Friday, 28 March 2014

On this land we loved the best

This a very pertinent or should I say relevant poem right now, as of yesterday (25th March 2014) I gave up the tenancy of 200 acres of the farm after 35 years, and just for now we still have the farm house and a few fields that surround it. Then later in the summer we hope to retire proppa to a house a 100 yards down the road.
Our move prior to that, was also only about a 100 yards where I had started farming in 1960 and stayed for twenty years.
My move from the home farm where we were brought up to my first farm was half a mile, all within the village.
When I get up in a morning at the farm house, track to the bathroom and then off back down to the kitchen to put the kettle on , I have done 65 paces, in our retirement house it will be all of 10 paces. Think i'll have to join a gym or sommat crazy.

Since I wrote this a couple of years ago  "On this land we love the best"  it should be renamed   "On this land we loved the best".

They always told us as kids that there is a pot of gold at the base of a rainbow, don't even bother looking now.

On this land we love the best

We are watched from way up high, on how we treat our land,
This land that we are caring for, for generations stand,
To stand just where our fathers stood, see it through their eyes,
And how the fields and lanes have looked, neath the clear blue skies.

The misty foggy mornings, dew drops on all the leaves,
The sunrise on the meadows, the bird song in the trees,
Long shadows in the evening, as the sun sets in the west,
Trees and bushes in full bloom, on this land we love the best.

Owd Fred

A mind without instruction can no more bear fruit than can a field, however fertile, without cultivation.
Cicero (106BC - 43BC) 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Good old Seighford Village

Good old Seighford Village

It’s a job to know where to start, as the village and its occupants from years gone by are in the St Chads Churchyard, every time you walk through the grave stones you find yet another family name and of a trade’s men farmer or farm workers and all their families.
Up until the 1940’s we were almost self sufficient as a community,

The wheelwright made all the gates built all the farm carts wheel barrows and feed troughs and was also made the coffins and the  undertaker.

The blacksmith as well as shoeing all the horses in the area repaired the machinery most of which was horse drawn, hooping wooden wheels with the wheelwright, right down to making iron work in the old fire places trivets, chimney cranes and the like.

In The estate yard there was a handyman come builder come Thatcher who, a man who could do he plumbing, most of that was lead pipe, the galvanized iron pipes were only just coming in.

The village shop carried most of the basic necessities like salt sugar flour and also the Post Office, and also sold paraffin for the oil lamps in the houses and cottages, and for the tilly lamps used to carry outside and in the farm buildings.  

 The School. Children walked in from as far as two miles away in all directions, from the surrounding hamlets. The head teacher at one time was also the tax collector and would put pressure on the children when money was due.

The Pub. In the Holly Bush, Beer was brought up from the cellar on big jugs, and the customers would sit at a scrubbed wooden table with all sorts of oddment chairs. It would be all local people who walked or came on a bicycles.

There was six farms actually in the village, the land and fields belonging to them spread out in all directions, although on the area of peat land on the east side of the estate, everyone had a portion, so it fragmented all the farms. There would be around fourteen farm workers all in tied cottages, cottages that went with the job, and as tractors came in the number of workers reduced, milking machines again reduced the labour force, old cottages went into disrepair and were eventually pulled down to form a building site for new house’s.

The Landlord lived in the “big” house on the bank just out of the village, rent was paid to him on rent days “Lady Day”, and “Michaelmas day” at the Holly Bush pub. When you had paid the rent to the agent, you were then invited to have a drink at the bar on him. I was told by my father that in his early days on the estate they all went to a hotel in town to pay their rent, and stayed for a slap-up meal.  It was a change of estate agent that change that to the pub in the village.

A man's homeland is wherever he prospers.
Aristophanes  (450BC  -  388BC ) 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Money, in life it is a must.

It aint till ya get to my age that you start to cash in ya assets, then realize you had done just like our old man did years ago when we always thought what a tight arsed old git, and  done the same thing me sen without knowing it.

Money, in life it is a must.

If there’s one thing ya conna do, without in life it is a must,
Fa comfort and for energy, it’s always boom or bust,
Ta buy or sell, to try to swell, to savings bank ya thrust,
Surplus money, it’s hard to save, when yov earned an onest crust

Ya money’s what ya need right now, n’ savings got to raid,
With all the bills paid up to date, as the tax man wields his blade,
With nothing left on the bottom line, red ink now displayed,
Ya start again n’ work like ell, in blood n’ tears n’ sweat yuv flayed.

