The Herefords...

..are always watching...

Look, a splendid new barn!

Shiny and complete with gutters (thank goodness) plus a new track so we can drive to it!  Thanks to the Longmoor Labourers for their hard work track-building.  The track has significantly reduced run-off from the fields already, and combined with the new barn will go a long way to boosting our catchment-sensitive farming credentials.  Unfortunately, photographic evidence of Helen's birthday treat...shovelling rubble, was lost when Dad buried his brand new digital camera.

With the building complete, its back to other farm work.  The priority right now is make sure the new grassland is in tip-top condition for a bumper hay and silage year.  We're on the lookout for the mugwort peril, a plant that has plagued one of our fields for years, but concerted digging up and cutting seems, at the moment, to have reduced its proliferation.  In its place, something better.  Planting the grassland has turned up a lot of burnt flint - further evidence early Humph walked this land!

Next winter, the new barn will simplify our system, and if implemented well, should cut the time spent feeding, littering and yard clearing, allowing us to make progress and fight perils elsewhere;  good for the cows, good for us farmers!

And on that note, this week, I attended a Farm Safety and Health Awareness morning.  Let's be honest, I wasn't too thrilled at the thought of HSE presentations, and it's never good to embody 'health' at these events by turning up in the throes of alien death flu.  However, it was presented by farmers and I would highly recommend it as a refresher in how to mitigate risks and keep yourself and your workforce safe.  Anyone who has attempted to find H&S information, particularly on the HSE website, will know it seems somewhat of a dark art.  This morning was informative, and we received H&S advice that I would not have considered and/or would have no idea where to look for otherwise.  Farmers, if you haven't attended already, get yourself on a course!

No excuses:

Let sleeping cows lie...

The cows are in!  They are greatly enjoying being tucked up in the barn, where the prospect of fresh straw is enough to get the oldest and, shall we say, most 'heavyset' cattle kicking up their heels with joy!  Before settling in for the night, when all is quiet in the barn...apart from the chewing of cuds, snorting and that one annoying cow with a deviated septum.  There's always one. Snoring aside, it is warm in the barn, and if fuel prices get any higher, I will be blogging from there.  Or maybe just select a nice clean one to bring indoors.  No. 100 would do.

It has been a mixed month, a new muckspreader is gracing the fields of Lower Dairy Farm, Dad's been patching up machinery left, right and centre, the JCB got stuck...again, and there's an annoying hole in the Stable courtesy of Jude.Thanks Jude.  It could have been worse, but is another job to add to the list before winter sets in.  Fortunately, a scaffold tower was erected in record time, and is ready for the repairs when a tired Farmer Humph and Steeplejack Humbug have a spare moment.We think he's dreaming about our last sugar beet harvest...!  A joyous event coming soon to LDF - Christmas has nothing on that celebration.

(For the record, the women of the farm are still working.  Girl power.)

Pick-ups, poles and puddings

The cows are tucked up in the barn and I left the farm with the river rising, worrying electricity poles and a broken down pick-up. The super-breed that is the "abbreviated collie" and I have headed to Dorset for dairy farm fun, Humbug to cheat on BFF Reggie with cousin Jack, and to "feast" upon a 2-year old Christmas pudding found at the back of Mrs "Heston would be proud" Rogers' larder.  Mmmm antique.  Can you say superfood?






I am thinking perhaps that said pickled delight could be used to shore up the electricity cable crossing our flood meadow of which a junction of high voltage cable has lost a stay but in no way carries the electricity to Nayland, in particular the pumping station.  So no need for concern.  Little fills you with greater dread than a mechanic kicking poles at the base to see if they wobble.

A flood would really help, particularly as they cannot get the machinery down to properly fix the problem until the land dries out.  Last year, we had the Incident of the Downed Cable Sparking in the Night.  We would really not like to repeat that so have removed the bullocks to higher ground to avoid both flooding and to remove them from the ultimate scratching post that is a telegraph stay.  Their beautiful bottoms seen here trotting obediently up Water Lane to attack the stay in the Home Field instead.

But even though the pick-up and cattle trailer broke down (luckily on the way back from unloading cattle) and Dad embarked on a lengthy wait for the recovery services, there was good news this week as the cows are now safely installed in the barn and feasting on hay in the yard outside.

