Saturday, 31 December 2011

Farmer & Stock Breeder year book and desk diary Christmas 1961

Its not every Christmas that its as cold as last year 2010, when we had sustained cold and frost for some six weeks along with more snow than we had had for years.

Looking back in the diary just fifty years ago we had a very frosty spell over the run up to that Christmas 1961, we had turkeys to kill pluck and dress.
That year we had ordered a hundred poults, and as per usual we were sent one hundred and ten, and with a bit of luck we had actually sold just about a hundred finished birds come December.

The surplus went live to the turkey sales live, and the rest we killed for private sales and orders. On the 22nd December we had a killing and plucking day, that night we had a hard frost that froze all the hanging birds bird solid, they were in a zinc roofed shed, the next best thing to a blast freezer.

This threw the spanner into the works for drawing and trussing the bird the following day, in fact it took two days to thaw them in the house, just enough to be able to draw them and an almighty panic with blue and frozen hand and fingers to get them out to customer for the 25th

The Millian Brook froze over where it crosses the road (the ford) down to our fields, and some folk with a car decided to try and ride over the ford on the ice, but it dropped them in and the car would not mount the ice step at the edge of the ford.

Church Farm was just up round the bend of the road to the right, all traffic , mainly farm traffic had to cross the ford, most of the cows used the foot bridge because the bottom of the ford was all round stones and hard on their feet
 As with the times when the ford is in flood, cars get stuck and invariable came up to the farm for as tow out. One young couple had spent the night in their car them came early when I started milking, as the car came up out of the water they opened the doors and the water flooded out, it had been almost up to the squab of the seats.

I see also that we were still feeding Marrow stem kale over Christmas 1961 to the cows, this was chopped and loaded by hand and strewn onto the exercise pasture near the buildings. After milking cows and washing up the milking units in boiling water and having warm hands, this cutting frozen kale put the old hands to the other extreme. Each stem chopped brought down a shower of frozen droplet off the leaves and all over the person chopping, this kale in a good year would be up to six foot high.  

The same butter churn that mother used all through the war years

 The following is one of many timely hint that are printed in the diary for every day of the year, this one is the last hint for the Farmer & Stock Breeder year book and desk diary 1961

If you Churn for the house and are troubled with “sleepy cream”, the trouble is usually traceable to the cream being too low a temperature, too thick cream, overfilling the churn, or using cream from cows that are at the end of their lactation.
The butter should come in 20 to 40 minutes

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The two hundred day winter

I was brought up to cater for a two hundred day winters, and rarely did the cows go out until the third week of April. Hay with kale was fed up to the turn of the year then on to hay and stored mangols for the rest of the winter, corn was fed according to the yields

This was the hub of the dairy farming just after the war, a new flat roofed churn dairy was built along with its churn stand seen in the foreground behind it is the engine shed where at one time the open crank oil engine powered all the barn machinery. It also housed the coal /coke boiler for sterilizing the dairy utensils. The higher loft section is where the barn drive shaft went to drive the cake crusher, mangol pulper, chaff cutter, and roller mill to crush the oats.The sheds to the left were the cow sheds and a similar run of stalls ran to the right as well, but here these buildings stand empty and redundant having had a few hundred years of use. There seems to be four or five additions to these buildings over the years the first being built with very narrow bricks.

Silage took over from hay in the 1960's it being cut direct with a flail harvester loaded green without wilting, this was long stemmed and only bruised and difficult to consolidate, often getting over heated in the clamp. During the early years of clamping molasses was added with water can, then all sorts of powders came in with wild claims as to how they would help the fermentation, but often as not in good weather conditions it was better not to add anything.

As the years have progressed spring turn out has got earlier by around three weeks, and the autumn housing later into November bringing it nearer to a one hundred and seventy day winter

Time is measured in portions

Time goes by for ever, to history that we can't reset,
Minutes made up of seconds, sixty seconds every minute,
And hours are made up of minutes, sixty minutes show,
Days made up of hours, twenty four in a row,

Week made up of seven days Monday to Sunday peaks,
A month is one of twelve, in which it has four weeks,
Spring summer autumn winter, winter has the snow,
A year it follows the seasons, four seasons in a row,

A decade that is ten years, for knowledge to acquire,
A score of years is twenty, at three score five retire,
A century seems a long time, for humans to cavort,
Time is measured in portions, sometimes long or short,
A lifetimes usually shorter, but it varies quite a lot,
Time on earth it tests you, before you hit your plot.


Quote; By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son that thinks he is wrong.Charles Wadsworth

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Year End Blog 2011

Here is a brief summery of activities of happenings around the farm and the blogs 2011. Not enough room to do it diary fashion day by day so here goes.

It is only this last three or four years that I stared to write a blog when it seemed to come to a stalemate, then, some six months ago I contacted an American blogger Judi Graff who on her web  site  she gave advice on the design and layout of blogs. She later picked up on a blog I wrote , and was interviewed by her with the heading  “Seventy Years in Farming” and asked “which is your favourite blog” the answer was,--
The Longest Swath,  and  I was honoured to have it published on her site. with the Badge 'Featured Farmer of the week'  .

At the beginning of 2011 we had already had a month of very cold north air bringing a depth of snow, (about two foot in the low land areas) that amount we  had never seen since 1947, although back then it drifted on an east wind and filled the roads.
The temperatures went down lower than most of us can remember, and it went on for almost two moons before the winds or should I say cold air stopped drifting down from Iceland.

The stock out wintering did not come to any harm, the dry cold weather is far better for the stock, it’s the ‘at freezing point’ wet winters that the stock do not like.

 As the ground thawed out and the snow melted during February, it was to be almost the last real wet weather we have had until December (now today 23.12.11) we just had our wettest day of the year, the first day since spring that the ditches ran with water, and actually had more than would soak into the ground.

 Being so dry it reflected in the yield of grass during the summer and especially showed up in the fact we only got half the number of bales per acre than we normally would expect.

 To make up for that in the autumn (the fall) we had had just the odd skuds of rain just greening up the grass, and was able to run the cattle out for a lot later over all the land without cutting up the turfs, and so stave off feeding the winter forage for an extra month.

The maize we grow for forage also suffered the same as the grass, it went into a good seed bed and came on well for the first month then the ground water depleted quicker than the roots could follow it down and stunted the growth in July and subsequent months.

It was back in July time when I went to the doctors with a minor ailment in the plumbing department, who sent me on to the urologist at the hospital for tests; these went on for two months culminating in a diagnosis of Prostrate Cancer. I was then put on hormone therapy tablet for two months and now on a three month implant to do the same job.

Now I have started, 12th December 2011on the radio therapy, which involves travelling to hospital five days a week for seven weeks, a thirty mile round trip for a three minuet zap of radium, a tedious routine is helped along by the brilliant technicians/nurses and staff at the hospital. First part of that story was here written in October “That unsettled Feeling”   ---

It is November that we are due our annual TB testing of the cattle, and being in or on the edge of the midlands (UK) TB hot spot, we are only too aware that some the cattle could easily be lost to TB and the herd closed up for the whole winter.

In other words we would have to winter the store cattle that would normally be sold just into the New Year, and with fodder being low we decided to pre-movement test the stores in early October.

