Friday, 3 July 2015

As big as golf balls!

You often hear the expression 'hail stones as big as golf balls' - well they really were that big in the village which is less than half a mile from our farm.   Folk took photographs of individual hail stones laid on rulers to prove it.

Considerable damage was done - a friend's car had his roof so badly damaged that it is even possible he may have to have a new roof.   Several businesses has skylights broken and various people had the back windows of their cars smashed.   Quite a few greenhouses in the village bore the brunt of the storm and a Garden Nursery at Ravensworth near Richmond - maybe twelve miles from us - had over eight hundred panes of glass broken.   It was all quite terrifying.

More storms are forecast for tonight so the farmer has put his car into the garage as a precaution (we usually leave it out in the Summer because swallows nesting make such a mess of the roof).

It has been another lovely day, slightly cooler with a pleasant breeze.   But tonight it is warming up again and storms are set to creep up the country as the night progresses.  We have both slept badly for the last few nights - why is it that we somehow don't feel 'safe' without at least a sheet over us in bed?

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Just in time.

Yes, the farmer's intuition was correct and the hay which turned into silage was gathered in just in time.   All afternoon black clouds lurked round the horizon and he could hear faint rumbles of thunder (I couldn't as the sound was not loud enough to penetrate my hearing aid).  At about half past six it came - here it was just one flash of lightning and around five minutes of rain (measuring only 1mm), but at my son's house, half a mile away, there was a downpour and large lumps of ice fell from the sky - so large that he feared they would damage the roof of his car.

It was still very hot when we went to bed and I rather thought that a crash of thunder had woken me up at half past midnight.  I got up and went into the back bedroom and the sky was filled with amazing flashes of lightning - seven or eight  all at once and all over the sky.  We went back to sleep but this morning the lane was wet and the garden had obviously had rain.   The rain gauge showed we had had another seven millimetres - so another storm in the night then.   It is still hot this morning   We are just not used to this kind of weather are we?

Tess is spending her time laid on the utility room's stone floor - back legs splayed out so that her tummy lies along the cool surface.   Must say I rather feel like doing the same myself. 

The farmer has just brought in the first three sprigs of our sweet peas.   Just to show you lot further South (and in France, Cro) how late our garden is up here in the (usually) cold North.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Vagaries of Farming.

Such is the nature of farming that what yesterday was intended to be turned into sweet smelling,  crisp hay is now wrapped in netting and on its way to becoming silage (or pickled grass).

Today our extremely hot (for this part of the world) weather has turned humid and black clouds are massing on the horizon.   It is possible that thunderstorms may reach us by this evening.   The humidity level has meant that the crispness has gone out of the cut grass and it has become limp. 

The farmer has cut his losses and  asked farmer friend and neighbour G to pop over and bale it up, which he has done, and wrap it in net.   It now needs wrapping in plastic so the farmer has to find a contractor to do this at short notice - not usually an easy task.   But even wrapped in net as it is now at least it has some protection should we get a thunderstorm and torrential rain.   The forecasters say some will get it, others may miss it.

The storm has gone all around us - flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder - but so far no rain.   The bale-wrapping man has just arrived, so all will be done even if we do get a storm.

Out to lunch (wraps and salad) with friend S - delicious and lovely couple of hours of conversation.   We went to Tennants, our local, very grand Auction House, met friends and had nice chats.   Now home.  The farmer is leading in his wrapped bales, Tess is itching to get on her afternoon walk, I don't feel in the least like eating tea after a rather large lunch.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Everybody loves a baby.

Driving back from our little town this morning, after a chance meeting with friend W and a cup of coffee at an outside table, where we met the world and his wife and had so many chats that our coffee was about cold by the time we drank it.  (but how nice to meet so many folk we knew), I came across the most enchanting sight.   And, sod's law, I didn't have my camera with me.   It would have been such an opportunity as I had plenty of time - everything seemed to happen in slow motion.

Scurrying down the middle of the Lane as fast as its little legs would carry it, was the tiniest little lapwing chick I have ever seen.  At the most four or five inches tall it was a perfect replica of its mum who was about ten yards in front of it, on the grass verge, shouting to it to hurry up and get off that Lane and into the long grass!   The baby was having none of it and continued down the Lane as far as the field gate (which was open).   By this time Mum was in the gateway and going off her head shouting at the chick.   Half way to the gate it turned and looked at me - it was exquisite.   Then it was off into the field and the long grass as fast as its little legs would carry it.   Oh for my camera at that instant - but not to be, so you must just imagine the sight.   Sorry.   But thank goodness there was not a crow, or a magpie, or a sparrow hawk anywhere near.   Only one chick - what, I wonder, has happened to the reat?

Monday, 29 June 2015

It has begun.

The weatherman has forecast hot weather for this week, although with increasing humidity.   So the good and the bad as far as haymaking is concerned.   The farmer has taken a risk and begun by cutting our own field for hay (only one field, the rest goes for silage).   There is quite a breeze blowing today so that should begin the drying process nicely - then hopefully a hot sun will begin to crisp up the grass before the heavy humidity kicks in and makes it go soft again.  If it goes too soft then he will make it into silage. There is always that risk and it does make one realise just what risks the farmers had to take in the days when there was only one cut a year, it had to be hay, and the farmer's livelihood depended upon the hay crop to feed his beast during the winter months.  No wonder the farms were small rather than some of the huge farms today where dairy herds are numbered in hundreds rather than tens.
No hay to speak of meant cattle feeding on expensive 'bought in' cattle cake and root crops.

