‘The beck is blocked.’

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Now things are starting to unravel at speed. Looking at livestock, which is what I know best, sheep prices have tanked. In simple terms because like us the French and the rest of our customers are locked down, they’re not dining out and the amount of lamb they’re eating has dropped.

Beef is the same. Butchers are struggling to shift the better hindquarter cuts, the steaks and roasts. This is because a lot of people eat them, but they eat them in carveries and other catering outlets.

Milk is in deep trouble. The big hit comes from Costa and the other cafes closing. In this town, one not especially large coffee shop used 50 litres of (cows’) milk a day. I know some of their customers and contacted some of them. They’re drinking the same amount of coffee but they’re not having the number of lattes they used to.

Obviously there are other factors causing the dislocation, people with stockpiles of milk in their freezer, people who cannot get out to buy milk, and all these things are bouncing off each other making things worse.

The spot price for milk was running at 30p a litre before places like Costa were closed. It then dropped sharply to 15ppl. I heard today prices at 5ppl and 10ppl. Apparently skimmed milk powder and skimmed milk are being poured into anaerobic digesters.

To quote Ian Potter, who knows a fair bit more about this side of things than I do,

 

“Processors cash flow budgets have been blown up and whilst some are clearly very worried over long term farm supply base, they either take mitigation steps in conjunction with their farmers or risk shutting up shop. Most liquid processors Ian has spoken to are having to ditch the code one-month price movement notice period and review the situation almost on a daily basis with several stating “I am working to avoid the Freshways approach”. For sure, sadly some businesses will be casualties.”

 

” This will have very serious long-term consequences and it is starting to feel very painful and time to buckle up and sadly for some it won’t be a case of can I find a new milk purchaser, more can I find a buyer for my cows.”

 

Another issue is that apparently a lot of companies are talking about ‘delaying payment’.

Now I know I’ve got a lot of non-farmers reading this. But ‘milk cheque day’ is sacrosanct. Dairy farmers get paid for their milk a month in arrears. So you’ll get you cheque for March about the 18th of April. (Depends on weekends etc.)All companies seem to stick with the same day they inherited from the Milk Marketing Board. This is one of the underpinnings of the industry. A lot of supply companies try to send the bill out, not at the month end, but so it lands on the kitchen table the day before the milk cheque. Also a large proportion of dairy farmers will have a lot of standing orders/payments which go out two or three days after ‘milk cheque day’. This can take anywhere from 25% upwards of the milk cheque. So if the company delays payment the farmer has to contact finance companies and others to frantically delay payments or get an unapproved extra overdraft. But for a lot of tenants, the overdraft is fixed at twice the milk cheque. So if the price of milk falls, so does the overdraft the bank is willing to lend. This is known as lending you an umbrella but taking it away when it starts to rain. A lot of dairy farmers could be in trouble very rapidly. For some the midden could hit the windmill about the middle of this month.

 

Now what’s the issue? In reality the problem isn’t the virus as such. I’ve probably had it, my lady wife certainly has. The problem is the necessary steps taken to cope with the virus. I’m not knocking the shutdown. We have to keep the number of cases down to a level that the NHS can cope with. If you read the modelling, to cope with this virus without the sort of shutdown we’re experiencing we’d need to run with about 275 critical care beds per 100,000 population. Europe averages about 11.

And remember that you are advised to have 7 critical care nurses per ICU bed. So the Europe (in its geographical not political sense,) has about 600,000 appropriately trained nurses. To match the number of critical care beds we’d need to go through this illness without lockdown, we’d need something over 14 million intensive care nurses, properly trained. To put this in proportion, that’s pretty much like saying every man, woman and child in Norway and Sweden have to be intensive care nurses.

The problem is that our usual routes to market are blocked. It’s like the picture above where a stream was blocked. Food is building up at one side of the blockage, and eventually it’ll get short at the other side. But just as when the beck gets blocked, water does eventually find a way around. In a while the water finds its way round the obstacle and largely goes back into its old course.

