A busy modern life

Now adays it has become common practice to go to a one stop shop. With many supermarkets now selling every thing from milk to tooth paste and fuel all in one handy place.

But what most of us fail to realise is that for this convenience of a one stop shop we are often paying a premium and not offered the same choice or even service as a small independent. The money you spend at these big places becomes part of a massive corporations statistics.

I know that with all the modern technology we claim to have less time but I wonder if we all got off our phones and bothered to live in the real world if we would get a nice surprise with what are local shops have on offer. Who knows with one small step you might discover a real treasure of independent shops that you had previously ignored. Plus I know you would get a shock at how competitively priced they are. As they have to be to survive in this land of gaints.

So help keep Britain full of a wide variety of independent shops. Shop local and keep the big chains reined in.

My Sheep’s biggest fear

My sheep have a strange phobia of wasps and any thing that buzzes. 

I first observed their unusual behaviour last year at lambing time. When two of my ewes suddenly froze to the spot and began looking down at the ground. Where they were previously to this happily munching on a sugar beet but stopped when they heard the buzzing sound. 

As I watched I could see the wasp buzzing around the ewes head, she stood firm to the spot unblinking and motionless till the annoying wasp finally moved off. 

Some of the other ewes further down the pen then started stamping their hooves and shaking their heads in a jerky manner before running off down to the far end of the pen. A little time later a few more wasps flew into the pen and the same thing happened again the ewes either froze to the spot looking down at the ground or shook their heads and stamped their hooves before running off. 

Even the lambs that had been busy bouncing around the pen began to copy their mother’s behaviour.

I had seen them freeze before when they were out in the field but did not know why they were doing it. But now having seen them up close I could see why and I don’t blame them for behaving the same as we do when we hear or see a wasp. I don’t think they can tell the difference between wasp and bees as all make them react the same way. 

I don’t know why they do it but I can only guess that one must have been stung at some point in time and has taught all the others how to react to it. 


As many of you may know at the farm we have 4 cats. They are as follows Simba a tabby who is 16 years old, Chole a tortishell who is 11 years old and Mars amd Mo two black and white brothers who are 11/2 years old.

But this is Simba story. We got Simba back in 1998 from a customer who had moved to Sawston and their cat had become a bit too friendly with the neighbour’s cat. We gave hime his name because we got him the same time that the Lion king came out and wanted to give him a big cat name and thorght Simba suited him.

Simba used to catch full grown rabbits when he was younger. he looked like a Lion carrying a gazelle. Having brought the rabbit home he would release it and let Meg our now saddly deceased border collie kill it. They would then share the rabbit meal, ever morning at a round 7 o’clock, till one morning Meg and Simba had a disagreement and he never brought another rabbit back for Meg again.

This cat is very distinguished with his bronzey- silver flecked coat daintly painted with thin black stripes, from head to tail.

He is a  very bright cat and it did not take take him long as a kitten to work out if he went to the builders yard or riding school at thir lunch time then he could get to sample some of thier sandwich guess this is why he is noe 3 foot long from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail. also because of his impressive size he has learnt that he does not need to bother with the whole meooow, thing when a simple meow said deep will draw your attention to the fact he is beside you, not that you can really miss him.

This cat has a really charming nature a true gentile giant, and a particuar favourite amoungst our customers as a simple head rub is greeted with his very thunderous purr.

He can now normally be found curled up snoring in his favourite spot on the sofa. That if you dare to sit in his, thenhis lordship parks him self on your lap. A polite way of letting you know that you have sat in his own privet spot.

Despite Simba now in icreasing age I’m sure he will go on for a few more years yet as nothing in his world is ever rushed. And every thing is done for a reason. He is just one of those cat’s that once you have met him, he is not easily forgotten for that reason he will go on for ever.

The sheep

The ram has now gone back to the man I from whom I hired him from. With a bit of luck all of my ewes should be pregnant and lambs due in February through to the end of March.

All of my ewes are in fit condition so should have produced lots of eggs and be in good condition to go through the Winter, without to many problems. Ewes in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy need extra food as the grass dose not contain enough nurtrients for the ewe and her developing lamb(s). This can cause problems, like twin lamb disease which is a condition caused by lack of calcium. The ewe has for some reason been unable to eat enough food,weather it was because of the snow on the ground or having sore feet and being unable to get about.Because of this the growing lambs (only normal happens in ewes carrying twins hence the name twin lamb disease) has lost her resrves of calcium. But normal makes a full recovery if caught quickly and given an injunction of calcium and glucose they can be back on their feet in a matter of a few hours and back to normal.

