Monthly Archives: October 2018

Stick it on mow tops.


In this case mow is pronounced ‘moo’. A mow is a stack of hay or straw in a barn.

It’s just that when my father was a young man, just after the war he worked for a chap who was a really good farmer. Had a good eye for milk cows and ran a good farm. But one fault he had was impatience. You cannot make hay faster than hay can be made. The sun and wind will do their job at their own speed.

Now if you make hay that is slightly too damp, it can heat up and even spontaneously combust. Obviously this is too be avoided. One way that you can avoid this is by spreading it thin so it both has a chance to dry a little, and also doesn’t compact down enough to produce the heat.

Even if it doesn’t catch fire, you can get hay that is ‘mow-burned’, it goes a bit brown, cows actually like it (I think it might caramelise the sugars) but you’ve lost a lot of the feed value and apparently it’s no good for horses.

It smells sweet as well.

But one year the boss couldn’t settle and it was a fine afternoon so he said to my Dad, “Harry, go and get a cart load from that field.”
So my Dad looked for the bit that was nearest to being ready, loaded a cart and went back. Obviously it needed a little more time but the boss said, “Just spread it on’t mow tops.”

Then he decided another field was probably ready, so he sent my father with the cart to get a load from that field. Again my father came back with a load that was almost ready and it too was spread on mow tops.”

At this point the boss realised that with it being a really nice afternoon the first field must surely be ready by now so he suggest my Dad went back to that field.

My Dad looked at him and asked where he’d put it.” Before the boss could answer my Dad added, “Because tha’s already out of mow tops.”

So they waited another day and got it made properly.


But anyway today it’s silage not hay, and I’ve only once done silage so late in the year. Basically, remember the hot weather? Well the grass we lost then, we’re trying to grow now. But anyway this morning at 8:30am fields were white with rag (frost), but by 9am the sun was up and it had virtually all melted and with a bit of luck there’s enough strength in the sun to dry it a bit as well.

Grass silage at the end of October isn’t something you can count on. In 2000, we didn’t have three consecutive dry days between September and January and that is a case of ‘abandon hope all ye who enter here.’ People had a lot of trouble harvesting maize that year.


Still if you really want difficulties, walk into a northern railway station and buy a ticket to Llandrindod Wells. Given my pronunciation and her spelling, it’s a miracle if I don’t end up in Llandudno. We had two ladies behind me in the queue using their phones to try and get us the spelling. One ended up with wall cladding.



In case you’re stuck on a long journey, or just need a good book, you might want to consider

As the reviewer said
In this new adventure in the `Swords’ series, we again follow Benor and watch and feel as though we take part in his hectic life. He both pursues and is pursued when he `liberates’ a prince’s concubine (and keeps her!) and the prince, naturally, doesn’t want to let the matter rest. As well as being an excellent fighter, one of his companions on the journey is a master of the haute couture trade and manages to combine these two rather successfully.

Jim Webster has created a credible fantasy world here, populated by its own races, both rivals and allies, and with an intriguing group of wild creatures which you can almost taste when they are described as food species! There is a good deal of action in this book but also some softer, `Ahhh!’ moments which I won’t describe for fear of spoiling the story. Needless to say, he has once again used his own writing style to give us some wonderfully memorable phrases. I like his style and his gentle humour.

The view from a country churchyard


A funeral is a formal occasion rich with symbolism. Dark clad people stand solemnly, and as they leave you’ll notice that some of the faces are tear-streaked. Yet there is such a thing as a ‘good funeral’ where the stories are told and you catch up with people you haven’t seen for a decade or more.

And then there’s the ‘crem.’ We’re an overpopulated little island and there isn’t the seven feet of ground available for most of us, so the Crematorium is involved. Some people cut out the middle man and have the funeral there. Some do both, the crem service being after the funeral and reserved for immediate family and the closest friends.

Finally, the last part of the process, we have the disposal of ashes. Some people scatter them. Given the amount of heavy metals etc involved there are actually rules about it, but I’ll let that slide at the moment. For some, they just want to scatter the ashes at a well loved view point or other site and the person fades into anonymity as their family and friends die as well.
Some want to sit out their time with family in the churchyard. Perhaps their children want something, even if only an engraved slab, to gaze at from time to time, to remember Mum, and Grandma, and the various other relations who’ve somehow accumulated in this small common plot.

