Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Pumps and Wells of Seighford 265


                                          Pumps and Wells of Seighford   

Before mains water was brought into Seighford in 1948, the whole village relied on wells. All of the farms had their own wells, but all of the cottages had to draw water from the two village pumps, One was located about ten yards to the west of the old Village Shop, back off the pavement on a grassy hump, opposite and the pair of old thatched cottages.

 They were both upright wooden structures, with lagging, or what was left of it, to protect them from the frost. A long curved blacksmith made handle on the side to pump, and a large well-worn lead spout on which you could hang your bucket. Below the spout, was a sandstone trough in which would catch the water spilt and prevent it becoming muddy. There was a small hole into which the water drained into a grid (I suspect it soaked back into the well). There was always a pump on the front wall of the Holly Bush pub, but can not ever remember it working, I think it was just the wooden casing.


 The other was located on the Village Green by the wicket into Ivy Cottage garden. Again you had to walk up to it on a small grassy area.

  Monday mornings was always a washing day, and there was a “well” set back in the field behind the school, which was a soft water well. That meant the soap suds Lathered a lot better, and you used less of it. There is only the indentation in the field to mark the spot where it was. ( now its in the back carpark of the school).  It was fenced round with oak rails to keep the cattle away.  It was only a few feet down to the water level. The water table dropped in the summer, and  there was no pump and so water had to be drawn by lowering the bucket on a rope. (It would make a good village archaeological dig some time in the future, as it is all complete and only shallow

In the excavations for the new school, almost on the south boundary, the old school well was uncovered,  it had been filled in soon after the mains water came into Seighford, but I can remember the school caretaker Mrs Appleby, arriving from next door where she lived (the house was just behind the iron gates into the new tarmac playing area), and her first job was to hand pump the water needed for the school that day, then light the boiler for the central heating.


In the wood behind the Cumbers (Haynes Covert) is another shallow well with a very large sandstone cover, some six foot by four foot and about six foot deep. It is more like a sump. It must be over a very active spring as it is always wet below the wood fence. From the well runs a cast iron pipe in a direct and straight line to the middle of “Yews Farm” yard then under the road to the lowest point of “Green Farm” yard, where in both yards there used to be a long cattle water trough. Over the trough was a curved water pipe that continuously ran a steady dribble of water, this was fed by gravity from the wood. This again is a good and easy “dig” as the cast iron pipe is exposed in places where it crosses ditches, although it has been broken in places. Across one ditch is a tee, which was a drain to flush the pipe from time to time, and, when in use it had a wooden bung (at that point it would have about five foot head of water so no great pressure and all by gravity) The work horses would be turned out after a hard days work and drink from the trough as would the cattle. This happened in both farm yards.


The last well to be dug in Seighford was at the Yews Farm and is still an active and very clean well (but not pumped). The original well was in the back kitchen of the house but was too shallow and ran dry in the summer and could not cope with the demand of the farm house and dairy. The new one was dug to thirty two feet, just about the limit that water can be drawn (at thirty four feet then the pump mechanism has to go down the well to meet the water). On a recent opening of this well, some fifty years after it had been condemned by the water authority (only because the mains were put into Seighford) the brickwork looked as new. The water we dipped with a bucket was crystal clear (we could bottle it and sell it to Tesco). No water had been drawn in all them years.

Wells were dug by two experienced men, one of whom would dig in the centre of a four foot iron frame. Round which the other man would place loose bricks; he would also pull the soil up with a rope and bucket. As the soil was dug from the underside of the bottom edge of the frame, so the weight of the bricks would gradually drop and more bricks added to the top. That is why all wells have a slight curving, and twisting, as they drop more one side than the other, then corrected on digging deeper. This went on until a good flow of water was found usually below a layer of clay. in a seam of sand or gravel. (I was told the water could have dropped as rain as far away as Stafford Castle).

