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.
The livery yard has been really busy with high demand as we go towards Autumn. We have some new horses coming to the yard. I really want to improve our fencing over the winter. We still have plenty of grass and the paddocks are in lovely condition.
On a sad note we lost a farming friend in an ‘on farm’ accident. Farming currently employs less than 1% of the working population but it is responsible for 25% of the work-place deaths. This has GOT to stop! I think if you had women keeping an eye on safety this situation would improve. I drum safety into our apprentice and helpers and woe betide anybody who doesn’t listen (including Mike). We feel so sad and our thoughts are with his family. How can anybody so vibrant and full of life have gone?
Now it is rare that I discuss my children’s achievements in public as we are, after all, British and think it may ‘go to their heads’. However, I am so proud of Rufus and Poppy. We had 472 bales on the deck and rain forecast, all our usual helpers were on holiday, at shows or ill. They both ‘stepped up to the mark’ and by midnight the trailers were full and backed into the barn ahead of the rain. Poppy took to the ‘flat eight grab’ on the load-all like an old hand and has now declared it to be her favourite job.
It’s great to follow some of our old livery clients. Alex Holman-Marshall in particular who left us to do an apprenticeship in Devon on an eventing yard seems to be getting on really well.
We have had a clear TB test which is a massive relief. I mainly dread the bull failing but any fail is awful. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife on TB test day, we all have to apologise to each other at tea time as sometimes we (ok, me mostly!) have been known to use bad language. I am not proud of this but the lovely vet understands and said she had seen/heard worse…..God knows where she has been, I dread to think?!
The holiday cottage was used as a music studio for one week. Talking of music, at the time of writing this we have half an empty calf shed because of Glastonbury Rock Festival. Our calves are coming from the farm next door to Glasto and there is some sort of issue with access. Michael Eavis is a legend, not only for Glastonbury but he has one of the top performing dairy herds in the UK. Don’t think he was too popular with neighbours in the early days either. Diversification is part and parcel of many farms these days. Some of us have a livery yard, and others super cool rock festivals.
We have had a wonderful work experience lad, Will Smith join us this week. He has been fantastic, what a worker! We have not put him off farming….yet. I am sure he will have a great future; he is a much better tractor driver than me (not difficult!) I was worried about the legal hours working and ‘tried’ to send him home but he refused until the job was completed. Will has done lots of tasks; least keen was the castration of bull calves. The conversation went:
Will “Do you really need me or shall I carry with this job?” (Loading wood)
Me: “Yes Will, we really need you”.
Will: “Lots to do here still”
Me: ”It’s the very pretty young vet”.
Will “OK then”
Note here: The vet is very pretty but did a darned professional job and took the time to explain procedure to Will who is learning. I love it when experienced people take time to explain to students.
We broke the record for number of people in our little kitchen last week, I brought out every spare chair and then thought I would have to sit on Mike’s lap (he found another chair…..strange that!). I was quite worried about the rickety floor boards holding up with the combined weight. It would be a disaster if our lovely 1980’s (falling apart) kitchen crashed through into the foundations. In true farming style every penny goes into the business so fencing/cattle equipment/tractor repairs come before a new kitchen. One day there will be a peasant’s revolt that will make the Tollpuddle martyrs look lightweight, my only demand…a new kitchen. Watch this space.
If you want to see some short video clips of us farming just go to Longhope Livery or Fiona Caspersen Facebook page/s.
We had a lovely day with the reception class of Hope Brook School. They behaved perfectly and loved the jumping demonstration by Charlotte (who made it look effortless as always!). Before long the children cheered each time he jumped clear and went “oooh” when he clipped a pole. The horse, ‘Little Man’, was brilliant and seemed totally unaffected by the mob. Bud demonstrated how to round up cattle and they all had tea on the lawn sitting on straw bales which we later turned into a bale tunnel. Thank you Charlotte and Armstrong Equine team, Luke and Poppy for helping make the visit fun and safe.
Roy our digger driver was full of encouragement muttering that “if the wind picks up now we’ve had it”. Suddenly putting a king size duvet cover on doesn’t scare me anymore.
Livery yard full up with such lovely people, barbecue planned soon. Horse rugs are on and off more times than election promises. This overnight rain is great, just what we needed.
The apple blossom looks beautiful; in fact the whole farm looks beautiful. The woods are carpeted with bluebells. I have asked Mike for a mower for my birthday…..when did I become middle aged?
The new arena surface is approved by our livery clients and Armstrong Equine. Our new venture of arena construction is proving popular. We have joined forces with Roy (understands drainage and levels) Pemberton and Richard (world’s best fencer) Clayson. We couldn't ask for better people to work with.
We have a lovely family in the cottage. Parents from Devon, son and family from Nottingham, I love the fact we seem to attract big family groups. We will be taking shooting parties during the winter months alongside our other guests.