From the point of view of the Church, interring the ashes isn’t one of the great sacraments. At the funeral everything was said that needed saying. We’ve done our bit and tried to put a gloss on a life on the vague hope that the God we’re including in the service has lost his notes and doesn’t remember what really went on.

So at the Interment of Ashes, there is considerable flexibility. Some families just want a churchwarden to dig the hole. They’ll pour in the ashes and the churchwarden fills it in again. I’ve done a number of these. Sometimes they’ll ask for a vicar to say a final few words. If they ask, they get. A good priest will be there to hear the stories that couldn’t be told and to help heal the wounds that have only dared to reveal themselves after the funeral. Then there’s the spectrum of wishes in between. Some want the churchwarden to say a prayer, some come with their own prayers, some ask if it’s OK to put a flower, a ring, or even a letter, in with the ashes. I always say yes because grief is complicated and individual and you help as and when you can.

And then who attends?
At one extreme we had two churchwardens and the lady from the undertaker. The person whose ashes we were interring had outlived her family, and had ‘kept herself to herself.’ Neighbours who would have turned up out of respect didn’t even know she was dead because she’d had to go into a home.

Close family is more usual, sons and daughters, plus their various spouses and partners. Sometimes a grandchild.

And then, like today, the whole family turns up. Four generations who want to say that final farewell to a much loved lady.

At all these events you get those who are there for duty and those who want to be there because it matters to them. I’m digging holes to take the ashes of people I’ve never met, but as I look round the group of people watching, I can make a fair assessment of that person.
And this morning, as her family said the words of the Lords Prayer, in its traditional version, and a bullock just over the wall bawled briefly before wandering off to find better grass, I decided that this one was probably one of the best.

The family had asked for a short service. We looked at the family and noted the frailty of some of them; we opened up the church and did as much as we could inside. It was a cold wind. The short Gospel reading was where Jesus says ‘In my Father’s house there are many mansions.’ The short talk (and I mean short) that followed it commented that in our lives we’re effectively furnishing those mansions. You get what you are.

Me? I cannot vouch for that one way or another. But one thing I can tell you; when the churchwarden pours your ashes into the hole, he’ll be able to tell a lot about your character from the people who made the effort to stand in the cold and watch him.



More life, death, livestock, quads and dogs available for the discerning

Pontifications on a road less travelled. The inexorable march of progress.



A lady I know said, as a throwaway comment, ‘I quite fancy being part of an elite.’ Actually it’s not difficult. Anybody can be a member of an elite. You merely need somebody more deplorable than you to define yourself against.

From then on it’s easy. “We’re the young, the dynamic, the future. (Obviously change the words to suit you and your fellow members of the elite.) They are a lot of people too stupid to read the writing on the wall.”

Fascism starts here. The left has it easy. They have their enemy ready and waiting, plutocrats (whatever they are), the bourgeoisie, landlords, rich men, bloodsuckers. At times over history Jews have found themselves in the list as well, the “rootless cosmopolitan”, “individuals devoid of nation or tribe”.

But fascists have it tougher. You don’t have your enemy ready made, you have to find one. The left is an obvious one, but many fascists have tried to steal at least some of the left’s clothes. This is so that they appear revolutionary enough to appeal to the disillusioned working classes, but centrist enough to ensure they don’t scare the bourgeoisie.


The old classic fascism of rampant nationalism and the strong state is largely dead. Whatever it is we have got now is something far more insidious. We are seeing the English speaking world being divided into the Nice people and the Deplorables. If you’re not one of us and haven’t signed up to what we believe, then it’s open season on you. See the avalanche of memes and cartoons heading in your direction? Suck it up, looser. That’ll teach you to vote for Trump/Brexit/whatever upsets us this week.


In a democracy you have to try and reach out to all people. They’re all your citizens. When the midden hits the windmill they’ll all good enough to have a rifle thrust into their hands before they’re sent of to the front. If they’re good enough to die for us, surely they’re good enough to be worth talking to, listening to, engaging with?

