Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Wellington Boots.

Wellington Boots.

They transformed footwear on the farm. In the years up to 1940’s leather tip boots were the main footwear often worn along with leather leggings which went round the calf of ya leg fastened on with button hooks and a leather strap at the top. Or as they did in the home guard shorter canvas spats with two leather straps to buckle them on.
Our first wellies were very prone to getting punctured or torn and when this happened to both of them we cut the soul off completely leaving only the top shell of the foot and leg.
These were then pulled on and the leather hob nail boots put on under them. The shell of the welly then was settled down and protected your boot uppers from dirt, ideal when working on pulling sugar beet or cutting mangols or kale for the cows, the ground at that time of year being sticky soil which soon baulmed (my word for clogged) up your inside of ya feet and legs as you moved about.
Father had his own last on which he could mend his own and the families boots and shoes, this mostly comprised of a jar full on hob nails, some were in triple form where three nails fastened together and held in the leather soul better round the outer edges of the boot and in filled with a few rows of single nail on the ball of the foot. Round the front edge he had an assortment of tips of metal and a complete horse shoe type tip that went completely round the heel.
This had been the leather boot worn on farms for years, repaired and re-souled until the uppers started to burst from their stitches. Then shortly after wellington boots came in came the boot with rubber soul vulcanised to the leather uppers, these were at the time called everlasting boots (a bit like when the biro ball point pen came in they were called everlasting pens). They were ridiculed and criticised at the time, often being cheaper to buy than their original counterpart. This spelled the end for the village cobbler as all he could do for these new type of boots was to supply new leather laces.

Ode to a Welly

My wellies your wellies and kids wellies too,
Clean wellies dirty wellies some there full of pooh,
New wellies old wellies some with holes right through,
Country wellies town wellies, a big long rubber shoe,
Shiny wellies dull wellies and coloured wellies new,
Chewed wellies torn wellies, on the bonfire threw,
Smelly wellies pongy wellies some we have out grew
Wellies we can’t do without, often must renew.

Owd Fred

Wellies large and wellies small

Wellies large and wellies small, of sizes there are many
Some are black some are green, and they cost a pretty penny,
Some are painted in bright colours, but still ya feet they smell,
Trample through the mud and ditches, through the house as well.
The kids they have them round the farm, they hold the water in,
Walking out through deep puddles, wet through to the skin,
How much water they will hold, and your feet an-all,
Tip them out on the door mat, make mother shout and bawl.

Owd Fred

Now, what am I looking for?

Ya ware them in the rain, and ya ware them in the snow,
Ya ware them in the mud, and everywhere you go,
Ya keep them in the car, in case of floods you never know,
Ya can’t do without them, left behind it is a blow,
And what I’m looking for, my WELLIES high and low

Owd Fred

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Weather Blog on my Farm 31st August 2011

Weather Blog on my Farm 31st August 2011

After one of the driest years since 1976 it looks like the fodder situation is going to be tight, last year quantities of hay and silage were lower than normal, and bearing in mind what my farther always said, “A bay of hay is worth more than money in the bank” we still have almost a bay of hay left from last year.
We have almost 60 acres of peat meadows that nearly all of it is mown, some years it’s too wet and spongy and even if you can mow it and even bale it, the difficulty is hauling it off.
But this dry year has been kind to us on the meadows; the grass (and a few rushes) has grown well and produced around average yield of bales. Our biggest problem is the fishing pools that have been recently established on the meadows down stream, they are the nesting ground now for a few hundred Canadian Geese. In mid June when each pair has hatched eight or ten goslings, they emerge from the area of the pools to graze on my meadows, holding back the growth of grass over up to four acres.

I know the year date does not match the year I am talking about, but the meadows consistently produce a good aftermath growth withing  three to four weeks of having been cut for hay or silage

The cows and calves have been taken down on those meadows to graze the aftermath, the only green grass we got, grass on the higher ground has gradually burnt up and now that some rain has come it will still take a long while to recover.

We hear about the Hurricane Irene flooding New York, we hear about heavy rain up the north of England and Scotland, we hear about harvest held up by rain in the South east and south west. But here in the Midlands of UK 30 miles North West of Birmingham the rain has missed us since last February. On the forecast maps on TV the cloud formations seem to part as they come over Wales and head north of us, or just skim south, we see the clouds passing us by.

However today August 27, 2011 we have had a few sharp showers, with more rain falling now will do the pastures good, it will take quite a few nights of continuous steady rain to soften the ground for the moisture to soak in properly.  But that has not happened so far.
Up date to Sep 4th 2011 still no rain, only enough to damp the concrete on the yard, no rain water run down our drains through this spring and summer. I think we must be the driest spot in the UK.
What bit of damp we have had has just stopped the grass from dying off, the cattle have stayed down on the peat ground for over a month now, the only place where we have grass

A father always told us “A bay of hay is worth more than money in the bank”

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Educations What You Want

Never was much good at school, too busy thinking of the work we were doing about the farm, the things we made and used, the new machinery the father eventually bought after long discussions.

