Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Not so many bulls about farms these days

Not so many bulls about farms these days, particularly the dairy herds. Before the advent of Artificial Insemination, you often reared a bull calf out of one of your own best cows, the resultant heifers coming into your herd and completing their first lactation, would be very hit and miss. It was not uncommon to see cows with curled up toes and long pendulous udders often having front teats pointing east west. Also you had three more years of calves on the way before the bull had been proven.

However once AI came in and a few years later they could offer proven bulls with superior confirmation, the misshapen feet and udder started to disappear within ten years. Another benefit was there was less dangerous bulls to handle in your own yard one your own farm.

Almost every farm in our area could relate to a narrow escape or injury from trying to move or separate a bull from the cows.

At home the bull had his own loose box, the only window was a brick arched half moon hole on the back wall where he could put his head out, but even then he could see nothing, only fresh air. To serve a cow in season, she was loosed onto the farm yard and the bull pen door opened to let him out, while he was busy the cowman would pop in quickly and bed up with straw and put in some dairy nuts or corn, and being used to this routine, as soon as the cow had been served he would head back to his pen at full gallop and the door shut.

However training the bull to get used to a routine was hard and dangerous, this one day (in around 1946) when we got home from school father was in the house and mother had been away for the day. This was a bit unusual and we thought nothing about it until evening, when the cowman Philip came to the door for his wages, mother answered the door and first thing Philip asked was “how’s the old chap”. Mother asked him why, and he replied that the bull had had him down on the yard that afternoon, and had escaped with a good heavy bruising of his legs and thighs.  Mother was very shocked and upset that father had not told her, he knowing what her reaction would be had not planned on telling her. But Philip had let the cat out of the bag.

A few years prior to that incident, soon after we had moved to Seighford, we had a new young bull, and the plan was to tie him up in a single stall along with other cows, usually if the bull and a cow are crammed into a single stall, and eating, you stand a chance of getting a chain round his neck. It was only a slim chance that did not pay off, as the old man Harry who was helping father and Philip the cowman at that time, got a mauling and badly knocked about. The bull was put down and old Harry never came back to work on the farm again, in fact he got a job with the County Council as a road man, and his stretch of country road was about three miles, all through the village and right past his own house. His one leg was so badly damaged the for the rest of his life he had a very bad limp, as though one leg was shorter than the other

I had a narrow escape one day when walking a young bull down the lane to run with a bunch of heifers. We had reared the bull from a calf and had him leading all through his early years, but now he was up on his toes so to speak, and realised when we got within a hundred or so yards from the field and he could see the heifers where he was going.

He started walking faster , faster than I wanted to go, then he started bouncing, up with the front, then up with the backend, all the time getting faster. He had got his head in front of me and was shouldering me sideways closer and closer to the hedge bank, a steep grassy hedge bank about  three foot high, with a three foot hawthorn hedge on top, a just off vertical six foot. I started doing the wall of death walk along the near vertical grass, then on the next bounce his shoulders almost underneath me I was pitched clean over the hawthorn hedge. Fortunately as well as a pole, of which I lost grip, I also had a long chain that was attached through his nose ring up round his horns, so had still got a hold on him. Apart from a few bruised ribs and a dented ego, it was a hard lesson to learn and just lucky to have gotten away with it.

The bull, our bull, was often tethered on a long chain with a 56lbs weight to anchor him to one place, the chain was threaded through his nose ring and fastened round his horns. He soon learned to move the weight by lining up the chain in the middle of his nose and under his chin, and then lift his head up sharply. He could do this from along his side and flipping his head violently, so violent that on one occasion the half cwt  (25kg) was flying 10 foot in the air, all the energy pulling the chain was round his horns and nose with no weight on his ring.

So to sum up, no bulls can be trusted, not even the Herefords and Aberdeen Angus, also some newly calved cows are just as dangerous. All these animals are seven to ten times heavier than us, so proper handling and housing facilities are essential. There has been a  lot of people killed over the years and still up to this date. Don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you will be badly hurt or killed.

I  Remember Father’s Cattle

 In the mid 1950’s vets were recommending worming young stock with a new product called phenothiazine.  This was a green powder and had to be mixed with water and a pint or so was pour down their throats.(drenched)

I remember father counting, cattle each and every day,
He counts and looks at every one, to see they’re all OK,
Now one day he sees’s one cough, and then it was another.
If we don’t do something quickly, we’ll be in a bit of bother.

So off down he goes to get, some wormer in a rush,
And back he comes and reads the label, says get them in a crush,
No crush have we, but four strong lads, we’ll get them in a stable,
Mix water and green powder in a bucket, put it on the table.

