Monthly Archives: May 2021

Decolonise your diet!

Every so often you realise you’ve missed a trick! I was chatting to another church warden and she commented that she cannot wait for somebody to demand her church be decolonised. She’d point out that the parish isn’t worthy and gift the church building to those protesting. Then the church itself could meet in the local community centre where it’s warm, the chairs are comfortable, and she doesn’t have to worry about the maintenance. Let somebody else go slowly bankrupt trying to look after the building and at the same time face the opprobrium of the community who neither attend nor contribute, but are furious that you’ve not maintained it to the high standards their grandfather thinks he remembers.

Well it’s not just church wardens who can leap on this bandwagon. What about farmers! First let’s hear it for sheep farmers and their carbon sequestrating wool. Surely cotton ought to be no platformed! Not only has it a horrendous environmental record, but it’s integrally linked with slavery. Wearing a cotton t shirt? Check your privilege!

Then there are the other foodstuffs redolent with the stench of colonialism, imperialism and slavery. Tea for example, sugar, bananas, and coffee. All of them should be banned immediately. Admittedly I’ll miss coffee, but there again, a refreshing mug of honest beer with your breakfast has to surely be the morally superior option. So if somebody comes into work not smelling of drink, send them for compulsory unconscious bias training.

If you stop to think about it, it would make sense (and be administratively easier) just to ban the produce of entire countries on ethical grounds. Given the treatment of Native Americans, just ban all US imports. There are worries about the rainforest, just ban everything from Brazil. Clearly there are going to be no imports from Australia because of their historic treatment of the aboriginal inhabitants.  

Then there is France and their refusal to admit there are more than two genders. Given that (according to one website) there are many different gender identities, “including male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none or a combination of these” it has to be pointed out that just using ‘le’ and ‘la’ is obviously some sort of phobic. Evidently, as a gesture of disapproval, we’ll have to ban food imports from countries with languages that presume the gender of things.

Again we cannot keep importing cheap labour from countries poorer than us. If that isn’t colonial exploitation and the visible sign of a rampant patriarchy I don’t know what is. One alternative is to pay visiting workers decent wages, perhaps linking farm workers’ remuneration to the pay of Civil Service Executive Officers. But that would put up food prices. Another alternative would be to conscript university academics from all universities where the intake of working class white males is lower than the proportion of this group in the general population. Admittedly as a workforce they’re likely to be neither use nor ornament but still. I personally would chuckle watching them harvesting winter cabbage in the sleet in December whilst asking whether the universe is real, or whether you can experience anything objectively.

Now it might be argued that we’re playing with fire here. Surely, like Caesar’s wife, we have to be above suspicion. This is where we have to be careful and do things in the right order. After all, once we’ve managed to ban most imported food and stopped them flying vegetables and fruit into the country, people are going to be so damned hungry they’re not going to ask too many questions about the food they can get.

Amazing how, when you have something real to worry about, a lot of other ‘problems’ suddenly disappear.” Ah well, in the future we might even look back nostalgically at all those entitled people with their first world problems.


There again, what do I know? Speak to the experts.
In Paperback or ebook from Amazon

And from everybody else at

As a reviewer commented, “Another gentle and entertaining read about the pros and cons of Farming, ably assisted by Sal the collie dog and Billy the feral farm cat.
As always, I’m amazed Farmers make enough money to keep their farms and families going, given the ‘guidance’ given by the ‘experts’ in government and the Civil Service…”

The BBC again

Yes the BBC has been at it again, telling the world that government is paying farmers large sums of money to retire. OK so where to start?
Let’s start with the money. The EU (remember the EU, the organisation the BBC executives believed in utterly and knew it could do no wrong?) had a system of farm support. (Can we hear a cheer from any BBC presenters present?) Because it was an EU scheme it was obviously worthy and supported by all right thinking people. At this point should I include a trigger warning or recommend people retreat into their safe space?

Basically it was a payment of a fixed amount per acre. Yes I realised it is an EU scheme so it was more complicated but in simple terms it was £92 an acre. To get this the farmer had to meet the ‘cross compliance’ terms. Some of these were already law, some were extra environmental measures. All these things cost. Meeting cross compliance is not ‘free.’