Our problem is that the workarounds are going to be less good than the old route to market. If the price of hindquarter beef falls, are more consumers going to be tempted to cook it at home? Will they turn to lamb, or drink more milk in their tea?

The obvious solution is actually to get the beck unblocked as soon as possible, or we’re going to be left with a nasty muddy mess as everybody paddles about in the muck trying to sort things out.

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There again what do I know?
Wisdom now available in paperback or as an ebook!

 

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.”

 

Should we close footpaths because of Coronavirus?

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I think there are a couple of sides to this. There are those footpaths which run up along the side of the house. Now might be a good time to get them diverted. But that is from a general privacy point of view. It has very little to do with the virus, although the authorities might be more sympathetic if you get your appeal in now.  But for most footpaths I think the answer is strictly no.
First let’s look at the reality of the situation. At the moment my lady wife and I are locked down because we’re recovering from what was probably coronavirus. The embarrassing thing about this virus is that that majority of us will end up being a bit vague as to whether we’ve had it or not.

Even if you get it, how serious is it. There’s an interesting article in the Lancet

 

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30244-9/fulltext

 

“A unique situation has arisen for quite an accurate estimate of the CFR of COVID-19. Among individuals on-board the Diamond Princess Cruise ship, data on the denominator are fairly robust. The outbreak of COVID-19 led passengers to be quarantined between Jan 20, and Feb 29, 2020. This scenario provided a population living in a defined territory without most other confounders, such as imported cases, defaulters of screening, or lack of testing capability. 3711 passengers and crew were on-board, of whom 705 became sick and tested positive for COVID-19 and seven died, giving a CFR of 0·99%. If the passengers on-board were generally of an older age, the CFR in a healthy, younger population could be lower.”

 

Indeed if you assume that cruise passengers tend to be in the 60+ or even the 70+ age groups, looking at this chart you’d expect the morality to be a lot higher. So perhaps it isn’t quite as lethal as the initial fears?

 

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The problem is we’re living in a 24 hour news cycle. In our village an older lady had to be taken into hospital. After two days being treated from pneumonia as a complication of the virus infection, she was brought home to recover there. But ‘elderly lady not very ill’ isn’t the sort of story the media is seeking.

The problem is that the ‘There’ll be a million dead and Boris has their blood on his hands,’ school of social media warrior is actually causing even more grief. A lady I know works for a medical centre. She wrote in her blog, “It appears that most of the middle aged or elderly patients are not turning up for their clinic appointments, thereby not undergoing Lucentis, Eylea or Avastin injections to save their eyesight from the ravages of wet age-related macular degeneration.“

Let’s not beat about the bush, they have a very slight chance of dying if they go for treatment and a very very high chance of going blind if they don’t. Terrifying people for a bad news story or political capital isn’t going to end well for a lot of people.

 

Not only that, but others are kicking against the full lockdown. The Swedes for example. This article is interesting.

 

https://unherd.com/2020/03/all-eyes-on-the-swedish-coronavirus-experiment/

 

One part of the article really did interest me.
“Tegnell doesn’t like to describe his strategy as ‘herd immunity’ but he talks openly about the inevitability of the disease passing through a large chunk of the population, and even says that containing the disease like South Korea is doing would not even be desirable, since it will surely only come back. His stated goal is to slow the spread of the infection to a manageable pace, and he doesn’t believe a mandated lockdown is necessary to achieve that.

 

So far, so technical. But look more closely and the difference between the UK and Swedish approaches is as much about politics as science.

 

I spent much of the weekend on the telephone to friends, family and journalists from both Left and Right in Sweden and it felt like I’d fallen through the looking glass into an upside-down world. It almost could be the UK, just with a few political factors flipped over.

