Making tracks

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Not long ago, on the anniversary of D-Day, somebody drew my attention to a photo of one of the beaches. A couple of people were discussing it. I was brought into the conversation because in the photo was an armoured tractor, landed to help pull stuff up the beach, or just to get it out of the way.

As an aside, the mate who brought the picture to my attention and sort of provoked this blog was Will Macmillan Jones. If you enjoy space opera, then you’ll probably enjoy his Space Scout series.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Interstellar-Mercenary-Space-Scout-Macmillan/dp/1093343982

 

Now I was born not all that long after the Second World War. Not only that but I’ve lived all my life on farms and farmers are notorious at not throwing anything out. I remember we used to have a British Steel Helmet, of First World War vintage, which was used to keep nails and bolts in.

On other farms they had a SMLE tucked behind a beam in a hay loft. The SMLE is the Short, Magazine Lee–Enfield, the standard military rifle for two world wars. Whether the home guard never got round to handing them back, or it ended up in the farmer’s hands through other, doubtless nefarious means, the rifle did sterling work shooting foxes; and occasionally rabbits for the pot. Eventually the small stockpile of ammunition was used up, or the rifle got put back in the wrong place and forgotten.

All sorts of stuff ended up on farms. Clothing for example. The army had a serge lined leather jerkin. It was probably developed for the trenches, keeping you as warm as a greatcoat without trailing in the mud. That sort of thing makes it equally valuable on farms and I can remember seeing men wearing them, some from their time in the army in the First World War.

WWI Arifacts

 

And of course there was the machinery. The war was when agriculture in the UK finally turned from the horse to the tractor. Driven by a shortage of men, (and probably horses) because the men had been taken into the army, the end of the war didn’t mean the process stopped. Few men who left the army on demobilisation wanted to go back to farm work. There were jobs in town which paid better, for fewer hours. So mechanisation continued apace.

One of the ironies was that it was the horsemen who were promoted to being tractor drivers. Given that horsemen were often the least mechanically minded people on a farm, this didn’t always work as well as it might have done. But the horse was replaced by the tractor and the horseman had to change. So they did. But I can remember my father’s generation reminiscing about horses they’d worked with thirty or more years ago.

Still tractors were in short supply. Industry had been switched over to tank production, and a lot of civilian tractors had to be imported from the USA. Where was the money to come from?
So farmers being farmers, we just used what was out there. Not just in the UK but all over the world, farmers picked up what was left lying about. And frankly there were an awful lot of tanks out there that nobody had a use for any more. This picture is of an American built M22 Locust light tank. I guess that the picture is taken in the US but I’m only guessing.

M22 locust

But in Australia they also needed the power of the tank. Here is a British build Matilda II tank, converted to be a bulldozer for clearing scrub, so they could bring land into cultivation.

converted Matilda 2 in Australia

 

From the UK I found this video. A Sherman tank, knocked out at El Alamein, was shipped back to Britain. The armour and armament was stripped off and it was put to work.

 

Apparently they did it with First World War tanks as well. Personally I have my doubts as to how effective they would be, they were notoriously mechanically unreliable. On the other hand they would be travelling across level ground and wouldn’t be overloaded with crew and ammunition so perhaps they were OK
https://www.pond5.com/stock-footage/85893004/military-tanks-plow-land-1914-1918.html

 

I remember hearing a farmer who was doing up a Sherman tank. He was born well after the war, so didn’t see the tanks in action. But in one of their big arable fields there was a bit of a bump that was a nuisance when they were ploughing. So he went in with the digger to level it. He was doing it properly. Put the topsoil to one side first. Dig out the subsoil and put the topsoil back, so it’s level and you’ve still got topsoil on top.

Except he’d not got down to level when he hit something metal. At about that time his father wandered out to see what he was up to. Dad explained that it had always been a hole and a damned nuisance. After the war they’d bought two cheap Sherman tanks (with armour and armament still on them) and had used them to plough for a year or two until they couldn’t keep them running. So they drove them both into the hole and covered it up.

So the son dug them both out and looked at them as they sat there. But as his father pointed out, this left a hole that would be a damned nuisance. So they kept the one that was in best condition, pushed the other back into the hole, and it levelled up beautifully.