But the idea behind the scheme was not unreasonable. EU legislation and regulation, like UK legislation and regulation before it, imposes cost of food producers. So it’s more expensive to produce some foodstuffs in the UK than it is in those countries who compete with us. At the very least our competitors have the advantages of huge economies of scale.

These economies of scale are not just because we’re a small country, they’re also a matter of public policy. So in 2010 a company called Noctron Dairies wanted to build a 8,100-cow dairy at Nocton Heath in Lincolnshire. There was a howl of protest and eventually the plans were withdrawn. Yet in the USA, 49% of all dairy farms are over a thousand cows. In the UK our average herd size is about 143 cows, in New Zealand it’s 414. We’re peasants, crofters compared to the competition.

Yet the people who demand the high standards, who howl in righteous fury about ‘factory farming’, will happily buy cheap imported food produced on factory farms. It’s not just dairy, look at vegetables!

But anyway, the EU (like the UK before it) realised that if you want to keep an agricultural industry, and insist on demanding high standards that the consumer has no intention of paying for, then either your industry collapses or the tax payer has to step into the breach.

Actually there are good social reasons for the tax payer stepping in. Food price rises are regressive and act as a tax on the poor. The poor spend a far higher proportion of their income on food and there is a large disparity between those who don’t consider themselves rich and those who don’t realise they’re poor. A couple of years ago, the leader of the opposition earned more than the median household income of five families in this town. (£136,762 as opposed to £24,381)

Fortunately our tax system can balance things out so that those doing very nicely can pay more tax and help subsidise the food for those less well off. So thanks to the EU Basic Payment Scheme and similar systems, the poor have a chance to eat decent food and don’t have to subsist on cheap imported rubbish whilst the wealthy can enjoy their avocado dip guacamole.

Now the system is changing. It’s changing here because we’re not in the EU and it’s changing in the EU because those governments who have money have been hosing their economies down with it in a desperate attempt to defeat covid and not collapse. In the UK we’re moving across to ELMS. Environmental land management schemes. There is a lot to be said in favour of them, they’re tied more firmly to environmental benefits and similar. But as always there will be winners and losers. In all probability the losers will tend to be farmers who farm in environmentally unfashionable areas.

But as ELMS comes in (late, basically delayed by the farce that was the UK parliament in 2019. This was largely because Defra hadn’t got a clue whether we were leaving the EU or not and was terrified of spending money on preparing schemes which would be utterly useless if the remainers took power.) so the Basic Payment System will be phased out. By 2024 the payment will be at least cut by half, and by 2027 it will disappear altogether.

So what the Government has said is that farmers who retire and quit farming, can take their coming years payments in a lump. It’ll be capped at £100,000 which for most farmers isn’t relevant, most of us would never see that much. The problem is, as far as I know, it’ll be counted as part of your income for that year and you’ll probably end up paying tax at the higher rate. What the state gives with one hand it normally takes back with the other.

I’ve talked to a number of farmers, some in dire financial states. I know people who have been hanging on waiting for this scheme. They are tenant farmers. Their current debts are such that when they’ve sold their livestock and machinery, the lump sum will probably help them pay off their overdraft.

Actually it’s a hard call and I’ve told some to seek proper professional advice. Are they better going bankrupt so they’re homeless and are on the list for a council property, or are they better taking this scheme, ending up penniless but they’re voluntarily homeless so are in a lot worse position when it comes to getting housed?
The ridiculous situation is that this pay-out is apparently supposed to encourage younger farmers because they are more likely to, “be more open to new nature-friendly ideas and more inclined to seek income by diversifying into businesses such as camping or glamping.”

Apparently current system encourages “some farmers ‘to coast, to take no risks’” So these old fuddy-duddies, many of whom would have retired ten years ago if they were civil servants or teachers, will be given a few quid and told to bog off.

Then instead of these coasting farmers you’ll have a new generation of young and dynamic people. Unfortunately these will be borrowed to the hilt to get a start in farming and are going to have to chase down every last penny of margin to help them pay off the bank. Especially as the payments to the industry are being cut.

The only reason I’m not sitting with my head in my hands is that I’ve never expected anything better from our political masters, whatever their party affiliation.

But the question that really needs asking, is if a muppet like me knows this stuff, why doesn’t the BBC? I mean, none of it is rocket science, if it helps I’ll even write it on an autocue for them. Then they can overpay somebody to parrot it.