Hint; spitting on somebody in the street, literally or metaphorically, isn’t engaging with somebody.

It’s sad really. I’m old enough to remember when people could debate; when they were confident enough in their own skins to agree that the other person might have a reasonable view. Indeed at one point, if a leading political figure looked at the evidence and changed course, it was considered wisdom and a sign of strength. It wasn’t a U turn and the sign that the hated figure was a weakling.


There again, what do I know?

When Storth arrives home after a long absence, there’s are a few things that need sorting out. Sometimes they can be more complicated than you initially thought.
But at least there are opportunities for an honest man to make money, with maidens to be rescued and tyrants slain, or was it the other way about.
And who uses energy carbines any more? Military fashions have moved on.


“You are Storth, ex-pilot and thief.”

“I have done rather more than that.” Storth sounded genuinely aggrieved.

“Yes but this is meant to be an identity check, not a charge sheet. We also felt mercenary, smuggler and thief verged on the tautological.”

“Oh, well I’m Storth.”

“And you are Hutton, wife of Storth, just a thief.”

“You could call me ‘Hutton, wife of Storth, housewife and thief’ if it makes it any better for your records.”

Pontifications along a road less travelled. Where’s Bobby McGee now?


Funny how things crop up. The lines of the song ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ came to mind, especially the words, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” I suppose it’s my fault for staying awake during a sermon.

In case you’ve never heard of the lady who sang it, Janis Joplin, I’ll quote the wiki.


Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970), nicknamed “Pearl”, was an American rock, soul and blues singer and songwriter, and one of the most successful and widely-known female rock stars of her era.


But somehow I was also thinking of Canada legalising cannabis. A great leap forward, a truly magnificent victory for all right-thinking people. After all we’ve had the high drama in this country of children denied their cannabis oil and suffering from life endangering conditions.
Oh but back to Janis and a couple more bits of the wiki.


In 1967, Joplin rose to fame during an appearance at Monterey Pop Festival, where she was the lead singer of the then little-known San Francisco psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company. Five singles by Joplin reached the Billboard Hot 100, including a cover of the Kris Kristofferson song “Me and Bobby McGee”, which reached number 1 in March 1971


Wonderful thing fame, when Andy Warhol suggested everybody would have fifteen minutes of it, he was perhaps being kinder than people thought. After all how much fame can a person stand?


 “Even though she appears happy in the photos, she was hiding a terrible secret. She was again addicted to heroin and was allegedly shooting $200 worth each day.”


Oh yes, and I was talking about drugs as well. Help at a Foodbank, a homeless centre, or some sort of drop-in, and you’ll soon come across drugs and their effects.

But on with the wiki


On Sunday afternoon, October 4, 1970, producer Paul Rothchild became concerned when Joplin failed to show up at Sunset Sound Recorders for a recording. In the evening, Full Tilt Boogie’s road manager, John Cooke, drove to the Landmark Motor Hotel in Hollywood where Joplin was staying. Upon entering Joplin’s room, he found her dead on the floor beside her bed. The official cause of death was a heroin overdose, possibly compounded by alcohol.


Yes, you meet all sorts of people in a ‘drop in’. In my home town we’ve had twelve people die in six months. It’s not a big town; we’ve barely got 70,000 inhabitants. Mind you, we’ve got county lines as well.

Daniel Olaloko, Peter Adebayo, Joshua Adams and a 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, transported Class A drugs from London and Manchester into Barrow.


But it’s great; aging hipsters in Canada can now relive the indiscretions of their youth without risking getting their collar felt. For the prosperous middle class, for nice people with family networks and a safety net it’s great, wonderful, whatever.

But what about the mentally ill, the weak, the disenchanted, and the left behind?
Ah but it’s no more dangerous than alcohol!
Which might be true. After all go down to a Foodbank or a homeless shelter and you’ll meet plenty of people who’ve done serious damage to themselves with alcohol.

