thecowlady


Not a job for a woman!

Oh how many times did I hear that over the years when I was working on farms. ‘Its not a job for a woman’, ‘too dangerous’ and ‘they aren’t strong enough’ were regularly bandied about when I went into farming 30+ years ago. All I had ever wanted to do when I was growing up was to work on farms, preferably with cows, sheep at a push and definitely driving tractors! I was told constantly that it’s no job for a woman, my headmaster told me that nobody would employ me, a farm-worker in the village informed my dad that I shouldn’t be milking cows as I would get hurt! Things like that just made me more determined to prove them wrong!

Fast forward 35 years and some bloke from Ireland has just caused a storm on Twitter by stating the very same thing! Obviously most of the comments pointed out that actually women are very good at farming and on many farms it is actually the women that hold it all together and have been for generations!

All this was brought to my attention by a lovely young lady I was working with on a farm yesterday. In her words ‘‘What a silly silly man! Today I calved a cow, carried 38kg calves and 25kg bags of cake, drove farm machinery, milked cows, bedded a shed up,  sorted cattle out, milk recorded, lifted a gate, did some farm paperwork, the list goes on! It was just a normal days work for me! No big deal! The thing I struggled the most with was making coffee, I spilt sugar everywhere (also normal for me!!)”

In short she can do absolutely everything I used to do (including the spilt sugar) and more and she is very good at it! Her employers have never had a problem with employing girls, I know from experience as I worked for their sister farm when I was 19!

I used to love proving people wrong especially lorry drivers. On one occasion a driver asked if there was anyone else about to unload his lorry as he didn’t trust me on the forklift. I told him he could wait for someone else if he liked but he could be a while. He decided to let me but watched like a hawk every move I made. The next load he brought in was unloaded by one of the old tractor drivers, spookily enough the 3rd load my presence was requested as the’last driver’ was terrible!

People would do a double take when they saw me driving large tractors along the road, one particular army land-rover actually ended up in a ditch much to my amusement as I then had to pull him out!

So what is their problem? Perhaps they feel threatened that an 8 stone girl can lift her own body weight, that she can stop half a tonne of cow in its tracks or she can drive a tractor and reverse a trailer with out crashing into anything. Like I said to Alaw, there are ways round everything, just smile sweetly and carry on!

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So annoyed!

Having spouted lyrical about how proud I was of my youngest son, he has just had a massive fall from grace! However I do actually feel sorry for him!

Back in September he and I were heading off to Devon for a weekend surfing. We were due to leave on a Friday morning after I’d been and done cows. Anyway when I left that morning his car wasn’t at home, fearing the worst I spent the next 5 minutes ringing his mobile, eventually he answered it and confirmed he was actually at home but that his car was in a lay-by a mile and a half away. ‘Why?’ was my next question. Because the police brought him home! ‘Why?’ I asked again hoping against hope that it was something silly like a puncture or breakdown but no he had been sat up there smoking a joint! Now if he had just been done for that I wouldn’t mind, he knows it’s illegal!The police who just happened to be driving by stopped to see if he was ok, smelt the weed and searched his car and found his rescue knife in the door.

He is a tree surgeon and is trained in aerial rescue so needs a knife for work purposes. The police however deemed it to be an offensive weapon and that he had no use for it in the car at that time of night. The axe that was in there was ok though and so was his air rifle that he’d been using that night!

To cut a long story short, today he went to court. We had secured the services of a solicitor and friends, family and his boss had written some very good character references but he had to plead guilty as he did have the knife in the car! The punishment could have been one of the following, community service, twelve weeks curfew between the hours of 9pm and 6am, 12 weeks in prison or a fine.

Apparently the probation officer was very nice and his Dad did explain that he really did not see the point of him doing community service, where he would meet up with loads of dross basically!. The curfew would also confine him to the house, which would be ok but he wouldn’t even be able to fill the log basket up, feed the chickens or put the bins out and well prison speaks for itself!

So he got a fine. £635 which included £85 in court costs and £50 Victim surcharge, although I’m not sure who the actual victim was!

Why am I so annoyed? He now has a criminal record for not knowing the law basically! I know not knowing the law shouldn’t be used as an excuse but who does know all the laws! We live in the countryside where more often then not a lot of people carry knives! I carry a knife to cut baler twine on the farm and to cut feed bags open. The game-keepers all carry knives, the gardeners all do it is a countryside thing. None of us would ever consider our knife to be a weapon!

The law however is a one size fits all thing which means if you get caught with a knife in Manchester city centre you’ll get the same punishment as you would in a village in Wiltshire. Apparently it’s to save time and money! He is probably too naive, he is so laid back he is almost horizontal but surely taking his history into account, the good references he got, the fact that he’s never had a day off work sick, that he gets there early most days and I believe he is an asset to his employer and that beneath that mop of blonde hair he is actually a decent lad should count for something?. More than can be said for a lot of others!