They passed their test okay and were sold on at the end of that month. It was rather pleasing that the work load was now reduced due to their sale The rest of the cows with calves at foot were tested in November and passed, these are the cattle that have some badgers sets near by and if one happened to go down I would not have been able to sell the eighteen month old store stock.

Now 23rd December 2011 we have fodder to match the number of stock for the winter, and a reduced work load cope with.

       You Know Ya Gettin Old

You know ya gettin old, when ya toe nails cannot reach,
And you conna pull ya socks on, feet no longer look a peach,
Boot laces just the same, an extra push to bend down low,
N’ take ya time in gettin up, om not sa young ya know.

Me partin’s gettin wider, and can see right through me hair,
Its gone all grey and silver, just like an old grey mare,
The rain it splashes on me head, a hat it is a must,
Stop it runnin down me neck, n’ keep it off me crust.

Memory now is not sa good, to find things is a pain,
Names and places I dun know, gone reet out me brain,
What we had for dinner and tea, now what was that again?
And in a great big car park, twelve cars like mine the same.

Reactions getting slow, and it’s the car that takes the brunt,
Opening the door too close, it’s the paint to bricks affront,
A dent or two I dunna mind, as out the drive I swing,
N’ backin round the corner, n’ scrawp the rear wing.

Om writing this while I can, on lookin back on life,
Me mind is gettin slower, n’ conna cope with all the strife,
So I’ll get it all in order, things remembered years ago,
Will not be able to do it, when I’m planted down below.

Countryman  (Owd Fred)

Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year to all who read these blogs.


Monday, 19 December 2011

We wus Brung up Proper (1940's)

Did we as kids Survive (four of us brothers) coarse we did

On hearing the back door open, it was never locked,
Foot steps in the kitchen, bedroom door we chocked,
Then we heard mothers Coo-eee, relieved to hear her call,
Have you missed me duckies, we bloomin have an all.
(Our farm house was out on its own and scary at night)

Looking at kids of today all pampered and molly coddled, with all the mobile phones and Ipods, Nintendo Wii. X -boxes and video games, it seems it's every thing you can think of to keep them inside and isolated from social interaction with other children.
After all I was brung up in a cot painted with lead paint, and medicine was always a liquid in different colourer bottles, no child proof lids. In Purple bottles was poison, and I know there was some sort of colour code as to, whether you swallowed the medicine or rubbed it in, just can't remember.
But we survived

In the car we never had seat belts, and the tyres wore out down to the inner tubes, and the parking brake was often a half house brick carried with you. No winking indicators, only an illuminated orange finger that lifted out of the door pillar, this often got knocked off when left on when it shouldn't be.
When we were old enough (11) we had an air gun. Must say there was a mishap when one of our gang popped his head up and copped a slug to his forehead, we did try to get it out by holding him down but the lead slug had flattened on his skull, so we had to let him run home and then to hospital and we got into deep trouble.
And when we were reported to the police, our parents were all on the side of the law, and did not stick up for us.
But we survived (and the one who copped the slug, he's 70 now and still got the mark on his forehead).

We got caned at school, in my opinion for nowt, but then we did try to do thing our way at times, and on the way home we fell out of trees, got plenty bumps and bruises, but then you learn to hold tight and not fall.
When we played football, it seemed every one was a centre forward, with a great group of us lads milling round the ball all competing to have a shot at goal, no one passed the ball, it was every mon for himself. If you did not get a kick and were not bold enough to charge in, it was no use canting and moaning to your parents.
But we all survived

We went tracking, two or three would set out with half an hour lead, laying down arrows along the way of twigs or grass or stones indicating the way they had gone. This would last for hours, arriving back dirty wet and often blooded from the excursions through woods and brambles, remember we all wore short trousers back then. This lasted all day and no one ever came looking for us and I don't think anyone was lost. (or died to my knowledge).
And we all still survived.

Dads farm workshop would be taken over at times when he was not about, the tools came in handy for converting old prams into go carts, where one on the front would sit with his feet on the front axle and a cord to steer with and the other ‘man' would sit with his back to the driver and provide the propulsion, even going down bank it would be important to go faster than your rival, best place was on the public roads, down a bank with a blind bend in our back lane

Until of course the village bobby, who was about on his bike nabbed us, and gave the cheeky ones a sharp clip round the ear with the back of his hand. The police man, our village police man never held back when punishment was to be handed out, again our parents seemed pleased we had been caught, and never seemed to defend us against him.
But we survived

We wus brung up on bacon for breakfast, bacon that was half fat and lean, and slices hand cut from the flitch (half pig) hanging in the pantry. Hand cut thick slices of bread, ( sliced bread had not been invented) floating in almost an inch deep bacon fat, and fried until it smoked, but it never killed us.
Cheese, no slice cheese then, it was cut from a huge wedge in great lumps and eaten with crusty bread, if you had cheese you did not have butter as well, nowadays they call it plough mans lunch.

We, all four of us survived

We learned to swim in the river, and just for fun would plaster black mud all over ourselves, and then dive in, in the deepest corners of the river, narrowly missing what we thought was a whirlpool, to wash clean again. The old railway cottage down where the river and railway almost meet, lived a family. In the summer their well would run dry, and when they wanted a bath they would got to the river with a bar of soap and towel. No one worried about diseases back then in the rivers, it was a matter of being up stream from where the cattle watered and they always stood in the river when the gad flies were about. (Cattle almost invariably lift their tails while standing in the river and it was said gad flies never crossed water)
And we survived that as well.

You could only get Easter eggs and hot cross buns at Easter time, strawberries only in late June July time, turkey was only at Christmas and goose for new year. There were no pizza shops, no McDonalds, no KFC, or Indian restaurants, but some bright spark did loaded up a fish and chip fry pan outfit into a van, and toured the out laying villages having a regular round visiting our village on one evening a week.
It was coal fired and after he had served his customer at their front gate, before moving on would put a bit more coal on his fire, I expect he could get a good draw on the fire with the speed, he always had a plume of black smoke from his chimney where ever he went, he did a regular trade for quite a few years.

Looking Back them Years Ago

Looking back them years ago, when we were little boys,
We bumped our knees and elbows, and father made us toys,
Played around the farmyard, in and out the sheds,
Testing all the puddles, thick mud into the house it treads.

When at first we started school, father trimmed our hair,
Combed and washed with new cap, new shoes without compare
Short trousers and new jacket, a satchel on our back,
We all went there to study, but often got a smack.

Times tables chanted every morning, and the alphabet,
Till we knew them off by heart, of this I‘ve no regret,
Isn't till you leave school, that you realise,
How useful school and education, help to make us wise.

Father showed us all his skills, from very early age,
Studied Farmers Weekly, read almost every page,
The pictures they were mainly, of inter-est to us,
News and reports on prices, what a blooming fuss.

We also had the Beano, a comic for us kids,
Dandy and the Eagle, must have cost dad quid's,
Him he had his farmers weekly, it must be only fare,
Mother had a knitting book, for inspiration n' flare.

