A cow pedicure!

I wonder how many people know how different are the smells that come from working with the cattle or the sheep. When this week, after eleven cattle had had their hooves trimmed, you could tell just by walking into the kitchen at lunch time which of the animals on the farm had been worked – even above the smell of the homemade damson cheese!

Every year a small number of cattle need attention to their feet. In the past that has meant using our own crush and the local hoof trimmer (now retired) plus ‘supporters’ all working hard. Today we had a new person, who came with his own ultra-modern apparatus – amazing piece of technology which required no more than the animal entering, whereupon its head was held, a belly belt to take the load of its feet, hooks came down to lift feet and present them to the operator at a comfortable height, use of an electric grinder – before a final touch with trimming shears. And no more expensive!

An autumnal week

It has been another autumnal week here, but the fruit from the hedgerows has meant delicious eating and still only a touch of air frost, and very little rain. All this has meant not only that growth continues, but as a bonus, it has been possible to do some topping, chain harrowing and compost spreading.

Every Friday we meet as a farm team to review the week just ending, record actions taken and plan the work for the coming week. Inevitably we only rarely able to do what was planned. So it was, that the intention to wean and drench the lambs has to be postponed to this coming week. When a contractor makes themselves available you accept the date offered!

TB consequences

Also, this week a ministry vet, having decided that two of our inconclusive reactors should be treated as reactors, meant we saw on Wednesday three animals taken off the farm. We are in a “high-risk” TB area which probably explains the decision. All this means that all our stock will be tested every 60 days until we have two consecutive clear tests, and we are now under movement restrictions also until that requirement is met.

It looks increasingly unlikely that we will manage a second hay cut despite good growth in the two fields set aside for that purpose. At least we go into the winter with nearly every field available for grazing.

Demeter inspection preparation

With our application for higher tier Stewardship completed it now is time to start getting paperwork sorted for our Demeter inspection. Most of the tasks are tedious rather than testing – making sure paperwork is filed correctly and the files themselves are where they should be. Inevitably there is a certain amount of pulling together data – such as totalling total weights of compost that has gone one onto fields, working out the nitrogen implications of our stock, and updating reports from last year. For example, I include in our animal health plan a brief statement on experience over the year that has passed regarding our sheep and cattle.

A new wwoofer

Midweek we welcomed the arrival of Jack who will be woofing with us for some time to come. He is no novice to woofing but has had little prior experience with cattle so this week he has been on a rapid learning curve! A key task for him next week will be apple picking so that we may have plenty of juice for the winter. Joan had left the mobile home spotless so getting it ready for Jack was straightforward.

Listening to Joan Baez we were tempted to adapt the words of one of the great protest songs and sing ‘where have all the squirrels gone’ after a report that one had actually been seen in the wood. They have been strangely absent from view. On the other hand, deer and hares have been seen regularly and now we have the moorhens visiting the garden to feast on the windfalls.


The Indian / British Relationship

I have been interested in India for many years. Both Anne and I have ancestors buried there and my father left the RAF after the war because he was to be posted to India and my mother put her foot down and demanded he left the Airforce. Indeed, it is difficult to see how one could not be interested in the sub-continent as it is a part of the world whose cultural history is long and impressive, a part of the world that has seen imperial conquest a number of times and a country with whose history the british have been linked with since Elizabethan times. Rudyard Kipling, EM Foster, John Masters and Paul Scott are amongst those authors whose names come instantly to mind.

Attempts to get a balanced view of that Indian / British relationship are hard to find. So many “historians’ thinking is contaminated by looking at the past through modern eyes, and a determination to find all British overseas activities of the past malign. An author who exemplifies this is Edward Said.

However, the tide may be turning. Recently in a previous note I referred to a book by John Keay – ‘The Honourable Company’. This week I have just finished reading a further attempt to give a truer portrait – warts and all – of this long relationship. ‘The British in India’, written by the well-respected author David Gilmour, I found very interesting and as readable and informative as other books he has written – such as his biography of Rudyard Kipling.

Perhaps it says something that there are upwards of 900,000 citizens living here who would see themselves as British Indians. Partly no doubt why the Indian cricketers felt playing here was like playing in front of a home crowd! Incidentally England won the last test and hence the series 4-1. And for those who don’t follow cricket, a key difference between it and some ‘sports” is that whatever your allegiance, you clap good play from both sides – and when Alistair Cook finished his career with a century, every Indian player on the field shook his hand.

Shakespeare in love

On a lighter note, some of the many who may have enjoyed the film ‘Shakespeare in love’ were struck by the similarities between the film and a book published in 1941 – ‘No bed for Bacon’, which has to be ranked as one of the most humorous books in English ever published. The authors, Caryl Brahms and S.J.Simons were, in their own right, both worthy of biographies. If you have never read any of their books – do so!

E.V.Riew is better known for his inspiration which led both to the birth of and to him editing Penguin Classics, while being a noted translator in his own right – translator of Homer and of the four gospels for example. He also was a poet!

The snake and the snake charmer by E.V.Rieu

“‘Sing me to sleep,

Light of me eyes!’

‘Charmed!’ Asaid the Charmer,

Wary and wise.


Classical airs,

Handel and Brahms,

Anger the snake.

So do the Psalms.


Sullivan’s songs



Ends in a bite


None but a jazz

Melody charms

Flickering eyes

Full of alarms


Flickering eyes

Drowsily close.

Odours of Ind,

Enter his nose


Odours of India

Deep in the tune.

India perfumed

Under the noon”

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