Category Archives: Uncategorized

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…”

The mushroom theory of environmental management

I saw a rather ‘academic’ definition of mushroom management. “Mushroom management, also known as pseudo-analysis or blind development, is the management of a company where the communication channels between the managers and the employees do not work traditionally.”

Actually it was defined to me by an employee as ‘we’re kept in the dark and fed bullsh*t.’

Now we have the mushroom theory of environmental management. Apparently according to those in the know, you’re expected to sit in the dark and feed yourself bullsh*t.’

I just read an article from the BBC

It seems that the National Trust accidentally destroyed an important natural habitat in an attempt to rewild a field! Apparently they ploughed up grassland near Bassenthwaite. Conservationists pointed out that the field contained waxcap mushrooms which indicate that the land has not been cultivated for a very long time. Indeed a lady from one of the local conservation companies pointed out that it would be ‘very difficult’ to restore the land.

Given that one would hope that National Trust staff have some training in environmental matters, it’s an embarrassing mistake, but also it’s a symptom of a larger issue.

Yesterday somebody pointed out a Facebook post made by Tommy Sheppard, SNP MP for East Edinburgh on his Facebook page. He was extoling his vegan breakfast. To be fair it was just a bit of harmless virtue signalling. MPs of all parties do it all the time. Scrolling down his Facebook page he gets between thirty and a hundred likes for his post and can get up to twenty comments. Indeed if it’s an information post (details about postal voting or similar, which is a useful thing for an MP to post), he can get up to twenty shares.

After he’d virtue shared his breakfast he got two thousand four hundred likes, hates and equivalents. He also got three thousand three hundred comments and a hundred and two shares. His facebook page had become a battleground. He was inadvertently hosting a small war.
I’ve dipped into the discussion but frankly it’s a waste of time. How can you explain things to a vegan who insists that soya for cattle feed is flown into the country and demands that the air miles be included?
Then you get people demanding you watch a certain BBC documentary, and then get somewhat aeriated if you point out that the BBC has already had to apologise for errors of fact in that documentary.

It was at this point, where the thread had grown so massive you couldn’t really find whoever was preaching at you, that I decided I’d taken part long enough for research purposes. I had cattle to look after.

The problem is that people ‘believe’ and their belief is part of their self-image and because they’re ‘the nice people’ they have to be right. Any attempt to show that they might not be as right as they think they are is regarded as a personal attack.

Belief is a funny thing. The latest figures I saw for the UK was that 11% of the population are regular church attenders. So however else you define things, the UK is not a Christian country. We are now, for good or ill, a secular country. Mind you when you tot up the numbers of members of political parties, there are about a million who care enough to put their money down. So in reality we’re not a country of people who believe in politics either.

Now the advantage of Christianity and politics is that they teach humility. Christianity teaches it overtly, it’s there in the manual. The fact that people prefer not to read those sections says more about them than it does about the faith itself.

It’s the same with politics. When you talk to those who have been involved in politics in a ‘real world’ context, they know that they have to work with others to get stuff done. So when you get them chatting over a beer or a coffee, they’ll tell you about the times their political opponents came good and supported them (or vice versa) and they’ll even tell you about where they screwed up. Yes in politics there are the ones who talk a lot and put ideological principle ahead of reality. But generally they’re people who do nothing. Even their own side realises they haven’t got a good enough grasp of reality to be allowed near the levers of power.

But the trouble with a lot of the modern beliefs that have replaced Christianity or Political principle for many people is that they are both cheap and allow endless opportunities for virtue signalling. So you can be an actress and fly 5400 miles to join an extinction rebellion protest. But then you’ve probably got the money. Similarly if you’re prosperous, a vegan diet (or any other diet) is easily affordable and you can have a wide variety of foods fetched from all round the world to your door. I suspect that the vegan diet would be far less popular in this country if, instead of imported rice and lentils, (neither of which grow well in this country) you had to eat potatoes with turnips and cabbage as your winter vegetables.

The problem is that people have decided on a belief and are sticking with it. I’m sure everybody could produce examples of this sort of thing. People who have build belief systems, almost personal religions, around something we don’t think of as particularly important, or even just plain silly. But because I got dragged into the ‘debate’ on Tommy Sheppard’s Facebook page, I’ll use that one as the example. Going back to the ‘discussion’, just scrolling through the threads, the same person had posted a link to a ‘propaganda video’ (I won’t mention which side the video supported) any number of times. Whether it was relevant or not to the discussion. They didn’t bother to hang round and discuss it, they had given the proles the benefit of their wisdom and saw no point in wasting time explaining it to those so irremediably thick that they disagreed with it. Similarly several times people would make claims they claimed were scientific. One such claim was ‘livestock use 83% of the arable land while only producing 18% of the calories consumed’. So I asked for the source of the data. After the usual abuse I was given a link to a document which didn’t include the claim. So I asked again, and got more abuse. The reason is that the quote is wrong. A Guardian journalist wrote that livestock provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of farmland which is an entirely different thing altogether. Even if he’s correct (and looking at the article there are questions that need answering) a lot of farmland isn’t suited for arable agriculture.