But by making sure your ewes stay in good. Condition then you can help to prevent this and prevention is better than cure. But with all live stock keeping, nothing is a dead sert. Sometimes no matter what you do or the vet does the animal can’t be saved. Sheep seem to have a death wish. One old shepherd up in Scotland described sheep as having two wishes in life one is to escape and the other is to die. There are times when I wonder why I keep sheep. But like all farmers it’s in my blood. And the moment when you get your first lamb of the year, is a very special moment and the excitement of waking up and not knowing what you might find in the morning means that no day is ever the same or ever gets boring.

Finding a ewe with her live lambs next to her is always a special moment. Or when you’v got your arm up the back end of a ewe who is having problems lambing and pulling out the 1st live lamb and rubbing it to stimulate it to take it’s first breath and handing it back triumphantly to it’s elated mother to licked clean is some thing you can’t realy describe to any one. It is one of those thing where you realy have to be there. So for those reasons guess I will be farming for as lonh as I can. Not to sure if it’s a blessing or a curse but what ever it is. It’s just some thing that I love even though you work 24/7 some times with little to no rest and holidays are a luxury and sunny dry days are a lovly blessing from all the rain and cold. I would not change it for all the tea in china. You only have one crack at life so if you can spend it doing the things you love then you are one of the lucky ones like me.

End of the summer grazing

The cattle are now home. We had 20 cattle on the commons in Cambridge. The council like having cattle on the commons as it saves them money and time in keeping the grass cut. Also they get paid by the people who own the cattle and they can claim government grants. It does also bring the town back to a more oldey worldy vibe. Of how things used to be and the Chinese tourist seem to like seeing the cattle there.

It was a commoner’s right to graze a cow on the commons in Cambridge. If you lived in Cambridge and owned a cow then you could put a cow on the commons. But when the Cambridge cattle market shut back in the 80s as with many markets in the centre of towns. The land became to valuable for building. And with more townies moving in the smell and the sound of the cattle were enough to force the close of the markets to close.

So the council now has to allow people from outside Cambridge graze the commons. We have now had cattle on the commons in Cambridge for over 10 years. We get our haulier to take them out when the grazing season starts in April and we get them brought back late in October. We do not have to worry about them till they come back unless there is a problem. The pinders (a person) who has the to look after the cattle while they are on the commons. They check them daily and feed them and put them back in if they have escaped. So we can rest assured that they are in good hands. Which leaves us the small task of looking after the 70 other cattle that we have. But we have lots of friends who live in Hixton where our other cows are grazing. As one lovely lady put it “I have a duty to keep an eye on them being as they are at the bottom of my garden” . This lady was hanging out her washing and at the bottom of her garden fence lay a 2 day old calf called Derek. The lady had been watching the calf and Dorothy (it’s mum) left the calf alone for 1 hour and the calf had flys on it and a magpie kept coming near it so the dear old lady stood at the bottom of her garden swigging a tea towel over the calf to keep the flies off it and to chase away the magpie as she thought the cow had abandoned her baby. She spotted dad and I turning up to check the cattle. And came running over to tell us about the abandoned calf. I reassured her that it is not uncommon for cows to leave their caves to go off grazing and as I approached the calf Dorothy Suddenly looked up and come running over to protect her baby. So a cow may not appear to be paying any attention to it’s calf but if a fox, cat,dog or human approaches it then they come running back to protect it. Cows often have a baby sitter when there are more than one calf. They leave one cow to look after the calves while the rest of the herd are grazing but if the cow on baby sitting duty spots danger and calls out the whole herd goes into guarding mode. Ps there are more people hurt by cows guarding their calves then people being attacked by bulls as there is no bond stronger than a mother and it’s child. So if you are out walking across a field do not get between a cow and calf and keep your dog on a lead but if chased by the cows then let your dog go as the dog will always get out of the field and then are less likely to be injured by the cows trying to attack your dog.


some of you may know that we now have a new border collie puppy called Queenie. I thought I should say more about her. For starters she is the half sisters to Gwen. They both have the same mum but different fathers. Gwen’s dad was called Sam and Queenie’s dad is called Mick (mood Mick) as he likes to run the boundary of the field before he starts to move the sheep. Their mum has a bit of a temper on her she does not like people and has been know to leave the sheep she has been working to bite people on the near by foot path. That said both Gwen and Queenie are nice naturered. The main difference between Gwen and Queenie are as follows. Gwen is a bit nervous. She hates any thing new. Even if we move a cattle tank a couple of inches from where it previously was that’s is enough to cause Gwen to bark at it and growl. She also hates other dogs on he territory. And is completely freaked out by little people ( children). Any child she see is enough to make her run straight to her kennel as this is where she feels safe. Queenie on the other hand may only be 8 weeks old but is not fazed by anything. Loud bangs, cows, sheep or even pigs squealing. She just sits and watches. And for a puppy of her age she is very bold. At the same age Gwen would run home if she saw a cow, sheep or heard a strange noise. Queenie also has mastered how to steel food from Gwen and Molly. She walks straight up to them and the more they growl the more she keeps going. Till they give up and walk off, leaving her to hoover up all the food. Queenie is also very bright, (so is Gwen) they are both quick learners so you have to be careful what you show them as once learnt not easy for them to forget.

