Sunday, 22 April 2012

We are not alone in the house (mice)

Can hear them chewing under the floor, middle of the night,
The very board bed stands on, a hole right through not quite,
We are not alone, apart from the livestock we invite into the house, the dogs and cats, there are others not quite so welcome. While we cannot see them, we can see where they have been and our other four legged freinds know too.

There cannot be many houses these days that have mice in the house, and just occasionaly a rat, but in the old houses where the floor boards are creaky with the odd gap or knot hole dropped out. This is just the sort of invitation mice need especially when the weather turns cold.

There's a mouse in the house (or more)

We often get winter visitors; they come in from the cold,
They find a little hole or two, and squeeze through being bold,
Then look for food and hide away, they come into our house,
Who can blame them I'd do the same, that crafty little mouse.

Can hear them chewing under the floor, middle of the night,
The very board bed stands on, a hole right through not quite,
And running along the water pipes, so warm to their little feet,
Nesting in the airing cupboard, in kitchen find crumbs to eat.

You're lucky if you see one, ya can see where they have been,
Chewing at the cornflake box, for food they're real keen,
Whole family of them hiding, wait for us to go to bed,
Then rummage round, find some food, attack the loaf of bread.

The cat he knows where they are, but he's old and doesn't care,
Our dog she sniffs and finds them, hiding under the stairs,
Barks and make a real loud noise, but come out they will not,
So all the livestock live together, I think we've lost the plot.


The best laid schemes o' Mice an' men, Gang aft agley,An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain. for promis'd joy!

This is the same verse translated
( The best laid plans for mice and men, oft go awry,And leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy!) Robert Burns (1759-1796), To a mouse (Poem, November,1785)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Load Tipped Over

It was as if the tractor was on an elastic band springing gently from its precarious position, with me hanging out like a yatch man holding its balance,
My old International B250 & Fordson E27N at the start of a tractor rowd run

You may or may not know that feeling when you know a trailer that you just spent a lot of time and energy loading by hand tips over.

Set the scene, it was 1960, I was fresh from farm college and had set out farming on my own fifteen months before. A seven acre field of seeds hay had been down in a week of good weather and we had just baled it. The tractor was my International B250 with a three ton tipping trailer suitably adapted to carry bales, the side boards had been taken off, and an extension fitted to the rear end to extend the floor area and what we call gormers fitted front and back( uprights at each end of the trailer)to support the load.

Half the field had been shifted and this load had been loaded from the lower end of the field, the balance of the trailer was dramatically altered by having an extension out the back so less of the load was on the drawbar. To enable the tractor to pull the load up the slope to the gate I set off diagonally across the field and progresses steady without wheel slip.

The load was firmly roped on and being carried on only one axle (it being a tipping trailer) it swayed with every small indent of the field, in this one area of the field was a burrow (fox or badger)with a mound of soil spread out from the excavation, so I decided to go top side of it still along the side of the slope. I thought I was well clear of any possible collapse of the burrow but how wrong I was.

The tractor was well past the burrow when the wheels started to slip , the trailer wheel sank as the lower side wheel of the trailer was carrying ninety percent of the load, it was a slow motion where you could se it happening and could not stop it.

The whole load tipping sideways in one whole block, well roped together it took the trailer with it, the only thing it was still hitched to the B250 on the ring hitch hook. Just as the load finally touched down still enblock it lifted the top side rear wheel of the tractor two foot off the ground just by the twist of the ring hook, this again was slow motion, by this time I had put it out of gear and had move to a position on he side of the tractor as that of a sailor in high wind, trying to counter balance the impending disaster.

 It was as if the tractor was on an elastic band springing gently from its precarious position, with me holding its balance, one of those times when things happen quickly, but in very slow motion in your mind, it seemed to be hanging for ages, hanging off the side of the tractor then I reached for the hydraulic lever and lowered the hook, which gently lower the tractor back onto the ground releasing the trailer.

There was ninety six bales on the load and every one had to be left on the ground while the trailer was righted, no damage was done other than the ring on the trailer drawbar had now got a permanent slight twist by which it had lifted the tractor. There is nothing more annoying than having to do a job twice, and with me driving I was the one to pitch the bales back onto the load. By pitch I mean pitch with a pitch fork, and seeds hay baled firmly they were heavy, and towards the end of the day when the whole field could have been cleared, but for the mishap.

