Yesterday, wisely or not we decided to buy a new bull rather than struggle with AI. Called Bacchus he is almost 4 years old, meets the DNA test requirements of the Hereford Cattle Society, was clear of TB two weeks ago and has an impressive lineage. He is from an organic holding and from a source highly regarded by our friend Simon. However, he has not yet sired any calves or been tested for Johnnes disease, or, it seems, has he ever been vaccinated or given a drench.
He was extremely reluctant to enter the trailer but after some 45 minutes and the efforts of four strong men together with apples as a bribe, he eventually was in and was pretty steady in the trailer. Apart from being stubborn his temperament seems good and, given the trailer was as clean when we let him out, is clearly confident and calm.
Obviously he should have gone into the bull pen for a couple of weeks but as the saying goes ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ so he joined the cows that should have gone to a bull some months ago. Only the cow that developed bloat and now has a red plug in her side has been moved out of the field.
Bloat as some of you will know, is a problem usually associated with the spring and animals going onto fresh grass after a winter on hard rations. This was our first experience of it in 10 years and though my father-in-law may have been happy to use a sharp knife to let the gas out I confess we called the vet out. The cow concerned has a ‘red devil’ to let any further build-up of gas to escape.
All the cattle have now been drenched against husk – the problem confirmed by blood samples. Why now? As always the answer can only be ‘who knows’. We had hoped to do the sheep as well but as always other matters came up, so they will be drenched this coming week.
Fly strike still crops up. At lunch on Friday Alessio and Sebastien were exhausted from running around a field trying to catch a sheep that needed treating. They were full of praise for Tim’s rugby tackle which eventually captured it – Tim’s story was that he had merely collapsed on it through exhaustion!
The boys have had a busy and productive week having to turn their hands, successfully, to a wide range of tasks. I think I should at this point share with you that the lunches Anne prepares each day have firmly knocked on the head any possible ideas that the food in England is all but inedible!
A major sadness this week has been accepting that we can no longer financially support the garden and so have had to say farewell to Becky after over 3 years with us. Kath and Jasper have volunteered to look after the garden over the winter and depending on the interests of woofers who may join us next spring this is not necessarily the absolute end for the garden.
Becky wearing another hat is still with us as she is ‘project managing’ on behalf of the SCBS the ongoing work of Earth Energy. During the week trenches were dug here there and everywhere and we have to be grateful to tenants for, mainly, taking it in their stride. Not sure that we know what the current deadline is – it was of course originally the 1st October. In fairness nothing has proved easy for them, indeed, the range of cables, pipes and drainage pipes found amazed us and bore no relation to our existing site map!
On Friday we said good bye to Christopher’s father who in the week he stayed with us gamely helped out with the stock work and shared his experience derived from his time at the Royal College at Cirencester followed by years working a 3,000 acre farm in Southern Rhodesia until badly injured by insurgents in the late 1970’s. After the diaspora he now lives in Colorado.
Sadly, this year, as our best apple tree is biennial, we won’t have our own apple juice – the windfalls attract each year a pair of moorhens who, indeed seem to get bolder each year and now roam over the whole garden. Actually when they stand up straight they are rather handsome birds since their long necks and streamlined bodies draw attention away from their long unattractive legs and feet!
We have decided not to go for a second haylage cut. Hopefully we have enough and we would like to ‘fog’ some of our pastures as we did in our first years here. We are buying in straw from an organic source for feeding to the cattle Finally the weather relented and allowed more spraying of horn manure and cpp on the right days according to the Marie Thun calendar. We hope to get in another spraying of horn silica next week and also use our new, thought second-hand muck spreader to clear our windrows which have been treated with the appropriate BD preparations over the past two years.
My comment about the absence of wasps led to a friend sharing a link to something on the BBC about wasps emerging from shower hoses and in fairness to the wasps I need to admit that last week we saw more than in the entire year to date! The window ledge in our bedroom was littered by corpses for a couple of days. Anne not only is a great cook but is also entirely fearless when it comes to wasps – not I have to admit a courage I have, though I do deal with spiders!