The teacher accused us of day dreaming, but bring on any practical job and we beat all others in the class hands down. We learned to plough and to sow seeds, to reap the harvest and store it, to thatch the ricks of hay and corn (wheat). All this we learned to do at home including plumbing, laying concrete, building brick walls, repairing timber hay racks and troughs and gates and hanging them.
Our Maths were not too bad as it was used in the calculations needed to sow the right amount of seed to the acre, the mixing of the rations for the livestock, cows pigs and poultry. The weighing off sacks of potatoes for sale and the same for any grain (wheat for and oats) sold as cash crops. The measuring of milk into churns multiplied by the dozen or more churns that left the farm each day  to the bottling plant in Birmingham to have the right totals on the labels. 

The writing was my downfall, for years I only ever writ letters and replies, and that was not very often, but I seem to have caught up on that score this last ten years or more. The computer has helped me with its spell checker, and have managed to write down a lot of my experiences in and around the village and about the village folk that I was brought up alongside. 

In other words, we learnt the things necessary for farming the land, as mechanisation kicked in there were less and less men needed to do the jobs, making it at times a very lonely job, spending days and sometimes weeks at a time in a tractor seat, ploughing cultivation and sowing. At least in the olden days you had a pair of horses you could talk to and quite a number of other men working about the farm.

The village school as it is today, with now a huge extension build to the rear of it. The right hand door and the two windows was the School house, now offices. Mother started this school at the age of three in 1919 and was taught in the infants class by Miss Pye. When I started this school 1942 I also had this same teacher who learnt all her pupils to write in big bold loops, my  hand writing was very similar to my mothers.

Educations What You Want

Educations what you want, or that is what I’m told,
Get on in life and see the world, seek your pot of gold.
More to life than toil and sweat, let others soil there hands,
Let education guide the way, nine till five, five days a week demand.

Over the years most folk done this, for better jobs they travelled,
Men they left the land in droves, off into town they pedalled.
With better money they bought a car, get about much quicker,
Then travelled even further a field, became the city slicker.

Owd Fred

Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten
B. F. Skinner  (1904 - 1990)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Fordson E27N

Its ploughing match time again, the old Fordson struck up fourth pull of the starting handle after standing almost six months at the back of the shed.
Its now looking a bit dusty and in need of a good cleanup, the paint work needs touching up particularly around the engine where heat and oil and the dribble of fuel when the carburetor is drained of TVO (tractor vaporising oil) to allow the petrol in for cold starting. 

Ploughing at home when I hosted a ploughing match on our Maize stubbles,  on this occasion it has its spade lug steel wheels fitted, it also has a set of steel flat bands that go over the spade lug to enable you to drive down the road
Almost seventy years difference in age and technology met at a ploughing match a few years ago, both in their own right were top of the range when brought out for the first time.The Fordson had new hydraulic three point linkage and new implements designed to go with it, in this case I have the mounted plough of the same year 1946. The engine thermostat you may notice is the radiator bling which is half down, adjusted according to how hard the engine is worked. 
A view over the rear wheel of the opening split just about to close it back in. Other tractors at the far end of the field and to the right doing the same thing

Transport for all the tractors taking part in the home ploughing match with  seven of the ninety or more plots in the picture getting close to the finish

Traveling at speed on a country road at 14 miles per hour
No luxury of a starter motor, its a crank handle 
Stable mates together, The International B250 I drove that from new in 1956  that is diesel with a starter motor and has hydraulics and differential lock, a great step forward in the design  particularly the diff lock 
This is how it arrived at my farm almost ten years ago, it had been the power unit to a rear mounted turf cutter, not had a great deal of work but left out in the fields year in year out. All the tin work wheel fenders had to be replaced, and the tyres, the engine was in good order with very little signs of ware.  It had an extra high/low gear box fitted making it four inches longer to give creep gears for the turf cutting also a depth control fitted to enable the turf cutter to be carried at a fixed height
Stripped down for cleaning and re-painting, the hydraulic unit has been lifted off the rear axle housing  it fixes on with six stud bolts, fuel tank and the cast iron radiator also removed

So now is a good time to re-fresh the old Fordson E27N and get it back to its gleaming self as of 1948 and 2006.

My father had one to replace the Standard Fordson that he had worked  all through the war years, I would be just ten years old when the E27N came and learned to drive it, although we had been steering the Standard Fordson when cutting the wheat and oats with the binder. 
It was nice to have that experience back again after all those years and appreciate how we worked out in all weathers on an machine that by today's standards is very crude and basic.

A day's work is a day's work, neither more nor less, and the man who does it needs a day's sustenance, a nights repose and due leasure, whether he be painter or a ploughman.

George Bernard Shaw  (1856 - 1950)

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Old Farm House 24

I have many pictures of our old farm house, but now we have left for a more modest house in the village not a hundred yards/paces/metres west of the farm, the old house is undergoing a major refurbishment.

