Archive for August, 2008

Harvest Progress

Good day on Satrurday – tried to cut the ‘steep field’ of oats, but the combine would not go up the hill forwards, so cut the next field instead, which we finished ahead of the rain at 9.30 at night.    But with combining, anything can happen:    there was a change in the engine note, and suddenly there were no hydraulics.   The end had blown off a pipe, which was easily sortable, although we had to replace all the hydraulic fluid.

Sunday saw us tackle the ‘steep field’.    Still too wet to go up the hill forwards, so the technique is to cut down the hill, and then reverse up the hill between times.    Extremely tedious.   The forward speed on my combine is belt driven, through a very large rubber belt (a couple of inches wide) on a variable speed V pulley.      All this hilly work puts a large strain on it, and it broke this evening, wrapping itself round the pulley and ripping out an oil pipe.    Lots of black smoke.    It should all be fixable though, but will rely on getting a new belt ….. which will not be cheap.

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Bat Watch

The bat that we put into a tree yesterday spent all day asleep and did not move much.     I was a bit worried about it, but checking back at dusk, it had clearly flown away on its own.

It did have amazingly long ears, and I thought that most bats here were the common pipistrelli type, but this was too light for a horseshoe bat, so was probably a long eared bat.

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Do Cats Eat Bats?

We have four cats at present who live outside and make their living quarters in the farm buildings.    They keep mice at bay, but they do catch other things as well.    Our young ginger female had kittens a few weeks ago, and quite early on was bringing them live mice and voles to ‘play with’ before eating them – teaching them to be good mousers.

We do occasionally find other things killed which are not so nice, including a variety of birds.    Some things they catch, but will not eat, like moles.   This morning we found a ‘still alive’ bat on our doorstep – a small one with very big ears.   I rescued it (carefully) and put it in a tree, so we shall see how it gets on.    Carefully, because they can bite, and have been known to carry rabies.

Bats are protected, so although cats may have a go at them, it is illegal for people to disturb them, or their roosts.

Do cats eat bats?   Probably not then, but they may catch them.

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Use of English

There has been quite a debate recently about use of English, and about spelling in particular.    I know that communication is much more dynamic than it once was, and different styles are called for in texts, e-mails ….. and blogs!

But for public consumption, grammar and spelling matter.    A serious message written badly with inaccurate spelling will not only reflect poorly on the sender, but will actually devalue the message itself.

I have just had to return two draft press releases written by professionals in the tourism marketing and promotion world.    They are a small and experienced team, but their grasp of how to write is, quite frankly, terrible.

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Harvest Watch

I have cut some of my winter oats, but progress round here has been painfully slow due to the rain which goes on and on.    Repeated visits to the BBC South of Scotland weather page show endless blue patches (of rain) on this neck of the woods.     The wheelbarrow is just about full of water now.

Combines round about have been getting stuck right up to their axles, and have had to be winched out of boggy holes.

The last disaster harvest we had was in 1985, when we had a wet July, wet August and then a really wet September.     If things dry up from now on in, we could still be OK, but early crops like oilseed rape, winter barley and winter oats are already starting to spoil.

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Up All Night

Up All Night is a live radio show which runs from 1am through the night on Radio 5, or Five Live as I think we now call it.   It is good listening, because you never know what will be on it.    There are regular slots for films (good), as well as phone ins about soccer in North and South America (boring), but lots in between – we get the Gabby Cabby from New York at weekends, and the lively presenters keep things moving.     Sometimes it covers breaking news, like when Princess Diana died.

In Scotland it broadcasts on the BBC Scotland FM band.    Or it did until this week.    I tuned in last night instead of getting something interesting and informative got……. Robbie Shepherd and his Scottish Dance music.   

I have nothing against Robbie, or Scottish Country dance music.   But not on my radio in the middle of the night for goodness sake.    Just shocking.   

What’s going on?

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Oh my goodness.

Last night, Newsnight (UK) was right in the think of it, doing a great job trying to make sense of the situation in Georgia.    Difficult, but important interviews, and the presenter was not afraid to challenge both sides.    It was really good viewing.

But at ten to eleven Newsnight Scotland came crashing in, right over an interview.    Newsnight Scotland is supposed to start at eleven pm, but they must have set their watches a bit too early in Glasgow.   After about 15 seconds of an item about the Fringe Ticket fiasco, they realised their mistake, and we rejoined the interview.

At eleven o’clock, again, in mid interview, Newsnight Scotland came back in and restarted their Fringe story.    No apology or anything.

There must be a better way of doing this.    Really, there must.

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A short break in the rain today let us fill in holes in the road with tar planings.   When harvest finally starts, smooth farm roads make things a lot easier on equipment and result in faster journeys to and from the grain drier.

I spied two people exploring my crop of oats, and one was taking photos.    The parked car was Dutch, so these were clearly visitors, now walking towards me.    The lady had some oats in her hand.    “We’ve done a bad thing” she said, waving the bunch of oats about.    I told her not to worry, and explained that the oats are destined for Porridge – if it ever stops raining that is.     They thought that it was barley, and were confused about whisky, even although they had been to the Laphroaig distillary in Islay.

So, I took them into the next field, and gave them some barley home with them too.    And as they were asking, I explained about malting, distilling and the difference between Single Malt and Blended whisky.

So, a ‘Bad Thing’ became a ‘Good Thing’, and the visitors went off on their way to St Andrews and are going home on the Newcastle boat tonight.    With their oats and barley from Scotland.

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We have had seriously large amounts of rain here over the past week.    A couple of weeks ago the fields were pretty dry, but now they are extremely wet.   

Combine harvesters are not that great climbing hills in wet conditions, although they will go up backwards better than forwards.   It won’t be the first year where I have cut my steep field one way – down, and reversing up between times.    Hugely inefficient, but in tricky ground conditions there is literally no choice.

How much rain?    Well, we bought this wheelbarrow last Monday.   Today there is almost 7 inches of water in it.    It is getting pretty serious as there are acres of oilseed rape and winter barley ready to cut now round about here, and winter oats not far behind.     I have winter oats which will cut as soon as we get dry weather.

On the bright side, it is still August, and things can dry away fast given good conditions.    September is a different matter, as the season closes in.    The next four weeks are critical.

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Wasp Watch

Evening has fallen.   The wasp traps have been busy, and there are now less wasps about, although there are some very determined ones left.

I was able to pick the last of the gooseberries, but had to be careful as some really ripe berries had about three or four wasps with their heads buried munching away.    Picking these ones would have been rather sore.

It will be the battle of the brambles next.

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