College Calendar: White start to year for Lizzie Jennings

I should, at the time of writing this, be sat in a lecture on Business Planning and Control.

Instead I’ve been plucking pheasants in the snow with a black-and-white cat called Charlie sat on my back. What a picture.

Though this might look like I’m admitting to skiving off college, lectures have been cancelled. Honestly! When the snow first fell, people couldn’t get to Bishop Burton and, in some cases, couldn’t even get out of their own driveways. As I write it’s snowing thick and fast and I can hear the trains going past to York or Scarborough sounding their horns every two seconds.

I’ve been plucking pheasants which were bounty from the first shoot I’ve been to. I can’t claim I shot them, never having tried, but I was beating through kale and woodland for the day.

Spending the evening in a fire-heated farmhouse with generous amounts of food, drink and banter was a great end to the occasion. I went home from a day of paid work, full of fresh air and good food, with two brace of pheasant in the footwell of the car.

It’s a revelation for me that you can be so well rewarded for a walk through the countryside.

Plucking and gutting pheasants is not something many people have to do nowadays, when we get our meat vacuum-packed in a modified atmosphere and treated to look more appetising.

“Appetising” is perhaps not the word that springs to mind when pulling out smelly guts or sneezing out feathers, but meat tastes so much better when you’ve prepared it yourself.

At college, I’m losing two good tutors this month, one of whom is also our course manager. It is going to be sad to see them go, interesting to see who will be replacing them and a bit nerve-wracking in the meantime.

We’re going to have plenty to keep us on our toes though, including the independent projects. I’ll be gathering case studies of new entrants to agriculture within the past 10 years.

In the next decade we need 60,000 new entrants just to sustain the current state of the industry, according to a recent Lantra survey.

At a time when people are queuing at the job centre, it seems remarkable any industry can be crying out for new entrants rather than having them knocking the door down.

This month, many of us have our tractor-mounted pesticide application test (PA02) and cattle foot trimming training – all to juggle with farm work (hampered by the snow) and the start of the lambing season.

The white start to 2010 is like a blank canvas for the coming year, the new decade and (since I hit the 21st milestone just days from the New Year) my coming of age. Here’s hoping each will make a pleasant picture when it’s done.