January 2010

Smashing the ice and heaving it out of the water troughs is quite fun to start with, but after a week or so it starts to wear a bit thin, (the smashing, not the ice).  The cold weather is certainly a welcome change after the deluge of much of November and the first half of Dec.  Fortunately our newly arrived calves don’t seem too bothered by the cold.  The first 10 are in Sunnyside with their mothers, who also seem perfectly happy clearing up the last of the season’s grass.  We have been adding magnesium chloride to their water troughs, to help prevent magnesium related disorders, such as grass staggers and milk fever, though these conditions are more usually associated with fast and lush early spring grass growth.  The 16 uncalved cows are now indoors looking very comfortable, eating and bedded on pea haulm.  There seems to be a rather long gap between the first bunch calving and any more who look to be anywhere near ready to pop.  This may be something to do with the bull banging his head on the roof when he was here last February………  Sorry dear, I’ve got a headache.

We have been trying, without much success, to get the last of our autumn spraying done, but with the rain and the freeze, this has not been easy.  The spray for the disease phoma in oilseed rape needs to be applied to a dry leaf, whereas the weedkiller to take grass weeds out of rape needs a wet leaf, this is because the chemical needs to end up on the soil, where it kills the weeds through the roots.  For this the soil needs to be below 10 degrees in temperature, otherwise the chemical degrades before it has done its job.  Despite all these requirements, we have decided to spray both at the same time because of a shortage of opportunity to do any spraying at all, accepting that some of their efficacy is compromised.  We have also been trying to apply a different weedkiller to some of the wheat, to take out brome grass, but for this to work, the soil temp needs to be above 8 degrees!  After any rain, we usually need a good two days of dry before we can take the tractor into the fields without turning the tramlines into muddy trenches.  So you can see it gets a bit complicated.  We managed one short day of spraying a couple of weeks ago, before everything froze up, but that was it, and who knows when we’ll be able to finish the job.

I am hoping that someone may recognize the teddy and its throne in this picture, they have been in place for several weeks now, keeping an eye on the animals over the fence.  The animals were moved a while back, but teddy doesn’t seem to have noticed.  We would be most grateful if the owners could reclaim the toys and furniture in the very near future.


The icy weather of the last few days has been quite exceptional; I can’t remember rain falling on ice late in the day, only to freeze again overnight, on several successive days.  This has resulted in slippery ice in the most unlikely places, such as gravel tracks, and even grass, which has caught many people out.  I did manage to persuade a friendly gritter driver let me have some salt to spread on the worst parts of the lanes around here, when I called at the salt depot on Blandford Heights last week, the trouble is I needed a lorry load not a couple of bags, it doesn’t seem to go very far, even when using a lawn spreader.  It has taken a surprisingly long time for it all to melt, especially in the shade.  I had to tow a car up the hill with a tractor the other night, and as I reversed down the hill to it, I got worried that the tractor would slide into the car, a tractor doesn’t cope with sheet ice much better than a car, but fortunately I managed to get some grip on the verge, and got us all out of trouble.

Surely it would make sense for the council to position small DIY grit stores around the locality, particularly near the steepest and shadiest spots.  I remember many years ago the Parish Council managed to obtain one of these bins for the Church Road junction in the village, but it doesn’t seem to be there any more.

Keep warm.

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