 

First, the fact that they are standing apart is a point of pride as much as concern. There is a note of Swedish exceptionalism, particularly when contrasted with longstanding competitors Denmark and Norway (both of whom have opted for a very thorough lockdown). I heard multiple theories as to why their Scandinavian neighbours were different, ranging from Denmark and Norway’s occupation during the Second World War having given them have a residual mistrust of authority, to the Danish government’s political desire to look strong. It couldn’t be further from the UK instinct, which is to take any differences with other countries as proof of our own sluggishness and inadequacy.

 

Second, the Government is a centre-Left coalition, which changes everything. Alongside a deep-seated Swedish respect for technical experts, this means that support for the more moderate strategy is considered the enlightened left-liberal position; unlike the UK or the US, the knowledge class are fully on-side. Anders Tegnell himself has a left-of-centre feel about him, making regular reference to the importance of equality in the government’s chosen course. This means, although he continues to meet with criticism, there are no online hordes of political activists demanding a lockdown.”

 

Even with the lockdown, we have to accept that in the next couple of years pretty much everybody in the UK is going to get the virus anyway.

If you want to see the modelling that the current lock down is based on it’s written in simple terms so that politicians and political activists can understand it.

 

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

 

Again, in simple terms, the lockdown is to reduce the strain on our intensive care system. A proportion of those who do get the virus need treatment in intensive care (pretty much like flu really). If the intensive care system isn’t overloaded, then the recovery rate is pretty good. If the intensive care system is overloaded and a lot of people cannot get the treatment, then a lot more people die.

So the plan put forward for getting out of this situation is to lift restrictions when the number of people in icu with the virus drops to 50 a week and clamp down again when the number of people in icu with it rises to 100 a week. We seesaw into the next year as more and more people get the virus and become immune. Also at that point there might even be a vaccine.

 

But there’s another reason for not shutting the footpaths (other than it’s not necessary.)
At the moment I’m locked down. I’m self-isolating on a hundred acres and anyway I’m busy. Can you imagine the poor sod who’s stuck in a small three bedroom terraced house with spouse and two children! Or somebody in a flat? Even if you’ve got a semi, it’s hardly spacious.

And a lot of people are being tightly banged up. I know one chap who does have an autoimmune condition. He’d planned to self-isolate at home, then drive down here with his air rifle and self-isolate miles from anybody just shooting rats for us. His employer sent him home and he was informed that if he was even seen outside the house that would be reason for immediate dismissal.

But on the positive side, where are all those vegan activists? When the supermarket shelves emptied, about the only thing left was the vegan options. At the moment we’re the ‘good guys.’ Indeed it may well be that the major chemical companies are going to have better things to do, what with branching into medicines and vaccine manufacture, than trying to make ‘vegan meat substitutes.’
So when normality resumes and the assorted single issue pressure groups raise their head again (They will, they’ve got to justify their salaries and pay their mortgages like everybody else) they’ll be all over the media.
Do you what our customers to listen to the various fringe groups and mutter, “Yeah, the farmers, they’re the bastards that shut down the countryside.”

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There again what do I know? Wisdom available from the expert in paperback and ebook format

As a reviewer 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.”

The Rabid Readers Review ‘Maljie, the episodic memoirs of a lady’ by Jim Webster

Always nice to get a review

Working Title Blogspot

The Rabid Readers Review Maljie, the episodic memoirs of a lady by Jim Webster

Where to start with this review? First of all a health warning. Do not read this book when drinking coffee/beer/WHY.  Neither is it a great notion to read somewhere sudden bursts of laughter could be seen as inappropriate.

I must confess upfront to being a fan of Jim Webster’s writing as he has a talent for making the most wildly inconsequential of observations seem matter of fact and perfectly believable. Any of the tales he weaves around the imaginary but utterly believable city of a port Nain are going to be chuckle worthy at the very least.

Therefore I approached the chronicles of Maljie’s varied and exotic life with great expectation.

I wasn’t disappointed.

In fact, there were places where I actually howled with laughter.

Our heroine veers from situation to situation – rarely finishing…

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Which virus?