In my home town, on one of the main shopping streets, there’s pub which has some tables out on the pavement. They’re quite popular and the pavement is wide so their presence is not an issue. I saw one chap shambling up the street until he came to one of the tables. People had been sitting there and had gone, leaving drink in their glasses. The chap I was watching just drank off the contents of all the glasses before shambling on again. Oh yes, I’m aware of the damage that alcohol can do.

But as I said, what do we do about the mentally ill, the weak, the disenchanted, and the left behind? Apparently Janis Joplin was shooting $200 a day of heroin and that’s 1970 prices. Thanks to the great democratisation of degradation, it’s so much cheaper now.

But what about these people? Never slag off older women in my presence. Because the vast majority of the volunteers who I’ve seen doing the work with these people are ‘older women’. They’re the ones who have the grace to cope with people who won’t engage with ‘social services’ or the NHS. They’re the ones who cope with people who wash occasionally, sometimes have clean clothes and on rare occasions combine the two to create a red letter day for anybody who has to deal with them.

After all, when my home town has had twelve people in six months die from overdoses (or exposure because they’ve collapsed outside,) it really hits home when somebody introduces you to the person everybody assumes is going to be the thirteenth.

Send him to the doctors!
Yes, they’ve tried that. Get him an appointment he’ll forget and not turn up.

Give him the money for a taxi and he’ll just spend it.

Put him in the taxi and he’ll wait until he’s out of sight then get out and ask the driver for his money back.
Take him to the doctor, sit with him in the waiting room, and when they give him his tablets, how do you stop him selling them?

He’s an addict! I’ve dealt with addicts. I’ve had to cope with alcoholics. They lie, they steal, they cheat, and at times they’ll say anything, do anything, to get the next drink. I know one alcoholic who told her sister that her sister’s husband had raped her. The plan the alcoholic had was to break up the marriage so that the sister would then be free to look after the alcoholic. Luckily it didn’t work.
Sorry, I got diverted, where was I? Of yes, cheap legal drugs for aging hipsters? Whatever. But when we’ve got these legal drugs what are we going to do for those who cannot cope?
About a year ago they found a guy whose body had lain under a pile of rubbish for a couple of days. To be frank the only real reason it made the headlines was that it was right next to the railway line and they had to shut the station before they could recover it. Caused absolute chaos. He was aged 32. No age is it?

But how about, for those who cannot cope, offering them a service. They can get a bath, a shave, clean sheets and pretty nurses (of the gender of your choice) so that way they can get their final overdose in surroundings which allow them to pretend to themselves that people actually give a toss whether they live or die?

Well it has to be better than lying dead for two days under a pile of rubbish by the railway line.


I suppose if people were happy to donate half of what they spend on drugs (including alcohol) to a fund we might be able to afford a mental health service that could support these people. But if I suggested that, they’d blood test me because everybody would want a shot of whatever I was on.


Oh, and if anybody tries to tell me it’s all the wicked Tories and austerity, I’ll just laugh in their face. I was hoping for a grown-up conversation with genuine adults. If you want playground games, run along and play outside.


But yes, our nice middleclass middle income people who can now get their safe legal high. It’s good that you can finally chill out and relax with your recreational narcotic of choice.

But honestly, if you need that crap to chill out and relax, is your life really as good as you’re trying to convince yourself?


Hitting the beach

040 (2)


When I say it was a fine day, I suppose I really mean it wasn’t raining. In fact we merely had drizzle in the morning. There again, I suppose it was so overcast we never got full daylight either but you cannot have everything. Still lady wife and I went to Ulverston to hear Bishop James speak. He’s a chap who’s always worth listening to. When we left Ulverston we stopped at Roy’s for an icecream (also something always worth doing) and I walked home from there along the beach.


The first section is very different to the rest of the area round the bay. The woods come right down to the beach, protected by the limestone pavement they’re growing on.



Because the bay is fed by two rivers, they interfere with each other and the channels are always changing. Because of this, the area where I could swim as a child is now this.


But in another fifty or so years the channels will doubtless move back and scour the whole lot out again. In Morecambe Bay, everything is pretty transient really.