Everything growing close to the walls has been cleared away and scaffolding has been erected all round it, the only exception is an old pear tree growing on a westerly facing wall reputedly being upwardly a hundred and  fifty years old. The last refurbishment was when we moved in some thirty three years ago, on that occasion it had twelve extra windows put in, one notably was positioned to one side of the old pear tree so as not to disturb its  location having been pinned and trained up that wall for generations.
Another modernisation to bring it up to date back then was the electricity, it only had one yes one, two pin socket on the beam  in the sitting room, and that ran the old radio and latterly a black and white TV, they had to be unplugged for an electric iron to be used, there was also a few light bulbs about the house almost one to a room. Over forty new three pin sockets were wired in all round the house to a new fuse board and a modern fuse trip installed, two way switches on the stairs and lights along the landing and over the main outside doors.
The plumbing was noticeable by it absence, It had a rayburn in the kitchen with a cylinder to heat water and a hot water pipe down to the kitchen to a plywood base sink and drainer, this was listing badly as the ply wood was slowly rotting from under it  with, or so it seemed the waste drain pipe through the wall and the cold feed pipe into the house being the only things holding it steady.

There was an old cast iron bath in the back toilet, this had no taps and no plumbing other than a drain plug down to the farm drains, and in the wash room next to it was a big old cast iron 'Copper' ('Copper', a round U shaped cast iron boiler with a round wooden lid on top holding about twenty five gallons, and no it was not made of copper, but that is what it was called)   with a coal fire under it to heat the water for  doing the weekly wash and for heating the bath water. The water had to be ladled out of the copper to the bath and the appropriate amount of cold water from the well pumped for cooling.
 Also in that back wash room was the original well for the house and farm, and I was told by the previous tenants, that it would run dry in summer, so another well was dug in the 1940's  just outside only a few yards from the old one, this when I opened it up in 1983 (and opened again a few days ago July 2015) is thirty foot deep and had plenty of water. When mains water came into the village in the 1950's all wells were condemned and never used again, this one is still clean and useable now, even after all those years.
As with most old houses, the nails holding the laths under the tiles on the roof are very rusty and obviously very close to slipping, if that happens it then forces an emergency big roof job, so the roof has been totally stripped off, the tiles now built up in huge piles on the scaffolding that now envelope the old house.  The old lath and plaster ceilings up stairs have been fetched down and any remaining walls with the horse hair plaster cleaned back to the bare bricks.
The jackdaws have abandoned the chimneys which now stick up in the air like long fingers badly in need of pointing and re-topping. Some of the main roof beams have been taken down to reveal that they are good straight fir trees with the bark still on them after some 250 years holding the roof up.

Its hard to imagine that a family of twenty one children were born and reared there in the late 1800's only one of which went on to live there and rear five children of his own. The youngest of this five children went on to farm Yews Farm up until he retired in 1983 . All of this family of five spent their whole life at Yews Farm and in the old farm house, and none of them every got married, three spinsters and two bachelors. Heating back then was the coal fires, three of the bedrooms had a fire place, and water heated in the copper that I mentioned above. Latterly a rayburn was fitted and a hot water cylinder and one hot water  tap fitted over a flimsy plywood sink unit in the back kitchen, and a bath tub plumbed in up stairs.  When we moved in in 1984 the old heavy cast iron bath (which sat in the downstairs bathroom next to the copper) was taken up the a new bathroom and plumbed in for the first time in its life, it took four of use to move it, such was its weight.
Eighteen radiators were fitted and plumbed in and a boiler installed across the yard to run on logs and straw. After a month of hot radiators we found that the main stair case became loose from its wall fixings due to the timber drying out for the first time in many years, and walls that needed plastering were plastered and we painted and decorated the house from top to bottom.
I must say that it was only partially heated in the first winter, as the radiators were installed in three circuits, only the downstairs circuit was done in time for winter. It was then that we had frost on the inside some of the bedroom windows when it was particularly cold for about a week,

It will be very good to see the old farm house get its new roof, doors and windows in time for the winter of 2015, a  refurbishment that will last another fifty years or more.

The best way to realize the pleasure of feeling rich is to live in a smaller house that your means would entitle you to have
Edward Clarke


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Calculations and Measurements Old and New -- Blog 19

There cannot be many countries that have such a wide variety of calculations and measurements as the UK, be it lenght, areas, weights, money and quantities or volumes.

Take volume for instance you start with a Barrel which is forty two gallons, then there is a Bushel equal to eight gallons or four Pecks  or 32.24  litres and on down to cubic inches.

One Peck equals eight quarts, one quart is a quarter of a gallon and it takes eight pints to make a gallon. from there it is four cups to the pint and one cup equals eight fluid ounces.

So the complication continues with other measurements which are no better being mixed all up by the metric conversions or equivalents, starting with the shorter ones, a Nail is two and half inches, then a Hand is four inches, then a Foot, a Yard, a Rod five and half yards, a fathom, a Chain twenty two yards,  a hundred Links is also Chain, ten Chains to the Furlong and eight Furlongs to the Mile, then a League is three miles. Then all that went metric.

On areas the hectare has taken over from the acre officially, but the acre is still in the older generations mind and still used for on farm calculations (on mine anyway) as is the square foot and the square mile. An acre is made up of four roods and a rood measures out to be one furlong by one rod. It was always reckoned that an acre was just about what a pair of horses could plough in a day "in one hook in".

