1. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Oct 8, 2015
    Well that’s summer gone then. The minute the baler had finished its work, we’d pressed right on with other weather dependant tasks. Most of the remaining poop is spread, and several maintenance jobs attended to. The last gasp was a concrete pad to cast, with readymix due for delivery last Monday. Seeing the forecast, and knowing the site would soon become porridge in the impending monsoon, I managed to get things re-arranged –thanks Pete- for first thing Saturday morning. And I’m jolly glad that we did, as the rivers are now up over the banks, and the leaves are fast letting go, and blowing about the yard.

    I was a bit perplexed when some twerp came on the radio, with their ‘thought for the day’ or whatever it was. I wasn’t paying attention, as he waffled on about how we regarded harvest festivals, and whether it should about female fertility or somesuch, and a load of other nonsense besides. I think he’d rather lost sight of the fact that we celebrate our completed harvest at this end of the year, in whatever religion or flavour we might choose, because we’re mighty glad the crops are in, and that man and beast won’t starve this winter.

    Anyway, without dropping the pace, we’re straight into prepping the ewes for tupping. There’s trace element boluses to put in them, fluke jabs to annoy them with, and it’ll soon be bath time. I’ve got tups to sell, and a couple to source for some fresh blood. By degrees, cattle are being led back to civilisation, and are starting to...
  2. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Oct 2, 2015
    Autumn must be upon us, the blasted mice have re-invaded the farmhouse. The smaller of the two kitchen terrierists-Poppy- is spending a lot of time under one the sink unit, from where occasional squeaking can be heard. Pity she can’t get up onto the worktop upon which rests the fruit bowls-these are multiple, to accommodate my son, who consumes barrow loads of victuals generally, and especially great quantities of fruit. And so does Minnie the Mouse it seems, liking to nibble a bit off each piece as she goes. Whether the boy will notice the traps as he grazes is unknown….I daresay we’ll hear about it soon enough.

    Meanwhile, there’s also evidence of an infestation in the living room – of mice, rather than the usual teenagers. I’ve set a trap behind the sofa, which is getting some action. Worryingly, whoever has been coming along 2nd is not only taking the uneaten bait – the first arrival always seems to lose their appetite once the trap is sprung- but is also chewing great holes in the departed first arrival. Last night’s victim disappeared completely, leaving only some fresh bloody streaks on the trap which had moved 3 feet. This is a new development I’m not altogether happy with. What lurks under the sofa?

    Elsewhere, I’ve been half listening to reports about medical advances utilising stem cells, which continue to reach into unlikely corners. The latest, fixing a patient’s previously unfixable knackered eyes, has opened yet more doors. The list of things...
  3. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Careers and lifelong learning
    Sep 29, 2015
    A visit to the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s careers event three years ago proved life changing for a North Yorkshire student – and he is returning to next month’s event to inspire others.

    As a 15 year old, Jimmy Fawcett attended “Careers in Focus” at the Great Yorkshire Showground and to his surprise, found himself on the rostrum taking part in a mock livestock auction. The experience was pivotal as he has since gone on to become an auctioneer and now, aged 18, he will return to the event to talk about his career path.

    2015 Careers in Focus takes place on Tuesday 6 October and will highlight the wide range of options open to young people including those in the rural sector.

    The event is a one stop shop for students to speak to experts and learn more about a host of employment and training opportunities from the 80 or so stands and displays. Jimmy is one of a number of speakers who will share their experiences with the 1,500 secondary students who are attending.

    He explained: “I was in Year 11 at school and went along to Careers in Focus with my mother. Auctioneer Scott Donaldson was holding a mock cattle auction, he knows my family and suddenly he called me up to have a go. I realized it was something I could perhaps do and that was the start of everything.” Jimmy, whose family farm near York, has been the Junior Auctioneer at Leyburn Auction Mart since July 2014.

    Organiser, Liz Hudson said:...
  4. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Sep 25, 2015
    I like a week in which I’m faced with a bit of a juxtaposition to stir the old grey matter, which would otherwise surely congeal. Firstly, as well as assembling a few motley store cattle and lambs for sale, wondering if they’ll make up the shortfall in cashflow until promised but elusive EU subsidies appear, I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours with some travelling Australians, one couple heading up a cattle operation covering 1.5 million acres, stocked with around 30,000 head.