Many people ask how you train a border collie well you don’t. They are like children. All you do is let them grow up at their own speed. And correct their faults and praise their good behaviour. And be very patient. And you can’t go wrong. That said a border collie has an instinct to round up animal and bring them to their master. So the hardest thing to do with a collie is to get them to drive ( move animals away from you). Not impossible to teach a collie with plenty of strokes and ‘Good girl ‘ said in a happy cheery voice. The best way to discipline a collie is to growl and to change the tone of your voice make it deeper and more harsh sounding and then they know they have done wrong. But puppies do not need too much discipline as you can break their spirit and like a human with no dreams left they are not likely to work for you and are generally very unhappy dogs. The hardest thing to do with Gwen is to stop her from working. If you stand by the sheep pen and the sheep are at the top of the field she is off bringing them down to you wether you want them or not. And if ever we lose sight of her at home then she is usually by a slated gate watching the cattle to make sure they don’t escape not that they ever do. But more recently she can now been seen playing with Queenie. Running around at speed with Queenie chasing after her or jumping up the straw stack(Gwen can jump a 6 foot fence from a stand still) with Queenie sitting on the ground looking up at her in amazement. I think when Queenie gets a bit bigger she will be clearing 6 foot fences too. I’m really looking forward to seeing them working the cattle next year. Just like Gwen and Meg our old dog used to do.

The rise of the female butchers

It’s amazing how many people are still surprised to see a woman butchering. When so many typical male oriented jobs are now proudly boasting that they have females amongst their ranks. Such as firefighter, army officer and prime minister to name but a few. There was even a film about a female butcher a couple of years ago. So why do so many people still have a preconsidered concecption of a butcher as a fat balding middle aged man like the statues we see out side the high street butchers shops. There are now many more woman working in the trade. Such as myself. I have been butchering since I was 11 years old. I’m now 26 but by no means know all there is to butchering. As there is always something I can improve on or a new quicker and better way of doing it. Also with our multinationalnation there are many more people asking for cuts of meat that they get back home and can’t find in our super markets. This often throws up surprises as all animals carcasses are the same from country to country but our way of cooking and cutting is so very different. For example the french call us ”Les ros boeuf”as we like our traditional Sunday roast. The french also seam out their carcasses much more than we do giving them many more cuts. And they have dedicated stalls selling offal something we no longer have. But that said our local names for a cut of meat varies from county to county. We have a book purely giving us the regional names of cuts of meat.

So far from butchery being an old traditional trade it is evolving with the changing times and with that it brings in more new faces and ideas to the trade. The days of the traditional butcher are changing but not always for the best. It is the age old thing of change, evolve, and grow to survive or these age old trades are going to be lost to the sands of time. And that would make the world a far different place with out the local friendly butcher shop on our now more empty high streets.

So buy local and help to keep this trade going for future generations.

Our lame cows

This week we had to call the vet out .  As 3 of our cows had gone lame. At first we wondered if some thing had been washed up in the drinking hole. As all 3 cows were lame on the back left. On closer inspection we noticed that the drinking hole has many more flints visible. This is due to all the wet weather we had earlier on in the year and it washed away a bit more of the bank to expose the flints. The recent dry spell has also added to the problem by causing the ground to be harder than normal. So when the cows stood on the flints they do not sink into the ground and so prick the cows hooves causing them to go lame. The vet said that they have been getting lots of call outs to lame cows this year. It’s amazing how quickly a lame cow gets better with the correct  treatment from the vet. With in 2 days you would not know that there had been any thing wrong with them. Unlike humans who would still be limping. Just goes to show that a lot of the pain we feel is all in our heads. There is a lot to be said for just geting up and walking it off.