I went out to take this photograph and was assaulted by the wonderful aroma of freshly cut grass - wish this could be a smelly blog.

He has quite a lot of haymaking to do for friends but this looks like a risky week, so he is doing his own first.   One at a time - too dangerous to get all the grass down and then be caught out.   So keep your fingers crossed for us.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

An outing.

An outing today!  At present the sky is black and it is trying hard to rain.   We need rain badly, but I do hope it clears and the sun shines today, in which case I can add some photographs to my post this evening as we traverse the very high Pennines, going over the tops, through between the Mallerstang (isn't that a wonderful name, so evocative of the past) and Blea Moor and then over the top of Blea Moor and down into Ravenstonedale for lunch.

Tess is coming too and we shall walk her on the top of Blea Moor if we have time.   There are about twenty or so semi wild horses up there and we always hope we shall see them.

So - Mallerstang, here we come.   See you later.

The photograph at the top is of The Kings Head itself - a lovely pub and a delicious lunch (beef and stilton pie for two of us, roast lamb for the other two; three sticky toffee puddings - but I had lemon posset with gin and tonic granita (the chef said gin and tonic with lemon juice and sugar and then beat it as it freezes every so often.  It was scrumptious - I shall try it.

Below that:
Approaching the Mallerstang - on the return journey the sun was shining.
Blea Moor.
The glorious buttercup fields.
The 'river' opposite the pub.

Lovely day, lovely food, lovely company - so thanks A and A for travelling up to meet us.


Saturday, 27 June 2015

A Cautionary Tale.

This may well be a tale with a moral.  It certainly reads like it, but I can't for the life of me think what the moral is!

A couple of weeks ago my hairdresser and her partner went on holiday to Cornwall.   Sitting looking out of the window in their cottage one evening, she noticed a little mouse on the top of the garden wall.   It looked decidedly sick and dejected.   She went out to look at it, stroked it - it shivered gently but didn't move.

She decided it was very dehydrated and possibly hungry and would probably die unless she did something.   So she went into the house and put some milk on to a plate and took it out and put it on the wall.   Immediately the little mouse began to drink.   Its skin was so dry she thought perhaps it needed rehydrating so she put some warm water into a spray bottle and went out and gently sprayed it along its back and it seemed to appreciate this too.  They watched it for a little while and it really perked up - cleaning its whiskers after the milk and looking ready to scuttle away to its hole.

It was at this point that a magpie flew down, snatched it up and carried it off - presumably to make a tasty meal for its brood.  My hairdresser was quite upset by this (I would have been too).   With hindsight perhaps it would have been better to pick the mouse up and put it behind a bush before giving it the milk - thus making the whole operation not quite so visible.   Nature red in tooth and claw.   Every man for himself and all that.  A whole list of proverbs and the like spring into my mind - but the whole episode  has stuck in my mind.

Friday, 26 June 2015


The farmer has gone off for the afternoon to finish his 'muck-spreading' activities; there is a gentle rain falling at the moment which will help it to soak into the ground and then, with any luck, the fields will 'green up' again and second crop silage will begin to grow.

Last year was a good year for indoor feeding of cattle so many farmers have silage left from then.   Some years, when the weather is really bad, most of them run out and everyone is scouring all the farms for bits to buy here and there.   This year some farmers won't even make second crop but let their cattle eat the grass off.
All a far cry from the old days when there was only one crop a year and that was hay - and that depended so much on the weather - the right amount of rain to make the grass grow, the right amount of sun to ripen the grass, and then fine weather (of the right kind - no heavy night time dews) to dry the laying grass and make it right for hay. Then the chore of piling it into the hay carts and pulling it back to the farm (I remember riding on top of hay when I was a child) and making a good, strong stack.

Like our grand mothers would not believe the ease of washingday these days so our farmer grandfathers would not credit modern facilities.  Here is a very poor photograph of the farmer and his father 'haymaking' around 1945 - sorry it's not a better photograph.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Stage Two

First silage is now completed and it is time to prepare the fields for their second silage crop (I spoke about routine yesterday - the routine for the farm is even more rigid and one job follows another just as one season follows another).

My header shows you just how dry and yellow the grass is, although of course it has been cut short and would be yellow anyway.   But the ground beneath is hard as I found on my walk with Tess yesterday.

For a couple of hours after lunch the sun was actually shining and hot!   During this time we had our stroll - I forgot my telephone and had a couple of arguments with stiles which almost caused me a downfall, but next door are building an extension and I could see the builders and hear them shouting to one another, so reasoned I could always yell to them if I fell.

Half way down the first field we met an unusual rabbit - it was a very light sandy colour.   We always get one or two this colour every year.  I wonder if someone in the past has let a tame rabbit go in the fields and it has bred.   Does anyone else in this country come across such a phenomenon?

Coming back through the front walled garden I found that my old rose, Gertrude Jekyll was in full bloom.   I got her scent before I saw her - but isn't she beautiful?

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Mr Pheasant.

Some time ago I posted a blog about Mr Pheasant and his retinue of adoring ladies, who frequented our bird table every day and who almost fed from the farmer's hand every morning.He really was dressed in his finest array - with a thick white collar and a white stripe down the middle of his head, which set him off from other cock birds and made him even more distinctive.

He is still around, but what a pathetic specimen.   All his ladies have deserted and gone off to raise families along the field margins. His job is done for another year; he has no need to attract anything or anyone.   And, by golly, it shows. 

His coat is drab; all his bright plumage has either dulled or fallen out;  he skulks all day under the bushes by the bird table, rarely bothering to fly or even walk away; he looks utterly miserable.   Seems this is man's lot.