    Being extensive, low input cattle breeders, we obviously had immediate common factors in our lives. Admittedly, I don’t use helicopters to gather cattle, and they conserve fodder in case of drought, rather than snow. But both of our businesses are built around the wellbeing and management of mobs of unruly and seldom handled livestock. However there were differences, some unlikely, which revealed far greater chasms between our lives.

    Having taken them around the property here, showing them a bit of scenery and some cows, they then got out the smart phones- and left a DVD-, to show us how it is over there. I was familiar with the concept. Red humpy backed Drought-master cattle, spread over vast miles of red dirt, and the need to be ready for dry times with diminishing grazing. Surplus cattle are rounded up and sent off on roadtrains, often for live export. However, progress has seen them drilling boreholes to an aquifer 260 meters deep, for centre pivot irrigation. These giant green...
  5. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Machinery
    Sep 21, 2015
    @Niels brought my attention to this new DVD release

    A Year Farming with Deere Two-part DVD series by Chris Lockwood

    This two-part DVD series follows a year with contract farming operation Reed Agriculture. Based in North Suffolk, the business covers 3000 acres and uses almost exclusively John Deere machinery.

    Interviews and narration describe more than 100 sequences over the course of the two programmes. Particular emphasis is placed on showing the impressive array of modern equipment used, with nearly 60 machines featured over both discs, including more than 40 tractors with examples from most of the popular John Deere ranges produced during the past 10 years.

    The soil types are very variable, ranging from light sand to heavy clay, and consequently a wide variety of crops are grown including wheat, barley, oilseed rape, sugar beet, peas, grass, parsley, onions and potatoes.

    Part one covers the period January to May, beginning with the harvesting of the remainder of last year’s sugar beet. A variety of cultivations on the light land are followed by the drilling of spring sown crops. Preparations for onion sets and potatoes are shown in detail, together with the planting operation. Crop care is next, with spraying, fertilising and irrigation the order of the day.

    Part two continues the story from June to December, starting with haylage and haymaking

    activities. Harvest commences with the combinable crops, followed by the...
  6. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Sep 17, 2015
    I’ve taken the baler off and I’m done- or possibly done in. In keeping with the season I ended up wrapping almost everything, as while I could’ve cut less ground, and turned it more to get it as hay, that wouldn’t have got everything done. And we had several days last week when claggy clouds didn’t thin until lunchtime…..despite annoying reports of blazing sunshine off the moor. Then, on a day we needed every hand to the metaphoric pump, a group of kids on mountain bikes went through, leaving every single gate unlatched behind them. The bull who escaped, and set to having a major scrap with a bull next door, took 3 of my crew- and an obliging neighbour- to retrieve. It would be nice to explain things clearly to the ‘responsible adult’ in charge of the kids, preferably in a darkened alleyway somewhere. A couple of minor breakdowns also slowed us a bit, swallowing time we didn’t have.

    As I was chasing rows with the baler one day, the radio was prattling on about some EU ruling, limiting the maximum permitted working week to 48 hours. Ha! Only in my dreams. Despite daylight being shorter now, I’ve been doing about double that.

    The final round bale tally is something over 1700, and if the old saw is true, that ‘it’ll all be needed’, Heaven help us. The snow must be coming any day. I don’t especially wish to discuss my bale wrap bill, but take solace in the knowledge that without it, I’d have been in trouble.

    I’m reminded that our modern concept of famine is images of...
  7. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Sep 10, 2015
    A long awaited dry week has had most of us up here making a dash for the last gasp harvest. I didn’t dwell too long once the high pressure rolled up, and cut everything remaining. We’re down to the last nail-biting teeth clenched piddly fields, clinging to the sides of the valley – 48 acres in 16 enclosures. It isn’t the number of bales that’s the problem, but rather the fag of all the narrow gates and road bridges, boulders, sidling ground, or aimless grockles dawdling in the way.

    For all the threat of night-time frosts, and approaching equinox, the crop is turning up green and vaguely fragrant. A lot of it wasn’t laid up until June, so it’s far from gone over. I’ve started baling and wrapping some, but it looks like we’ll be getting it dry enough to call it hay in the next couple of days. Whoop! I might be spared 5-6 rolls of wrap after all. Later starts and earlier evenings don’t assist, with the window narrowing every day into September.