Four long neck bottles we did find, for dosing all the cattle,
Phenothiozine, it’s called, and keep it stirred or it will settle,
The pop had gone as we made sure; we loved the fizzy taste,
One pint and half was dose that’s needed, over dose was waste.

Pint ladle and a funnel now, into the bottled it was measured,
Us lads went in among the stock, as tight a they could be,
The bottles we did pass to one, who had ones chin held high,
Uptip the med-sin to back of throat, do not look down or ni.

The cow that coughs, coughs both ends, and chuck it back they try,
Its just a waste as we were told, but hits you in the eye,
Soon learn to leave it quickly, as soon as we could shift,
As dosing cattle get there own back, now who’s being thrift.

We often wondered why we lads, had grown so big and strong,
When other lads around us, were only lean and long,
Put it down to fresh air, and read farmers weekly magazine,
But all the time it wasn’t, twas Phenothiazine.


Monday, 23 January 2012

Numbers Galore

Numbers Galore

Car numbers and engine numbers and chassis numbers too,
Model numbers part numbers, colour codes pursue.
House numbers street numbers, area post codes an all,
All across the country, codes for counties large and small,

Does anyone still have one of these Farmers Weekly metric converters, I still use mine and had it even before I had a calculator. The numbers game has gone absolutely mad in the last thirty years, look at the Cattle Movement Service and all the ear tag numbers, and all the numbers involved in the Single Farm Payments system.
At one time the only number that went on your cow or beast you were selling was the paper auction yard number, and the accountant always wanted to look at your movement book to try and trace what you sold and when, but even that only said cow or calf or sheep and how many on what date and the lot number, and all the fields had names and the lanes and ponds and woods.

Numbers Galore

Phone numbers and the mobile, bank sort codes n' accounts,
Credit card that can be skimmed, all ya savings trounce,
Car numbers and engine numbers and chassis numbers too,
Model numbers part numbers, colour codes pursue.

House numbers street numbers, area post codes an all,
All across the country, codes for counties large and small,
Field numbers, map numbers, parish number long,
Acres turned to hectares, if ya know where they belong.

SBI and there's IACS, vendor as well,
PI and a Trader numbers, and Stewardship numbers tell,
There's numbers for every thing, for this that and tuther,
Fill ya head with confusion, so many thing that got to cover.

Gallons turned to litres, pounds and ounces gone to grams,
Miles turned to kilometres, and foot to millimetre crammed
Therms have turned to Mj's, power in Hp turned to Watts,
Heat is Btu to lbs, is now into Joules per Kilogram it jots.

The moneys gone to Euros, bank rate measures that,
Information all in plastic, and its in your wallet sat,
Converted into bar codes, so computers read the lot,
Nothing ever private now, they know all of what you've got.


Beyond a critical point within a finite space, freedom diminishes as numbers increase...... The human question is not how many can possibly survive within the system, but what kind of existence is possible for those who do survive.Frank Herbert (1920-1986)

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The War-Ag had a stock of arable machinery.

Most tractors ran on petrol (gas), or started on petrol and run on TVO vaporizing oil (kerosene)

War time restrictions
During the second world war , everyone suffered in some way or other, what with the food rationing , restrictions on fuel and most of the young men away at war.

Mechanization was just becoming popular in farming through necessity , in that a great push was on for the country to become self sufficient in food production.
Every farm had to compulsorily plough up some pasture to grow potatoes and wheat , in all the regions around the country the government( locally called the War-Ag) had a stock of arable machinery for those farms that had never grown arable crops before. It included tractors, usually the Standard Fordson , ploughs cultivators drills an harvesting equipment.

Fuel for road use was severely rationed , and most tractors ran on petrol, or started on petrol and run on TVO vaporizing oil the kind that we now call heating oil for central heating the house. The petrol used on the farm was died red to prevent people from using it duty free on the roads, although it has been known for farm cars to run on a mixture that included a good proportion of TVO, you could always tell by the thin plume of light blue smoke emitted from the car exhaust.
Steel was another short commodity, metal and cast iron railings around buildings, and along the front of houses were commandeered, On older houses even now there is often a low sandstone wall with the stumps of iron where the railing have been cut down.

Coal was another product in big demand, every house had fire places down stairs and up, and with electricity produced by coal fired power stations. Factories often had one big steam engine to run all the machinery, in steel works smelting was a big consumer that was essential. All the railway locomotives were steam up the main lines, transport also essential.

Allotments were provided for those with not much garden to help grow food for their own table, In a lot of back gardens there was a pig sty, particularly in the rural areas.