Dad many years ago broke his left ankle. When a shire horse knocked him over then stamped on his ankle. He thought that it was a bit sore but walked home. And thought no more off it till he went round a friends house. The friend was a vet and his girlfriend was a radiographer. They both took one look at his ankle and said ”whats wrong with your ankle?” Dad replied ” oh it swells up during the day and goes down at night”  they said ”thats broken!!” and insisted that he went to hospital. At hospital the x-ray revealed that he had indeed broken his ankle. He had been walking around on it for 3 weeks and chasing after cattle. The doctors gave him crutches and told him to rest it. Some thing no farmer is good at. Ps crutches make great sticks for loading pigs. That ankle never caused him any more problems.


I opened the local newspaper the other day to find a story about a cow which fell into the river Cam. On closer inspection of the photo I realised that the cows in the photo where ours. The paper reports that the cows looked concerned. To be honest they are very curious creatures and probably wondered what all the noise was about. It is not uncommon for cattle to fall in rivers especially when they are used to drinking from them. As all it takes is for one to lose it’s balance or to be knocked by another inpatient cow and they are in.

There are people in Cambridge called Pinders whose job it is to look after the cattle on the common land in Cambridge.They are paid by the council and by the people who own the cattle and they are on call 24/7. It was one of the Pinders who walked our cow back across the road after it got out of the river on the Hilton hotel lawn.

We have  it on good authority that one of our cows regularly swims backwards and forwards across the river. The Pinders put 9 of our cows one side of the river and 11 the other. Cattle are very good swimmers. Our cattle are used to being walked through rivers as the grazing land we rent is all water meadows and we find it easier to move the herd as a whole through the rivers rather than splitting them up and moving them by road in a trailer. It is also much less stressful on them. They are natural herding animals and get upset if you split them up. Cows are generally very inquisitive creatures. Many of our cows enjoy being stroked and they all come to a call from Dad. Not many people know that cattle can tell the time.

We once had a cow called Alice. She was from a dairy herd. We bought her to rear calves on as she was a good milker. We could not understand why a cow from a dairy herd did not milk better than she was. Then one afternoon at 4 o’clock Dad was walking round to the cow shed when he heard a sucking sound. There was Alice beside the gate where we kept the calves. She had positioned her self beside the gate so the calves could reach her teats. As he watched when they finished sucking one side she turned round so they could do the other side. The mystery was solved. And every day at 4pm and 4am the same thing would happen as these were the times that Alice was used to being milked. But she would only do this with Aberdeen angus (black) calves. She was a Freisan cow (black and white) but if you tried to put a black and white calf on her , she would jump out and she could clear a 6 foot fence from a stand still.

So cows can see clours and tell the time not so stupid after all.


This week

Have been to see the pup we will be getting in October. Now really looking forward to bring her home. Every one looks for something differnt in a working border coillie some people like big broad headed pups, Others like an all black roof of the mouth, Some people like the pup that is the last one to come out when you go to see them as this is supposted to be the more dormant one, Other people like the pup that appears to pick you and comes straight up to you tail wagging. But really there is no real science to picking out a pup. It is only ever as good as the handler it is working with. But with border coillies all you ever do if correct their faults and encourage the behaviour you want. But if you get a pup from a good working strain then the odds of getting a good pup are much more likely.

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That said the best dog Dad ever had was called Queenie and see was from a news papper advert. It turned out the lady had been on holiday in Cumbria on a fram where there was a litter of pups. And had brought them all to sell back home in Newmarket. The lady had sold Queenie to a man who had tied her up and starved her and ill treated her. The man returned Queenie to the lady saying it was no good. Dad went to the lady’s house and having seen this bedraggled little pup with sunken eyes felt sorry for it and bought it for the princley sum of £5. You should never buy a pup because you feel sorry for it. He took her home and following the vet’s advice fed her on hard boiled eggs and gave her vitamines and love and care. She got her sparkle back and grew bigger. One day Dad was out side with the now much bigger Queenie who had never worked cattle before. When he saw his cattle go tareing past him up the lane towards the centre of Sawston. He said to Qeenie ‘get up’ and with that the dog shot off up the lane and disappeared through the hedge. Dad was just thinking that the dog and the cattle were gone when, all the cattle came to an abrupt holt. Queenie had stopped a herd of stampeding cattle. Some thing that is not easy for a person to do yet alone a pup. And brought them all back without another word from Dad. Dad and Queenie when on to move lots of cattle and pigs together. Dad could just point out a beast to be loaded and Queenie would load it by her self. If Dad was too long deciding which one to load Queenie would nip him as she got excited. (Its not uncommon to be nipped by your own border coillie when working with it).That was his once in a life time dog.

Our present border coille Gwen is a close second to Queenie. Here is hoping that our new pup who is from the same mum as Gwen will turn out just as good.





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