January 2010 - Posts
It was as if the tractor was on an elastic band springing gently from its precarious position, with me holding its balance,
You may or may not know that feeling when you know a trailer that you just spent a lot of time and energy loading by hand tips over.
Set the scene, it was 1960, I was fresh from farm college and had set out farming on my own fifteen months before. A seven acre field of seeds hay had been down in a week of good weather and we had just baled it. The tractor was my International B250 with a three ton tipping trailer suitably adapted to carry bales, the side boards had been taken off, and an extension fitted to the rear end to extend the floor area and what we call gormers fitted front and back( uprights at each end of the trailer)to support the load.
Half the field had been shifted and this load had been loaded from the lower end of the field, the balance of the trailer was dramatically altered by having an extension out the back so less of the load was on the drawbar. To enable the tractor to pull the load up the slope to the gate I set off diagonally across the field and progresses steady without wheel slip.
The load was firmly roped on and being carried on only one axle (it being a tipping trailer) it swayed with every small indent of the field, in this one area of the field was a burrow (fox or badger)with a mound of soil spread out from the excavation, so I decided to go top side of it still along the side of the slope. I thought I was well clear of any possible collapse of the burrow but how wrong I was. The tractor was well past the burrow when the wheels started to slip , the trailer wheel sank as the lower side wheel of the trailer was carrying ninety percent of the load, it was a slow motion where you could se it happening and could not stop it.
The whole load tipping sideways in one whole block, well roped together it took the trailer with it, the only thing it was still hitched to the B250 on the ring hitch hook. Just as the load finally touched down still enblock it lifted the top side rear wheel of the tractor two foot off the ground just by the twist of the ring hook, this again was slow motion, by this time I had put it out of gear and had move to a position on he side of the tractor as that of a sailor in high wind, trying to counter balance the impending disaster. It was as if the tractor was on an elastic band springing gently from its precarious position, with me holding its balance, one of those times when things happen quickly, but in very slow motion in your mind, it seemed to be hanging for ages, hanging off the side of the tractor then I reached for the hydraulic lever and lowered the hook, which gently lower the tractor back onto the ground releasing the trailer.
There was ninety six bales on the load and every one had to be left on the ground while the trailer was righted, no damage was done other than the ring on the trailer drawbar had now got a permanent slight twist by which it had lifted the tractor. There is nothing more annoying than having to do a job twice, and with me driving I was the one to pitch the bales back onto the load. By pitch I mean pitch with a pitch fork, and seeds hay baled firmly they were heavy, and towards the end of the day when the whole field could have been cleared, but for the mishap.
This is it after a few months work on the engine, new mud wings fitted and the wheels painted. See how weathered and green the back end was, it looked in a sorry state when we first pulled it out to do it up.
Thats still the same ring hitch hook under the tractor by which the over turned trailer lifted its rear wheel well off the ground , see the right hand lower picture.
(The following has been published on an earlier blog, but here it is again)
My Old Tractor -International B250
I drove this tractor from new in 1956, It stood unused for almost twenty years, and now it is fifty years old, its been brought back to life.
My old tractor standing there, for years its not been started,
Drove it myself from new, and now almost departed,
Roof is now blown off the shed, and it's rained in down its pipe,
The engines well stuck and rusted, on the inside full of gripe.
For fifty years that I have had it, while working never faltered,
Apart from rust and lack of paint, appearance never altered,
Got to save it now before, it rots and rusts away,
To pull it out and look at it, do it straightaway.
Some tyres flat and perished now, but they will hold some wind,
Enough to carry it to shed, where it can be re-tinned,
Off with bonnet wings and wheels can see it undressed now,
Get into heart of engine see, if can put it back to plough.
Water in two cylinder, have rusted pistons solid,
Sump comes off to loosen; big ends then are parted,
Hammering and thumping, to get the pistons out,
New set of liners n pistons now, cheque book its time to clout.
Got new shells for big ends, and set of gaskets too,
Back together now and see, what there is next to do,
Injector pump with lid off, is pushing up stuck springs,
With little bit of persuasion, knock down plunger fittings.
New injectors they are fitted , valves are well ground in,
On with lively battery, to turn it mid smoke and din,
Firing up it comes to life, from near scrap recovered,
Can concentrate efforts now, look better newly coloured,
Bought new wings and new nose cone, old ones full of dents,
Standing on its jack stands, it's far from those events,
Gunk and solvents' liberally, to wash the oil and dirt,
Lying on your back beneath, and get all on your shirt.