In the UK, “The agricultural area used is 23.07 million acres (9.34 million hectares), about 70% of the land area of the England. 36% of the agricultural land is croppable (arable), or 25% of the total land area.”  These are Defra figures via wiki.

So in the UK which is a densely populated and fertile island, we cannot crop 64% of our farmland. If there were no livestock, it wouldn’t suddenly produce arable crops, it would produce no food at all. Or, where it could be ploughed, you’d find yourself in the same embarrassing position that the National Trust found itself when they dug up ancient grassland to ‘rewild it.’

What we really need is a ‘grown-up’ debate with a lot more humility and people willing to admit they don’t have the answers.


There again, what do I know? Ask an expert.

Or from anybody but Amazon

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.

So where will we get the staff?

Whilst my time in agriculture has been a time of impressive change, I suspect that the industry has been moving so quickly, every generation born since 1900 will be able to say that. I started my life working alongside men who’d been in farm work in the 1920s and 1930s. They were horsemen but I just missed that.

But being born on a family farm I’ve done jobs that long disappeared. I’ve planted potatoes by hand. (Push one in by the toe of your boot. Then bring your heel of the other foot to that potato and push the next one in by your toe. But if you are a child it’s two feet.)
Like the folk in the photo I’ve also thinned turnips by hand. Basically using one of the old seed drills you’d plant the turnips with the seeds virtually touching. When the rows of seeds germinated and the seedlings were the right size you’d ‘thin’ them. The involves crawling on your hands and knees up the row, gently removing the surplus and then planting out the surplus at the right spacing in other rows. We always did it with sacks wrapped round your legs to kneel on. Ideally the sack would cover the top of your wellingtons as well it you were wearing them. This means the soil doesn’t go down your wellies as you crawl along. We also used to drag a sack with us. You’d lay the seedlings on the sack (not put them in it) and when it was ‘full’ you’d walk across to where you were planting them and get back down on your knees again.

A job that won’t be missed was ‘cutting kale.’ This was a winter job, the kale would be cut daily and fed to milk cows. Because it was still green and fresh cows enjoyed it as a contrast to the hay that made up most of their winter diet. So when the weather is really cold and wet you’d take a cart and a bill hook. Then by hand you would cut a cart load of wet (and sometimes frozen kale.) For this job people preferred marrow stem kale.

Remember you’ve no real waterproofs, sometimes just a sacking apron to protect your trousers. The kale is tall, wet and cold. You end up with hands so cold and numb you can barely grasp the billhook.

As my father commented, once farmers no longer had cheap labour (lads like him) they stopped growing crops like this. Previously most would have had a few acres of turnips and kale. These crops virtually disappeared for a while.

On this side of the country, the lads who would previously have gone into farming could get other jobs. It wasn’t that mechanisation drove them out of the industry. They left and in some cases machines replaced them. In other cases we just stopped doing whatever it was they were paid to do.

So now turnips and fodder beet (the latter another root crop but generally considered a better option than turnips, perhaps because it can cope with mechanised harvesting better) are planted with a precision drill. They’re no longer harvested by hand either. Everything is mechanised. Indeed a lot of fodder beet is grown on the big arable farms as a break crop in their rotation. They have the heavy tackle needed. They will grow a fair area of it and it’s sold to livestock farmers in 20 ton tipper loads. Indeed even when feeding fodder beet, you scoop them up using the loader on the tractor and spread them along the feed fence. There aren’t the staff to faff about. (Here my grandfather worked and employed three men and a lad. I farmed the same area on my own. I know farms where the amount of labour shed is far higher.)

With kale we’ve had contractors sow it, but we make no attempt to carry it to cows. Instead they strip graze it behind an electric fence. So crops which fifty or sixty years ago took a lot of backbreaking labour are now totally mechanised.

Currently there’s a lot of talk about the shortage of labour for the vegetable growers and others. Who’s going to pick and pack the crop? To an extent they’re catching up with the rest of the farming sector. Now they’re losing their labour force. Let us be fair, they weren’t jobs greatly sought after by folk. Looking at the margins of these farms I doubt they could pay a lot more if they wanted to. Some of them are trapped in the world of gang masters supplying cheap and anonymous labour on one side, and supermarket buyers grinding the price down on the other.

My suspicion is that they’re now going to have to face up to what we have had to cope with. Even if we hadn’t left the EU, as the poorer EU member states became more prosperous, their citizens would have set their eyes on a better lifestyle that picking vegetables for not particularly good money. Indeed even within the EU a lot of work now is done by North Africans and similar who are still willing to work for a pittance.

If we see the vegetable side of our industry following along the same path that the rest of us followed I think we’ll see it splitting into two. There’ll be a small niche sector, organic and artisan, charging premium prices to discerning (prosperous) customers.

Then we’ll see the really big operations who are already looking at moving towards more mechanisation. How about this for a spinach harvester?

