European Union Madness!

London, United Kingdom

I do not know how your system works in the U.S.A., so I am hoping it is not as mad as ours which is controlled by Bureaucrats in Brussels, and not by the British farmers.
For the E.U. started paying our farmers NOT to grow cereals, then paying them NOT to grow anything at all. This is called set aside, where the farmers must leave their fields fallow. Some farmers have a way round this and grow wild flowers, the seeds which they then sell to gardeners, as who can prove that wild lowers did not just grow.
Then it was all over the newspapers as they are now paying farmers Not to rear pigs, and have NON milking cows.
So this is a letter I sent the Secretary of State for our farms DEFRA.

Rt Hon David Miliband MP
Secretary of State..
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),
Nobel House
17 Smith Square
London
SW1P 3JR
16 September 2009

Dear Secretary of State,
my friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs.. I would now like to join the “not rearing pigs” business.
In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the E.U. under the Common Agricultural Policy.
I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these?
As I see it, the hardest part of this program will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven’t reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?
My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.
If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100? I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department. Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases?
Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don’t rear?
I am also considering the “not milking cows” business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please could you also include the current DEFRA advice on set aside fields? Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with virtual fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares, on my computer)?

In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment benefits. I shall of course be voting for your party at the next general election.

Yours faithfully,
XXXX XXXX

Total madness, as you can imagine the public are in disbelief at all this, well at the least the letter has caused a few laughs.
Regards from England.
Neil.

Moss Point, MS(Zone 8b)

Political discussion isn't permitted on this site but maybe you can slide. Thank you for the entertainment. We may all be crying in our milk, from the cows that weren't, before we're done. In some twisted way, it's a small comfort to learn that agricultural insanity isn't limited to the US.

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Neil, I think the EU has stolen a page from the USDA. The state of farming is pretty much the same here. Being dairy farmers, we are presently not being paid for making milk, which is pretty much as twisted as being paid for not raising pigs.

As twiggy said, politics are mostly verboten, but farming practices have become so politicized that I don't think we would be able to chat much without venturing off into the (im)politic.

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

ps I love your letter

London, United Kingdom

Dear Kathleen, I did get a letter back from them which said:
Dear Sir,
your points have been noted, and your letter will be passed on to the relevant department.
Yours Sincerely
Then it was just pp signed for the Secretary of State.
I was born on a farm right next to Blubberhouse moor in North Yorkshire. It is a very inhospitable and indeed dangerous place, especially in the harsh winters.
We could only have sheep as they were the only thing that could survive on the moor (apart from Grouse), and we kept some pigs and chickens close to the farm buildings. We moved to London when I was eight, and I still miss it even after all these years. Maybe it was the Hunting and the Trout fishing I miss, not the snow and ice cold winds.
I have after leaving the Army been in Horticulture and cooking, but when i did my Degree, I was offered a chance to do another one called N.D.A.G.W.H.M. This sounds complicated but basically it is a Degree in Agriculture, Game, Wildlife and Habitat Management.
This was brought about by the organic movement in the 1980s; not only were they protesting about chemical use, but also the stranglehold the supermarkets had on our consumers, and farmers.
So as the most powerful thing in any Nation is the consumers, for if they do not buy it, the supermarkets cannot sell it.
They demanded organic food and wanted to know where it came from, just like our very strict meat and fish regulations have to do!
So farmers had to diversify, which they have done to an amazing extent, the difference is quite stunning.
I know we are a little island, so it would probably not work in the U.S.A. as it is vast, but it has worked here!
We live on the London/Kent border, and Kent is the Garden of England, or it is supposed to be.
So the farmers have got together and opened farm shops all over, these sell everything from meat, vegetables and fruit to honey all produced locally, and labelled as such. It is cheaper and fresher than supermarket produce, so people will travel to get it.
Especially as a lot of the farms have a children's farm! It was stunning to find out that in a recent survey most of the inner city children in London have never seen a live farm animal, or indeed a fruit growing on a tree.
Other farmers apart from doing bed and breakfast, now have set up cookery schools, where Adults and the children can go, learn about where their food comes from and how to cook it. These are very popular, and most are booked up ages in advance.
Other people have set up trout lakes, not only for fishing but for selling the fish in the farm shops.
The list is endless, what they have done, and good luck to them.
Any restaurant who wishes to be in the Good Food guide, now has to prove where their produce comes from, so they use the farm shops.
I wish you all the best.
Regards from England.
Neil.
p.s. I did not know you are not supposed to mention politics, for our farming magazines and the internet sites are full of it.








Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Neil, I read your letter to Stan last night and he was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. He wondered if you would allow him to take copies to some friends who are rather depressed about the current state of farming here. Misery loves company, and your company is downright hilarious.

One the few shows that Stan likes to watch on a cable station called RFD-TV is a show that they run at 4 AM which is a sampling of shows from the UK on all things rural. He has occasionally dragged me out of bed to watch with him. One morning it was a Duke out there in his crap covered Wellies talking about his herd of heritage beef cows and their programs with the local schools, another morning it was a man weaving a willow fence.

I think the biggest problem with farming in the US is that farmers are NOT listening to the consumer, but rather to Agribusiness people (read:Monsanto) and the agricultural press whom they have convinced that the only way to farm is big and high tech.

oh, and the political ban is Dave's way of keeping the virtual bloodshed down, but he does occasionally allow a bit of leeway.

London, United Kingdom

Dear Kathleen, of course you can do whatever you so wish with the letter, be my guest.
I am glad it has caused some amusement on both side of the Atlantic, and in DEFRA no doubt!
Where you see the serious stuff in the farming journals, and on the Television, but it is all in percentages and quotas, which most people do not understand.
So by putting it logically, with a ' hint ' of sarcasm and humour in it, people will read it.
I am most surprised that you still have hassle from the Agribusiness, for after Rachel Carson's book ' Silent Spring ' which ahd a profound effect on millions who read it, I thought that had stopped in the U.S.A., obviously not.
It had a mass effect over here, suddenly Universities were doing courses on it alongside mainstream Agriculture, like the one I did!
Farmers were putting hedgerows back in and leaving conservation headlands around fields, so the public noticed a mass increase in the wildlife everywhere.
As I stated it was the Organic and Soil Association, who set the ball rolling, this produced a great response from the consumers, and it is the Housewives who rule the roost!
So it was either grow and rear what the Housewives wanted to eat and tell them where it came from, or go bankrupt as no one will buy it, simple and effective.
We now have four inner city farms in London, which are very popular, and they supply restaurants, and we have one restaurant that sources all their food from within the London Tube (subway), map!
Organic food was expensive when it first came out, but now the farmers have perfected it and it is only a few pennies more than normal sprayed food. Battery hens (hens in small cages), are very rare now as well, after the Television programs on them.
We have a lot of woodland here, so people fence it off, and put pigs in, they are free range and organic and the meat tastes great.
The greatest success was in the New forest in Hampshire. This huge woodland was set up by William the Conqueror in 1089, as his hunting land.
Unfortunately all the rich bought the houses and the small farms of the ' Foresters ' this put the house prices up so much the local people could not afford to live there. The other effect is that the whole forest is filled with wild ponies, everywhere. When the acorns drop off the oak trees in the Autumn (fall), ponies eat them. Acorns are poisonous to ponies, and it kills lots of them each year.
In the old days all ' Foresters ' kept pigs, which were let loose into the forest, to eat the acorns, as pigs love acorns, and it makes the meat taste wonderful. So the ponies did not die.
The rich do not want to keep pigs, they want a posh life so are not interested in anything like that. The problem was only animals kept by ' Foresters ' were allowed to forage in the forest by the 1089 law, as there were only a few left with pigs you have a problem.
So very quickly they changed the law, then fence off where the roads went through to stop any pigs going onto the roads, set it into areas, and invited farmers from all over to use the forest for their pigs.
The result was; very happy pigs as they had untold food, very happy farmers as they did not have to pay for food, happy forest managers, very happy conservationists, members of the public and no more dead ponies.
Success all round, I think.
I do not know who Stan is as you did not tell me, but give him my Regards from England.
Have fun copying the letter, glad it is of some use. Try not to get my name on it though!
Regards.
Neil.

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Thank you, Neil. This will raise a few spirits over here.

Stan is my husband, sorry I didn't make that clear. There are a few articles about our farm here:
http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/by.php?user=Kathleen
Dave lets me try to explain modern farming to the masses, it keeps me out of trouble.