It must have taken fifteen years, till we felt grown up,
Left alone at home at night, parents meeting as a group,
In fact it was a whist drive every Friday night,
We supposed to be in bed, but sometimes had a fright.
(Our farm house was out on its own and scary at night)

An owl it hooted in bright moonlight, scared us all to death,
Door that blew in wind, with fright we nearly lost our breath,
Scooted up the stairs so fast, and under the bedclothes dove,
In darkness we were frightened, it was for courage that we strove.

On hearing the back door open, it was never locked,
Foot steps in the kitchen, bedroom door we chocked,
Then we heard mothers Coo-eee, relieved to hear her call,
Have you missed me duckies, we bloomin have an all.

So our sheltered life was over, sometimes fended for our selves,
Mother learned us basic cooking, as long as plenty on the shelves,
One at a time we left home, with basic thing that we were taught,
This knowledge we're to build on, foundations life not bought.

Countryman (Owd Fred)

Learning is not compulory........Neither is survival
W. Edwards Deming  (190 - 1993)

Friday, 16 December 2011

One Mysterious Little Meadow

Years ago, perhaps thirty years ago, when I took over another block of fields on the estate, there was one mysterious little meadow of about two acres. The land and fields surrounding it are light land overlying gravel and deeper down pure sand, but it lay in a hollow, dead flat and with a ditch all down the South side. It had always been a permanent pasture with a tendency to grow rushes and in winter very wet and it poached.

The ditch running its length was over grown and very rarely ever been cleaned out (perhaps because in my generation and mechanisation era we were reluctant to use spades) so had a tendency to over flow in winter, this is why it was so wet. The ditch had a wide catchment area which included carrying storm water from the road drains of a quarter of a mile, so when it rained hard it was a fast flowing ditch.

The council and the estate got together to remedy this ditch, as it was causing the road to flood, so they drew up a scheme to pipe it all the way through four of my fields to where it met the wet peaty ditches that were maintained by the river board.
This little meadow was transformed into quite a dry meadow and as it had been mown every summer for centuries, or so it seemed, it had very little fencing so it was decided to fill in the old ditch and the post and wire fence removed, and it was merged with the next field, an arable field.

We started ploughing across the main field and at the end of every run we ploughed down into this little old meadow. It stalled the tractor and had to go down about two gears, the tractor reared as the plough got dug into a seam of heavy clay. There was about four inches of black silt on top, for at some point in time it must have been a man made shallow pool, (perhaps a flight pool for ducks as the estate had keepers and a shoot) all the clay must have been carted there by horse and cart and levelled and spread in a foot deep layer.

All round the estate on every farm a proportion of the land was heavy land on top of red marl and in all those field are marl pits, this I was told was dug up and spread out on top of arable and pasture land in spade full's or in clay lumps to chillate (if that's the right word)
In other words it was left for the frost to break it down into a crumbly hump that could be chain harrowed and spread evenly all over the field the following spring.
In the case of this little meadow it was a thick twelve inch layer of marl that was puddle down when there was plenty of water flowing in winter and allowed to form a pool.
It took about five years before the clay got properly mixed with subsoil and the silt, and that area did not have fertilizer for quite a number of years other wise the corn would go flat

In years gone by a man would no doubt have spent half the winter digging and maintaining that ditch by hand, but as the farms became mechanised so fewer men were about farms.
Then in the late 1950's or there abouts, J C Bamford invented a digger on the back of a tractor, ( twenty miles from here) and the JCB has evolved to the enormous business that it is. Now all my ditches are maintained as necessary, without too much cost and effort by a friend of mine with his JCB

Introducing Mr Roy Halden, JCB or is it CBE

Roy he drives a JCB, it is his full time job,
Works about locally, to earn an onest bob,
On the spot the time he says, reliable as he can be,
Round the farms and building sites, always you can see.

Digging out or trenching, or foundations good and straight,
Never leaves a mess behind, no need for him a mate,
Grading out hardcore, to level a brand new drive,
Perfection's what he aims for, not the nine to five.

Always takes three buckets, for all the jobs he does,
He swaps them automatically, without even a pause,
Tease them round to be in line, click they're well fixed on,
Carries them every where he goes, so well known this mon.

His front bucket does many jobs; it has a ‘jaw' that opens,
It can grab and grip things, dozer blade beneath as options,
A pair of fork lift tines fold over, moving pallets about,
For all these various jobs he does, just give him a shout.

His machine's maintained and clean, when he's off to work,
But some jobs they're down right dirty, these he doesn't shirk,
Tackle almost any job, that he's asked to do,
Brings his bag of snappin, and a flask that holds his brew.

Best known digger man in these parts, as he goes shooting by,
A wave and a big broad smile from him, in his cab so high,
Off to his next appointment, just a regular of his,
So often he is recommended, with his JCB he's a whiz.


Its better for civilization to be going down the drain than to be coming up itHenry Allen

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Another old Village Charactor old Mrs. Blakmore.1948

She was the last to live in her old cottage, thatch had rotted away,
Half timbered filled in with brick, they were built that way,
Wattle and daub up the chimney breast, above the inglenook,
Cast iron range and chimney crane, hang kettle to boil on hook.

Churchyard Cottages.

The old thatched half timbered cottage that used to stand not fifty paces west of St Chads Church tower, was occupied by Mrs Blakmore. In my earliest memories her husband was still alive, but retired. Her front wicket was opposite the rickyard gateway of Church Farm. This ran straight up alongside the high hedge bank of the Church Farm garden, to her front door. The front door was the only door to her house, with a window to the left of it, letting light into the sitting room.

A small window to the right just round the corner let light into the scullery, where there was an old brown sink mounted on two pillars of bricks. Here the washing was done in her "Dolly tub", and the old "Mangle to squeeze the water out, before hanging it out on the line in the garden. The only other window was above the front door, to the only bedroom she had.

The old oak front door, made heavy by layers of paint, had a door latch that you gripped, and pressed the catch with your thumb, to open. On the inside it had a large bolt to secure the door; it did not seem to lock when you went out.

A new Yale lock was fitted, and it took the old lady some time to get used to it, in fact she walked out to fetch some coal one morning, and it blew too. She had locked herself out, my father who was working across the road, at Church Farm, fetched me from school, to squeeze me through the scullery window, to unlatch the new Yale lock.

On entering the door, you would notice a thick heavy beam, which stretched from the middle of the inglenook, to the left of the front door. Another equally large beam, which stretched all across the fire place to form the inglenook.

  Almost the length of this inglenook beam was a mantle piece shelf.  This had a strip of material fastened to the front edge like a pelmet, it was dark red velvet, edged with tassels, but in the dimly lit room, it was in fact very smoky light red. But it looked very impressive to my young eyes.

Other smaller oak beams stretched the other way to carry the floor boards of the bedroom. It had a cast iron open fire place, which had an oven to one side of it, and a chimney crane that swung the kettle over the fire to boil. In the left far corner, concealed by a door, to keep the draughts out was the stairs that twisted up round a single post directly into the bedroom.

In the bedroom, was a huge chimney breast, constructed of oak frame, filled in with wattle and daub. You certainly would not want to have a chimney fire.

Mrs Blakmore herself was a wiry and tough old lady, always very busy round the house, keeping it spick and span. Always a very alert and keen to talk to visitors, although she got very deaf in later years, and raised her voice to make sure you heard.

