Dry grass and cats running in flip flops.


People struggle to understand why I can get so interested in grass. After all it’s green and normally wet. But really, my life has been spent creating optimum conditions for grass. That way I had enough to feed to cattle or sheep, and somehow we made a living.

In a perfect world, when making silage, you’d move the grass at exactly the right stage at exactly the right time. (So ideally you mow the grass in the evening. This is because the grass produces sugars during the day, but during the night moves them down to the roots. So if you mow the same field in the morning, the leaves, the bit you harvest, will contain less sugar than if you mow it twelve hours later (or earlier.) As an aside that probably means to keep your lawn strong and healthy you should mow it first thing in the morning as soon as the dew is off it.

But back to silage. You must remember that the ‘D’ value of grass is also important. D value is the percentage of digestible organic matter in the dry matter. Obviously you measure it in the dry matter, because that which isn’t dry matter is water, and whilst necessary, there’s damn all feed value in it and it can fluctuate wildly anyway.

Older grass will be below 60%, young leafy grasses can be over 70%. So picking a time to silage is a case of balancing quality and quantity. Go too early and you’ll have excellent silage but not enough. Go too late you’ll have plenty of belly filler but they’ll not milk off it.

At the moment things have got even more complicated in that we had a long dry spell. Normally, the advantage of second cut silage is that as the grass was all mown on the same day in May, it starts again and is a very even crop for second cut. But because of the dry spell, in the same field you have patches where the soil contains more sand. The grass there suffered from the drought and some even went to seed (which from the D value point of view means it is low.) But with the rain those areas are greening up and putting out new shoots. Similarly other parts of the field with soils that held more water were hit less. So an appropriate date for mowing one part of the field is too late for some of the field and too early for other bits. But in agriculture, we’re used to trying to find the least worst option.


On an entirely different front, Sal and Billy are still working on their relationship. We had a cow calve and Sal discovered the afterbirth. Border Collies have simple tastes. Afterbirth is a welcome breakfast snack. So she was quietly helping herself to it. Billy appeared on the scene. He remains fascinated by Sal, and will regularly jog across to see what she’s up to. He watched her eat with interest but showed no sign of wanting to join it. Anyway he then walked under her, rubbing his back on her tummy. I get the feeling that this wasn’t something Sal had been expecting with her breakfast and she leapt to one side, but kept a good hold of breakfast.

It’s interesting watching the two animals run. If I shout Sal, when she runs it is the run of an animal that is determined to cover the ground. She’s got a fair turn of speed and when going flat out, she’s this sleek streamlined missile, hurtling along. If Billy runs after her the effect is entirely different. Somehow he runs as if he’s wearing flip flops and is trying not to lose them.

And talking about waiting for the right moment, it looks as if there might be a change in the guidelines over social distancing.

My suspicion is that we will be advised to go to the World Health Organisation recommendation of one meter rather than our current one of two meters. When you think about it, people will actually work happily at one meter, it’s about what we think of as our personal space.

Now towards the start of the outbreak, YouGov started a ‘chat’ which they email to people every couple of days. I suppose it’s a way of getting a feel for how people are feeling.


Yesterday two of the questions were:-


Do you think levels of frustration and anger in the population are higher or lower than usual?

Results so far…

Much higher – 50%

A little higher – 44%

None of these – 4%

A little lower – 2%

Much lower – 1%


Do you think over the next month feelings of frustration will…?

Latest results…

Increase – 70%

Decrease – 18%

Neither – 13%


I must admit I wouldn’t disagree with those findings. A lot of people are going quietly out of their minds, stuck at home with only the BBC and Social Media.

But then there were these questions as well.



For the time being, do you think we continue to need rules on social distancing?

Latest results…

Yes – 81%

No – 13%

Not sure – 7%


And should those rules require us to stay 1m apart or 2m?