Lesson learnt for him I think but a tough one when everyone to a man thought he shouldn’t have been charged for the knife!


Late!

One of those days, you just know it’s going to be one of those days! My back is playing up and just putting my socks on hurts like hell. I wasn’t looking forward to bending over/crouching to take 215 samples! Still the job has to be done.

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Stupidly low pots!

5 am on farm, all in darkness, locked out, no cows, nothing! Eventually the new girl turns up with boyfriend, sort of apologizes for being late with out actually saying sorry  and boyfriend goes off in search of cows. Thinking we will start as soon as the cows turn up I get everything ready but no, said cows have now broken through the electric fence and are doing a merry dance on some rough ground they are not supposed to be on! All very excited about this new found freedom they are jumping around like spring turn out!

So off I go to try and sort them out again! Eventually started milking an hour later than I would have liked but we got there in the end!

What struck me afterwards and what I said to another dairyman when we were chatting was that she wasn’t bothered that she had held me up. I’d have been mortified if I was that late and had kept someone waiting! I think it’s probably the ‘yoof’ of today although I’d like to think that my boys wouldn’t do it. I always set two alarm clocks when I’m milk-recording as I would hate to oversleep and keep someone waiting. I very often sleep badly as I clock watch and I know others do the same. It was different when I was milking on my own, if I did oversleep it was only me that it effected, I don’t think the cows even took that much notice!

Never mind only have two more farms to do this month and they are really easy ones with really easy pots!

 


Show time.

One hour milking! Yes just one hour, 88 cows, no mess, easy straight forward milking.

So to explain, this particular herd are 160 Autumn calving cows. So the lovely ladies are off on their holidays for at least 6 weeks before they are due to calve again. They have more or less stopped producing milk so will be dried off and will have a pedicure before wandering up on to the downs for a few weeks.

It’s great when they are dry this time of year as milking is always hot and there are always flies around which are really annoying. It also means you get more time to do other things. There are a few local agricultural shows coming up in the next couple of months, so its easier to get away if there are less cows to milk. One of my favourites is Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show.

http://www.gillshaftshow.co.uk

 It’s a lovely little one day show, lots to see and do, sometimes you even get nice weather although being August and harvest time it’s not always guaranteed. There is usually a good turn out of animals and its lovely to walk down through the cattle lines and see them all groomed and shiney!Cattle-7


In the trees!

Tree work

It’s impossible to say how ridiculously proud of my youngest son Joe I actually am. I love the picture above, it sums him up totally!

He was never particularly academic, he is dyslexic as are his two older brothers and was never really interested in school. At one point I had his English teacher ring me and ask how she should motivate him. It turned out she was reading a book to them and Joe was just zoning out! Obviously not a very exciting book was my reply. Anyway coming up to him leaving school we spent ages trying to find a career path that would suit him. He knew one thing, he didnt want to become a steel-fabricator or erector in our family steel business. To this day I think he’s only been in the workshops a handful of times in the last 10 years! He also knew he didnt want to work with dairy cows having had to help me out one morning with milk-recording at very short notice!

He knew he wanted to be outside, he’d been beating on a couple of local estates and one of his friends was going into game-keeping but he wasn’t really interested in that. Landscape gardening or fencing were looked at too and thatching but that was really a closed shop! A few friends were tree surgeons or to be technical Aboroculturists! We managed to get him a few days with a local forestry company. He really enjoyed it and we were told he was actually very good at it!

So we visited Sparsholt Agricultural College to see what they could offer. Only being 16 and not old enough in their eyes to use a chainsaw, he was offered a place on the Woodland Management course. This included general tree identification, clearance, strimming and general tree care. The 2nd year was all about tree surgerey and Joe was in his element! Flying through every test and ticket put in front of him he came out of college after two years a qualified tree surgeon with a climbing and aerial rescue ticket to his name plus many more.

Working through the summer for a grounds maintenance company he started full time for them on their tree side. This worked out well for a while but then another company poached him. Now he spends his days as a tree surgeon. getting to do what many little boys dream of, climbing trees and operateing big machinery! Just the other day he was made lead Arborist on a job despite his co-worker being a good 10 years older than him.

I’ve shown photos of him working to other people and had various reactions, some marvel at the skill it takes to climb trees and work at height with a chainsaw others can only see the danger and ask if I worry. My answer is always no. He knows what he is doing, I worry more about him driving to and from work on a horrible road surrounded by idiots! As a child he was told off by someone for climbing a tree over a river, the same person actually knocked on my door to tell me how dangerous it was, I really couldnt understand the problem, my reply to what if he falls out was ‘he’ll get wet!’ didn’t go down very well but hey I think Joe can now stick two fingers well and truly up at that sad person!

