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December 2010 - Posts - Owd Fred's Blog

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December 2010 - Posts

Story of Hobble End Cottages

Frosty weather glistens inside, a fridge you could compare,
Roof half filled with starling's nests, built up over the years.

In one of our farthest fields, situated about a mile east of the village was a pair of cottages known as Hobble End. There was no road not even a cart track to them, only a foot path, one of which led directly to the village then the other way it was about two miles into town. They were estate cottages, one occupied by a woodman and the other a farm worker. They were heated and the cooking done on open fires and lit with oil lamps and candles.

All that remains now is the rich black soil of the garden, and a few bricks that keep coming up every time it is ploughed. In the hedgerow is the remains of the old front wicket and a galvanized pipe that once carried water from the well to the houses. There is no chance of buried treasure as it was very poor families that lived there, every now and then bits of metal do get ploughed up, its very often old hand tools used in the garden and bits of broken pottery.

Down in the small brook that ran by in the hollow was another wicket where the footpath crosses onto the neighbouring farm.  When any family flitted in or out, it was with horse and cart, and the same when they wanted coal or logs.

At the fare end of the garden was the inevitable toilet that needed emptying as soon as the bucket was full. It was the practice to dig a deep hole and keep pouring it in, then soil it over, no wonder the soil was so dark and rich in these old gardens. In local terms this type of toilet was called "bucket and chuckit". Needless to say these latrines were dug well away from the ‘well'.

They also had a pig sty where a pig would be fattened on scraps and waste from the house and garden, and eventually killed and cured for feeding their large families.



 How we Lived in our Old House

 (in this case it was a farm house, but the cold and lack of insulation was the same in all the old houses, only the thatched houses benefitted from roof insulation)


Insulations none existent, big jumper you must ware,
Half timbered single brick, few inches plaster of horse hair,
Frosty weather glistens inside, a fridge you could compare,
Roof half filled with starling's nests, built up over the years.

Kitchens the warmest place, coal fire in big old range,
Heats the oven and boils, the kettle on the chimney crane,
Boils the taters and stew, toast the bread on a fork,
From the ceiling hangs a cloths drier, lifts and lowers on cord.

Bedroom bove the kitchen, only room upstairs warm,
Usually the kids have this room, that is always the norm,
Other rooms are chilled and cold, cool in summer though,
This is how we lived them days, kids now will never know.

Old iron bedstead webbed with steel, straw mattress on the top,
Then feather mattress covered with a white sheet she'd pop,
Mother made a groove up this, dropped us into bed,
A sheet two blankets and eiderdown, feather pillow lay ya head.

Best front room not often used, too posh to use every day,
Used over Christmas and party's, best crockery out on display,
Fathers roll top desk in there, his bills and letters wait to pay,
Always locked cus of cash in their, he always had last say.

Now heating was a big open fire, ingle nook chimney above,
Logs as long as ya can lift, one end on the fire to shove,
The bigger the fire, bigger the draught across the floor,
The heat goes up the chimney, fresh air comes in under the door.

A cellar beneath front room, brick steps leading down,
Couple of vents to the garden, the mesh with weeds overgrown,
Air circulation its not good, and musty damp and wet,
Timber in the floor above, gone weak and springy pose a threat.

A room with settlass all way round, there to salt the pig,
Not been used now for many a year, doesn't look so big,
Salt has drawn up the brickwork, all through to outside
Bricks are flaking and rotting, replace section of bricks decide.

Mother kept a big tin bath, hung on a nail outside back door,
Brought it in to the hearth, filled with kettle and big jug she pour,
Youngest first then nother kettle, warm it agen for the second,
Cold night our steaming little bodies, hot crisp towel it beckoned.

So we kids lived in the big kitchen, our bedroom top of back stairs,
Long old sofa under the window, father had his own armchair,
Big old peg rug in front of the fire, we played and sat on that,
Large old radio in the window, then hurray first tele in front we sat.


Every mile is two in winter.
George Herbert (1593 - 1633)

Christmas Greetings

Frosty n' White

Been frosty all the day agen, and harder still tonight,
And its isn't even Christmas, the fields all snowy white,
At least the mud's all hard and dry, can get about despite,
Water troughs and pipes and taps, froz for a good fortnight.