I love the fact that the New Forest predates the European 'discovery' of America by centuries. A bit of perspective there. We are strictly dairy on this farm, and not an oak tree bigger than a couple of feet on the whole place, so the pigs would fair ill.

London, United Kingdom

Dear Kathleen I have read a lot of your articles before, especially the ones about leaves, plants and poems.
However I did not realise I was writing to you, so my humble apologies.
It is strange how our interests are very similar; for before I went in the Army my mother forced me to go to catering college, and I left there as a trained chef at just over 18, then after the Army, I trained and trained in Horticulture getting to the top of that, and did Agriculture as well at University.
So if you combine all three, no wonder I have a sense of humour, it is the only thing that keeps me from total madness, and becoming a Euro M.P.!
My point about the New forest is that it would not have happened twenty years ago! For a lot of the big chemical companies were in power, and no doubt would have developed a way of spraying a chemical to stop acorns growing at vast expense to the taxpayer and to the environment.
For they are interested in profit not what the chemical does to everything else, if it breaks to food chain in nature, they are not interested.
The monks had been using pigs in the New forest since 800 ad and probably further back than then.
There are a lot of instances of this that were highlighted by Country file, which is the U.K. program that Stan, may watch bits out of.
A classic one was hedgerows which were brought in in the early part of the 17 Th. century, unfortunately they were cut in down in a lot of cases as farmers were told more is better. This wiped out the wildlife, in a big way. A lot were suddenly put back in a way of conservation and the fact in some cases it was illegal to take them out! Then they learnt that less is in fact more! Hedgerows are easy to tell their age simply by counting the plant species in each hedgerow, so if you have a hedgerow with 25 species of plant in it you work out that each species is worth 15 years, then it is roughly 375 years old.
As hedgerows are laid every twelve years or so, which means the main stem is cut 2/3 across the bottom and then the plant is pulled down to a 45 degree angle into hazel sticks and bound up, they regrow from the main cut shoot and the bit of the plant that is at an angle, and are totally stock proof.
However they need trimming every year (twice), and laying every twelve years or so, this is expensive to say the least.
So a chemical company came out with a spray. You cut the hedgerows in the spring and then you leave it for a couple of weeks, then spray this stuff. It then lasts for 18-24 months where you do not have to cut the hedgerow or do anything to it.
The problem was that it was so effective it stopped the plants flowering; no flowers, no insects, no pollination, no food!
Consumers complained as the price of honey spiralled out of control, so it was instantly banned!
I bought a small old cottage near Oxford, but in the countryside. It was in a terrible state, and took over three years of very hard work to get it liveable in.
Although I lived in it in a sleeping bag whilst I did it. The cottage is in the Domesday book which was finished in 1086, then it burnt down in 1403 and rebuilt in 1432, now it is lovely and is mine.
That has a field with hedgerows that our also mine, but I rent that out to the local farmer for a nominal fee, and he lets me shoot/fish on his land.
Sorry this is so long, but unless I go to kent or the cottage, I never get to speak to anyone about what goes on in the country!
Regards. from England.
Neil.
p.s. My little nephew is gardening, cooking and farming mad (plus eating), so he likes to read the recipes I put on the recipe forum from my Grandmas 1911-1921 diary, as he wants to make it, and eat it.
So here is a picture of him in a little bit of my garden, stood on a small wall, with his new T-shirt on!










Thumbnail by NEILMUIR1
Moss Point, MS(Zone 8b)

I saw a honey bee today. A real live working honey bee. And I smiled and watched like it was some kind of exotic bird. Then I realized what I was doing and got disgusted. I looked for others but there was only the one. Isn't that just pitiful? They've been very few and far between. Ditto for butterflies, fireflies and most birds.

There are miles of totally wild areas very near here, mostly swamps and marsh that's never been touched by man, except whatever we've done to the air and water. It's really getting scary.

Good that the Brits stood up and called for some sense in it all. Lead the charge! We're getting around to it slowly but the masses still will eat anything that comes in a box or plastic and requires little to no cooking.

I'd be proud of that new shirt too, except the part about the spiders. He sure does look capable of some major mischief, can't miss that gleam in his eyes. I think he's a lucky little guy to have such a talented uncle to show him the way (writing great letters included).


