Sunday, 25 January 2015


Farming entails constant vigilance.   First of all to any animals on the farm; in our case milk cows and Swaledale sheep.   The milking cows we have , which we Winter-house for our friend and neighbour, are all in calf, so the farmer needs to watch and make sure that all are going along nicely.  Any 'hiccup' and the farmer calls and takes them back home so that he can keep an eye on them.
Then there are the sheep.   There is a saying up here - with a lot of truth in it as as any sheep-keeper will tell you - 'sheep are either alive or dead, there is no in-between', so it is necessary to go round them twice a day to make sure they all appear to be well.That doesn't ensure that they remain that way until the next day, but it is a good start.
The hens need watching - are they all in at night, do any of them look a bit seedy (not that there is much you can do, because rather like sheep, once they begin to sicken they seem to give up and go into a decline.)   But as many of mine are almost ten years old, they haven't done badly have they?
But then there are other things.   Fences need vigilance, particularly if sheep are in the field because there is nothing sheep like more than a scamper along the top of the wall, or pushing through a fence to where the grass looks much greener on the other side (it isn't).
But it doesn;t end there.   The farmer has just passed the kitchen window with his trowel.   He has gone to look at his mole traps.   Every farmer has trouble with moles.   They are pretty little creatures but they do push up air holes from their underground tunnels, and this leaves a telltale mound of soil every few yards.   These mounds are very bad at silaging time or haymaking time as they can ruin a good field of grass when it comes to gathering it in.

And lastly there are the rodents.   The cats keep the mice down to some extent - because they do tend to spend the winter near to the bags of chicken feed and the cats know this. But rats - now that is a completely different matter.   The farmer said at breakfast this morning that cats usually catch rats only if they approach them from behind.   Well, I must say, our cats are good rabbiters and good mousers, but I have never seen either of them with a rat.   And where do the rats congregate?   Well, in the Winter, when they tend to come into the farmyard for shelter from the elements, they often live at the back of the big shed, among all kinds of equipment and bits and pieces which congregate on every farm.  So the farmer keeps a cage trap set there (no other kind of trap and no poison in case the cats go there).   But the other place they go is under the hen hut as there is a loose floorboard (yes I know - why doesn;t the farmer get in there with a hammer and nails?) and there he keeps a permanently set snap trap.   And he has caught two large grey rats on two consecutive days this week.

Whether he has caught a mole I don't know - he will tell me if he has when he comes in for his lunch.   In the meantime I must go and get on with preparing it.  Beef and ale pie - and I have bought some endive (never tried it before) which I am slow-cooking in the bottom oven of the Aga with olive oil and butter.   Watch this space for a report.


Cro Magnon said...

Luckily I'm quite an experienced Mole catcher. I need to be; we have an invasion.

Elizabeth said...

Used to be historic mole fights in Essex - my father was enraged by them making pretty molehills on his perfect lawn.
I thought they were charming...
Warm greetings from snowy NY

Heather said...

There can't be much spare time for farmers after attending to all those needs. I hope The Farmer catches the moles before they do any harm, and I'm sure he'll enjoy his lunch - it sounds delicious.

Rachel said...

Farming is a hard life. But those that are born into it take it for granted. My youngest brother controlled the rats on our farm and kept a rat diary which was inspected by Defra every year. Now I have moved away from the farm I have a neighbour who puts bird food on the ground and will not listen when I tell him he is attracting rats. Madness. My cats bring in the most enormous rats as offerings for us and I am not pleased.

Joanne Noragon said...

I decided to let the moles be as I have no vested interest in what passes for lawn at our house, and they do not seem to bother the roots of my garden.

Maywyn Studio said...

Hammer and nails, yes. Your varmit issues sound city life here when they find ways to get in for wintering over. I think this year they are out of luck because the renovations has removed all the broken boards, holes they could go through, and the long hedgerow.

Mac n' Janet said...

Hard work, but I'd think very rewarding. Sheep are such strange creatures, their silly behavior never fails to amaze me. Cows on the other hand are just evil or have been in my experience.