Or this for strawberries

It’s interesting to think that if consumers are serious about moving away from packaged food, just dropping spinach leaves into a wooden crate could be packaging enough. Put the crate out in the supermarket and let the customer pick their own leaves.

But it does look as if ‘big’ is the direction they will be going in. At the moment we have Thanet Earth on the Isle of Thanet in Kent. It has 220 acres of glass houses producing about 400 million tomatoes, 24 million peppers and 30 million cucumbers a year. According to the wiki this is equal to roughly 12%, 11% and 8% respectively of Britain’s entire annual production of those salad ingredients.

Indeed it may be that some crops disappear from the UK. They may no longer economic to grow. They could be imported from places with access to cheaper labour, or alternatively they may have a novelty value which means that the consumer is prepared to pay a price which makes growing them possible. But it strikes me that what we’re seeing now is the next big change in agriculture. Just as we changed the way we sowed and harvested root crops for cattle, so they’ll have to change the way some crops are grown so that robots can plant and harvest them.

Really it depends on what the supermarkets think customers are willing to pay. But if people are not willing to work for a pittance, then you either pay them more, do without, or alternatively accept the inevitable changes.


There again, what do I know? On the other hand, I’ve just produced another collection.


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.

Available as an ebook from anybody but Amazon at

A lot of grass to cut?

I came across a picture of a decorative ornament made by the company Border Fine Arts. It’s just that seeing it, a tractor pulling a forage harvester and trailer, brought back a lot of memories. The first tractor I ever had anything to do with was a David Brown 950, and the one on the model is pulling a single cut forage harvester identical in everything but colour to the first one we had.

I was still at school when we switched from hay to silage. It must be confessed that the west of England isn’t good hay country. We grow fabulous grass, mainly because of a combination of good land and high rainfall. It’s the latter that rather militates again making good hay. Indeed I remember talking to somebody in the Cotswolds a few years back. He made tower silage and I asked him whether he considered saving the effluent (juice that runs from silage) to feed to livestock. His view was that it wasn’t worth the effort. After all it wouldn’t fill a forty gallon drum. In his immortal words, ‘We always have a fine fortnight for silaging.’ We can think we’ve done well if we get four consecutive fine days.

The old single cut forage harvesters had flails (hence the other name, flail choppers) which whirled round, cut the grass, and simultaneously created a draught which blew the cut grass up the spout and into the trailer. They weren’t without problems. With heavy crops of wet grass the spout could get blocked. Still they were more reliable than making hay.

When we started silaging, my father would milk, feed round, and then start cutting and carting silage. He would tip trailer loads of grass in heaps in the yard and then after afternoon milking he would have his tea and go out and stack all the grass he’d cut in the pit using a tractor and buckrake.

This was not a quick process. He took several days to do a five acre field. But then Brian arrived. In the shipyard the apprentices went on strike. As a striking apprentice Brian was at a loose end and was not exactly flush with money. So he would use the tractor and buckrake to fill the pit whilst my father cut and carted grass. That doubled the speed of working. We might have hit four acres a day. It doesn’t seem a lot but these would be heavy crops.

I remember father and me going on a farm walk. It was a Yanwath Hall near Penrith. (You can see it from the motorway if you know just where to look) There the owner showed a bunch us round the farm and commented that they could silage 70 acres in three days. When I told Brian what had been said, he just muttered, ‘The lying sod.’

But we slowly upgraded tackle and got another tractor and another chopper. This chopper had a pickup reel like a baler. The picture I found on the web is of a later, more sophisticated version.

 But you mow the grass first with a mower. Then you come back to pick it up with a beast like this. The reel feeds the grass into a spinning drum with a lot of blades. These cut the grass short and also blow it powerfully up the spout and into the trailer. The shorter grass is better for cows to eat and the whole thing works so much faster.

The problem with this generation of forage harvesters is that they’re bigger, wider and less manoeuvrable than the little flail harvesters. So when you’re working, the harvester tows the trailer. Then when it’s full you drop the trailer off, the carting tractor picks up the trailer and takes it back to the farm. At the same time the forage harvester backs up to the trailer the carting tractor brought and hooks up to that. You need more kit but it’s an awful lot faster.

Our problem was that we needed a third tractor. You have one for carting, one for buckraking and one pulling the chopper. Father would pull the forage harvester behind a John Deere 1120, I could buckrake with the David Brown and the local agricultural engineer loaned us a little Fergie 135 for carting with. Because this is a three man system (three tractors) and we had two men, I ended up doing two of the jobs. I would buckrake the grass into the pit, get onto the other tractor, take the empty trailer to the field, collect a full one, empty it and buckrake the grass into the pit. Rinse and repeat.
At this point I ran into a problem. Tractors back then had in their gearbox a high box and a low box. (For silaging I just stayed in high box) There were three forward gears and one reverse gear so with the high and low boxes you could get six forward gears and two reverse gears. For buckraking I would just use second and reverse. The David Brown gearbox was a pretty good one. They’d produced the gearboxes for the Centurion and Chieftain tanks. Rumour had it that Fergusons hadn’t so much as developed their own gearbox as taken the David Brown gearbox and produced a mirror image of it. I don’t know whether that was true or not but when I got from one tractor to the next, the gears were in exactly the opposite place to where you expect them to be. Now rather than stopping for milking, my father would go and milk when Brian or somebody else would come from work to help us silage. They would get on the tractor pulling the forage harvester and we’d crack on. As you might imagine, by nine or ten o’clock at night, I’d got to the stage where I wasn’t entirely sure what day it was never mind which tractor I was driving. So I would just push it into gear and the direction of travel came as a constant surprise to me.