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There again, there are still some jobs you get left with where armoured support might come in handy,

 

As a reviewer commented, “I always enjoy Jim’s farming stories, as he has a way of telling a tale that is entertaining but informative at the same time. I’ve learned a lot about sheep while reading this book, and always wondered how on earth a sheepdog learns to do what it does – but I know now that a new dog will learn from an old one. There were a few chuckles too, particularly at how Jim dealt with unwanted salespeople. There were a couple of shocks regarding how the price of cattle has decreased over the years, and also sadly how the number of UK dairy farms has dropped from 196,000 in 1950 to about 10,000 now.
Jim has spent his whole life farming and has acquired a wealth of knowledge, some of which he shares in this delightful book.”

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Yeah well, I speak English

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One of the problems I have is that I am a native English speaker. I unaffectedly speak the language like a native. This isn’t an entirely good thing. Many years ago I was youth hostelling around the Outer Hebrides and came across a German lad of my own age. In his penultimate school year, he and his parents had discussed the idea of him attending a summer school in England. The idea was that he would both learn English, and ideally learn some geology, because that was one of his interests.

So they looked for summer schools and discovered that Aberystwyth University had something very suitable. Now his mother was no fool. She knew that Aberystwyth (is it wrong that I’m inordinately proud of being able to spell that correctly without having to look it up.) was in Wales. So she phoned them to discuss the matter. The staff could understand her concerns and assured her that not only would the course be taught in English, but at the summer school most of the students would also be English.

So she booked her son on the course then and there, and that summer he travelled to Aberystwyth to learn geology and to brush up his English. Apparently the course was a good one, he had a whale of a time. One small fly in the ointment was that it seemed that virtually everybody else on the course was from Liverpool. So when I met him I could vouch for the fact he spoke perfect, colloquial English, with a broad scouse accent.

His accent was so bad, (or so good, depending on how you look at it) that when he sat his final exams and had to do the ‘spoken English’ section of his English exam, his German born examiners struggled to understand him. They appear to have wondered whether he was actually bluffing, and couldn’t speak English at all. So they called in an Englishman who was in the city teaching English as a foreign language. He did the verbal part of the exam. After the exam was finished the other masters asked the English chap whether their pupil could speak English. He answered, “Absolutely, he speaks it like a native. Poor sod.”

When I was in my mid-twenties I went with a couple of friends to our local auction mart. One of the friends was from the deep south of the UK, the other was from Leeds. I had a calf to sell and an older farmer from ‘further up,’ came across and asked me about it. To be fair he was a bit broad, and as I talked to him I dropped more and more into dialect. Eventually he’d learned everything he wanted to know and he wandered off. My mate from Leeds commented, “I couldn’t understand him and could just about understand you.” My mate from down south just muttered something about, “Sorry but what language was that.”

About ten years ago I was at a big celebratory church service held in Wales. One of the hymns they wanted to sing was Cwm Rhondda. (Yes technically that’s the name of the tune, the words, in English, are ‘Guide me oh thou Great Jehovah’.) Obviously because of the need to follow the tune and make sense, the English and Welsh versions aren’t entirely faithful translations of each other. That’s fair enough. Also fair enough was the fact that as the Church was in Wales, the organisers were Welsh and at least a proportion of those attending were Welsh, they wanted to sing this hymn in Welsh.

One minor problem is that not even all the Welsh spoke Welsh, but at least they could be relied upon to make a decent stab of the words when they had them written down in front of them. The main issue was what do you do for the English? Well somebody have come up with the bright idea of writing down the Welsh hymn in phonetic English. So if an English person just sang what was written, it would sound close to the Welsh. You know what they say, “Good enough for Government work anyway.”

This was explained to us by the preacher, and as the organ struck up, we psyched ourselves up to sing a string of gibberish syllables. It was as we sang that I noticed an unforeseen issue. What I, and other northerners around me, was singing didn’t sound an awful lot like what some of the other English people were singing, never mind what the Welsh were singing.

Still we’d tried.

On the other hand if I cannot tackle Welsh, how would I be with Zulu? There is a hymn which has come from Southern Africa, Siyahamba. In English the words are, “We are marching to the light of God.” I am assured that in the original Zulu this is “Siyahamb’ ekukhanyeni kwenkos.”

In a desperate attempt to do something with our pronunciation we were told to sing, “Sear a hamster in a white wine sauce.”

I don’t know whether there is a vegetarian option available or not.

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There again what do I know? Read the man who knows what is what!

 

As a reviewer commented, “Jim Webster’s sly wit and broad understanding of human nature makes his work deliciously appealing. The adventures of Tallis Steelyard, and the characters who inhabit his world, are particularly delightful. Tallis and his creator both have a dry, wry and wonderfully playful perspective, and while the tales may seem like a bit-of-fluff entertainment initially, the aftertaste is that of rich wisdom shared with a wink.”