Pigs A piglet was purchased, and any household scraps, and edible garden waste, were fed to the pig who was eventually slaughtered. The carcass was quartered and salted, and hung up from a beam in the pantry. The bacon was sliced from the flitch by hand, and usually had as much fat as lean, when fried the pan was awash with fat , this was used to fry stale bread.
Always on the inside of the ribs of the pig was great quantities of leaf fat, this was rendered down to produce lard for cooking, the crackling that was left after the fat was drained off was very popular with the kids.
Pork pies were produced, to use up meat that was lower down the legs and the jelly formed from boiling the pigs trotters was poured into the pie through a small hole in the top, this excluded any air gaps after the pie was cooked.
The pigs head was boiled to produce brawn, when all the meat on the head was cooked and the bones lifted out, the water in the pot was further evaporated and reduced. The contents were then ladled into large basins and the top sealed, and a heavy weight place on top to compress it until cold. This would keep for a while and then turned out onto a plate it was sliced brawn.

Milk was produced before the war using imported proteins such as linseed flakes , groundnut flakes and soya. These were the by-product of the vegetable oil crushers based in Liverpool, they also produced Astra soap at the Bibby's mill who also produced Dairy "cake" from the expeller flakes from crushing groundnut. Maize was imported in large quantities for animal and human consumption.
However when the U boats were sinking our ships in the Atlantic these products got into short supply, so it was essential to grow beans and peas. Occasionaly they were grown as crops in there own right, but more often for cattle feed they were sown as "dredge corn" . ,Oats wheat peas and beans all sown together , harvested when they all ripened , bindered ,stacked then threshed to produce an almost balanced ration for dairy cattle after it had been put through a roller mill.
Milking machines started to appear on farms due to the shortage of labor during the war, the milk was sent in churns to the towns and cities by train or by road transport. Some milk was made into butter and cheese on the farms and the whey fed to the pigs. Nothing was wasted.

Eggs , Hens were found on every farm and in a lot of back gardens, most of them ran foraging about the yards and troughs around the buildings. It was important to watch where a clucking hen emerged from, and quite likely more than one would be laying eggs in that nest. So late in the afternoon you would go around with a bucket to collect the eggs from all the known nests. Nearly all the eggs were collected up once a week by the local Egg packing station, each wooden crate held twenty dozen eggs packed two and half dozen to the tray. Some people preserved eggs in a preserving jell, and some eggs boiled hard then pickled in vinegar.
Production of eggs tended to be seasonal; when the days and day light got short during winter they stopped laying. This was overcome to a certain extent it was found, by putting a light on in the hen house, so they would stay awake longer and eat more food from the feed hoppers and water fountains provided.

This was in the 1950's Before the days of combines. We had to collect the eggs from the field ark pens, into buckets. We hung the buckets on the handle bars of our bikes and rode down the main road from Bridgeford, about a quarter of a mile nearly all down hill. We got up to a fine turn of speed until one day I crashed with about twelve dozen eggs, these all broke across the road in front of Seighford Hall.Had to explain what happened, but nobody cared about my skinned knees and elbows.

Mothers Laying Hens

1950's Before the days of combines.

Mother always kept, a lot of laying hens,
Some in deep litter, some in field ark pens
Autumn they were put, onto far wheat stubble,
With pens on wheels, round the field did travel.

Each pen held fifty hens, they had slatted floors,
Nest boxes on each side, also flap down by the door,
Every two days they were moved, for the hens to range,
Glean wheat that fell at harvest, and to make a change.

Hens let out early morning, and closed again at night,
There was plenty foxes, to help themselves all right,
Eggs were collected every evening, by the bucket full,
Plenty hay in which they lay, took it by the sackful.

On wet days with dirty feet, walked into the nest,
Left foot prints on the other eggs, Oh what blooming pest,
With damp cloth we cleaned dirt off, worst ones we used Vim,
Took the bloom off them eggs, view of packers would be dim.

On dry days eggs were clean, onto sections packed,
Careful not to pack double yoked, or any that are cracked,
They were kept back for our breakfast, anything she tried,
Always nothing wasted, boiled or scrambled also fried.

Every Thursday lorry came, put out boxes in a dash,
Gave mother last weeks grading chit, and her hard earned cash,
Sometimes she was very pleased, others disappointed,
Deductions made for small eggs, and some that they had jilted.