Anyway, what the hell do I know? Come out of your safe space, here’s a cute cat picture

And from anybody but Amazon

Another gentle and entertaining read about the pros and cons of Farming, ably assisted by Sal the collie dog and Billy the feral farm cat.
As always, I’m amazed Farmers make enough money to keep their farms and families going, given the ‘guidance’ given by the ‘experts’ in government and the Civil Service…

Protected to death

Do you have anything to do with an agricultural show? Run a gymkhana? Have any connection with a village hall, or a scout or guide troop?

The Home Office has issued a Protect Duty Consultation. ‘Making the public safer at publicly accessible locations.’ It could well interest you.

 In case you wondered what a publicly accessible location was the document states, “Publicly accessible locations include a wide variety of everyday locations such as: sports stadiums; festivals and music venues; hotels; pubs; clubs; bars and casinos; high streets; retail stores; shopping centres and markets; schools and universities; medical centres and hospitals; places of worship; Government offices; job centres; transport hubs; parks; beaches; public squares and other open spaces. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does demonstrate the diverse nature of publicly accessible locations.

The foreword, from the security minister, James Brokenshire, states, “I want to thank Figen Murray, whose son Martyn was killed in the Manchester Arena attack, for the significant contribution she has made through her tireless campaign to introduce ‘Martyn’s Law’. It is an old saying that ‘hard cases make bad law’ and this is a classic example of the sort of massive overreaction that the civil service is capable of at its worst.

So what do we have to do? Well the consultation document comments.

“However, there are many reasonable and appropriate measures which can be – and often already are – undertaken by organisations who operate at such locations. These include:

• Having security plans and procedures to react and respond to different threats which are understood by all staff and regularly exercised;

• Having simple and freely available training and awareness courses in place as part of new staff and refresher training programmes; and

• Employing simple security measures (such as door locks, roller shutters) for crime prevention and anti-social behaviour, which may also be used in response to other security threats.

So who is going to be caught up in this? The consultation is clear.

“1. Proposal: The Duty should apply to owners and/or operators of publicly accessible venues with a capacity of 100 persons or more.”

So seen from a rural standpoint, this includes churches, (a high proportion of rural parish churches will hold 100 for a wedding or a funeral) village halls, community halls, agricultural shows, ploughing competitions, gymkhanas and similar. (Even if 100 never turn up, the fact that there’s capacity for a hundred is all that matters.)

2. Proposal: The Duty should apply to large organisations (employing 250 staff or more) that operate at publicly accessible locations.
So this will automatically pull in those who use smaller buildings. Given that ‘staff’ may include volunteers, this nicely brings in the Scout and Guide Associations, the Mother’s Union, and a whole host of other subversive organisations.

“3. Proposal: A Protect Duty should be used to improve security considerations and outcomes at public spaces.”

This one starts to spread the net wider. So with

4. Other aspects of a Protect Duty it specifically states, “Companies and other organisations responsible for holding, selling or hiring products that could be used by terrorists as a weapon in an attack at a publicly accessible location to adhere to security guidance.”
Given that terrorists have used kitchen knives, cars, purchased or hired, what sort of hoops are they now going to expect us to go through when we sell a second hand car?

Then for a church warden, vicar, the agricultural show or village hall committee contemplating these rules there is guidance.

“For organisations at the lower end of criteria thresholds, this would entail simple low – or no – cost preparedness measures such as ensuring that:

• Staff are trained and aware of the nature of threats, likely attack methodologies and how to respond;

• Staff are trained to identify the signs of hostile reconnaissance and take appropriate action; and

• There are plans in place for an organisation’s response to different attack types, which are regularly trained and exercised.”

So our church (which doesn’t have ‘staff’ but is run by volunteers) has to train its volunteers and also run regular exercises? Note that it does promise on-line training. Given most of our ‘staff’ don’t have email, and those who do have rubbish rural broadband, between you and me, they’re not selling it to me.

There is a table which details the sorts of things various sized organisations ought to be doing. But the document does include weasel words about being ‘reasonably practical’.
It even says, “The term ‘reasonably practicable’ is already a well-established and understood concept for organisations through health and safety legislation and fire safety regulations.”
Which is true, I went to the HSE website and looked up what it meant.

