It’s hill farmer’s harvest time for Elizabeth Elder

We are now in the hill farmer’s harvest time. So Jake has been selling a lot of lambs and patronising several mart canteens.

The good news is that we have managed to rent some extra land nearby. However, we found out too late for the Hexham draft ewe sale so Jake has been scurrying around trying to source tick-acclimatised ewes to stock it with.

The quest has taken him to several places he has never been before. There is always a hint of adventure about Jake going somewhere new. This is because he possesses neither a sat nav nor any sense of direction. The good thing is that he is quite prepared to stop and ask someone for help, rather than just continuing on towards oblivion. The problem is that in the countryside, there isn’t always anyone around to ask.

Happily, Jake did find his way home this time, having obtained some ewes and some good stories on the way. One of the people he met is a tenant of the Duke of Northumberland and currently much troubled by ongoing rental negotiations. The tenant had read in the newspapers that the Duchess was introducing cage-fighting at Alnwick Garden. He thought that was how he would end up resolving his rent. Indeed, he quite fancied his chances against the agent.

It seems to me that cage-fighting could present a good alternative to a rent tribunal for tenants, for three reasons: There would be massive savings on legal and agent fees, so the old “we can afford to go to tribunal and you can’t” ploy would be negated; everything could be settled in three rounds, avoiding the uncertainty dragging on for months; and even if you ultimately lost, you would have still have had the satisfaction of planting one on any unreasonable agent’s smug features.

Saying that, we hope that our main landlord, the Ministry of Defence, feels able to resolve rental issues in a more civilised manner. After all, their core business is combat and they have much greater weapons at their disposal than we do. Furthermore, in the words of The Kinks, by nature Jake is a lover not a fighter.

And so to the tup sales. We have been buying at Hexham and at Lanark. One of our neighbours topped the mart at the Hexham Blackface sale with a tup at £20,000 – a record for this sale. This was very impressive and totally out of our price range. Jake went to the celebration drink-up afterwards and I understand that the wife of the under-bidder (another neighbour) was rather relieved that her husband had been unsuccessful and did question his sanity. As it was, everyone was happy and a good night was had by all.

The tup prices in the first ring at Lanark were even crazier than at Hexham. However, Jake was able to find what he was looking for in the second ring. If only he hadn’t gone for the local specialities (haggis, chips and Irn Bru) in the mart canteen, I think he could have said the day went without a hiccup.

The tup sales appear to have become great spectator events. Jake reports that there are so many of the fans occupying the seats around the ring that there is very little space for actual buyers. I think the mart should follow the example of the Welsh using the Millennium Stadium at Cardiff during the recent Rugby World Cup and show the event on a big screen at Tynedale RFC. As well as freeing up space this would allow family and friends to cheer, boo or cry openly, without fear of embarrassing their loved ones in the ring.

As to the Rugby World Cup generally, I can report that this household, with its high proportion of rugby fans and players, has been left feeling rather underwhelmed. I did note a particular type of compliment which is only ever given to male rugby players. The commentators say “he was immense”. Not he played well. No, he was immense. In any other walk of life, if you described someone as immense they probably wouldn’t be too chuffed.

On another sporting front, Bramble’s trip to Alwinton show ended in failure in the terrier racing. We knew the enterprise was doomed when she turned round in the stalls to look at us rather than concentrating on the thing she was meant to be chasing, so another career option has had to be crossed off the list of possibles.

• Bramble’s form report was as follows:

Alwinton. 50 yard Hurdle for the Tom McKay Memorial Trophy (£100 added) Going: Good

Paddock notes: Blue border terrier. Carrying excess hair and a certain amount of condition.

Race notes: Dwelt at the start. Settled at the back. Swerved round final hurdle. Ran on to finish. Never nearer. 5th of 6. Ran round in circles after the finish line. Ignored owners and took 10 minutes to catch

Trainer’s comment: “She ran like a dog.”

Owner’s comment: “The other runners were professionals.”

Onlooker’s comment: “I wouldn’t back it with counterfeit.”

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