Monday 20 February 2017

Spring, String Quartet Rehearsal, Barren Cows to Abattoir

Spring is definitely on her way, the first daffodils are opening and the snowdrops are appearing in their multitudes in the old garden and along the hedgebanks. It is very mild now after the biting cold of last week and life is stirring in the buds appearing on shrubs and catkins are hanging on the hazels and some of my rambler roses are putting forth tiny russet leaves. Frog spawn is to be found in odd places near water and every now and then a pair of mallard are to be seen on one of the ponds checking it out for good nesting sites.

Today we are hosting the practice session for the Farmer's string quartet so the old house is resonating to the strains of Haydn and Vivaldi. They played solidly for two hours before lunch and are now settled in for the afternoon. Obviously,
thick golden squash soup and sourdough wholemeal bread is good fuel for musicians. The classical repertoire makes a pleasing change from the more frequently heard Welsh folk dance music. The Farmer plays violin and we have a cellist, a viola player and a second violinist here, all working very hard. A good way of passing a dreich, damp February afternoon.

Despite the music-making some farming was done this morning in that a lorry came to take some barren cows away. It is something we all hate doing , loading cattle onto a lorry heading for the abattoir, especially when they are time-served dairy cows who have given us years of milk production, but a time comes when they have to make way for the younger replacement heifers who are at the start of their milking lives, so we have to harden our hearts and send the old girls off. It is never done easily.

Friday 3 February 2017

Wild Weather, Cows in Calf, Spring Stirs

After a very wild night of fierce winds and rain the farm is littered with small branches and twigs wrenched from their trees but so far I have not seen any major boughs brought down or any damage to roofs. The drive has been washed clean by the running water caused by the heavy rain and the streams are tumbling in miniature Niagaras sweeping accummulations of leaves before them. The leaves then pile up in dams and have to be poked away with sticks or feet to ease the flow...a play/job that the grandchildren love. There is something very satisfying about seeing a pile of leaves go rushing away when a lagoon of water is released!

Two days ago the vet came to PD the cows (check whether they are in calf or not) and all but 2 will calve down next autumn which is a good result. We have been making use of an artificial insemination service and we also have a bull of our own. He is a Hereford who came to the farm only a few weeks ago. He replaces a rather fiercesome Frisian bull who we had had here for couple of years but as is the way of these things he needed to be changed as the time was coming that he would be serving his own daughters...not good. So we now have this handsome Hereford fellow who is of a much gentler temperament and unrelated to any of our cows.

Spring seems to be creeping ever closer with the increasing show of snowdrops especially down the length of the drive and daffodils shooting up in their green spears through undergrowth all around the gardens. There are catkins blowing in the breeze on the hazel bushes and tiny buds developing on trees and shrubs though there is still a long way to go before the hedgerows start greening up. The ash trees stand stark with their inky-tipped fingers reaching up to the sky. The little birds, the sparrows, tits and finches are very busy chattering away in the hedges and up in the high sky the jackdaws toss and tumble in the wind while the occasional buzzard or red kite floats casually past. Thrushes and blackbirds are heard carolling in rehearsal for the great mating choruses that will fill the air before too long. Talking of mating I heard a vixen calling across the valley the other night, a strange and ancient sound which when heard with an echo of owls is as of something out of a Gothic novel.