Mind you, the old David Brown was a good tractor for buckraking with. For those who have never seen a buckrake, think of it as a fork that is fastened to the hydraulic arms on the back of the tractor.

You back the tractor into the heap of grass that the trailer has tipped. You then lift up the buckrake and drive forward with a load of grass. You then back up the pit and spread the grass where you want it.

But it’s not that simple. With the old flail cutters the grass was long and tangled and you had to tear the heap apart. This involved backing the buckrake into the pile, lifting the buckrake, and then continuing to reverse. Except that at times there was so much weight on the buckrake that your front wheels were no longer touching the ground. On one occasion I backed into the heap, picked up a load of grass, but grass managed to somehow jam under the tractor clutch peddle. Thus I couldn’t stop, change gear and go forward. The old David Brown, channelling the Centurion tank somewhere on its family tree, continued to power backwards. As it tilted at forty-five degrees to one side I decided this was time to abandon ship. (No roll bars or suchlike back then). Without a driver the tractor continued to go dead straight, over the heap, and then started to carry the buckrake full of grass up the silage clamp. By this time I had rejoined it, pulling the grass out from under the clutch as I did so. Together the tractor and I spread the grass where I wanted and headed back down the pit to get another buckrake full.

We did eventually get the tractor fitted with a roll bar. This wasn’t an entire success. The batteries were placed one either side of the seat, which was really convenient for recharging etc. But the roll bar was fitted close to the battery cases meaning that all sorts of grass and oil and suchlike used to collect round them, especially during silaging. So more than once I’ve been buckraking away and suddenly discovered a small fire burning next to me. Brush if off and keep going, grass doesn’t harvest itself.


There again, what do I know?

And from anybody but Amazon

As a reviewer commented, “You know how a lot of books or movies follow up with a sequel and it’s often a disappointing effort that never quite manages to beat or match its original?

Yeah well this isn’t one of them.

It doesn’t do justice or even feel fair to say “follow up” because in effect it’s just the second half of the same brilliant story.

Jim and his dogs have a world in which I become totally engrossed, involved and invested. Even if you haven’t so much as seen a working farm it won’t matter because the beauty is in the story telling and Jim is one of the greatest story tellers.

The perfect escape from the current global pandemic and highly recommended reading for everyone and anyone.”

Just fix this

Spend much time in farming and you’ll end up dealing with agricultural engineers. There is only so much you can fix with baler twine. In my time I’ve seen steel bars ‘reinforced’ by having heavy pieces of timber strapped to them using string. I’ve seen somebody get a tractor home, steering with the independent brake because the steering wheel no longer turned the front wheels. But eventually you need to get somebody competent in.

We are lucky in that we have somebody competent not far away. Indeed in when I was little, we always went across the fields until we hit a green lane which took us to the road. Then it was perhaps three hundred yards along the road to the engineers.

The problem with this route is that they’d developed it with horses in mind. With a horse drawing a cart (or other implement), when you come to a gate you get off, open the gate, shout ‘Walk on’ and the horse comes through the gate. Then you shout ‘Whoa’ and the horse stops. You shut the gate and get back on the cart. With tractors it’s a bit more of a faff. You get off, open the gate, get on, drive through, get off, close the gate, get on. In simple terms it means that with a tractor it’s actually faster just to drive round by road rather than taking the ‘short cut.’

But when the person you can spare to take a tractor to get fixed hasn’t got a driving licence, the short cut is the obvious route. So I was despatched, aged about thirteen, to take the tractor in. I’d been driving them for a while so I didn’t have a problem with it. We’re talking a David Brown 950 here, a tractor that was older than me. When I got to the engineers I drove the tractor into the workshop and explained the problem. The problem was about fixed when the boss wandered round and asked, “James, where’s your Father.”

“At home, he’s busy with cows’ feet.”

“Who fetched you?”

“Eddie, when the tractor’s fixed just drive James and his tractor to the end of the tarmac.”

Thus and so legality was observed, politely, and in passing.

Another time I was taking a tractor to the engineers to be fixed, I was older and therefore could go by road. The engine was ‘running a bit rough’. At one point I was driving up the hill and the engine was definitely running rough. Judging by the noise coming from it I’d be lucky to make it to the top of the hill. At this point the Hercules C130 tactical transport aircraft which has sneaked up behind me quite literally overtook me. It was so low I could read the writing on the underside. The disconcerting noise was explained.

