Monday, 24 December 2007

Christmas time

We are busy getting ready for Christmas - we gathered lots of holly and ivy yesterday on the farm to decorate the house and today we are cooking ready for tomorrow - have a great Christmas!

Monday, 17 December 2007

December Fauna

At this time of year there isn't much to photograph on the farm - so some odd pictures today trying to identify anything colourful. Lichens - well they may not get much coverage - but they are all part of the farm ecosystem. I love to see how quickly they colonise, if that is the right word, freshly cut wood or a new fence, or brick or stone.

They are often overlooked when there are other more prominent plants around - want to find out more then follow the link ..

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

River Lugg in Flood

There has been a lot of rain and this has caused the rivers to rise and the Lugg has filled its flood plain once more. I stopped to take some photographs in the December sunshine.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

More from December!

December glow!

The farm looks particularly beautiful . Some of the oak trees have still held on to their leaves. It is wonderful walking up to the top of the drive to wait for the bus and take in the scene. We are blessed!

Christmas lights in Bromyard, Herefordshire

When my children were small, the turning on of the Bromyard Christmas lights was a high point in the run up to Christmas. I would have to drive round and round in circles until they had had their fill!

Bromyard is a small market town with a very narrow high street and the strands of lights festoon the whole street. Shop windows are also adorned with displays. A fantastic country display for the whole community!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Porridge weather

Well, my children call this porridge weather. When they were small and went for a walk on the farm in weather as we are having at the moment, the clay soil would stick to their boots and pretty soon the "clod" would be bigger and a lot heavier than the wellington boot itself. Its like walking in porridge, thus the family saying. It makes a family walk quite exhausting, especially when I used to have to carry a toddler when they got tired - plus you come back absolutely plastered in mud - but fun too - though another load of washing for the washing machine!

Everything is looking a little bedraggled - I travelled to London on the train and was looking at other peoples farming out of the window - being nosy really! and I was struck by how waterlogged the fields were and the high level of the rivers and streams.

I will try and take some photos if we get a brighter day, lots of fog and mist lately, because the oak trees are still holding onto their autumn leaves. The birds are eating the seed out of the feeders as quickly as we fill them, so the wet weather must be affecting them too.

The sparrow hawk has taken to sitting on the telegraph wires as it does every winter morning just surveying the scene. Living on the farm, we are so lucky to be able to be this close to nature.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Ploughing Match heritage

After Alan's comment I thought I would put another photograph on the blog to show the horses in the match ploughing competition. An important Herefordshire tradition that we keep alive and is thriving!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Ledbury Ploughing Match

The day before I went off on my Nuffield Scholarship trip to the US we went to the Ledbury Ploughing Society ploughing match. It is a fantastic day where we celebrate ploughing and also other rural skills.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Back from Nuffield study trip

I came back from my Nuffield Study tour on Tuesday elated with all I had seen and learned in the US, but then saddened to hear that we have H5N1 avian influenza back in the UK. Let us hope that it can be isolated and dealt with quickly. 2007 has been a bad year for animal disease what with foot and mouth, blue tongue, ongoing bovine TB issues and now avian influenza. We will have to watch future developments with avian influenza very closely.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Washington DC

I have been in Washington DC for the last week of my Nuffield Study and whilst I was here I felt I had to go to the Lincoln Memorial that commemorates both Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. It was an amazing statute of Lincoln and a fantastic exhibition too. I would recommend a visit.

View from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

This is the famous view from the Lincoln Memorial - the area was filled with people when Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech in August 1963 - before I was born!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Hotel health warning

Virtually every hotel I have stayed in has displayed this sign at the entrance, didn't know quite what to make of it and people thought I was very strange to be photographing the sign!