Be persistent don’t give up, it’ll come right in the end,
Money now, you’ve got it saved, and too dam mean to spend,
Tight as a ducks arse, that you are, still make do and mend,
Ya conna tek it with you, when six foot down impends.

Owd Fred

Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five.
W Somerset Maugham  (1874 - 1965)

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

What are you like on your farm for regular mealtime breaks

What are you like on your farm for regular mealtime breaks, the morning start and knockoff times. We were brought up as kids to all sitting down at regular times every day to eat together.
It was (and still is though I don't milk now) a 6.30 am start, that was dictated by the fact the churn milk collection lorry arrived in the village at 8am promptly and the milk had got to cooled and labeled by that time.

We were the fifth pickup and it was around 8.20am by the time he got round to us, we all, that is the cowman and the tractor driver who carried the milk and fed the calves went for breakfast as well. Father had his pigs to feed and clean out, us kids had hens ducks and geese to look after, and back at work again in half an hour, or school for us.

In the next village their milk wagon collect the milk about 10.30am, and they did not start milking until 8 o'clock, with a lunch time of 1.30pm, whereas our lunch break was always mid day for one hour, with milking at 3.30pm and all finished and fed by 5.30pm. In the next village it would be a 7.30pm finish.

Our time routine was more convenient particularly when the threshing machine came, he liked to fire up his outfit a 9am promptly with a 12.00 to 1.00pm break and finished at 5pm. The threshing outfit went from farm to farm up the village and a man was "borrowed" from each farm to make up the gang of nine needed for that job. Every one was on the same time routine and it worked out well.

Even now some seventy or so years later, I have kept to that same time routine. I can arrive in the house at meal times with the table ready laid, the Misses likes it, it gives her a regular routine knowing exactly when to expect us.

When I started farming on my own at Church Farm, we had the church tower and the church clock looking down at us all day from about a hundred yards distance with the chimes every quarter hour and gongs for the hour.

St. Chads Church tower has two clocks, the one you see is facing south, the other one faces west towards Church Farm.
The thatched house in the picture was a farm cottage, now demolished

Church Farm House facing East looking onto the church tower,  the farm buildings to the right in the picture

When we were at the distant field working we had the railway run through both The Beeches farm fields and the Church Farm fields, and between 3.15pm and 3.30 there would but three express steam engines flying through at full sped, the "Flying Scotsman", the "Caledonian" and another named train. ( It was said by the railway men that they had to clear that track of slower local trains at 3pm to allow these three train to go though at full chat)  That was the time we went to take the cows down for milking.

 I might add here that the gang of six lengths men who maintained the two mile stretch of line, (four lines, two up to London, two down to Scotland, I could never understand that.) would jump over into the corn field at harvest time and help stook the shoffs of corn when we were bindering, (wheat or oats) and two church bells later (14 days) would help load the farm wagons. Also at this time there was a goods engine driver who would slow right down by those fields and get his fire man to roll big lumps of coal off the tender for father to collect them later with the farm cart. They were all in the home guard together, and contraband got exchanged there every week, farther taking mainly potatoes and for the engine driver a half a pig, it was transported under the local bobbies nose by the wheelwright in a coffin. but thats another story

A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.
Segal's Law.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The Farm Sale

No I am not having a farm sale here, but a couple of years ago a neighbouring farm sold up and I sent quite a few items up to be sold back then. Now another neighbour is having a dispersal sale and again I am contributing some more of my deadstock, to be sold at his sale this spring. (2014).

I have been selling off items of machinery privately over the last three years as and when a buyer came up, but you get down to the last few thing that could still be worth selling for further use. I have been  scrapping all that what I call "useful reuseable metal", you know, the sort of metal that you can make or mend stuff with, but its got to go at some point in time.