One other pump of note was the one for Seighford Hall, it drew water from springs to the west of the building, some half mile away, very near the S bends on the edge of the airfield. Water was carried by gravity, down a cast iron pipe to a pump house, which looks like a large dry well about ten feet across and four feet deep. This used to be covered to protected it from frost, and is situated to the south of the main building, behind the coach house, in a small paddock surrounded by iron railings. The pump itself was what was called a ram pump, which energized itself with the water that passed through it. This was achieved by the fact that the feeding spring, was some fifteen feet above the pump.  This gave it sufficient and constant pressure to work. The pump had an air dome above it, where the water would rush in, then rebound against the air pressure. The water having come through a non return valve was forced up another pipe with non return valve to a large tank in the roof of the hall. Only a proportion of the water was sent for use in the header tank, the rest was exhausted into the brook, it was self perpetuating almost like perpetual motion and needed almost no maintenance the only moving parts were non return valves





Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Mothers Knitting -264

I Remember Mothers Knitting

In the evening to relax, mother always knit,
Jumper’s scarves and socks, and gloves all made to fit,
All sizes knitting needles kept, neatly in a draw,
Some rolls of wool rolled into balls, left over from before,.

When the wool is newly bought, it comes in big long skeins,
We were asked hold out hands, and not aloud complain,
We took in turns to hold it, while she wound it into ball.
Sometime she would have, ten skeins of wool n’ do it all.

She knitted socks, with three needles steel,
Round and round she’d go, knitted fast by feel
Starting round the top, made grippe to hold then up,
Then Knit one pearl one to heel all without a slip-up.

Check the length of leg, for who it’s made to fit,
Cotton thread along with the wool, for heel is being knit,
This adds to its strength, when the holes appear,
Darning is inevitable, with all of our footgear.

We have to lie back with one foot, high up in the air,
Then new sock is pulled on, with three needles not a pair,
See how long to make the foot, were growing every year,
Then cast it off up to a point, last thread of wool to shear.

When knitting jumper she had, two great long needles blunt,
Plain band around the bottom, and pattern up the front,
Working from her women’s book, does cables blobs the lot,
Hold your chin up while it’s tried, she’s such an old fusspot.

To finish off around the cuffs, n round the neck she knits,
Try it on and pull puled well down, just to check it fits,
With there being four of use, could hand it up or down,
Used for best so smart it looks, going to the hoedown.

Owd Fred

Mother had a Grip like Iron --263

Never in all my life have I ever come across a woman with such power in her grip, if mother once got hold of you, you stood no chance of escaping, in fact I've seen her crack a walnut, and that takes some doing 

Mother had a Grip like Iron

When mother was young she had helped, around the family farm,
Milking cows by hand them days, strengthened sinews in her arms,
Her hand were still ladies hands, no bulky muscle show,
Belied the strength built into them, beyond you’d ever know,

Mother had a grip like iron, nothing failed her grip,
Screw lids on jars and bottles, give it me she’d quip,
The grip she had to skin a rabbit, or ring an old hen’s neck,
Crush a grape; she’d crush a walnut, power she’d got by heck.

Round by the coal ruck was her hammer, there to break the coal,
Coal it came in big lumps, some from steam loco it was bowled,
For coal alone the big lump hammer, it was there reduce.
Best steam coal was hard and bright, cracked it down for use,

When we were young she’d lace our boots, bow she’d pull real tight,
They never came undone all day, right into the night,
Sewing did with button thread, no tear came open again,
And buttons only came off once, thread she used times ten.

With age her hands were not so nimble, feel it gradually went,
Knitting that she’d done all her life, on wool she no more spent,
Her skin and nails were without blemish, soft and pink they were,
But on grip she never lost her strength; she was the best mum ever.

Owd Fred

Black Gold ---262

Black Gold

At great expense they drill for oil, black gold to be refined
Wells are sunk beneath the earth, through rock and soil grind,
Pumped and piped on its way, into many products turned,
Ammonium nitrate, tar and pitch, petrol diesel, n’ heating oil burned.

It’s running out and hard to find, now digging neath the waves,
Risks are getting higher, as for greater profit craves,
Barrel price keeps going up, and at the pumps the same,
There’s plenty more where that comes from, or that is what they claim

Biofuels the thing right now, grown on our land and earth,
Each season brings a new crop, to feed it now not worth,
Another market for our wheat, no surplus stores we need,
Persuade the millers pay the price, and end the waste and greed.

Energy from wind power, great turbines in the sky,
Out upon the hill tops, no wind no power supply,
Tide and wave power harness now, reliable as can be,
Clean and safe, its ebb and flow, the energy is free.

Owd Fred

Monday, 27 July 2020

Self Sufficiency 261

Miles per gallon's going up, so is car's per mile,
Speed is what's on most people's mind, then end up in a pile.