So it was that these hens, came back in for winter,
In deep litter with light on, continued to lay to Easter,
Any falter or not look like lay, they got their poor old neck rung,
Into boiling pot they went, to feed her four hungry off-springs. (us lads)

Cheese - milk's leap towards immortality.
Clifton Fadiman (1904-1999)

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kansasfarmer said:

The US did not get bombed, but like Great Britain everything was rationed, although I think not as severely. My grandparents use to mention it from time to time, and the "looking back" column in our hometown newspaper will sometimes mention a certain item was no longer rationed on a certain date. One of the most interesting items I ever saw was a mention that the ban on weather forecasts had been lifted, I guess they didn't want to help the Japanese plan the invasion.
We still have alot of WW2 vets around, many, many of these spent at least part of the war in the UK.
Kansas also had a number of POW camps. I am not certain if this had anything to do with their placement, but we conveniently had alot of people who spoke German as well, both of my mothers parents and both sets of her grandparents spoke fluent German. The German POWs were hired out to work on farms. I knew a fellow who was in his early teens during the war, his father had a group of Germans working on his farm along with a guard. The Germans were plenty glad to be out of the war. According to his account, the guard slept under a tree all day. One afternoon he had taken a little walk and left his rifle against a tree, it came the time to go back to the camp and the guard hollered to one of the POWs, "hey Fritz, fetch my gun along will you??". According to Bob, the rare escapes were easy to find, they always ended up in the local beer hall.
# March 2, 2009 5:42 AM [Delete]

Owd Fred said:

I guess that’s why my old mother always got so good at forecasting the weather, I never realised that the broadcast weather forecasting had been so restricted during the war, but it made good sense.
I know we had black tarred paper blinds/shutters round the cowshed windows that had to be put up before they could switch any lights on for milking. And any window round the house that had no curtains also had an outside blind fitted.
Our farm was only a couple of hundred yards from the edge of a war time airfield and two huge fuel tanks, and just a bit further on round the different woods were the bomb dumps, so we were not too keen to be seen by potential German bombers.
Only once early on in the war did I remember mother taking us under the kitchen table when we heard an air raid siren, and heard the drone of a German plane. They were looking for the factories in town three miles away. In desperation they would drop bombs on any light they could see if they got lost.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Big cats in UK

Big cats in UK.     The discussion has come around again, about whether there are big “big cats” loose around UK. There has never been one found dead or died, but then you never seem to find dead deer or dead badgers other than road kill.

 There is so called evidence of sheep being killed and half eaten, and it had to be something big to have done that.

There is sure to be the odd escapees from zoo’s and private premises, but whether there is any actually breeding in the wild in UK has never been proved.

 My own experience in 1992 in a field of twenty five eighteen month old store cattle standing in the middle of a sixteen acre field one frosty morning. They were just standing in the centre of the field in a tight huddle at first light, and from the distance the steam was rising off them in the still morning air.

Every morning they come down to the buildings to have their feed of silage, and they all come as soon as they see the tractor moving about the yard. On this particular morning they would not move, and after another half hour I went up to call them again and right up to the group. It was obvious they were thoroughly traumatised and tried to drive them, but all they did was to mill round with no one beast wanting to take the lead.

They were still steaming an hour later, and decided to take a ring feeder and the silage up to them; although they would be hungry none of them would touch the feed.

 I then had a look round the field to see what had upset them so much, there was skidding hoof marks all around ripping up the wet winter turf, then at the top of the field the fence between me and my neighbour was flat down. It was a length of about ten posts smashed down where they had been stampeded through, then further along the same again only a similar smashed length of fence where they had come back. All knocked down in the direction they were stampeding.

It was a sound boundary fence of a stout oak stakes every five paces with sheep netting and two strands of barbed wire along the top, it was all tight and sound, none of this fencing that looks like a washing line that sags and swings in the wind.

On driving on the tractor back on the route the cattle take back to the building, I found some more wire and posts flattened. All my work that day was repairing and tightening the wire and netting up to new stakes. All day the cattle stood on what was now a muddy circle, still confused and disorientated refusing to break from the huddle although they had stopped steaming by late afternoon. They had not had water all day though they knew there was plenty of water was only fifty yard away in a dew pond.

The cattle were still in a similar circle the following morning but now round the ring feeder but still no evidence of them having been to water, they had only ”pecked” at the silage, no meaningful eating as they would otherwise would do. They did spread out and go for water by late the second day and it was three more days I had to feed them up by that pond, (the pond is in the centre of the field).

The cattle were stampeded round there own field, and run blindly through the top end fence, then on round the neighbours field back through the wire fencing into their own field. There is sheep netting round the boundary and that normally keeps dogs out, but this was something I had never seen before. These were not young calves, but strong growing bullocks and heifers of eighteen months old, they were almost in a trance, shaking and sweating, and every one of the bunch were the same.  They would not even look out from the huddle they were in, and just turned in a circle when we tried to move them. In fact it was impossible to move them.

You only hear tales about big cats on the loose, and it certainly was something bigger than the normal village dog to have done that to them. That is the only time I have ever considered could it possibly have been a BIG CAT.

