Fox 1 – Hedgebottom Hens 0 – which is also the score for the Dairy Farmers

Well he’s been, and in broad daylight too. Killed one, traumatised another and if anyone asks if hens remember – judging by the response of the one that I mentioned in the previous post, then yes they do. I really do not like foxes. Fortunately I was able to run and yell at the same time (perhaps I’m not that unfit then!) which saved the others. One hen’s reaction surprised me, she was standing on the fence, brave as you like, looking in the direction of where her pal had been taken, clucking away as if she was telling him off.

We’ve certainly had snow overnight, fair few inches too so I’ll be looking out for his footprints.

Speaking of the white stuff, yet again I see milk prices in the news yet still nothing seems to be done about it. Way we’re going we’ll have no dairy farms left, and our milk will be imported and believe me, a fair few manufacturers have been attempting this for several years, fortunately with no success, but you just know it’ll happen.

I began my career in dairy farming, including 2 stints at Agricultural College with the second in Dairy Herd Management. I worked hard, it was cold, it was hot, I smelt, I didn’t go out in the evening other than to check my cows, I got up very early in the morning, worked 72 hours a week, sometimes I’d have every other weekend off but living on the farm I’d still be checking the girls at night. I took pride in how clean our milk was produced, I loved the close bond that develops with each cow, I got kicked at when a new heifer came into the parlour but she’d be a calf I reared 2 years ago so we’d soon work it out. I cried many times when saying goodbye be it ill health or age. I loved ‘turn out’ when they’d head back into the fields having been indoors for winter and see them all excited and then remember to dodge their change of diet poo in the parlour! I watched them, I knew them, I cared for them, each had their own personality and Dairy Farmers do this day in day out – and because of all of the above. When I milked cows from 1982 to 1996, we were receiving more for our milk than they do today, how can that be possible, then again, how can bottled mineral water be more expensive than milk?!

Times like this I do wish I was still on the wireless, just to lend a voice – but then when I was, I remember the topic coming up several times yet still nothing is being done. If you can, please buy local milk as there are quite a few that bottle their own. The trusty Milkman, bring him back or if you want to contact your local superstore, do it and tell family and friends to join in too. Farmers are custodians of our countryside, please don’t let the supermarkets dictate the lactate!

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Out with the old

I hadn’t planned on getting up so early, but I guess with it being the last day of the year might as well make the most of it! 3.45am it was, due to a wet nose from an elderly Border Collie who doesn’t always go through the night and too many years of milking cows followed by early breakfast radio means once I’m awake, I’m awake.

 Not sure where the year has gone, but it has and it certainly will leave its mark especially with losing Glyn’s Mum in November.

Early on we had to say goodbye to our woolly and furry friends as we lost our patch of rented ground. We still have regular updates and all are doing brilliantly I’m pleased to report. Blossom and Ruby both in calf, Lily, Lottie and Shirl in lamb and dear Gracie still growing and best friends with fellow Highlander Button. Never a day goes by without me thinking about them but with all the rain we’ve had I know it would have been tough going here as I’m not the best on a slippery bank and where they’ve gone they stil are on grass and not on hay where as here, we’d have started feeding them end of October so they’re much better where they are. I’ll probably look at having something on our own 3 acre patch next year, but I won’t keep cattle again, not until the lottery of TB is addressed.

Then there were the highs, what a summer for the Country as a whole with The Olympics, Paralympics and Jubilee Celebrations and proud to say we were part of both the Herefordshire and Shropshire events that took place marking Her Majesty’s visit.

This was the year that saw our new business ‘Wots Cooking’ come to light. For years we’ve both worked for Food, Drink and Gardening Festivals either chatting or supplying sound and visuals for other peoples cookery demonstration kitchens, but now we have our own and we’re loving it. Huge thank you to all those who have supported us and if you’ve not seen it, there’s a video thank you on the front page of our website!

I’ve not worn a pair of radio headphones this year due to working most weekends, although have made the occasional appearance usually involving calories and that’s where I seem to be heading now. My existing column for Worcestershire, Herefordshire & Wye Valley Life Magazines is now a foodie one, and the last month has seen it included in Warwickshire Life and Shropshire Life too which I’m thrilled about, especially Shropshire having written for them 3 years ago.