She wore her hair swept back over her ears to a bun at the back, and only wore her hat if she left the front gate. Every house wife of that era wore a pinafore, loop round the neck, and tied round the waist, usually of a floral pattern.

Among her regular jobs outside, was to chop the sticks, ready for fire lighting the next morning. This was OK until she started to loose her sight, then her daughter came every weekend, to chop a weeks supply for her. Another regular job was to fetch her milk, each evening, from Church Farm, soon after we had started milking.

A little bit of pacing up and down, if we were a little late, then we would send her home, [thirty yards] and ten minuets later take it over for her. At times, if the weather was bad, we popped over and got her coal in, and take her milk. Of course there was the standard outside loo, with the little job of maintenance that her daughter did at weekends; this was standard in all cottages.

The right hand half of the house is the cottage I have described, and the small brick and tile loo is bottom right of the picture. The two cottages were tied cottages, for the farm workers in the village, in this case Green Farm. The big tree on the right over hangs the lyche gate. The thatch started to rot away round the chimney and let rain in, and no concerted effort was made to repare it. The old lady died and when the new Council Houses were built in 1948, the house was pulled down. It had the very old "ships timbers" as the main frame in an inverted U, the oak was that black and hard, some was cut up years later with a chain saw, it made sparks come off the blade.

I Remember Old Mrs Blakemore

She was the last to live in her old cottage, thatch had rotted away,
Half timbered filled in with brick, they were built that way,
Wattle and daub up the chimney breast, above the inglenook,
Cast iron range and chimney crane, hang kettle to boil on hook.

A long shelf across the beam, above the fire place,
This was trimmed with a pelmet, with tassels there to grace,
Rich dark velvet it seemed to me, laced with smoke and dust
Ornaments of every size, for a house that's fit to bust.

Behind the only door she'd got, a round table made of oak,
Very old by the polished in stains, made it look bespoke,
One the shape of her door key, where it had been placed for years,
Cast its shadow from the window, it permanently appears.

Her stairs were in the corner, behind a curtain and peg for coats,
Went up steep, almost vertical, round a central post,
Into her bedroom by chimney breast, one rail to stop her fall,
In her only room upstairs it looked, just like a hole in the floor.

Had a scullery to the right, the side of her main room,
Had a brown sink on two brick pillars, small window mid the gloom,
Big old mangle to ring the cloths, dolly tub n' posher as well,
A greasy old drain to take waste, this was how she dwell.

Water was carried from the pump; up on the village green,
A couple of buckets a day, at times some in between,
A tap on the mains came late in life, brass one over the sink,
Now getting blind and losing her sight, not far go for a drink.

Out at the side a little brick closet, under an elder bush,
This was the loo with a wooden seat, old news papers used at a push,
Had to be emptied every week, deep hole in garden latrine,
That soiled over after a month, this was an old routine.

When she passed on, a chapter was gone, house roof fell apart,
It was pulled down to clear the ground, new house then to start,
All mod cons nothing left out, even the drive was paven,
Grass it round, plant some trees, it's now named "Glenhaven."

Countryman (Owd Fred)

Old houses mended,
Cost little less than new before they're mended.
Colley Cibber (1671 - 1757)

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Worms in the garden, and worms in the fields,

Earth Worms

Worms in the garden, and worms in the fields,
Eat all the rotted vegetation, improve all the yields,
Drawn down into the earth, a worm hole there to leave,
Pushing up the worm casts, a little pile of soil is heaved.

Earth Worms

Part of the ecology of the earth and soil that it is made up of is occupied by earth worms. These are only seen when ploughing or digging, this is when you see hundreds of birds following the plough. Worms eat through and draw down compost and dead vegetation into the ground often leaving the familiar worm casts. This gives a natural drainage and aeration to the surface of the land.

Some years ago as a side line to my farming, we had a wormery, breeding and rearing earth worms, for fishermen, and supplying them to gardener's to be put into garden compost bins. It was very interesting in that, you could use the natural instincts of the earth worm, in order to "harvest" them or separate them from their eggs.

Initially we bought five thousand worms as a starter pack, and introduced them fifty at a time into a peat / rotted horse muck mixture in plastic bins or boxes measuring 12 x 18 inches by 12 inches deep ( for metric modern folk its, 30 x 45 mm and 30 deep) this was then covered with a bit of old carpet to keep the whole lot moist. They were stacking boxes as used in offices and store houses, and the worms could be stacked three high on trestle tables up out of the draught and kept at a temperature of no less than 60F. Each week they were checked for moisture to see the compost was not drying out,

And after six weeks the fifty worms had "eaten" the rotted horse muck and the litter had to be renewed. Each box was tipped out onto a table, any worms exposed soon burrowed deep back into the pile, the litter on the outside of the cone was gradually scraped away driving the worms into the centre.

Repeating this a few times within a few minuets you are left with a pile of just clean worms all trying to get under each other away from light, forgot to say you need a bright light on above the table while doing this job as it makes them move even faster. The piles of fifty worms are put back into their boxes with new peat and rotted muck and the carpet replaced.

The spent litter, on looking carefully is full of eggs, this is put into a box double the size of that they came out of, along with an equal proportion of new peat/muck mixture, a piece of carpet placed on top and keep an eye on the moisture of the boxes over the next month or so. It's quite exciting to find your fist hatchlings so small you can hardly see them. After a few more weeks the young worms can be tipped out with there own litter into a main muck ruck, or compost heap if that's what you like to call it.

This again must be covered with a large carpet, or something similar, and every week taken off and add another layer of rotted muck. You can hose pipe spray on top of the carpet if it's too dry, and the young worms will eat their way up from the compost below up into the muck. After ten or twelve weeks the worms will be approaching adult size, almost ready to breed themselves.

There are a number of ways of catching these worms when they are ready for sale, you can spread a fine mesh over the litter before you spread the next lay of muck, only a very thin layer, and the mesh needs to be big enough for the worms to get through. Then replace the carpet and moisten in the usual way, after a few hours or perhaps the following morning most of the worms are in that top layer above the mesh. Remove the carpet, and rollup the mesh and some litter and nearly all the worms from that area, and tip them onto a table beneath a bright light, they will endeavour to get to the centre of the pile and what bit of litter you have on the table can be gently scraped off then.

For smaller scale harvest you can used a fine garden riddle with a bit of new rotted muck and place it on the surface under the carpet, you get the same results as described above.

If your main rearing bed is outside, the biggest problem will be badger's, rats and moles, they must be excluded, as if they once find your worm population, they will insist on returning every night. The beds can be of sleeper on edge round the sides as in a raised bed for gardening, instead if old carpet nowadays the top can be covered with bubble wrap and secured down round the edges.

Once the fishermen and gardeners know where you are and what you've got they can be packed in fifties in a handful of new peat in small plastic boxes, with air holes in the lid. They can be posted all over the country this way, (so long as you've got your money in your pocket first). The largest consignment was for a months fishing trip to Ireland for two fishermen, who called and picked them up on the way.