It has to be said that an agricultural engineers wasn’t one of those places you could stand about idle. One time I was there, they were busy, and those people with stuff needed fixing now were hanging about waiting. But whilst you were waiting, the boss had a set of spike harrows to assemble. Because he had all his lads working flat out, that set of spike harrows was assembled by waiting farmers during the course of the afternoon. I’d bolted in half a dozen of the spikes by the time they’d got my job sorted.

The other thing about agricultural engineers is that the good ones will attempt to fix anything. The phrase, ‘this should get you going again’ is one which indicates that parts from competing manufacturers, pulled from a second hand bin, have been made to fit. I remember talking to our vet. He had been called to a cow that wasn’t eating. He diagnosed the problem. Cows have big molars, and some of them have two or three points of attachment. What had happened is that the tooth had come free of all bar one point of attachment. So as the cow chewed, the tooth swivelled on that one point of attachment. I’ll pause a moment for you to wince as you imagine what that must feel like.

The problem was that the tooth was right at the back. Putting your hand deep into a cow’s mouth is a dicey proposition at the best of times. But whilst he could see the tooth, the vet couldn’t reach it.

So he walked across the village to the engineers. It had started out as a smithy and the forge and old blacksmith’s tools were still in place. The vet pointed to a set of the tongs and explained what he wanted.

They took the tongs, heated the ends with the oxyacetylene then hammered them so that the bit that grips was bent at 90 degrees to the handles. They were dropped into a water trough to cool down and then the vet walked back, reached into the cow’s mouth with his new, improved, tongs, gave one gentle tug and the problem was solved.

Another thing to remember that I’m on the west side of the country. We tend to have ‘livestock’ tractors. There’s a lot of electronics you just don’t need, but actually you need a tractor that’s more manoeuvrable. You’ll have to work around buildings as well as just drive up and down fields. Also when you’re carting slurry and similar, your tractor will end up considerably more dirty than an ‘arable tractor’. I’ve watched the mechanics sent by the company to explain things to the mechanics at our local agricultural engineers. At one point the mechanic was cringing as he climbed on board the tractor. He commented to one of the local lads, “How can you work in this mess.”

The reply was, “This is one of the clean ones we set aside for you to work on.”

At one point on the pandemic, I was talking to one of the mechanics and we were talking about hand washing. He just held his hands out, “What virus is going to live on these?”

With some jobs it’s important to wash your hands before you go to the toilet.



Then again, never confuse me with somebody who knows what they’re talking about. As the experts.

‘Lambing almost live’

Available in everything but kindle from

And from Amazon at

Let a hundred flowers bloom

Last year somebody obviously had a bit of a clear-out in their garden. They dumped a lot of bulbs onto the dike cop and left them there. So I went down with a spade and just sort of dug them in. Now I’m not a gardener. If anybody asks, I’m a cowman and can get nervous when a field is brown side up. But the advantage is that whilst I didn’t know what I was planting, I wasn’t going to be disappointed at what came up. All you need is the right attitude and suddenly everything is an adventure. Perhaps more so than it need be.
But whilst we’re on about adventure, I was talking to one of the next generation and schools and discipline came up. I mentioned that I’d been asked to edit gently an Old Boys’ magazine for the school I used to attend. And no, I’ve no idea why I was asked either. But there was a hut at the bottom of the school field.

This hut, which in its time was an ARP hut, a Home Guard hut, a scout hut, and a dance studio (note the Oxford comma) had a long history. When the Home Guard had it, rumours circulated among the lads at the school that there were army rations stored there. Indeed there was even rumoured to be chocolate.
That did it, some lads quietly broke in by the simple expedient of loosening some planks at the back.
Much to their chagrin, there was no chocolate. But there was a fresh delivery of Sten guns, ammunition, and hand grenades. You know what they say, waste not, want not.

Apparently one lad was caught rabbiting with his Sten gun. The grenades were another issue. A hand grenade can consist of three parts. The detonator, the explosive bit, and the fragmentation sleeve which fits over the explosive bit. The lads took grenades which didn’t have the fragmentation sleeves. Effectively this made them ‘stun’ grenades.

They discovered that if you were on the upper floor you could open your window and if the classroom below also had a window open, you could drop your grenade out of your window and it would hit the window below, bounce into the classroom and explode. Obviously at that point you vacated the classroom above, probably with some alacrity.

Now you might think this was dangerous, but nobody appears to have been hurt. Also remember the generation of the teachers. Most would have served in the First World War. Whilst I suppose modern writers would insist on them having flashbacks, it seems that they were more likely to comment, “It’s just a Mills Bomb without a sleeve, nothing to worry about, Johnson. Get on with your essay please.”

I was the next generation in. My teachers could well have been the lads who dropped grenades into the classroom below. (Quite literally, as some had been at the school at the time.) One used to maintain order by throwing a board rubber at somebody he thought was talking or not paying attention. He was an excellent shot and there was no nonsense about wondering why you’d been singled out. If it hit you, you hadn’t been paying attention.

At the same time I was selling ammonium nitrate to fellow scholars who were using it to make explosives which they were playing with on waste ground. When the Headmaster found out, he phoned my parents. Fortunately he got my Dad whose response was, “As long as he was getting paid more for it that I paid for it.” At that point the school introduced a rule forbidding the selling ammonium nitrate on school premises.

