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Farmer John’s July 2013 Blog

Farmer John’s July 2013 Blog

1 Jul 2013

I had been asked to judge sheep flocks for the Chiltern Edge Farming Group. It was a cold wet day with no two farms alike. This one was in a class of his own. The farmer’s thick-set hands were not worn down with age but strengthened and hardened by a lifetime of toil. The farm was much as it had been 50 years ago. He was boiler suit clad with hair thinned but not grey, and as a carer of the land and stock he stood firmly outside time and change. He had forty cows to milk, and at times was penalised because there wasn’t enough milk in the tank from his traditional black and white Friesian cows. His grassland was ridge and furrow and a line of Black Poplars were rotationally trimmed, their harvest used to thicken ageing boundaries of post and rail and rusty barbed wire. His mother at 93 was still going strong, an addition to the pastoral responsibilities of her loyal son. Father was buried in the Wesleyan Chapel graveyard. “He didn’t go to Chapel, but one day said that’s where he would like to be. It’s on top of the hill. He watches what I am doing just as he always did. We had a helicopter land next to the chapel to take the bride and groom to a reception a few days ago. Made a lot of fuss, used our field, didn’t say thank you, not even a bottle of wine.” He shook his head in disbelief at the way the real world had recently touched him. Then, with enthusiasm, he started talking about his sheep. They were big full-wooled Texel ewes with strong lambs and not too many of them. A local butcher took just a few a week at good weights. No he didn’t scan, winter house, vaccinate, worm or have much problem with foot rot. Yes, some of the ewes were out on the cattle grazing but that was alright. He talked to the animals in a strange language between our conversations assuring them and himself that my intrusion was alright. Just for an hour I had been privileged into this man’s hidden world. He didn’t get first prize in the competition BUT did score well as a trustworthy steward of the land.