More general discussions on big cats currently on the Farmers Weekly forums January 2012

Friday, 13 January 2012

Water Meadows "bedwork or floated water meadows"

It was said by the old men that the water should "trot" onto the fields, and "gallop" off.
On our low lying meadows there is still evidence of the very old style of management the "bedwork or floated water meadows" , where channels carry water onto the fields from the stream.

At the upstream end a sluice was built with simple grooves in the brickwork where balks of timber could be slotted in to hold the stream to a suitable hydrostatic head where by it was diverted along carrier channels around the edge of the meadow to be flooded, some times these would be along the top of formed humps to allow the water to reach the next fields. The levels as you can imagine are very critical, it was said by the old men that the water should "trot" onto the fields, and "gallop" off.

Standing water was not acceptable as it would kill the grass by starving the ground of oxygen, the running water carried nutrients in the silt and oxygen and other trace element that the meadows would otherwise not get. In the winter the flooding kept the frost out of the ground and the grass would start growing a lot earlier than non flooded fields. This would go on for a few weeks until spring when grass growth had started.

The main carriers tapered in there length with smaller carriers branching off towards the centre of the field again tapering off to nothing. Drainage channels were intersected (as with clasped hands) to carry the water back to the stream at the lower end of the system.
It can be seen in places where the carrier ditches were viaducted over some drainage channels and where when the main railway line was built around 1875, brick culverts were built to allow water to continue its route round to meadows up to half a mile of more from where it left the river.

In the village we have a Millennium Walk that follows the Millian Brook down from where the road fords it, to an area of grass, a picnic area, here the brook is fast flowing and stepping stone have been positioned to allow walkers to cross. Lower down where it is in a deep channel there is also a new footbridge.

Between the ford at the up stream end, and the foot bridge at the down stream end is a four acre meadow that has a small "bedworks" flooding system which the committee is exploring the possibility of bringing it back into use.

The brickwork cheeks of the old sluice have all but gone and would have to be rebuilt, and the main carrier channel that runs round three sides of the meadow have been filled in, but most of the branch carrier channels are still evident as are the drainage channels and the main drainage channel down the centre of the field.
First job to reinstate it would be to establish the level of water needed to flow into the main carrier, when dammed up at the sluice the water will backup up the stream to the ford, as long as the depth of water in the ford is not affected it would be feasible to carry on with reinstating the channels and the sluice.
This would bring back a very old management tool that had been in use for around two hundred years it got neglected when machinery and tractors took over from the horse and cart, so this system has not been activated or utilised in the last seventy five years.

From the Millian Brook around forty acres would have been flooded from three or maybe four sluices, on each one the water returns to the main flow of the brook.
Another system ran from the river Sow, and that covered getting on for a hundred acres with one of its main carries running under a brick culvert under the main West Coast main railway lines. From a vantage point you are able to see the pattern of the channels that had been established before the railways were cut through the countryside.

The Railway Across The peat bog

Its nice to look at very old maps, all faded and dog eared,
See what has change over the years, and what has disappeared,
Most roads and lanes are still the same, so are most the fields,
Village houses have increased, built in corners quite concealed.

Can see where the railway has, cut through field and ditch,
Diagonally they run to it, and a culvert they did pitch,
A hundred and seventy years ago, they dug a line right through,
With bridges over on a bank, and some went under too.

Across the peat bog they had dug, and filled it up with stone,
To this day now the rails sink, the levels they need to hone,
Most of the work was by hand, and horse and cart as well,
Men of steel they must have been, the tales they had to tell.


You must not know too much or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and watercraft; a certain free-margin, and even vagueness - ignorance, credulity - helps your enjoyment of these things.
Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Farming Into Old Age, (Three Score Years and Twelve)

Driving very cautious, cannot see what's round the bend,
Reactions slowing up now, braking distance I extend,
Reversing on the mirrors, the distance hard to judge,
Backing up to a big old gate post, no wonder it wunner budge.
( and that's just the car)

As you may have heard on the national news, Stafford Hospital has come in for a slating, too many "Chiefs" and not enough "Indians", with the staff who do the actual work getting demoralised. However we have had a close inspection of the hospital from "inside", with my closest member of my family, very reluctantly being admitted under a 999 blue light situation. In other words she had no option.( for nine days)

We found the place spotless; I have no doubt that with all this bad publicity over its cleanliness or other wise, its finally making huge efforts to gain back a reputation of being clean. The only complaint from the patient, when she was well enough to know what was going on, was one of the nurses who when inserting a needle in the back of her hand for a drip, seemed to press and push all the harder until she found the vein. ( a clear need for retraining) They all have their names on, and there is a box to register suggestion/complaints such as that, and I would think they will be reading every note with great care to improve there image. My misses is a tough little bird, who bites her lip and smiles, and refuses to complain as the majority of her care was most excellent.