"One hook in" is explained as follows, The horses, usually shire horses in UK, were brought in from their night pasture (in winter they would be stabled over night) and fed and groomed before being harnessed up ready for the job at hand that day. The wagoner, that's the chap who looks after and works the horses then sets out mid morning say 10am, with his team to the field and hooks up to the plough, they would not be taken out again until mid afternoon, hence the term "one hook in".
In that time he would rest them at the end of the furrow every now and then and could if the going was not too stiff, or the ground too heavy, they could cover around an acre a day

The younger generation who have been through school on the metric do not know how many old pence made a £ (240) or what a guinea is, (one pound one shilling). Some auctioneers selling pedigree livestock alway sold in guinea's, the pound went to the seller and the shilling went to the auctioneer as his commision. Then down to the ten bob note (a bob was another name for a shilling) then to the half crown (two shillings and six pence) then the florin which was two bob, --- are you still following this lot, on again to the shilling which is twelve pence, then six pence piece, then the threepenny piece, locally known as the thrupenny piece, down to the penny , the halfpenny, and the farthing whitch was a quarter of one penny, no wonder we all went metric.

All this we learned at school, without calculators, adding up money and calculating weights. That's another  thing weights, starting with the ton, there seems to be three sorts of the ton, one is the US ton, (2000 lbs or sometime called the short ton), then the metric ton, or tonne,( 1000 kg known as the metric ton) then our own ton,(2240 lbs) called the long ton,  all weighing within a different weight of each other.

Our ton here in the UK was made up of twenty hundred weights, a hundred weight was (and still is) made up of one hundred and twelve pounds (lbs). then there is the stone, this is fourteen lbs, and is what humanity is weighed in as in UK. there are sixteen ounces to the lb. A Quarter equals two stone and eight stone equals one hundred weight .

Are you still following,  because there are still Ounces, sixteen ounces to the lb. and Drams, there are sixteen drams to the ounce, then there is the Grain, there are 7000 grains to the lb. a grain being the weight of a grain of wheat. This was the believed to be the original start of most weight systems.

Wheat and other grains, barley,oats, beans, peas,  are measured in Bushels, bushels being the prefered measure of yields used across the pond in US and Canada. For instance a bushel of good wheat is 60 lbs, and a bushel of oats is 32 lbs a barley is 48 lbs, these weights can vary according to the quality of the grain at the time of harvesting.

So the complications are never ending and take almost a lifetime to get used to then they, the  UK government, decide that we all go metric,  All the above vital information was learnt fa nowt, a new metric system is now been in use for twenty or thirty years now, but me brain is still calculating and visualising in imperial.
Ya conna win, so the best thing is to do is join them, and start learning all over again, but in my case its too damned late, ov retired and now I find round the super markets and other shops all goods be it food or furniture has all gone metric.  I still have me fathers old wooden two foot ruler, and a tape measure with duel measurements on it, thats a good help, but me brain is still working to the old  way of life

Me Mind is Like an Old Computer

Me mind is like an old computer, memory getting full,
Takes a while to liven up, and the thinking’s getting dull,
Information’s going in, it’s difficult to recall,
Need a transplant right away, but it’s difficult to install.

Co-ordination’s not too bad, site and hearing too,
Legs are getting tired and old, and had two knees anew,
Arms they are just as long, but me back is getting bent,
Me waist is getting further round, of that I do lament.

So write it down while its fresh, just now I won’t recall,
Memory’s a funny thing, as through my mind I trawl,
Of things that happened years ago, eventually come back,
Think about the olden days, before they call the quack.

Owd Fred

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Eggs and Omelets

We have always had hens as long back as I can remember, mother bought and reared her day old chicks by the hundreds, they had to be collected from the railway station in boxes, where if you were late collecting them, the station master would put them by the stove in his office "to keep them warm", This would sweat up the chicks then would catch a chill when taken out of the insulated boxes, so it was better to be on the spot when the train came in.

The eggs mother sold to the egg packing station at Gnosall a lorry picked them up every week, the driver paid her for the previous weeks eggs when collecting this weeks.
That meant a steady income of cash from the poultry, and every effort was made not to break or crack any eggs, particularly when us lads were given the job of collecting eggs from the hen pens or field arks in galvanized buckets with a bit of hay in the bottom..
Occasionally you got a soft shelled egg that felt like rubber, or a soft/thin shelled egg which were were almost impossible to carry back to the house. If they were put in the bucket with the others they would squash them, if they went on the top of  the bucket of eggs and then broke it would wet nearly all the eggs right to the bottom, and every egg had got to be wiped clean otherwise they would glue to the cardboard egg trays when packed.
 Any eggs not saleable ( cracked, thin shelled, double yolked or misshapen)went into the pantry where they would be fried or scrambled for breakfast, mother was not too keen on boiled eggs as that would mean using good solid shelled eggs that could have otherwise sold.

