This summer has been memorable, not least for our wonderful team of helpers. Will, Pepe, Jorge and Andy (plus Carles soon) all are amazing. Each of them has brought something interesting and a new perspective on life, which, when you are tied to the land as we are, brings the world to us. When each one of them left, I cried, the children rolled their eyes and said “Oh mum, not again!” It was like having another son each time…. who was polite. (Please take note biological offspring).
We have a lovely new horse called Charlie who has arrived at the yard. It took him just one day to associate me with ‘food’. Every horse that I help out with associates me with food so, as soon as they see me they see me I get ‘the stare’ and am made to feel guilty if I have nothing for them. Food provider is my main role with livestock, horses, family, friends and if you count the cream tea, holiday guests. I feel as if my whole life is spent shovelling food at animals or people.
Here we are in October, pumpkins at the ready, harvest in and crops planted ready for 2017, harvest festival behind us. I love the rhythms of the farming year; there are never ever two days the same in my job. Even if the tasks are broadly similar, the weather rarely is. At least now harvest is finished Mike will stop his verbal abuse of weather forecasters and respite from OCD checking several weather sites throughout the day using every available bit of technology, only to have him declare “Might as ***** well have relied on a ****** pine cone or bit of **** seaweed” (any additional words have been omitted to spare those of a delicate nature).
Thanks to Stuart and Johnny our little old vintage tractor made it once more to the Speech House Vintage Show. I took Jorge our Spanish workaway to show him a typical English tradition (well….in its fourth year in this case). We also went to the Dean Heritage Centre which was excellent, well worth a visit; I loved the wooden carved Gruffalo.
We went to the wonderful wedding of Hannah and Rob. Hannah was at the yard several years ago, it’s so nice to keep in contact with our old livery clients. We were honoured to be invited and had a great time.
Andy from Alabama, USA has taken some great photographs. Many of these are his, so thank you Andy. We also have a lot of our winter wood sawed up, at last I feel that I have made some progress.
The progress on the laminate floor at the holiday cottage is another story. When I purchased some beautiful Chestnut boards I was assured if I didn’t have enough they would be easy to get from B&Q (and other retailers)….alas only if ordered ahead! I was a tiny bit short (my disastrous measuring again). If there is such a thing as ‘incurable measuring dyslexia’ I have it. It WILL look great when it is finished. Meanwhile the guests have seen the funny side of the carpet being back on top.
We are virtually solidly booked in the cottage and hardly have a day spare to do repairs/maintenance. I am not complaining and need those bookings. The Forest of Dean it seems is becoming a real destination. When we go out for the day with our workaways I see the Forest as a tourist. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place. As I write this I can hear Andy, who has such a wonderful and committed faith, saying “amen to that”.
Will seems to have taken it upon himself to ensure Jorge has the benefit of all the English language including words that would not appear in the Standard English dictionary. This is possible with the use of google translate on the mobiles and seems to keep them amused for ages (I am getting old!!).
All is well with the holiday cottage except for our ‘musical shower’. It sounds like an orchestra tuning up as loudly and as badly as possible. I have had the plumber look at it, tried running water through with shower head lowered, taken it all apart but all to no avail. Does anybody have any good ideas? I may change the shower head and see if that helps, then there is always my good friend Google and YouTube. Anybody over 50 will remember the reference library; anybody under 50 will laugh in disbelief at the very idea of walking into town to gather facts, figures or information. Not that the reference library would have the answer to a musical shower, in fact there were no showers, plus baths were once a week, usually on a Sunday night. Those were the (smelly) days.
Giuseppe has fitted in really well with the family and none of us want him to leave, especially Bud who waits for him to come to the house each day, then follows him around like a shadow. I keep telling Pepe that this is not a normal English Summer but I am not sure he believes me….or I believe it myself come to that. (Soaked then cooked).
We are hoping to do a lot of tree planting soon; there are awkward corners in some fields that would benefit. I am quite alarmed at the number of dead or dying oak trees around.
Welcome to the Wicks family who are our new neighbours. We all hope you will be very happy in Longhope; it’s a great place to live.
I am beginning to wonder if we will EVER get the barn renovated. It’s such a beautiful building.
What a sodding month! I am normally a fully paid up member of the polite society but last weekend we had a phone call from our neighbour at 8.30am to say our cattle had escaped through the hedge and onto his land. This was bad news indeed. We quickly grabbed all equipment required (dog, stick, Beth our weekend helper and feed for bribe…for cattle, not Beth) and headed down the drive.
We managed to manoeuvre cattle to gateway and hold them there but just as we tentatively drove them onto the village road to trot the 50 ft. back to the farm drive (past the church and a beautiful cottage garden…please God don’t let them go in there!) the church bells started to peel. Until now I have never noticed that the decibel level of church bells would compete with a Motorhead concert! All cattle high tailed it back into (neighbour’s) field. We waited….and waited and waited ‘bong, bong, bong’ until the church bells stopped. After 5 minutes we encouraged the reluctant beasties on the village road then, campanologists revived from their break started again ‘BONG, BONG, bloody BONG’. All cattle high tailed it back to (neighbour’s) field for a second time.