 Everything is on a priority list, and I keep gleaning through my workshop scrap heap, some of my tools are the old Whitworth and AF spanners, but I fear they are getting frightfully close to going to the crusher. An old brushing hook kept for trimming nettles and briars off the electric fence, I doubt if the younger generation have ever heard  of  or would know what it is, and that was the way we cut all the hedges not fifty years ago. 
An old scythe, when you see them using them on the television programs, it make you cringe at the mess they are making. not a clue how to use or sharpen it. The old men, before they had lawn mowers would be cutting the lawns around these stately homes, not as short I grant you, but it was always a very tidy job. 
The last serious job I remember with scythes was to cut a "road" round the corn fields (wheat barley and oats, for those way over the pond). It was absolute sacrilege to run a wheel, or run corn down with wheels back then before the days of the combine. A few days before we were ready for bindering, two gangs of three would head one each way round the outside of the fields of corn, one scything, two picking up the crop into bundles and tying them with what we called a bonce of straw, no string. It was just wide enough for the old Standard Fordson to travel pulling the binder for the first time round.    

You just get carried away, just thinking back on how we managed, setting too with a two furrow plough in a fifteen or twenty acre field in winter with no cab, but that just another tale for another day.

The farm where we were brung up, my first farm, my present farm, and the house we are retiring to all in one picture, seventy five years all in one village. 

A village fete advert mown into some stalky grass in thirty foot letter, (by some silly bgguer who has nowt better to do ) it made it into all the local press, photo taken by the local gliding club, the tug plane pilot.

  I just wish it was as easy and simple as I make it sound in the verse I writ a couple of years ago,
 --see below   

The Farm Sale

The years have come the years have gone, its time to sell the lot,
And now I've got to organize, the sale of all I've got,
To pull it out the sheds and then, n’ lay it out in rows,
For all and everyone who comes, to have a dam good nose.

The tools and all machinery, bought it years ago,
Ploughed the land and worked it, encouraged crops to grow,
Harrowed all the grass in spring, soon as the Daff’s appear,
Cattle would be turned out, and sold that big fat steer.

Job to know where to start, and find things long forgotten,
Things we used like brushing hooks, n’ pitch forks stale gone rotten,
Shovels spades and muck forks, all standing where last used,
Some I've had a long time, and some they were abused.

Workshop that’s a nightmare, the scrap ruck will increase,
Wading through the junk to find, that lost now found tailpiece
All the things you save as spares, but things move on apace,
Out dated now and far too small, with newer one replaced.

The tractor that’s seen better days, reliable it has been,
Well used and got a loader on, could do with a dam good clean,
Worked it hard all day long, every day of the year,
Last day now it has arrived, and to the field must steer.

A second one it’s older still, with a draughty cab,
Tyres worn and torn about, n’ the paints a little drab.
Steering wobbles brakes no good, useful to have about,
Its winter when it wonner start, I have a dam good shout.

Be sorry to see an empty yard, and all the cleaned out sheds,
The damp old house abandoned, and empty old farmstead,
Silence now for few a weeks, until new folk move in,
Then once again start from new, new livestock make a din.

Owd Fred

No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.
Booker T. Washington  (1856 - 1915)

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Smallholding and White Cottage.

The Smallholding  and  White  Cottage. 

This cottage opposite the pub was occupied by Mr and Mrs Clark.  It was a small holding of about forty acres, as on all the farms on the estate, it had some close land, and some on the meadows down the Moss lane, and some over the railway down the Moor lane. This house had only one main room, and a scullery, then a lean-to on the back of the house, this was used as a dairy to cool and store the milk churns over night, until the milk man came the following morning.  Upstairs it had two bedrooms, and the only privy was a little brick and tile loo, under a bush, down the garden path.  In this house they brought up a family of six children.

This is the house to the smallholding in the centre of the village, the house is still there  but the farm buildings, see below have been converted into a house. In this picture above, the building on the right was the wheelwrights shop and between that and the house is the roof of the two bay hay barn. The original milk churn dairy was the small lean to at the end of the house, and full milk churns would be hand rolled along the length of the house to the road side (left)  for the 8.15am pickup by the milk lorry

This was the cowshed to the smallholding before it was converted into a house, the sliding door in the gable end facing the road was the new dairy  built when the house was parted from the farm. The wicket on the left of the black railings was put in when the bulk tank was installed so the tanker could connect his pipe to their tank. At the right hand end of the railings is the old wooden churn stand to hold the four churns that would be lifted on there for the lorry from the dairy could just roll the full churns directly onto his wagon.