Ready for the primer now, and get in all the corners,
Always find some bits not cleaned, drips along the boarders,
Rub it down where paint has run, ready for its top coat,
Don't want dust or flies or any damp, gloss I must promote.
Front and back wheels now back on, brand new shiny nuts,
New exhaust enamel black, tin pan seat to rest your butt,
Fit the loom and lights and switches, oil gauge and ammeter,
Needs new steering wheel and nut, to set it off the neater.
Out on road run we have booked, got a logbook too,
On red diesel it runs at home, some run on white a few,
Insurance and a tax disc now, new number plates as well,
Will miss my cosy heated cab, frozen Christmas tail to tell.
This is the old tractor now, just about like new, we have not got hold of a new steering wheel yet, or the headlight's, it has taken part in a number of road runs and light work about the farm.
As always in pictures, its whats in the background that interests most folk, such as the Fordson E27N set of steel wheels, and on the right a Fordson Elite plough.
Seeing as its hay we were carting---
Hay is more acceptable to an ass than gold.
Milked by hand some cows had teats almost as thick as your wrist , with front teats sticking out "east west".
Dairy cows of old, bore little resemblance to the diary cows of today. Back in the 40's every herd had its own bull often reared out of one of your own cows, served by a neighbours bull, which was boasted to be the best in the neighbourhood. Blood lines and pedigrees' meant nothing when you had a fine looking bull running with the cows, however what came out of the "pot" was very often a different picture. This you would not find out until you had used the bull for three years when the first heifers calved down and came into the milking herd.
Up until that period in time; most herds were milked by hand and cows with teats almost as thick as your wrist were common place, and front teats sticking out "east west". Pendulous udders in the older cows, with udders only inches from the ground, these were kept on because perhaps they were easy milkers and perhaps the highest yielders.
Some of these cows were almost impossible to milk with a machine; the thick teats were not too bad as long as all four teats pointed "south". Some cows had low back quarters and empty looking front quarters, which did not suit the machine milking, I remember a big "duck stone" would be place on the claw of the milking machine, and then a cord would be over the cows back to hold the units up onto the front teats. Often the udder would be so low it was almost impossible to reach down to even get the units on.
Father started his herd by exchanging a sow for a cow around 1930 progressing on to a few more cows in small buildings with a cow shed and fifteen acres next to his father's farm. Then he married mother and they took on a farm near the edge of town where he was able to expand his herd. These would be a bit of a mixture of breeds including shorthorn and a few black and whites and everything in between.
Most of the milk went in Churns on the train into Birmingham and some mother made butter and cheese which was sold locally to shops or at the door. Then at some point the dairy started sending a lorry to pick up the churns from each farm, probably when the Milk Marketing Board was first set up.
This is what I remember of Butter churning
We Had an Old Butter Churn
We had an old butter churn, it was on a wooden stand,
A big handle on the side of it, to turn it all by hand.
The lid it had a sight glass, a valve to vent the air outright.
The lid clamped on with three screw clamps it up real tight
Mother turned the handle, till butter grains appear,
Drain the butter milk, rinse n' wash grains to till clear,
Add some salt and knead them, butter pats for this,
Packed into grease proof paper, on hot toast its bliss.
It was mid 30's that father broke his arm and that meant he could not milk cows by hand, and it was around this time that the local machinery dealer had got the first milking machines in. They were keen to get a machine installed on farms in their patch, and father decided to go for one, he bought an Alfa Laval four unit outfit. Of course it took a bit of getting used to the new way of milking, and did not help that a lot of the cows had "rough" udders not particularly suited to the new teat cups. Father got impressed by the herd of cows that the neighbour ran, these were pure bred pedigree Ayrshire's, most of his cows had nice small uniform well placed teats and compact udders that stretched forward under the cows belly. On looking at them from hand milking point of view, it would be finger and thumb milking, but this was the era of the milking machine and these cows looked as if they were designed for it.
When we moved farms up into the village the herd could be expanded, and along with his old neighbour they went up to Carlisle to the pedigree Ayrshire sale and between then bought a lorry load of incalf heifers, this would total I think about twelve, the cattle wagons were not as big as they are today. This they did for the following few years, one of the last loads that came down were polled, they had no horns, these were the first we had ever seen and they were bullied by the cows with horns.You may have seen old pictures of Ayrshire cattle, their horns curled up pitch fork style, and they knew how to use them.
