Back to basics

Look!  A three furrow plough.Dad has worked like a demon to complete the ploughing.  With only the Poor Field to go - poor by name, poor by nature, he went back to basics to get through some wet, heavy land without wrecking the tractor.  Apparently, it is better adjusted than the four furrow.  Bonus!

Unfortunately, with the ploughing completed, work stopped to rescue the JCB which was a little stuck in the barn.Time to crack out the shovels and dig for victory, but with our muscles struggling and the tractor unable to pull it out, we needed the big The Mighty Nuffield swung into action.Which makes you wonder why we use any modern machinery!

After my earlier destructive episode - bringing down the power cables to the farm with the JCB loader, it's safe to say we are being uber-careful as these things tend to come in threes.Perhaps we should offer our first bull calf of 2013 to the Gods, and name it after JCB's founding father, 'Mr Bamford'?

Quite the Bulldozer!

Happy Harvest

It's raining!  Good news as it meant limited guilt when I abandoned the farm for the Olympic eventing final yesterday.  You should know, I love the Olympics more than Humbug or my family.  To the point I walked Humbug the other day by sprinting to a friend's house (fortunately within the death distance - approx 1/8 mile) in the break in the men's gymnastics all-round final.  Apologies to the local farmer who had to witness my attempt at running (less Usain more Jumanji) along the edge of a sugar beet field.

But it IS harvest, and the combine IS ready to go  - at last testing barley was at 20% moisture, so not long now.  And so it is time for a vintage picture.  I've recently been sorting through Grandad's photos and negatives from the '30s (after dark, late at night - all hours must be accounted for pre-harvest).  Last week, I came across this picture of a time before the JCB/Manitou took the load off a farmer's harvest.


Having spent a long time as a child climbing/being lifted one layer higher on a trailer of bales (whilst wearing a natty knotted 'kerchief), this photo brought back fond memories of harvest.  It is a strange time, in my opinion the most stressful and most enjoyable time in the farming year.  But, just as at the Olympics, everything comes down to this.  And having worked increasingly with Dad over the past year since I returned to the farm, I would like to encourage all involved to 'Make the Promise' to come home safely.  Don't get me wrong, we may despair of HSE at times and we do not have to harvest in the conditions in this photo, but it is important to get through it in one piece!  As the HSE executive say: Do it for yourself, your family and your farm.

Good luck to everyone starting harvest, finishing (you lucky things) or struggling to get heavy machinery into boggy fields!  It has been a challenging season in the UK but spare a thought for our American counterparts.  With extraordinary drought conditions across the US, we are lucky to be able to head into the fields to harvest.  There'll be lots of cursing, screaming and probably a few tears (from Humbug) here at LDF, but here's wishing you all a safe harvest.

When tedding goes wrong...

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Meet Mrs Rogers.

  Mrs Rogers is a Centaur (part-woman, part-Humbug).  One sunny day, Mrs Rogers was tedding the fields at Lower Dairy Farm.  "What fun this is!" she said to Humbug.

Suddenly, the tedder stopped fluffing the grass and started making a funny noise.  Mrs Rogers jumped out of her tractor cab and headed out to investigate.

"Oh no!" said Mrs Rogers, "I seem to have wrapped a large quantity of fencing wire around the tedder!".  [Not her actual words.]  And just at that moment, Happy Farmer Humphrey appeared.

   And so they unwound, and unwound and extracted the wire and pretty soon, the tedder was free.  "Phew!" said Mrs Rogers. 

But Mrs Rogers had to say goodbye to the tedder and will never be trusted again.

"Bye-bye tedder!" said Arnie, sorry, Mrs Rogers.

"I'll take this out of your pay!" said Farmer Humph as he jumped into the tractor cab.  "What pay?!?" said indentured Mrs Rogers nee Taylor.

"Time for lunch." said Humbug.

Our twin farm

I start the blog then leave the farm! Typical. But it's only temporary, for this weekend Humbug and I have headed to Dorset for the Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival, and of course to see my sister and brother-in-law. It's a big step for me. I haven't made it out of a one mile radius for several weeks, so world here I come! The Rogers moved here about 5 months ago. Now, moving is a nightmare at the best of times, but we're talking about moving on a whole new scale (think Monster Moves on Channel Five). They moved their dairy farm, cows and all, from Oxfordshire to Dorset. Logistically speaking, this is an incredibly impressive and highly stressful undertaking. With a heck of a lot of hard work from everyone involved, everything made it in one piece, and I think the last load (of what I'm told isn't actually scrap), arrived today.

It's been a long process, but the amount they have achieved in the past few months is phenomenal. A testament to the strength of the community in Oxford was the number of people that gave time, many of them farmers, to help pack up and unpack, document the move and provide tea at just the right time. For many this was on the back of, or even before a day at work or milking and chores on their own farms.

My role as "general help and provider of emergency chocolate" was rewarded eternally by the sight of the cattle trailers at Stonehenge with cows sticking their heads out of the two-tier lorries to have a look. You'll have to believe me on this one, it was a classic Kodak moment missed. I also got to fulfill my childhood dream of milking cows, which was just as amazing, and mucky as I had imagined! Our herd at Lower Dairy Farm is directly descended from the pedigree Ayrshire herd my grandparents introduced in 1951. And the more time I spend here, the more I think a dairy cow, at least one, would be a good idea...but watch this space...

The family produce milk for Waitrose and delicious milk it is too. Never mind the family connection, the raw milk alone is reason enough to visit. That and the back catalogue of Holstein International magazines and my bedtime reading tonight (because I've misplaced the HI), British Dairying. The latest news on livestock paint crayons? Yes please! Don't worry, I'll keep that one to myself.