About the only thing that’s constant is the vast expanse of flat ground, It’s not golden sand, but it’s not really mud either. At times, where a channel is scoured out, you find great drifts of cockleshells buried by the mud a century or so ago.

But the hand of man is there. On the flat rocks where back in the 1970s a lot of people used to swim they carved a message to the future.



And of course the scene isn’t always this peaceful. At this point the sea broke through the old sea defences and came within six feet of breaking through the main road


Interestingly they’ve moved away from concrete defences (although they do patch the old ones with new concrete.) Instead they’re using these big boulders. The idea is that they naturally lock together and if the sea does move them, you just wait for low tide and go in with a tracked digger to just move them back

In the whole trip, I saw four people, three of whom were walking dogs, and only one was close enough to say ‘Hello’ to. And the silence out there on the sands is profound. The only noise is the wind, or occasionally the tide in the distance.


And to help you enjoy the silence, a good book?



As a reviewer commented “Another great collection of bite-sized tales from the author’s farming life. (The first one being ‘Sometimes I dit’s and thinks’)
A gentle sharing of observations from a sheep farmer (and his collie)
More wry observations of animals and humans!”

Special relativity and a wet T shirt.



It’s wet, seriously wet; chucking it down in other words. I step out of the back door and there is no sign of Sal. She’s lying snug under the cattle trailer she calls home. As I walk across the yard she emerges with carefully simulated enthusiasm to join me looking sheep. At this point it’s merely raining; to be honest it’s not all that bad. As we walk round sheep I just get wet.

Anyway Sal and I get home and it’s time to hitch the quad up and take some feed to the fat lambs. At this point the rain realises that it’s got all this water to get rid of. So the taps are turned on even more as somebody frantically tries to see if they can dump all the water in lord alone knows how many cubic miles of Nimbostratus over me. As I drive down the lane to see the fat lambs I realise that the battered old yellow hi-vis jacket I’m wearing feels distinctly heavier than it did when I started out this morning. The black lining is now sodden.

Never mind, as my Grandmother used to say, ‘You’ll not melt.’ Sal and I feed the lambs. Sal displays her contempt for the weather by rolling enthusiastically in the sodden grass in the pouring rain. One ewe shakes herself like an old dog and a great cloud of water flies off her. Nobody cares, nobody can get any wetter.

Back home again, fill the cake bins and then the lorry comes with more feed. This is blown in and by now I’m not merely sodden but covered in wet dust, so the hi-vis now looks like it was made from some esoteric yellow and brown cameo pattern material.
Feed unloaded, time for a brew but first to dispose of the wet clothes. At this point I know my shirt is wet but thanks to the leggings my trousers don’t feel that bad. So I decide that I’ll just stick the hi-vis and my shirt in the washing machine before I have a shower to get rid of the dust that’s caking my hair. (The cap also goes in the washing machine; it’s covered in a brown sludge.) But having peeled the shirt off, because it’s so wet it sticks to me, I realise that actually the trousers are also wet. Just not wet enough to stick to me. Hence they felt relatively dry. So everything goes into the washing machine and I go into the shower.

Fortified with milky coffee laced with Tia Maria I glance at the clock and realise that it’s about half eleven, time to give dairy cows their midday feed.
Now it’s still raining but between ourselves, it’s lost interest and is just going through the motions. So I put on an old jacket I keep in reserve, go out, push the silage up and pour some feed over it. I come back in the house for my dinner and I’m barely damp. So barely damp that I decide that I might as well keep this shirt on.

After dinner I empty the tumble drier. The old hi-vis jacket has washed up a treat and looks remarkably clean. But you know the fluff that accumulates in a tumble drier. It contains some quite large pieces of hi-vis yellow plastic. But still the jacket doesn’t seem to have acquired any more holes so not a problem.

Anyway I’ve just remembered there’s a group of dry cows outside who’ll be expecting to see me soon with their lunch, so I’d better get on with it.

