinguished by intelligence, but because he is the eldest son of a man with a farm. My grandmother, who was the eldest daughter of a man with a farm, had strong views on the process. Her younger brother, on the other hand, had the farm.
The evening meal passed off without incident and nobody has been in touch with threats of legal action so I’m assuming all is good. It wasn’t my best planned meal but people seemed to like it, the plates mostly came back empty and we got it on the table while it was still hot.
By the time we’d tidied and got back home it was just past 11.00. Number One son was already in bed after a trip to the theatre (oh, the student life!) and we had a sandwich because it was all we felt like. That means it’s minced beef cobbler for tea, with thyme and mustard dumplings.
This morning called for a trip to the Citroen dealer, where we looked at cars (including one where my head touched the roof and the sun visor cut into my forehead). That figure hugging second-hand car could be mine, it seems, for slightly less than a brand new Berlingo.
It’s a sobering thought that any car I would like costs far more than I can afford. And any car that I can afford isn’t necessarily one I would like. It’s only a box on wheels and if you strip out the frippery (and the computer) it’s technology from 100 years ago or more – just a stagecoach with an internal combustion engine.
Meanwhile things like trays for your change become design features and they no longer have spare wheels. I note that the cup holders on the new Berlingo are now much shallower than the ones on ours – meaning that although they will hold a cup they won’t hold it at 30 mph whilst cornering.
That is what they call progress.
This afternoon we did the apple presentation at a local care home, where people were mesmerised by the Applemaster and started giggling after an inch of apple juice, as if it was a gallon of cider. A 95-year old lady told us about the first time she went to Goose Fair (in 1926) and another told us what she remembered about her father growing liquorice in Pontefract – one of our once great (though slightly strange) industries that have fallen by the wayside. Checking for links I see that one man is looking to restart commercial liquorice growing. Good to see.
Sadly, each time we go back it seems like one of the old characters is missing.
I’ve just had an unexpected day off, due to the return of an intermittent fault in the car. Thanks to the AA I had a quick check, a diagnosis and an escort to my local garage. They are currently up to their eyes in it so it’s a case of keeping my fingers crossed that they can get me back on the road tomorrow.
This has just highlighted a deficiency in the English language. There don’t seem to be any degrees of intermittency. Mittent does appear in the dictionary but it’s listed as an obsolete term to do with emitting. Ideally I’d be here telling you that I had an intermittent fault of increasing mittency that eventually became almost mittent.
Instead I’ll just have to say that I had an intermittent fault that reappeared this morning, becoming so frequent that at one time we could only limp along 25 yards at a time.
There was a time that I’d have made the most of it, but I now find myself content to avoid the housework and nod off in front of daytime TV. Seems like I’m going to have to face facts – this is “the most of it” these days.
As I was being escorted back to the garage by the AA we left Julia by the side of the road with a pile of bags. She, it seems, is irreplaceable, so they sent a car down from the show to pick her up. They were content to let me have the day off, but I’m trying not to read too much into that.
She had a good day, supported by most of the Quercus group, who always turn out to support us at Flintham and Open Farm Sunday. She was visited all day by schoolkids who remembered their visits to the farm, so we must be doing something right. She also had a number of enquiries from schools wanting to visit next year. All in all it seems to have been a good day.
The damsons are nearly ready and the plums won’t be far behind. Indeed we have had some plums on the anonymous tree that produces yellow plums, though only two. One is still in the tree and one was on the floor been eaten by wasps until I shifted them. The remaining parts were very juicy, though if the best it can do is two plums it will be having an appointment with a wood-burning stove in the next few years. I’m sure that I can encourage it to fruit in the next couple of years as it’s been neglected recently.
I’m doing the pruning this year, and with the old orchard, the new orchard, the agroforestry trees and the odds and ends it’s over 500 trees, so I’m going to have plenty to do.
We need 250 ml drinks bottles because we’re going to try selling more of the apple juice through the cafe this year, and we need 1 lb jam jars for the jam because people haven’t been bringing old jars in fast enough this year. We are still allowed to reuse jars, despite various scare stories in the press, but we just can’t get enough. It won’t be a surprise to anyone in the UK that the situation is so ambiguous, because we’re used to it. After all, if you read the last paragraph you will see I am buying bottles and jars in two different measuring systems.