Farming side too I didn’t think I’d ever have to buy a new boiler suit, but I’ve met and helped out a local estate (think Downtown Abbey) with relief milking duties early on in the year and more recently looking after the youngstock and even though my body is way too old for all things physical now, I loved every minute of it.

Friendship is something I care hugely about and I’m lucky to have some wonderful pals so it was lovely in the summer to catch up again with an old school friend who I hadn’t seen or heard from in 30 years (I’d like to say since primary school but sadly not)!

So, wonder what 2013 has in mind for us all, here’s hoping for a drier one, a kind one and maybe if we’re lucky, a warm one. Whatever it throws at us, let’s hope we catch the good stuff.

Happy New Year x

 

TB (re blogged)

The March editions of Worcestershire, Herefordshire & Wye Valley Life Magazines are out now and my column mentions the current situation with TB and cattle. It’s very difficult to put down in words your emotions and thoughts, especially because of the way others may interpret it, especially with the recent announcement of 2 pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire, with the latter including parts of Malvern Hills, Wychavon and Forest of Dean.  All I know is if my ‘girls’ reacted to the test and I had to lose them: a) It would break my heart b) just by taking them off the land doesn’t address the problem and c) there’s no way I’d have cattle again. TB has been allowed to spiral out of control and to not do anything about this disease which reared its ugly head in the mid 90’s is beyond me. I love my wildlife, and I love to see badgers and if you have them and you don’t have TB on the farm, then you leave well alone but something is dreadfully wrong in the countryside and we have to look at all causes. It’s no good just declaring that cattle spread it to each other, especially when many ‘closed’ herds have been lost so where has it come from when they rear their own breeding stock, have no close neighbours with cattle and don’t buy anything in? TB is already spilling out into other species including wild deer, goats, alpacas and yes cats and dogs. I like many would vaccinate tomorrow, but sadly we’re several years away from that. Until then, we will see many more Dairy and Beef Farms forced to give up, not just because of saying goodbye to animals which can be traced back to the family farm from a 100 years or more but because of the stress and heartache it causes and then there’s the cost – once a farm has TB they are in effect, unable to trade. On a personal front, I no longer want to feel physically sick each March when the Vet feels the necks of Blossom, Ruby and now Gracie to see if they have reacted to the test. It’s more like a lottery and believe me when I say that if you hear the words ‘clear’ you feel as if you’ve won a million pounds.

TB test – all clear!

Image

Lovely way to start the weekend when your cows get to live another 12 months but the farm before us wasn’t so lucky. If you’d like to know how I feel when it comes to TB testing, please see this months edition of both Herefordshire/Wye Valley Life & Worcestershire Life Magazines.

 

January 2012

Can’t believe we’re nearly at the end of January already and how warm has this winter been?! Christmas came and went with both me and Glyn working on the radio, he in Bristol for the Beeb and me on Sunshine in Herefordshire and Monmouthshire. We managed to have our ‘works doo’ though which is just me and him, but never quite sure which one of us gets to sleep with boss!

Been a bit hectic on the animal front, we said goodbye to Rocky the Ram who visited for a couple of months, I managed to escape with only one experience of a sore left buttock when I turned my back on him for just a moment (thankfully he didn’t have horns). Here’s hoping the colour green on the ewes will turn into lambs end of April, especially for Shirl who had to have the vet out for a rather nasty abscess in her foot.

It appears I’ve still ‘got it’ when it comes to milking cows. It has been well over 10 years since I last milked one and 14 since I used to do it for a living, but I’ve been helping out on a local estate whilst they’re a person down and have to admit it was like riding a bike, yes the job all came back to me but I’d forgotten just how physical it is, so for 2 days I did walk like I’d ridden a bike for the first time in 10 years! One thing that was lovely to remember though, was just how friendly, helpful and genuine people are who work with livestock, they made me feel very welcome, were very complimentary and infact I’m doing a couple more weekends for them until their new chap starts. Great for me as it’s our quiet time with no shows going on although I’d forgotten also just how much the smell of cows linger! 