 

 

 

Can you see the woods?

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Looking round, we’re not doing so badly. I’m comparing things to when I was fourteen or fifteen. I can remember seeing my first buzzard. I had to go up to the Inner Hebrides to do it, and we watched it for about twenty minutes. That was as long as it was in sight. Now we’ve got one which will perch on the telegraph pole at the top of the lane, and I see them most weeks.

It’s the same with owls. On Sunday night an owl hit the office window. I went out to rescue it. It was young, barely fledged. So wearing a heavy jacket and fencing gauntlets just in case it didn’t appreciate being rescued I picked it up and set it on a ledge as high up the wall as I could reach. It then proceeded to climb up the drainpipe using its wings like arms! I went back into the house, threw everything I was wearing into the washing machine and had a shower. Bird’s nests and young birds can be bad for fleas and this one was. But we see barn owls and little owls. We’ve got more herons that you can shake a stick at and there are even egrets as well. We’ve more foxes than we need. The other morning I was fetching cows in and heard this strange yowling. Sal had discovered a fox cub. She was circling it warily, dashing in to nip it if she thought its back was turned and she was pulling away if it turned to look at her. I think she was trying to work out what it actually was. It strutted through the meshes in the sheep netting and disappeared.

We’ve also got plenty of badgers. No hedgehogs, but then the more badgers you get, the smaller the number of hedgehogs. And of course we’ve got more deer that we’ve ever had as well.

With regard to birds, the sheer amount of birdsong you hear as you walk down to get cows indicates there’s plenty of them, although I’m not qualified to go into which species.

But all in all there’s far more wildlife than I remember. So one way and another I don’t think we’ve done too badly. Indeed looking around more generally, an increasing number of people are getting regular meals and we’re even managing to increase the wildlife in some places. Farmers are making a reasonable job if it.

But I have to say, the rest of the population haven’t really been pulling their weight. Wander through any city, or look at the litter people tip out of the cars as they drive through the countryside, and it’s obvious things are pretty bad. And then there’s global warming and carbon and whatever.

Actually the whole ‘carbon’ business is remarkably simple. When I was at school we were even taught about the carbon cycle. You breathe it out. Plants take it in, turn it into food, you eat it, and breathe carbon out again. Actually for the purposes of the exercise it doesn’t really matter if you are a person, a bullock or an endangered species.

 

CarbonCycle_Cr Joyce Farms

 

Now there’s the storm over methane. But methane is just part of the carbon cycle. It does back into plants which turn it into food and then it gets eaten. We’re just recycling the carbon or methane that we have in the environment at the moment. Feeding livestock or people won’t, in and of itself lead to an increase in carbon dioxide. The problem is that by burning coal, oil and whatever we’re taking carbon out of storage and are returning it back into the atmosphere.

At the moment the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is about 410 parts per million. Back between 600 and 400 million years ago the level of CO2 was over 6,000ppm. That carbon got locked up by geology. We’ve got the oil, gas and coal to prove it. So when you burn them, you’ll putting ancient carbon back in the atmosphere. It’s not for nothing that they’re known as fossil fuels.

So if you want to stop global warming the first thing you can do is stop flying. Then cut the central heating or aircon. If they’re not solar or wind, (or nuclear) just forget them. Actually you can probably burn wood because it’s just recycling atmospheric carbon as well. But then we need a sense of proportion as well.

In 2017 China produced 10,877.218 Mt CO2/year and their output is increasing. Perhaps by 3% a year.

In 2017 the UK produced 379.150  Mt CO2/year. Our output is falling, by about 2.4% per year.

Let us put this in perspective. If the UK spontaneously ceased to exist, we all just disappeared and the carbon emissions dropped to zero, one year’s increase in Chinese emissions would almost replace us. Rather than worrying about whether you should eat less meat (remember methane is an irrelevance so long as it’s not fossil fuel derived, as it’s a natural part of the carbon cycle) you’ll do more good boycotting Chinese goods until they start making major cuts in their emissions. The web site

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions

 

makes for interesting reading.

 

Indeed it is entirely possible that if we organised protests outside Chinese embassies around the world it might do some good. Provided of course people travelled there by public transport.

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There again, what do I know

 

As a reviewer commented, “This is the third collection of farmer Jim Webster’s anecdotes about his sheep, cattle and dogs. This one had added information on the Lake District’s World Heritage status. This largely depends upon the work of around 200 small family farms. Small may not always be beautiful but it can be jolly important. If you want to know the different skills needed by a sheep dog and a cow dog, or to hear tales of some of the old time travelling sales persons – read on! This is real life, Jim, but not as I know it.”