The younger generation then commented that they had a friend who in a moment of teenage exuberance, suggested blowing up the school. But they did this on social media, and were promptly grassed up by the school bully. All hell broke out and years later the girl was still being asked by total strangers in the street if she was the girl who was going to blow the school up.

The problem now is everybody is desperately trying to cover their backs. I saw this suggested Safeguarding Policy which for me summed the position those at the bottom of the management pyramid find themselves in.

New Safeguarding Policy

This is the new safeguarding policy to be rolled out across the organisation. It is entirely different from the previous safeguarding policy. The previous safeguarding policy was mainly designed to prevent reputational damage. Hint, it wasn’t your reputation they were worried about. The current policy is to protect you and, incidentally, the person who needs to be safeguarded.

Please start here.

Work your way through the policy line by line until you come to the end.

You are presented with a safeguarding issue. (It doesn’t matter what sort of issue, whether it involves members of staff, volunteers or innocent bystanders.)

Have you read the organisation’s safeguarding policy?

  • No?  Then bring the incident to the attention of the police immediately.
  • Yes? Consider raising the incident with the organisation’s safeguarding officer.

Do you know the safeguarding officer?
Have you worked with the safeguarding officer?
Have you been impressed by their competence?

  • If the answer to any of these questions is no, bring the incident to the attention of the police immediately.
  • If the answer is yes, what sort of report should you send?

Are you a trained investigator, paid by your organisation to investigate?

  • Yes. Then send a formal report to the safeguarding officer, and finish by pointing out that your resources are limited and you recommend the incident be reported to the police immediately.
  • No. Then send an informal report merely recommending that the incident be reported to the police immediately.

When sending a report, send it in two ways. One as an email attachment, and one as a printed document, sent by registered post.

If within three days of sending the email you are not given written instructions to the contrary, bring the incident to the attention of the police.

Stay safe out there everybody, and let’s just keep an eye out for each other.



On the other hand you might prefer to listen to somebody who knows what they are talking about.

The fourth of these collections of anecdotes, rants, pious maunderings and general observations on life. Yes we have dogs, quads, sheep and cattle, but in this one we follow the ‘lambing year.’ It starts with ewes being put to the tup in late autumn and finishes in summer with the last of the laggards lambing.
But as well as this we have endless rain, as well as sleeping in a manger. Be brave and you’ll meet young ladies in high heeled cowboy boots, Sir John Moore of Corunna, brassieres for cows, and, incidentally, David Essex.

This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read.


I remember an old farmer commenting about lads ‘helping out.’ “One boy is one boy. Two boys is half a boy, three boys is no boy at all.”

I know of a couple of farms round here that used to get a lot of lads ‘helping out.’ With village farms where the village was a community, not a dormitory suburb, it was common. I remember talking to one chap, he commented that of all the lads who’d passed through the farm, all were in work but not one was in farming. As far as he could tell, all of them would be earning more than him. Most were working for plant hire companies, or on the highways or in similar trades.

What is noticeable is just how switched on and flexible you need staff to be, and if nothing else the lad working a bit will pick up self-reliance, learn that there’s no such thing as demarcation, and nobody is too important to push or pull when pushing or pulling is called for.

I can remember a farmer locally who was also a local councillor. He hit the roof when one boy in a local school told the careers master that he wanted to go into working on farms. The teacher told him, “Then that’s a total waste of an education.”

The farmer went into the school and formally complained. After all could the teacher work out the Metabolisable Energy of a dairy cow diet, spot and treat Ketosis, deliver a calf and stomach tube it with Colostrum, work out a breeding programme to take advantage of modern genetics, and trim a cow’s feet?

But there’s another side to this issue. In simple terms, nowadays there isn’t a lot of room on a farm for the person who isn’t on top of their game. The days when you could have a lad who was willing but not too bright spend a day mucking out bullock hulls with a fork and a barrow have long gone. Now when the job’s done, because of fewer staff, less money and larger farms, the lad with a barrow might be a contractor with a skid steer loader combined with a serious tractor and a big muck spreader. The contractor could be paying the leasing on £100,000 worth of kit. He’s a businessman and his phone hopefully never stops ringing as people are booking him.

But we still have the not too bright lads. Intelligence is the classic bell curve. The chart shows it nicely.

An IQ of 85 is marked because in 1959, the American Association on Mental Deficiency set 85 as the I.Q. below which a person was considered to be retarded. There is discussion about where the line should be drawn but there is a general feeling that there is somewhere on that curve below which the person just cannot cope with society.

Given the fact that now over 50% of each year group in the UK go to university, and some bright people don’t go to university, it’s obvious that universities are drawing from people who are ‘below average.’

At the same time the job opportunities for those lower down the bell curve are diminishing. I saw some discussion of men who were executed in the USA. (I chose this because it’s a useful data source, other countries don’t necessarily talk to these people. At least the US court system has to.)