We never know when any one of us will need the local hospital, but ours now must be one of the cleanest in the country, I heard it said that the staffing levels have got to be brought up be it doctors , nurses, and surgeons.

Getting old is not an option, it creeps up on you, and its not until you are pulled up sharply by your ---------- that you realise your age. Farming is now getting way in front of my thinking and knowledge, suddenly you cannot run like you could even last year, and the paper work in the office and all the records and forms to fill in, and the Single Farm Payment. I have someone professional to do that for me, one mistake and you're thrown to the bottom of the pile.
I still love my job, (and now learned how to use the computer)

Passed Another Mile Stone (or should it be spelt with an i )

I have passed another mile stone, each year it is the same,
Birthday's come and birthdays go, the excitement's getting tame,
Not so quick at doing things and hair it's gone all grey,
After lunch we have a nap, and bed times half past eight.

Walking's steady, runnings out, pace myself a bit,
Now I have a shooting stick, on which I often sit,
Got to eat lot less now, the weight it going up,
I'd be sent to market now, if I were a fat old tup.

Eye sight not too bad but, cannot read without some aid,
Glasses need up dating now, the eyes they have decayed,
Should have longer arms to read, new glasses conquer that,
They hit you in the pocket hard, on the old ones I have sat.

Driving very cautious, cannot see what's round the bend,
Reactions slowing up now, braking distance I extend,
Reversing on the mirrors, the distance hard to judge,
Backing up to a big old gate post , no wonder it wunner budge.

I thank my lucky stars that, I'm being looked after very well,
Still here on this old planet, writing down my tale to tell,
Recording what I've done in life, and all the folks we met,
Come hail or rain or sunshine, but we still get bloody wet.


About the only thing that comes to us without effort is old age.
Gloria Pitzer in Readers Digest 1979

Sunday, 8 January 2012

All the Machinery has taken a wobble at the same time

We seem to have run into a period in life when all the machinery seems to have taken a wobble at the same time and cannot shake it off. All attempts to put thing right have been thwarted and mechanics who are working on them cannot just put their finger on the particular problem.

Take the Agrotron tractor for instance, for a long while it had difficulty in drawing its fuel from its own fuel tank, while working its was no trouble but left over night and its fuel in the tank low, you would have to wind the engine for a little while until it had pumped its fuel back up to the engine.  

The Agrotron has done well over ten thousand hours, here its got the post knocker on, mounted on the front, this gives it more reach into difficult corners or  on hedge banks and ditches, and its more convenient to see whats happening

Over the months this got worse, the fuel must drop back to the tank and drawing air into the system. It has a rubber pipe from the tank over the transmition housing to the fuel pump, and this we replaced, but its still getting air into the fuel pipe.

I need to fill the fuel tank to the top each night before I stop it, in order for it to start properly the next day; the problem is more of an air leak in the fuel lift pump I suspect.

Later we found it was the injector bleed off pipe that had fractured and causing the air to get into the fuel system, the main trouble was when running fuel was leaking into the sump, 'watering' down the engine oil.
The bleed off pipes are run along inside the rocker cover, and cannot be seen unless that cover is removed, however we found the trouble after months of trial and error, and it runs and starts well now.

The Land Rover Discovery has a mystery fault that is defying all attempts to diagnose, travelling home from town last Friday one corner of the vehicle started sagging, and thought I had a puncture, I pulled onto the side of the road only to find all the tyres were okay it was the air suspension had dropped on one rear wheel, so I drove it home steadily with the rear mud flap just touching the road and the wheel way up in the top of the wheel arch. Took it round to my local garage who does the work on it for me and by the time I got there, in the next village it had pumped itself back up, and stayed up.

This was when I first had it second hand, right now its in its "working cloths" and looking a bit more rural

He put the diagnostic computer on it and found nothing amiss and physically looked around the air bags and found no leaks.

 So I fetched it back home and went down counting the cattle, then parked it up on the yard, and within the next few minuets it had gone down again.

The following day I backed it round pointing towards the road, with the suspention still down at the bottom and turned Eileen’s car round for her and we set off to take it back to the garage. Before I had done twenty yards to the road it had pumped itself up to normal height, but we still took it to be looked at again.

More and closer inspections of the air bags and pipes, still no leaks, and onto the diagnostic computer revealed no electrical faults, so next day fetched it back yet again.

It did it again, and got it to the garage with it “on its arse” and left it there, he found that these air bags on these vehicles should be changed every  so many thousand miles, and fitted new air bags, that seems to had ironed out the Discovery problems, (until the rear door lock/latch jammed) even that has been mended now.