 


Salisbury parkrun 1st anniversary

 

Salisbury parkrun recently celebrated its 1st anniversary. Whoop whoop! The night before  a number of us gathered in the park to do a litter pick, now being as I happen to have wellies in my car I and running friend Lizzie tackled the stream. litter picking

Amongst the weeds and mud we found 3 wheels and a £10 note! Plus a black bin bag full of other rubbish!

I think there were about 20 of us in total and we spent an hour making the park look as presentable as possible.

Saturday morning we were all there bright and early, another friend Kathryn had made an amazing cake!

cake

The mayor of Salisbury said a few words and handed out prizes for the most points over the last year, there was also some awards recognizing the volunteers and their commitment to parkrun. Jeanette in particular has volunteered 51 times out of 53!

Vassos Alexander the sports guy from BBC Radio 2 arrived with his family and dog and told us a few stories about his history with running. He ran the parkrun with his 2 eldest children and his dog.

Quite a few pictures were taken of him including this one in our Sarum Sisters t-shirts!Vassos

In total 469 people ran or walked Salisbury parkrun that Saturday, an absolutely amazing number and it really shows how well parkrun has taken off.

Luckily in Salisbury the Council are behind it, unlike Little Stoke parkrun which closed recently when the local Council decided to try and start charging runners to run there!

The whole ethos of parkrun is that it is always free. If you haven’t tried it yet, get online, sign up, print off your bar code (no bar code, no time) and get down to your nearest parkrun and have a go!


Personal Best!

Got a personal best at Park run today, knocked 8 seconds off my last one! Still didn’t manage to run the whole thing but who cares! Another lady and I were playing tag, she’d walk and I’d overtake her and then I’d walk and she’d over take me,we did that all the way round! I also had Eric behind me this week, last week no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t catch him, this week our roles were reversed and he complained to me at the end that I was just that bit too far in from to catch but he’d been using me as a target!

I am still trying to convince Barney that he can do it, he doesn’t have to run it, fast walking is fine  but  getting him there is the problem! We did do a very fast walk around the field this morning. The hill is a killer whichever way round you go! Hopefully now he’s done it the once I can get him out a bit more often. We also need to get out and run abit more especially now the light mornings are here.image


Badminton!

Would I like to go to Badminton Horse trials? That was the question I was asked months and months ago. There was an ulterior motive it has to be said, I am the proud owner of a motor home, making camping more luxiorius and I know full well that was the reason I was asked!

Now I’m definitely no expert when it comes to horses but it’s a weekend away so off we went on Friday morning, loaded up with food and drink for a long weekend. Arriving at Badminton we found our pitch with texted instructions on where the car keys were if we needed to move it. Parking the van up, our first job was to erect the awning. As we’ve only had it a short while we’ve only put the awning up twice, so erecting it was always going to be a bit of a challenge! Even so we did it reasonably quickly!

Friday is dressage day so we then wandered off into the Horse trials to watch the last 10 or so compete. Some were very good others weren’t and I couldnt actually tell you how they make the horses do it! I think I got the mist of it!

Back at camp we met up with the others, Pimms o’clock time!  Far too much foodimage was consumed, including chips and dips, chicken, salad and cheesy potatoes. I by this time had moved on to lager.

Didnt sleep particularly well, despite being in the ‘quiet’ field there was a generator going somewhere and a dog barking. I think it was probably left in a van or lorry whilst it’s owners were sociallising. It barked until 2.30!

Saturday is Cross Country day, we set off with our packed lunch and walked the course backwards.

2016 Cross Country Course

It is really impressive the riding and jumping that goes on.

Having walked the whole course we headed into the arena and watched as the last twenty or so came in. There was a couple of hairy moments and one rider came a total guttser just outside the arena. The comment that came out the next day was that she’d broken some ribs and her face wasn’t photo ready!

Sunday morning was wet but we headed out and walked the Cross country course again in peace and quiet. As we were leaving after the showjumping we went back to the camp, packed the van away and had lunch. We watched the top 20 riders compete in the showjumping. It was blisteringly hot in the arena and you can hear a pin drop whilst they are jumping. The biggest cheer of the day was for Ben Hobday who was has made a remarkable recovery from cancer in the last year, it was a very emotional moment!imagei got home tired and sun burnt, would I go again? Yes but next time I’ll do some homework before hand so I know who is who and what is happening!


Personal best!

Well I did it, I actually got a new personal best at Parkrun! It’s been a long time coming, I’ve upped my running, doing longer distances and trying to run regularly but I’ve been just a few seconds off my pb for weeks now. I mentioned it to our run director when I saw her at our club run and she said she’d put a 37 minute pacemaker on and all I had to do was finish in front of her! Simple really.