This is it after a few months work on the engine, new mud wings fitted and the wheels painted. See how weathered and green the back end was, it looked in a sorry state when we first pulled it out to do it up.
Thats still the same ring hitch hook under the tractor by which the over turned trailer lifted its rear wheel well off the ground , see the right hand lower picture.

(The following has been published on an earlier blog, but here it is again)

My Old Tractor -International B250

I drove this tractor from new in 1956, It stood unused for almost twenty years, and now it is fifty years old, its been brought back to life.

My old tractor standing there, for years its not been started,
Drove it myself from new, and now almost departed,
Roof is now blown off the shed, and it's rained in down its pipe,
The engines well stuck and rusted, on the inside full of gripe.

For fifty years that I have had it, while working never faltered,
Apart from rust and lack of paint, appearance never altered,
Got to save it now before, it rots and rusts away,
To pull it out and look at it, do it straightaway.

Some tyres flat and perished now, but they will hold some wind,
Enough to carry it to shed, where it can be re-tinned,
Off with bonnet wings and wheels can see it undressed now,
Get into heart of engine see, if can put it back to plough.

Water in two cylinder, have rusted pistons solid,
Sump comes off to loosen; big ends then are parted,
Hammering and thumping, to get the pistons out,
New set of liners n pistons now, cheque book its time to clout.

Got new shells for big ends, and set of gaskets too,
Back together now and see, what there is next to do,
Injector pump with lid off, is pushing up stuck springs,
With little bit of persuasion, knock down plunger fittings.

New injectors they are fitted , valves are well ground in,
On with lively battery, to turn it mid smoke and din,
Firing up it comes to life, from near scrap recovered,
Can concentrate efforts now, look better newly coloured,

Bought new wings and new nose cone, old ones full of dents,
Standing on its jack stands, it's far from those events,
Gunk and solvents' liberally, to wash the oil and dirt,
Lying on your back beneath, and get all on your shirt.

Ready for the primer now, and get in all the corners,
Always find some bits not cleaned, drips along the boarders,
Rub it down where paint has run, ready for its top coat,
Don't want dust or flies or any damp, gloss I must promote.

Front and back wheels now back on, brand new shiny nuts,
New exhaust enamel black, tin pan seat to rest your butt,
Fit the loom and lights and switches, oil gauge and ammeter,
Needs new steering wheel and nut, to set it off the neater.

Out on road run we have booked, got a logbook too,
On red diesel it runs at home, some run on white a few,
Insurance and a tax disc now, new number plates as well,
Will miss my cosy heated cab, frozen Christmas tail to tell.

This is the old tractor now, just about like new, we have not got hold of a new steering wheel yet, or the headlight's, it has taken part in a number of road runs and light work about the farm.
As always in pictures, its whats in the background that interests most folk, such as the Fordson E27N set of steel wheels, and on the right a Fordson Elite plough.
Seeing as its hay we were carting---

Hay is more acceptable to an ass than gold.Latin Proverb.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Calving time 12 April 2012

Calving time for the Suckler Cows12 April 2012

This is a last years photograph, and the calf about three weeks old, on good grass and plenty of milk a small birth weight calf will soon grow and catch up on the high birth weight calves, and you get less calving problems. 

I was reading just recently on someone’s blog that, if you feed the incalf cows late afternoon or evening they are more likely to calve during the day. Well I started doing this three weeks ago, and now had ten days into calving, and about half of them have calved.

It has turned out that the majority have calved during the day, but yesterday we had an incalf heifer looking as if she was ready to start to calve and she was looking around where to calve, just in the late evening.

Two hours later and just going dark, her water had broken and she had got two calves with her, but they looked remarkably dry and well licked from the distance. She had if fact taken to two other young calves that were only a day or so old and keeping them close to her. The danger here was that when she eventually had her own calf she may follow one or both of the calves she had “adopted” and forsake her own calf.

Try as I may, I could not persuade those two calves to go back to their respective mothers, but for the mothers, they were close by, and the one that’s yet to calve was following and getting between the calf and that calf’s own mother, and by this time it was going dark.