To remedy this father spoke to his vet and he had all the cows horn cut off. As the cows were all tied by the neck in stalls it made it easy to restrain them, first the vet tied string tight round the base of the horn to act as a tourniquet and I cannot recall whether they were injected with pain killer. The instrument for cutting was a huge pair of shears with five foot handles, and the grip of three men to close them. A barnacle was put on the cows nose and a cord held by another man while the operation took place.
The local name for this gadget for holding a cow by the nose is Barnacle, the rough drawing above gives you an idea of how its opened, by drawing a spring up the shank to open the jaws, then place it in the nose and let the spring go, it been such a long time since I used ours that I cannot find it to photograph it. The ring at the top is for a rope, then you can hold an animal the same as you would hold a bull by its ring, I can tell you they don't appreciate it at all, and it has the benefit of taking their minds what you are actualy going to do at them.
They made rapid progress down the shed doing about twenty five cows on some cows the string had rubbed off letting the blood flow readily, squirting high into the rafters of the cowshed, it took a couple of hours for the vet to stem the flow from first one cow and then another.
When the calves were born, each calf's horns were cleaned with a fluid to remove any hint of grease and a type of glue applied called "colodian" this ceiled the horn bud and in effect dehorned the calf. It was a bit hit and miss some calves having one horn of in some cases both horns, it all depended on how clean the bud was when the colodian was applied, and how old the calves were, they had to be done in the first few days after birth. This went on for two or three years when a pair of dehorning irons were bought and the horn buds were burnt out ensuring that no horns were missed. These were heated on a blow lamp one being heated while one was in use, and the forerunner of the modern gas dehorning iron.
It was predominantly Ayrshire cows that made up the herd for the next twenty years, when the British Friesian cows with modern udders and higher yields and father started using a Friesian bull through artificial insemination on the Ayrshire cows. In the 1950's the Milk Marketing Board start the improvement of cow confirmation, by the use of Artificial Insemination, and monitoring the progeny born this way to provide proven bulls.
Over the following twenty years or more the udder and teat confirmation improved and where everyone had more than a cow or two with curled up toes and deformed feet, these were improved as well. Then in the following twenty years again saw the tremendous improvement in yields, and this coincided with new improved management techniques such as cubicles self feed silage and parlour milking, and a change over to Friesian cows.
Father ran a dairy herd
Father ran a dairy herd, of mainly Ayrshire cows,
These were housed traditionally, tied in stalls in rows,
Brought down for milking, had to be tied with a chain,
Each knew there own stall, a left and a right contain.
Cows were used to standing, to their own side of the stall,
They would part to let you in between when you call,
A bowl full of corn, and in with the bucket and stool,
Milked by hand while they're eating, was good job when it's cool.
He was one of the first to try, a new fangled milking machine,
A vacuum pipe was installed, new motor and pump had to be,
Four unit buckets and a spare, four cows milked nice and clean,
This was quicker by far, once the cows got used to routine.
Milk was cooled in the dairy, with water from the well,
The dairy collected it every day, had to be cool to sell,
The fridge was a copper heat exchanger hanging on the wall,
On top a Dee shaped receiving pan, fresh milk we poured it all.
Well water runs on the inside the fridge, milk run down outside,
Churns were filled for the dairy, to a measured mark inside,
Labelled with where it's to go, at one time went by train,
Now a lorry picks up the churns, from a churn stand on the lane.
Thirty more years he milked this way, in churns milk was poured,
Restricted now by the number of stalls, yields he did record,
Bulk tank came and a pipeline too, milk tanker every day,
This took Father to retirement, very modern to do it this way.
Ayrshire cows always had a noticeably better butterfat level that could be seen in the milk bottles that it was sold in, Friesian cow on the other hand were often down to 3% fat, with the "blue water" up the bottom 97% of the bottle. Because father had just the odd Friesian cow in his herd, when asked "why keep a Friesian cow in a herd of Ayrshire" he always replied "we wash the shed down with her milk if the well runs dry".
Cheese - milk's leap towards immortality.
Clifton Fadiman (1904 - 1999)
Over the years you build up a clutch of embarrassing moments or events.
An early one I recall was with my relatively new bike (bicycle), when we were younger we always yearned for a new bike, but had to make do with an old one cobbled together from the good bits of other bikes, some of which were recovered from a pit hole at the side of the airfield, where the RAF dumped there unwanted or unusable bikes. I must say here that the pit was full of water, and we had to go with a rope and a home made grappling hook.
Some of the bikes we recovered had better wheels and sometimes a good chain and seat than what we were using, so our highbred bikes were so called cobbled together.