Crossing the road

After five weeks in the US, I think the hardest thing I have found is crossing the road in cities. For those that haven't been in the US, the number nine means that you have nine seconds left to cross the road. The vehicles are obviously on the other side of the road, when I was in Davis the students, hundreds of them were riding bicycles on the other side of the road and I was having to dodge across the road resembling I am sure a female version of Mr Bean. Some places drivers beckon you across even when the red hand for crossing is visible others try and cross the crossing when the numbers are still counting down. For someone as uncoordinated as I am it has been a very tricky experience and I am sure a great spectator sport.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Arroyo Seco

In the midst of Pasadena is a large gorge called the Arroyo Seco. The watershed stretches from the San Gabriel Mountains to Los Angeles. On the day I walked through the gorge the concrete channel that carries the water was virtually dry. The photograph on the Arroyo Seco website shows how much water passes through the channel at full flow. You can also read about the work that is being undertaken to safeguard this vital resource.


I spent a few days with some dear friends in Pasadena. I went to Huntingdon Gardens and marvelled at the plants and ecosystems. I was especially pleased to see how they engaged the children in learning about plants, flowers and science in such a fun, hands-on way. I posted a picture of a bonsai tree on Green garden chat
I also loved the bamboo forest which was so cool in the Californian heat.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

River Sacramento

This is the River Sacramento, which forms a major part of the water systems that ultimately supply water to most of the population of California. I have been studying this river system as part of my Nuffield Study on water supply security.

Sacramento Capital

I have been spending time visiting officials and policy makers in Sacramento discussing water issues. The central political building is the Capital and in the park that surrounds it there is an arboretum with palms, redwoods, native oaks to name just a few. A very beautiful space.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Amtrak travel

I have had great fun travelling on Amtrak trains whilst I have been in California. Very convenient and double decker trains too so great to see the farming that is going on so studying whilst I am travelling much more so than if I was driving.

California Beaches

I had a great trip on Sunday around the farming of North California, Napa Valley - wine, Marin country - dairy farming, beef as well as passing almond groves and fields with peppers being harvested. I ended up on Dillon Beach, a small secluded beach with a small community living nearby. I had to paddle in the Pacific before I went home!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

More rainbow vegetables

Rainbow vegetables

I went to the Farmer's Market in Davis, California yesterday. A truly vibrant place to be in more ways than one. The market was full of local foods, fruit, vegetables, but I had to ask if the stall holders minded me taking a photograph because the carrots and potatoes were amazing colours too. There was a scarecrow competition, information on slow food, school project information and almost a carnival atmosphere. Temperatures in the mid 70s fahrenheit help i'm sure.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Travel Companion

Whilst walking on the University Campus I was joined by a travel companion who had the most distinctive call - almost sounding like a jay - but blue! Stayed with me for a while along the way!

Nuffield Scholarship in California

Well, I have just spent my first week in California and in five days I have met seventeen people to discuss water associated issues both in Sacramento and the University of California at Davis. A very busy week with a wealth of notes to write up! What have I learnt ? Well, that the issues in Utah and California aren't really very different to the UK, rising urban population that needs houses and space; farmers producing food in an environment of growing concern on how efficiently resources are used, the impact of farming on the environment and questions on the potential results of climate change and how that might affect farming practice and urban life into the future. What are the solutions to our problems? Well I will have to think on that a bit longer.

Along the way on my US quest I have spotted in Davis, CA some London route master buses amidst the palm trees!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Mountain stream at Sundance, Utah

Beautiful, place especially as the leaves are changing colour

Agricultural irrigation channel, Wellsville

This picture shows one of the agricultural irrigation channels at Wellsville - interesting hopefully for some of the farmers that read this blog.

Wellsville, Utah

My Nuffield Farming Scholarship has taken me to Wellsville Utah, a farming community that relies completely on irrigation. The grass that you see is all as a result of irrigation. The irrigation system is highly regulated and householders and farmers are allocated a time slot when they can access water and a maximum volume that they are allowed to take.

Thoughts from Utah

I have spent the last two weeks in Utah, studying water issues and how they relate to development. It has been interesting for me that so many of the issues that we face in the UK are the same here, such as growing urban population, less emphasis on agriculture and the need to produce food and agricultural products, and growth of amenity and tourism activities to support the leisure time of the urban population. Universally, food production seems to be of less and less importance - is this a critical policy mistake? Land prices close to urban areas for land sold for development makes the returns for agricultural production non-viable and many family farms are realising the asset value of their land. In Utah 80% of the water utilised goes into agriculture compared to around 3% in the UK and the demand for water for urban development potentially impinges even more on agricultural production here. There is an old western saying "You can steal my horse, even take my wife, but don't touch my water!" - food for thought I think.