I went back to the house for couple of hours and left them to it, then went down again to see what the outcome was. Sure enough she had calved and was licking her own calf, and the other two matrons were close by and had claimed their calves back.

At first light this morning everything was okay, they had all separated and the right calves were following the right mothers.

Alls well that ends well, but it was building up into a situation where if she had claimed another cows calf, the cow that had lost her calf would not very likely take to the newly dropped calf, and that means problems all round. Also her newly dropped calf could have been abandoned, just after dark and got chilled and possibly died by morning. There was no end if situations that were building up, but common sense prevailed on the part of the new young cow that had just had her first calf.

Fingers crossed for the next two weeks, and we should have almost finished calving, all the calves so far have been remarkably small, this I put down to not over feeding them in the last three months with too good a silage, in fact they had equal quantities  in number of bales of wheat straw and meadow silage.

A few years ago we had very large calves      and almost every one had to have assistance, with losses as well, I think that a small healthy calf will grow and make up for a light birth weight in the next few months of good milk and ample new grass

 Also another blog on the Suckler Cowscows

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Suckler Cows have started Calving

We left the calves with them for most of the winter only weaning them in mid February, by this time it had pulled the mothers down, so almost all of the herd now looks "poor" or should I say slim.

Well its that time of year again and the suckler cows have started calving, so far we have had two.  Three years ago we went through a nightmare calving period where almost every other cow wanted assistance and also we lost a cow and a couple of calves during calving.
We had three sets of twins, one twin calf we found dead at three weeks old with a twisted gut.
 We had not had a cow have twins for almost twenty years, then as they say about London busses three come along all together.
Even the older mature and reliable cows were in trouble, I put it down to a different feeding regime.

The only feed they get every winter is round bale silage made off the same meadows that they graze on, made in July, and containing some of the soft rush rushes that are native to meadow pastures.

Over the winter of 2008/09 we thought it would be a good idea to feed a high energy mineral/ molasses lick supplement, you know the one's where they come in a four gallon bucket, just take the lid off and drop it in the field.
In my opinion, this had grown the calf inside the cow and produced the large calves, it also coincided with the change of bull, and at the time, all the blame was put at his door.

 But on reflection, some of the cows were fatter than we had had them in other years. So the following backend 2009 when we should be weaning all the calves, we sorted out the first calf heifers and a few slimmer cows, and weaned their calves. The rest of the cows that were still too fat, we left the calves with them for most of the winter only weaning them in mid February, by this time it had pulled the mothers down, so almost all of the herd now looks "poor" or should I say slim.

We have always out wintered the cows, none have ever been in a shed other than the first winter as weaned calves. Our herd is almost like a "hefted" herd, as you get in sheep when they know their own mountain pasture and born to that area of grazing. So it is that our cows, they are used to the peaty meadows that are dissected with bottomless drainage ditches, they get used to the ditches as calves and know its not a good idea to slip in, in fact the odd calf does drop in but never a second time, and nearly always get themselves out.

I dread to think of the time when someone else will bring a new set of cattle to graze down there, and the months they will have of dragging cows or cattle out of ditches, until all have learned their lesson. On the other hand, when I retire, the wise new comer could or would or should buy my "hefted" cows off me and continue the meadow grazing in a safe and reliable manner.

 To read more about these meadows refer back to the blog "Farming on a Peat Bog" or just press link

Another place where I talk about these peaty meadows "Moles and Meadows" is here along with a few pictures

Signs of Spring

Signs of spring are starting to show,
Though on the hill tops forecast snow,
Bright sunshine warms the sodden ground,
Cold showers and hail still abound.

Lawns and fields look brighter green,
Daffodils open and trumpets beam,
Grass it grows on lawn and verge,
Not on the fields, for the stock to purge,

Birds in hedgerow look to build nests,
Leaf buds appear as if by request,
First eggs are laid soon to be sat,
Full cover of new leaves, hides them thereat.

Badgers are trailing litter to nest,
Digging and cleaning for breeding quest,
Rarely seen but they root for worms,
Under hedgerows and cow pats presence confirms.

Soil it warms in the suns rays,
Germinate seeds dormant upraised,
Soon the countryside transformed and fresh,
Everything growing and looking its best.


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)