OPINION: Horsemeat, Valentine’s and biodynamics – no thanks

Just when we had recovered from the last set of blizzards, it’s snowing again. However it’s forecast to go away quite quickly so there should be fewer adventures this time.

The last big snow storm was unusually severe and left a lot of deep drifts on the farm. Jake had to abandon our non-four-wheel drive bike on the hill and there it stayed for 12 days until the snow melted.

I can report that it didn’t take any harm during this period and started up again at the first time of asking. In the meantime, its owner had to make do with the tractor, the Land Rover and, to a very unwelcome extent, his own feet.

Our ewes are normally savvy enough to find somewhere safe in a blizzard, but this storm blew up so quickly and the wind was so strong that they hadn’t all got to the sheltered places on the farm. Jake reckoned that around 20 ewes were missing.

This was not very good for morale and led to a period of muttering. However, when the snow went away, we found that the missing sheep had just gone to the next farm. They obviously thought the grass was greener, or perhaps easier to “fend” on, on the other side of the fence and had walked over the cattle grids, which had been filled in by the blizzard.

The snow does not make driving very easy on the range, although the MoD does its best to keep the main access roads to the camp gritted. The worst part is trying to take the children to the bus. The camp is a major local employer and a stream of traffic arrives every morning along the single-track road from around 7.30, just as we are heading out in the opposite direction.

We have a daily ritual of weaving in and out of the traffic via the passing places, in a race against the clock to catch the bus. The addition of snow just makes the journey seem even more like an episode of Wacky Races.

Apart from the weather, the question most on people’s lips seems to be: How much horse have you eaten recently? We’d say not much – we don’t buy frozen ready-meals or takeaways (there aren’t any locally) and we only buy meat from reputable sources. As for supermarkets, in Waitrose we trust. Waitrose is relatively new in this area and there are currently only two shops in the county. Our local one in Ponteland opened in 2009. I am in no doubt that Waitrose is the most civilised organisation to arrive in Northumberland since the Romans. I like the wide aisles, helpful staff and nice food. I also note that no one wears sportswear in Waitrose, not even the footballers and football managers from the nearby footballer-type housing estate.

Of course this being Waitrose, when confronted by someone they recognise, nobody lets on. But Alan, if you are reading this, hope you enjoyed the fish. The one area in which I think that Waitrose should do better is in stocking more British lamb. They seem to think it is only in season for about three weeks in the autumn, which is clearly not the case.

It has been announced that Prince Charles is to guest edit Countryfile. Well, it probably needs something. It recently provided a water trough moment (the country equivalent of the water-cooler) with an item on biodynamic fertiliser. Several of our neighbours have been stopping each other on the range to say, “What did you make of that?” and shaking their heads in disbelief.

The guest on Countryfile seemed a nice enough sort of chap and I was right with him until the point that he started filling the cow horns with manure and explained he was going to bury them for the winter so the “forces of the cosmos” could get to work on the muck.

At this point, Jake said “Whaaaaaat?” and I said “Hmmm”.

The nice man went on to explain how, in the spring, he blends the now biodegraded muck with water using a special technique (mixing it with a stick), which “imprints the memory” of it into the water. Then he sprays it on to the fields and, presumably, Bob’s your uncle.

I’m not sure why Countryfile made a major feature of this. I can only assume that in the same vein, next week’s weather forecast will be prepared using seaweed. In other news, we had a typical Valentine’s Day. This entailed no cards, no flowers and Jake spending the evening at Archie’s cricket training.

However this was still better than the Valentine’s Day I spent away on business on my own in Barnsley. This involved me sitting in the hotel dining room with a heart-shaped helium balloon tied to my chair, trying to read my book by candlelight, surrounded by the dozens of local couples having a romantic night out.

The children have got half-term coming up and we’ve asked my sister and her family for supper. In keeping with current trends, we’ve told them we’re having beef. It will actually be chicken but, hey, cover it in gravy and no one’s going to be any the wiser.

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