This is a picture from the back of the smallholding showing the new wheelwrights shop on the left that Jim and Bill built, and on the right the old low tin shed the their father Harry worked in. the hay barn and the chimneys of the old village shop and post office  above in the centre of the picture

Old Harry Clark, I can only just remember, (1940's ) not a very tall man, and quite round in his later years. He was a wheelwright by trade, and worked in a low tin roofed shed down below the wooden pole hay barn. He was a man who enjoyed a joke, and quite mischievous in a nice way.  It was said that when bagged fertiliser first came out, Charlie Finnimore, [of Yews Farm] sent a new man to spread it on the meadows under the Ashes Wood. It turned out he had spread it on one of   Harry's small fields down there.  Later Mr Finnemore realised the mistake, and went round to see Harry for recompense, only to be told very politely that he did not want it, and that he could send the man down the following morning to pick it up again, as he did not mind at all!.
Mrs Clark, Harry's wife, could only just get about, and getting a very old lady, like Harry she was quite round, and had her own chair by the fire where she could easily reach the kettle, without having to move.  In fact as a child I was amazed that when Mrs Clark was sitting down she seemed to have no knees.  Her part in the carpentry business, over the years, was to line the coffins that Harry made, for the local people, who were then buried in St Chad's churchyard.
They had six children, Henry [called Harry] the oldest, Jim, Bill the youngest, and three daughters in between. Henry worked for the post office as a postman, and travelled to work in a little old Austin 7 car, the one that had a straight up windscreen and a starting handle permanently out in front.  Henry was the smallest of all the family, and walked with a heavy limp; this was due to him having a short leg and had a boot with a four or five inch sole.

Henry lived with his wife Nell in the cottage next to Cooksland Farm gate, on the other side of the lane was a small garage for his car. Nell worked up at Cooksland House for Major Eld, and her father lived in a small room, or lean-to, on the end of a house on the end of Smithy Lane. He was Bill Ecclestone a very old man when I was a child; he helped around the different farms when needed. His worn-out body seamed to lean forward, almost forming a loop under his bracers, where his chest had been.  He wore corduroy trousers that were tied below the knee with string, and old boots that had worn out laces.  The shirts worn in them days all had loose collars, his shirt at work had no collar or stud to hold the neck hole together, and looked as though it had seen many washes [ and missed a few as well]. He lived an independent life in his small room, but well looked after by his daughter Nell.

Jim was the tallest of the family, and when married lived in the second house up the Coton lane [turn left at the west end of the village second house on the right].  This had a craft, [Crofters have crafts- small field] where he kept hens and reared a few pigs, I think it had two pig sty's.  He worked as carpenter for the estate along with Eric Kilford who was the builder bricklayer; Eric built up Kilfords the Building firm and employed quite a lot of men.  Jim took over from his father, when his father became too old to continue, having learned all the skills needed to become a wheelwright, and all the traditional tools that had built up over the years for that trade.
When the Cumbers council houses were built, in the 1950s, Jim moved into No10, and Bill moved into No9, right opposite the farm and workshop. By this time Jim was full time, having taken over from "The old Chap".  Jim and Bill built a new workshop, with double doors that would lock, a great deal higher and bigger than the one the old chap used.  A complete farm wagon could be built and painted all indoors, and a good deal lighter as well.
As I said Jim was tall, all of six foot, but I expect that working all his earlier days in low cottages, and always ducking his head, he carried his head slightly forward, giving him a slight hump on his shoulders. [Not quite as tall as he should be], they all had caps on in them days, and Jim had his pipe always in his teeth, not always lit.  I think it was St Julian tobacco, that he smoked, and I got as much pleasure, from the smell of the smoke, as he did smoking it.  You get the ambiance of a room when you walk into it, so you did from Jim's workshop, with the smoke from his pipe, or the new cut oak shavings, or the fresh new paint when he's finishing off a job.  His pipe spent that much time, in his teeth, that it wore his teeth away in that one place, to the extent that he could clench his teeth tightly, and the pipe would still hang comfortably.  In normal talk, he would talk with the pipe in place.  But if some cussing was to be done, it would be a prodding motion with the pipe in his hand.  But more often than not it was tongue in cheek cussing.  [Enough about the pipe].
It was always a big joke when Jim and his wife Minnie, went on holiday for a week to the seaside with friends. Minnie would have Jim move all the furniture, to dust and polish, "even behind the bl----  wardrobes had to be cobwebbed" he went on, in case someone had to look in, while they were away. Minnie was a big friend of my mothers, and was very proud of her new house, number 10 The Cumbers.  She was also keen on her flowers garden, and front lawn. Jim had to do the lawn mowing and dug and planted the veg patch. His comment to these jobs was "Why didn't they build the B motorway across my front lawn, or at least tarmac it" he went on, "I could sweep it off and paint it green each spring and save all this work."