To get an idea of what to charge you have only to go to one or two fishing tackle shops and enquire as to what they charges for worms.
The spent worm compost is ideal for selling to gardener and nursery men as it is completely weed free and stone free, and most of it derived from what goes through the horses gut, then through the worms gut, when starting a new bed use about a foot deep of the old compost/litter as that is where they reside and gradually eat their way up into new rotted muck. Very little or no peat is used once they have establish their own "living" litter; peat is mainly used for the breeding boxes mixed half and half with muck.

Worms in the garden

Worms in the garden, and worms in the fields,
Eat all the rotted vegetation, improve all the yields,
Drawn down into the earth, a worm hole there to leave,
Pushing up the worm casts, a little pile of soil is heaved.

Repeated over a garden, or over acres in the grass,
Drawing down the cow pats, does it quietly without harass,
Moving in its little way, tons and tons of soil,
Millions of them working hard, their little bit of toil.

Owd Fred

To cherish what remains of the earth and to foster its renewal is our only hope of survival.
Wendell Berry.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Moles and Meadows


Each spring that come along the moles start digging and pushing up soil in their inimitable way. Nearly always on the best bit of lawn, following in the hedge bottom then branching out under the grass in the most unpredictable directions. In the fields they work the same pushing soil up into mowing grass which inevitable get into the mown sward to contaminate the silage heap.

A bit later in the season when tunnels have got well established, you can see where the ground goes very hard, where cattle funnel towards a gateway or vehicles doing the same compacting the soil, they will have dug a tunnel across that way and its too hard to dig another. Father always said this will be like a trunk route where all the moles in that field will pass through at some time or the other, making it the prime place to set your mole traps.You are able to re-set the trap in the same place until all are caught.

The game keepers used to catch them and
 skin them they made very fine fir waist
coats out of them

Are these little chaps only found on the UK ?
Please let me know if you have them in countries beyond our shores

They are about four and half inches long with very powerful front feet

These Little Creatures Burrow

These little creatures burrow, and dig endlessly all day,
In total darkness all their lives, don't have time to play,
Every here and there they push, mound of soil up top,
In the most annoying places, n' nout to make them stop.

Their coat is fine and silky, and it brushes either way,
Because in tiny tunnels, shunt backward with no delay,
In good rich soil finding earth worms, catch them unaware,
To feed his busy little body, with no one will he share.

His feet are as little spades, to dig a longer tunnel,
And with his back feet shove the soil, up a little funnel,
This is when you see soil move, pushed up from below,
A mole is what I'm looking for, just to say hello.


At one time we had a family of moles working there way across a low area of meadow ground, running into a substantial depth of peat. Every now and then we get a summer flood like we did last year, just after we had got all the silage bales away.

This one particular year we were in the middle of actually baling with the small conventional baler, and left the baler on the meadows. Over night there was a substantial down pour, and the ditches and the brook that they run into are well weeded up and it impedes the flow.

As you see from this pictue the ditch is well weeded up and the cattle tend to reach down into the channel for that tasty leaf of grass or plant just out of reach, but it is decieving an inch or so of clear water covers abot fifteen foot of peat. The crust of turf on the meadow bends with the weight of tractors and such like, then spring back up as you pass, and when the cattle come running up to you the whole area shakes like a jelly

So it did not take much for the meadow to flood, much to the annoyance of the moles. I went to retrieve the baler in about six inches of water, and to my amazement saw a couple of moles swimming for dear life in the wrong direction. Of coarse it was much too dangerous for me to follow them, as the area is dissected by deep drainage channels, the flood levelled the meadows off, so you could not see where they are.

This picture is taken from a bank on the edge of the peat, our meadows are in between the two woods, they have been mown mid July and aftermath is being grazed, the rough grass strips are the drainage channels which are weeded out each year in September by the river board for which we pay a drainage rate.

We have called cattle off those fields in flood from time to time, the older ones seem to sense where to go, but the followers, that years spring born calves soon find out how to swim, and swim towards the cows.
Our cows have all been born on the place and know not to get in the peaty ditches, learning as calves. Once one has been in the ditch, they never go in again, and remember that all their lives.
The calves can most often get out themselves, being agile and not too heavy, the evidence of which is a black tide mark up to a few inches from the top of the shoulders, although they must be counted twice a day and the ones that are stuck got out immediately.
It makes me wince when you see the firemen have been called out to get a cow out of a peaty ditch, a whole crew of men or perhaps two crews trying to get a fire hose under the belly of the animal. On the odd occasion when I have bought in a cow or in calf heifer, and they got stuck, I take an old cow chain and a length of rope and the fore end loader.

I put the chain round the cow's neck, attach the rope to it under the cows chin, and then fasten to the loader. Lift gently but firmly, and start moving back, the cow's neck looks long at this point, but don't worry it will hold the whole weight of her body. Once out they stand up in a daze, it gives you time to detach the chain and rope. The whole operation, one man and tractor, ten minutes at tops. Never lost one using this method, or pulled its neck out, but a horse I am told by the old men of the village would soon get a broken neck.
I was told that before the days of tractors the way was to take the old iron wheeled muck cart, the ones with five foot wooden wheels, back it up to the ditch and remove the horse from the shafts.

Lift the shafts skywards until the rear of the cart is in the grass. Rope or chain round the cows neck, or in them days round the horns, and threaded up over the front of the cart and tied to the shafts. I know there was always more men about back in them days, so about four men were able with a bit of luck pull the shafts down to the ground, and a man on each wheel wheeled the cart forward thus extracting the said cow,( not dead) cow.

When we first had a Fordson tractor and the next four tractor generations of tractor as well, they had no cabs and only later did we have one with a loader fitted. The removal of a cow from the peat went like this. Reverse up to the ditch, hitch onto the cow as described before, and feed the rope over the top of one rear tyre and tie it off down the far side. It is important to be dead in line for this, and someone with a hand on the rope easily guides it over the centre of the tread, and gently drive forwards.

 The whole reason for this lifting as opposed to dragging, is that a cow dragged will put her from legs out straight in front to pull against the rope and push her front legs under the turf bank into the soft peat and anchor there, that would be a good time to pull her neck out.
So lift and pull is the name of the game, this is made a lot easier with the modern four wheel drive loaders and tractors.
I think I could give tuition to the likes of the fire men, but as so often happens, their chief know best how to make it into a whole days work for eight or ten men and couple of appliances and maul the animal half to death, creating vet bills on top as well. You see the result of there work on the evening news or in the weekend papers, most of which could be avoided.

Not being critical, its just practical experience, its costly if you get it wrong, and as a farmer, if it hits you in the pocket, it is remembered for ever.

If there comes a little thaw,Still the air is chill and raw,Here and there a patch of snow,Dirtier than the ground below,Dribble down a marshy flood,Ankle deep you stick in mud,In the meadow while you sing,"This is spring".Christopher Pearce Cranch A Spring Growl

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The British Hedgerows and Boundaries.

The fields both large and small have names, you wouldn't dream exist,
Some relate to owner past, and others the type of land persists,
Hanging Bank is most sinister name, it's a cold north facing bank,
More research into this is what's needed, but all we've drawn is a blank.

It seem most important to British people that their Boundaries are marked by a fence or ditch and hedgerow or both. It is also important to know who's responsible for its maintenance and repair. On farms it is your own responsibility to keep your own cattle contained within your boundary.

