Dave took a day off during the children's half-term holiday as the drilling was complete and the spraying was up to date. We decided at the last minute to go to London. We do this occasionally, to blow away the country cobwebs and give them a taste of city life, the culture and sights. It seems like a great idea, but the reality is you end the day feeling like you've done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.
Travelling on the spur of the moment can be costly. There was the cost of the train (my family railcard ran out the day before we went) and then breakfast. We decided that we would start at the Science Museum, lunch, and then let the kids choose something in the afternoon. As soon as we stepped off the Tube and started the walk to the museum, Charlie started complaining. He is the sort of child who has endless energy and runs everywhere but if you want him to walk with a purpose it is more than he can bear.
When we finally arrived at our destination, Evie was hot, Will wanted a drink and Charlie was still complaining.
The Science Museum is an incredible place. We passed a good hour or so, then the heat got the better of all of us. Lunch beckoned. Dave and I took it in turns to carry Charlie, who moaned the whole way.
In the afternoon we visited the London Aquarium. Interesting that the children chose a nature-based activity, even in the heart of the city. This was great. Relaxing music, beautiful and unbelievably strange sea creatures, a cool temperature, not too many people and the kids loved it.
The train home was full and we arrived at the other end with Charlie crying loudly, saying that his feet were hurting. The car journey home was spent in stony silence (except for Charlie's wailing) then he fell asleep just as we pulled into the drive. Suffice to say we might leave it a couple of years before we return.
Unfortunately, one thing that Charlie and I did manage to gain from this trip was flu. Swine flu or not, we had all the symptoms about a week after the London expedition. After a few days Charlie began to show signs of recovery, but I got worse. Eventually, I admitted defeat and went to the doctors. Pneumonia appeared to be the problem.
Two weeks later, two courses of antibiotics and a dose of steroids, and I began to recover. Dave had to turn his hand to the task of house husband. He discovered many talents he never knew he had; how to work the dishwasher, how to make the hob function, and countless other domestic tasks that had previously (conveniently) eluded him.
Luckily for the children, my friends rallied round and kept us supplied with tasty meals and puddings for which I was immensely grateful. Dave still managed to squeeze in a bit of shooting, promising to just shoot the morning drives as a concession to my illness. He told his hosts that I had "woman flu".
Fortunately, the arable side of the farm is quieter at this time of year. All the crops are in the ground and growing nicely in the mild temperatures. However, there is always the dairy. Once the weather deteriorates and the herd is brought in from the
This autumn we introduced soft, spongy matting - a bit like gym mats - in the parlour and around the entrance and exit. Apparently this is kinder to their hooves and legs, with a cushioning effect similar to being on grass. It is also non-slip so it should reduce falls that occasionally occur.
It is so comfortable and springy that the herd manager asked to have some installed in the pit. I can see that these mats will not only prolong the cows' lives, but also that of our herd manager.
Back here at Metfield, we have some of the young cows and the in-calf heifers. Feeding and littering can sometimes be a two-man job, but one of our two arable guys is helping out a neighbouring contractor who has an employee off with a bad back. With Dave due to go to a meeting, there was only one person to do the feeding and littering and, about to step into the shower, he happened to glance out of the window. There were several cows running around the yard.
Out of the house in a flash, trying to get dressed at the same time, he arrived to see Henry valiantly trying to manage on his own with half of the animals chasing about in our garden. Eventually, and with the help of an unsuspecting builder, they were rounded up and safely restored to their homes.
Don't the livestock realise the farm is supposed to be quiet at this time of year?