  Bill, the youngest of the family, looked after the cows. Up until the 1950s they were hand milked, and then they had their first milking machine.  Then followed a few years later with a bulk milk tank, they stopped picking milk up in churns shortly after that. Bill had 14 cows that was the maximum that the sheds would hold.  They were well looked after, and heavy milkers, and nearly always turned out for the night onto the craft opposite the Holly Bush Pub.  During the day they went down through the ford, to the banky field at the end of Moor lane, or the field at the top of the road bank on the right.  At the ford the cows came from all directions, Village Farm cows came down the bank to the ford the up the Moor lane, Church Farm cows went down the same way as Bills.  On the village green, Green Farm cows would be going out, and also Yews Farm cows went across the green to the Moss Lane.
On a few occasions Bill would have to encourage his cows to move across the path of another herd, or sometimes meet another herd head on.  He always had a long nut stick, and always on his bike when on the road with the cows, and when a problem like this came up, he would get off his bike, and gently tap his cows on through the opposing "team ".  He rarely lost any or picked any extra up, the cows knowing there own fields or sheds.
In his younger days Bill was in the village cricket team, often he was wicket keeper, then when in batting he would hit and run, and really liven the proceedings up, scoring some very quick runs, or getting himself or his colleague run out. The cricket square was in the middle of the present village football field.  It was a football field then as well.  During the week the cricket square was fenced off, and Bills cows would graze round it.  Always a joker he would examine a persons ploughing, to see if it was strait. If it was one of us younger ones, and it was crooked, he would be relentless in telling anyone who would listen, as to how many dead rabbits he had picked up.  Telling them how they had broken their necks, running round the bends in the furrows.  Another wease he had was when someone had spent a day working hard at cleaning or sweeping up, he would say "That looks better, which have you done ?",  then watch for the reaction, then laugh.
Only a small man, he had a job to reach the floor when astride his bike, and with his Woodbine lit, and his nut stick across his handle bars, set off promptly at three fifteen to fetch the cows in. As long as everyone else was at the regular time, the herds would not clash.
They had a little grey Fergy tractor, which was used to cart the muck out to the field in winter, and in the summer, they would mow the meadows for hay.  Then when they wanted timber for carpentry, they would be off down to Henry Venables timber yard on the tractor, sometimes for wide elm boards, still with the bark edges, for trailer floors, or oak for making gates, or timber for making a coffin.
If anyone died in the village, Jim and Bill would be called.  I remember one occasion when Bill was not available, Jim called my brother and I to help him lay out a neighbour who had died that morning.  The first thing we were asked to do was to lift the pantry door off its hinges, and put it on the table. Then we helped lift the deceased onto the door to lay her out, this was a normal procedure as there is not much room in a lot of cottages, and pantry door or scullery door had hinges like a gate, and could easily be lifted off.  When Jim was walking off down the village, with a long notched stick in his hand, we knew he was off to measure a body for the coffin.  People did not have long measuring tapes, as we have now, so a long measuring stick was used. [Carpenters usually had a wooden two foot rule].  If you are a person living in one of the Seighford cottages, you may never realise what your old pantry door had been used for, besides blocking a hole in the wall.
After having got the measurements required from the body, Jim would proceed to make the coffin.  This would take all afternoon, and he would work into the evening to get the job done.  On occasions Eric Bennion would call with his car, to transport the coffin to the deceased's house, discreetly covered with a blanket.  His car had a large carrier rack on the back the right size.  I heard a story about Eric, carting a coffin about on the back of his car, when food rationing was on.  There were strict restrictions enforced by the police, usually by the local bobby on a bike based at Great Bridgeford the next village.   Eric, Jim and Bill had to move a pig that had just been killed at one of their houses, to someone who wanted it, but shouldn't have it because of rationing.  So the obvious way was in a coffin, covered up on the back of Eric's car, and at night.  I believe they passed the police but were never suspected.
Of coarse all the men of working age at that time, were in the "Home Guard" based in Great Bridgeford village hall.  No end of contraband food exchange hands without a ration book in sight, not all of them worked on farms or were farmers.

Owd Fred