Having said that, in the early days you marked your boundary by digging a ditch along your side of the line, and throwing the spoil back into your own side, then plant a hedge on top of it. In other words it's your boundary if the ditch is the other side of the hedge or fence. Internal ditches were often dug and a hedge planted, to pick up springs and tile drains that crossed the farm, and clear storm water to prevent shallow pools forming, which would kill the grass after a few week submerged.

Very old hedgerows are often made up of many species, ranging from Hawthorn and Blackthorn to Brier and Elder, the latter two being not very desirable, as livestock tend to eat through them. Unless the hedges are trimmed each year they soon become open in the bottom, and very loose in the top. Hawthorn and Holly make a good tight knit defence against cattle, but can soon become gappy when Elder which is a quick grower becomes dominant. Then when livestock are turned into the field, they eat it.

In one of our hedges, a botanist counted over twenty different species of hedgerow plant in a hundred yard stretch. This is a hedge that had evolved over the years in a grazing pasture, where cattle have made their contribution to pruning. Only the less palatable species dominated and maintained quite a good hedge.

Often the best trees to grow from saplings are the ones that are growing in the hedge bottom, when they appear out of the top of the hedge they can just be cut round and simply left to grow. No problem of transplanting or guarding they grow on to make splendid trees with no setbacks.
Hedgerows are important to birds, for nesting and for berries for winter feeding, and the hedge bottom, is shelter for a wide range of small mammals.

The ideal hedge, I was told, over fifty years ago, should be A shaped, and when in full leaf sheads rain like a thatched roof. This gives maximum shelter to its inhabitants, and a wide and dry undisturbed hedge bottom, , and a build-up of dry leaf mould, for hibernating wildlife like Hedgehogs and Toads. Rabbits like to burrow under hedges, as very often the soil is relatively loose and not too compacted, the roots of the hedge also hold the burrow open, and no danger of collapse. Also growing on top of a small hedge bank, it is well drained and dry.
  Badgers often dig in old rabbit warrens, particularly if they hit a good seam of sand that is just below a hard gravely layer. Here they can dig rapidly forming great mounds of sand that could turn a tractor over, if you're not concentrating.

Field mice and voles find shelter in the hedge banks, running among the tussocks of grass. At harvest time they venture further out in the field margins foraging for shed grain, where they fall pray to the kestrels and buzzards. When they spot a mouse, they hover then dive, carrying them off in their talons, owls too like this type of habitat.

On our estate fifty years ago, the woodman when needed would cut down an oak tree. The main trunk would be cut into a 5ft 6in length and 10ft length and multiples of that to make best use of the tree trunk. These large sections of tree trunk were then cleft (split) with wedges and a sledge hammer to make fencing posts and the longer ones into rails.
This practice is never used nowadays, but cleft timber was always better and stronger than sawn timber. This was because split timber always followed the grain of the wood, and sawn timber inevitably crossed the grain somewhere along its length and could break in that place. There are still examples of cleft posts and rails in parts of the estate but they are getting few and far between.

In the Moor Cover wood there always used to be a section in the lower part of the wood that was coppiced. The stools that had been harvested two or three years before were again ready to be cut. The most common use was for hedge laying stakes, and the whippy tops used to bind the top of the laid hedge. When completed this binding would look like the top edge of a basket, holding the light stakes and laid hedge stiff, durable and stock proof.

 Another use of the lighter stakes was for thatching pegs, these needed to be about 2ft long the thicker ones would be cleft into two, they would then be sharpened at one end to make it easier to push into the stack of hay or corn. The brash left after coppicing found it way into many of the village gardens as pea and bean sticks, and no opportunity was lost on finding a new seven or eight foot cloths line prop with a natural forked top.

Field Names of Seighford

Out in Britons countryside, looks like a patchwork quilt,
Of roads and lanes and field tracks, evolved and some were built,
They lead from towns and villages, and farms, map nailed on beam,
Each field a hedge and ditch and gate, watered by pond or stream.

The fields both large and small have names, you wouldn't dream exist,
Some relate to owner past, and others the type of land persists,
Red Rheine's is one of these mean fields, when ploughed reveals red clay,
Unless the frost into it gets, no seed bed though you work all day.

Best known one I've no doubt, behind Yews farm is Cumbers,
Ten houses built along the village, take that name and numbers,
Down by the ford is Mill Bank, four acre few trees by the brook,
The Hazel Graze another great name, nut bushes to make a crook.

Fosters by the railway line, named after a soul long gone,
And Pingles also down the Moor Lane, that defiantly is a mystery one,
Noons Birch is the most beautiful name, one that congers' you mind,
Public Field it was part of the land , run to the pub up back and behind.

Hoble End is another nice name, where two cottages stood in the fields,
No track did they only footpath, lonely place only a well and concealed,
Moss Common a field where the ditch, springs in the middle to pick up,
It is important that they are there, to water the ewes and the tup.

Ash Pits are three fields in a row, the Big the Middle and Little,
Ash trees are the obvious reason, and only one pit in the lot,
Hanging Bank is most sinister name, it's a cold north facing bank,
More research into this is what's needed, but all we've drawn is a blank

Lanes to the fields also have names, Moor Lane runs way from the ford,
Connecting with that is Love Lane, a grassy rut track half way Bridgeford,
The Oldfords Lane goes up to the farm, to Coton not a short cut by car,
And Smithy Lane runs way through houses, the shortest of all by far.

Moss Lane is one that runs eastwards, cow lane that it is can be seen,
Grass up the middle and is long, see cattle grazing fields so keen,
It has path that runs up it, and gates shut on each end,
The path is quite long; it comes out near Doxey on bend.


See also my recent blog Post and Rails of Oak. Tag "Fencing"

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant, if we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672).

Sunday, 27 November 2011

What we were doing 50 years ago this day 27.11.1961

Just been looking back in the old farm diary on what we were doing just fifty years
ago today

This is the relavant page fifty years ago today 27 Nov 1961
It seems we were clearing out an old open fronted cart shed to put a gate on the front and a hay cratch on the wall at the back, in order to inwinter some young stock
That week we had got a contractor in pulling in plastic water pipe with a mole plough, plastic water pipe had only just reached farm level around then I remember they cut a thread on the end of the plastic pipe, put an insert in and screw the brass tap directly onto the plastic as if it were iron. NEW NEW NEW.

This was the nearest they had to a cattle crush, and note the cattle, young stock all had horns, the cows would be tied up in the cowsheds by the chain. There are a few horses in the back ground.

Bamfords were a leading farm machinery makers back then, disc and drum mowers had not been invents then, still with the finger bar mowers. The gearless spider wheel, see bottom two pictures on the right of the above advert, had not long been about.
The muck spreaders were land wheel driven.
Tractors had no live hydraulics, when you dipped the clutch the PTO would stop

These are the new Massey Harris combine drills brought out around that time they planted the grain and fertilizer along at the same time, father bought one and pulled it with his Diesel Fordson Major.
At a later date they fitted them with tractor rear tyres (Fergy back wheels). I still have four of the old steel wheels about the garden as ornaments

This is the page marker thatv come with the diary

This is a calculation done on the back of the page marker, in long hand before we had calculators, I checked it with my calculator today and its spot on, don’t know what I was working out at the time.
Any ideas anyone, we had never heard of Hectares back then

 I doubt if school childen, or older school age kids would know how to do that calculation nowadays. Tell me if you do and I will appolagise

Owd Fred

Tom Abbotts, Best loved Village character born 1887

Tommy Abbotts

All the years I knew him, he always had some wit,
Smoked a pipe and chewed tabaca, and showed us how to spit,
He had a bike sit-up-and beg, handle bars reached his chest,
On Friday went to town on it, his hat he wore his best.