Cranberry Morning said...

A few years ago, I posted a photo of a gate on a Yorkshire sheep pasture. The gate had several moles hanging from it, all in a row. I asked my readers if anyone knew why the moles would be hanging there, and no one seemed to have a definitive answer. I bet you would know! I would love to know the answer to that puzzling question.

Rats are the reason I haven't got up the courage to get chickens. Other than that, and trudging through feet of snow and -20 degrees F. to care for them in the winter, I'd like to have a few laying hens. I think that most people around here no longer keep hens after 3 years, unless they're for pets. Of course, mine would be pets from the get-go, with the side benefit of eggs.

Judy - from Wisconsin

Mary said...

You two do lead such a busy life on the farm - and I think I'd have to stick with your part rather than the farmer's! I have a hard enough time dealing with a tiny mouse now and then - rats would finish me off! WE used to have a serious vole infestation in our garden/lawn but some neighbor feral cats took care of that. Only problem now is those cats have not been seen in months so I fear the voles might return.

What is the average lifespan of a sheep Pat? I didn't know they give up so easily when ill. . . or know they were wall climbers.

Happy Sunday - hope the sun is shining on that lovely landscape today.
Mary -

jinxxxygirl said...

My hubby, the rancher growing up, has always heard the saying that 'sheep are just looking for a place to die'.... I guess that kind of goes along the same lines as your saying. :)

Barbara Womack said...

Ah, yes, Winter on the farm. It's certainly not a constant time of hot cocoa and fireside relaxation!
I'm glad we're not the only one with "rodent" issues. If there was one thing I could really do without here on the farm, it would have to be RATS. Hateful things that eat anything and everything...ugh!
Your lunch sounds scrumptious. Do tell more on your endive experiment! I've never tried cooking it.

angryparsnip said...

I to think the moles are very cute but if I lived on a farm I wouldn't like then either.
I have packrats, they are cute but so destructive. I have a service that comes out 4 times a year. They walk all around my home looking for new burrows. They set traps, then clean up the burrow so I new family will not move in.

Your lunch sounds so wonderful.
Be sure to tell us about the endive.

cheers, parsnip

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

Rats are a problem wherever you live, but people are ashamed of it , which doesn't help with the eradication of the little monsters. I once sat on a bench in the middle of a city and soon spotted several rats scuttling among the bins and the islands of shrubs. Nobody seemed to spot them but me.
Moles are a problem this year here too, normally our cat Dixie catches them, but is on some sort of "work to rule" and is just catching mice. And you are SO right about the sheep!

Cloudia said...

I can count the times I've read a blog post to my husband on one hand. But I narrated this entire post [we are animal lovers].

He enjoyed the visit, much as I always seem to. Thank you for transporting us to a very different life, that nevertheless is not alien to us on many levels. He is at this moment cooking with . . . beer....

Cheers, Friends!

ALOHA from Honolulu

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I would make such a dreadful farmer. I'd want to bring them all in the house on a cold, cold night.

Terry and Linda said...

I've had a huge mouse problem the last couple of years...if I can ever get them cleared up I want to get chickens again!

Linda ❤⊱彡

Peg said...

Firstly regarding dead moles tied and lined up on a gate or fence it's supposed to 'put off' the live ones.
As far as rats and mice are concerned I have absolute fear of them. I know they sometimes (mice) occupy the small shed at the bottom of the garden but Mr B says they're not hurting anything!!!!!!! So I will not go near that shed :) I found evidence one year of visitors in my dog grooming shed so engaged a very carefree grandson to sort it out. The elder grandson was mortified one weekend last winter when he stayed here whilst we were away when he saw a mouse run across the kitchen floor arrrrggghhh. I wouldn't come home until it was sorted. I am a bit paranoid about them can't help it. Its the scurrying about (says she shuddering). I don't encroach on their homes they shouldn't come in mine.

Peg x

thousandflower said...

We have no mice on our small island but we do have lots of rats and rabbits. Our cats are really good at keeping both under control.