Tuesday 17 November 2015

Sheep Injured by Hit & Run Driver

A heart-warming incident has just occurred this morning...A young man, a complete stranger, arrived on the yard to ask if we had any sheep up near the main road as there was a sheep out that had been hit by a car.
As it happens we do have some sheep up in that vicinity, however after some further conversation we established that it was not our sheep but was one of the neighbours tack sheep, so the young chap went up to tell them. I was so impressed that this boy had bothered to interrupt his journey to work to try to find out the owners of the injured ewe. As he said, he couldn't just drive on and leave it as had the driver of the car that had hit it. I hope the hit-&-run driver feels badly about what he has done!
(Tack sheep are sheep that are on land that has been let for sheep over the winter, the flock owner pays the land-owner for the period that the sheep are grazing.)

It is another grey and damp morning with more miserable weather to follow I think. The fields are very squidgy and just walking the dogs one slips and slides on shallow slopes. The streams around the farm are running well with the water eddying and swirling over the stones carrying leaves and twigs down and depositing them in small barrages at intervals creating little pools that slow the flow of the water to the main drains.
The wind is very strong, buffeting & blustering through the trees around the farm and howling down the chimneypots. The doors and windows are rattling with ghostly whistles and moans from the wind as it beats about the house. A day for settling by the fire with good book and some knitting that needs to be done by Christmas.

We had our second part of the TB test at the end of last week and were very disappointed to find we had one cow test positive, so we are under restictions for another four months at least.

Monday 9 November 2015

Cow Comfort & TB Testing

The past few months have been very busy with the erection of a new cattle shed and here are our cows all warm and snug in their new quarters. They lie in what are known as 'cow comfort' cubicles which are designed to give each cow as much space and ease for movement as she needs including enough 'lunge' distance for the forward movement of a cow as she prepares to stand up. There is also plenty of room for the cows to wander around and to have easy access to water troughs. The shed is protected from the weather by Yorkshire boarding which is the name given to the evenly spaced boards fixed above the block walls giving plenty of ventilation to avoid condensation in the shed.
Today the Farmer & the Sons had to have all the cows, beef animals and calves on the farm ready for TB testing. Since we went down with Tb back in March all the livestock is now tested every 60 days. The test is given today and then in three days time the vet comes back to see if any of the animals have reacted and if so they will have to go for slaughter. We all hope desperately that we will be clear but there is no way of knowing until the end of the week. If we can have two tests clear then we will regain our TB-free status.

We are enduring hideous weather at present, warm and wet with strong winds. It is much too mild for the time of year and with the persistent rain we are really fed-up with having to wear water-proofs which are very hot and sweaty to work in but essential because of the rain and the mud. Oh, for a good frost!!

Sunday 1 November 2015

Samhain, All Soul's Day Biscuits

The morning after Samhain the valley is swathed in a heavy mist and the ghostly hedges interspersed with spectral trees loomed out of the mist as I trudged across the fields with the dogs who dashed in and out of sight throught the mistiness. Visibility was only a few yards and the fields seemed very empty and isolated.
The autumn colours are superb and now they are just emerging from their thick blanket of mist with a pale sun lighting up the golden leaves.
This is one of the most beautiful times of the year on the farm as we are surrounded by trees and have views across a heavily wooded valley and so we have a gilded landscape as a background to the daily chores.

The pagan festival of Samhain took place last night but today and tomorrow, the 1st & 2nd of November are All Saint's Day & All Soul's Day, two Christian festivals that tried to blot out the ancient pagan beliefs. The yew tree as symbol of everlasting life grows in many churchyards and through recent research it has been found that some of them may be anything up to four thousand years old, pre-dating Christianity and so strengthening the belief that many churches were built on ancient pagan sacred sites. There is a marvellous old yew tree at the ruined Strata Florida abbey near Tregaron in mid-Wales and also at Nevern church in Pembrokeshire.

There was tradition in Wales & elsewhere of making Soul Cakes on 2nd November, All Soul's Day and I found this recipe in a fascinating book 'Kindling the Celtic Spirit' by Mara Freeman;

1/2 tspn mace
1/2 tspn cloves
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn baking soda
1/2 cup milk
1 ounce brandy
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup molasses
21/2 cups flour
11/2 tspn ginger
1 tspn nutmeg

Cream together the butter and sugar, add the eaggs, beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients. Blend in the brandy. Pour the thick batter into 2 greased 13"x9" baking tins and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Cool for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a foil-lined falt surface and using gingerbread man cutters cut out biscuits.