Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Organic Inspection, Red Tractor Assurance


Today we have our Soil Association inspection. This means that our organic integrity is examined with a fine-toothed comb and every minute detail of our farming practice is scrutinised and logged. The Farmer has to produce a paper trail of everything that occurs on the farm from the monthly milk cheque to rodent control. It is right that there should be rigorous checking of all that happens here and on every other farm in the country but every now and then one feels that the nit-picking detail goes a bit far but if it means we have our organic licence renewed for another year then we will co-operate down to the last No Smoking sign and invoice for cattle feed. It is not only the Soil Association certification that is being checked but also our Red Tractor assurance (www.redtractor.org.uk)which is the farm and food assurance scheme that promotes and regulates food quality in the UK...'Traceable, Safe & Farmed with Care'.




Monday, 4 February 2019

Winter Weather, Holiday-makers from Hell. Closure of the Last Bank

During the past few days while parts of the rest of the country have had proper snow fall we have had only heavy frost and an icing-sugar dusting of snow, enough to make the countryside look very pretty but not enough, to the disappointment of our small grand-children, for sledging or building snowmen. The ponds on the farm were all frozen over and one was very cautious walking on icy concrete but apart from that the weather has not had any great imapct on us. Today it is now much milder andwith blue skies and wintry sunshine. In fact we enjoy the cold dry conditions...anything that is not mud is always welcome.

A recent addition to the ameneties we offer with the holiday cottage has been a wood-fired hot tub (see previous posts)and it has proved very popular with our guests since it went in in at the end of last summer. Until now guests have treated it with respect and have used it with practical common sense. However, in the last week we had some less considerate guests who when very drunk abused the facility by burning coal in the stove despite the plentiful supply of logs that we provide, and getting it so hot that the metal fire box has distorted and scorched the wooden panel that separates the fire-box from the sitting area. They also burned any wooden item they could find including the stirrer paddle. Things at some point must have got scarily out of hand and the fire extinguisher & fire blanket provided seem to have been added to the conflagration...all that remains of them are the blackened burnt-out canister of the extinguisher! All this went on at night long after the Farmer & I had gone to bed so we were unaware of this awful activity until the following day. On discovering what had been going on I was speechless! When the perpetrators were confronted with the results of their activities they were very contrite and apologetic and have since replaced the fire extinguisher, the fire blanket and the paddle (with the promise of a replacement fire-box, but on that we will wait and see). Fortunately the fire-box was not as badly damaged as we first thought and is still usable. In the twenty-five or so years that we have been letting the cottage we have never had such a bad scenario (including the state of the cottage itself)...young men away from home with too much drink, a very bad combination.

Last week the one remaining bank in our local,bustling small market town closed it's doors for ever leaving us and many hundreds of other rural people with an almost 30 mile round trip to the nearest bank of any kind. The local community is furious, frustrated and helpless in the face of bureaucratic decisions being made by faceless people in London who have no understanding of how rural communities work and a total disregard for the distances now having to be travelled in order to do our basic banking. No thought has been given to people reliant on limited public transport, older peole who not have the use of a computer for online banking and for all of us who have used the banks on a weekly basis for so many years...apparently one of the reasons given for closure was insufficient footfall. Well, I have rarely been in the bank without having to wait in a queue no matter what day of the week, not just on market day. The town will suffer badly. A butcher acquaintance of ours found that his takings dropped by 40% when all the banks in his village had closed. People will go elswhere to do their banking and by default, their shopping.

Monday, 21 January 2019

January, Brexit

Here we are more than half way through January already and a beautiful frosty morning with the sun glimmering through the mist that veils the valley promising a fine day after several damp grey days that lower the spirits and increase the mud. However, to cheer the soul there are the first snowdrops nodding in the banks under the hedges and even some early daffodils are opening their green-sheathed heads to gleam golden in corners of the gardens and paddocks giving promise of the triumphant displays that we shall enjoy as the year progresses.

With the grandchildren having gone bcack to school the farm has settled back into its usual routine and everyone is busy each morning with the chores of feeding and bedding down the cattle before getting on with much needed jobs such as fencing and keeping up with the supply of firewood. In addition to these essential jobs the Farmer is finding time to build a shepherd's hut for our daughter-in-law who has has decided to replace her canvas-covered gypsy wagon for something that will give a longer letting season. The shepherd's hut will be delightful and alongside the cabin which contains a small kitchen/sitting-room and bathroom gives opportunity for a truly rustic retreat overlooking our beautiful valley(www.oldoakgypsywagon.co.uk).

Out in the wider world we have to endure the shambles that is Brexit. The majority of Britain's farmers voted to leave the EU and now we are going to face some of the biggest challenges to food production in this country since the second world war. Some politicians say that a no-deal Brexit will be a disaster for farming but appparently opinion is divided amongst those MPs with agricutural constituencies. Whatever the outcome of it all we farmers will just keep our heads down and carry on doing what we do best which is producing food in times of uncertainty, in other words carrying on as normal. After all we farmers are very adaptable to circumstances, whether it be being held hostage by the weather or squabbling politicians.