London, United Kingdom

Dear twiggybuds, yes that is so sad it is indescribable, it is not just pitiful, it is insane!
Rachel Carson the American writer warned of this in her book, in the 1960s ' Silent Spring ' and I assumed it had been stopped, so I am wrong.

Man has lost the capacity to
foresee and forestall.
I fear he will he will end,
by destroying the Earth!

He is a great little boy and is really no trouble; apart from getting filthy in the garden, so we keep spare clothes for him here, so he goes in the bath, whilst we wash and dry his clothes, as he often stays over for the weekend, but what can you expect from a six year old coming up to seven!
He has three older sisters, so prefers to be in my company, than what he calls doing "Girlie things."
As I am ex Army he also knows I do not take any nonsense off him, at any time.
We do fight for what is right in our countryside, as everyone has a right to do so, and if everyone complains, they must take notice, in the end.
I have already stated it is the consumers that have the power in the end ( supply and demand), for if they do not buy it the supermarkets cannot sell it, the farmers will not grow it, and the Agribusiness is defunct!
If the farmers do not need chemicals, then no one can sell them at all.
Hence the wildlife comes back to the benefit of us all, for if you break a link in natures food chain, everything suffers.
Due to the fact our bees were suffering, especially Bumble bees, the Government brought a scheme in where you can get a Bumblebee overwintering box for free! It has all the instructions and winter bedding, and you just put it in your garden. Bumblebees do not hurt you as they would die if they did, they will only sting if you really annoy them, I pick them up and put them back in the sun when they are too worn out to fly when laden with pollen.
They are essential for the pollinating of plants, so why spray and kill them and everything else off?
We were as guilty as the US for pollution and indeed many other Countries, our Island is small, 866 miles from the southern to the most northern tip.
That would fit in a small corner of some states in your Country!
So something had to be done and is it, at last, but it takes time as some people do not like change, especially the youngsters.
During the second World War there was food rationing in this Country, and yet our Nation was never healthier, so just to shock some people here is the food ration per Adult per week, during the War.
Butter: 50g (2oz). Bacon and ham: 100g (4oz). Margarine: 100g (4oz).
Sugar: 225g (8oz). Meat: To the value of 1s.2d (one shilling and sixpence per week. That is about 6p today). Milk: 3 pints(1800ml) occasionally dropping to 2 pints (1200ml).
Cheese: 2oz (50g). Eggs: 1 fresh egg a week. Tea: 50g (2oz).
Jam: 450g (1lb) every two months. Dried eggs 1 packet every four weeks. Sweets: 350g(12oz) every four weeks.

Vegetables were not rationed, but clothing was as well.
There were no chemicals as the factories were bombed or used for weapon production, so it had to be done the old way, and it worked.
Can you imagine a youngster living on that a week.
Yet the Veterans I look after as I am a Royal British Legion Caseworker, had to!
Yes we have an American one and three British ones as well, that I look after.
They all come to dinner every fortnight, and the wife and I go down to the farm shops in Kent every Sunday, to get them a food bag each.
They get meat, vegetables, fruit, butter, cheese, cream, milk and eggs, for the week, and I pay for it. Veterans are not treated very well over here, I should know, as I am considered one. Although I am not as old as they are.
I meet them in the pub every Sunday afternoon, and they get their food bags of whatever we can get, yet they never complain.
For free range fresh eggs are lovely and so is smoked bacon and sausages for their breakfasts, trust me they never go hungry!
Regards from England.
Neil.
p.s. here is a picture from my garden of a Bumblebee on my Calistemon 'Splendens'.
We counted over a hundred before we gave up counting them in one go!












Thumbnail by NEILMUIR1
Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Beautiful boy - looks like he could get up to some interesting mayhem.

We had honey bees this year for the first time in quite awhile. I am guessing that there's a wild 'hive' back in the woods. There used to be a big old bee tree back there, but it succumbed. It could be that some of the Amish families have started hives and the bees have found my gardens. My bumble bees are quite well, thank you.