Organic and artisan!

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In all candour it was not me that spotted the potential market. My daughter pointed out to me that this country now imports Italian nettles. Obvious, post Brexit, the nettle market will collapse, and it was at this point I felt duty bound to step into the breach!
I did my market research and discovered that they are indeed available. For £22.95 you can get a kilo of nettles!
https://www.finefoodspecialist.co.uk/nettles-500g/

 

The problem is that there are ‘nettles’ and ‘nettles’. Take those growing in this picture.

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Well, actually don’t take them, they’re a valuable crop. As you can see, here we have a mixed planting with stitchwort. Even if you don’t pick any of the stitchwort with the nettles, we believe that grown together it adds a number of subtle notes to the flavour of the nettles which you’ll find tickle the cultivated palate. I would recommend that you use these in a risotto which has hints of salmon.

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Obviously some prefer a stronger nettle, with richer more pronounced flavours. I’d recommend these for fritters, ideally served with banana and pork.
Alternatively you might want a younger nettle, grown at a wider spacing, to ensure that each plant is aerated properly. This gives you far more subtle flavours. Also people have described them as ‘bubbly’, and ‘sparkling.’ Surely the perfect pizza topping.

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But then how do you bring them into the kitchen? Obviously the sloppy and careless can just despatch some expendable minion with shears to clip a few plants. But the great Bartolomeo Scappi is said by some to have taken the greatest care. On nights of the full moon he would slip from the arms of his mistress, and wearing only thigh length boots and a dressing gown would forage for his nettles. He would cut them with silver scissors and would carry them home in a silken bag.

Alternatively, Marie-Antoine Carême is said to have insisted that nettles should only be picked in the rain. She shunned bladed implements and instead she would pluck the tips and carry them home in a glass bowl.

 

Anyway I’ve given a lot of thought to the whole business. Nettles are far more complicated than you might think, and it would be far too easy to fall short of the demands of a sophisticated clientele. Thus and so I have decided that the way forward is to bow to the experience of those who know.
Hence, by appointment, we allow ‘pick your own’. You can come and take as many of our organic and artisan nettles as you want. They are thus absolutely fresh, yours for a merely nominal £25 a kilo.

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More uniquely helpful lifestyle advice is available.

As a reviewer wisely commented, “Another excellent compendium of observations from the back of Mr. Webster’s quad bike in which we learn a lot more about sheep, border collies and people. On the whole, I think the collies come out of it best. If you fancy being educated on the ways of the world, with a gentle humour and a nice line in well observed philosophy, you could do a lot worse than this.”

Every so often they let me travel

You know what it is, every so often somebody leaves the door unbolted, and before they know it, I’m away.

Actually with me it’s more a case of every so often people remember me and ask me to come down to London for a meeting. Therefore my aim is to ensure that I attend the meetings and then get to view the finest sight in London. This is a Virgin Pendolino destined for Glasgow. Best viewed from the inside of Coach B as it pulls out of Euston.

Still I got to London and had to stay overnight, so got to mooch about and discover various things. One was Golden Turmeric Latte. Who ever knew it was even a thing? I confess to not actually trying it, the sign was outside a coffee shop rather more exclusive than I am. Still, it’s good to know that London, apparently the one place in the country which is qualified to tell the rest of us how to live, has got its priorities right. Everybody, apparently, needs their golden turmeric latte.

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But anyway I was walking back across Lincoln’s Inn Fields. I remember walking that way about five years ago (might be a little longer) and there was somebody from Pret a Manger giving out free sandwiches etc. The company has a proud tradition of not throwing food away but instead give it to the homeless etc. As an aside I’d mention Greggs as another company who are stalwart supporters of foodbanks and others. But anyway back then this chap from Pret was feeding about a score of people.

As I walked across Lincoln’s Inn Fields there were a lot of obviously homeless or destitute people. There was a stall already set up with sandwiches and suchlike, and I stopped to talk to the person in charge. Apparently now they can feed 240 people a night.

Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ”Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you?”

Indeed as I walked round the city, just keeping my eyes open you’d see the tents.

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Now I suppose we can blame austerity, or the wicked tories, or whoever you like. But fifty yards from the feeding station at Lincoln’s Inn I noted a bar with an awful lot of well-dressed people spilling out onto the pavement, very few of them clubbing together to buy a half pint of shandy with four straws. Indeed walking along the South Bank I noticed one bar advertising beer and lager at £5.90 a pint. Admittedly I cannot comment on the quality because I never bought any, but enough people were doing.

