Look what I found!

pheasant chicks

Please be careful if you’re wanting to cut down a patch of nettles at this time of year as you never know what is hiding in there. Having come across a disturbed nest of pheasant chicks the day before, I brought home the 10 eggs to see if anything could be done. 24 hours later, and a bit of careful ‘peeling’ to the ones already damaged and a hot water bottle for the ones still intact, 6 little souls survived. Delighted to say they are now being looked after by the youngsters at a local Care Farm

Please don’t tell me they really do that

Having a pair of foxes treat your garden as their territory is not an easy thing to live with, and it got to the stage where the attacks on our hens became almost a daily occurence and in broad daylight every time. They weren’t always successful, but then one particular killing made me realise, we were dealing with an unnatural invader – a released town fox, had to be.

Now I have lived in the countryside all my adult life. I love nature, I love my wildlife and when keeping livestock you do your upmost to keep them safe but when you’re up against something that doesn’t belong there, the natural balance of the area is thrown.

Never in my life did I think I would witness a fox kill a cockerel right in front of me, but that’s exactly what happened. I’d let the ‘girls’ and Stan out for a run as I was there with them. Half past one in the afternoon it was, in our garden with me just a couple of feet away from him. You’d think a screaming woman with arms flailing would do the trick, but no and then came an image which will stay with me for a very long time.

I had been in touch with the local farmer but it’s difficult to come out in the day when you’ve got work to do, but the next day the vixen was back this time, again in the garden. No hens out and me by a phone which saw the farmer come round in 10 minutes, and within another 10, vixen was shot and killed.

Where the dog fox is I don’t know, possibly gone to look for another mate, we’ll wait and see but following a few enquiries, it appears that farmer friends have had similar happenings, including one in the summer who had a fox go for him in his yard. Going back to his house to get his gun, on return it went for him again and once dead, my pal could see how skinny it was and then the shocker – poor creature only had three legs, the other one had been professionally amputated! The animal wouldn’t have stood a chance of survival, who in their right mind had done that? Also another friend was telling me about a hired gun who had shot a dog fox, only to find he’d been castrated!

If town foxes are being caught and then released in the countryside then it is immoral, cruel, wrong, going against nature, irresponsible – the list goes on. My thoughts for the short term are with the lambs which are due, they won’t stand a chance against a fox with no fear and that’s the problem – they should be scared, that’s how the balance of nature works.

The people and organisations who think they’re doing good – they haven’t a ruddy clue.

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!

January – how did that happen

Hard to comprehend the recent events in Paris, my thoughts and prayers certainly with them and humanity as a whole and judging by the scenes of all those people at the march yesterday, humanity definitely won.

I’m not sure how it happened, but we’re nearly at the mid way point of January and as yet, I don’t feel I’ve got going! All the Christmas ‘friends’ were put away on time (other than the odd one that you seem to find a good 2 weeks later), the weather hasn’t been that bad and the phone is still ringing for work which is always comforting. It might have something to do with the start of the year when it was greeted in by Libby our Retriever being struck down with a rather nasty bug and for the first time in years, I ended up spending the night on the settee with her – glad to report she is now back to normal and an order has been put in for a new settee!

It’s that time of year to keep extra vigilent if you’ve got hens as foxes are pairing up now, and already our neighbour has lost all but one of hers. Out of the 6 killed, only 2 bodies were taken which makes me think she was visited by a pair and they carried away one each. I struggle with foxes, if they’re hungry then I can understand the killing and eating of one bird, but but they don’t stop at that, they slaughter the others, almost for fun which I hate and having witnessed one in torch light circling a new born calf as she was suckling her Mum, I really do not like to see them anywhere near my stock.
I had a close encounter just before Christmas when I heard one of my hens in distress, heading down the garden and there she was running towards me with said fox right behind her and only 2 feet away from me, not sure who was more surprised.
Our snowdrops are just beginning to emerge and I’ve even seen the bud of a daffodil. We seem to have an even larger population of Goldfinches at the moment and glad to see the return of the Nuthatch.
We’ve had a bit of snow, I suspect we’ll get hit with it over the next few weeks – as long as they can deliver my settee, I’ll be happy!

