The View from the Hill November 2003
All the winter crops have been put to bed now, into the driest autumn seedbeds I can remember, the 18mm of rain we got last week will have helped a little, but it will not have penetrated very hard into the bone dry soils. The crops that have germinated so far will be putting long roots down in search of moisture, which is a good thing, particularly if next year is dry too. For those expecting a deluge any day now, I would say don’t hold your breath, it is just as likely that the dry weather continues. The mid eighties saw a string of dry years, which were then followed by a lot of wet ones, when we got used to autumn floods. It makes a very pleasant change for the ground to remain dry underfoot, especially as we have been excavating for a new grain store, and hauling a lot of soil around the farm. No fun if you are up to the axles in mud.
The biggest downside to the dry weather so far is the lack of any appreciable grass growth in the last three months. We are now feeding rolled barley and hay to the cattle in the meadows, in the hope they will be fit to sell by Christmas. Normally we expect to fatten them off grass alone.
The ewes are wandering the unsown arable stubbles, cleaning up weeds, hedge banks and footpaths; they too will need hay soon, before tupping time. They need to be in good condition before the rams arrive! We recently took delivery of nearly 400 older swaledale ewes from Cumbria, who will meet a variety of ram breeds in November. Suffolks and Charolais, to produce a good meat lamb, and Blue-faced leicesters to produce the classic ‘mule’, the ewe lambs of which usually command a good price for breeding from when fully grown. Last season’s lambs will soon move onto the stubble turnips growing above the Glebe, this crop is a shadow of last year’s due to lack of rain, we hope there will be enough to sustain the lambs until march.
A walk along any of the paths and lanes around the area now shows how full the birds’ larder is this year, the hedgerows are laden with berries, hawthorn, rosehips, sloe berries, holly, and plenty of others I don’t know the names of. It saddens me to see hedges trimmed too early, all this bird food is reduced to pulp, rather than leaving it where it is until later on, it will be needed when the weather gets colder.
Old Rope String Band Durweston Village Hall 24th October 2003
We didn’t know what was going to hit us. The artsreach blurb gave us a rough idea, but did not warn us that the Old Rope String Band consists of three highly talented performers (nutters), who would entertain us for over two hours, with a hilarious collection of routines involving anything from a leaf blower, a vacuum cleaner and wellington boots, to an inflatable chair, submersible accordionist and unicycle, all in the course of the evening. The show was a triumph, involving comedy sketches of a quality one rarely finds these days.
The musical accompaniment to the mayhem on stage was provided by instruments as diverse as violins, mandolin, banjo, exploding accordion, green plastic nose flute, trombone, cymbals, wellie boots, brightly coloured plastic tubes, beer bottles and mouth organs. Also a guest appearance by a strange device which makes odd wailing noises, masquerading as part of Holst’s planets suite played most skilfully by one of the trio. Several people I have spoken to since don’t believe such a machine exists, and that it was an elaborate hoax using a backing track. I prefer to believe in the staged effect, it’s much more fun. For those like us who bought the video, it has been great fun to relive some of the sketches again, as well a several different ones as well. Long may the Old Ropers continue to travel the land, bringing a healthy dose of madness to us all, I heartily recommend it. My face and sides ached from laughing at them. Well done too, to the village hall crew for getting them along.