Self sufficiency

In my Fathers years of farming, there was the great depression of the nineteen thirties followed by world war II, which concentrated the governments minds on farming and food production. In my years following the war and rationing farming was appreciated and was treated with importance,
But now our country has once again got into the habit of importing ever increasing amounts of what the country needs to feed its inhabitants, and once again gone into a great (financial) depression.
A great majority of people do not give food, or food production any thought and is almost taken for granted. Just a hint of shortage creates a panic by government and individuals as to where they can buy to make up the deficit. But when it is a world shortage and nowhere to by it from, then food prices shoot up.

Houses built before and for some years after the second world war, had sufficient garden to grow a proportion their own food, Then the pressure was on to build more new houses, and on a given area of land they were crammed closer together, in towns and cities they had the high rise flats.

Allotments all over the country have suddenly been revived there being a waiting list in many places to get one. This is where folk who have no garden other than a square of lawn, can go and cultivate an area of ground on which to grow food or any thing they like, (more often used just to get away from her in doors).People these days seem totally incapable of being self-sufficient, no matter how much they grow at home or on the allotment.

I remember father telling us that it took a war to bring the country to realise why they have farmers, and much later towards the end of his life, he harked back to it again, hearing us younger generation moaning about making ends meet and paying more and more wages to less and less men on the farm.

Food Miles
On looking back when I were young, all them years ago,
The horse and cart were still about, a lot we didn't know,
Cars and tractors taking over, plenty of fuel they sup,
Fuel brought in from over seas, and local garages set up.

This has snowballed over the years, cannot comprehend,
Where all the traffic's going to, so fast around the bend,
Miles per gallon's going up, so is car's per mile,
Speed is what's on most people's mind, then end up in a pile.

Everything is carried about, and often back again,
Out to distribution centres, finding jobs for men,
Wear and tear on tyres and roads, burning up the miles,
Costs all added onto their goods, customer pays up and smiles.

At one time, veg came out the ground, flour came from the mill,
Chickens walked about the yard, pecking happily to get their fill,
A pig was fattened on scraps, from the house and garden,
Talk food miles, it was food yards, when things were all on ration.

Only thing that Mother bought, was cornflakes in a packet,
Then tins of peaches she would buy, from other side the planet,
Had these when bottled fruit ran out, ate with bread and butter,
Wheat was ground at water mill, bread baked next to the butcher.

Packaging's the thing right now, it's wrapped and wrapped again,
Keep the food clean and fresh, or that is what they claim,
Bin through many hands, and machines to wrap and pack,
Getting older by the minute, a use-by date on pack will slap.

Where do you put all the waste produced, pop it in the bin,
Land fill holes are filling up, rotting down n' methane begin,
It all boils down to negligence, in what were doing to our earth,
How it's changing for the worse, all getting bigger round the girth.

On looking where it's going to, well beyond my years,
Food's way down the list to buy, as" farmers" get the jeers,
Bring it all in from abroad, more transport still is needed,
"Look after those who tend our land", make sure the warnings heeded.


There is no love sincerer than the love of foodGeorge Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Eye Eye. ---260

Eye Eye

This is what you get looking through the eye of a needle.

