frosty web

come in to my parlour said the spider to the fly


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the skating rink

The lanes around us have become skating rinks. No grit in sight.

We have asked the council for a stock of  grit and said we’d do the worst areas near to us, will see what  happens.

The water bowser is very busy as many of the troughs are now empty and not re-filling owing to the continues freeze. We also have to keep heaters on overnight to stop the bowser freezing up in the workshop.

Forecasters predict a slight thaw tomorrow, before returning to colder temperatures. We will see.

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ice tinted glasses

Several things have upset me this morning.

Firstly, it appears that some people have complained to the media that they have NO SNOW! Well they should get real. For those who have to get out and work in all weathers outside, or who have a vital job to do and need to commute only to find that the roads are impassable, would not agree.

Secondly, this type of bad weather and freezing temperatures is, and always will be, dangerous and can kill.

We are not badly off here. It is not fun and it is still bitterly cold, and we have some snow, but I am pleased to report that we are not really struggling. Certainly it is a grind everyday to water everything outside, and inside, as the pipes inside some of the buildings are freezing up now.

Jethro is having to change his plans, and house more animals than originally thought this winter. The early cold snap has caught everyone out – it is not unreasonable to expect to keep cattle out in the fields until Christmas or just after.

The hardest part Jethro said over breakfast is that this is only the 2nd December and it was almost mid-April before temperatures rose this year and Spring arrived.  Memories of last winter’s struggles to feed and keep the livestock in good condition are too fresh in our minds and it saps the spirits somewhat to think that we may have many more months of cold weather.

Last night watching Edwardian Farm , as Jethro snored loudly on the sofa, there was something that Ruth said about  Christmas being a low-key event for rural dwellers.  She explained that in Edwardian times the big Christmases were mainly celebrated by the urban middle classes who had both time and money to spare. Country folk, she said, had neither the time  nor the money.

This to a certain extent still rings true in that all farmers who keep livestock have to feed and water and check their animals whatever day of the year it is. There may be a rota to share the workload over the holiday period, but if the weather is as bad as it was last Christmas then it becomes a two-man job anyway.

My experiences of farming Christmases have been mixed, some excellent and some we’d rather forget. And unsurprisingly it has usually been the weather that has made all the difference.  In the run up to the 25th December a lot of extra work and effort goes in to moving feedstuffs and bedding around to reduce the number of hours worked on two-day holiday.

On the day we have always had delicious fresh food to eat, a warm cosy fire to sit by, and of course a Christmas tree with a pile of presents to open. The difference between these good and the not so good days has been time. Enough time to enjoy the lunch, enough time to sit and enjoy the family opening presents, and any time at all to just have a rest.

Some Christmas Days have been rushed, the day itself or even the Christmas dinner has been interrupted by phone calls reporting trouble, or the farmer is just so exhausted from the extra work from the bad weather that he has his Christmas dinner late and then sleeps through everything else!

As you can guess I am not wishing for a white Christmas this year, we’ve all had quite enough of the white stuff already!


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a you tube surprise

Just been sent this on email, it is marvellous so had to share it. It momentarily transports us from the struggles of keeping farm animals in icy temperatures.


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cheeky land girls

Cheeky land girls

Agricultural students at Newcastle University have produced a ‘naked calendar’ in support of the brain-injuries charity Headway – the brain association. Three photo shoots taken in very nippy conditions in the North Tyne and Newcastle area have produced an outstanding calendar with the gorgeous agricultural girls undoubtedly the cream of the crop, with the lads not far behind.

Twelve months ago Simon Hales, 21, a member of the Newcastle University Agricultural Society, was half way through his studying at Newcastle, when a serious accident resulted in Simon being in a coma for 5 weeks. He then spent the next 3 months in hospital, first in the Newcastle General Hospital where he was initially unable to speak or move and then he was transferred nearer home to the Leicester General Hospital, brain injuries unit. Now, one year into his recovery he is living in a specialist residential brain rehabilitation centre in Northamptonshire and recovering well. Simon’s good progress is a testament to his own courage and the unfailing support both he and the family have received from the health professionals and Headway.

Headway- the brain association, supports people with brain injuries along with their families and friends. The Newcastle students wish to support the charity and thank them for the help and support they continue to give to Simon and his family.  This fund-raising calendar is a real team effort with many of the student’s parents and some local businesses donating sponsorship money to cover the printing costs. The first print run for 500 calendars is already underway and orders can be dispatched in time for Christmas presents.

