Cow bells, rocket propelled stones and divorce are just some of the heady mix in Roger Evans’ yarn this month.
People seem very taken with the idea of the milk jug that I had been given, and which I mentioned last time with dead cows and live badgers on it.
If you want one, get in touch with Priscilla Kennedy on 01584 861 692. They are hand painted so they are £30. The lady has said she will make a donation to a dairy farmer’s good cause. I’ve suggested Farmers for Action, and I can’t think of a better place to put it. So get one for Christmas.
It’s a bit ago now and by the time you read this it will be even longer. But a few weeks ago, the Farmers Guardian carried a picture of farmers on the continent blowing straw over a line of policemen. At first sight it was very amusing, getting straw down your policeman’s uniform would be very uncomfortable, especially if it contained barley piles, but when I paused to think about it I wasn’t so sure.
The straw chopper was the same make as ours but I hope the straw was very different! When we are blowing straw, which we do at quite regular intervals, stones come through. That’s why there are elements of our Yorkshire boarding loose and why some of the boards have holes in them. That’s why the cattle all go down to the other end of the shed when you are giving them some clean straw. If I was a continental policeman I wouldn’t want barley piles down the collar of a hot uniform, and neither would I want a rocket-propelled pebble in my face.
Many, many years ago we crossed a Jersey cow we had with a Brown Swiss. The heifer she produced looked so like a real Brown Swiss that I wrote somewhere all that was missing to make her complete was an Alpine cow bell. So a reader sent me one. And the bell has been on various Brown Swiss crosses ever since.
Not only has it been on various cattle, but the animals wearing the bell have been in various fields. Its sound carries a very long way, which is what it was designed for. It’s rarely quiet and rings out even when the ’owner’ is ruminating. And it’s accumulating stories.
The first story was when we first put it on and a friend was fetching the cows in one morning. It was one of those dark, misty mornings like we are having now, but he hadn’t bothered to take a torch. He heard this bell coming slowly up the field towards him and thought his time had come and the grim reaper was coming.
The bell next went on an in-calf heifer and her group were on some grass keep adjoining a village. The heifers always lay down at night near some cottages. A man phoned up late one night wanting to fight me and left me in no doubt about where the bell would end up if I didn’t remove it from the heifer.
It’s now on a pure Brown Swiss heifer I bought and, once again, as she’s dry, it’s in a different field. The game keeper feeds his pheasants in the dark before he goes to his full-time job. He told me he could hear this bell coming down the field and couldn’t think what the hell it was. If frightened him so much he got his shotgun off his mule just in case.
A few days later we moved these cattle to afresh field. Another neighbour stopped David on the road and asked him if we had one of those water pumps that cattle operate themselves so they can drink out of a stream without getting in to the stream. (Very popular these pumps round here at present, in fresh water mussel country). David said, no, we hadn’t. “Well something is clanging down your fields,” he said.
A vet friend of mine bought his grandsons to watch the milking. “Granddad, why has the farmer got one cow with a bell on it?” “Because he’s a very eccentric farmer.”
A group of dairy farmers wives were having a good moan about the bad deal life had dealt them. The complainants were numerous and various. “We’ve never got any money.” “I never have any new clothes.” “If I go shopping I have to go in that stinking Land Rover.” “He calls it a new kitchen but his mother put it out 50 years ago.”
Others went on with “I have to do all the scraping.” “I have to rear all the calves.” “I have to do all the milking.” “My mother thinks he’s wonderful but she hasn’t seen his dirty clothes.” And so on and it gradually gathered a sort of momentum, a sort of unity of purpose. They decided enough was enough, they were going to leave their respective husbands and file for divorce.
Then one wife who hadn’t spoken thus far made her contribution. “It’s too late, we should have all gone two years ago when milk prices were good and they had some money.” “We’ll have to stick it out now until milk prices get better!”