The definition as set out by the Court of Appeal (in its judgment in Edwards v. National Coal Board, [1949] 1 All ER 743) is: “‘Reasonably practicable’ is a narrower term than ‘physically possible’ … a computation must be made by the owner in which the quantum of risk is placed on one scale and the sacrifice involved in the measures necessary for averting the risk (whether in money, time or trouble) is placed in the other, and that, if it be shown that there is a gross disproportion between them – the risk being insignificant in relation to the sacrifice – the defendants discharge the onus on them.”

So I’m sure that has set your minds at rest. Actually to be fair to the HSE they do elucidate. “Extreme examples might be:

To spend £1m to prevent five staff suffering bruised knees is obviously grossly disproportionate; but

To spend £1m to prevent a major explosion capable of killing 150 people is obviously proportionate.”

So if our church normally has a congregation of 10, then it’s proportionate to spend one 15th of £1m to prevent a terrorist attack capable of killing ten people? This is £66,666. Given that could be ten times our annual income, my recommendation, put to the PCC, is that we issue churchwardens with H&K MP5 submachineguns. (In 9mm, so they do less damage to fixtures and fittings.) Given that our rural churches tend to be in isolated locations where the police take forever to arrive, then any terrorists will have to be dealt with by the churchwardens (or perhaps the incumbent?)
Perhaps for funerals, where the vast majority of the people attending will not be known to our ‘staff’, the Churchwardens could cover the crowd with their firearms which the incumbent frisks the mourners down before allowing them into the church?


Me? I just write stuff, don’t confuse me with somebody who has a clue about what is going on. Ask an expert.

From Amazon in paperback or ebook

From everybody else

As a reviewer commented, “

This is in the same league as Herrick, absorbing you into a different world, with its trials and tribulations making a background for the occasional moment of hilarity or joy. Hats off to Jim and his ilk, putting food on our tables despite our unwillingness to pay a decent price for it. I am frequently outraged that I live in a society which is prepared to pay more for bottled water than milk, and drowns the country in plastic in the process.

Jim manages to get this across without ranting and then uses his wry sense of humour to leave you howling with laughter at a series of events that a mere townie could never have imagined. Thanks for letting me into your world Jim – I am now committed to changing my behaviour and paying the extra for local, seasonal produce.”

Suitably homogenised.

Everybody tells me how different things are, the great changes that have been made in society in the last generation. Yet the photo above was posted with the caption, ‘This is what your grandmothers looked like in the 1970s.’ To be honest the only reason for granddaughters not raiding grandmother’s wardrobe is she’ll be lucky if she’s as slender as they were fifty years ago.

I’m pretty much the same generation as the ladies in the photo, a little younger perhaps. But the following photo is of a young lady of my grandmother’s generation when she would be a similar age to the four above. Her daughter would have had no interest in raiding her wardrobe, never mind her granddaughter.

Obviously I generalise wildly for effect. I have family members who are keen on vintage clothes and more power to their elbow. But in spite of this being an era of ‘runaway’ change, there are some things that we might think have changed that maybe haven’t changed that much.

But there are other changes that have been profound but we’ve forgotten. I was involved in a ‘discussion’ with a vegan on farcebook where he extolled the virtues of lovely chickpeas which he was about to eat.

I asked him if his chickpeas were imported from India, Australia, Pakistan, Myanmar, or Ethiopia, who are the largest producers. We don’t really grow them. From memory it’s a climatic thing, they’re not particularly frost resistant.
I suppose I could have asked, ‘What was wrong with potatoes or bread?’

There again it wasn’t until 1586 that Sir Thomas Harriot brought the first potato back to England.

So what about bread? But what do you want your bread made of? People rarely hear about the ‘wheat line’ nowadays but at one point it would have determined your diet. If you look at the map, you can see where wheat can be grown in the UK. The darker the shading, the more is grown. We’re really only interested in the two darker shades, anywhere where less than 10% is grown is not really wheat growing country.

If you were to go back into the 18th century and earlier, ordinary people within the ‘wheat line’ would probably have eaten bread made of wheat. It needn’t have been good wheat, but it was wheat. North of the Vale of York, Rye was more likely to be the staple bread grain. Across the Pennines, bread was made from oats and barley with a bit of rye. Indeed oatcakes or clab bread were normal in what is now Cumbria. As late as the 19th century the area where bread was made with a barley-pea mix stretched from Northumberland into Scotland.

