Monday, 6 February 2017

Flies at the window. 34

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 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 Larry 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

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)


Thursday, 12 January 2017

Blast from the past 32 Jack of all trades

Jack of all trades and master of none

A job well done (If you try harder)

Over my lifetime there are not many jobs that I have not tackled, and as with every job, the more you do of that particular job the better you get at it.

On the domestic side
Take hair dressing for example, not that far fetched from sheep shearing, or cattle clipping, when we were kids (four of us lads), father used to cut our hair with clippers that he had to squeeze with his hand to operate the blade.
The problem was when he was in a hurry, (and it was always the first day of a new term), which he often was, he would push the clipper up the back of ya neck faster than what he was operating the blade, the result was he was pulling our hair by the roots.

 He did make a good tidy job, and many compared it with how he thatched his ricks of hay and corn, combed down to the eves and clipped up the sides.

On the workshop side 
Take welding, unless you get a bit of tuition, and then get plenty of time to put into practice what you have just learnt, its no use. In my case it’s a matter of tapping the rod onto the metal until you get a spark, then keep melting the rod into the joint. In reality, the rod more often than not gets stuck and welded to the job. After a vigorous twisting and pulling it breaks free, peeling and cracking the coating off the rod making it impossible to strike an arc to get going again.  Must admit, my welding has been called and likened to pigeon shit welding. So I get by on doing repairs that are not too crucial or to essential, just bog standard welding.

I’ll never be a “sparkie”
All things electrical are very mystical to me, as soon as a wire disappears into a wall, it come out a different colour at the other end. Two way light switches, for example,
they beat me every time,  its okay to fit a new bulb holder, or new three pin plug and simple thing like that.
Another thing that is always awkward for me that does not crop up very often is the trailer light sockets and plugs, with , is it seven or nine wires to connected in to  correspond to what the vehicle wires want to convey.  Wiring looms, alternators, and the back or the inside of  a vehicle dash boards are way beyond my comprehension,  Fuses I can manage, but on the modern tractor there can be thirty or more, thank goodness for the instruction book, it lists and numbers them and what strength of fuse to use.

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody
Bill Cosby (1937)

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Sale Room Clock 10

  1. This blog story is about the purchase of a clock from the same sale room the is referred to in blog 9 about the boiler and it fuel.

    This is an incident/purchase that we made at a sale room, it's about a clock, I'm sitting in front of the blady thing now, it aint as if we were short of clocks.
    There's seven I can see now in the sitting room three in the kitchen, one in the hall, five in my bedroom, two in the next bedroom and two in the small bedroom, oh yes and one in the garage come workshop, 21 all together.
    They were well spread out when were in the big old farm house, but now om in a small retirement house (thank goodness) they look a bit crowded.

    We loved to go to the Sale Room ----- The Clock

    Some years ago we loved to go, to a sale room down the town,
    It was Hall & Lloyds the furniture place, for nick knacks was renown,
    Ya could go down the day before, and see what brought in for sale,
    Never know what would be in there, a jumble of house hold regale.

    Hundreds of lots, all in lines, and picture on the walls,
    Tables chairs cupboards sideboards, sold when the hammer falls,
    Whole house furniture shuffled in there, from beds and tools and saws,
    To the carpets and matts and the contents of the kitchen draws.

    A clock we spotted, a mantle clock, brass with a nice glass dome,
    We hadna seen it before the sale, we’d love to take it home,
    The auctioneer took some bids, there was no time to back out,
    A bid we put in and then another, it was knocked down with a shout.

    The clock was handed, hand over hand, to the back of the crowd,
    The last one who handed the clock turn to me and said reet loud,
    It only bloody plastic ya know, and tis true it had no weight,
    We’d paid through the nose, an imposter, but easy to cremate.

    So now I watch it, with three weights, moving round and back,
    But when its touched it stops agen, od love to give it a smack,
    With a two-pound lump hammer, the pleasure that would give,
    But I’m stopped, om told it looks the part, let the bloody thing live.

    It’s now bin twenty years, still sitting on our shelf, --- Amen,
    Don’t touch it don’t dust it, a new battery every now and then,
    If left to me, find it a new home, its weight is no use for scrap
    As soon as I first touched it, I knew the dam thing were crap.