Out with the old and all that

Hope you’re having a good Christmas – we were doing okay until our track rod fell off on Saturday night whilst on the way to dinner with pals (well it was cold)! Nothing quite as sorry as seeing your car being put on the back of a trailer. Great way to meet people though when you’re in their way, but happy to report the festival spirit was still evident to see. Never got to eat the fantastic fayre which was on offer sadly, but a lesson was learnt that night – always carry a box of ‘thank you’ chocolates so you can eat them whilst waiting the hour and a half to be rescued.

Staying with calories, we’re nearly there. Just a box of posh biscuits to finish off, a Thorntons Reindeer and what’s left of the ridiculously small ‘plastic’ tin of Quality Street which yet again contains far too many fudge, orange and strawberry creams.

Not sure where this year has gone and news wise, I can’t remember such a run of horrendous stories, sadly it seems a few of our fellow human beings have lost the human part of their wiring, and not that I wish anyone harm but why is it when something so awful as the Glasgow lorry crash happens, it’s always the ‘good’ ones that are lost. There’s never a right time to lose anyone close to you, but at Christmas you do tend to feel it a little more keenly. Sixteen years ago on Boxing Day we lost Dad, and I can remember it vividly.

Livestock wise at Hedgebottom, still have the Collie, Retriever, 2 farm cats, 14 hens, couple of cockerels, flock of 5 Boreray Sheep and 1 tame Ouessant Wether.

Work wise, no longer doing any radio work as our business ‘Wots Cooking’ has been full on this year but guess still behind a microphone with me Compering.

Haven’t done any writing since Worcestershire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Warwickshire Life ceased printing and I do miss that, so must say thanks to Duncan Barkes for tweeting recently about my lack of blogs – just what I needed to get going again.

2015 is creeping up and no doubt will have a few surprises to throw at us. Whatever they are, here’s to being well prepared, so don’t forget your box of ‘thank you’ chocolates just in case!

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

 

Never a dull moment

That’s the affect that Alan Titchmarsh has on me, having posted a picture in June that was taken at Chelsea Flower Show this year I’ve not been heard from since!

It’s been a busy time for our new business www.wotscooking.co.uk which is wonderful, although have to admit to slight disappointment that will all this physical activity I’m still not a size 12 and in all honesty, never will be now as I’ve been asked to write my monthly food and drink column for Shropshire and Warwickshire Life Magazines as well as Herefordshire and Worcestershire. All very exciting and delighted to do so, first one will be out for December.

It does appear that calories have become my life and let’s be honest, there’s not many I’ve met and didn’t like. Speaking of tasty! was lovely to catch up again with the gorgeous Jean-Christophe Novelli at Malvern Autumn Show, he really is one of the nicest people and a great Chef too, I always seem to learn something from him each time and that doesn’t often happen. I’m looking forward to working with Mary Berry for the first time at the end of the month at this years ‘Allpay Flavours of Herefordshire Food Festival’, we’ve chatted on the radio a few times but never met.

At home we still need a new kitchen door and with all this wet stuff we’ve discovered it can rain indoors – well we always wanted a home with character! Poor old hens had a visit from the fox the other day which has put pay to all egg production now. He didn’t get them thankfully, infact I was there at the time thank goodness, I was sorting the water out in their pen so they’d headed away from me towards our fence line and I heard one of the girls making the most unusual noise, looked up and there he was standing 5 feet away from her. Needless to say a few choice words said loudly accompanied by a lot of arm waving moved him on, but it’s been enough to do them a mischief.

We were working at Tenbury Applefest last weekend which was good fun, except when two teenage girls thought I’d like to buy toffee apples for my, and I quote, grandchildren! Now I appreciate that if I’d started young I would possibly have maybe one, but they referred to a few and if they’re eating toffee apples they’re probably 6 years old! I know it was cold, and I was edging towards tired, but I’m changing my face cream, it’s a load of ‘Boswollox’

It’s a writing day today then later in the week I’m off to Herefordshire to watch the apple pressing for cider making, followed by a very posh doo where we’ll see who has won various food and drink awards in Worcestershire and Warwickshire. It has a dress code of black tie, which just about sums up the contents in my wardrobe.