The hedgerows around here were mostly knocked down years ago. We have maintained some of of ours, although Stan and one neighbor did pull one out years ago. I think we should replant it, perhaps it would keep the neighbor on his side of the line. There are enough farms that have gone under and gone back to scrub and brush that the wildlife populations are increasing. In my lifetime, wild turkey, bears and bald eagles have returned to the area. The deer population has increased and ruffed grouse have maintained a steady population.

I'm afraid that the gap between the pastoral America that Jefferson envisioned and the urban America that we now have is too wide. I just don't know.

London, United Kingdom

Dear Kathleen, I know how you feel! It is not the Bumblebees that are the problem or caused it, it is people that have done it.
People who work 9-5, five days a week, claim they do not have time to garden, so they simply patio or concrete the whole garden!
Then put some decking down, a barbecue and a few containers with some non flowering plants from the garden centre, they do not have to look after, that is what is wiping the bees out.
I was very lucky over a chance meeting in a pub, I got the job of researching and restoring a Gertrude Jekyll garden, which to me was the best and most satisfying thing I have ever done, it beat winning the Chelsea flower show, which I did!
So it got my wife into herbaceous plants,so a lot of my plants were moved and she has her own border.
The bees love it, it is like Heaven to them!
We get lots of honey bees because; there is a large bomb site near us from the war, that has never been rebuilt, so four Gentlemen have put their hives on it and spread the ground with wildflowers.
It is not the lack of flowers in some cases for bumblebees, it is nowhere for them to overwinter, with modern housing.
As for my nephew; I do not know what he gets up with at home, he is strictly controlled here. but his latest stunt at school, I found funny.
For gardening is part of his lessons at school, and he loves it! However he had to plant at tree, which he knows how to do as he has done it lots of times with me, so he duly planted "his tree." The next week they went out on their gardening lesson and he found "his tree," covered in snails and hardly any leaves left! So he stormed off to the school kitchen and demanded some salt of course they would not give him any but were intrigued why he wanted it. So taking him back to his teacher the catering ladies explained to his teacher, he had been demanding salt.
When asked to explain himself by his teacher he is alleged to have said "My Uncle Neil is a clever gardener, and when you find slugs or snails, you put salt on them till they fizz and die, then they don't kill trees or plants!"
What a boy!
We have a mass problem with Deer to such an extent that 175,00 died of starvation in Scotland a couple of years ago, this has been caused by the EU as well.
Our grouse population goes up and down with the Heather which they totally rely on for food, but if managed properly they are pretty abundant.
The biggest problem is the Animal Liberation Front, they have caused havoc and now got Fox hunting banned, the they wanted to get fishing banned but that did not work. now they are trying to get shooting banned.
They went to far by firstly putting a bomb in an animal researchers car, when she got in it blew up and killed her and her new baby, the public went mad.
Then by picking on a farmer who raised rabbits for science; they threatened him, tried to black mail him, and finally dug his recently dead Grandma up and would not give her body back, till he stopped rearing rabbits. So wild was the public reaction to this they were foun in d in days, and got life in prison.
I know you have the American constitution, some of which was taken from the Magna Carta this country. There is a memorial their laid by President J.F. Kennedy, on the spot where it was signed in 1215 at Runnymede in Surrey by the King.
Using that legal document they set up a "green belt." around London which has never and cannot be broken. This belt will allow no building of any sort apart from Agricultural, with planning permission.
So the developers are up the creek without a paddle, as much as they would love to get their hnds on it, touch it and you are in serious trouble.
Regards to your good self and Stan from England.
Neil.








Sealy, TX

Kathleen and Neil - I just have to say that reading these posts has been simply wonderful! Sometimes we get the feeling we're "all alone in the country" and it's so nice to hear of other places and what all's going on in their corners!
Thank you for the great read!
Deb

London, United Kingdom

Dear Deb, I do hope you do not mind me calling you that?
You are never alone, and thank you for your comments. Kathleen has been brilliant in her replies and has made me laugh a lot with her comments.
The British way is it seems a bit different from the US, for if someone has a complaint they normally will say or write about it.
The top Newspaper in this Country is the Times and you often see a plethora of letters in that fine newspaper complaining about something, normally finished with "Yours most disgusted" and then their name.
Even our local Newspapers are the same, they are swamped with letters as well.
Public meetings are held about proposed developments, and are quite lively to say the least, and can be indeed humorous.
For the internet is a great tool, but a properly worded, delivered and looking more official letter, can and normally is more effective, than something on a computer screen you can delete in seconds.
Keep in touch.
Regards from England.
Neil.