    Owd Fred​

    It has to stand perfectly level and has two screw feet at the front to get it absolutely plumb, and they have to be re-set every time you touch it, it stops, or when you change the battery. It isn’t as though it gets a violent vibration on it, that rattles the screw feet down.
    But it does keep good time, when it is going

    The mind of a man is like a clock that is always running down, and requires to be constantly wound up.
    William Hazlitt (1778 - 1830)

Saturday, 9 April 2016

The Run Away Boiler 9

  1.           The Run Away Boiler 9

    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 the next morning, 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 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 (high oil prices) 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 direction, 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.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Wellington Boots.

Wellington Boots.

They transformed footwear on the farm. In the years up to 1940’s leather tip boots were the main footwear often worn along with leather leggings which went round the calf of ya leg fastened on with button hooks and a leather strap at the top. Or as they did in the home guard shorter canvas spats with two leather straps to buckle them on.
Our first wellies were very prone to getting punctured or torn and when this happened to both of them we cut the soul off completely leaving only the top shell of the foot and leg.
These were then pulled on and the leather hob nail boots put on under them. The shell of the welly then was settled down and protected your boot uppers from dirt, ideal when working on pulling sugar beet or cutting mangols or kale for the cows, the ground at that time of year being sticky soil which soon baulmed (my word for clogged) up your inside of ya feet and legs as you moved about.
Father had his own last on which he could mend his own and the families boots and shoes, this mostly comprised of a jar full on hob nails, some were in triple form where three nails fastened together and held in the leather soul better round the outer edges of the boot and in filled with a few rows of single nail on the ball of the foot. Round the front edge he had an assortment of tips of metal and a complete horse shoe type tip that went completely round the heel.
This had been the leather boot worn on farms for years, repaired and re-souled until the uppers started to burst from their stitches. Then shortly after wellington boots came in came the boot with rubber soul vulcanised to the leather uppers, these were at the time called everlasting boots (a bit like when the biro ball point pen came in they were called everlasting pens). They were ridiculed and criticised at the time, often being cheaper to buy than their original counterpart. This spelled the end for the village cobbler as all he could do for these new type of boots was to supply new leather laces.

Ode to a Welly

My wellies your wellies and kids wellies too,
Clean wellies dirty wellies some there full of pooh,
New wellies old wellies some with holes right through,
Country wellies town wellies, a big long rubber shoe,
Shiny wellies dull wellies and coloured wellies new,
Chewed wellies torn wellies, on the bonfire threw,
Smelly wellies pongy wellies some we have out grew
Wellies we can’t do without, often must renew.

Owd Fred

Wellies large and wellies small

Wellies large and wellies small, of sizes there are many
Some are black some are green, and they cost a pretty penny,
Some are painted in bright colours, but still ya feet they smell,
Trample through the mud and ditches, through the house as well.
The kids they have them round the farm, they hold the water in,
Walking out through deep puddles, wet through to the skin,
How much water they will hold, and your feet an-all,
Tip them out on the door mat, make mother shout and bawl.

Owd Fred

Now, what am I looking for?

Ya ware them in the rain, and ya ware them in the snow,
Ya ware them in the mud, and everywhere you go,
Ya keep them in the car, in case of floods you never know,
Ya can’t do without them, left behind it is a blow,
And what I’m looking for, my WELLIES high and low

Owd Fred

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Weather Blog on my Farm 31st August 2011

Weather Blog on my Farm 31st August 2011

After one of the driest years since 1976 it looks like the fodder situation is going to be tight, last year quantities of hay and silage were lower than normal, and bearing in mind what my farther always said, “A bay of hay is worth more than money in the bank” we still have almost a bay of hay left from last year.
We have almost 60 acres of peat meadows that nearly all of it is mown, some years it’s too wet and spongy and even if you can mow it and even bale it, the difficulty is hauling it off.
But this dry year has been kind to us on the meadows; the grass (and a few rushes) has grown well and produced around average yield of bales. Our biggest problem is the fishing pools that have been recently established on the meadows down stream, they are the nesting ground now for a few hundred Canadian Geese. In mid June when each pair has hatched eight or ten goslings, they emerge from the area of the pools to graze on my meadows, holding back the growth of grass over up to four acres.

I know the year date does not match the year I am talking about, but the meadows consistently produce a good aftermath growth withing  three to four weeks of having been cut for hay or silage

The cows and calves have been taken down on those meadows to graze the aftermath, the only green grass we got, grass on the higher ground has gradually burnt up and now that some rain has come it will still take a long while to recover.