Here we goo agen, this time it's the right eye, it seems, I was told, when I had them tested for upgrade of me glasses it had a hole in it at the back of the right eye, it was not until I got home the optician rang to say upon close scrutiny of the photo that they take  of  ya eyes that was what he found. On talking to him, he advised that I should pay a visit to the New Cross eye hospital at Wolverhampton to get it checked out and an appointment was duly made.
The appointment came and a thorough examination was made by the consultant who proceeded to explain in simple terms what was happening. In the back of the eye is a lining which should be smooth and flat, in my case it has started to wrinkle up causing blurred vision, they would need to go in and smooth it out or completely remove it.  This I suppose is key hole surgery at its best, explained in simple terms by me as, straightening the hearth rug in the front room through the letter box.
The appointment came the following week to go for surgery in two weeks time and be there at 7.20 am for an appointment that would last for the greater part of that morning. First another inspection of which eye it was to be operated on and a felt tip pen put a big arrow above my right eyebrow, and an identity band put on my wrist, I suspect it was put there incase they had to wheel me to the morgue later  on with me not responding to the question "are you all right". I was then walked down the corridor to the operating theatre  into the hand of an anaesthetist who positioned me on a plank of wood, or that was what it seemed covered with a white sheet all loaded onto a trolly (Iam elaborating/exaggerating a bit) with me yed stuck out on a twig beyond the end of the trolly, at a nod from the  surgeon/operator I was then wheeled in head first through the swinging doors narrowly missing having me ears ripped off (or so it seemed) and positioned under a robot suspended from the ceiling.
At this point I could see bugger all other than the ceiling and the lights and cold air vent, but made close mental notes of the conversations taking place around me. it seems there could have been about five or six personnel as well as the surgeon, who was talking through the setting up of the robot with its very bright narrow beam of light narrowly missing my eye. A gown was produced that had an eye hole in it  and around the hole was glue to stick my eye open and make a blood tight seal around my eye so it would not get on my shirt, (at this point I must point out I was was fully clothed with my street shoes on  it was only my jacket I had left in a locker) and switched me phone off, (wish now I could have recorded the whole thing in sound if the had been left on), oh and yes they poked an oxygen pipe up onto my chest so I could not suffocate while under that gown.
When the captain/surgeon got hold of the tiller however it was totally different, the beam of light started to close in on my right eye  and as it got closer I realised the light was coming from the point of a needle  and with his finger and thumb pressed on my eye he said "you will fell a little pressure now" and slowly pushed the needle into my eye, it was uncomfortable but not that painful. A part of the pre-amble that went on was the setting up of the screen on which he was to work from from the camera that is in the needle and all the others possibly students, could follow what he was doing, apparently he had some tools in there to pluck the rug that was wrinkled up in my eye and said he had completely removed it the debris was the pumped out presumably through the needle through a pump that was foot operated the switch positioned under his right foot (accelerator/ brake stile). After half an hour of this plucking he seemed to 'sweep' up the surrounding bit into the pump and  heard him ask for a contact lens. I must say that from when the needle first when in my eye I could not see any of the above work being done, it was as tho I had been shut out of my own eye. The operating needle was then removed and the patch/contact lens stitched into place, this stitching being the most painful of the lot making my toes curl up in my shoes, a bit more anesthetic being dropped in every minute or so just to pacify me and keep me still.
A big bun of wadding was plastered on me face and an eye patch and at last I could see all around me from my one remaining eye.
I was very disappointed to realise that the anaesthetist who wheeled me out was not very discrete, in that I was always brought up that you always wheeled a live person head first (as when I came in) and a dead one feet first, and this was how I was wheeled out, so I piped up from a prone state on the trolly are ya wheeling me to the morg  as I think I am still alive, giving me sen a good pinch. Upon realising I was still around I reached for me phone and rang for my son in law to be at the front door of the hospital in half an hours time to tek me ome and waited a short while for my medications to handed to me explaining what to do with three lots of drops and how to sleep only on my right side only, probably to stop me eye falling out while asleep.

Next morning I had been instructed to remove all the dressings and bathe the eye with cool boiled water to clean the area and apply the relevant number of drops as prescribed. Once this was all done I could not see through that eye hardly at all other than light and darkness and then could see my own hand when it was up by my chest. Later that first day there was a dark line across the screen/picture so to speak and realise that if I tilted my head to the left or right that dark line stayed level, it was like looking through a pair of swimming goggles with the water trapped in them covering my eye, there must be an air bubble still in my eye, and could visualise that it would be very useful if I were a builder or a plumber to have a built in spirit level, the problem is when I move my head and walk about the water is still swilling about from side to side giving me an unstable gate, the thing is to walk with one eye closed and believe only one eye as to where I am going. No wonder they have told me not to drive (or go on me bike)

Two quotes I have had back I dare not say who from-----------

----Lets look on the bright side, if you loose one eye you still have another one. 
----What a good job its raining, at least you won't get any dust in your eye.


Friday, 7 June 2019

Mothers Weekly Magazine ---259

Mothers Weekly Magazine

Mother had weekly magazine, knitting patterns every week,
These she used to knit up the fronts, of our jumpers so to speak,
Some were cable some were ribbed, some were chequered squares,
Some were bobbles in a lump, couldn't buy anything that compares.

The wool she bought was in skeins, a dozen at a time,
This she got us to hold while she wound into balls like twine,
We held our hands out at full stretch, while she wound full tilt,
Arms would ache on the second one, then our arms would wilt.

Brother next in line was asked, turns we had to take,
Wool was grey, or fawn, or blue, for what she’d got to make,
Socks she knit one every night, jumpers took over a week,
Stitch the front and back together, sleeves to the arm holes tweak.