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Sorry and all that but for me there’s only one virus. Having farmed in Cumbria all my life, and that includes 2001 it has to be FMD. Now I’m not going to get all excitable and claim that I wake up in the night screaming that, ‘Charlie’s on the wire’. But FMD is burned all the way through me like it is for a lot of other people.

What brought this on was an email exchange with a mate in which I was trying to compare the current unpleasantness with 2001. To me, I was seeing it as a mirror image. Back then it crucified rural areas but had comparatively few effects on the urban, save they might not be allowed to walk on footpaths. Now the current virus has brought towns grinding to a halt but here on the farms we’re still working.

But actually when prodded by somebody who was more distanced but still involved, I can remember others.

For example, chap I sort of knew (But knew others in his family better) who had sunk his savings into a business selling homemade fudge and sweets at agricultural shows and other outdoor events. He’d invested the money, even paid out for pitches and then everything just collapsed and he lost the lot.

Or an accountant with a lot of rural clients who nearly went bankrupt waiting for them to have some money to pay him.

Somehow farmers survived. Remember those who were shot out received compensation for the business capital the government had destroyed. But they got nothing for loss of income. Suddenly they had no income and if they lived out of their capital they’d have nothing to restock with after the disaster. Not only that but they were trapped on the farm and couldn’t leave for so many weeks. Actually we were lucky with ‘disinfection.’

Somebody (and I haven’t a clue which genius it was) convinced government that the only way to defeat FMD was to launch a massive programme of disinfection on the farms where livestock had been destroyed. It wasn’t just stuff had to be clean, if there was cracked concrete it had to be broken out and replaced. All this was paid as part of the disinfection. It was supervised largely by people who had only started working for MAFF at the start of the outbreak and a lot of them hadn’t a clue. I remember talking to one farmer who had had six weeks ‘working for the ministry’ doing the disinfection. The problem is, the work had finished and with it the money. When the inspector (from memory he’d been somebody in the post office or something) came to inspect and to sign the job off he was very complementary about the standard of work done. But then the farmer pointed out that all their cubicles were bolted to the wall. They hadn’t been able to disinfect the interface between the cement render of the wall and the steel of the cubicle. Ought that to be done?

So you have a petty bureaucrat who doesn’t know what is going on being asked to take a decision. So obviously he leaps for the safest option. Of course they ought to do that. This produced another two or three weeks work for the entire family, all at ministry level wages.

Did it do any good, from a purely epidemiological point of view? Who knows, they did infinitely more disinfection than they did in the previous major outbreak. But the main advantage was it actually provided a lifeline to farming families who would have been trapped, unable to earn.

Then there was the chaos in government. A mate of mine who worked for MAFF in London witnessed the complete bedlam. All sorts of people were being told to set up offices in all sorts of distant settings. People were ordering computers and then having them delivered by taxi to private houses. This was so the ministry employee could leave home for his new office and take his new computer with him. My mate reckoned a fair proportion were just people taking the opportunity to upgrade their home computer.

And frankly at the time the government got off on the wrong foot and MAFF pretty well melted down. If you think that the NHS is understaffed, in Cumbria there were at the start of the outbreak apparently three MAFF vets and within two days all three were ‘dirty’ and could no longer go onto farms. Nobody had a clue what was going on.
Blair was more interested in declaring everything fixed so he could have a general election. He travelled to Stockholm for a European summit in March 2001 and as he had the plane and Cumbria was ‘sort of on the way’ he stopped over in Cumbria and talked to farmers and others at the Shepherds Inn. Then he flew on to Stockholm and was shocked to discover that the Swedes expected everybody on the plane to walk through disinfectant on their way across the tarmac. Then they went into the plane, seized all the food there and incinerated it. Some people have commented that it was at that point Blair realised that he was dealing with a genuine emergency the world took seriously, not merely an irritant that was delaying his general election plans.

 

Looking at the current outbreak, we’re in a lot better position. Government have taken it seriously from the start and are leaning heavily on the medical/epidemiological advice. Also the NHS is dealing with it and whatever people say the NHS funding has continued to grow in real terms. No the NHS hasn’t got everything it wanted. It’s a department of government, it has to shroud-wave when the chancellor is planning spending. But the figures largely speak for themselves. They’re really good at guarding their budgets.