Obviously posh folk in cities would eat wheat bread, but probably until the coming of the railways, these regional differences were still stark.

Not only that, but in England, the wheat we grow doesn’t really produce the sort of bread we like. Because we imported so much of our wheat from the US (with the coming of railways and steam ships) our bread is ‘American’.

If you wonder at why our bread (by which I mean proper bread, not factory produced stuff) is different from the bread you get in France or Germany, the difference lies, not in the soil, but in the sunshine. To get good bread making wheat you need sunshine. Because for so many years our bread was made with American and Canadian grain, grown on the Great Plains, we are used to the sort of bread produced when you use that prince of grains, Hard Spring Red Wheat.

When it comes to continental wheats, the French can normally grow better bread making wheat than we can. Occasionally we have a hot dry summer and they have a cool wet one, and they import bread making wheat from us, but that’s not common. Normally we can get by using our own bread making wheat but mixing it with Hard Spring Red Wheat. This American/Canadian wheat is the great improver. It mixes in with other grains and lifts the mixture to the required standard.

So when people talk about moving to ‘traditional’ or ‘natural’ diets, do they know what they’re asking for? According to Defra, in the UK we use about 70% of our available land for agriculture, of that, only 36% is ‘croppable’ or capable of growing arable crops. A quarter of our total land area is capable of growing crops. Much of the rest will grow grass, sometimes remarkably well.
If we went back to a more ‘traditional’ diet, or at least locally sustainable diet, obviously potatoes would be on the menu. There’d be bread, but not perhaps as you know it. In parts of England it would still be wheat, but frankly I suspect it would be a lot ‘heavier’ than people are used to. Have a slice of that with butter and you’d know you’d had something to eat.
Oh yes, butter we can probably do, margarine, made from soybean, maize, palm, oil seed rape, or olive oils, probably isn’t going to feature.

Strangely enough we could probably have some pasta, as some durum wheat is grown in the UK. Whether it’s good enough without mixing in imported grain I genuinely don’t know.  Obviously rice would be right out.

For winter vegetables, grown outside, there’s plenty of choice, chard, leeks, kale, savoy cabbage, Brussel sprouts, spinach, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, sprouting broccoli and cauliflower. Some other crops might be possible on a garden level rather than at the field scale.

But we no longer eat a local diet. Like our clothing, our diet has been homogenised, we’re flying stuff in from all round the world. At what point does the homogenisation stop?
Given I’ve been accused of cultural appropriation by somebody wearing my national costume and using my language, I frankly haven’t a clue.


Speak to the experts!

From Amazon in ebook or paperback


From everybody else

As a reviewer commented, “Jim Webster’s recollections, reflections and comments, about life as a Farmer, are always worth reading, not only for information, but also for entertainment and shrewd comments about UK government agencies (and politicians).
One of the many observations that demonstrate his wryness, is as follows:
There was a comment in the paper the other day. Here in the UK, clowns are starting to complain that politicians are being called clowns. The clowns point out that being a clown is damned hard work, demands considerable fitness, great timing and the ability to work closely with others as part of a well drilled team!”

The Rural Payments Agency has given us Schrodinger’s saltmarsh.

The photo was taken a couple of days ago. At this time of the year we really shouldn’t be seeing snow on the fell tops. Not only that but the grass in the foreground ought to be a lot taller and ready to cut. After all, even round here, it’s common enough to get first cut about the 10th May.
There again, we’ve had slow springs before. As a child I once I sledged down this hill in my youth. That year we had snow in May.
When I tell people I farm in Cumbria, people immediately think of hill farms, and it’s something of a surprise for them to realise our highest point is the 30m contour. The photo is a view taken from this immense height.
But whilst I realise that we aren’t the highest farm in Cumbria. We haven’t got a lot of salt marsh. In fact we have none.
There are good reasons for this. In the UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Habitat Descriptions, saltmarsh is described as followes.