Billy Dwayne White, executed in Texas in 1992, had an I.Q. of 66. After being hired as a kitchen dishwasher he was fired when he could not learn to operate the dishwasher. Family members reported that “if one told Billy exactly what to do and took him to the place where it was to be done [he] could do some work. If he were left on his own and not specifically guided, he could not do it.”

Johnny Paul Penry, on death row in Texas, with an I.Q. measured variously between 50 and the low sixties, at one point worked greasing the bearings of cart wheels. “I was good at this,” he told an interviewer proudly.

Another capital defendant “hid his mental retardation for most of his life by working at a very repetitive job as a switcher on the railroad. He lied about finishing high school. He was actually in special education classes and did not finish the sixth grade. He was drafted into the army and discharged because of his mental retardation. He lied about his service record. He often made things up so that people would not suspect mental retardation.”

· “Joe,” a mentally retarded man, admired tough-talking local drug dealers and sought to befriend them. One day his drug dealer “friends” gave Joe a gun and instructed him to go into a store and take money from the clerk. They told him, however, “Don’t shoot the guy unless you have to.” Joe hid for a while, then entered the store, but he forgot his instructions. “He panicked and couldn’t remember the plan. He shot the guy and forgot to rob the store.”

When I was a lad I can remember the bin lorry coming. It had a plank on the back and the crew stood on that. I suppose this was fair enough when it’s just working its way down the street, but they used to stand on it as it drove three or four miles out down the main road to start picking farms up. I remember my Dad chatting to the foreman who he’d know from farm work. The foreman and the driver were both bright enough. The others in the crew, perhaps six or seven of them, were distinctly below average.

But they had a job, they were paid a wage, they were independent, and they had homes and families. They had their self-respect and they had the sheer exhilarating joy of riding on the back of the bin lorry at a hair raising thirty miles an hour on the main road.

But what do they do now for a living? I know one chap, I remember him saying, ‘I’ll never be anything but semi-skilled.’ He’s never held down a paid job, but has worked in charity shops etc. He never will hold down a job. He’s in his forties, living with his parents and when they die, the council are most unlikely to house him in their house so he could even finish up homeless. He doesn’t need to be in an institution. He might even have made it to being foreman on one of the old bin lorries. He could certainly aspire to that job.

He’ll never have a family, no woman is going to marry him, they can do better. Indeed I suspect his only family will be his sister and her children. His sister, a one parent family, managed to get a flat. Ironically she too has never really worked (a little casual bar work or temporary shop staff) but she’s made a cracking job of rearing her children, the oldest of whom has gone to university and they will all hopefully do well. But with increasing automation and the arrival of the robot, what’s going to happen? Is perpetually unemployment going to be pushed further up the bell curve? What is going to happen to these people? Because the lad who’s a bit slow but can sweep up with a brush can be replaced by a robo-vacuum cleaner.

On the other hand the accountant, the middle manager and the journalist can be replaced by algorithms.

Now I’ve spent enough time doing dirty jobs in the rain. I’m not going to wax lyrical about the dignity of labour at this point. It’s surprising how often those who do have an indoor job with no heavy lifting.

But people need a reason to get out of bed in a morning. If you’re going to decide that fifty percent (to pluck a figure out of the air) of your population exist purely as consumers, then frankly, lockdown has given us an unwanted insight into that world. If you’re offering people a life which consists of benefits, a flat, and a Netflix subscription, wouldn’t it just be kinder to suggest they open their veins in the bath?



There again, what do I know? Check with somebody who knows how the system works.

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 “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.”

A Lifesaver…

What happens if somebody is choking. It’s well worth stopping to watch the videos!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Mothering Sunday.

There are your favourite huge lilies in a vase, filling the air with the perfume of heaven. White and pale lilac blooms wait with the chocolates, destined to fill another vase. Your granddaughters have made beautiful cards for you… and invited you to Sunday lunch.

And, much as you would have loved a proper roast dinner, with proper, homemade Yorkshire puddings, you have turned that invitation down in favour of sandwiches, knowing that you will struggle to eat even those. It takes a while, but you manage…taking it slowly, a nibble at a time, with a mouthful of water after every bite.

And the girls have baked a special treat… scones, with lots of jam and fresh cream. They are as light as a feather, melt in the mouth and just perfect… those girls are going to be wonderful bakers when they grow up.

You eat the…

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About this lockdown thing everybody’s talking about

Six days shall you labour and on the seventh rest. Except when I took this photo it was Sunday morning, and we were pretty much guaranteed showers tomorrow and heavy rain on Wednesday. So the reseeding has to be done now. And time off in lieu? That’s not an agricultural term.

After they’d finished ploughing, just out of interest I walked the field. If you plough the fields adjacent on the west of this one, the sheer amount of pottery fragments you find is impressive. In one field, there’s never more than a foot between one fragment and the next. Basically these fields were fertilised from the contents of the dry closets of Barrow. People used to drop ashes from the fire and broken crockery into the privy to help ‘soak up’ any liquid. They would be emptied onto carts and the carts would be emptied on farm land handy for town. I would say, from the sort of pottery that comes up, Dundee Marmalade was very popular back then. We find a lot of bits of broken jars.