Three inch of snow it is no more, for the council no respite,
Chuck the salt about main roads; they think they have foresight,
But country lanes and all side roads, not a spreader in site,
Only takes one vehicle stuck, and the road its blocked all night.


Merry Christmas

The lights are up, turkey bought, and the cards are coming in,
Holly round the mantle shelf, decorations hung within,
For all the children presents now, dunt know where to start,
Buying now on line you can, money from ya card impart,

Each passing year they got older, laptop n' all gizmos' need,
Computer games and telephones, with built in camera plead,
Be glad now when its come and gone, good food good cheer n all,
Its just another day in life, as out of bed I crawl,

Stock to look and count and feed, all me life the same,
Exiting for the kids so young, for me excitements' getting tame,
So its from the misses and me, to all around the world,
Wishing you Happy Christmas, and Happy new year unfurled.

Owd Fred & Eileen

The Persistent Escapee (cow)

I remember father counting, cattle each and every day,
He counts and looks at every one, to see they're all OK,

A cow that persistently gets out, gets better at it, she learns to jump or hop over slack wire, learns to push rails down and push at the legs of electric fence posts, and push through weak places in hedges. Bulls soon learn to lift gates off there hinges or as a neighbour's bull has done he will break wooden gates in two.

It's a matter of not letting them get into the habit of getting out, "the grass is always greener etc". A secure fence, with barbed wire pulled up tight, barbed wire put up slack looking like a washing line is no good.

Cattle are a herd animal and they will all follow a leader, and if it's the leader that is that persistent one that is always getting out your in trouble. They all have there own personality and it shows when studied, particularly when gathered and handled.

They range from the one that steps forward to have its shoulder scratched to the one that will charge at you when cornered, and as for the newly calved cow even the most placid cow can turn nasty and charge. Their behaviour often follows in families, and how the mother behaves is passed down to the calf at a very young age, almost a perception or body language is read by the calf from birth, and if it's the bull that has a bad attitude being handled or driven, he too will influence the attitude of the herd.

There is often the one with the wicked eye, and the one that lifts her head up and pricks her ears at the first sign of strange movement in the field. Some will venture forward and investigate to see what's going on, the others follow by herd nature, and some will disappear away behind the herd or into a hollow where they cannot be seen.

It only takes one cow to give out a Bellow rather than a Moo, and the whole herd will go running to investigate what's going on. It some times happens when assisting a calving, when the cow gives one last big push and a bellow at the same time, then is a good time to retreat rapidly.

Back to the one that gets out, I solved the problem by selling her, she would get out into the farm track and graze down the hedge banks, then instead of getting back the way she had come, she would walk down to a small group of ten houses at the end of the track, walk into the gardens and round to the back (all open plan, silly idea) and hop over their back fence into her field.
When this had gone on for quite a few months the folk in the houses were getting very angry, every foot print sank deep into the lawns, the evidence was there, the row of peas were being grazed and dung pats left in exchange. The gardens are a foot or so above field level and while the fence was a sensible height from the field, from the gardens it was only knee height to the cow.
Some of the gardens had wooden panel fences with my barbed wire fence on the field side others are fancy post and rail or chain link wire mesh, all were pitched at a height that the occupants could see out across the fields. At this point I must say it nearly always happened during the night, and when they rang me to complain and I went to investigate only the foot prints were there. I finished up putting a new gate on the end of the lane; the cow then walked through the lane side hedge into the first house garden a six foot tall beech hedge and continued with the same route back to the field.

Fortunately she was the only one doing it, and she was so persistent that the only option was to sell her. She was a young well built cow only had three calves and I though it would be a good idea if she gave someone else a bit of "entertainment", NIMBY (not in my back yard).  

The cows are Charolais Angus Simmental crosses put to a Hereford bull, calves are April born 


I  Remember Father's Cattle

In the mid 1950's vets were recommending worming young stock with a new product called phenothiazine. This was a green powder and had to be mixed with water and a pint or so was pour down their throats.(drenched)

I remember father counting, cattle each and every day,
He counts and looks at every one, to see they're all OK,
Now one day he sees's one cough, and then it was another.
If we don't do something quickly, we'll be in a bit of bother.