Coastal saltmarshes in the UK (also known as ‘merse’ in Scotland) comprise the upper, vegetated portions of intertidal mudflats, lying approximately between mean high water neap tides and mean high water spring tides. For the purposes of this action plan, however, the lower limit of saltmarsh is defined as the lower limit of pioneer saltmarsh vegetation (but excluding seagrass Zostera beds) and the upper limit as one metre above the level of highest astronomical tides to take in transitional zones.
Saltmarshes are usually restricted to comparatively sheltered locations in five main physiographic situations: in estuaries, in saline lagoons, behind barrier islands, at the heads of sea lochs, and on beach plains. The development of saltmarsh vegetation is dependent on the presence of intertidal mudflats.”

All good stuff. Absolutely splendid. You hum the tune and I’ll sing along with it. I have no problems at all.
The problem is that according to the Rural Payments Agency, we have some saltmarsh. You cannot see it in the photo because it’s behind the cameraman (ruggedly handsome individual that he is) and therefore not visible. But our saltmarsh is somewhat problematic.

Firstly it’s above the 20m contour. Now if in this area, the 20m contour is now mean high water, there are a lot of places in really deep trouble. Secondly, looking at the OS map, there is at least a full kilometre between our RPA saltmarsh and the sea in every direction. So if it is genuine coastal saltmarsh, I can see house prices in Barrow-in-Furness and the surrounding area dropping very rapidly because they’re all lower and nearer to the sea than our ‘saltmarsh.’

Alternatively it might be ‘Inland salt meadows’ which is how you get saltmarsh that isn’t on the coast. This country has one, it’s the Pasturefields Saltmarsh at Hixon in Staffordshire. This is a remnant of the former saltmarshes of the Trent Valley. These were once exploited for salt production. The Pasturefields saltmarsh still has two old brine wells, fed by naturally saline water seeping up from deep underground. Perhaps I’m sitting on an unrecognised goldmine here? Or at least salt mine? Has the RPA spotted a diversification opportunity for me here?

Alas I’ve checked the water. It is disappointingly fresh with no hint of salt.

So what has happened? Could (gasp) the RPA be in error? Now every year the RPA send us, along with all other farmers, a form to fill in about the land use on every field and land parcel. It’s pre-populated so if you are doing the same this year as you did last, you don’t need to change things. But every year since at least 2017 they have turned a wet area with a pond and some trees into a saltmarsh. Every year my lady wife changes it back to pond, and every year they send it back pre-populated as saltmarsh. She has tried phoning them and explaining. They have been very grateful, taken notes and promised it will never happen again. And every year it becomes saltmarsh.

At one point she got so hacked off with them she asked me to talk to them. I asked the RPA if they have software that is designed to spontaneously generate errors, or do they employ somebody whose job is merely to go round changing things at random?
And of course it made no difference whatsoever.

I have been tempted to fatten a few lambs on our ‘saltmarsh’ because ‘saltmarsh lamb’ is a premium product.

The problem is I can well imagine one branch of government prosecuting me for fraud at the same time that another branch of government keeps turning our pond into a saltmarsh.
Perhaps we ought to sell ‘Schrodinger’s saltmarsh lamb’ on the not unreasonable grounds that nobody seems to be able to tell whether it’s saltmarsh or not.

But look on the bright side, our other pond (which has no inlet or outlet) is no longer a ‘river’. It’s taken us about four years but finally the RPA seem to have had somebody check the dictionary in the office for the definition of river, and have noticed our small pond doesn’t really fit the bill.



There again, what do I know? I’ve always been given to wild flights of fancy. You really need to speak to somebody who’s got their act together. From Amazon at :-

And from everybody else at :-

Yet more observations on rural life. We have cattle, environmentalists, a plethora of new thinking as Defra plunges into the new world but more importantly we still have our Loyal Border Collie, Sal. She is joined in a starring role by Billy, the newly arrived farm cat. As well as this we have diversification opportunities for those wishing to serve niche markets, living in the past, and the secret of perfect hair.

As a reviewer commented, “Another gentle and entertaining read about the pros and cons of Farming, ably assisted by Sal the collie dog and Billy the feral farm cat.
As always, I’m amazed Farmers make enough money to keep their farms and families going, given the ‘guidance’ given by the ‘experts’ in government and the Civil Service…”

Does the pit need stirring?

There are more ways of stirring up a slurry pit Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Parking a tractor with a slurry stirrer by the side of the pit suddenly seems so pedestrian. There again, at least with the tractor you’ve less chance of an early bath. The picture is a still from a video available on Facebook but it won’t let the link be shown here.

