26 March 1999


SO far neither the calves or the children visiting Streamvale farm have suffered from exposure, despite the really cold and damp weather weve been having. In our "new system" the calves are being fed a cold milk culture and seem to be doing well on it, but it is a bit pathetic to see their wee bodies literally shiver as they suck. It used to be there was a big heat lamp in the small, draught-free house to keep them cosy – but we now know that it caused disease problems. One thing is for sure, the calves wont be suffering from any bacteria that thrives in warm conditions this year!

This is our really busy time for calving and we made a "viewing gallery" (hole in the silo wall) for our visitors to watch the big event. It has worked pretty well with major interest from the mums. Children are delighted to see the feet coming out and then run off to other things, but mums watch on determined to experience every inch of delivery! They ask questions constantly – "Why is she standing up, why is she lying down, does it hurt, will you help her," and always "how long will it take?" They are genuinely disappointed if they have to leave before the calf is born and we have even had phone calls to check if everything went OK and if it was a boy or a girl. As for dads – a quick look does most of them!

Our oldest daughter Jenny has just heard that she is going to Milwaukee this summer. She was the lucky one to have her name drawn out of a hat to go on the "Ulster Project" – a cross-community scheme which our church has been involved with for 10 years now. The idea is to link up young Catholic and Protestant teenagers who are involved already with their community and after a three-month "getting to know you" period, they go as a group to the States, where they experience life led by teenagers there. They also have the task of telling their host churches what life is like in Northern Ireland. Its a responsibility and a fantastic opportunity for her – all she has to do now is work hard to raise some money for it all!

Once again, thank goodness for our open farm where she will be working every weekend from now on. Its not that big a chore, as most of her friends have jobs with us – sometimes I wonder if we are running the only youth club where the members are paid to come! It can get out of hand at times, but mostly the young people do their job well and at least look as if they are enjoying it, which, when you are running a visitor attraction for children, is very important.

Now that Streamvale is up and running again, Johnston has been catching up with house repairs before the work on the soft fruit gets very busy. This time its Helens bedroom which is being gutted. Im sure many of you who live in old farmhouses have the same problem as we do; is it worth checking out why the wall is damp or should we just put on a good thick paper and worry about it the next time? Johnston decided to investigate and discovered that Helens bedroom, which we knew was an extension, was just sort of stuck to the rest of the house with a good dollop of cement – most of which is now falling out. Oh dear, what was a wallpaper and paint job turned into minor building repairs and between one thing and another we eventually got the room finished at 10pm on the night before her birthday when her friends were coming for a sleepover!

His next job is the roof – or should he bother? After all, the drip in the landing isnt too bad – until it rains that is!

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