Started with the welt, the grippe bit round the waist,
Tested it on the one who it’s for, half way round our hips she placed,
On up to the armpits, try it for length again,
Then the neck onto the shoulder, it was a blooming pain.

Next the socks they’re mostly grey, started top welt round,
These were pulled up to our knee, and turned the top bit down,
Knit on down to the heel, measured it on our legs,
Three needles used on this job, pulled them on like stuck out pegs.

Heels we always wore out first, so in with the wool she knit,
Strong button thread along side the wool, in pattern this wasn’t writ,
So when they did get bare and thin, she darned them time agen,
Then they were called our working socks, for us working men.

Sometimes when jumpers, got wore out up the front,
She would unpick the seams, and rewind a whole segment,
Then would knit again, into little gloves or woolly hat,
In winter balaclava, or scarves on many things she’d tat.

When we were young she’d knit and knit, no woollies bought at all,
As we left home she knit again, next generation when they were small,
Knit up to her seventies, when finger would not flex no more,
Big blow it was, she knit by feel, for old age yet, there is no cure.

Owd Fred

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

The runaway boiler ---258

The Runaway Boiler

As most farmer know there’s nowt like going to a good sale, be it farm sale dispersal sale or a general furniture sale. The sale I am describing is a furniture come house clearance sales rooms which took place once a fortnight.

When we moved to a larger farmhouse in the 1980’s we went regularly to this sale room as larger brown furniture would be knocked down at next to nowt, If I had not put my shilling on it, it would have been broken up for scrap.

Well then it got round to what did the sale room do with all this furniture that no one wanted, and asked could I have it for the collecting, they readily said yes. So every other week the day after the sale I went down with my cattle trailer broke up the wardrobes tables chairs into so called flat pack and filled it to the roof.
You see at home I had one of these large wood burning boilers, one big enough to take four small conventional bales and regularly burned oilseed rape straw which was rapidly running out.  Some of this furniture was far too good the break up and some found its way into our front rooms.

At this point I might add that when the full heating was first put on in the old farm house, after a month the whole staircase came loose from the wall and had to re-fixed, that due to it being dry and shrinking so much.

On this one day when I had stoked up the boiler with this light dry and brittle timber before going in for tea, and by then it had gone dark, we had just settled down in our arm chairs, the radiators started to rattle and gurgling being red hot with very hot water, I took not too much notice though the misses she was getting jumpy.
Upon going outside across the yard to the boiler, the boiler house was enveloped with steam, not unlike that of the Royal Scot locomotive about to pull out of the station. I looked in and the draught flaps on the front of the boiler were closed but the huge pile of thin red hot coals inside would not cool down and the boiler was running on “latent” heat.
I installed the whole system a couple of year before, so I knew what the problems could be. I was warned not to install a plastic header tank way up in the loft above the boiler, as a “runaway” boiler like I had that night would melt and soften the plastic down to look like a flat Christmas balloon. Fortunately I had taken heed and installed a galvanized tank and the vent pipe from the top of the boiler hooked over it to blow off the steam. Another thing I was warned about as well was not to put a plastic ball cock, got to be a metal one, this again I had done as they too would collapse.

It was blowing off steam in a spectacular fashion so much so that the cold water feed through a slow ball valve could not keep up with replacing water that had boiled off.  The force of the steam hitting the water splashed most of it over the side of the tank. You may have seen folk in these cafes putting a cup or a teapot under the hot water come steam tap to heat the coffee or tea, blowing and gurgling, well this was the same but a few hundred time bigger
Inside the hot water tank, the cylinder, that had two coils to transfer the heat to the bath/domestic hot water system and to try to alleviate the overheating we turned all the hot water taps on in the house, there again  that ball valve could not keep time with what we were running off the cylinder.
Still it kept boiling and the water pump that circulated the water to the radiators was on the flow side to force the water up round eighteen rads, there would be too much faffing about bleeding radiators that would have a vacuum if the big pump was drawing water from the rads to force water back to the boiler.

  (Are you following this, if not read it again and concentrate more.)

It was not till I checked the pump that I realized that the pump was not designed to pump steam, liquid it will pump very hot but boiling it was useless.