Omelets seems to have been a modern sort of way of using eggs, I can never remember mother every making an omelet, right now I have recently aquired an omelet pan, its only about eight inches across.
 Now doing most of my own cooking and watching Jamie Oliver cooking on the TV I've learnt how to cook a mean omelet,  the only thing I forgot to do was to put a spoon full of water in with the whisked eggs before cooking.
One question I would like to ask is why don't you flip/toss an omelet  like ya do a pancake, as I seem to have lost our spatula when we moved house. So in a catalogue that gets shoved through our door once a month, it has all sorts of kitchen gadgets and in it, there was an plastic omelet spatula, and I  bought it. The problem is, I being owd and not familiar with metric measurements, the spatula was 22mm and round, and the pan 8 inches, it's bigger than the bladdy pan, so I got the kitchen scissors out and trimmed half inch off it all round
So next time I may av a go at flipping it with a big dinner plate handy to catch what missed or don't get caught, but it sound like a big mess waiting to happen.
Advice please from those more experienced than I,  "willing to learn"

Being born in a ducks yard does not matter, if only you are hatched from a swan's egg.
Hans Christian Andersen  (1805 - 1875)

Saturday, 4 April 2015

‘The Nottingham Knockers’

‘The Nottingham Knockers’

My wife defended her decision to feed a hungry lad no matter who it was, it’s always been in her nature to help those who in need, and feed anybody be it animal or human who is hungry, she had always done it, and it’s always been appreciated.

In our farm house I can never remember our back door ever being locked or bolted, on the front door there was a key hole and a key, and it had two strong bolts on the inside as well, then there was the side door, to which most folk came and knocked when they called which again had a similar set up. But the back, back door was the one where we always used to go in and out of to work and back in with boots and dirty working clothes that could be taken off at that point to go into the house proper for meal times and a rest. That door only had one big bolt on the inside that was never used and the old conventional thumb latch that most doors had in them days.
This big old bolt has been used in more recent years

The old thumb latch the part that you press with ya thumb and goes through the door is missing

We did have folk calling wanting to pick up scrap iron, and also there was a market for empty hessian sacks that had been used for different feed stuffs for the cattle. It got that you sort of trusted some of them who called regular, but there were others who called who were positively not trustworthy. They had eyes everywhere, looking in the tool shed, and round the corners of buildings to see what we were hiding, you never knew if they would be back that night after dark thieving.

This was where the local bobby came to the fore, the policeman used to ride round quietly on his bike at night, and if he had had a tip off, would watch and keep a look out for anyone who he did not know and tackle them if they had gone into the farm buildings or gate.
Nowadays the police are more mobile and in marked cars, and drive through the different villages and do not make contact with the residents, and do not know who they supposed to be caring for.
So we now have a neighbourhood watch system in place for the police control centre to give an early warning to a couple of folk in each village, who then will ring round the neighbours warning of criminals or suspicious folk who is active in the local district.

We always make a note of the number plate of any strange van or car driving through very slowly just in case it is a criminal, more often than not it’s quite an innocent person just lost, but ya conna be too careful nowadays.

One such warning came and the news got round just a bit too late, and that there was of a gang of three touting small household goods door to door. It said that while one is keeping you talking at the front door the other one is walking round to the back door to go in to steal anything they can get their hands on. On this day we had a knock on our front door while we sat having a cup of tea at 3pm before we started our evening feeding of the stock.

My wife went and answered the door, which was way down the other side if the house, to be confronted by a dishevelled looking young chap, in her words looking hungry and tired, he was selling kitchen cloths and towels and other small plastic kitchen gadgets, she felt sorry for him and bought a few items which were of very poor quality in relation to the price she paid. (In my words there’s one born every minute) , then she appeared back in the kitchen (we could not hear what was going on)  and dug out a can of coke and cut a couple of big slices of cake that we had been eating and took it to feed the young man at the door.

Then on the evening local new came a warning to watch out for the “Nottingham Knockers” a gang of three men were working their way around the midlands area, it said they would keep you talking at the front door while the other two would be robbing you through the back door. It went on to say, do not confront these men, just report it to the police and then they would then know where they were working and arrest them.
It seemed that we had had the “Nottingham Knockers” knocking on our door, but at our house there were two or three strong farm workmen and lads having a cup of tea in the kitchen, so the second part of their ploy would not work. To his credit, the chap/lad who did knock the front door got a drink and was well fed, it just goes to show how careful you have got to be with some of these criminals.

In the meantime my wife defended her decision to feed a hungry lad no matter who it was, it’s always been in her nature to help those who in need, and feed anybody be it animal or human who is hungry, she had always done it, and it’s always been appreciated. He had been telling her of his hardship of just having been let out of prison and trying to make a living selling door to door just enough to buy his food and clothing. They had chatted for a good ten minutes whilst he ate his cake, then politely said thank you to her and left.

But it got a good laugh in our house when the announcement came on the news about these “Nottingham Knockers” and the fact that Eileen had been ‘watering and feeding’ them, and we pondered as to what the next nights news might have been if we reported that they had got well fed in our village.

As a foot note Nottingham is about 40 miles north east of where we live, and these criminals were known in the Nottingham area for how they worked, and had widened out to new areas to where they were not known.

Owd Fred

Good manner will open doors that the best education cannot.
Clarence Thomas (1948 - )

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Farm safety a Topic on most peoples minds 26

Farm safety a Topic on most peoples minds   

A Topic for as long as I can remember.

One man went under the back of the dray on his knees and pulled the hitch pin, it was a bit tight but he managed, only to realise that the load and the tractor had started to move forwards.