Calvert City, KY(Zone 7a)

I am enjoying your posts again, Neil.
Thank you for opening our eyes to plights other than our own.
Good for you, my friend.
Sharon

London, United Kingdom

Dear Sharon, I dont just put posts on about gardening, I grew up in the countryside, which is 15 minutes in a car away from me.
I also went to catering college before the Army so I do put recipes on as well.
Plus I do believe in fighting for what is right, not what we are told to think should be right.
That is why I help our Veterans out and other jobs I do.
Regards from England.
Neil

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Hi, Neil. I have already shared your wonderful letter with friends who loved it as much as I did. How appalling about the Animal Liberation Front; it's like the anti-abortion "pro-lifers" who kill doctors who perform such surgeries.

Kathleen, I had never read any of your articles; they're wonderful. I'll have to meander through them when I have more time. We have a 20-acre farm on a river, but although we do sell eggs and wood products it's nothing like yours.

Neil, I love hearing about your cottage and reading your recipes. And your nephew is adorable; my son would have wanted that shirt at his age. Isn't it nice to have a youngster around to pass on your lore? He is very lucky, but so are you. We have a similar relationship with our granddaughter and it does seem to make our lifestyle even more worthwhile, knowing that it's having an impression on the next generation and hopefully teaching them life skills. We took our granddaughter to France when she was ten, and now she says that when she grows up she wants to live in France and have a farm!

Regards from the US!
Leslie

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Ah, well, if you don't laugh, all you can do is cry!

greenhouse gal, thanks for the kind words. My dad grew up in northern NJ and my grandmother retired to Erma. I haven't been to Cape May since she died in the '80s. I miss the shore. Our farming was one of those things that happened. Stan was going to be an electrical engineer and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. We went into dairying on a whim (yes, the people who live in my house are crazy people). I suppose having both come from small farms had a great deal to do with it.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Kathleen, that's okay, I started off as a French major, switched to psych, had a career in that, retired, and am now a portrait artist along with being a part-time farmer and protector of natural resources. We did used to have dairy goats and I made cheese, but we got out of that long ago. Milking twice a day has to be a calling, and ours stopped calling to us! My husband's dad always had a garden and so did my grandfather, so I think that helped us get into a more agrarian lifestyle.