When things cooled down and the steam receded I was able to assess the fact that no damage had been done, the house stayed too hot all night, it was a winters night, and into the next day. I stoked up the boiler but to only to half what I had stoked it the night before. As time went on we had trouble with some of the rads in the house only feeling hot in less than half the surface area, we tried bleeding them to get rid of the air but three or four of the biggest radiators still not working properly. So come summer when we did not want heating on I took the rads off and took it outside onto the yard only to find it was full of rusty silt obviously blown in there from the boiler getting into too much of a sweat on. After they were swilled out thing went back to normal and was careful not to over fill it with brittle dry thin timber that burned in the boiler like a blow torch.
During a foot and mouth period we burnt the odd dead calf and the odd dead sheep, I remember the sheep burnt for three days first laying her on and between two big oak logs, being such a fat old ewe, the tallow ran down out of the front vent forming a tall candle stalactite, or is it stalagmite, ar dunt know, one forms up and tuther forms down, well this one formed up from the boiler house floor into a tall pyramid, if had thought at the time I should have hung a piece of string from the boiler vent flap to make a wick good enough to form a spectacular large replacement candle for the vicar at church. (But I dint know how to get rid of the dead mutton stink)

During the period we had the boiler there was the fuel crisis and the Dutch elm disease which coincided quite well where we had a lot of mature elm trees to cut up.
 Eventually the old farm buildings on next door farm across the road from the boiler house came up for barn conversion, and the folk who moved in did not like the wispy wood smoke that came from the chimney, by now I was careful not to burn anything that would make smoke if the wind was in that directions, god know how they would have coped a few years before.
I did not know that they objected to the slight smoke, and without me knowing they rang trading standards, who, sent a man with a clip board to sit  in a van down the village road a hundred yards away for four whole days monitoring the smoke emitted from my boiler chimney.
The upshit (or is it upshot) of it was that I had an official letter banning me from using the boiler from immediate effect. However the boiler now getting old, I had repaired leaks in the floor of it below the ash line and it was getting beyond repair, so I installed an oil boiler in the house and paid good money out for fuel and a fuel tank, a very depressing experience.
So the old farm house that I moved out of has now being renovated and in order to re-plaster the walls all my owd radiators were taken out and a new system installed. Bet it wonna ever get the owd house as hot as what we had it.

Quotation   -----   Wit is brushwood; judgement is timber; the one gives the greatest flame, and the other yields the most durable heat; and both meeting make the best fire.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Flies at the window. ---257

Flies at the window.

Some fifty years ago we had an old uncle who died alone in his house and no one found him until two weeks had gone by.
Uncle Jack was father’s younger brother, he never got married and lived at home on the farm with his own father and his step mother, he did the day to day running the farm. As his father (my grandfather) got older and not capable of any work my father Charlie went across with his tractor doing a bit of ploughing and harvesting work to help keep things going.
When grandfather died , in the late 1940’s it became apparent the Jack had no desire to continue with the farm, so the farm was sold up and he came to live with us at The Beeches. He had his own room and had his meals at the table with our family increasing the work load that mother had to cope with, (seven of us round the table every day for meals). As you can imagine mother was not too impressed with that idea but she went along with it for about two years, during which time he worked for his brother Charlie on our farm.
Eventually Jack got a job at the town’s sewage works, where it turned out,  he was the only one who could use a scythe (before the days of strimmers) to keep the whole site clear of long grass and weeds round the filter beds. At the same time he bought his own house in town a terraced house, where father used to go and see him most weekends.
Two or three years on.-- This one weekend when father went to see Jack he could not raise him by knocking on the front door or ringing the bell, and thought he must be out shopping or summat. Next weekend came and the same thing happened and thought that’s strange, so went round the block of houses up an entry to Jack’s back door, which was latched but not locked.
On entering he found his brother collapsed on the floor dead, he had obviously been there for over a week and possibly two weeks. He was not a very talkative man and would not mix with his neighbours very well, and being brought up on a farm you never had close neighbours (shoulder to shoulder so to speak) in his life like you do in terraced houses.  
All the authorities were told and investigations found he had died of natural causes, but it only goes to prove how important neighbours are, who, had he got to know them, might have looked in well before my father did.

