Sunday, 13 September 2015

I'll Leave You Beyond.

JD Bob's link-box, here full of logs.
For today's post you'll need to know of a very basic chunk of farm equipment, the 'Link-Box'. This is basically a metal tray which mounts on the 3-point linkage on the back of the tractor (hence the name) with, if you're lucky, a rear panel or tailgate. Useful for moving bags of feed, bales, fencing gear and so on around, it is. Comfortable, safe passenger accommodation it is not. There is no suspension except the bounce in the mighty V-Tread tyres, no soft place ot sit, no smooth edges to save you if you lose your footing, no protection from the weather and a clear line of shot for the rooster-tails of gritty road-water arching across the sides of the box from those same tyres. I cannot imagine it is even remotely legal to give or accept lifts in one. We will draw a veil over our proudly displayed (free) "Farm Safety" stickers.

Mrs Silverwood in the Starsky jacket.
Friday then, lashing rain all day from a warm front which inched slowly across the country from 'wesht' to east aligned pretty much north/south. An early call from Bob caught me just as I was about to walk down to his place (it's only 600 yards but no car that day as Liz was in Silverwood-land) and told me it is too wet to walk, so he'd bring the tractor up. I thought he meant he'd then give me the tractor to go do the feeding while he sat indoors here drinking tay and minding the place. Oh no. His plan was to collect me and bring me to his in the link-box. Thanks Bob, that was real luxury! I had wellies, hat and coat and there was only me, so I was at least able to squat centrally and both the rooster-tails of muddy water missed me. I clung to the top link and gritted my teeth.

Very late but at last some decent crop from the tunnel -
4.8 kg of toms today.
Lesson learned - link-box passengering is one of those exceptions to the rule that "even third class riding is better than first class walking". Saturday dawned sunny so I out-manouvred Bob by setting out early, walking, and was into the tractor, loaded and gone before Bob even knew I was about. Not completely though. He invited me in for tea (as usual) and then said that he wanted to come up to the next feed-station with me so that he could check the water-barrels and afterwards, take the tractor off to the village for shopping.

Also later than I have ever grown them - nice young tender
broad beans in September!
We have been out 'wesht' here for a few years now and we have got the measure of most local turns of phrase and expressions but one still defeats me with its tortuous randomness. This is the way they describe the location of somewhere which is at a distance, a village or farm, say, or a pub which is a few villages away. They use a random combination of up, down, over, away, beyond, above and below which seems, to me, irrespective of whether the place is futher up/down the map, more/less elevated in the hills, close or distant or at any compass point from 'here'. The place is "above beyond" or "away below" or "over above" and you just have to hope there might be more clues in the directions... "above beyond by Creaton's pub" or similar.

All food should be clearly labeled, don't you agree?
With the jobs done yesterday and the sun still shining, Bob got me with a classic one of these when he announced "I'll leave you beyond" (he says it "lave" as in "slave"). My blank look had him repeat as if to an idiot. "I'll leave you BEYOND" I worked out that what he was saying was that he'd "run me home" or "drop you to the garden gate" and it would have been churlish to refuse another link-box ride. I was nabbed! At least this time there was no rain and wet to contend with but Bob, who normally goes everywhere in that thing at idling speed, chose this one to cane it a bit on the throttle slider and that road is not flat. I was bounced around like a child on a Thelwell cartoon pony. Shaken but not stirred? Now, at least, Liz and the car are back, so today's feed run was in the comfort of a Fiat Panda driver's seat.

Supper for one in the absence of Liz. An individual cottage pie,
broad beans and (Oh Joy) a favourite beer now for sale locally.
Back at the 'ranch' we finally have a decent tomato crop. I picked 4.8 kg on Saturday which Liz will convert into tomato sauce/passata. She is also after me for some fruit for a new discovery for us 'chilli tomato jam' which we made for the first time last year inspired by a gift and recipe from Mazy or 'red tomato jam'. What I am glad we don't need to make is green tomato chutney, that back-stop for crops that you fail to ripen. All well and good and delicious in small quantities but we have jars of the stuff from earlier years before we learned that plug-plants are the only method that seems to work here.

Lovely clean onions. Not huge, but again the golden variety
did best, with the white-skin and red onions way behind on size.
I also have now good quantities of mange-tout peas, black kale, chard and, at last, a very late crop of young, tender broad beans. I love my broad beans but Liz only enjoys them young. Once they are starting to do that greyish skin thing, then she double-skins them and uses just the inner cotyledons, very nicely, I should add with garlic butter or some such. We crop hard while the pods are still young. I am also using onions straight off the ground. I will not have too many to ripen this year, a good thing in this very late season and the month of September. We are getting plenty of potatoes too but again, for now, I leave them in the ground and harvest as required.

We're all happy to put 2 feet on the ramp but 4? Not on your Nellie
We have 2 lambs now ready and booked in this week for their final journey so over this weekend I have been trying to familiarise them with the concept of 'trailer'. Regular readers will know that we have found this to be a breeze with pigs. Always greedy, a pig will follow a trail of chopped apple or cherry tomatoes anywhere and within minutes will have weighed up the pros (food) and cons (possible trap in trailer) and come to the decision that this bouncy, wheeled wooden box is just another food bowl. The sheep are proving to be a lot more wary and, despite a couple of practise runs, I fear they will not be 'trained' by tomorrow morning. They have all sneaked one or two front feet onto the ramp, craning forwards to reach the bowls of food IN the trailer, but so far no-one has gone all the way in.

Bizarre digital photo effect on this ordinary coalite and turf
fire in the range. This purple flame was not there in "real life"
but is there on all the digital pics. The camera does not lie?
There is the added complication that we only want 2 to load, the twin ewe lambs, so at some stage we must separate the twins from the rest as we may not be able to persuade 2 sheep up the ramp and 4 not to go up. Sheep, as everyone knows, group together when under "attack", so we will either load 6 or none! In practise, we have had a nice offer of help loading from Sue, so we may have enough manpower on hand to grab our required two and man-handle them, out of the flock and up the ramp. Not an ideal situation but at least they get a more comfortable ride than this 'shepherd' does in that link-box. More on this story in the next post.

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