Over the years I have had upwards of fifteen school leavers, some starting while still at school, but every one without exception had some sort of bump or miner accident on the way. I recall one who was loading strawy box muck by hand with me, before we had fore end loaders. To get a bigger load this lad jumped on the top to level out the load way above the trailer side boards, but just above him was a pair of electric wires, very old and ragged insulation. He stood up and caught the back of his head on the wires and he dropped like a stone right into the pile of muck we were loading. He was okay but wondered what had hit him, and it turned out to be one of many near misses that lad was to have. After a number of road crashes he got killed at the age of twenty two, by just shear speed.

Way back in my twenties I recall taking a Friesian bull up the lane about half a mile, he was always all right to lead in the yard , but as we got nearer to the field of heifers in the distance he started to bounce, and picked up speed and I still clung onto him. Then being along side of his shoulder I was getting pushed toward a steep hedge bank, on top of the hedge bank was a three foot hawthorn hedge, some eight foot in all. Next thing I knew I was standing the other side of that hedge still hanging on to the long chain that I was leading him by. Basically I had run along side of the bank gradually being pushed higher up it, and with the speed I had thankfully cleared the hedge on top. I have used that lane all the years since and can never come to terms of how I cleared that height, but when you are in a tight spot, its surprising what you are capable of. Fortunately I was not on the end of his horns.

One of the most dangerous things that lads tended to do is to hitch a tow chain to the top link point on the tractor. In the days I am talking about there were no cabs or roll bars, so a rearing tractor would turn over backward flat onto the driver in the spilt of a second. I made a point of never leaving the top link pin in place and not send any lad out with a chain.

Another lad had a narrow escape when he was out with the rota spreader, he drove the wrong way round the field, in other words he drove on the slurry that had been spread from the previous load, and on going up a slight gradient and along side of the slope as well, the spreader started to swing sideways directly towards a steep drop, the tractor start wheel slip and also hung back in the same direction, then the whole outfit was sliding backward and gathering speed. This I witnessed with my own eyes from the distance, and saw it all disappear down the steep drop, the whole thing stayed in line and as it came to a stop the front of the tractor whipped round into a jack-knife. No damage was done, the lad hung onto the steering wheel and stayed in the seat, it was one of those thing that you can see from the distance, and could predict what was going to happen, but could do dam all about it.

As a lad myself on that same slope a gang of us were loading loose hay onto a four wheel dray towing a hay loader behind it (A Pitcher). This was before we had a baler and before contractor balers were about, we were just going down this same slope, when the pitcher blocked. Two men were on the load and I (the lad) was driving the tractor, so I stopped and got off to help unblock the blockage. Both men jumped down off the near full load and decided that the pitcher had got to be tilted forwards onto its nose. One man went under the back of the dray on his knees and pulled the hitch pin, it was a bit tight but he managed, only to realise that the load and the tractor was moving away from him. Nothing was said but he thought I was on the tractor until he looked and saw me behind the pitcher helping to unblock it. NO ONE was on the tractor. By this time it was nearly up to running speed and heading for this steep slope, fortunately the one chap had a good turn of speed and mounted the drawbar and reached forwards and turned the steering wheel across the slope and it all came to a stop. The tractor did have a parking brake but it had not been applied, the pitcher mechanism was wheel driven and being blocked held the outfit when we stopped. Moral of this story is to always apply the parking brake every time you get off.

To see one of these Hay Loaders working, tap in “Hay Loader” into Google and there is a You Tube clip of Mormons working an almost identical thing that we used to have.  

Another example, one about my grand daughter and the ride on lawn mower a couple of years ago. At the age of twelve she was getting very keen to learn to drive and the only thing I would let her drive then was the lawn mower. Set her going, showing he the gears the clutch and throttle. After ten minuets it was only top gear and only full throttle. This went on for quite a few weekends until one afternoon she came walking /limping back to the house. On investigation she had mistook the turning circle of the mower and still going at full throttle had rammed it full speed ( about seven miles per hour)under the back of a parked tipping trailer.

The mower is one of those with a racy sloping tapered front so wedge very tight under the back cross member. She had slid up the seat and bumped her knees and the steering wheel had gone into her tummy. The mower was recovered with a scratched bonnet, and the grand daughter had a very severely dented pride, and bruised knees. It was a thing she will always remember and a good lesson learned without too much grief.
I won’t let her drive the old tractors, the ones with no cab and no roll bar, she now has learned to drive the Agrotron and is very happy about that as it has a good radio and tape player. Its still got its doors and still got all its windows, the foot pedals are light and easy for her to use, the seat and the steering wheel both adjust, so she customises them, and now got used where all the gears are, and four wheel drive is just a rocker switch. The only thing I cannot get her to learn is when turning (chain harrowing) at the end of the field, on short ground turn away from the ditch and circle into the field. Turning towards the ditch you have got to judge your turning circle very accurately or you will soon be in the ditch.

This one is about my workshop, and the pile of tools that are thrown on the bench some of which missed, a bit of clear floor space to walk up the middle, and off cut and other items deemed to be too good to throw away are saved and left where they land. Only I know where everything is, it’s just a matter of finding it.