Monday, 15 October 2007

South Cottonwood Utah

Well, I have had the opportunity to visit the land that John Benbow farmed when he came to Utah after leaving the Hill Farm in 1840. He made a working farm out of the desert! Sadly, the house no longer remains but I had my photograph taken on the site of the second house he built. The first was a long cabin he erected when he arrived. He had trout pools on the farm which is now a gold course.

Saturday, 6 October 2007


Today I graduated from the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester having completed my PhD on global food production. A very happy day!

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Farm visit

We were visited by 80 members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as Mormons. They were in the UK from the US and were following in the footsteps of the LDS missionary Wilford Woodruff who was born 200 years ago in 1807. We set up a display of historic information about the farm and the Mormon Connection and it was a great day. One of the photos also shows some old hop sacks. We used to fill them with around 75 kg of dried hops, and they were then sown up by hand, numbered with an old metal stencil and then sent to the brewers to make beer.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Another harvest picture

Living on a farm we take the beauty and the space for granted. How many harvests have there been since this tree was planted? Wonderful place to just sit for five minutes and get lost in your thoughts!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Late summer on the farm

The ground has been cultivated in the field next to our farm for christmas trees to be planted! Beautiful walk on a beautiful day!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Hop-picking in the 1940s

Hop-picking in the 1940’s by Betty Manning

Preparing for hop-picking started in July when the buildings were all cleaned out, some where animals had been kept in winter! They were white washed and last year’s straw piled in for bedding because if new straw were used there would be a plague of insect bites!

Blanket washing was an awful job. The last year’s dirty blankets were washed and hung on the fences and hedges to dry, all 250 of them. The cribs to pick hops in had to be repaired or new ones made, then the crib cloths sewn on. Hop-sacks were carefully darned. Benches and trestle tables were made up as the legs usually disappeared either as fire wood or to make stools.

As food was rationed a license had to be obtained to keep a shop. Gladys Vernall and I kept the shop and rations had to be weighed up during the day for the shop to be opened at 6 p.m. Three charabancs arrived from the Black County and one from Wales. We also had a few Cockneys who arrived by train at Ledbury, some Gypsies and a Tramps.

The cry would go up – “The Charras are here” and a stream of women, children and a some men would alight, hopefully they had not brought their dogs. They would go wild for a time while they sorted themselves into the barns. The “Dudleys” in the Granary and the Wainhouse, the “Wednesburys” in the Boiler House, cart shed and fold yard.

After about an hour, the straw had been transformed into beds and then another cart full of straw was used to make pillows from old-pockets. Then the dray with blankets, counterpanes, hurricane lamps and chamber pots came. Each adult had a blanket, a child had a counterpain and each bed had an enamel chamber pot- small, medium or large! And finally each building had an allocation of hurricane lamps, which had to be tended and filled each day.
Each barn had hession curtains and father patrolled every night to see that lights could not be seen. Each barn had fire devils for cooking. Coke was a problem as it was rationed and the “Wednesburys” always had bigger and better fires because they were good at pilfering!

The first morning starting at about 7 a.m. you were greeted by about a dozen dogs, which had miraculously appeared over night and they never belonged to anyone! The pickers were led into the hop-yard were they were allocated cribs and the “Pole puller” (hop yard manager) would direct them into “houses” where they picked the hops on either side of the row from one overhead cross wire to another.
The “Busheller” came round to measure the hops picked into large sacks and the “Booker” recorded the tally on the pickers tally card and in the Book. I was the booker and we went round three times a day. I went straight home to open up shop for about 2 ½ hours, then there was the “Surgery” – Witch Hazel for hop rash and eyes; Milk of Magnesium for indigestion; Burnol for burns; Aspro for headaches and a saucepan full of “Senna mixture” for the third day of hop-picking when constipation usually set in. Nurse Daniels and Dr. Webster from Cradley were called in for more serious cases, but temperature, pulse and respiration were recorded so that they could judge if a visit was necessary.