In the 1970’s I had a scare with my neighbour Reg, that’s the neighbouring farm. I was carting small bales of straw (big bales had not been invented in our part of the world then) and two field back away from the road Reg had driven his combine twice round the field of corn and was stopped with the engine running with a slight blue puffs of smoke from the exhaust. And hour later it had not moved so I unhitched and shot off round the lanes to see what had happened to him.
He lived and worked on his own and nearly always had his brother come to help at harvest time, but this day he had not come. So pulling up in a great hurry, I startled Reg who had broken a section on his blade and dare not stop the engine as it had not got a good enough battery to be reliable. I explained what I had seen from the distance, thinking he had fallen off the top of the combine or fallen onto the header and reel, you see it was one with no cab. However it was great relief to see he was okay, and he was pleased to know I had noticed and acted as I did.
It was around that area that a farmer who lived on his own, other side of town to us, one evening was getting out his potato harvester out, servicing and greasing it ready for the seasons work. He was found the following day, the tractor still running and the potato harvester being run by its power take off (PTO) and him underneath jammed in the tines and rotating machinery not able to get out and died before he was found.

All this was brought back to mind last week when I had got up around 7am and opened the upstairs curtains, and started to do a bit of work on the computer. You see I am in my retirement house in the middle of the village and having all the farm records and other stuff which had got to be retained for a few years I commandeered the small front bedroom as my office.
Normally, I would have gone down stairs and opened the front curtains, but the day I got engrossed in writing (a bit like I am doing now) and stuck at it and lost the sense of time. Then to bring me back to from my thinking, there came a loud knocking on the front door and the door bell ringing, it was 9am. It was a young lady from down the road who was just taking her two children to the village school and noticed my front room curtains still closed, and on her way back came to see if I was okay. Jumping up from the computer I opened the upstairs window and looked out to see her looking at me with great relief, “Are you alright” she called, then I had to tell her how grateful I was, and nice to know I had got such very good neighbours who would notice things out of the ordinary, and act on the spur of the moment.

There is a chap named Dan who owns and manages a large herd of milking cows, they now run over the land I gave up a couple of years ago, a number of farms being amalgamated to make a big dairy unit.
 I get on very well with him, I offer him advice and he in his modern unit thinking ignores it in a tongue in cheek sort of way, he always tells me he is keeping an eye on me, every time he runs up the village (quite a few time every day from one unit to the other) on his quad bike or on the tractor he looks to see the curtains have been opened.
 I in turn told him that “dunna leave it till windows are full of sodin flies as that would be too bloody late”.
It is very reassuring to know that I have very good neighbours, my daughter and Barry only lives a couple of hundred yards/metres down the road by the church, so I feel very comfortable among a village full of good folk.

Owd Fred

Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.
Honore de Balzac (1790 – 1850)

Saturday, 21 January 2017

I Remember Killing the Pig ---256

I Remember Killing the Pig

We watched when we were kids, fingers in our ears,

Then bang the butcher shot him, cut its throat mid tears,  


I never knew who owned the pig bench but it went round all the village to who ever had got a pig ready for killing.

I Remember Killing the Pig

About once a year the butcher called, for to kill a pig,
Scrubbed off the pig bench, it was heavy and big,

Don't know whose it was, but around the village it went,
To lay the pig on when it's killed, four wooden legs all bent.

Starve the pig from day before, empty belly they need,
Then the butcher prepares his tools, then the pig to lead,
By a noose round his snout, mid squealing protest struggle,

Took three men to lift on bench, to hold it on they grapple.

We watched all this when we were kids, fingers in our ears,

Then bang the butcher shot him, and cut its throat mid tears,
It happened fast, the kids will learn; catch the blood in bucket,
Kicking stopped, and bucket full, into pantry put it.

Very hot water poured all over, and scrape the hair all off,

 He scalded the hooves, with a hook ripped the hoof clean off,
This was the worst when he opened it up, all put into the barrow,
Save the heart, liver and kidneys, same sequence always follow.

Then with a "tree", like a big clothes hanger, lifted pig to beam,

 Left to set almost week, butcher returns, to watch were keen,. 
The head comes off to make the brawn, boiled in a great big pot,
The rest is quartered, for to salt down, onto the setlas brought.

Some fresh pork saved to use right now, take the neighbours some,

Other do the same as well, almost every month a treat become,
Two hams in muslin bags are hung, on hook in pantry cool,
The bacon too is done the same, enough to make you drool.

Mother makes the faggots and black puddings from the blood,

Nothings ever wasted, fat is rendered down, the scratching's good,
Lard for frying and cooking, stored all in big stone jars,
Lined up in the pantry, all the work done, by our poor old m'a.

