Making Bonfires, Magnus and Crushing wheat... : Latest blogs from @SoilAssociation

Making Bonfires, Magnus and Crushing wheat...

Emma Heseltine - 18 December 2011


Today we took the heifers in chestnut field; the ones who decided to jump the fence and visit some neighbouring black and whites, back to the main part of the farm. I was a little wary after the previous incident so stood by the fence (repaired by my own fair hand) that proved no barrier to them last time. Apart from them being particularly nosy, peering over every fence and gate, there was no incident. I guess now they know the way there is no problem.
We are making some bonfires at Wallace field, so I load the quad and trailer with ingredients, paper, some straw, chainsaw, baler twine (is there anything baler twine isn’t good for?) and head to the bottom of the big field with the seven calves in it. We take the bits and pieces into Orchid field and get busy making fire. I’ve left the quad in the big field and when I look over again it is surrounded by the calves. They are so curious, what’s this in our field? Humans brought it, is it food? Is that some hay wedged under the seat?! I can’t help laughing, leave the quad alone and go eat your lunch! And for heavens sake don’t get stuck in the ladder.
At Willowford it’s blowing a gale. We are taking the tups out today, they have done their job well and now they get to have a well earned rest in one of the sheds. We go for carrot and a touch of stick to get them in, me jiggling the bucket and Liam and Millie the dog bringing up the rear to catch any stragglers who haven’t got the message. One of the ex-pets from two years back, mostly Suffolk and extremely chunky now, thinks that the bucket must be for her and proceeds to leap at me at regular intervals. I have to be quite swift footed, but then when don’t I in this job? We soon get them in, take Geoff out and let the ladies loose again. There is a terrible moment of heart rending indecision from Bob when we try and entice him to the pens, food or ladies? Food or ladies?! Ladies wins out as it always should with any good tup so we have to get them all in and pull Bob out into the pens. I’m afraid there is some bad news, we have had to have Magnus the Gotland put down. His back injury was too great and he was doing himself more harm trying to stand, the vet came and put him to sleep. It is a sad day, he was a good tup. The boys Bob and Geoff are reunited and after a bit of friendly sniffing and kicking get into the shed and are looking for their lost friend. Bob is still king and Geoff stands behind him, but a trio no more. 
We need to get some wheat crushed at Wallace Field. The wheat that we harvested and spent ages drying and bagging earlier in the year is now being fed not only to the birds at Houghton, but to the cattle too. Now somewhat like sweet corn in humans cattle can’t eat the grains whole as they would just come out the other end still whole. Enter neighbour John with his flash new tractor and the crusher, a great big hopper with crushing plates below powered by the tractor. So the wheat is passed into the top and soon it is rattling away at full speed. Shovel in hand I get to the task of scooping it up and bagging it from the bottom. A very noisy fifteen minutes later there is a whole bag of crushed wheat. Looks and smells a little like muesli but with a slightly off-putting vinegary tang, that’ll be the prop-corn we had to use to dry it. Doesn’t stop the calves happily munching it down!

Emma completed a degree in Creative Imaging at Huddersfield University before working for a photography studio as an editor. Taking a break from the office world she worked in outdoor education for several years, climbing, abseiling, shooting, trampolining and even life-guarding with children of all ages. When Emma found out about the apprenticeship scheme with the Soil Association it seemed the perfect chance to do something worthwhile and fulfilling. After much searching and badgering farms in the North of England she found a position with Hadrian Organics and started in July 2011. So far it is living up to her expectations, every day is a new challenge and every day is different.


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