We have had births, marriages and deaths to deal with and the sight of the large figure of Police Officer Harris was enough to restore law and order.
Saturday afternoons father and I would go ferreting to catch rabbits for their Sunday lunch. I can’t eat rabbit to this day because I have seen it baked in mud by the tramps, spit roasted by the gypsies and boiled- fur on- by another woman who thought it wonderful. With todays standards it is hard to believe the filth and poverty that existed in the 1940’s.

One gang lived from hand to mouth and day to day, never any money and most of it was spent at the Pub. Saturday night there were always fights and on Sunday my father spent his time smoothing things over to get them back to work on Monday. Mother fed a multitude of people- 14+ would sit down to cooked breakfast, a two course hot lunch, afternoon tea and a cooked supper, then a night basket for the men in the kilns.

Although times were hard, there were lots of laughs and it was sad to see the “Charras” depart with the extra lorry to take home the potatoes and cider apples that had been picked. A hush fell on the valley, a few tramps stayed on for the potatoes, but they are another story!
We looked forward to this years picking, but it has become a very serious affair these days.


We used to grow about forty acres of hops (forty football pitches!) and now they have all gone, mainly because we couldn't compete on cost with the US and China, and also because we had a disease called wilt that killed the plants. In the 1940s we would probably have welcomed about 1500 people into our local area in hop-picking time from Birmingham and the Black Country who came to pick the hops by hand. Sadly, all that has gone now and all the traditions with it. We still have some hops in the hedgerows though to remind us of how it used to be!

Baling up the straw

A few weeks ago I did some posts showing the combine harvester, harvesting the wheat, well here are some photos of the straw being put into lines in the field ready to be baled up. You can also see the big round bales in the field waiting to be collected to go into the straw barn until they are needed. Sheep and cattle will sleep on the straw during the winter and probably eat a bit of it too!

Potato Harvesting

The potatoes have been harvested we have photos to prove it! In the photos you can see the harvester getting the potatoes out of the ground and then they are put into the trailer running alongside. When the trailer is full, the tractor then takes the potatoes out of the field to either be stored or packed ready for the supermarkets, or perhaps made into crisps or chips!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Birds flying south!

The house martins, swallows and swifts are starting to line up on the wires betwen the telegraph poles. Seems early, but a sure sign that they are planning to fly south soon. They are all on the wing catching insects so that they have enough energy for their journey and I am sure in a week or so they will be gone. Shows that the seasons are changing!

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Autumn coming

Autumn is coming, the leaves have really started to go yellow, orange and red, photos to follow soon. We are harvesting potatoes at the moment so it is good that it is keeping dry. I will load up the photos this week so you can see how potatoes are harvested in the field.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Winter berries and hips

The winter food store for the wildlife that live on the farm is here - we don't feel so bad now picking the sloes, damsons and blackberries for ourselves now!

Field margins

There is a wonderful display of fauna and flora in our field margins. Thought you might like to see them!

Monday, 27 August 2007

Wheat harvesting yesteryear

This photograph shows how they used to harvest wheat on the farm in, we think, the 1920's- very different from today!

Harvest moon

At the end of a long day on the farm - we all sat in the garden and watched the sun set and the harvest moon rise over the Malvern Hills and the valley below - a day when we feel pleased with our labours!

Tipping the wheat in the grain store

We have already cleaned out the grain store ready for the wheat. The tractor and trailer reverse into the store and the grain is tipped onto the floor. The wheat stays there then until we need it for the chickens and then it is put back onto the trailer and taken around to the chicken houses and put into the bins that hold their feed.

Wheat - harvest

These three photos show the combine in action - the header is moving through the crop, inside the machine the wheat and the straw are separated - can you see the straw coming out of the back? When the combine is full of wheat, the wheat is put into a trailer and the tractor takes the trailer to the grain store. We store our wheat on the farm for our chickens to eat - zero food miles!