Axle Stand and his Mate Jack

Axle Stand and his mate, Hydraulic Jack,
Live in the workshop, right at the back,
When they’re called out, together they work,
Lifting things heavy, they call it teamwork.

Adjustable Spanner, he lives hanging on nail,
Expected to fit every nut, in the box he assail,
He’s first responder, carried into the field
No hammer to hand, a thraping to weald.

Poor old Hack he looses teeth from his blade,
Abused and used to cut anything for what he’s not made,
Hack Saw gets hacked off, thrown on the bench,
Landing on top of him, a great heavy old wrench.

Open and Ring Spanner, Siamese twins in the tools,
Kept in a rolled bag, with pocket like modules,
Twenty of them, all different sizes,
Clean and in line should win all the prizes.

Pillar the drill , stands aloof in the corner,
His own leg to the floor, and quite a loner,
His energy comes down, a wire from the switch,
Grips bit in his chuck, turns quick without glitch.

Ball Pane is Hammer, comes in a good many sizes,
Large for the blacksmith, hot metal he teases
Small one that the Mrs. keep’s, in the cupboard draw,
And ones in between, working all have loud guffaw.

Claw is another member, of the same clan,
Pull bent nails, blame the hammer and not man,
Soon break the stale, when pulled and abused,
Thrown onto the side, no stale and unused.

We know how it should be all tidy and straight,
But never got time to put back all polish its late,
As long as I can walk up the middle OK,
And find where I chucked it, neat pile to display.

Owd Fred

It is one of the worst errors to suppose that there is any path for safety except that of duty.
William Nevins

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The foundation rock of our family.

This I wrote to the memory of my dear wife who passed away 27 February 2015 , May she rest in peace.

Eileen, The Foundation Rock of our Family.

A house is just a pile of bricks, and then becomes a home,
A home is where the heart is, where you’ve no more need to roam,
It’s there to rear our family, it’s full of love and joy,
The work and play remembered, our memories to deploy.

Mother in our household, her love was all around,
She was the kingpin of the family, she was our queen uncrowned,
For guidance and opinion, she would always do her best,
To keep us close around her, our home it was her nest.

She always filled the pantry, as if a famine was about to hit,
Would “feed the forty thousand”, it was her life’s remit,
A slice of cake a cup of tea, was the least she ever gave,
Her laughter and her happiness, on our minds it is engraved.

She was generous and giving, and would give you her last dime,
“It would always come back in other ways” she told us many a time,
But now she’s left us “home alone” and taught us how to live,
Be kind to all of those around you, and best of all forgive.

With deepest love and affection,


This is the inscription taken from the poem and transcribed onto her headstone

She was the kingpin of the family,
She was our queen uncrowned,
Her laughter and her happiness,

Her love was all around.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

I Dunna Miss the Owd House 24.

I Dunna Miss the Owd House.

This I have written some 3 months (of winter) after we moved into our retirement house in the village just a hundred yards west of the farm itself. We can look out of our new double glazed windows at the back over the fields that we have toiled in over the last thirty years, and watch the progress of the seasons and the wildlife round the wood, and all the birds that come down to the feeders in our new garden.
 I fear that some jackdaws have followed us, but they have nowhere to nest, no open chimneys, the Goldfinches have finally found where we are and feeding here in numbers, particularly when the school closed at Christmas. When the school feeders go empty the Goldfinches flood over to our feeders, and at half term, mid-February, had as many as twenty four in the garden in one go.

A beautiful sight, the bird table and feeder is only twenty foot from the big sitting room window. There are two pairs of Robins, Wagtails, Sparrows, Great tits, Blue tits, Coal tits, Greater spotted wood pecker, Finches, Ring necked doves, a pair of Wood pigeons and a cock pheasant walked in a few days ago.

If you want to class this as “stock feeding”, then that’s what ov dun all me life, and there’s nowt more satisfying than standing back to watch them come in to get there fill. I shifted the nest boxes from the farm house walls and positioned then up here, there seems a lot of interest in them already.

So, Retirement aint too bad after all.     

There are ten chimneys, seven of which are crammed full of jackdaw’s nests. There is a ventilation brick hole in the back of the now coal/log shed, (it used to be a ‘down the garden’ loo,)
A pair of jackdaws (novices obviously) decided to build a nest through that hole, the pile of twigs soon built up, when the pile was removed later in the season there was four barrow loads of sticks, there would have been more than that but for the fact I was lighting the Rayburn fire every morning from those pile of stick for three months. They were very persistent, and failed to nest.

I Dunna Miss the Owd House

(I was asked)
        Did you ever miss the farm, now that you’ve retired?
No I aint is that reply, cus me brain it’s been rewired,
Still up early in a mornings, n’ I conna lay in bed,
So I write about it when it quiet, just pickin up the thread.

Miss the movements and the sounds, of livestock bout the place,
The Jackdaws on the chimneys, noisy sparrows round they chase,
Feed troughs keep them happy, as they eat to get their fill,
Then fly off up to the workshop roof, out in the winters chill.

 I dunna miss the work, and I dunna miss the cowd,  (cold)
N’ I dunna miss the evy liftin, sacks of feed, too heavy not aloud,
Me bones are brittle, muscles weak, they’re all wearing out,
So tek a bit o notice now, and ya know ya not sa stout.