We hear about the Hurricane Irene flooding New York, we hear about heavy rain up the north of England and Scotland, we hear about harvest held up by rain in the South east and south west. But here in the Midlands of UK 30 miles North West of Birmingham the rain has missed us since last February. On the forecast maps on TV the cloud formations seem to part as they come over Wales and head north of us, or just skim south, we see the clouds passing us by.

However today August 27, 2011 we have had a few sharp showers, with more rain falling now will do the pastures good, it will take quite a few nights of continuous steady rain to soften the ground for the moisture to soak in properly.  But that has not happened so far.
Up date to Sep 4th 2011 still no rain, only enough to damp the concrete on the yard, no rain water run down our drains through this spring and summer. I think we must be the driest spot in the UK.
What bit of damp we have had has just stopped the grass from dying off, the cattle have stayed down on the peat ground for over a month now, the only place where we have grass

A father always told us “A bay of hay is worth more than money in the bank”

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Educations What You Want

Never was much good at school, too busy thinking of the work we were doing about the farm, the things we made and used, the new machinery the father eventually bought after long discussions.

The teacher accused us of day dreaming, but bring on any practical job and we beat all others in the class hands down. We learned to plough and to sow seeds, to reap the harvest and store it, to thatch the ricks of hay and corn (wheat). All this we learned to do at home including plumbing, laying concrete, building brick walls, repairing timber hay racks and troughs and gates and hanging them.
Our Maths were not too bad as it was used in the calculations needed to sow the right amount of seed to the acre, the mixing of the rations for the livestock, cows pigs and poultry. The weighing off sacks of potatoes for sale and the same for any grain (wheat for and oats) sold as cash crops. The measuring of milk into churns multiplied by the dozen or more churns that left the farm each day  to the bottling plant in Birmingham to have the right totals on the labels. 

The writing was my downfall, for years I only ever writ letters and replies, and that was not very often, but I seem to have caught up on that score this last ten years or more. The computer has helped me with its spell checker, and have managed to write down a lot of my experiences in and around the village and about the village folk that I was brought up alongside. 

In other words, we learnt the things necessary for farming the land, as mechanisation kicked in there were less and less men needed to do the jobs, making it at times a very lonely job, spending days and sometimes weeks at a time in a tractor seat, ploughing cultivation and sowing. At least in the olden days you had a pair of horses you could talk to and quite a number of other men working about the farm.

The village school as it is today, with now a huge extension build to the rear of it. The right hand door and the two windows was the School house, now offices. Mother started this school at the age of three in 1919 and was taught in the infants class by Miss Pye. When I started this school 1942 I also had this same teacher who learnt all her pupils to write in big bold loops, my  hand writing was very similar to my mothers.

Educations What You Want

Educations what you want, or that is what I’m told,
Get on in life and see the world, seek your pot of gold.
More to life than toil and sweat, let others soil there hands,
Let education guide the way, nine till five, five days a week demand.

Over the years most folk done this, for better jobs they travelled,
Men they left the land in droves, off into town they pedalled.
With better money they bought a car, get about much quicker,
Then travelled even further a field, became the city slicker.

Owd Fred

Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten
B. F. Skinner  (1904 - 1990)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Fordson E27N

Its ploughing match time again, the old Fordson struck up fourth pull of the starting handle after standing almost six months at the back of the shed.
Its now looking a bit dusty and in need of a good cleanup, the paint work needs touching up particularly around the engine where heat and oil and the dribble of fuel when the carburetor is drained of TVO (tractor vaporising oil) to allow the petrol in for cold starting. 

Ploughing at home when I hosted a ploughing match on our Maize stubbles,  on this occasion it has its spade lug steel wheels fitted, it also has a set of steel flat bands that go over the spade lug to enable you to drive down the road
Almost seventy years difference in age and technology met at a ploughing match a few years ago, both in their own right were top of the range when brought out for the first time.The Fordson had new hydraulic three point linkage and new implements designed to go with it, in this case I have the mounted plough of the same year 1946. The engine thermostat you may notice is the radiator bling which is half down, adjusted according to how hard the engine is worked. 
A view over the rear wheel of the opening split just about to close it back in. Other tractors at the far end of the field and to the right doing the same thing

Transport for all the tractors taking part in the home ploughing match with  seven of the ninety or more plots in the picture getting close to the finish