Now, each seller has their own idea of what numbers to sell in, whether to include lids, what to charge for shipping and what to stock. The jars from one, for instance, were far cheaper than anyone else but they don’t sell 1 lb jars. Their shipping is so high that if you aren’t buying the jars that we ended up buying slightly more costly bottles from a company with lower shipping costs. One of the companies sells in dozens, one in 25s, 50s, and 100s. The calculator on my phone is a bit fiddly in the area of the small button/big finger interface but fortunately I had long division beaten into me as a kid so I was equal to the challenge.
As an aside, did you realise that long division is In “a standard division algorithm suitable for dividing multidigit numbers”.Strange stuff this long division, I’ve been doing it all my life but I hardly recognise it when I have to read the definition!
I suppose this is the definition of management – when you spend more time buying the bottles than making the juice.
It’s been an oppressive day all round, both with temperature, humidity and picky bad temper. We’ve had several arguments amongst members of the group and a variety of bad behaviour. Even so, in keeping with the tetchy atmosphere, it wasn’t that which annoyed me most, it was the reckless use of craft supplies to build Minions. It started with a brief to make an entry for the art competition at Flintham Ploughing Match (theme: Nature). Several hours later (which necessitated not doing any gardening) we ended up with a selection of malformed yellow balls.
You can’t fault the effort that’s gone in, but it’s frustrating to think that it’s all wasted because enthusiasm for Minions seems to have blocked out all mention of “Nature”.
The chick is still doing well but yet again the mother seems only able to hatch one chick out of a clutch. It’s a mystery to me what’s happening as you ought to be able to hatch more by accident than the one from 12 she seems to manage. She’s still sitting tight but the absence of another chick after three days isn’t looking good. Truth is that we’re not 100% sure where she gathered all the eggs from so as long as she’s happy we’re going to stay patient.
The farm is harvesting at full pelt, thundering past the centre with trailer loads of grain (always when I didn’t have a camera with me) but fortunately always managing to do it when there is nobody in the way. Theoretically I’ve discharged my Health and Safety duties by reminding farm staff that we have a group in and by reminding the group not to cross the yard without us present. In practice we don’t want a flat client so it’s slightly more stressful than that.
It was a fairly flat butterfly day today until I had a walk round in the middle of the afternoon. I managed to get some poor shots of a Common Blue male. It’s not the biggest of targets and now that cameras only have screens, and those screens are always smeared and subject to glare…
You get the picture.
I’m going to borrow Julia’s Canon tomorrow.
The washing up bowl pond is doing OK, though we keep having to top it up due to the lack of rain. It’s finally got some wildlife in it, though mosquito larvae aren’t really what you want. The water mint is thriving, so that’s another species we have to talk about.
As we walked round the hedge by the allotment we saw what I think was a female Common Blue, which is brown, and then another blue. The latter was by a good growth of ivy, raising hopes that it might be a Holly Blue. I followed, but lost it and got stuck in a patch of thistles whilst a family of wrens tittered at me and a chaffinch looked on in disbelief.
As we got back to the centre my phone rang for the second time of the day (which is unusual, as nobody talks to me unless they really have to). It was the person who had asked me to do the permaculture talk. I’m not needed. I was a little relieved as after agreeing to do it I’d realised that was the weekend we were going to see my cousin in Norfolk. On the other hand my cousin is a doctor and she’s expecting me to have lost weight…
Unfortunately we have a forecast of thunderstorms late tomorrow, which is going to put a stop to combining. Looking on the bright side we may still get some butterfly watching in again.
I’ve recently resurrected my old Lumix. At the time I bought it I thought it was (a) expensive (b) technically advanced and (c) going to last me for a while.
Well, I was correct in one respect; it was expensive. To be fair, it was technically advanced for the time but, as with all modern technology, its time didn’t last long. As for the rest, Julia bought an Olympus that was far better than the Lumix and within a year I’d saved up for a new Olympus (the model that had replaced Julia’s – such is the pace of change.
Ten days ago I decided to charge up the Lumix and give it a run. It’s a lot more solid to hold and the colour is probably better rendered but apart from that the Olympus wins hands down. The zoom is better, the focus is better and the shutter speed is better. Sometimes old can be classic, but other times it’s just outdated. It’s like wine and knees. Wine improves with age: knees don’t.
The one at the top is taken with the Lumix, the lower one with the Olympus. I was standing within a few feet of the same spot both times, the Olympus shot was about twenty minutes later than the other, with light conditions being pretty much the same (as much as the human eye can tell).
The reason I couldn’t use the Olympus for the first shot was because Julia had mine to take pictures of the combine in the oilseed rape.
That’s another plus for the Lumix, it’s always available for use (which was good as we don’t get many Commas in the butterfly garden) because nobody ever wants to borrow the old camera!