 And also the JCB Fastrac, I came home after hedge cutting one day, and it had got no brakes, I contacted the lad who does my spanner work on the tractors and machinery ( I do do the big hammer and welding repairs myself but internal work I leave to them’s that should know) .

A low air red warning light was on, on the dash board which suggested low air to the brake, or so you would think.

On looking round it said he knew nothing about air brakes that the Fastrac should have. So I rang the chap who does my mowing and big baling, he has had two Fastrac’s and he recommended the chap who had done worked on his.

 First thing he went for was an air valve in the cab behind the right hand door, he removed it and opened it with all the bits flying all over the place, the aluminium casing was slightly corroded and we ordered a new one, which was fitted a few days later. It did no good it was not that and it did not need a new one but it cost me £110.00.

We found out then it does NOT have air brakes.

This tractor has ahd an easy life overall, it had spent most of its time with a mounted sprayer permanently fitted, and now spent the last few year since I have had it with a hedge cutter mounted on it, to my knowledge its never done a hard days work in its life, (about 8,000 hours on the clock)

Next we/he looked round the slave cylinders on the brake discs, for this we had got to jack it up and take a wheel off. With all the wheel nut off the wheel would not move, it was froze onto the hub, so he hit a few heavy blows with the sledge hammer and still did not move, but one blow had grazed the tyre air valve and started it leaking. Then with a jack between the chassis and the wheel rim we moved it and the wheel came off with a flat tyre.

We/he found nothing wrong with the cylinders or the brake pads, but it cost me £40.00 to have the new valve fitted and the tyre blown up.

 Then looked at the hydraulic pumps, thinking that the smaller one was not putting out enough pressure to activate the brake, by the way we/he did find out that the tractor only had two air tanks and that the brakes did NOT work with the assistance of air, they are oil only. So I priced up a new hydraulic pump, £870.00. (that was the problem in the end)

 At this point I got the impression that he was way out of his depth on tracing this braked problem, so did what I should have done in the first place, I called out the JCB dealers mechanic, who, went round everything that looked as though it had been disturbed and tested the pressures of various pipes and valves only to find a pressure maintenance valve on the side of a hydraulic block was not doing it job.

The mechanic said he would go back to the depot and order the new valve, and it would be ready for me to pick up the following day (the JCB factory where all JCB’s are made is only ten miles away at Rochester).

 I had been given instructions that when I had got the valve, a valve only as big as my thumb, to unscrew the old one out and screw the new one in its place, the valve being all pre- set and ready to do its job. It did not make the brakes work, but it turned out that swarf from the worn out hydraulic pump was jamming up the working of the hydraulic block, this cleaned out (with another call out) the brakes worked at last after almost two months out of commission.

And right now it’s the chain saw, it will not start. Gradually over the last few months when I have used it, it has got worse and worse to start, pulling and pulling on the cord until ya fingers ready to drop off.

The saw is a relatively new one , not done muck work, and still looks brand new, so I spoke to the chap who sold it to me, and he said “how old is the fuel in its tank” and in the drum I’m using it from, it could be six months old unleaded  petrol (gas) fuel.

He suggested I tip the old fuel out and get some fresh fuel, this I did and it still will not start. Pulled (screwed) the spark plug out and found that there was no spark, no wonder it wonna start, so now I’m at the point of a new spark plug, although the “old” one was dry and clean and still looked like new.

When new it started on the third pull and it should do now, do you have any suggestions as to why this critter won’t start?   

All this has happened in the lasty two  months of the old year (2011) were starting the new year with just the chain saw to sort out, thank goodness.

I’ve got a Little Breakdown,

I’ve got a little breakdown and its needs attention now,
Take it to the workshop, to bodge it up somehow,
Need to clear the work bench, with scrap its piled high,
Things that needed mending, I failed but had a try.

Spanners come in sets, they’re spread all round about,
The very one your wanting, one you conner do without,
Spend all morning searching, and you end up with a wrench,
Round the corner off the nut, then find its on the bench.

The metals rusty, flaking off, got it to weld somehow,
Clean the edge and got some gaps, must be done right now,
Spitter spatter stop and start, resembles pigeon siht,
Grind it off and fill the holes, and hope it wunna split.

Drill bits with the edge knocked off, the saw it that hit a nail,
Hammer’s got a headache, and it needs a brand new stale,
Screwdriver hit with hammer, when the chisel conna find,
And the spirit level lost its bubble, ta guess work I’m resigned.

Have a dam good clear up, and throw the rubbish out,
Then look for where you’ve chucked it, that little bit of spout,
Ventualy it all comes back, n’ builds up on the floor,
Praps a bigger workshop, cus I conna shut the door.