Traveling at speed on a country road at 14 miles per hour
No luxury of a starter motor, its a crank handle 
Stable mates together, The International B250 I drove that from new in 1956  that is diesel with a starter motor and has hydraulics and differential lock, a great step forward in the design  particularly the diff lock 
This is how it arrived at my farm almost ten years ago, it had been the power unit to a rear mounted turf cutter, not had a great deal of work but left out in the fields year in year out. All the tin work wheel fenders had to be replaced, and the tyres, the engine was in good order with very little signs of ware.  It had an extra high/low gear box fitted making it four inches longer to give creep gears for the turf cutting also a depth control fitted to enable the turf cutter to be carried at a fixed height
Stripped down for cleaning and re-painting, the hydraulic unit has been lifted off the rear axle housing  it fixes on with six stud bolts, fuel tank and the cast iron radiator also removed

So now is a good time to re-fresh the old Fordson E27N and get it back to its gleaming self as of 1948 and 2006.

My father had one to replace the Standard Fordson that he had worked  all through the war years, I would be just ten years old when the E27N came and learned to drive it, although we had been steering the Standard Fordson when cutting the wheat and oats with the binder. 
It was nice to have that experience back again after all those years and appreciate how we worked out in all weathers on an machine that by today's standards is very crude and basic.

A day's work is a day's work, neither more nor less, and the man who does it needs a day's sustenance, a nights repose and due leasure, whether he be painter or a ploughman.

George Bernard Shaw  (1856 - 1950)

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Old Farm House 24

I have many pictures of our old farm house, but now we have left for a more modest house in the village not a hundred yards/paces/metres west of the farm, the old house is undergoing a major refurbishment.

Everything growing close to the walls has been cleared away and scaffolding has been erected all round it, the only exception is an old pear tree growing on a westerly facing wall reputedly being upwardly a hundred and  fifty years old. The last refurbishment was when we moved in some thirty three years ago, on that occasion it had twelve extra windows put in, one notably was positioned to one side of the old pear tree so as not to disturb its  location having been pinned and trained up that wall for generations.
Another modernisation to bring it up to date back then was the electricity, it only had one yes one, two pin socket on the beam  in the sitting room, and that ran the old radio and latterly a black and white TV, they had to be unplugged for an electric iron to be used, there was also a few light bulbs about the house almost one to a room. Over forty new three pin sockets were wired in all round the house to a new fuse board and a modern fuse trip installed, two way switches on the stairs and lights along the landing and over the main outside doors.
The plumbing was noticeable by it absence, It had a rayburn in the kitchen with a cylinder to heat water and a hot water pipe down to the kitchen to a plywood base sink and drainer, this was listing badly as the ply wood was slowly rotting from under it  with, or so it seemed the waste drain pipe through the wall and the cold feed pipe into the house being the only things holding it steady.

There was an old cast iron bath in the back toilet, this had no taps and no plumbing other than a drain plug down to the farm drains, and in the wash room next to it was a big old cast iron 'Copper' ('Copper', a round U shaped cast iron boiler with a round wooden lid on top holding about twenty five gallons, and no it was not made of copper, but that is what it was called)   with a coal fire under it to heat the water for  doing the weekly wash and for heating the bath water. The water had to be ladled out of the copper to the bath and the appropriate amount of cold water from the well pumped for cooling.
 Also in that back wash room was the original well for the house and farm, and I was told by the previous tenants, that it would run dry in summer, so another well was dug in the 1940's  just outside only a few yards from the old one, this when I opened it up in 1983 (and opened again a few days ago July 2015) is thirty foot deep and had plenty of water. When mains water came into the village in the 1950's all wells were condemned and never used again, this one is still clean and useable now, even after all those years.
As with most old houses, the nails holding the laths under the tiles on the roof are very rusty and obviously very close to slipping, if that happens it then forces an emergency big roof job, so the roof has been totally stripped off, the tiles now built up in huge piles on the scaffolding that now envelope the old house.  The old lath and plaster ceilings up stairs have been fetched down and any remaining walls with the horse hair plaster cleaned back to the bare bricks.
The jackdaws have abandoned the chimneys which now stick up in the air like long fingers badly in need of pointing and re-topping. Some of the main roof beams have been taken down to reveal that they are good straight fir trees with the bark still on them after some 250 years holding the roof up.