Eventually after what seemed like an eternity we got the cattle out onto road, and took them carefully past the cars belonging to the good souls of the village. One chap with a shiny white car decided he could squeeze past, so we had to frantically wave a load of bloody great beef animals away from his vehicle. Bud the sheep dog & I were ‘bringing up the rear’ and as we went passed ‘Mr Grumpy’ he said “Your cattle better not have damaged my car” to which I replied “OH SHUT UP!” (Fairly restrained considering the situation).
This was not my finest hour and probably did nothing for diplomatic relations. His car was fine; cattle were fine, only minimal damage to our holiday cottage lawn and my nervous disposition. The guests thought this was the funniest thing they’d seen in ages/highlight of holiday. Note to all …please just allow us to get past with cattle and be patient.
What humbled me was just how understanding and helpful others were. Passing walkers assisted (they confusingly had a black Labrador also called Bud who couldn’t understand why I was demanding ‘down and hold’) and several others who were brilliant including neighbours and our livery ladies. Victoria was strolling down the drive when two dozen beef animals came charging towards her like a scene from the Wild West. She sensibly opened the nearest gate, mainly for self-preservation which happened to be the correct one!
Next problem: We had a calf born in the wrong place to the wrong animal at the wrong time. How, why? Both mother and baby doing fine now (Mike & I confused and bewildered which is fairly normal). The ‘daddy’ was only in there for a short while. I unhelpfully pointed out to the teenage children “take note: see how easily this can happen” Quick revision of the ‘facts of life’ farmer style. My helpful advice was greeted with grunts, groans and a rolling of eyes.
The weather has been challenging, no idea what to do with horses/rugs. One poor injured horse that needed to be out (but not get his bandages wet) became dizzy. In one day I would swear we had every weather condition on offer….rain, sun, wind, hail, snow.
So…after all the doom and gloom there is a highlight. My holiday cottage has a ‘customer’s choice’ certificate as we consistently scored over 9.5 on our reviews. I couldn’t be outdone with Mike and his spraying certificate. Go oldies!
Nye’s supposed to be doing a radio interview with a bit of live music some time over the next month. I dare not ask when/where in case I am once again accused of stalking him. Other parents ‘show an interest’ in their offspring’s achievements….me….I stalk apparently!
I don’t have many gaps in the holiday cottage bookings. However, if you see one just a week or so ahead and want to be spontaneous, make me an offer and get a fantastic bargain (see cottage page/booking calendar) This only applies to last minute bookings but I would rather have someone enjoying a break. Surely that is one of the joys of retirement; you are flexible (maybe not so much physically but time wise). A group of six or seven friends could club together and have a great time for a bargain price.
For once I am ahead of the game in following Government policy. I forgot the sugar in the raspberry and white chocolate muffins for the holiday cottage guests. They were either too polite (being English) to say or didn’t notice. Mike treats sugar as if it is poisonous so didn’t comment when eating one of what we refer to as ‘the ugly ones’ that are not aesthetically pleasing, bit like wonky veg in supermarket. I once offered Mike a chocolate before 6.00 pm….you’d think from his reaction I had offered crack cocaine (while watching Antiques roadshow).
We have had a spate of injured horses in the yard which we hope will make full recoveries soon. This sort of stuff is not uncommon; a slight twist in wrong direction on wet ground can be serious. It’s so tempting to put stock out too early and damage themselves and the paddocks. We are keeping cows/cattle in until it is properly dry. Paddock management is a real art which in fairness most have grasped really well. In part this may be down to the annual ‘Paddock management competition’ which means the winner has £50 off the livery invoice.
Right now I should be doing invoicing and the dreaded accounts but as Mike has ‘escaped’ back onto the farm under pretext of some emergency (yeah right?) and I decided I would rather be writing. Keeping Mike in the office is like hanging onto a lit firework.
The holiday cottage is booking up fast for the next few months. I have a three day gap at end of April if anybody is interested? I took a booking for five men who were going to Cheltenham races. As soon as I had done it I had doubts. Well I have to say, they left the cottage immaculate, everything in place, clean, tidy and a little gift to say thank you. But despite being policemen they didn’t find the chocolate orange. One of my helpers said “wow….are they all married? I want one like that”.
Nye’s album came out and (he will hate me for saying this) I am very proud of him. Nye James Music: Careworn: The Hill.
Have started to ‘dip my toe’ into equine holidays. I put an advert out and had a lot of interest but not a firm booking. In part that was probably because the only days I have free are at the end of April so it’s very short notice if somebody has to take time off work. If anybody is interested in a holiday please do not hesitate to contact me.
I love my diverse life. Every day is different.
A typical day for me is something like this:-
- Get up, do all the necessary to get children to busses on time (Sometimes a raised voice or a boot up the arse involved) and the day planned. Rayburn lit, washing on etc.
- Make a start on the (already late!) accounts.
- Go out and play with the horses for an hour or so (feed, turn out/muck out).
- Come back in and try to get on with accounts….until 5 minutes later everybody comes in for coffee. Mike thinks if you don’t sweat it’s not real work.