Owd Fred

Mother would not kill off a hen that was young and healthy, or an old one that was laying, it was always a chalky arsed one, that was almost spent out. They were never aloud to die, she would get them just before that get it plucked and in the pot never having gone cold.

 Mothers Mid Week Chicken Dinner

In mid week we often had, "chicken" for our dinner,

Tough old hen more soup than meat, always it was a winner,
So after breakfast mother went, to feed the laying hens, 
On her way she would note, the one who's still in pens,

If it looked as if not laying, she would ring its neck, 

Hang it in the coal shed, all flap and no more peck.
Pulling on the old tea cosy, well down over her ears,
And an old mac kept for this job, doesn't matter how it appears.

Feathers and the fluff do fly, and also mites do run,

This is why she's well covered up, as it is so often done,
With the news paper on the table, to be drawn it is now ready,
And out with good sharp knife, off with legs and neck all bloody.

Nick below the parson's nose, with hand the guts she pulls the lot,

Saves the heart and gizzard, also neck to make the stock,
Into the pot this tough old hen, no time for it to go cold,
Steamed for a good two hours, till lid is hot to hold.

Into the pot goes all the veg, and a heap of part boiled taties,

Given another half hour simmering, before it hits the platters,
We all come in for dinner time, lunch to someone posh,
Plates piled up, our bellies to fill, we loved our chicken nosh.

Owd Fred

In the kitchen at the Beeches the kitchen floor sloped from east to west, with the fire place range on the south side. (Get the picture)
It was a blue brick floor the same as in the stable, and the walls were the bare bricks painted, one colour usually green half way up and a lighter colour round the top usually green, to the side of the chimney brest  was mothers new Jackson electric cooker, where she cooked the bacon or porridge in a mornings before the range had properly got going.
I remember the porridge would lift the lid with cooking and spill down the sides welding the pan to the cooker, Porridge had to simmer for an hour just to cook, no instant heat and eat, like the two minuet porridge of today, they were rolled raw oats.
To the other side of the chimney brest was a built in cupboard with a half bottom door and half top door stable door style if you like to call it, there was some hot pipes running through this cupboard and the Kellogg Cornflakes were kept to keep dry, along with the sugar and flour. This was a cupboard that was often raided by mice but they disappeared up into the ceiling following the pipes.
To the north side was a large cupboard with four draws at the bottom, and two big opening doors on the top half, on the top shelf dad kept his pipe and bacca  though he did not us it that regular, us kids tried it out one night with dried tea leaves, cus we could-na find any bacca. We all had one good drag and it literally spun us off our feet, and I never ever smoked again, perhaps a good lesson learned early.
Also on the top shelf was the shot gun cartridges, quite a few boxes, stacked as these were used to get our rabbit dinner once a week, and occasionally a poached pheasant. In the rest of the shelves were the bottles and jar that had been opened and part used like jams and pickles and that posh word for salt vinegar and pepper, a cruet.

The Kitchen Floor it sloped.

I remember when we were kids, kitchen floor it sloped,

Sat down at meal times, mother to top end coped,
Kitchen table vinyl cloth, also it did tilt,
Father down one side, safe from anything that spilt.

Always there is one, who's clumsy as a kid,

Put him at the lower end, own mess he is amid,
Tip the water over, or a cup of tea,
It runs down the table, straight into his knee.

Four of us took it in turns, not to be so clumsy,

Other three would laugh, all sitting dry and cosy,
A dam good lesson that it was, with instant results,
 Chair at the lower end, reserved for bumble foots.


We had visiting mice in the house from time to time but mother was crafty, and they did not last long, She always had a couple of mouse traps and a lump of stale cheese pressed onto them, being thrifty the same piece of cheese would often catch more than one mouse.

A Mouse in the Cupboard

Sitting in the kitchen one night, by the kitchen fire,

Mother knitting father reading, us lads getting tired.
Then we heard a rustling, in the cupboard by chimney brest,
It was Kellogg's corn flakes trickling, a mouse the little pest.

He had sat and chewed a hole, right through cornflake box,

Found food for his little belly, where our mother keeps her stocks,
He disappeared up round some pipes, still the flakes they fell,
Keeping warm and well fed, if we find him give him hell.

Set the mouse trap on the shelf, loaded up with cheese, 

For this it would attract him, one bite would make him sneeze,
Spring will slap him on the head, teach him not to steal,
Wasteful little blighter, to us it was our meal.

Owd Fred

A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.
Aesop (620BC-560BC)