When did we ever see you thirsty and give you a drink? 

Once you’ve had anything to do with the Homeless or foodbanks, you’ll recognise the tents, even the occasional encampments. They’re the sort of tent handed out to the homeless by local authorities with no other housing options. Normally only to single males.

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Should you talk to any of these people, the first thing you’ll notice is the high proportion of mental illness, sometimes diagnosed, sometimes perhaps not. Some have done time, some are ex-servicemen. Has it been decided that spending plenty of time out in the fresh air is the best way to help these people?

And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 

Still, it must be awful when nobody has any money to help, because of austerity and the wickedness and greed of ‘them.’ (Never us, always ‘them’.)
And as I crossed the Millennium Bridge there were people working on it. They’re going to have the ‘Illuminated River’ as an art project. They’re starting on the first four London bridges but they hope to extend it to fifteen. Apparently it’s going to cost £3 million pounds a bridge.

https://londonist.com/london/news/illuminated-river-thames-london-bridges-where-when-which

I wonder how many cheap one man tents and Pret sandwiches London could buy for the homeless and destitute of their city, for that sort of money? How about an art project which produced a city where you didn’t have people forced to camp under bridges and actually got treatment for their mental health problems?

Then the King will say, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”

But then for that to happen, I suppose people would have to actually care enough to do something. Obviously some people do, but it strikes me that you’ll find them handing out food at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and not in City Hall or Westminster. It’s enough to make you weep into your overpriced Golden Turmeric Latte.

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What do I know?
You might as well ask the dog

As a reviewer commented, “This is a delightful collection of gentle rants and witty reminiscences about life in a quiet corner of South Cumbria. Lots of sheep, cattle and collie dogs, but also wisdom, poetic insight, and humour. It was James Herriot who told us that ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet’ but Jim Webster beautifully demonstrates that it usually happened to the farmer too, but far less money changed hands.

I, for one, am hoping that this short collection of blogs finds a wide and generous audience – not least because I’m sure there’s more where this came from. And at 99p you can’t go wrong!”

On the road

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Today was one of those days when I just escaped. I put a couple of butties and a bottle of water in a bag and just set off. The weather, which has been pretty cold and grim for the last week or so, finally broke, and it was glorious sunshine.

It was one of those days when I set off, not entirely sure where I intended to go. But I knew I did have to call in at a shop in town to drop something off. So that was the first part of the journey, the hour walk into town. Once there I decided I’d hit the path that runs up the side of the channel, and then perhaps swing in a wide circle east around the north of the town, and perhaps down through the Abbey. Instead as I walked along the channelside path, I noticed that the tide was right out. So then and there I decided I was going to cross the ford to the island of Walney. For those who don’t know it, Walney is eleven miles long, a mile wide and has a population of about 10,700. They’re connected to the mainland by one bridge, and there are a couple of places you can cross at low tide.

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I’d always intended to try the ford and today was the day. Once on the island, the north end has an airport and a nature reserve. The airport is an old wartime aerodrome, bits of which have been modernised and kept in use. So I walked north around the island, avoiding the airport. Even on the beach the scent of the gorse was almost overwhelming. It’s not a long walk to cross the island and looking north you can see Black Combe, Millom, and the Lake District.

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One thing the airfield does is launch gliders. I was there when the ‘tug’ took off, pulling a glider behind it. The tug is a single-engined plane which literally pulls the glider up into the sky, then at the appropriate height releases it. The plane goes back down and the glider frolics a bit, until gravity eventually loses patience and the glider has to come down as well.

Nearly forty years ago my father and I were laying concrete and my mother came out to pass on a message. She was struggling to stop laughing. Apparently there she had just taken a phone call.

“Hello, is Jim there.”

“Yes.”
“Could I speak to him please.”
“I’m sorry, he’s laying concrete, could he phone you back later?” (This is the sort of thing we did in civilised times before mobile phones)
“Well we were wondering when he’ll get here, we need him to fly the tug.”

At this point the conversation apparently got surreal, as to my Mother a tug (as a noun rather than an action) is a boat, and I’m not nautical. Not only that but the person at the other end was insistent that I was the pilot and I was going to fly a single-engined aircraft and pull a glider. My mother begged leave to doubt this. Eventually she realised it wasn’t somebody who knew me and who was trying to wind her up, but a genuine wrong number and matters were resolved. But I never did get to fly the tug.
But anyway the beach was quiet, a handful of people walking dogs and small children, and the kite surfers had the water to themselves.