Now you might ask why the need to keep a slurry pit well stirred should remind me of social media? It’s just that three organisations I’m involved with have been agonising about their internet and social media presence. The embarrassing thing is that when they discuss their website, I haven’t looked at it for months, years, or in some cases, for ever.

Why? Because the websites are worthy, have a lot of very useful documents and suchlike on them available for those who need them. But I’ve never needed them. Why would I go to the website? Anyway, I know who to ask in the real world.

If I want to know something, I’m afraid I go to google or some other search engine and start my search there. Yes, the search engine will probably bring me to one of the websites I know, but a search engine will also take me to other websites which might give me an interesting angle on the issue.

Some websites are just notoriously bad. They’re huge, and the internal search function doesn’t work too well. is a bit like that. It can be faster using a search engine that drops you to the right page faster than the website does.

But the thing about all this is that it’s work. You go on the webpage when you need stuff. So I was asked by somebody if I’d seen something on the Rural Payments Agency website. The answer was ‘No’ because I go on that website perhaps twice a year. When I go on, I’m doing a specific job, I’m busy, I just want the information I want. So I’m not going to wander round the website ‘whilst I’m there’ seeing what else they’ve go.

It has occurred to me that we have two internets, the ‘worthy’ and the ‘fun’. The organisations that have the most reach are the ones who realise this and have the courage to go out there and be ‘fun’. In case you’ve not come across them, the Orkney Library is an example of how you do this. They have 73.9K twitter followers. Given that the population of Orkney is just over 22K it’s obvious that they’ve got a large international following.
They tweet with a photo of the queue waiting for the library to open (a duck), and you get a running update of the two doves who’re building a nest on the drainpipes. As well as this they have updates on local archaeological excavations, news on fun new books that the library has acquired (Dancing with Cats) and knitted hats for a project they’re running. All profusely illustrated.

The problem with social media is that it’s the clash of two different worlds. There are people who want to have fun and keep in touch with friends, and there are people who want to sell them stuff.

I confess I’m probably in the second category. I joined Facebook back in about 2009 because when doing freelance journalism, searches would take me onto Facebook. So I set up an account and a Facebook page. Facebook even ended up with an old email address that died when I changed ISP and it was six or seven years before I had to give them one that worked. My Facebook page was specifically set up so nobody could find it or post to it. It wasn’t until 2011 when I had a book to sell that I started posting stuff on Facebook.

You soon learn that screaming ‘buy my book’ is never going to work. I would suggest that 99.999% of people who come onto Facebook do so with no intention of ever buying books from people haranguing them on the platform. Indeed I understand this entirely because I too am irritated by adverts that appear on my news feed. But then I tend to deal with this by rarely looking at my news feed. When I come on to Facebook, I’ll check for messages. Various friends and family members tend to prefer to contact people through messenger. In the past I’ve had to explain, slowly and carefully, and in some cases multiple times, that the only time I see Facebook is when I’m at home on the PC. I’ll check the notifications, perhaps skim a couple of groups I follow and then I’ll leave Facebook and do something more interesting.

So if you’re going to the trouble of having a ‘web presence’, perhaps that’s the answer. If you want people to take any notice of you, you’ve got to be more interesting, you’ve got to be fun.

Which brings us back to our video, it was posted by who specialise in slurry technology. If you go on their Facebook page, you’ll see the video. It has to be admitted that they got my attention in a way that a page of slurry pump specifications would never have managed.

So whenever any organisation asks my opinion of their website now, I just ask them how pious and worthy they intend to be. I am coming to the conclusion that if they are on the worthy end of the spectrum, they’re wasting money spending a fortune on a web designer.  Frankly I suspect that all their website needs is a real world address, a phone contact number, a brief guide to the organisation and an email address. Because who is ever going to look at more?


There again, what do I know? Ask the expert, available from Amazon in paperback and ebook,

or from everybody else but Amazon at

As a reviewer commented, “Another gentle and entertaining read about the pros and cons of Farming, ably assisted by Sal the collie dog and Billy the feral farm cat.
As always, I’m amazed Farmers make enough money to keep their farms and families going, given the ‘guidance’ given by the ‘experts’ in government and the Civil Service…”