Its hard to imagine that a family of twenty one children were born and reared there in the late 1800's only one of which went on to live there and rear five children of his own. The youngest of this five children went on to farm Yews Farm up until he retired in 1983 . All of this family of five spent their whole life at Yews Farm and in the old farm house, and none of them every got married, three spinsters and two bachelors. Heating back then was the coal fires, three of the bedrooms had a fire place, and water heated in the copper that I mentioned above. Latterly a rayburn was fitted and a hot water cylinder and one hot water  tap fitted over a flimsy plywood sink unit in the back kitchen, and a bath tub plumbed in up stairs.  When we moved in in 1984 the old heavy cast iron bath (which sat in the downstairs bathroom next to the copper) was taken up the a new bathroom and plumbed in for the first time in its life, it took four of use to move it, such was its weight.
Eighteen radiators were fitted and plumbed in and a boiler installed across the yard to run on logs and straw. After a month of hot radiators we found that the main stair case became loose from its wall fixings due to the timber drying out for the first time in many years, and walls that needed plastering were plastered and we painted and decorated the house from top to bottom.
I must say that it was only partially heated in the first winter, as the radiators were installed in three circuits, only the downstairs circuit was done in time for winter. It was then that we had frost on the inside some of the bedroom windows when it was particularly cold for about a week,

It will be very good to see the old farm house get its new roof, doors and windows in time for the winter of 2015, a  refurbishment that will last another fifty years or more.

The best way to realize the pleasure of feeling rich is to live in a smaller house that your means would entitle you to have
Edward Clarke


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Calculations and Measurements Old and New -- Blog 19

There cannot be many countries that have such a wide variety of calculations and measurements as the UK, be it lenght, areas, weights, money and quantities or volumes.

Take volume for instance you start with a Barrel which is forty two gallons, then there is a Bushel equal to eight gallons or four Pecks  or 32.24  litres and on down to cubic inches.

One Peck equals eight quarts, one quart is a quarter of a gallon and it takes eight pints to make a gallon. from there it is four cups to the pint and one cup equals eight fluid ounces.

So the complication continues with other measurements which are no better being mixed all up by the metric conversions or equivalents, starting with the shorter ones, a Nail is two and half inches, then a Hand is four inches, then a Foot, a Yard, a Rod five and half yards, a fathom, a Chain twenty two yards,  a hundred Links is also Chain, ten Chains to the Furlong and eight Furlongs to the Mile, then a League is three miles. Then all that went metric.

On areas the hectare has taken over from the acre officially, but the acre is still in the older generations mind and still used for on farm calculations (on mine anyway) as is the square foot and the square mile. An acre is made up of four roods and a rood measures out to be one furlong by one rod. It was always reckoned that an acre was just about what a pair of horses could plough in a day "in one hook in".

"One hook in" is explained as follows, The horses, usually shire horses in UK, were brought in from their night pasture (in winter they would be stabled over night) and fed and groomed before being harnessed up ready for the job at hand that day. The wagoner, that's the chap who looks after and works the horses then sets out mid morning say 10am, with his team to the field and hooks up to the plough, they would not be taken out again until mid afternoon, hence the term "one hook in".
In that time he would rest them at the end of the furrow every now and then and could if the going was not too stiff, or the ground too heavy, they could cover around an acre a day

The younger generation who have been through school on the metric do not know how many old pence made a £ (240) or what a guinea is, (one pound one shilling). Some auctioneers selling pedigree livestock alway sold in guinea's, the pound went to the seller and the shilling went to the auctioneer as his commision. Then down to the ten bob note (a bob was another name for a shilling) then to the half crown (two shillings and six pence) then the florin which was two bob, --- are you still following this lot, on again to the shilling which is twelve pence, then six pence piece, then the threepenny piece, locally known as the thrupenny piece, down to the penny , the halfpenny, and the farthing whitch was a quarter of one penny, no wonder we all went metric.

All this we learned at school, without calculators, adding up money and calculating weights. That's another  thing weights, starting with the ton, there seems to be three sorts of the ton, one is the US ton, (2000 lbs or sometime called the short ton), then the metric ton, or tonne,( 1000 kg known as the metric ton) then our own ton,(2240 lbs) called the long ton,  all weighing within a different weight of each other.

Our ton here in the UK was made up of twenty hundred weights, a hundred weight was (and still is) made up of one hundred and twelve pounds (lbs). then there is the stone, this is fourteen lbs, and is what humanity is weighed in as in UK. there are sixteen ounces to the lb. A Quarter equals two stone and eight stone equals one hundred weight .

