Wednesday, 12 September 2012

About time to retire.

With mid seventies looming up, and near ten years beyond where most folk have retired we have now found a house to retire to next door but two from the farm, (if you count the local pub as a house,) which over looks some of the fields we now farm.

It will be a tremendous down sizing of all house hold items, and can envisage a huge bonfire in the back garden of large old fashioned furniture that has been so lovingly cared for all the years we have lived here.

There are items in the cupboards and on the shelves that have been handed down from grand mothers and grandfathers on both side of the family, who when they themselves retired were only too pleased to find somewhere to unload their surplus memorabilia for safe keeping for the next younger generation. (a policy we would like to repeat for our younger generation, but !!!).

 In the wardrobes there are cloths that are well out dated in some cases by forty years, best suits that no longer fit, and only worn a weddings and funerals, out grown and out dated. With a large double wardrobe for all four main bedrooms and the accompanying smaller wardrobe in three of them as well, there has been no need to chuck perfectly good and “as new” clothing away.

 It has always been the policy in our house to ware clothing out until it is not worth mending or washing any more, but to ware an old NEW suit to go to market in, or to go about the farm in just to ware it out, would be sacrilege. In the back of your mind is what it cost to buy, and it would make you feel guilty, and it would look to the neighbours as if you were a spendthrift, working in a suit, so it’s kept for BEST, until one day you find out its too small.

 Best shoes are the same, some still have long pointed toes, not the extreme ones you used to see in the 50’s and 60’s, but most of them still fit, but hardly any of them have been properly “run in”. With our working boots, they have gradually got wider with ware, and just as they are at there most comfortable, they, after continual daily use, (for years if I had my way) they finally ware out.

 The bathroom upstairs here in the farmhouse, would, if you had a seating plan seat upwards of fifteen people. The bathroom in the new (1950's) house will only barely seat one and that in the conventional traditional way. I will, I have no doubt, get claustrophobia if that door were to be shut.

 This bathroom we are expected to have to use, standing (or seating) room only for one, you can turn every tap on and off, open and shut the door and the window almost all at the same time, pull the pull switch to turn the light on and off, all this without moving ya feet. All I can say is it wonna cost much to put new lino down, and if ya turn round a bit too quick with the door shut you will find ya cloths hanging on the peg on the back of the door, with you still in them. It will certainly be a steep learning curve for us.

 No more having to open six or eight sets of curtains every morning, and from the bed to the bathroom and then down to the kettle in the kitchen is quite literally a sixty yards (or paces, I did count them) trek before ya get ya first cup of tea.

Then in this old farm house, the first pace you take outside the back door and you have arrived at work.

A back door that has been opened and shut as many as hundred times every day, over the last hundred and fifty years.

This pair of hinges is never oiled, we find that this way we have an early warning of anyone comming through that door by a loud squeek of the hinge, we can hear it right through to the sitting room.

Its old hook and eye hinges have worn down almost half way through the leg of the hook, and corresponding ware in the bottom of the eye as well.

Only once, in my time here, have I had to lift it off to cut a bit off the bottom of the door to allow for the hinge ware, a process that would imagine only take place once in every generation over all those years.

What has been cut off the bottom of the door is reflected in the gap now appearing at the top, a fly or a wasp can get through, and the draft, but not quite big enough for the swallows and sparrows to come in to nest.

What a difference there will be to close a “plastic” door, with its delicate catch and locking system, after being used to closing an old oak door,  and throwing a big blacksmith made twelve inch bolt every night. A bolt that is bright in its shank with once daily use, a door that is rarely if ever bolted during the day,  I remember as a kid the back door at home never ever locked all the years I grew up, even when we all went out together  at the same time.
 I will be looking out through double glazed windows, sound proof, mist proof, rot proof. Walls that have cavity insulation, and a loft, what bit there is compared to the farm house, that are insulated as well.
Afterbeing used to waking on a winters morning to a hard frost, with frost on the inside of the widows, this will be a sauna, but I can well do without the damp these days, it gets into ya bones, so on that count alone it will be nice to move to a smaller and warmer house, even if we’ve been a bit late getting to it. 

Can a man who's warm, understand one who's freezing?
Alexander Silzhenitsyn   (1918----  )

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The War time Blackout

The farm I was brought up on during the war (WorldWwar II) is situated about five hundred yards from the end and on the north side of the main runway of a war time airfield, and across to our west side was the perimeter track where the aircraft taxied round to take off.
Close by was the petrol dump, where the fuel was delivered by road tankers and collect by refueling vehicles and taken round parked planes. If ever an enemy bomb had made a direct hit, it certainly would have rocked our foundations.