It was not till after I left school and started earning a wage that I persuaded my parents that I aught to splash out on a new bike. This they sanctioned and was now proud owner of a Raleigh bike with three speed hub gears. It was kept clean and not used on cattle droving, (where we over took galloping stock on our old bikes down the main road in order to turn them into the correct fields). It was not used to go scrambling through woods and fields and ditches, it was only used for serious cycling.
I had had this bike for two years or more, when I was asked to move a tractor and its silage trailer from our home farm to Church Farm at the other end of the village, so the bike was deposited into the back of the trailer and carefully laid on its side so as not to damage or scratch it. Of course it got forgotten and within a few minutes the trailer was filled with a full load of three tons of grass, and then tipped over an eight foot drop into the empty clamp. ( without me knowing , this had the effect of shortening the bike by about two foot) I was working the buck rake and ran backward at speed into the load to open it up then proceeded to stack the grass until this one buck rake full had part of a twisted wheel protruding from the grass, on further investigation it dawned on me what had happened. It was my New Bike, my pride and joy, one of the first purchases I had ever made. On recovering it, there was not a straight bar left all, it had been crumpled, the best demolition job I had ever done; and not done a better job of destruction in all the sixty years since. I hid it and dare not tell anyone. I was overcome with embarrassment, as the men, (four of them) and my brothers, working on the farm would rib me mercilessly.
It was quite a few years before I admitted as to what had happened to it, and it remained hidden most of that time, I cringed every time I thought about it.
This is how I would describe the sort of bikes our gang of village lads rode.
I had a Good Old Bike
Remember years ago, when I had a good old bike,
Its mud guards loose and rattled, a new one I would like,
The brakes were none existent, and rims they had a dent,
And wobbled as I rode it, and the wheels they were bent.
The seat was ripped and torn, springs were showing through,
A Saddle bag was hanging, off two little straps askew,
It had a carrier on the back, with long and snappy spring,
A clip to hold my jacket down, save tying it on with string.
The Puncture Outfit
I had a puncture outfit, in a tin four inches long,
It had a pack of patches; they didn't look very strong,
A tube of tyre solution, there to glue the patches down,
Sand paper to roughen, and talc in glue it turned brown.
I often had a puncture, when I went over spike or thorn,
Turned it upside down to find, the tyre is well worn,
Off to fetch two table spoons, out of the kitchen draw,
Just to use as tyre leavers, see that mother never saw.
The tyre off the spoons they bent, muck and dirt abound,
Pulling out the inner tube, the hole it must be found,
Clean it up and roughen, peel the patch and stick right on,
Blow it up, only to find, we've only got another one.
Tyre mended blown up hard, now to have some fun,
Standing on the peddles hard, make the old hens run,
Up a hedge bank down a track, riding through the wood,
Good job it's just an old one, sliding through the mud.
What breaks in a moment may take years to mend
The grass came out near black and toasted, but smelt sweet with the molasas, the cows liked it, but not much feed value left in it.
The first silage that we saw demonstrated was at our local Farming College in the 1950's, they had a concrete tower silo that was loaded with a tractor driven cutter blower. This was hand fed by a man with a pitch fork, and was blown up to the top of the tower and let to settle with its own weight. It was of coarse dangerous to enter a silo after it had stood for a few hours as the gasses would build up. A notice on the side of the tower pointed this out and only after the blower had been run for a while was it safe to enter. It had an external ladder shrouded in to get access to the hatches that are sealed as it was filled or opened as it was unloaded.
Unloading was a heavy job as it had all got to be dug out by hand, one good thing was that the grass had been chopped short much like the double chop forager produce today. It was then pitched out of the nearest hatch, to fall down the covered in ladder acting like a chute, it also needed a reliable man at the bottom to load the silage onto a cart or barrow, if it built up in the ladder chute the un-loader was trapped.
It made excellent silage as the height provided the weight to compress the forage, but was very labour intensive.
At home our first attempts at silage making were very crude to say the least, the silo was a welded mesh wire formed into a circle with sisal paper (tarred paper) pegged to the insides, when the first six foot had been filled another six foot ring was mounted on top and continued filling.
Mown grass was picked up from the field from windrows with a green crop loader, stacked on a trailer and unloaded by pitch fork into the wire mesh silo.
