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.