So off down he goes to get, some wormer in a rush,
And back he comes and reads the label, says get them in a crush,
No crush have we, but four strong lads, we'll get them in a stable,
Mix water and green powder in a bucket, put it on the table.

Four long neck bottles we did find, for dosing all the cattle,
Phenothiozine, it's called, and keep it stirred or it will settle,
The pop had gone as we made sure; we loved the fizzy taste,
One pint and half was dose that's needed, over dose was waste.

Pint ladle and a funnel now, into the bottled it was measured,
Us lads went in among the stock, as tight a they could be,
The bottles we did pass to one, who had ones chin held high,
Uptip the med-sin to back of throat, do not look down or ni.

The cow that coughs, coughs both ends, and chuck it back they try,
Its just a waste as we were told, but hits you in the eye,
Soon learn to leave it quickly, as soon as we could shift,
As dosing cattle get there own back, now who's being thrift.

We often wondered why we lads, had grown so big and strong,
When other lads around us, were only lean and long,
Put it down to fresh air, and read farmers weekly magazine,
But all the time it wasn't, twas Phenothiazine.



Many of us have heard (herd) opportunity knocking at our door (garden), but by the time we unhooked the chain, pushed back the bolt, turned two locks, and shut off the burglar alarm, it was gone ( the cow).

Author unknown

Cattle out wintering

It looks like the beginning of a two week cold snap; the cattle seem to have grown a longer woolly coat almost over night, and its still only third week in November. In general the stock has grown well through the summer and with a reasonable quality of silage to feed should be able to maintain condition on throughout the winter.

As always we have a few that have lost an ear tag, in one case lost both, but then that's not unusual, most often its alongside sheep netting that they get caught or round the ring feeder that the missing tags are found.

The gates are nearly all open between the fields and the herd is ranging across most of the farm, gleaning round the maize stubbles and hedge banks and wildlife strips. We have offered silage and just a few cows are coming back to the ring feeders and pecking at it.

A few days on and we have a covering of snow and they are now on full silage winter feeding, although there is always some that prefer to top up on any grass they can nuzzle down to and pull at hedge banks.


 Now I am a cow and telling me tale,

Now I am a cow and telling me tale, Owd Fred he's writing it down,
Started life as a little seed, with hundreds I'm not on me own,
Ventualy sent and injected, into a poor old mother cow,
Met with an egg and we welded, together held tight somehow.

Started to double in size, and a head with eyes was formed,
Then four legs and a tail, growing in a ball transformed,
Front legs started to point forward, with me chin on me knees,
Too big to stay where I was, getting shoved out if you please.

Front feet they're out in the cold, me nose is feeling fresh air,
Then me eyes and head they are outside, no going back in their,
Me shoulder and hips it's a struggle, but suddenly drop in the straw,
I'm hear, I'm wet, and I'm breathing, out here its cold and it's raw.

Mother she's got up and lickin, all over me face and me belly,
I sit up and shaking me ed, to get up on me legs they're like jelly,
Up on me back legs okay, onto me knees I'm looking for a teat,
All round me mother's big belly, om looking for something to eat.

Alright now that I've found it, a bunt and the milk flows right quick,
Me belly its full and I'm drying out, mother gives me a reassuring lick,
Off to hide and have a good rest, and mother to find some food,
The gaffer Owd Fred he lifts me leg, bull or heifer he's just being rude.

A couple of days he holds me down, in me ear puts a big tag,
Does the same again in the other, balance me ed so it doesn't sag,
Some reason he looks under me tail, rubber ring he's no need to use,
Writes my number into his little book, he's old but he's no right to abuse.

The gaffer Owd Fred he opened the gate, out onto grass to play,
After a week I found I can run, and found some others who say,
Get ya ed down and taste the grass, big field all bright and green,
All the adults do nothing else, to fill their belly they're keen.

At three months I've got a cough, all me mates the same,
And me tail its getting dirty, only one thing we can blame,
It's worms that got into me belly, and they're hanging onto me gut,
Taking goodness out of me food, belly thinks me throats been cut.

