Opinion: Santa, please bring BPS cash and install the Rayburn

Christmas is coming and we’re in full festive swing.

I’ve been ahead of the game and sorted most of the present shopping before I opened the first window on my chocolate calendar.

William and the kids are desperate to start decorating and to bring in the tree, but I always insist on waiting until the 15th.

Small children make the festive period so much more fun – and exhausting.

Opinion: I’m taking the job title of farmer’s wife and owning it

We’ve been counting down the days till Father Christmas comes since mid-November.

Their Christmas lists have been growing daily and they have inspired me to write a little list of my own.

1. BPS cash

To have received my BPS payment by teatime on 1 December. Pretty please. Like most small farmers, the annual cash injection this provides is vital for survival and does wonders to boost morale in the build up to Christmas.

2. Good winter weather

At the time of writing, we are enjoying beautiful crisp sunny days with little frost.

This is doing wonders for the dry cows out-wintering on the kale, keeping my wellies clean, getting muck out and making for some fantastic sunrises/sunsets. No rain till mid-January please.

3. TB testing

A clear TB test in January followed by a nice healthy spike in the store cattle trade.

With a shed full of the best cattle we have ever bred, it would be fabulous to sell these into a buoyant market and get some really high prices for the best animals.

Murphy’s Law dictates whenever we have crackers to sell, the market is flat and they barely wipe their faces.

Conversely, when the stragglers hit the ring, prices are flying.

4. Christmas trees

A mad rush on my Christmas trees.

This is our second year of selling trees from the farmyard and I’m determined to smash last year’s sales total so, time for some shameless advertising; free mince pie and a cuppa for every Farmers Weekly reader who buys a tree from me this year.

5. Rayburn

To get my new Rayburn installed by Christmas. After the demise of the old Aga a few years ago, there has been a hole in my life – and my kitchen. 

Where once the old Aga used to merrily chug away, burning through thousands of litres of kerosene each year, there has been a gap, slowly filled with discarded shoes, coats, saddle pads and the occasional wet spaniel.

After months of squirrelling away cash and hours of trolling through eBay and Gumtree, I have finally managed to acquire a shiny blue Rayburn, a pressure jet model, which promises to give years of warmth at a fraction of the running cost of the old banger.

However it’s currently sat in the middle of the kitchen under a pile of post and old copies of Farmers Weekly

6. Countryside Stewardship

To receive the annual payment on our Countryside Stewardship agreement.

As I don’t know of anyone else with an agreement, I’m not sure if we are in the minority here, but our agreement started on 1 January 2016 and we were led to believe we would receive full payment for the stewardship options we have been diligently carrying out by around October. As of yet, no cash has materialised.

When I called a few months ago, I learned for the first time that instead of one payment there would be two payment windows, with half of our payment would be paid in each.

However, as the end of the first window approaches, I’m still waiting.

7. Hunting

Lack of a suitable mount meant I sat it out last year and, the year before that, I was unceremoniously bucked off on the road after about two minutes when I thought it would be a good idea to take a pony that had only been broken in two weeks beforehand.

This year, I would love to manage a good days sport out on Hazel. Nothing feels quite as Christmassy to me as a good spot of day drinking while marauding around the countryside with my sisters and mates dressed up in silly clothes and getting home bruised, covered in mud and walking like John Wayne.

8. No crises 

No farming crises on Christmas Day. Is it too much to ask not to have any cows calving or bullocks escaping or tractors breaking down on Christmas morning?

While it makes for good pub banter, the reality of spending 25 December with your vet performing a caesarean on a suckler cow in a wet and windy field is far less appealing.

9. Well-fitting turkey

A turkey that fits in the oven. We have a Christmas tradition whereby we all go to Liskeard market to buy our birds at auction.

Every year it is freezing and I usually manage to lose a child in the crowd and William always gets carried away. Some macho competitiveness is unleashed in him and nothing will stop him from buying the biggest bird in the market – 26lb Big Bertha is still languishing in the bottom of the deep freeze from last year.

A nice 18lb turkey we might actually manage to eat our way through before twelfth night would be perfect.

10. Presents

And finally, just in case any of my family read this. Wine, cheese, chocolate, port, pâté, more wine, perfume, slippers, a new riding hat, posh wellies and more wine please.

Jess Jeans and her husband Will run 75 suckler cows on an 80ha National Trust farm on the Devon/Cornwall border. They have two children, Teddy and Lydia. Jess has a degree in rural business management and enjoys horse riding in her spare time

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