War letters read out on the radio were incredibly moving and watching some of the amazing old film footage, inspired me to attend the armistice service commemorating 100 years after the first world war. We stood in front of Ashburnham war memorial in the pouring rain. It was well attended and very poignant when the names and ages of the local people who’d lost their lives were read out. What a devastating impact it must have had on our small community.
We probably don’t always appreciate how lucky we are to have our children around. Out on the farm we’d been doing stock work when we realised time was getting on quicker than us. We rushed into the house to get changed just as our offspring were emerging and migrating towards the kitchen for a leisurely breakfast. I mentioned our plan of going to the armistice service and they volunteered to join us. My daughter offered to drive, I realised she was heading for the church and redirected her. As we stood with the rain dripping down our necks, I pictured our large umbrellas in the hall by the door. I consoled myself thinking how awful it must have been for the men living in those trenches. Later I was blamed by the younger generation for not explaining that it was an outdoor service!
I have however found favour with the four legged members of our household, they’re delighted to resume their work, now that the shooting season has commenced. After a few days spent beating, and working the spaniels I can confirm that 2018 has proved to be a very effective bramble growing year. Whereas many crops have struggled, clearly the brambles have flourished and the pheasants have also thrived. Recent advice is to only hang the birds for four to six days. It’s reported that Prince Charles’s favourite recipes is pheasant crumble pie.
I followed the recipe which includes poaching the pheasant breast, then shredding the meat. Making a roux and white sauce spiked with sherry, mixing it all together, before topping it with breadcrumbs (which have been fried in butter), adding cheese and bacon and then baking it in the oven. Ignoring the calorie count, it was delicious. Next I plan to try pheasant breasts with whisky and tarragon pears! Who says country people don’t live well! Pheasant is an inexpensive and healthy meat.
While the politicians are arguing about Brexit negotiations, on our farm we’ve also had some pretty intense negotiations going on and a certain amount of scrapping. The addition of two new canines has necessitated the establishment of a new pack order. The cocker, springer and kelpie/collie have been joined by: Floss, a very leggy and exuberant teenage springer with meerkat characteristics, and: Brie, an adorable three year old sheepdog. The latter is proving useful when it comes to sheep work. Both need input regarding training, and that requires time, but well worth the effort.
I attended puppy socialising classes with Floss which were based on a reward system. High, being cheese/meat or low being dog biscuits, given accordingly for different tasks. It seemed to work well. I’m contemplating initiating a similar strategy for humans regarding farm and housework chores. Would it work? And what could be used as rewards? Any ideas? I’ll have to put it up for discussion at our next family meeting!
There’s been an abundance of meetings lately. Attendance requires a certain amount of effort and my chickens do not always appreciate early bedtimes but usually it’s worth it. At Flock club, we learnt about iceberg diseases. Pevensey Farmers cluster group, discussed environmentally friendly farming and our survival. Predator control, liver fluke, and the re-wilding of knepp estate are future subjects. Charlotte Smith adeptly chaired this year’s farming conference entitled ‘The Great Agricultural Debate’. The conflicting views presented by the panel of industry leaders on the subject of ‘coping with the challenges ahead’ made it very entertaining. Another meeting outlined ‘what environmental funding and what advice is available to farmers’. How wrong I was when I thought I’d spend my autumn and winter evenings snoozing in front of the fire. Still it’s good to socialise.
Chatting with a policeman at the south of England debate I learnt about Sussex Countrywatch Rural Crime Partnership. Crime is an increasing worry. Fly tipping will surely increase, now that local tips have instigated charges for disposing of rubbish responsibly. Machinery thefts, dog attacks on livestock, and trespassers poaching are also rising. Twice recently we’ve met hare coursers on our grazing land. They were blatantly belligerent when questioned, I was glad that they were situated on the other side of the river and I was in a vehicle. The policeman suggested that www.intheknow.community could be a useful resource.
Farming-wise the cattle are housed and most of the Autumn calves have been born. We are busy preparing for our yearly routine TB test, not without some trepidation. In early December someone’s coming to advise us on how to protect our herd from TB. Worryingly the number of badger sets on the land that we farm is increasing.
This week we aim to get the tups in with the ewes. At the weekend we enjoyed our Grandson’s company. George came on Shrek, our Kawasaki mule, to learn the art of lookering. But he slept soundly the whole way around, but I’m sure the fresh air did him good. His mum insists that the sound of white noise helps him to go to sleep, what a crackly sound, it’s rubbish! I put on the beach boys, so much more fun! George was however very alert in the evening when he helped me to write this column!
Happy Christmas to everyone.