- Try to get back to (not real work) accounts but needed on farm. This conversation starts with “could you just”. Minutes becomes hours playing with moo moos or some such farm thing.
- Try to get back to accounts. Phone rings. Somebody comes to door (most likely on Friday to mop up excess cream tea over from holiday cottage bake).
- Try to get back to accounts. Look at the time….horses come back in.
- Try to lock myself in office but family get concerned (concerned that tea is not made and their access to computer blocked). Somehow get ‘talked’ out of office. Make low fat, low cholesterol, high fibre, tasty meal as per food tech (used to be called cookery) at school. Dam them and their healthy eating education, what’s wrong with frozen pizza?
- Sod the accounts….tomorrow is another day.
- Fall asleep on the settee and snore in most unattractive fashion.
Much debate in our house at present as to whether we invest in a new building for farm (hopefully making money) or a new roof on house (no capital return but necessary). I’m not one for scare tactics but have advised Mike to always wear pyjamas to bed, then if the roof caves in at least when the emergency services pull us (or our bodies) out from the rotten timbers we will be respectable.
James is back to help us out for a few days a week. This is brilliant, I felt as if a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders. So far he and Mike have not had too many rows even though Mike forgets that James is now a ‘proper grown up’ and not 17 (those were the days!). They don’t know it but even when they do argue it sounds like a Monty Python sketch. The funniest was when Mike threatened to dock £10 from an 18 year old James’s wage for going to the loo at the wrong time. Meanwhile I sat back and laughed until I had tears pouring down my cheeks which probably didn’t help matters.
The one thing I wish is that I had more time, especially for family and friends. Maybe this year I will take on some more help instead of doing my permanent ‘headless chicken impression’. My problem is, apart from the office work, that I really enjoy just about everything. The office would require such a massive sort out before help could be arranged, I would need to do the equivalent of ‘cleaning before the cleaner arrives’. Plus the fact Rufus (youngest son) casually wandered into the kitchen the other day, poured a glass of milk and mentioned in passing that “the office ceiling has fallen in” makes any form of paid help impossible as it would involve ‘danger money’ and a hard hat. (I did hear a rumble but thought it came from the yard). Who could be expected to work in such work conditions?
Loved having Dinny and Torney here as full boards while their family moved into area on 22nd December (yes you read that right!) moved house three days before Christmas! To think when I moved to the farm I said I would do ANYTHING on the farm but I was not going near a horse. Now I absolutely love these kind and gentle animals and will do anything that the owners ask. My attitude it they know their own horses best, I so not consider myself an expert but I am learning new stuff every day.
My first guest found the hidden chocolate orange in the cottage. He left a little note saying “thirty years in the police force were not wasted”. (Cannot divulge where it is hidden).
Lastly without wishing to sound too much like an Oscar winner I would like to thank all my lovely guests and helpers on the farm/cottage/livery. What a team, we are blessed.
Best of luck to all in 2016.
Charlotte’s eventing horse, Fable, has been to Newmarket for a major operation. He is doing really well and having more visitors than the Pope. We are all keeping our fingers crossed that he will make a full recovery. They have lovely new field shelter for his convalescence.
Clear TB test (couple inconclusive which we can live with). The powers that be have decided to reduce/eliminate quarantine units such as ours. This begs the question where do the male calves go from dairy herds with TB? At a time when the dairy farmers are having such a hard time is this a good woodland on the farm move? Sorry to be political/moaning farmer but I really feel this needs to be thought through.
Have just turned to October on my George Clooney calendar, I cannot believe how quickly this year is flying past. Farming makes you so aware of seasons; Harvest festival time already. We now have the barley field ploughed and Mike is drilling as I type. I love the huge harvest moon and even managed to get up at 3.00 am to see the lunar eclipse (then was overtired and grumpy next day!) but glad I did. Decided that as I would be old/not here for next one it was worth the effort. The rest of the family declined my wake up call …I would love to add ‘with thanks’ but that would be a lie!
I am thinking of getting a hot tub for the cottage when funds permit. Sharon (my right hand woman with aspirations to be a hotel inspector) and I will have to test it occasionally to ensure all is in working order. I have been told it is very desirable in a holiday let, what do you think?
Armstrong Equine had a terrible upset with Fable, Charlotte’s eventing horse, going lame. We were all so proud of her going to Gatcombe and a mention in Horse & Hound. Fable came here as a foal, it’s so sad.
My son Nye did a modification for an on-line game (hope he doesn’t read this as I don’t understand it at all!) but he had 750,000 people worldwide using it at its height. Just as I was planning to demolish the farmhouse and replace it with a castle (plus reminding him who gave him the gift of life (full emotional blackmail) he informed me that it was not paid.
A lovely family in the holiday cottage were in the middle of watching the rugby (England v Wales?) when the TV died. Considering the disappointment I was amazed at how understanding they were. I did a mercy dash to replace it, but alas too late, the game was over.
When I relayed this story to our ‘rugby mad’ apprentice he made a face as if I had run over his dog, equaled only by the face he made when I told him I fell asleep during a James Bond film.