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Certainly compared to Agriculture which the government of the day regarded as an obsolete irrelevance, the NHS is well placed to cope.

But looking at the people impacted, obviously we see the obvious, and a lot of money is being thrown at them. But there are still people not covered. It was considered utterly iniquitous that people had to wait for five weeks for Universal Credit to kick in, but it could be five months before the self-employed get any money.

Then all those people who claim it’s gross exploitation when companies hire staff on zero-hours contacts. Well what about those hired by schools as supply teachers and supply teaching assistants? The minute the school shuts, they get no money so when teachers are furloughed on 80%, the supply staff just have nothing.

Looking towards the farming industry, sadly it’s those who are doing what they were advised to do that are potentially suffering most. Those who diversified into tourism (all shut), selling niche market premium produce to restaurants and top of the range caterers, their market disappeared at the stroke of a pen. Those who went into box schemes will probably survive if they can physically cope with the issues of picking and packing veg and sticking with social distancing. And of course, they better not actually get the illness or their business could just shut with no income at all whilst they’re all in quarantine.

The more traditional side of the industry is at the moment less impacted. Provided the rest of the supply chain can keep running, getting stuff to us and taking produce away, we can probably keep going. There is going to be an issue with picking fruit and vegetables. Is an urban population, stir crazy in isolation, going to be stir crazy enough to want to do fruit picking just to get out of the house? And would they do it for the sort of money it normally commands? Or are the supermarkets going to actually pay a price for fresh produce which allows the people picking it to earn a fair wage? Indeed if they do, will you buy it or instead will the great British consumer look round for cheap imported stuff which is picked by the massively exploited and oppressed somewhere overseas?

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We live in interesting times. But there again, what do I know?

Oh and the mate of mine whose email started me off on this rant? Well you might be interested in buying a book of his.

 

As a reviewer commented, ”

The Showing starts out with an estate agent showing a house for sale, but the potential customer already knows the house well and his thoughts reflect on a childhood with many Christmases spent there. Hints of unusual activity pepper the first chapter and set up what appears to be a very well-written ghost story.

The mystery deepens as the story progresses and typical ghostly happenings are hinted at and begin to manifest. I was thrown just a little when a chapter change moved from third person to first person, but otherwise the writing is engaging and I found myself wondering what had happened to the missing people and exactly what the nature of this ghost might be. The characters were nicely developed and the story held interest.

The mystery of the house unfolds very slowly, keeping the reader on edge and wondering the exact nature of the ghost. Hints begin to seep in slowly and there is an odd twist about halfway through that I didn’t see coming. I love it when an author can surprise me.

The creep factor also escalates around halfway. I started finding it difficult to stop between chapters at this point as events started moving more quickly and the story earned its place in the Horror genre with some nasty happenings that veered into less typical ghostly events. There was a certain amount of comedy to break up the tension and that might have stolen some of the suspense, but the big climax was imaginative and could rival Dennis Wheatley for pure fantasy ritual and demonic activity.

A little of the creep factor remained as the story finished and I can imagine it all flooding back next time I look at a potential new house.”

Spring and turning heifers out

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It’s amazing the difference a few nice days can make. Because we’ve no sheep any more we aren’t lambing and at the same time we have grass. So a few dry cows were turned out. They frolicked briefly and then proceeded to sit on the grass basking in the warmth.

Heifers are a different matter. Rather than risk an over-enthusiastic simulation of the Pamplona Bull Run, we put them in a trailer and took them to the field that way. To be fair, after something of a token frolic they too have taken to spending much of their time just soaking up the sun. I do wonder if, like us, they’ve just been utterly hacked off by this winter. Endless rain and driving wind does start to undermine the morale.

