Sunday, 29 July 2012

Irreversible Changes in one Small Village

Undertaker in the village, was at the wheelwrights shop,
Lays out and measures them, made a coffin non-stop,

As in all small villages it changes over the years, in some way for the better, in others for the worse. The village pumps went some fifty years ago, these were a meeting point for gossip, and news was soon spread from end of the village.

The school on the other hand has expanded, the frontage is as it was in years gone by, but round the back a complete new complex of class rooms has been developed.

The blacksmiths shop closed with decline in the Shire horse population and tractors took over the heavy work about the farms.

The village wheelwright's work shop closed when the wheelwright retired, which coincided with the metal hydraulic tipping trailers and the popularity of the light metal gates and wheel barrows. The coffin making gradually ceased when the in town undertakers took over with the motor hearse. In the early days the hearse was a four wheel trolley housed behind the church, and the wheelwright took the coffin on the hearse on foot to the house or cottage. For the later years I remember he worked with one of the town undertakers, he made the coffin and dug the grave, they did the transport. Another craftsman and his trade has disappeared from the village.

The village pub has survived up until recently when it closed for some months at the end of 2009. It has been hit by the recession along with a lot of other country pubs, it  opened again for food , and seems to be bumping along, only just surviving. It is hoped that it will pull through as it will take the heart out of the village if it closes for good. (Footnote; It (The Pub) has now in 2012 been bought by the villagers, and hopeing to open as a Free House (not tied to a brewary) at least its not being demolished

The post office shop closed some years ago when the GPO decide to do away with many rural post offices, that again is or was right in the middle of the village, the shop itself went into decline with the rise of super markets and the improvement of transport, nearly every household has at least one car.

The postman used to come on his bike four miles from the sorting office to deliver mail and parcels, that changed over to a van a long time ago, in fact some forty years its been delivered by van.

The farms have reduced, ours is the only one left in the centre of the village, four other "in the village" farms have been amalgamated with the surrounding farms. Where at one time all the cottages had farm workers in them as they were all tied cottages to the different farms. Now nearly all the cottages have been sold off or let to folk who work outside of the village.

The church itself has not changed but the vicars job is now spread over three other village churches, spreading his message to a greater number of people over a wider area.

A Country Village (1950's)

The Village has its own clock, for to tell the time,
On the tower of St Chads, every half hour it does chime,
This its done for many years, and to wind it up you climb,
Three big weights on cables, crank it many times.

In the tower set in oak frame, sit its ringing bells,
Ropes and wheels for swinging, its congregation tells,
Come to church for service, to have your sins expelled,
All the parish can hear them, peal of Village bells.

The vicar has his job to visit, all parish elderly and the sick,
Take all the Sunday services, with sermon long and epic,
Christmas Easter Harvest, Christenings funerals and weddings quick,
He is kept so busy looking after, all village elderly and sick.

Out and down the church path , is the village green,
Under the lynch gates, standing all serene,
Looks a little weathered, for all the years its been,
Guarding the church yard, on the village green.

Also on Village green, was the village pump,
Standing in the corner, on a grassy hump,
To prime it work the handle, almost had to jump,
Water all the cottages, from this well and pump.

Across the road to educate, is the village school,
Teacher at the blackboard, sitting on a stool,
There to help the children not to be a fool,
Basic reading writing, maths in the village school.

Further down the village, was the blacksmiths shop,
Making all the horse shoes, on the anvil hot,
Hammer always ringing, shaping metal without stop,
Give the horses new shoes, to make them clip and clop.

Undertaker in the village, was at the wheelwrights shop,
Lays out and measures them, maked a coffin non-stop,
Family lines the coffin, his brother dug the grave,
All the week they made farm carts, spokes whittle to a stave.

Next again is Holly Bush, our local village pub,
As well as drink you can get if hungry, a little bit of grub,
For a gathering of the locals, this was the hub,
News and gossip turned around in the village pub.

Down at the post office, in the village shop,
Sells all essentials, also chocolate sweets and pop,
Letters parcels postal orders, have a hefty whop,
Rubber stamp saying S----ford, in the village shop.

The postman came on his bike to visit, six days of every week,
Delivering post and parcels, each morning his bike it creaked,
Collecting all the gossip while, having cup of tea he'd speak,
All about what he'd learned, on his round six days every week.

On all the farms they had cows, and they produce the milk,
Beef and chickens hens and geese, sheep with fleece smooth as silk.
They had mixture of everything, corn for cows and pigs,
Hay and roots, rolled oats and peas, feed the cows produce the milk,

In all the cottages were the families, men who work the land,
Herdsmen, n' wagoner's, n' those to anything can turn their hand,
Early start in all weathers, generally a happy band,
They work late at harvest time, all these men who work the land.


