Anne-Marie Hamilton talks about life on the farm in Hail Weston

Wood Farm at Hail Weston

Wood Farm at Hail Weston - Credit: Archant

What an appalling start to the day!

Hippo, our farm cat, decided to bring me a special gift of a freshly-caught, extremely large, young rat which she had carefully dumped beside the back door, this week. Whilst I knew that it was also very dead, it was the last thing that I wanted to face as I came downstairs to start another day.

Of course, there was no sign of Rob when he was urgently needed, but I must congratulate him on responding quickly to the hysterical phone call that he received to return home at once, no matter what he was doing. By the time Rob arrived, the house was fully barricaded in case either Hippo or Tommy, our terrier, decided to bring the prize indoors, and I refused to let anyone in again until Mr Rat had been given a decent funeral. Family and friends often tease me about my reaction to all rodents, and I am used to hearing it, however, as far as I am concerned, rats carry disease, mice are absolutely filthy, and I dislike both intensely.

Over the years, Rob has got used to dealing with rat and mouse emergencies, and on this occasion, he was very good to come home so soon, as he was trying to get on with haymaking. The weather has been very catchy, and we still have three fields to finish making and baling. To dry the grass quickly and retain the quality and goodness in the feed, you need a bit of wind and plenty of sunshine – something that can be quite hard to acquire sometimes in our English climate.

We normally make small, conventional bales, as people with horses, goats, rabbits and guinea pigs prefer to have this size. Whilst most farmers nowadays tend to make the huge, half tonne bales which can be produced more quickly, and are faster to load onto a lorry, there is still a market for the small bale, as it is very easy to handle, and will fit into the back of a saloon car, if necessary. As we do not make a vast quantity, we are happy to continue making this size, and have acquired regular customers who return year after year, to collect them for their animals.

Whilst on the subject of animals, my cousin showed me a very amusing postcard that he found amongst the possessions of his late mother, recently. She was about nine years old when she received it, and it was sent by her father (my grandfather), instructing her to tell one of the farm staff to go to Huntingdon Railway Station the next day to collect a heifer (a young cow) off the train from Louth in Lincolnshire, where my grandfather was staying.

The card was written just after the First World War, and in those days, any animals that had to travel a distance were sent by rail. I am very glad that I did not receive this missive, as it went on to say that the man who was assigned to collect the heifer could either use the float (a horse-drawn cart designed for the purpose of animal transport) or, if that was not available, he would have to take another cow with him and walk from Alconbury to Huntingdon station, collect the heifer and then walk back again with both cows as, being a herd animal, a young heifer would probably be very unwilling to walk anywhere on its own. I often hear people talk about, “the good old days”, but frankly, it sounded like jolly hard work to me.

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We are now in July and the pinnacle of the arable farming year is fast approaching. We are currently making the final preparations for harvest. The crops seem to be about three weeks ahead of normal, and if we continue to get a good spell of sunshine, we will soon be extremely busy as we work to get the crops into store. I know one thing – once harvest officially begins, Hippo had better refrain from bringing home any more gifts.