I’ve just finished writing my March column for Worcestershire, Herefordshire & Wye Valley Life Magazines which will mention our situation with TB as that is when our cows are tested. It’s very difficult to put down in words your emotions and thoughts, especially because of the way others may interpret it, especially with the recent announcement of 2 pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire, with the latter including parts of Malvern Hills, Wychavon and Forest of Dean.  All I know is if my ‘girls’ reacted to the test and I had to lose them: a) It would break my heart b) just by taking them off the land doesn’t address the problem and c) there’s no way I’d have cattle again. TB has been allowed to spiral out of control and to not do anything about this disease which reared its ugly head in the mid 90’s is beyond me. I love my wildlife, and I love to see badgers and if you have them and you don’t have TB on the farm, then you leave well alone but something is dreadfully wrong in the countryside and we have to look at all causes. It’s no good just declaring that cattle spread it to each other, especially when many ‘closed’ herds have been lost so where has it come from when they rear their own breeding stock, have no close neighbours with cattle and don’t buy anything in? TB is already spilling out into other species including wild deer, goats, alpacas and yes cats and dogs. I like many would vaccinate tomorrow, but sadly we’re several years away from that. Until then, we will see many more Dairy and Beef Farms forced to give up, not just because of saying goodbye to animals which can be traced back to the family farm from a 100 years or more but because of the stress and heartache it causes and then there’s the cost – once a farm has TB they are in effect, unable to trade. On a personal front, I no longer want to feel physically sick each March when the Vet feels the necks of Blossom, Ruby and now Gracie to see if they have reacted to the test. It’s more like a lottery and believe me when I say that if you hear the words ‘clear’ you feel as if you’ve won a million pounds.

Too old now for early mornings!

Not sure where the time goes, but goes it do and can you believe Christmas is now less than 4 weeks away!

Been up early the last couple of mornings writing my new look columns for Worcestershire, Herefordshire & Wye Valley Life Magazines, think I was on my third cup of tea by seven o’clock! We’ve been out and about a bit of late too, Ellenden Farm Shop near Evesham hired our mobile cookery demonstration unit so popped over there to see it in action. I also caught up with some former listeners from Pershore who I’d not seen for a few years, the lovely Butcher, Ken Tallis and Darren from Revills Farm Shop who used to pop in every year with a bunch of Asparagus for me along with some homemade Hollandaise Sauce, happy memories.

One thing I have learnt recently is that no longer can I be a dirty stop out and get away with it. Friends of ours run a Restaurant and having run into them at a meeting, we were invited back to theirs where they ‘rustled’ something up to eat. Now, my rustling would end up as toast perhaps, or just a biscuit, believe me it would look nothing like what arrived on our  plates which was out of this world. Anyway, long story short and all that, we got home at two in the morning and didn’t it show the following day!!!

All’s quiet on the animal front, hens are coming to the end of laying for the winter, we’ve borrowed ‘Rocky’ the Ram for the sheep and I’ve had to increase Ruby’s food intake as Gracie is still very much suckling off her and it’s beginning to show. Lots of pictures of both Mum and little one on Facebook if you’d like to have a look.

 

 

There’s only one thing I share with a polar bear and that’s being left handed

When I began my working life on farms, living in caravans and being that cold I’d go to bed in my clothes ready for the next morning, I vowed that I’d never put myself in that position again. Move forward nearly 30 years, and we’ve turned the heating off before we run out! It’s been on order for 3 weeks, but our track has just not been passable since the first blast of winter. I have told Glyn that if we run out of logs and coal, I’ll burn the settee as I quite fancy a new suite for next year. Even had a call from BBC Breakfast which was exciting. They wanted to find out if we were newsworthy, but to be honest, we’ll be fine. Might even be a way of losing some weight over Christmas instead of gaining it. Sadly we’ve had to cancel visiting family and friends across the country which is a shame, but our temporary absence is nothing compared to the horrors we keep seeing on the tele. As I’m writing this, it’s still snowing. We managed to move the cows nearer home yesterday which was a little hairy with them not being able to distinguish their route with everything white over. Our main problem is frozen water and having to carry it to both them and the sheep twice a day. Luckily we’ve got plenty of hay to last them and if all else fails and we run out of provisions,  maybe we platt some together and think of it as Shredded Wheat. The hens hate it and spend most of their time in bed, Mabel the kitten thinks it’s fantastic and likes to catch each snowflake when it falls. I’m happier now I’ve discovered that socks have togs, who’d have thought, duvets for feet! Wishing you a safe and Happy Christmas, and here’s to 2011, whatever it throws at us x