A sense of curiosity is nature's original school of education.
Dr. Smiley Blanton.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

It could have killed my whole herd of cows

It happened one fine summer afternoon

Each cow that went through the gate stumbled onto their knees, scramble back onto their feet and panicked, and fled down to the far end of the yard.

It happened one fine summer afternoon, when I went to bring the cows in for milking, they all get strung out when the cows decide, as usual, to all walk single file over the foot bridge over the ford in the back lane. To make the job slower, some of them stop to rub an itch on their nose on the bridge side rails,


very few liked to walk through the ford itself because of the round cobbles stones in the bottom.
They turn into the farmyard off the lane between the farm house and the double cowshed where they would normally amble through the doors and find their own stalls.

 But on this one day each cow that went through the gate stumbled onto their knees, scramble back onto their feet and panicked and fled down to the far end of the yard. It affected some cows worse than others, and with them arriving all spread out in single file from around a corner it caught each one by surprise.
Not knowing what was happening way back at the rear of the herd I realise something was wrong when the last of the cows in front of me collapsed then scrambled with hooves slipping on the concrete and race off to the others standing startled in the far corner of the farm yard.

As I walked through the gate I too felt a tingle through my boots, a shock, a currant of electricity, my feet had boots on that part insulated me from what all the cows had just experienced, it was quite clear it was not going to be a normal pleasant afternoons milking.

We investigated what could be making the yard "live", but it came inconclusive, we turned all mains electric boxes to the off position, but still the yard was "live", so the Midlands Electricity Board (MEB) was called. It was a mystery to them at first, as they found nothing amiss on our premises. They started to follow the main wires out to the first pole out on the roadside, then up to the next farm, then to a group of cottages, at each stage they disconnected and re-connected to eliminate them as the cause of the leakage.
 The village school connection then another farm, then the blacksmiths shop, then on to the village pub. Here they found that electricity was being fed down the neutral wire for some reason and on down to our cowsheds and running to earth through our earth wires, which in turn was clipped to the underground water pipes leading from the house to the cowsheds.

 Once the pub was disconnected from the mains everything returned to normal, and we had the job of coaxing the cows back up the yard and into the shed to be tied up. We were some two or three hours late milking that day, and the cows had had time to clam down and stood chewing their cud wandering why they had not been milked.

On deeper investigation it turned out that the publican had just bought himself a new second hand cooker that he had wired in himself, and made the wrong connections when he installed it. I have no doubt that the MEB would have had a few sharp words to say to him, and the danger he had posed to other villagers and livestock.

Had the connection been made an hour or so later, when all the cows would have been tied in the shed by metal chains, to metal stalls, attached to metal water pipes, connected to all the water bowls, it could have killed the lot. It seems that as low as thirty or forty volts will kill a cow, where as us with wearing boot or wellingtons and we have the ability to run out of the sheds are more likely to have survived the situation.

I was surprised the following day to hear back from someone who was in the pub that night how the publican was laughing and bragging how he had nearly killed off a herd of cows when he turn on his cooker, fried beef and all that, but then I suppose it made a good talking point at the bar for quite a while, but it was no laughing matter at the time for us, it was before the time when earth trips were invented and became compulsory. Electricity is an invisible killer.

Faith is like electricity. You can't see it, but you can see the light.

Author Unknown

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Self Sufficiency

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

Self sufficiency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Oh How We Love the Land

Oh How We Love the Land,

Each day that we wake up, on the farm we love,
Seeing what the weathers like, look at the sky above,
Breathe in all the fresh air, as from the fields it drifts,
And hearing all the bird songs, your heart it does uplift.

How the village looked when I was growing up
Its now (2012) been fifty three years since I started farming at the age of twenty one. At that time, and fresh out of Farm College you are prickling with enthusiasm to bring in the latest ideas and the new ways of working.

 In hindsight its always a bit rash to commit to new ideas before they have been proven, so it was my fathers frowns and disapproval that tempered my enthusiasm at some of the thing I wanted to try out.

Silage was just being “trialled” at college , this was hand fed with a pitch fork into a chopper blower and blown into the top of a concrete tower silo. This was reined back to a weld mesh circle with tarred paper lining, the story of that is told here

Cow cubicles had just been invented, and we went on a farm visit with the college to see the very first cubicles and the cows using them. At home we were tying up cows by cow chain in stalls twice every day, which limited the number of cows kept, and of coarse the milking parlour came in hand in hand with cubicles

 On my third year of farming on my own, I had four more calving than I had got stalls for, and proceeded to built a timber block of four cubicles, the pattern and dimensions were taken from the Farmers Weekly, they published all the new ideas and up to date information of that year.