So there I was on Saturday morning lined up with approximately 350 others at the start. Off we went, I could see the pacer in front of me but to my dismay I couldn’t get anywhere near her! She disappeared off into the distance leaving me thinking my running was being particularly rubbish! Still plodding along, I joined up with another lady, we are around the same pace and always have a bit of banter as we play tag around the 5k course. Then on lap 3 of the 4 I spotted my elusive pacemaker stopped talking to one of the marshals apparently she’d gone off to fast and was time wasting. Well that was it, just over a lap and a half to go I pushed myself on even managing a very slow sprint to the finish line! I had actually managed to knock 35 seconds off my previous pb. Trouble is now I have to keep it there! When I got home I told my other half I’d got my personal best  only he misheard me and couldn’t understand what the significance of a ‘purple vest’was!

It had been a difficult week for Parkrun as Little Soke council had announced they want to start charging Parkrun for use of the park. This goes against the whole ethos of Parkrun that it should always be free! I can in someways understand where the Council is coming from but I’m not sure that our fellow park runners are doing that much damage to the paths in the park! The Parkrun there has been going for 3 years, 100s of people have run there, so why now? Oh but hang on £1 a runner multiplied by 300 soon adds up this week. Will they charge children and dogs too or just adults? Understandably there was a huge outcry and lots of support for Little Stoke!

Salisbury Council have already spotted a money making opportunity, the car park was originally free as it wasn’t cost effective to send someone down there to empty the machine but in February this year a £1 an hour charge was brought in. Yes there was a backlash and fewer people are using it. I’m not sure how many soaces there are but at a rough guess 100. so a minimum of £100 a week extra just from Parkrun participants. Easy money, let’s hope it gets spent on the park!


Countryfile and the cows

I didn’t watch all of Countryfile this week as I was cooking tea but I did see bits of it and thought it was quite interesting. However there has been a huge backlash from the general public on no less than 3 separate things.

The first and probably the biggest was the 1700 cow herd that is housed all year round. Many people were up in arms that his cows don’t go out to nice green pastures of lush grass to skip around and graze every day. Now I’m not a fan of all year round housing but it has to be said his set up and cows look fabulous! Huge light airy sheds, mattresses in the cubicles, automatic brushes and food in front of them 24/7, just what a huge black and white couch potato wants!

This was one of my herd after morning milking!image

In my job as a milk recorder I go to 8 farms on a monthly basis to take milk samples from all the cows in milk on that particular day. The 8 farms range in size from 130 cows up to 800. All bar one go out to grass, the 220 cows that are housed all year round on one farm do have the choice to go out in the summer and will very often wander out for a few hours before heading back inside to their comfy beds and food. They also go out when they are dry. Of the other herds they all spend as much time out as possible depending on the soil conditions on their farm and whether there is actually any grass to go out to. Remember we live in the UK, our grass doesn’t grow through the winter and even if it does a bit there’s no too much goodness in it. So here’s the crutch of it. Many people were shouting that they wanted their milk to come from ‘free range’ cows, now I would rather see the cows inside in nice comfy beds and being fed on silage( either preserved grass or maize) than stood around up to their knees in mud with there backs to the wind and rain. Come to think of it the cows on the farm at Glastonbury don’t go out until after the festival and neither do many of their neighbours as the festival site cover quite a few farms, never heard that mentioned when they won the GoldCup last year and I don’t expect many of the festival goers know that either! I have a Farmer friend in Dorset whose cows have now been in for 8 months as all his grazing fields are still too wet to turn out. Yes he would like to turn them out but conditions won’t allow it so instead he’s put mattresses in, automatic scrapers and automatic cow brushes. His cows are happy! I think more people should make the effort to go to a dairy farm and actually find out what happens before they start shouting the odds! Open farm Sunday in June is a good place to start.

Cow brush

image

Number 2, the young farmers were nominated for an award for their help during last winters floods. They’d taken their tractors and trailers to town to help clear up the streets, nothing wrong so far? But wait they were driving huge shiny new tractors, let’s all jump on the ‘never see a poor farmer’ bandwagon shall we? Or should we just sit back and think about itself a minute, most of those tractors were probably on finance, you can’t do your job if the tractor you are driving isn’t up to it or keeps breaking down. So by doing their bit for the community they unwittingly brought criticism on the whole farming community instead. You’ve got to laugh really!

Last but not least the lad that had raised money through crowd funding, his clothes apparently made him look like a toff, oh and how did he buy his truck? They seem to think he should have gone on TV wearing an old boiler suit and shitty wellies and been driving around in a clapped out landrover. Obviously it’s ok for Joe public to wear their nice clothes and drive nice cars but not us farming folk!

I see this weeks programme Adam is trying to drive some sheep through Stratford and is failing miserably, I’m guessing  now that the outcry will be how cruel it was to take the sheep to town in the first place!