The gaffer goes and gets the stuff, and pours it along our backs,
It soaks right into me spine, soaks right in and me belly reacts,
Loosens all the teeth, of worms and lice and all,
They fall out behind me, new pasture now is the call.

Good summer out on the grass, and autumn chill is in the air,
He's got us gathered in the pen, what he's doing I'm not aware,
All the mothers he's letting out, and now backed up a trailer,
End of the race he's pushing us in, he's nothing more than a jailer.

Big load of us all frightened and hot, unloaded into a pen,
Walking around trying to get out, shouting  agen and agen,
Me voice getting soar after three days, milk I want to suck,
But this is the end I'm eating hay, mother's left us all in the muck.

So here I am, inside with my mates, were being fed every day,
All bedded up and comfortable, having silage as well as hay,
A lick of corn and a mineral block, clean water out of the mains,
It beats the water out of the brook, it only comes out of farm drains

.Its testing time, we run down the race, vet lifts up me tail,
Shoves it right up almost over me back, then he sticks in a nail,
No it wasn't it's a needle, a bottle is on the end,
Full to the top with my blood, I hope the hole will mend.

Now it looks like spring time, and the grass is growing again,
Nice to have a good run round, for that I won't complain,
Grass it's so nice and sweet, after all that dry old hay,
I'm bigger now and twelve months old, too big now to play.

Over in a distant field, I can see my mother again,
Not allowed to go and see her, she's really looks well and then,
To my dismay she's got a new calf, a brother or sister for me,
Bunting round and drinking MY milk, how terribly cruel it can be.

I've lost me rough coat from winter, and new short hair has grown,
In the sunshine it shows off real well, glossy with lick marks alone,
I spend the whole summer in deep grass, and lie in the shade of a tree,
Were growing now and nearly adult, my mother won't recognise me.

All my group were two years old, and a new young bull turned in,
It's a Hereford with a big white face, he's running us round in a spin,
 I'm not able to tell you what happens next, but catches us one at a time,
One or two of us every day, just getting to know us all in our prime.

Second winter its out at grass, and not a blade to be seen,
Silage in a ring feeder, as much as we want nice and clean,
Frost and snow, and cold winds from the north, shelter under the wood,
Long woolly coat on me back, tails to the wind is the way we all stood.

Me belly its getting real big, and it's not that I've eaten a lot,
And getting swollen between me legs, soar and hard and hot,
Then I got a real bad pain, so off on me own to lay down,
A push and a push and a push again, me water bag its blown.

A real big strain and it stretches me bum, a lump I'm pushing out
A couple more and it drops right out, the relief as I give a shout,
Pick me ed up and av a look round, me very own calf just their,
Jump to me feet and give it a lick, all wet and wobbly and sticky the hair.

I'm now a mother and lickin, all over his face and his belly,
He's sit up and shaking is ed, to get up on his legs they're like jelly,
Up on his back legs okay, onto his knees and looking fa a teat,
All round my big belly, he's looking for something to eat.

Alright now that he's found it, a bunt and the milk flows right quick,
His belly it's full and  he's drying out, so I give him a reassuring lick,
Off to hide and have a good rest, I go to find some food,
The gaffer Owd Fred he lifts his leg, bull or heifer he's just being rude.

A couple of days he holds him down, in his ear puts a big tag,
Does the same again in the other, balance his ed so it doesn't sag,
Some reason he looks under his tail, rubber ring he's got to use,
Writes my number into his little book, he's old but he's no right to abuse.

So it is that life goes on, and had ten calves one every year,
Got used to what the routine is, now I'm the leader it's clear,
 Show the others where to go, and how to dodge a test,
And wait by the gate for a new field; shoot past Owd Fred do our best.

He gave me a name and it's Chocky, stuck with me right from a calf,
Got to know how Owd Fred ticks, meck im chases round not by half,
Now he's got a real mean trick, tasty feed in bottom of his bucket,
Can't resist I've got to follow,  into the corral then we get to suck it.

I've reared a lot of good calves, for Owd Fred to fatten for beef,
Om getting tired and old, to retire it would be a relief,
But no he's keeping me on, to calve again in the shed,
And him to tell his farming tales, in his book that‘s got to be read.



Sacred cows make the best hamburgers.
Mark Twain (1835-1910)