These are characters of the village nearly all of whom worked about the farms, few if any traveled out to other parts for work. This is what I remember of Tommy Abbotts in the 1940's when I was a lad growing up.

An old man, when I was a kid growing up, I can picture him now.

Tom Abbotts

Tom was born in 1887 and his sister Nellie in1893. A as far as I know, they had lived in Seighford a long time, possibly all there lives. They lived in the back half of the large house, on the left on the way up to the airfield. The house had two fields that adjoined his garden and buildings except for the little cottage that stands back off the road not a couple of yards from Tom's house.

He was an old man, when I was a boy in the late nineteen forties, and worked round the different farms in the village; He kept two house cows to provide milk butter and cheese, and reared half a dozen calves. These he then grazed on one of his fields, The other field he kept shut up in the spring for hay. These fields ran up to Bunns Bank and along to the next bend on the road onto the airfield the down almost to The Beeches Farm rickyard. In total he must have had about ten acres, together with the small range of buildings that are along side of the road, the ones with the G P O letter box.

‘Owd Tummy' as he was often called locally, was about five foot nine. He would stand with his right thumb in his waistcoat pocket, his left hand giving his pipe undivided attention. His feet would be at ten to two, and his weight evenly on both feet with his knees just forward of being locked (as you would stand in an earthquake). He had a slight hump on his shoulders, and would carry his head be in the forward position as though ready for milking? This was his regular stance when looking at the cattle or when in deep thought, and when talking to neighbours.

His face was always the same, a nose slightly narrow and pointed, and no extravagant expressions, almost what we call pan faced, But he only smiled with his eyes, I expect the pipe balked a big grin (?). His dark wide open eyes always seemed to sparkle, maybe because they often seemed to be wet, a good laugh and out with his hanky out of his pocket to dab them. Round his neck he nearly always had sweat band, to call it a ‘'neckerchief would be too posh and a cravat posher still. I've no doubt it was a habit from in the days when he used to break into a sweat. But these days he was a man who could pace himself and work at his own speed.

Quite a slim man in his time, but in the years, I knew him his trouser waist band had been modified by his sister Nellie, to cope with his expanding midriff, So discrete was this adjustment, that you could only see it when he bent over forward with the wind behind him, to blow his jacket up. She had cut the middle seam down the back of his trousers from the waist band about four inches, then the bracers buttons were put on the point of the opening, the fork of the bracers holding everything together comfortably.
 His trousers were of a coarse tweed, and charcoal in colour with matching waste coat and jacket, clean but well worn, and modified as the years went on. The jacket had leather patches on the elbows, and a strip sown on round the cuffs.
The waistcoat was not outwardly modified but had stretched to the figure it contained, if anything had been done, it was ten or so buttons may have been brought up to edge of the material. A watch and chain stretched across the waistcoat into one pocket, the matches in the other, and tobacco pouch in his inside jacket pocket.

 On the few occasions that his pipe was not in use it was stuffed in the top pocket of his jacket. More often than not it was in his teeth with his left arm hanging off it, with his first finger hanging over the bowl always ready to pack the tobacco if it went out.

He always had the same tobacco. It was twist (to me it looked like a stick of liquorish) which he cut a chunk off and rubbed in the palm of his hand before replenishing the pipe. The times when he was working with both hands, he would cut a chunk of baccy with his pocket knife, pop it in his mouth and chew it. Every now and then he would have to eject some tobacco juice, with a long ‘per-sqwit' which if it had been aimed to go somewhere. it always got there in a long unbroken stream..

He always wore boots, not a heavy type, but lighter sorts that would be polished from time to time. They had about ten lace holes and went well up above his ankles, almost to the calf of his leg. On working in the fields when there was mud about, he would wear some older boots and leather leggings.

To get about to fetch supplies and go to other farms, his only form of transport was his old bike, an old sit-up and beg type with rod brakes, twenty eight inch wheels. The handle bars were almost up to his chest when standing by it, and the seat as low as possible. It had a full chain case, and a carrier with a spring clip that would hold his mac in case of rain, and around the hub of each wheel, inside of the spokes, was a loose small leather strap ( like a small dog collar) to keep the hub bright and clean.

Each Friday he would go down to Stafford for his shopping, which was carried home in a carpet bag slung on his handle bars so deep was this bag that it hung right down to the middle of his front wheel. It certainly looked like a piece of carpet folded into two and stitched each side and with two cord handles which hung on the handle bars. It was flat and hung flat. Even when full it still hung flat. The only reason for going was to pick up a joint of beef from the butchers, and have a look in at the Sun Smithfield cattle market.

From the back door of the house you turned right , then left round the pear tree and another ten yards, you would be in the loo. A wooden seat with a bucket type, that had to be regularly attended to. (Emptied). A deep hole would be dug in the garden, (it resembled a bear trap only with no twig on top, would hate to have fell in there in the dark) and this would last about three months, filled over and then a new one dug.

Next to the loo was the pig sty, which most village houses had as standard, A single piglet was purchased when it was old enough to be weaned. Weaning took place when the sow was getting fed up with them, and the piglets would start chewing instead of sucking, and were eating in the trough with their mother.
They would be fed on all sorts of house hold scraps like potato peelings, outer cabbage leaves and stalks, and only topped up with pig meal purchase from the corn merchant. On reaching maturity, the butcher would call and kill the pig and the flitches of bacon and hams cured by salting , These would be hung in a cool room in the house with a muslin bag over to keep the flies off.

Most of what they ate was home grown in the neat but large garden. , Everything would be preserved for winter. Potatoes and carrots dug and hogged, beetroot boiled and pickled, runner beans picked, sliced and salted, and packed in stone jars, plums and pears picked and preserved in kilner jars. Eggs were preserved in glycerine to seal the shells, would keep up to four months; eggs were also hard boiled and pickled. The only thing they bought seemed to be salt, coal, beef and bread. They kept about twenty hens in a large run behind the pig sty , and it would be disaster if the hens got loose in the garden, these were kept for eggs and for eating.

All the cattle were reared from calves by Nellie, named and thoroughly spoiled; they could almost milk them in the middle of the field ((hand milked into a bucket). When it came to sell them, it was more traumatic than they let on, it was as if one of the family leaving home for good.

On a large proportion of the garden Tommy grew mangols (mangol wursels) .These were pulled and topped and taken into one of his sheds to protect them from the frost, to feed to the older cattle through the winter.
 Hay was the other main feed; this was cut in early July by one of the neighbours who he had worked for during the spring, quite often my father. The hay would be turned and tedded with great care for four days, and if the weather held good, father would bale it. This would be after 1958 when balers first came out before this date it would be carried and stacked loose.

