Low water level, but too much ice

The water level in the pond is gradually sinking.As a result, an explosion of growth has occurred in pond weed as the water warms up in the shallower parts. Even though a few resident greylag geese spend most of their day pulling up weed, they are definitely not eating fast enough to keep on top of the plants’ invasion of the pond surface.

So, I have been experimenting with pond dragging. The idea is to pull a rope through the weeds and physically yank the underwater growth up by the roots. For this, I needed a farmer with an hour or two to spare. Not easy to find at harvest time. But with a little patience and a lot of nagging, I prevailed. First we tried with baler band. That would not sink. Then we tried with old fishing line. That broke. An ancient length of rope, salvaged from rocks while on holiday in Sutherland, was hauled through the water next. It became totally entwined in the weeds and refused to budge. The last of the brainwaves, before John abandoned me entirely, was stretching a roll of barbed wire across the pond. That would sink, wouldn’t it? Yes it did. Straight to the bottom. Never broke. Snagged all the growth beautifully. And needed a tractor to haul it out of the water as it had become so heavy with pond weed.

My next thought was that perhaps I could relocate my troupe of marauding Khaki Campbell ducks from the farmyard.

These ducks are earning my undying hatred by developing a taste for the flowers in my troughs and pots in the yard. They also scare and bully my young Aylesbury ducklings, the ones left after a dog killed most of them (but that’s another story). If I take the older ducks down to the pond, and they develop a taste for the weed instead of petunias, the pond would clear.

In fact, if the ducks fatten up enough, they could take an even earlier trip to their end destination, the freezer. That is, if I could find room for them in what is always a perpetually overcrowded item of domestic paraphernalia.

Our freezers and fridges are mostly museum pieces. They do not always operate efficiently. Recently, I even considered offering one of the freezers to a company that specialised in cryogenics. One of those organisations that store your body (or even just your head) until such a time as medical knowledge can cure all ills, promise eternal life and has mastered the defrost setting on the microwave.

We once had a similar problem with a fridge when we had a milking herd. One morning I noticed that it was failing to refrigerate. Milk was going off, butter melting and the tonic for my gin was lukewarm. Definitely crisis point.

Being harvest time, I realised it wouldn’t have been wise to request assistance from my husband with a household task. No matter how wheedling the tone, John would have been chafing to see if the wheats were ready to combine yet; daring the heavens not to open, willing the moisture content to drop, resisting climbing into his very favourite bit of kit, the combine, and defying the weather men with any predictions of a wet front moving in. We do not want weather that metamorphoses from sunshine to tropical storm.

So, enter the bulk tank man. He just happened to be on the farm for one of the milk tank’s regular check-overs. Our system was quite old-fashioned, but efficient. Although the milk did lose heat on the long run along the overhead glass tubes to the tank, without an effective cooling system, we would likely end up with a tank full of yoghurt rather than a pint. Not acceptable.

Visiting farm specialists are not frequently wooed into carrying out domestic tasks (do not even go there with the man who artificiality inseminates the heifers when we do not want to use the bull). Sneakily, I offered the bulk tank man a coffee while he serviced the tank and casually mentioned the problems I was having with my fridge.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ll come and sort it out when I’ve finished here. Won’t be much of a job.”

It clearly was a bigger problem than we’d anticipated, as it took him a couple of hours to “sort it out” and left me with a fridge more suited to freezing several thousand litres of milk rather than chilling off the odd pint and keeping my butter and gin and tonic cool. A creeping ice age ensued. Food disappeared into a wall of ice.

So defrosting the fridge then meant surrounding the area with several old towels to soak up the melted ice, and being treated to a series of gradual revelations of the contents of the fridge.

“I knew I had a carton of orange juice,” I would exclaim as the outline of a Del Monte carton slowly appeared at the back of the fridge. “That’s where that bottle of Grovax went,” John muttered as missing calf medication emerged from the ice.

Other finds were a jar of gherkins looking suspiciously like mouldy cryogenic fingers (assorted), a burst carton of yoghurt (messy) and two bottles of pickled walnuts (indescribable). It made the contents of our muck spreader look positively appetising by comparison. Which, incidentally, is where all of the stuff went.

Bobbi and husband John own the 81ha Lowther Farm near York. They have a suckler herd, a flock of sheep and arable crops. Two daughters, three grandchildren, three dogs, assorted poultry, an overgrown garden and country pursuits also take up their time.

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