Having spent the bulk of my working life on ‘red alert’ as I navigated my colleagues and myself through an uncertain and only too ready to condemn world, farming offers something radically different and satisfying in a quite different way. The worry of course is still there – how do we manage to at least break even financially, the fact that the weather is totally unpredictable let alone uncontrollable? Will we have grass and feed for the winter? Will we escape TB? Will lambing go well? – the list is endless but… the moments when one can just be one with nature, the opportunities to think and read for oneself rather than for ‘the job’, the pleasure of meeting young people from other countries and drawing them into our world and of course seeing grandchildren develop and enjoy the outside world are a huge plus. So you must excuse me if these notes are not solely about the nuts and bolts of farming.
At last we have had rain but whether it is in time to enable a second cut is not at all certain. Like many neighbouring farmers we have felt the need to supply haylage to those ewes still feeding lambs and straw to the young stock.
While the rain stopped us from spraying 500 on Thursday the ground was firm enough in between the rain for topping to go ahead. Field 4 which was so expensively and extensively cultivated before sowing with an expensive organic pasture mix is causing us dismay because of the thistles – this really does seem their year.
The WWOOF-er team completed the task of building tree guards around all the fruit trees in the orchard, so we can now graze that area. In passing they also built a rather fine terrace patio on the bank beside their mobile home – a terrace from which the views are enviable; not to mention strengthening a stretch of fencing along the bridle path.
The week ahead is when we learn whether or not the herd is still free of TB – the tension this causes cannot be overestimated. On Tuesday all the animals are scratched with a serum and then on Friday the vet checks to see whether there has been a reaction – if the reaction is significant that’s it! – the slaughter house awaits even though the accuracy of the test is little better than 50%.
We shall also be anxiously waiting to see whether the vet thinks Jupiter is fit to re-join the suckler herd and do his stuff. All other things being equal, we should have 16 new calves by the time the animals go into our extended barn. Additionally, depending on the results, the hoof trimmer will be visiting to check the feet of the cattle. This is a task that for the sheep is done in-house.
The garden continues to provide fresh vegetables and Jasper visited Mosley market on Saturday with a car full of produce to sell.
Work on the new heating scheme is starting to move again. Solar panels now adorn one of the roofs and piping to units should begin in this coming week.
While we were very happy to welcome Chris back mid-week, we were this weekend very sorry to have to wave goodbye to Marion and Michelangelo.
Michelangelo is off to London to spend a few days with a friend before returning home to his family and their farm where the tomatoes are to be harvested – all by hand. We rather felt we should return with him and repay his efforts with us by helping him now! Marion is back home to France before resuming her studies in a couple of weeks.
Sebastien has joined Michelangelo in London for a few days too – so that he might see a bit more of the UK during his stay with us. They are staying in Shoreditch, and with east-end grandparents, I enjoy another link with these new friends of ours.
When asked what to see in London where do I start? To narrow it down, perhaps my list would include: St Pauls Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, The National Gallery’s collection of Monet paintings, The British Museums’ Ancient Greece and Rome, the splendour of walking the Mall starting at Buckingham Palace passing St James’s Palace – with a rest in Green Park or St James’ Park as your feet require; The Royal Albert Hall, Greenwich to see the National Maritime Museum and the history of Britain at Sea… or I am told a ‘mooch’ through the market at Camden Lock. The choices are endless, and perhaps with very little time, a tour on the open top bus, and then a visit to the London Eye would be sufficient to say you have ‘done London’?!
Michelangelo and Marion’s contribution not only to the farm and gardens but also to the families’ social life has been much appreciated. We have had many stimulating and, on occasion, challenging discussions and are all the better for it – we have enjoyed many laughs too. There have been sad moments – the earthquake in Italy was both a shock and concern. Michelangelo is hoping to find me something in English about Ferdinand of Sicily (grandson of Roger) since even my tome by Norman Davies on ‘Lost Kingdoms of Europe’ has little about his life and career.
Sebastien will return to us later this week, and then stays with us for another 8 weeks, and we are very grateful for his continued time and support.
While mainly continuing with Anne to work my way through the Donna Leon series I also read novels by Philip Kerr and David Downing and very unsettling they were! David Downing’s novel concentrated on the Irish American links to the Fenians. Kerr wrote about the Balkans in 1944 and the behaviour then seemed even worse than anything happening in this day and age. It will be some while before I have the strength to read the latest book on the vile period in Europe between 1919 and 1923. Thank goodness for the Proms! Perhaps rather a lot of Mahler but a marvellous evening of Mozart including the Requiem.
We begin the last week of the school holidays so we hope the weather stays warm. Today we discovered that a star constellation sitting just on our morning horizon was actually called Boots and has within it the third brightest star of all the 88 constellations – we were all very pleased to discover this.