Us lads, and the cow man and the Wagoner (now called the tractor driver) would all go round, cart it and stack it in his yard , Tom would do the supervising in the pose I described above Nellie brought the large enamel gallon jug of tea, with a handfull of cups and mugs. Everyone with cup in hand held steady for Nellie to pour out the welcome tea Philip the cowman had a sip, and as Nellie and Tom turned away round the stack Philip dashed his tea under the hedge. On her return Nellie topped his mug up again, Philip thanking her and complimenting her on the tea, but the same thing happened, it was dashed under the hedge again discretely.

My brothers and I saw all what went on, and when Nellie had collected up the cup and had gone back to the house, we enquired why no tea? Being an experienced cowman, he had observed that the only cow Tom had in milk at that time, had only calved the day before. That meant that the rich creamy tea had been made with beastings, this he could not stomach. Nellie being very thrifty, in her mind had made a good milky brew.

Beastings are produced by the cow for the first four days of lactating and they contain antibodies to protect the calf. They are extra rich to nourish a new born calf from birth. If beastings from the second milking are put in a large flat basin and put in the oven to slowly cook on low heat for an hour and a half, with a bit of nutmeg on top it comes out set like custard . Very nice hot or cold for pudding, and very popular with us kids (but not in tea)

Tom and Nellie were very private people, very few went into the house. It was like stepping back in time, even in the 1950`s. Then all of a sudden they bought a television and a long tall aerial was mounted on the tallest chimney.
As they got older they gave up the land and sold the cattle .The garden was getting too much for him, cultivating it less each year. Then in 1963 at the age of 70, Nellie died, Tom had relied on Nellie for the cooking and washing, and coped on his own remarkably well until he was finding it difficult to get about especially in the winter months.

The neighbours were alert to his situation, and someone called on him every day to do his bit of washing, get the coal in and chop the sticks for fire lighting etc. He had no immediate family as neither of them had ever been married. The only relatives lived a long way off. Then in 1977 Tom died at the age of 90.

He remained cheerful, and great fun to all who knew him. He had been like this all his life. He was a man who never raised his voice or lost his temper, a very shy man with strangers. A man of few words, and good listener. Although his face did not show it, he was a very jovial man who enjoyed a good joke, but seldom did he ever tell one.

His grave was dug and the coffin made by the village wheelwright and his brother, Jim and Bill Clark, as was Nellie's. Bill was grave digger and Jim made the coffins. Tom and Nellie's grave is near the top step of the back lane path of St 'Chad's church, among other old characters and residents of Seighford.

I have written two blogs about the village wheelwright some months ago, click -- ,

Owed Tom Abbotts

Owed Tom Abbotts lived in a cottage, with his sister Nell,
They kept three cows and calves, and a few old hens as well,
Cattle grazed across four acres, the rest was mown for hay,
In his garden he grew his mangols, fed in short winters day.

He helped his neighbours, when they're short handed,
With drilling hoeing weeding, with others he was banded,
At harvest time he stacked bays, till in the roof was bound,
Longest ladder then was cast, him get back to ground.

All the years I knew him, he always had some wit
Smoked a pipe and chewed tabaca, and showed us how to spit,
He had a bike sit-up-and beg, handle bars reached his chest,
On Friday went to town on it, his hat he wore his best.

His shopping bag hung on his bike, a long carpet bag it was,
All stitched up on either side, flat by front wheel because,
When it was loaded it was safe, hung by strong loops of cord,
Should it be carried in his hand, it almost dragged with the hoard.

As a young man stood up straight, he'd be all of five foot eight,
Old and stooped and round of back, shorter still as life dictate,
Feet a splayed for easy stance, and knees a slight of bend,
One thumb hooked in waist coat pocket, tuther to pipe distend.

He always had a cheery smile, his eyes were almost closed,
When he had a dam good laugh, tears ran down his pointed nose,
His face was brown and ruddy, from working in all weathers,
On his nose and chin could see, red veins mapped his features.

On his feet were black boots, well up above his ankle laced,
His trousers had a gusset, hold his expanding tummy braced,
It was a different colour , and could see when he bent over,
And buttons of his bracers , straining hard to cotton anchor.

Waistcoat matched his trousers, a suit some point decide,
Ten buttons some were missing, four pockets two each side,
One it held his pocket watch, secured to button hole with chain,
Another held his match box, England's Glory was it by name.

His jacket didn't quite match, been stitched around the collar,
Pockets drooped like open mouth, weighed down as if to cower,
In one was his bacca pouch, top pocket reserved for pipe,
Pipe was mostly in his mouth, not always did he light.

He carried a little pocket knife, his baccy Twist to cut,
When he rubbed it in his palm, into his pipe he put,
With cupped hand around his pipe, he lit it with a match,
Puff and suck till it was lit, mid curls of smoke detach.

Eventually it went out again , and back into top pocket,
Out with the Twist and cut a knob, chew into old tooth socket,
This is where he learned all us kids, to squit with baccy juice,
It went with long streak so far, to reach his poor old goose.

Tommy had a bowler hat , kept on peg inside of his back door,
As kids he let us try it on, and asked him what it was for,
It was used to go to town in, now for only funerals touted,
He kept it brushed and steamed, though it became out dated.

Now it was only flat caps, that he was nare without,
Into town he used his best, to walk around see whose about,
One was used to milk his cows, grease and cow muck plastered
And one used round house and village, not so much it mattered.

Tommy's ears were large and thin, for a man so short,
Ragged round the top edge, frost bite they must have caught,
They tucked back nice and even, his cap they're there to hold,
His head he kept it nice and warm, ears out in the cold.

His garden always nicely dug, and cow muck spread a plenty,
Grew his household veg and spuds, and runner beans a bounty,
The biggest plot was that of mangols, for his pampered cows,
The three of them all bedded up, roots chopped for them to brows.

We called round my dad and me, and Nelly made us a cup of tea,
One of Tom's cows had calved, the others had dried off you see,
Milk she poured all rich and yellow, beastings from his old cow,
She had to stir most vigorously, tea too rich to drink right now.

In winter time when he was younger, Tom he carted coal,
Picked it up from Bridgeford Station, Seighford was his goal,
Brought it over Bridgeford bank , with donkey and a cart,
This it filled the time o'er winter, before drilling corn did start.

So it was that he got too old, to work about the farms,
Even gave up his cows and garden, that he loved and charmed,
Then he lost his sister Nell, and lived a few more years alone,
He himself succumbed to life, both still in Seighford neath headstone.


I Remember Singling Sugar Beet

I remember singling sugar beet, on Barn Field it was long,
Ten of us following close, and talking in a throng,
Owd Tommy he was slow, and he got left behind,
Ground was dry and dusty, not enough to blind.

Now George he's in his thirties, his bladder wouldn't hold,
Got to have a pee now, halfway down the row behold,
He pee'd on top of Tommy's row, and then he carried on,
Till Tommy came across a damp spot, in his row deadon.

Further down we all watched, as he stuck his finger in,
To see what had wet the earth, held muddy finger by his chin,
We all rolled with laughter, till we told him what was on his paws,
Poor owd Tummy takes a joke, short straw he always draws.


Young men, hear an old man to whom old men harkened when he was young.
Ceasar Augustus (63 BC -14 AD)