Sugar beet had never been grown in our immediate area, and to my fathers credit he went for it, ( late 1950’s)  the beet all being hand pulled (we did have a lifter that lifted the beet a few inches enough to break it free from its anchor tap roots) then topped and loaded and taken down to the local station to be loaded into 20 ton rail wagons.

 I recall that we were trained as students on how to correctly pull and top beet to maximise the weight of sugar beet loaded for sale to the factory, and while we students pulled and topped the entire headland round the college field of beet. We were then told a sugar beet harvester was coming on trial from a manufacturer. This was the first beet harvester ever seen by almost every one at the college.

 I grew a few acres of sugar beet for a few years until the stock number grew and the land was required for kale and mangols for the cows.   

Another new invention that first appeared around then was the disc mower, up until then it was all finger bar mowers, which had themselves had had a good fifty years run of unopposed monopoly of grass and corn (wheat oats barley) cutting before that.

The funny thing is that the most up to date combines still use the finger bar blade for cutting the crop. 

 A Good Old Way of Life
 There are the wise and the old, and the young who want to learn,
There’s the hard working not so olds, their fortunes try to earn,
Farming’s got a grip on them, they know no other way,
Come hail or rain or sunshine, it’s just another day,

From early in the morning, till after dark at night,
For crops and stock their caring, they are their delight.
Working hard day by day, in a green and pleasant land,
Don’t have time to stand and stare, have a good look around,

Take in the beauty of where they work, the fields the trees and lanes,
All the years of care and sweat, well out weighs the pains.
It’s just a good old way of life, their families there to rear,
Health and hope and happiness, the harvest brings good cheer.

Countryman )Owd Fred)

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable, but more useful than a life doing nothing.
George Bernard Shaw  (1856 – 1950)

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A glance back on the farm 50 years to 1962

Just a look back in my own farm diary of 1962 reveals how farming had just started to recover after the war time restrictions. Machinery inventions and innovations had helped with the shortage of man power, seeing a revolutionary turning point in farming.

In January 1962 we were threshing shoffs of corn out of the stackyard that had been bindered at harvest time (August 1961) just the same as it had been done for almost fifty or more years before that. Then in September 1962 we had a combine in to harvest the wheat and oats, the grain of which was bagged and the sacks slide off the combine onto the ground for carting before it rained.  And until the sacks had been cleared you could not bale the straw.

It was around this time that AI (Artificial Insemination) was just getting established by the then MMB (Milk Marketing Board) . And we had started weekly milk recording to find which were the more productive cows to breed the next generation of heifer calves from.
Every herd back then had their share of cows with long pendulous udders, often with their front teats pointing east west so to speak, not very compatible with the milking machine.

And every herd had its share of cows with bad feet, curled up hooves, all these traits were gradually improved over the next twenty years with the use of AI. Up till then everyone had there own bull, kept off what was judged to their best cow, but all too often the best milker often had one of the above “faults” and of coarse when that bulls young stock eventually came in to their second lactation some six year after your decision to breed from that bull, the truth suddenly come to the surface and you have a quarter of the herd with bad feet or ugly udders. All that change as proven bulls became available through AI.

I had an allocation of sugar beet to grow for 1963, and this was before the beet harvesters had been anything other than experimental, though we did have a lifter that eased under the root to loosen the tap root, to ease heavy back breaking work. The main reason for growing beet then was that the tops of the beet would be used to feed to the cows, instead of kale and we would have an allocation of sugar beet pulp back from the beet factory, and a cash crop of sugar beet to sell to the factory.

It was also around that time that the cow cubicles had been invented, the cow men could not believe that a cow would stay and lay down in a stall without being tied up.
The only alternative to stall housing was deep straw bedded. And of coarse with the loose housing came the milking parlour, which up to then had been abreast parlours, now came in the herring bone parlours.

Tractors suddenly it seems, had live power take off’s (PTO) and live hydraulics’, up to this point when you dipped the clutch on the tractor, the baler stopped as well, and when loading muck or buck raking  you could not lift with the clutch depressed.

Father’s Tractor
 Father had a Standard Fordson, all painted in dark green,
It came with iron wheels, and was quite a powerful machine,
Doing the work that four old horse, took all day to do,
Up and down the furrows and it never lost a shoe.
  When fathers horses finally went, he then had tractors two,
It was a David Brown, all new and painted bright red all through,
It had hydraulics and P. T. O., so modern it wasn’t true,
Never missed the poor old horses, walking miles that did accrue.

Countryman (Owd Fred)

Invention is the mother of necessity.
Thorstein Veblen (1857 – 1929)