The next job was to fix a bit of a gap before the basking dry cows bestirred themselves and discovered it. Next door has wintered some bullocks in the field next to us. It’s perfect for that, large parts of it are effectively sand (burns off pretty much every summer) so it stays dry underfoot and doesn’t get trodden up. Also there is shelter for cattle who want it.

The gap was about thirty yards from the blackthorn in the photo. On our side for some reason there was a section with sheep netting but no breast wire above it. I think a sheep had got its head caught in the netting and in pulling and pushing to (successfully) get its head out, it managed to break a fence post which means the whole lot was now sagging.

Next door’s fence had also suffered, a tree had gone down in the winter winds. As it had been acting as an informal straining post, it left a gap on their side. I was surprised that next door’s cattle hadn’t wandered into our field through it until one of them came across to see what I was doing. At this point it discovered the mud in this hollow was still belly deep and floundered off back to join its mates. I suspect we are going to forget how wet things actually have been and I can see people getting vehicles stuck where they’ve never got stuck before. It might be nice now and a lot of ground might have dried, but there’s still a lot of water about.

I suspect we’ve had new springs appear because I’ve got one gateway standing water than never stood water before. It’s at the foot of a steep bank and I think the water has started seeping down through the bank from the field above.

Anyway I got the fence fixed, two posts and a bit of spare wire. I even managed to patch up a breast wire on the other side to cover the gap the tree had left, just in case the mud gets shallower and the bullocks get more adventurous.

 

Looking about at the larger world, one phenomena I’ve noticed, social media seems to be full of older people ranking about the stupid thirty-somethings who have keep going out and seeing their mates. Up here it’s the thirty-somethings who are trying to talk sense into the older folk.

Another thing I’ve noticed is all sorts of self-righteous people ranting about the list of companies they’re going to boycott after it’s all over because of the way they’ve not looked after their staff. I wonder when people will start ranting about education authorities? I’ve got family and friends who work as supply teachers or supply teaching assistants. Once the schools shut, those working on supply contracts have just got no money. Indeed the 80% doesn’t help them, because they’re only paid for the hours they have in their contact and they’re all effectively on zero hours contracts. Perhaps the self-righteous should get on with naming and shaming these authorities as well.

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There again, what to I know. Speak to the expert. Now available in paperback and ebook

As a reviewer commented, “his 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!”

If you think it’s bad now, always remember that it can be worse

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It was facebook that reminded me, back in 2013 this was the weather we were coping with. At least we’re spared that.

I’ve been trying to get my head round what is happening with beef and lamb trade at the moment. As far as I can make out ‘cock-up’ is more likely that conspiracy.

With the sheep trade it’s obvious that the buyers just stopped buying yesterday. It wasn’t just that prices plummeted, they weren’t even interesting in buying at low prices.

Given the amount of lamb we export, even the rumour that our ‘trading partners’ were closing borders because of corvid 19 was going to cause chaos. Who wants to be left with wagons of expensive lambs? Especially when there is no certainty as to whether you can sell them on, or even if you’ll have enough staff to man the line in the abattoir or how you’ll get the carcasses into France.

With beef there is less uncertainty but things are still going to change. First the restaurants closed, then places like McDonalds. All these take a lot of meat, especially beef, from various ends of the market. But talking to people in the trade they’ve noticed a lot of butchers are taking more beef. Butchers who perhaps took two or three full carcasses a week are having to take four or five to keep up demand. Talking to a local butcher, they are starting to see a lot of supermarket customers in their shop. Not only are they strange faces they don’t recognise, but apparently a butcher can tell from the questions they ask that they’ve only ever bought meat from supermarkets.

Then for those people doing box schemes, apparently it can be difficult to keep up with demand. Makes sense from a customer’s point of view. You get quality produce delivered to the door, and of course you’ll be in to take delivery. It’s not as if you were going anywhere.

To be honest it looks as if the supply chain is frantically trying to keep pace with a fast changing world. A lot of big decisions are being made and they’re being made for serious epidemiological reasons, not for the convenience of any particular industry.