Latest results…


2m apart – 63%

1m apart – 29%

No need at all – 6%

More – 2%


I’m now the one who does the shopping, and I’ve noticed that in our local Tesco people vary a lot. You’ll get those who will not go within six feet of somebody else under pretty much any circumstances. Some of them are even wearing masks (but still less than 5%).

Then you get those wave you past if they’re looking for something in particular and aren’t going to move. I fall firmly into that category.

But it’s the staff that I’ve watched most. Like me, they’ve been working throughout the entire pandemic. To be fair to Tesco, they’ve got the arrows on the floor, screens up for the check-out staff and everything is done properly. But when I go in about 8am, there are a lot of staff out restacking shelves and moving stuff about. Their behaviour has reverted to normal, they don’t get in each other’s ‘personal space’ but otherwise if you talk to them, they’ll stand about three or four feet away, just like normal people always did.

My suspicion is that we’re very much in two worlds. Those who’re out there and who have been working through it have long adapted and are no longer worried about things. There are bigger risks. Then we have those who’re stuck at home. I still know people who haven’t been past the garden gate and don’t particularly want to. But then if you’re somebody on a guaranteed income (government paid salary and you’re at home shielding a vulnerable relative) why on earth would you push for change?

As it is, looking at the epidemic, https://unherd.com/2020/06/karl-friston-up-to-80-not-even-susceptible-to-covid-19/ is interesting and does hang together nicely.


He comments that the Ferguson/Imperial College model may be correct, it’s just he didn’t allow for a large proportion of the population being naturally resistant to the virus.
Indeed the current outbreak in China fits in with his model. It isn’t a ‘second peak’, it’s just that China is so large that the lockdown managed to prevent spread to distant areas. But eventually the virus gets there and you have another peak in what is effectively a new naïve population.


There again, what do I know?

More tales from a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England, with sheep, Border Collies, cattle, and many other interesting individuals. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is just one of those things.


As a reviewer commented, “Like the other two books in this series, Jim Webster gives us a perspective of farm life we may not have appreciated. Some of the facts given will come as a shock to non-farming readers, but they do need to be read. Having said that, there are plenty of humorous anecdotes to make the book an enjoyable read.”

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19 thoughts on “Dry grass and cats running in flip flops.

  1. rootsandroutes2012 June 14, 2020 at 10:19 am Reply

    Thanks for that, Jim. I do YouGov surveys, but I don’t remember ever hearing about ‘chats’. Are you in a specially privileged category?

    • jwebster2 June 14, 2020 at 10:39 am Reply

      I’m not sure, I wonder if they sent out to everybody on their surveys and asked them if they wanted to take part?
      I confess I signed up with the surveys because it’s an interesting way of finding out what people are interested in 🙂

      • rootsandroutes2012 June 14, 2020 at 10:41 am

        Nosiness as much as anything, then?

      • jwebster2 June 14, 2020 at 11:28 am

        absolutely, knowledge is power 🙂

  2. Stevie Turner June 14, 2020 at 10:27 am Reply

    You’ve got me fascinated about grass now. I had no idea they move sugars down to the roots at night. I usually cut our grass about 10 am, so I guess that’s not too bad? As for social distancing, our Morrisons have removed all the arrows and 2m stickers on the floor, but people still queue up 2m apart. We’ve got used to it now!

    • jwebster2 June 14, 2020 at 10:36 am Reply

      I think it’s courtesy. I wouldn’t tend to ‘overtake somebody in an aisle’ without at least saying ‘excuse me’ but to be honest I’d normally expect to be waved past

  3. xantilor June 14, 2020 at 10:44 am Reply

    In Islington where I live a few people have installed plastic grass in their gardens, as naff as plastic windows and no good to passing cows.
    You’re right about two worlds. I see some masked people as I bike between home and work, many young and fit. They must be really quite scared. In the small Sainsbury’s near me and the titchy shop where I buy fruit, the staff don’t seem at all bothered about social distancing. Nor am I.
    This virus has demonstrated how easy it is to scare people. The Remain campaigners must wonder how they failed – but maybe they didn’t. Perhaps without Project Fear the Leave vote would have been massive.