Are you still following,  because there are still Ounces, sixteen ounces to the lb. and Drams, there are sixteen drams to the ounce, then there is the Grain, there are 7000 grains to the lb. a grain being the weight of a grain of wheat. This was the believed to be the original start of most weight systems.

Wheat and other grains, barley,oats, beans, peas,  are measured in Bushels, bushels being the prefered measure of yields used across the pond in US and Canada. For instance a bushel of good wheat is 60 lbs, and a bushel of oats is 32 lbs a barley is 48 lbs, these weights can vary according to the quality of the grain at the time of harvesting.

So the complications are never ending and take almost a lifetime to get used to then they, the  UK government, decide that we all go metric,  All the above vital information was learnt fa nowt, a new metric system is now been in use for twenty or thirty years now, but me brain is still calculating and visualising in imperial.
Ya conna win, so the best thing is to do is join them, and start learning all over again, but in my case its too damned late, ov retired and now I find round the super markets and other shops all goods be it food or furniture has all gone metric.  I still have me fathers old wooden two foot ruler, and a tape measure with duel measurements on it, thats a good help, but me brain is still working to the old  way of life

Me Mind is Like an Old Computer

Me mind is like an old computer, memory getting full,
Takes a while to liven up, and the thinking’s getting dull,
Information’s going in, it’s difficult to recall,
Need a transplant right away, but it’s difficult to install.

Co-ordination’s not too bad, site and hearing too,
Legs are getting tired and old, and had two knees anew,
Arms they are just as long, but me back is getting bent,
Me waist is getting further round, of that I do lament.

So write it down while its fresh, just now I won’t recall,
Memory’s a funny thing, as through my mind I trawl,
Of things that happened years ago, eventually come back,
Think about the olden days, before they call the quack.

Owd Fred

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Eggs and Omelets

We have always had hens as long back as I can remember, mother bought and reared her day old chicks by the hundreds, they had to be collected from the railway station in boxes, where if you were late collecting them, the station master would put them by the stove in his office "to keep them warm", This would sweat up the chicks then would catch a chill when taken out of the insulated boxes, so it was better to be on the spot when the train came in.

The eggs mother sold to the egg packing station at Gnosall a lorry picked them up every week, the driver paid her for the previous weeks eggs when collecting this weeks.
That meant a steady income of cash from the poultry, and every effort was made not to break or crack any eggs, particularly when us lads were given the job of collecting eggs from the hen pens or field arks in galvanized buckets with a bit of hay in the bottom..
Occasionally you got a soft shelled egg that felt like rubber, or a soft/thin shelled egg which were were almost impossible to carry back to the house. If they were put in the bucket with the others they would squash them, if they went on the top of  the bucket of eggs and then broke it would wet nearly all the eggs right to the bottom, and every egg had got to be wiped clean otherwise they would glue to the cardboard egg trays when packed.
 Any eggs not saleable ( cracked, thin shelled, double yolked or misshapen)went into the pantry where they would be fried or scrambled for breakfast, mother was not too keen on boiled eggs as that would mean using good solid shelled eggs that could have otherwise sold.

Omelets seems to have been a modern sort of way of using eggs, I can never remember mother every making an omelet, right now I have recently aquired an omelet pan, its only about eight inches across.
 Now doing most of my own cooking and watching Jamie Oliver cooking on the TV I've learnt how to cook a mean omelet,  the only thing I forgot to do was to put a spoon full of water in with the whisked eggs before cooking.
One question I would like to ask is why don't you flip/toss an omelet  like ya do a pancake, as I seem to have lost our spatula when we moved house. So in a catalogue that gets shoved through our door once a month, it has all sorts of kitchen gadgets and in it, there was an plastic omelet spatula, and I  bought it. The problem is, I being owd and not familiar with metric measurements, the spatula was 22mm and round, and the pan 8 inches, it's bigger than the bladdy pan, so I got the kitchen scissors out and trimmed half inch off it all round
So next time I may av a go at flipping it with a big dinner plate handy to catch what missed or don't get caught, but it sound like a big mess waiting to happen.
Advice please from those more experienced than I,  "willing to learn"

Being born in a ducks yard does not matter, if only you are hatched from a swan's egg.
Hans Christian Andersen  (1805 - 1875)