My guess is that over the next week or two it’ll shake down to whatever becomes the new ‘normal.’ On the understanding that this whole situation is going to last at least a year, one way or another, how bedded in is the new normal going to get?
After all with FMD, whilst it screwed up the industry at our end, it didn’t make an awful lot of difference to the consumer. But this time it’s the consumer who is finding their lives changing.

When we come out of this, are people who have finally discovered how to work from homes going to want to continue? Does anybody in their right mind want an hour and a half commute either end of the day? Will their employers who realise they can get away with a third of the office space ensure they do stay working from home? Will government start demanding that strategic industries be located in this country? You know, things like vaccine and drug production, the manufacture of medical technology, perhaps even (Heaven forfend) agriculture? Similarly when the figures come out for the fall in the amount of carbon produced/pollution caused will people be happy for airlines to just go back to what they were. I’ve got a bet on with a mate that they’ll build houses on Heathrow runways 1 and 2 before they ever build a third runway.

 

Meanwhile back in the real world, isn’t it nice to have fine weather day after day. It’s nice to be able to tidy up after winter. I was cleaning up some branches that had blown down into a silage field and I could watch the pair of swans on the pond at the same time. It’s obvious that they’re settling down to breed. They’ve built the nest and the male obviously has serious territorial issues. He’s spent the last few days trying to drive a pair of Canada Geese off ‘his’ pond. So far the Canadians are hanging on in there, courteous to the last. Still they must be getting sick of him.

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Still, what do I know?

Available as ebook or paperback.

As a reviewer commented, “If I were younger, I would love to spend a year following Jim and Sal around and listening to the stories and adding the special effects, but I sure get a lot of the picture from his well-chosen words.

Can’t wait for the next book! Beautifully done.”

The cleanest one round here is the cat

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Talking to a mate of mine who works at our local agricultural engineers. His comment was that any virus that can survive on his hands when he’s at work is too tough for alcohol hand-sanitisers to cope with. I know how he feels, there are industries where you have to wash your hands before you visit the bathroom.

The other day I was talking to a butcher I know. He is seeing far more customers, they’re people he can tell were supermarket customers because of the questions they now ask. Apparently some are coming to him because of the panic-buying in supermarkets. His comment was if anybody tries panic-buying with him, he’ll just offer them a full side of beef to carry away.

But it does look as if some of the supermarkets are trying to ensure their food chains. One farmer who bottles his own organic milk for Booths was asked if he could increase production by quite a respectable amount. He could because he had previously been forced to sell some of his milk into the non-organic market. Another farmer had some Belgian Blue bulls ready for killing. The butcher he sells a lot of stuff to wasn’t keen because, as he commented, “They’re harder to sell, the grain is a bit coarse.’ He got a phone call a couple of days later. “Send them in, we’re getting short of stuff.”

Spring is obviously coming, it’s getting warmer. The other day I walked out to feed heifers without bothering to put on the battered hi-vis jacket I’ve been wearing all winter. Our feral farm cat was trotting across the yard on errands of his own and when I appeared he jumped sideways and set off at a run. It was only when I said ‘Hi’ to him that he stopped, realised it was me and came back to get his ears tickled. I don’t think he’s ever seen me without that jacket on.

He is settling nicely to work, taking both rats and crows. In spite of him being entirely feral with us offering him just a little food as a backup, he is a genuinely friendly cat who will actually climb up your leg to get his ears scratched.
We had a cow calve the other night and I went to give her a couple of buckets of warm water to drink. As I did so the cat appeared on a wall next to me, and ran down my arm and perched on my shoulder. Then when I bent down to pick up the bucket he much have decided this was closer to the cow than he felt it was wise to go. So he jumped onto her back and then back onto the wall.
The cow spun round to see what the threat was to her calf and chased him as he ran along the wall then dropped down the other side onto a round bale of silage. It has to be said he isn’t a fan of cows.

♥♥♥♥

Anyway there’s always this, in paperback and ebook

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.”