If you’re happily keeping out of the rain, what you really need is a good book. How about

Still only £1.62 from Amazon in paperback

Coming over all autumnal


It’s true, it is. On this side of the Atlantic, we don’t have ‘fall.’ ‘Fall’ may be poetic but it isn’t really descriptive of how things work when you’re on the Atlantic coast and the somewhat brisk winds of Autumn sweep in. Our leaves don’t fall. They’re torn from the ground and lie in sodden drifts. Yes occasionally they can crunch under your feet and children have great fun scuffing their way through them. But here in the wet and windy west that isn’t as common as the writers of children’s stories seem to think.

On an agricultural front, autumn is very much the start of winter. Because of the year we’ve had, people are going for third and even fourth cuts of silage. At the moment the ground is still warm so grass is still growing; just not particularly quickly. On the positive side, whilst there’s been a fair bit of rain, the ground isn’t wet yet so we haven’t got to the stage where any idea of field work has to be abandoned. From memory the latest I took grass silage under normal conditions was the very end of October, so there’s still time.

It has to be said that in 2000 I took it even later. We had about ten acres I’d decided I’d get some round bales off, because I thought we’d need them. All I needed was three consecutive fine days. When talking about fine days, it merely didn’t have to rain. I wasn’t expecting miracles. But from September through to about Christmas, we never got those consecutive fine days. Finally I turned heifers into one of the fields to eat the grass off. The other field I still hoped I’d get something.

Eventually I spotted what might be a gap in the weather. I mowed the two thirds of the field I could without doing damage to the ground by trying to travel on the wet bits. Next morning the baler and wrapper appeared and they got everything baled and wrapped. Even as they were leaving the field, the rain started again.

Doesn’t matter, it is at least wrapped.

The next day it wasn’t raining I went with my tractor to cart the bales home. Back then I had a back spike on the hydraulic arms at the back of the tractor and a front spike on the loader (at the front of the tractor, but I suspect you’ve worked this out for yourself.)
I backed back to spike the first bale and managed to slowly lift it off the ground, just enough to travel without dragging the damned thing. Then I stuck the front spike into a second bale and tried to lift that up. The bale was so heavy that the tractor hydraulics couldn’t lift it more than a foot off the ground. Not only that but even with a bale on the back spike, any attempt to drive across the field led me into a diesel powered version of ‘Bambi on Ice’. I couldn’t get enough grip to do anything but spin inconsequentially sideways.

So I decided we needed technology. I phoned a mate who had a four-wheel drive tractor, “Could I borrow it?” Unfortunately he’d got rid of it, but he’d phone a mutual acquaintance and see if he’d cart the damned stuff in for me.

The mutual acquaintance could, and would do it, the next fine day.

On the next fine day, about 10am, a young lady walked into our drive. She was very elegantly attired, wore a smartly cut business suit, ‘sensible working heels’ and had her hair and nails nicely done. She was the P.A. for a very senior manager in a local factory owned by a major international company. Her boyfriend was the owner of the four-wheel driver tractor, and she had come out of work to guide him to where he was needed, as he hadn’t a clue where he was going. She checked this was the right place, made sure the task he was taking on was possible, watched for a while to make sure the job was running smoothly, and then carefully she picked her way across the mud and whatever on the yard, back to her car. She then drove back to work.

It did strike me that given the value the company put on her time, overseeing the bringing home of my round bales of silage was, for them, a somewhat expensive detour. After all, she was probably supposed to be organising conferences, ensuring the smooth arrival of plane tickets and engineers from distant parts, and generally guaranteeing that a very senior manager didn’t have his time wasted by muppets.

I suspect that from the company point of view, if they’d phoned me and given me two or three hundred pounds to just ‘sod off and stop bothering us’, they’d probably have been better off.

Still, we got the silage home. We needed it, it was a damned long winter. Even when I came to feed it, one bale was so heavy I couldn’t lift it high enough to drop it into a ring feeder. I merely half scuffed it along the ground to where the ring feeder was and then dropped the ring feeder over the bale.

Another bale was so wet that in a cold spell it froze, and when I cut the wrap off and dropped the bale into the ring feeder you could hear the crash as the ice all shattered.

And the picture? That’s pretty much the same scene, with Sal exploring quietly. The left hand picture is October, the right hand one is June


Oh, and now’s the time to fill your boots

The nights are drawing in. You need a good book 🙂