Miss the calvein and the lamdin, the regeneration bout the farm,
See them take their first breath, n’ keep them well away from harm,
Watch them grow with great pride, as they run about the grass,
With mothers chasing after them, getting all harassed.

I dunna miss the owd house, with its drafts and rattlin doors,
The Rayburn in the kitchen, and the winding corridors,
Frost inside the window panes, as out a bed ya get,
N’ down ta put the kettle on, forecast’s cowdest yet.

Love it in the new house, with its double glazing feel,
The insulation, n’ central heating,  conna believe it’s real,
Comfort for our owd age, that got to be our pledge,
N’ a little bit of garden, with its well-trimmed privet hedge.

Owd Fred

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The UK Weather and it patterns

The UK Weather and it Patterns

Here in the UK  we have a relatively calm weather patterns, not too cold and not too hot, the same with the wind and rain. I suppose its because we have only a small land mass compared to US and Australia.

I know I'm a bit owd fashion, but I remember my mother always "did" the weather for us at home, and all the family, she could give a "forecast" based on what stage the phase of the moon was at, and watching the house barometer closely. Even into her eighties we could contact her and the first thing was, the weather, and was advised during the summer, when to start hay making or combining and so on, and the prospects for the following week.
From what I learned from her, the weather will set a trend in the first few days of the new moon and that trend will often follow through till the next moon. We have just had a full moon, so it seems the weather, the jet steam is set in place for another couple of weeks.  Come to think of it mother would have never heard of the jet stream or what it does, bless here.

Thats me on the right in  the picture in the snow of 1947 when the roads to the village were blocked solid with drifts, it was all dug out by hand for a mile in both directions.

Whether the weather

Whether the weather, be hot or be cold,
Weather is weather, can’t be bought n’ sold,
Whether the weather, be dry or be wet,
The weather dictates, if you freeze or you sweat.

The signs in the sky, and the phase of the moon,
The tide and the waves, they all call the tune,
We take what it sends, and bow to its power,
A storm and a twister, or just only a shower.

The sun comes to bake, the soil into dust,
Sun gives the warmth, warm the earths crust.
Sucks up water, form clouds gives us rain,
Rains on the earth, n’ begins over again.

Owd Fred

The trouble with weather forecasting is that it's right too often for us to ignore it, and wrong too often for us to rely on it.
Patrick Young

Sunday, 11 January 2015

These spanners could be upwards of a 150 to 200 years old

Its been a while since I wrote a new blog, what with the disruption of retirement and the house move.

Well the first month of retirement is taking a bit of getting used to, its a different routine with no cattle to worry about, in fact this week if we still had cattle we would have had to go through  a second 60 day TB test.
That is a worry that would turn most folks hair gray, not knowing how many cattle will go down as you wait the three days before the test is read.You scour through looking at the growing lumps on the neck on the morning of the vets visit, but until the lumps are measured and the relationship in size between the top lump and the lower one are compared with the chart the vet works from to decide if it is a pass or a fail and in some cases an inconclusive.

The hedge cutting has been going on well, being up to date on the schedule with work in front of me, the only hiccup now is that the rear wheel hub on my tractor has started leaking oil.
I have no doubt that over the years of work it has had to contend with all sorts of rubbish and wire and string  in particular get wound round the bearing and oil seal and eventually gives way and now needs replacing. Its quite a big job the bell housing has got to come off and stripped down to enable a new seal to be installed.

We are still sifting through sorting and burning up things that needed a second look at, as when downsizing like we have, most of the surplus stuff has got to go. To sell if there is a demand or market for it, or to dispose of  to the charity shops, who do a good job of recycling useable goods to folk in need, and the rest to the scrap yard if its iron.

And yes my workshop will not fit our new situation either, there are tools and spanners that came with the different implements when new, old plough spanners, tractor spanners, wheel spanners, and  a set of wheel hub spanners.
Now these wheel hub spanners are by far the oldest I have got, by wheel hubs I mean the wooden wheels that are found on the old farm carts and for that matter on wagons on the wagon trains we see on the old films opening up the USA new frontiers. We have a number of the old brass wheel hub caps about with the name of the makers embossed into the casting, these are polished and on the front room fire surround shelf.
There are five different sizes of these ring hub spanners tied together, I bought them from the wheelwrights sale when he retired thirty five years ago. It just happens that I now live in the wheelwrights house, so these hub cap spanners will have to stay. He would be using them on a regular basis when all the local carts and wagon would be taken to him and his father before him for repair.   These spanners could be upwards of a hundred and fifty to two hundred years old.

This is an old Ransomes  5 in one Plough spanner that came with the big Ransomes Hexatrac plough that I pulled with the County Crawler tractor  
See the outfit here    (Copy and paste this link) 
This is a Bamlet horse drawn mowing machine seat, the mower has long since been sent for scrap, surprising what turns up when these old scrap rucks are turned over.

This is a beam hook that used to be in the old dairy in the house on which the pig would be hung to be gutted and halved and left to set for a week before cutting up

We must beat the iron while it is hot, but we may polish it at leisure.
John Dryden (1631 - 1700)