But in the field just ploughed, there’s virtually no pottery. So obviously it wasn’t ploughed much before the First World War.
Whilst steep, it isn’t ridiculously steep. I ploughed it many years ago on an old David Brown 900 pulling a two furrow plough. Given the tractor was rated at forty horsepower, and peak output from a horse is about 15 horsepower, it isn’t all that much more powerful than two horses pulling a single furrow plough. It would be faster, but probably a damned sight colder working.

One problem with the field is that the soil doesn’t bind like you’d expect. The turf somehow is never all that well attached. Given I’ve seen it reseeded two or three times over the years, it isn’t just a phenomena of one particularly unfortunate seed mix. What happens is that when you brake on the slope, the piece of turf your wheel is on just sheers off from the ground and slides across the surface.

This has happened to me during hay time when everything is bone dry and it’s happened in winter. Indeed I’ve seen it happen to cows who tried to stop too rapidly and discovered they were still moving even though they were standing still. 

One year when we were silaging my father was coming down one side of the field with the tractor pulling chopper and trailer. On the last bit of the slope he must have touched the brakes and the whole outfit jack-knifed. We had to go in with another tractor and pull the jack-knifed outfit forward to untangle everything.
My father fired the chopper up again and there was apparently no damage done so he dropped that almost full trailer off, picked up an empty trailer and carried on around the field. At the top of the field, fortunately as he was going across the level bit, the chopper drawbar just fell into two parts. My father with tractor and six feet of chopper drawbar continued forward, the rest of the chopper plus the trailer stood obdurately immobile and we had to call out the agricultural engineer to get things clagged together again.

But looking back over the last year, as far as I can see, agriculture has worked normally through the pandemic. Yes there’ve been restrictions on who can and cannot loiter around the ring at the auction mart, but you cannot plough by zoom. Vets and agricultural engineers have continued to appear on farms, as have our usual contractors, delivery drivers etc etc. We’ve probably been a lot less isolated than many other people, but I know that we’re getting worn down by it eventually. So how it’s been for people trapped in flats and small houses I shudder to think. I’ve family caught in that situation so my heart goes out to everybody in these circumstance.

On the other hand there are times when I do get a bit irritated by all these BBC programmes which start with ‘And now that we’re all stuck working from home’, and then sharing their discovery that out there are people who are buying themselves ‘fashion pyjamas,’ because that’s pretty much all they’re wearing nowadays.

Whilst in some regions anywhere up to 60% might be working from home, in other regions it’s less than 40%.

Then we have the various demands that our heroes be recognised. Actually I’m really in favour of this

Farmers don’t feature in this list, (unless we’re tucked in among the food, drink and tobacco process operatives) and frankly I don’t think we’ve regarded ourselves as heroes, we’ve just go on with it, and the year as gone round much as years do. I found it interesting to look at the trades that have kept going. Catering had to keep going for those who still worked, but of course, also for those working from home who fancied not cooking tonight. Metal working etc. is just keeping things going. Taxi drivers are a group I feel have been unsung. Round here I would put them high on the list of key workers. I remember following a taxi down a Barrow street and he just stopped. I wasn’t sure why and then I saw the driver helping an elderly lady into her house. When he’d got her safely inside, he then carried her shopping in. Both sides of the street were parked solid, so he just had to block the road and we just let him get on with his job. For a lot of people it’s cheaper to walk or get the bus to the supermarket, then when you’ve got your shopping, just get a taxi home. The taxi might be a little dearer than the delivery charge, but you’ve got exactly what you wanted and managed to get the cheap offers as well.

So when they talk about heroes, let’s just remember the taxi drivers.

Deaths from covid 19 for men

  • restaurant and catering establishment managers and proprietors (119.3 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • metal working and machine operatives (106.1 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • food, drink and tobacco process operatives (103.7 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • chefs (103.1 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • taxi and cab drivers and chauffeurs (101.4 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • nursing auxiliaries and assistants (87.2 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • elementary construction occupations (82.1 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • nurses (79.1 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • local government administrative occupations (72.1 deaths per 100,000 males)
  • bus and coach drivers (70.3 deaths per 100,000 males)

Deaths from covid 19 for women

  • social workers (32.4 deaths per 100,000 females)
  • national government administrative occupations (27.9 deaths per 100,000 females)
  • sales and retail assistants (26.9 deaths per 100,000 females)
  • managers and directors in retail and wholesale (26.7 deaths per 100,000 females)
  • nursing auxiliaries and assistants (25.3 deaths per 100,000 females)
  • nurses (24.5 deaths per 100,000 females)

The sad thing is, they’re not heroes, they’re just ordinary people just doing their ordinary job in an extraordinary time.

There again, perhaps that’s what being a hero is?


There again, what do I know? I’d leave thinking to them as can.

A collection of anecdotes, it’s the distillation of a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England. I’d like to say ‘All human life is here,’ but frankly there’s more about Border Collies, Cattle and Sheep.