They face a winter of pampering at the 5* Hotel de LDF.  Give them a wave if you pass on Water Lane.  If you walk past at dusk, you can watch the calves "barrel race" round the feeders whilst the mothers look on in despair!

Back in Dairyville, I'm off to continue my culinary tour, play "Lose a Welly Roulette" with the Dorset mud...

..and drink the bulk tank dry of fresh milk - I'm hoping, the ultimate antidote to ancient puddings.

Little Pig Robinsons

So, our pair of calm, docile, lop-eared Houdini-piglets have decided they would rather be roaming the mean streets of Horkesley as opposed to a life in their lovely green meadow.  Thank you to everyone who took part in the attempts to get them back into the field.  The way to revitalise the Big Society?  Community animal herding.

   I very kindly left the escapists in the care of others to head to our twin farm in Dorset, to witness the remarkable results of Adam Henson's new agricultural show, "Pimp My Calf Hutch".Me and Calf-Tel have had our differences in the past, but if I were ever to consider camping was a good idea, I would like to take one of these with me - canvas is very overrated. [NB. Had I had to assemble this I would probably be thinking differently. The smaller version drove me to near-violence.]

But, there is no need to run away!  Better than a calf hutch or pig sty, is our pimped-out barn here in Essex.  For those who didn't make it to OFS, we are proud to introduce our new-look Mill House.

 Hats off to the incredible Richard Green for the work he put in to turn this side around in under a week.  And for patiently dealing with the site Führer, sorry, foreman.

Not to mention a bricklaying apprentice with little (to no) spatial awareness.  "Is that level?" Genuinely, no clue.  I could blame the PTSD from stacking 1600 Victorian bricks for the new plinth the day before my short-lived apprenticeship, but I would be lying.

The barn is now boarded against the weather.  Naturally, this is a temporary measure and distressingly, the boards will have to come off (joy!) to reinstate the original features we've preserved in the frame beneath.  However, our priority at the moment is making sure the barn is weatherproof and structurally sound in order to continue the work.  I did not get a chance to put these pictures up for Open Farm Sunday, but the change in a year is quite remarkable.

JULY 2011


JUNE 2012


Inside, it is looking fabulous with Roy Cafferty prepping sections for the lime plaster course next week.  Following my "success" at bricklaying, I am confident lime plastering will uncover my hidden genius.

Thank you again to everyone on the Essex CC courses, but particularly to Richard, Essex/Suffolk's premier timber frame restorer, for the incredible work.  It is lovely to have an area getting back into a usable shape and to see progress on the farm.

Bricklayers Anonymous

   Yesterday, whilst wearing my regulation "it's November, it should be cold" outfit (three fleeces and a waterproof) I was wolf-whistled at by a man towing a cattle trailer.  I was as surprised as you are, but this can only mean one thing...bring on the mince pies!

   And no Verity, you cannot use shop bought pastry.  Save yourself some money and go crazy with some shortcrust.

Shortcrust pastry

8oz flour, pinch of salt, 2oz lard, 2oz marg, cold water to mix (approx 2tbsp), (1oz sugar for sweet pastry)

Mix flour and salt in basin, rub in fat.

Using a knife, to cut and stir, mix with cold water to form a stiff paste.

Turn dough on to a floured board/worktop and roll out.

- from the Be-Ro bible.

   Personally, I think lids are a waste of pastry (I am that cheap), so it's stars or dinosaurs, or whichever shape cutter/mould comes to hand - some still retaining the kryptonic strength of dried-on homemade play dough.  Or if you have that much time on your hands, you can create Edible Boggle (minus the shaking).  Way more rewarding than actual Boggle.

   In other news...progress on the barn restoration.  The brickwork is nearly completed thanks to Dad and Jack, our Master Bricklayer.

   Over the past two years, Mum and Dad have made incredible progress to ensure the barn remains standing for another few hundred years.  Through courses run by Essex Heritage and led by the excellent Richard Green of Green Restoration, we've been able to repair the rotten sole plate in three places and shore up the barn.  After the marathon effort of all the attendees on the last course, we've got a lot to do but it will be worth it!

We'll be adding more information and background to our website, but here is a quick photographic rundown to get you up to speed and show you our most recent progress.  And Richard, I'm not that good with Photoshop, the brickwork is real!

The race is on to get it shipshape before the weather turns...!