    I’m sharing these September days with several strayed pheasants, and a very sleek young fox…who presumably just has to lie around with his mouth open until they fall in. There are flocks of small twittery birds in the hawthorns, which are laden with fruit, along with everything else. A pair of Roe deer are raising twins in one block of mowing ground, the buck watching me carefully from the bracken on the headlands. They’ve trampled a fair mess in the hay crop, and I’d knock him over and pop him in the freezer but for the fact...
  8. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Sep 3, 2015
    Let me tell you a tale about a strange rural community.

    There was this group of sheep farms lying between a big lake and a high mountain range. The terrain and climate was reasonably kind, and farming was fairly easy. This community of shepherds kept a lot of sheep, intensively using the available space. It hadn’t always run smooth though, for in centuries past, some had been over ambitious. Some, regrettably, had tried to steal their neighbours land. During these struggles, many neglected and hungry sheep strayed, which complicated relations further. The cycle of this behaviour had steadily escalated, until the turmoil had dragged the whole community into bitter feuds, in which much blood was spilled.

    After a couple of particularly costly fallouts, in which some families received help from distant cousins outside the area, the whole group had an epiphany. They agreed a way to live in peace with each other, helping weaker farmers tend their flocks. The debts they owed from the feuding days took decades to repay, further reminding them not to fall into disputes again. But once their internal feuds were sorted out, each man’s boundaries were respected, and he was helped to farm his sheep responsibly.

    And the community prospered. Pastures were weed free and in good heart, and both shepherds and sheep were healthy and contented. So much so in fact that, incredibly, boundary fences were allowed to fall into disrepair. The well fed sheep seldom strayed, and when they...
  9. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Sep 3, 2015
    For some reasons, I keep getting emails from firms wanting to flog me translation services. And the irony is that my cattle breeding interests and exploits do indeed put me in touch with breeders all over the world. We’re exchanging, for instance, large tranches of information with a group of Kiwis at the moment, but I don’t think we need translation help there. And our Brazilian cattle breeding chum has reasonable English…certainly enough to converse. Admittedly enquiries from Russia have been difficult, although we’ve now got translators who would help. And anyway, Putin has put an embargo on any transactions anyway, since the West suggested he ought to let the Ukrainians determine their own future, so there’s no business to be done there.
    Now I come to think of though, we do business with several Scots who I struggle with. Could be an opportunity there. Then I’ve been supplying heifers into an area of Wales where 60% of the households use Welsh as their first language, and there’s some of the natives West of the Tamar we deal with who seem to use a patois not readily compatible with English. Perhaps I should investigate these translation services further…..

    And speaking of Kernow…obviously news that a large pod of Pilot whales has been seen off the coast has had hurried telegrams sent to Thorfinn and Lars. They reckon they’ll be down early next week, and that to find yourselves a shallow shelving bay, and we’ll eat well this winter! Then there’s the cash...
  10. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Machinery
    Aug 27, 2015
    Today has been a very special day and one that up until 9am this morning, I had not seen coming

    A verbal quote for a bit of business through a key dealer contact in Norfolk resulted in a request to do a site visit local to me, ostensibly to take a few measurements.

    I recognised the end customer name and address immediately. As I drew in to the industrial estate looking for building 5, I had the good fortune to see another building door open. I was aware, of course, that Paul Rackham had a forthcoming auction with Cheffins to sell his collection of tractors and machinery on the 26th September 2015. I had heard the rumours of shipping space already being booked and the level of interest this sale would generate.

    My business done and a lovely, feet on the ground discussion with Mr Rackham about the cattle farm requirements, politics and the fact that his Daughter lives in my village, I just felt compelled to ask if I could take a look around the collection. In his own very gracious and quiet unassuming way he insisted I did so and drove me down to the building.

    I stepped inside and recognised the lines of tractors, in marque / type layout. I introduced myself to the two engineers working on the collection and they kindly pointed out a few of the "stars".

    Now as a simple stockman, I have a rudimentary knowledge of tractor history, I can even remember a good few models over my 52 years and from the books I read avidly as a kid.

    Nothing, however, could have...