This shows the back end of a green crop loader, to read about our near disaster with a loader like this when it became blocked, click the Tag 'Safety' in the left column
When the two tier were filled and well trampled down, it was capped off with ground limestone.Needless to say it over heated; it was long ‘as cut grass', with added molasses, and was impossible get solid enough and exclude all the air. ( The grass came out near black and toasted, but smelt sweet with the molasas, the cows liked it, but not much feed value left in it.)
The next spring we had an earth scoop for the back of the tractor ( Fordson E27N) and dug a silage pit up in the middle of the grass field that were shut up for mowing. The grass was picked up with the buck rake from the windrows, in fact we had two, and taken directly onto the clamp, it was a lot more successful as we could compress it with the tractors as we went on. A couple of men were on the clamp with forks levelling the grass and adding the molasses. Again it was capped off with lime which when it got wet formed a good seal. The silage was dug out by hand, cutting six foot squares with a hay knife, and loaded by hand onto a trailer.
This is a hay knife, used to cut blocks of loose hay from a bay or a stack, it was more difficult to use in silage.
We had a couple of years doing it as described above, then we had a David Brown Hurrican Harvester , see video clip
These two machine in the video clip are only topping short grass and following each other, but in long mowing grass where one set of wheels are running in the crop, the next run had to be in the opposite direction to pick up the wheel mark. We had two three ton hydraulic tip trailers, and the local wheelwright made high sides and a swing from the top opening tailboard. The trailers had screw jacks and a block of wood to go under the foot and hitched and unhitched with a drawbar peg to the forage harvester and then to the towing tractor, the hydraulic was a screw connecter in those days.
A larger silage pit was dug back at home the trailers ferried up and down the road, by this time the additive was in the form of a powder to help neutralize the fermentation of the grass. The consolidation of the clamp was with the buck rake tractor and with the grass being short, flailed, and direct cut; it was heavy and green consolidated easily. Plastic sheeting was just coming in to cover the top and a layer of soil was spread to weigh it down, other things were tried for holding the sheet down, then eventually settle with car tyres then eventually plastic sheeting was put up the sides completed a better seal. At this stage it was still being loaded from the pit by hand.
It was not until we had cow cubicles that the silage clamp moved inside a purpose made shed that it became self feed, where by a barrier with a long spiked foot at the feed face was buffeted into the face each day for the cows to brows adlib. By this time, 10 years on, we had progressed to a Class Jaguar off set double chop forager and six ton trailers.
When I started farming on my own for a while I had a self fill continental type silage trailer which cut the crop as it went through the pickup reel, but it was pitifully slow at unloading and with only one trailer running up and down the lanes with each load it only lasted two years before I got rid and went back to flail harvesting.
Field Names of Seighford
Out in Britons countryside, looks like a patchwork quilt,
Of roads and lanes and field tracks, evolved and some were built,
They lead from towns and villages, and farms, map nailed on beam,
Each field a hedge and ditch and gate, watered by pond or stream.
The fields both large and small have names, you wouldn't dream exist,
Some relate to owner past, and others the type of land persists,
Red Rheine's is one of these mean fields, when ploughed reveals red clay,
Unless the frost into it gets, no seed bed though you work all day.
Best known one I've no doubt, behind Yews farm is Cumbers,
Ten houses built along the village, take that name and numbers,
Down by the ford is Mill Bank, four acre few trees by the brook,
The Hazel Graze another great name, nut bushes to make a crook.
Fosters by the railway line, named after a soul long gone,
And Pingles also down the Moor Lane, that defiantly is a mystery one,
Noons Birch is the most beautiful name, one that congers' you mind,
Public Field it was part of the land , run to the pub up back and behind.
Hoble End is another nice name, where two cottages stood in the fields,
No track did they only footpath, lonely place only a well and concealed,
Moss Common a field where the ditch, springs in the middle to pick up,
It is important that they are there, to water the ewes and the tup.
Ash Pits are three fields in a row, the Big the Middle and Little,
Ash trees are the obvious reason, and only one pit in the lot,
Hanging Bank is most sinister name, it's a cold north facing bank,
More research into this is what's needed, but all we've drawn is a blank
Lanes to the fields also have names, Moor Lane runs way from the ford,
Connecting with that is Love Lane, a grassy rut track half way Bridgeford,
The Oldfords Lane goes up to the farm, to Coton not a short cut by car,
And Smithy Lane runs way through houses, the shortest of all by far.
Moss Lane is one that runs eastwards, cow lane that it is can be seen,
Grass up the middle and is long, see cattle grazing fields so keen,
It has path that runs up it, and gates shut on each end,
The path is quite long; it comes out near Doxey on bend.
Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.
Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.