Just along from that was a search light, parked on a large circle of concrete some thirty yards outside the perimeter track. There were a number of woods around the outside of the airfield, and this was where the bomb dumps were built with concrete tracks leading all the way round and back to the perimeter track.
The safest way for an enemy bomber to get this far inland was at night, and if they could not find their allotted target, they would circle round looking for lights, or some evidence of a target to unload their bombs.

As you see this is a picture of a picture, the village church of St. Chads is above the cluster bottom right. Right of centre at the bottom is the village school. Left of centre near the bottom is my farm, the only farm left out of five farms. Top left at the end of the road is where we were brought up as kids, the home farm. Then two fields to the left out of the top left of the picture is the old airfield, so we were all fairly vulnerable to attack.

So you can see it was important not to present them with a target in the first place, that was why around the farm yard, every cowshed window had to have blinds made for the "blackout" . A wooden frame was made to fit each window and black tarred paper was tacked onto it. All the cowshed doors were kept closed during dark nights while milking was in progress. Only the down stairs windows of the house had these blinds as when you went to bed it was often with a candle and that was only to see your way to bed.

Electricity had not long come to the village, and the one place that had a generator for some years before mains electric was our farm. It had been installed by the previous tenant and was a 24 volt system with a pair of wire running to the switches then back up to the light bulb. The insulators consisted of a pair of porcelain blocks with a hole in the centre for the wood screw and each side of that was grove to take the wire. The two were clamped together holding the wires just off the surface they were fastened to.

When the mains 240 volts came, a transformer was installed by the electricity meter. That meant that for years, while the old wiring was reasonably serviceable, father had to go to a warehouse quite a few miles away (up the Potteries) for replacement 24 volt bulbs.

No such thing as an earth wire with that system, the radio had a two pin plug as did the table lamp and standard lamps, so for a while there was a mixture of new mains and the old wire running round the house, as gradually mother had an electric cooker and an electric iron on a three pin socket.
The mains were taken across the yard to an electric motor that was installed to drive all the barn machinery including the milk vacuum pump, and the existing loft shaft system. The old barn engine with two big flywheels was disposed of, only the block of concrete that it once stood on, with four bolts sticking up, gave evidence as to where it once had pride of place.
The electric motor had a pulley each side of it and just occasionally it drove the corn plate mill and the milking vacuum pump at the same time. When the mill finished it was a matter of running the long leather belt off the motor pulley with a bit of wood.
The vacuum pump belt reached from one side of the barn to the other across a doorway into the next shed, and during milking times you had to stride over the flapping belt. The mill belt was longer, and the one onto the loft shafting longer still, where it had belts to a chaff cutter, a root pulper, a cake crusher, and at one time a winnower.

Black Molasses In The Barn
I remember at the Beeches, way back in the barn,
A great big forty gallon drum, on a block away from harm,
It contained black molasses; a good half of it was used,
With hot water mixed, poured on oats when they were bruised.
Take the bung out and wait a bit, for it to slowly flow,
We all liked to have a taste; dad said it'd help us grow,
A finger full and then another, it was lov-ely and sweet,
Left your hands all sticky, you couldn't be discrete.
We had plenty over the time, but still a lot unused,
Mother said it would move us, but father he was amused,
He said a good clean out, every now and then,
Would tone us up, and help us all, to grow to big strong men.

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

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Black Gold

Black Gold (originaly written August 2010)
At great expense they drill for oil, black gold to be refined
Wells are sunk beneath the earth, through rock and soil grind,
Pumped and piped on its way, into many products turned,
Ammonium nitrate, tar and pitch, petrol diesel, n' heating oil burned.
It's running out and hard to find, now digging neath the waves,
Risks are getting higher, as for greater profit craves,
Barrel price keeps going up, and at the pumps the same,
There's plenty more where that comes from, or that is what they claim
Biofuels the thing right now, grown on our land and earth,
Each season brings a new crop, to feed it now not worth,
Another market for our wheat, no surplus stores we need,
Persuade the millers pay the price, and end the waste and greed.
Energy from wind power, great turbines in the sky,
Out upon the hill tops, no wind no power supply,
Tide and wave power harness now, reliable as can be,
Clean and safe, its ebb and flow, the energy is free.

Owd Fred

This was written a few weeks ago before the wheat prices "took off", I have no doubt that very little wheat will find its way to the power stations this year. (Automn 2010) In case you are looking at this in years to come, its the year when Russia had wild fires and very dry season, and burned large areas of standing wheat. Our own season was quite dry and reduced the straw length, which saw straw prices on the field in the swath go through the roof with £60 and £70 per acre not uncommon with odd fields higher a lot than that
The oil well in the Gulf of Mexico that spilt oil into the Gulf has now been plugged, and most of the slick has dispersed, even that disaster has paled into the background, and soon be forgotten.

Oil prices have fallen lately. We include this news for the benefit of gas stations, which otherwise wouldn't learn of it for six months.
Bill Tammeus
, in Toronto's National Newspaper, 1991