It’s June already!

Lots going on at the moment which tends to keep me out of mischief and also from thinking too much!

Had a fantastic day off at Chelsea Flower Show on Press Day which once again saw me playing my own version of ‘celebrity bingo!’ I found myself standing quite close to Joan Collins and Sir Cliff Richard and yes I have huge admiration for both of them, but I wish they’d let go and give in to nature! The highlight for me was meeting the boys in red, the Chelsea Pensioners and we had pictures taken with Norman, Stan & David who I have to say, all still had a certain twinkle in their eye.

Royal Welsh Spring Festival saw our cookery demonstration kitchen up and running featuring bread making, butchery, chocolate & chef master class demos. It’s the Smallholding and Gardening Event so I headed to the Highland cattle lines to catch up with some pals but realised it was a little too soon as it did me a mischief, especially chatting with the couple who bought our 3, so won’t do that again for a bit!

A sad occasion was saying goodbye to a real gentleman this week, Tim Elliott. The church in Ombersley was full to bursting with over 500 people paying their respects which is a true testament to the man he was. Our thoughts and prayers are with ‘T’ his other half who he adored. They came to our wedding and I was looking at a picture of them both and their bond was so strong for everyone to see that I’m sure T will feel his presence every day.

We’re now getting ready for the Jubilee Weekend, with 2 events, Malvern Food Festival on Sat with our kitchen on our trailer and then Monday sees Glyn with his speakers and me ‘gob on a stick’ at Broadfield Court in Bodenham, Herefordshire with acting and directing royalty Sir Derek Jacobi and Richard Clifford. What a thrill to be able to not only meet the fellas but chat with them too, and the day before they will have been part of the River Thames Pageant so lots to talk about.

Something else that’s happened is we’ve got ourselves a bigger vehicle – I know it’s the Olympics and all that, but I didn’t think I’d have to join in with my Fosbury Flop just to get in the drivers seat.

Who’d have em!

Not sure where to start other than to tell you the last few weeks haven’t been easy.

At home we have 3 acres (on a hill so not the best) and for the past 4 years have rented another 3 from a neighbour which is on the flat. Since Gracie our Highland calf came along I’ve been on the look out for extra land so we could keep her, but it’s the same story where we are, crazy prices mostly due to people with horses willing to pay them, so with no extra grassland I made the decision to sell our beautiful sheep so Gracie could stay.

Found a super home, and I managed not to cry until they were out of sight. They’ve stayed together which is wonderful and have since gone on to have their lambs, Lily a single Ewe, Shirl twin rams and Lottie twins one of each – so far so good. Then came the bomb shell!

Having just let the sheep go we then moved the cows to their ‘summer quarters,’ just as we were closing the gate, the owner of the land told us he wanted horses on it so the cows needed to be off come September!

Talk about a bolt from the blue, never saw that coming and needless to say I knew there and then what would be the outcome. Yes I could have kept them there for another few months and then brought them back home but to what? our land is tired, the girls are on it usually from November to April with their hay rack, to then keep them on it all year round wouldn’t be right, and to be honest I can’t afford to feed hay throughout the year at £35 per large bale.

Other than winning the lottery within the next couple of weeks the only other option we did talk about was moving home, heading to somewhere with more land but would we really be able to sell up and find somewhere else within a few months?

After a lot of soul-searching I knew I had to let them go, and sooner rather than later so Blossom and Ruby could then go straight to the bull. I wanted them to stay together which I knew was asking a lot, but I managed it, and so one week ago today I said goodbye to my 3 hairy Highlands which I admit, broke my heart and still does me a mischief when I think about it.

What is next then for Hedgebottom Home? well, we still have our hens and the land can now have a well deserved rest. I don’t want to make another big decision for a while yet and we don’t have to. My compere work begins this weekend and goes through until the end of November so that will keep me busy.

I do miss having the animals around but I wouldn’t have swapped our time together for anything, it’s just that everything happened so fast, so much so I have warned Glyn he might be next!!

 

 

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.