    • rootsandroutes2012 June 14, 2020 at 11:05 am Reply

      Here in rural Rampside we’ve also got examples of green plastic gardens (green only in the sense of the colour, of course). It’s OK, though – not many of the local cattle come wandering through the village, so they shouldn’t get misled 🙂 As for cycling, about the only time I wear a mask is when I’m out on my bike. That’s because the virus is spread by airborne droplets, and those droplets are effectively turbo-charged by the extra speed cycling generates as against walking. Sadly, not many cyclists realise that, and they almost all pass well within one metre, let alone two.

      • xantilor June 14, 2020 at 11:14 am

        It’s a wonder I’m alive :o)

        (Not totally convinced by your turbo-charged droplet theory. Okay, not convinced at all. Where did you get it from?)

      • rootsandroutes2012 June 14, 2020 at 11:19 am

        Turbo-charged is my own (admittedly alarmist) choice of phrase, but there is scientific evidence, if I could be bothered to track it down, which distinguishes between standing, walking, cycling etc. as well as between any kinds of encounter indoors/outdoors. Of course, there would be no chance at all of getting a message over to the public which effectively involved a sliding scale of risk combining proximity, velocity and enclosure.

      • jwebster2 June 14, 2020 at 11:31 am

        I suspect that cycling, like singing in a choir or playing a wind instrument is one of those things that may expel more droplets further?

      • rootsandroutes2012 June 14, 2020 at 11:20 am

        If you think about it, even standing upwind or downwind must make a difference, complicating the picture to the point of almost total incomprehensibility.

    • jwebster2 June 14, 2020 at 11:30 am Reply

      Apparently Yougov or one of the other bodies who have a large database of people responding regularly discovered that it you voted remain, you’re more likely to want a longer lockdown.
      I’m now sure how true that is and it may only have been true during a certain period

  4. V.M.Sang June 14, 2020 at 11:30 am Reply

    I agree about cyclists. It also applies to joggers.
    But I do think that we are in danger of a second spike if rules are relaxed too early. Yes, the number if infections is coming down, as is rhe number of deaths, but that’s because of the care people have taken.
    And part of the problem is that we were led to believe that it only kills the elderly and those with health issues. But it has killed young, healthy people, too.
    There are also, it seems, some long-lasting side effects, like damage to heart, kidneys and even brain. Although in some people it is not too serious, those who are hospitalised are in a bad way, and show what a nasty disease it is.
    As for masks, again, the problem lies with the Government’s poor communication. They are not there primarily to protect you, but others from the droplets coming from your mouth and nose.
    Also, think about hay fever sufferers. How far away from a tree do you have to be before you don’t have a reaction to the pollen? More than 2 mertres! Viruses are much smaller than pollen grains. Not much bigger than a large molecule, in fact. Think how far pollen travels in the wind (or even not in the wind) and then consider how far a particle so much smaller will go.
    Just a few thoughts to throw out there.

  5. V.M.Sang June 14, 2020 at 11:35 am Reply

    Jwebster2, it’s interesting you should mention playing a wind instrument. The only person I know who sadly died of the disease played in a band.

    • jwebster2 June 14, 2020 at 11:48 am Reply

      there was a case of a choir as well where virtually everybody got it

  6. teachezwell June 16, 2020 at 4:41 pm Reply

    What a fascinating post. I love the picture of Billy running in flip flops! That survey is interesting, as are your comments on Tesco. I see the same divide over here. There are the fear-stricken and the workers who have never stopped. We have the reopen groups and the stay-at-homers who are still getting paid. Different labels but the same divides.Thanks for your perspectives.

    • jwebster2 June 16, 2020 at 5:09 pm Reply

      Yes, I feel genuine concern for those who are shielding a vulnerable partner or parent. But we’re definitely seeing the two groups. Certainly those who’re working are starting to ask questions like, “So it’s OK for me to go out to work, but it’s not OK for me to go out to relax and have a drink with friends?”

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