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Finally, because the tide was in, I left the island over the bridge. Looking north towards the Lakeland hills you can see the channel where I walked dry shod, now full.

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And from the bridge, looking south, the reason for Barrow’s existence. The channel heading south past the various buildings of the shipyard

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If you like travel, exploring strange places and meeting strange people, but want to do it with your feet up as you relax, you might enjoy this 🙂

 

As a reviewer said, “When a story starts with the words ‘There are safe ways to kill an Urlan. No, let me rephrase that, there are ways to kill an Urlan that do not lead to their kindred hunting you down like a rabid dog’, you KNOW it’s going to be a classic Jim Webster tale.
True to form, this is indeed a great yarn, worthy of being sung about at feasts in Medieval, or, Valhalla-like, halls.”

Child minding?

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It has to be said that Sal, for all her many excellent points, is not the dog that old Jess was. For those of you who know your Terry Pratchett, Jess worked on the Granny Weatherwax principle of, ‘If you haven’t got respect, you’ve got nothing.’ Thus I’d go so far as to say that every animal on the farm knew that Jess was in charge. Indeed I suspect that there’s another Granny Weatherwax quote that suited her. “She’d never mastered the talent for apologizing, but she appreciated it in other people.”

Sal on the other hand is a dog who is distinctly less dominant. In fact there are times when she seems noticeably nervous. She has no problem with sheep in the normal run of things. She has the sort of canine profile which every sheep recognises. Indeed judging from their attitude to her, she fits somewhere into the wolf category. So they treat her with a reserved respect.

When it comes to ewes with young lambs, all bets are off and the ewes regard her as a serious threat. Thus they treat her with a truculence that Sal seems to find somewhat hurtful. It’s one thing when the ewe stamps her foot at you and glares; when you are merely going about your business attempting to move sheep. But it’s a very low blow when you are just bimbling about minding your own business and a ewe comes thundering in from stage left with her head lowered.

Then there is the cattle problem. Sal was introduced to cattle after several years of working with sheep. She wasn’t actually called upon to work with cattle, it was winter and they were just in pens around the yard. So she would just go into the pens as part of her normal ‘making sure everything is as it should be’ patrols. The cattle would regard her with interest, I’ve seen her standing there with heifers clustered round her, sniffing her.

This is excellent for community relations, but it isn’t good for discipline. So on the occasions when Sal has been called upon to work with cattle, they often ignore her. Or alternatively they walk across to renew the acquaintanceship. Still provided she doesn’t get in the way they’re perfectly happy to walk quietly home and let her drift along behind them giving the impression that she’s in charge.

Except that the other day, one cow, wandering along at the back, suddenly looked up, saw Sal and for some reason this irritated her. So she put her head down and lumbered towards Sal who decided that discretion was the better part of valour and swiftly left. Had the shade of old Jess been watching at that point, she would be shaking her head in disbelief! In Jess’s day the cow wouldn’t even have considered that course of action. Strange cattle who didn’t know her were given a brisk lesson in courtesy.

But yesterday Sal met her first toddler. The toddler was utterly smitten with Sal, and Sal seemed entirely delighted by the toddler. The toddler wanted to play with Sal, and Sal seemed entirely happy to play with the toddler.

Now obviously I was a little nervous. Even when playing, a dog could give to the child a painful nip, even if it didn’t draw blood. Hence I was watching this like a hawk. The toddler would creep up behind Sal, shout boo, and run off shouting nerr nerr nerr nerr. Sal would dance after him, and overtake him. They played together happily for nearly an hour as mum, grandma and I walked round the estate. At one point the toddler was referring to Sal as ‘my dog’.

I wonder if it’s worth registering Sal as a child minder?

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Then what do I know? Ask the dog…..

As a reviewer commented, “I always enjoy Jim’s farming stories, as he has a way of telling a tale that is entertaining but informative at the same time. I’ve learned a lot about sheep while reading this book, and always wondered how on earth a sheepdog learns to do what it does – but I know now that a new dog will learn from an old one. There were a few chuckles too, particularly at how Jim dealt with unwanted salespeople. There were a couple of shocks regarding how the price of cattle has decreased over the years, and also sadly how the number of UK dairy farms has dropped from 196,000 in 1950 to about 10,000 now.
Jim has spent his whole life farming and has acquired a wealth of knowledge, some of which he shares in this delightful book.”