Serious tractoring, cattle on holiday and the last calf...

Emma Heseltine - 10 September 2012

There seems to be a window of good weather so it's time to get the combine rolling. The old Massey chews through quite a bit of Susan’s oats before we get rained off, it's too boggy in the middle. We do get a trailer full of oats into the barn which is a start.

On Tuesday the brand new John Deere arrives at Stone Raise and I, lucky thing that I am, get to have a little go at driving it. I’m extremely careful not to scrape it down anything; it’s got to stay shiny for a little while at least! I get to ride along when John cuts his Barley, it's cut, scooped and spun and then the straw is spat out the back. The grain is safely stored inside ready for transfer to grain trailer and transported back to the farm. I get the slightly eye-watering job of sorting out grain trailer to store transfer. This involves a big tippy trailer, grain auger and a drip of prop-corn to make sure it doesn’t go off. It’s quite a balance but once it’s going I just have to keep checking it and endure the fumes. Smells like vinegar.

The Wildlife Trust wants some cattle out at Bowness-on-Solway to do a bit of conservation grazing. It’s a bit of a holiday for them. It’s a lovely spot and I always like going out there, the marshes and estuary are beautiful and the reserve the cattle are on is pretty special, hidden ponds and wild undergrowth with little horned heads peeping out. I’m glad to have an excuse to pop out there and have a picnic, and the cattle are a perfect excuse. Plus it seems there is an abundance of blackberries ripe for the picking…

Back to the oats, the big green combine goes chewing through with no bother now the ground has dried out a bit. We also manage to get the barley, although with a slightly worrying moment as there is a funny noise eminating from under one of the flaps. Before I know it I’m being told ‘just steer a minute’ and John is gone to investigate. I’m left driving this enormous, complicated and expensive bit of machinery… no problem I’m sure. The funny noise turns out to be nothing drastic and as the sun is setting we finish the field. Harvest in, what a relief!

We are heading to a farm up the road to do their barley which is something of a mission. The header on the combine won’t fit through gates, and would be a nightmare on the road so it goes on a trailer. I get to lead the convoy with the new John Deere with the header on the back, John follows with the combine. I set off and check to make sure he’s still with me but I’ve lost them already. The combine has stalled at a fab angle across the road. There are four cars in front and a couple waiting behind, it’s a narrow road. Not a good start. I run back and John manages to get her rolling again, the waiting cars all turn around and go a different way. Second attempt, lets see if we can get to the farm.

Wasi has her calf at long last on Friday morning. I have lost hope that it will ever appear, she was due sometime in July. I haven’t gone to see her first thing this morning, I waited until the Halo gang come. We are going to the water meadows to collect some old posts that hopefully can be recycled. I’ve taken the lambulance down the road and Ayliffe gives me a call to ask when did Wasi have her calf? Finally she had it this morning apparently; it’s a heifer and I’m going to keep an eye on it. Wasi is an old girl and is on something like her 11th calf so she has got a bit of a saggy bag, as you might expect. Her last calf had a bit of trouble getting fed. Hopefully this one will be better. We finish the week with last calf arrived, harvest in and straw all baled up, not bad work at all.

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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