Calendars are £6 each or 2 for £10 with packing and postage £1.50 per calendar.

To order a calendar this can be done either by BACS transfer, or by post with a cheque for the full amount payable to Miss A Langmead.

If you wish to pay by BACS please contact Anna Langmead by email with the number of calendars you’d like to buy and your full address and contact details.

If you wish to send a cheque please send this to Miss A Langmead, Stock House, Sturminster Newton, Dorset, DT10 2BG making sure you send the address where you’d like the calendars sent.

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the agronomy breakfast club

Picture this. Another freezing morning, and another day of unfreezing water pipes with the forecasters predicting at least 10 days of similar weather. Oh the joys of keeping livestock in the winter!

After the first hour outside, feeding and watering animals, welcome bowls of hot porridge beckon with the all important mugs of tea in front of the rayburn and the first chance of the day to thaw out frozen fingers and thumbs. For some strange reason it is my thumbs that are playing cold and dead first this year.

Knowledge there is a plenty in this farming family and just as a spoonful of delicious porridge, mixed with farm produced honey, is to be eaten the contents of the spoon are examined by the qualified agronomist at the end of the table and the one darker grain sitting on my spoon amongst the creamy, steaming porridge is identified as an imposter.. not an oat but a cleaver, a weed seed. Cleavers are also known as sticky beak and they have very sticky eaves and small round sticky seeds.

Not deterred by less than 100% pure porridge oats I ate the offending seed, indeed I have eaten many before, but no one has ever turned breakfast into an agronomy lesson. For those who are wondering agronomy is the science of crops.

The next discussion was how batches of oats vary, from one bag or box to another as the porridge made yesterday was slightly runny compared to usual and exactly the same quantities were used. 1 to 3 oats to milk, or water as individual family members prefer. I prefer 100% milk to make mine, it lasts me longer right through to lunch. Jethro has just water in his batchbut has 2 bowls in the morning 2 hours apart.

We are having roast lamb with vegetables from the garden for lunch and I am just wondering what science lesson over lunch we may expect next.

PS This farm grew porridge oats for Mornflake last year as a break crop in the crop rotation on the arable land.

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they shoot cows don’t they?

Not all of farming with animals is fun, sometimes it is tragic and very sad.

Recently we were called out to assess a poorly cow out in the field, all we knew was that she was lying down. This is known as a ‘downer’ cow. When we reached her we could see that she was in great pain and distress and immediately called on our many years of observation and experience to try to determine the cause of her troubles and if we should try to move her, or send for the vet.

In less than a minute we noted that she was in pain, and dehydrated – the latter possibly from being unable to get up to seek water. She was lying on her left side, and on close examination we could see that her right pelvic joint looked normal and the left one did not, in fact it looked very strange indeed, with only a very sharp and pointed piece of bone sticking up and there was nothing at all where the top of the femur should have been. We knew straightaway not to move her and summoned the vet, who as it happened was only half an hour away. Mobile phones make this so much easier and quicker. We also fetched her some water, which she drank, and we wafted the flies away from her eyes and stroked her to keep her calm as we waited for expert medical help.

The vet agreed that the pelvis looked horribly wrong and only under his strict instructions was she was moved by four men onto her right side in order for him to examine the pelvis internally. The diagnosis was that she had either a dislocated or broken pelvis and she was immediately and humanely destroyed.

The cow’s name was  Elderflower and she was six years old and due to calve next month. Tears pricked my eyes, but I had to appear resolute, that is the nature of farming, but sometimes the reality gets to one and it got to me that day, and I learned after we  got home that I was not the only one.

Slips, trips and broken hips is a health department campaign to prevent falls in the elderly, unfortunately there was nothing we could have done to help Elderflower. We tracked back through the grass trails she had made while trying to get up. We found whereabouts on the chalky  hill where she had slipped coming down a steeper part, caught her foot, tripped and gone down with this traumatic injury.

An injury like this in the field is a very rare occurrence, but a very sad one, we were pleased to be able to help her so quickly, and also that we knew what was wrong. The loss of her calf as well was hard to bear, but the vet assured us that in the womb the calf is unconscious, and it was too soon to try a caesarean, which actually would have provoked further suffering for the cow. There is an old saying in farming:  “the first loss is the least loss” and in this case it was true.


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