I’m really tidy in my mind, but sometimes I forget,
When I’m in a hurry, and black clouds and rain a threat,
Job is done, tools chucked in, the workshop miss the bench,
It happens all the while, but I stick with a big old wrench.

But on the whole I’m not alone, but people don’t admit,
They pretend to be so perfect, spanners back in tool box fit,
A breakdown always happens, when you least expect it could,
Then back to get the job done, as quick as ever should.

(Owd Fred)

A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.

Spanish proverb.

Friday, 6 January 2012

A Day Out to the Sea Side (1947)

As kids, one of the ways to get us to go to Sunday school was to put on a trip to a pantomime around Christmas time or a trip to the seaside, usually New Brighton, that's just along the north coast of Wales. This was chosen because it is the nearest coastal destination from where we live.
So every Sunday that we attended Sunday school we had a stamp stuck in a book, and unless we had all the stamps over the six month period, we could not go; the same went for the pantomime.
At the age of five or six or seven nothing was more important than going on a luxurious coach, a twenty nine seater, where the driver sat in the same compartment as the passengers, where we could see how he drove the bus, and watch all the controls he used, watch him change gear, and how the Bedford petrol engine accelerated, how the gear box in third gear had that distinctive whine.

 We would get off the coach at the halfway mark and marvel at how warm the huge tyres were, and were given time to "water the horses" before climbing aboard again.

At certain points as we neared our destination we were told to see who could see the sea first, then a huge cheer would go up, then out of sight again for a while then cheer again..
It took best part of three hours to make the seventy five miles journey, there was no such thing as motorways back then, and dual carriageways were very few and far between. I remember all the heavy goods vehicles had a 20mph sign on the rear end, and that was their limit when loaded, and often it was these H G V's that hampered the progress of other road users.

Eventually we all got off the coach with our mothers and headed for the beach, those that had been before knew what the routine was, and promptly stripped off and into swimming trunks and off into the edge of the sea.
Mothers of coarse had come well prepared with a huge bag with towels and sandwiches and pop and all spread out a towel to sit on to watch the kids did not get washed away. However this is a shortened version of how the day usually went.

A Day Out to the Sea Side

As kids we went to Sunday school, every week the same,
Had a stamp stuck in a book, for religion is why we came,
Come the summer they booked a coach, an outing to the seaside,
Always was New Brighton, pent up, a good three hours ride.

Started early from the village, pee stop on the way,
Glimpse the sea from way back far, us kids we shout hooray,
Every glimpse from way back far, loud cheer us kids we clapped,
Couldn't wait to hit the beach, in that bus we were trapped.

Stripped off behind a towel, that our Mothers held,
Into trunks and off down the beach, into the sea we yelled,
With bucket n' spades, built a castle, with flag on the top.
Dug a moat all around it, filled with buckets of water we slopped.

Then a strong wave came, filled it faster than it oughta,
Too much now it over flowed, filled it up with sea water,
Build a dam to hold it back, and faster still we dug,
Now we know the power of the sea, to hold it back, silly mugs.

Mother spread a towel out, to have a picnic on the sands,
Sandwiches in door steps, large bites we took with gritty hands,
Cake as well she had made, then washed it down with Corona pop,
So tiring was that long day out, slept all way home without a stop.


Surprising as it may be, there were no end of the older generation in the village back then who had never seen the sea, I know my parents had been in their younger days on a coach trip to the sea in what they then called a Charabang, the forerunner to today's coaches, it was open sided and had wooden slatted seats the stretch right across the width of the vehicle and a running board / step along each side to let people get on and off.

It had blow up tyres and wooden spoke wheels carrying about twenty five passengers, these were sheltered by a full length canopy that covered the driver as well.
In the 1950's father bought a bit bigger car that would accommodate all six of us, plus luggage, and for a few years we all went on holiday together to the sea side.

When us oldest two left school, we were left "home alone" so to speak, to cook for our selves and do our regular jobs on the farm. Each morning mothers regular helper would call for an hour and do our washing up, and upon checking in the pantry she found fly blown bacon, bacon that should have been put in the pantry safe, (safe in this case is a fine wire mesh store cupboard that was designed to keep flies off food but let it be ventilated at the same time, before the refrigerator had been invented).
My brother and I had just scraped off the yellow flies eggs and dropped in the fry pan, waste not want not, a good hot frizzle in the pan would soon make it safe to eat.
Mother always looked forward to going on holiday, father was a bit more reluctant, but mother had to admit the she always looked forward even more to getting back again to her own home and her own bed.

The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.
Henry Boye