London, United Kingdom

Dear Leslie, I love my cottage for it is a tranquil and peaceful heaven.
No phones, no buses, or lorries, if you see more than six cars in a day you wonder what is going on, just an old lady who sells free range eggs, and a tiny shop/house, that sells the bare necessities.
Everyone says hello and good morning/ afternoon/ evening to each other, and most of them I do not even know.
The local pub is a mile and a half walk, in the big village, it has 36 houses and 3 shops. It is the view from the road which is high up over the countryside that stuns you. Just emerald green, the differing colours of the hedgerows, and the huge majestic oaks.
Then the clever farmers who have got around set aside by growing wildflowers; blue cornflowers, yellow corn marigolds, ox eyed daises and the red of poppies growing through them, a truly breathtaking sight.
The pub is wonderful and gives me a rest from cooking when I eat there, as the food is all local, fresh, organic and superb.
Plus the beer is good as well, and the pub is quite modern 1751 to what the rest of the village is.
They have an original "idle post" there near the butter-cross, although it has not been used since the late 1800s.
The law was simple then; if any (male or female) teenager was considered to be idle or lazy, gossiping, they were stripped to the waist and then shackled to the post in a morning, then all day the villagers could pelt them with rotten fruit or vegetables, just before dusk the village assembled and the sentence was read out. Depending on what they had done, or indeed had not done, they were then given the sentence of however many lashes they were to have with a horse whip. Stocks and Dunking stools were kept for the adults.
Useless bit of history for you, sorry about that.
The farmer who rents my field, allows to me to shoot and fish on his land, which is handy. He has a watermill with a huge great mill pond, which he stocked with Brown Trout, then as they are very slow growers he gave up with them.
So as soon as the Trout season opens (March), I go up there to fish and see the early purple Orchids that grow around the mill pond, lovely sight.
There is no gas at all and electricity was only put in after the fire that burnt the roofs of most of the village in 1969.
My cottage has a walk in fire (logs), in the living room, that keeps everything warm in there, and an Aga in the kitchen (wood burning), that does the cooking and heats the hot water and upstairs.
It has one large bedroom and one tiny one, so I can only take one of my nieces or nephews at a time, which is a shame.
I am very proud of Alfie and he is not a bad lad, has had his moments, but don't all six nearly seven year olds.
He loves to go up the cottage, fishing, shooting and all the other things he can do. However we make him go to bed, then we go, he is straight back downstairs and curls up on the little sofa in front of the log fire, strange. He cannot get to the fire as it ha a very heavy fire guard on it, must be watching the flames that amuses him.
My oldest niece is a clever girl, for she won a scholarship like me, to a very good school. So at 14 coming up to 15 she can speak fluent French, German and is learning Italian! Has a natural gift for languages, I think. She loves cooking, so I taught her to make pasta; so on her birthday I bought her a pasta machine and an Italian cookbook in Italian, she loves it.
She used to love going up the cottage, but does not come up so much now, too interested in boys, her computer and pop music.
I go down the pub but the big village has a dark side that I could never put anywhere on this site.
Your granddaughter is lucky, having a knowledgeable Grandparents, who are prepared to teach and pass their knowledge on. I know this sounds unbelievable but some people are not willing to do that. A lot of this country still works in Victorian times, where children should be seen and not heard!
In a survey in Connie's class (oldest niece), a stunning 91% had never seen fruit growing on trees, or farm animals.
So I went to see the headteacher; he said if I could get a coach and a Health and Safety person, then I could take the class to my friends farm in Kent.
I saw the Council and they were quite happy to help with a coach etc. so we all went, to the excitement of the girls.
They loved seeing a cow milked by hand, although the Health and Safety bloke would not let them drink any as it was not pasteurised, just straight out of the cow. He would not let them eat picked fruit straight from the trees, or raspberries, unless they had been washed.
In fact he was a pain with everything, till old Bill the farmer pulled him to one side and said something to him, strangely quiet after that.
Old Bills wife had unbeknown to me, laid a ploughmans lunch on for everyone in the large barn. That had everything from the ham the girls had seen them making to the Goats cheese, salad, herbs they had seen, homemade bread, butter and pickles etc. They loved it a real feast.
Then they were allowed in the farm shop and had a discount, they went wild in there, even the Health and Safety man bought some stuff.
A result and they still talk about it.
I am so pleased that you have a great relationship with your granddaughter, it is important that they learn life skills, and that cannot be taught that in a book.
Regards from England.
Neil.















Sallisaw, OK

Neil and Kathleen, I have been enjoying your posts immensely! I've been a member of DG for a couple of years now but have never even noticed the forums much before - definitely my loss! My dad's family were Iowa farmers, his paternal family from Yorkshire originally. My mom's people were farmers and fisherman in Newfoundland, Canada. Dad was USAF until I was about 11 then we moved to eastern Oklahoma and had a small stock farm, raising pigs and a few cows. When I was 21 I married a farmer from eastern South Dakota, and spent the next 24 years with him, working our several thousand acre grain farm and custom harvesting business. Also we kept a stock cow herd the first 16 or 17 yrs. and always a horse or 2 (or 3 or 4! LOL) When he decided, like with new machinery a new model wife was needed, I took MY half of the farm and left him to his newer model (did I mention newer isn't always better? haha). A couple years later, I moved my 2 daughters and grandson back here to eastern OK, along with a BIG trailer load of horses, dogs, and even 3 cats. Now I guess I'm back to my 'roots', as I have several stock cows, a small herd of Lowline Angus cattle, meat goats, poultry of various sorts, and my latest acquistions, a breeding pair of Large Black Pigs, an endangered heritage breed of hog. Oh, and of course, I'm dog poor, have some critters just because I like them (3 mini-mini cattle - zebu bull and cow and mini hereford cow), several pygmy goats, miniature and regular size horses and naturally, my barn cats. :-) and not to forget, my 2 donkeys Betty and Connor. I've been involved with both sides of agriculture - commercial and 'small farm' (I don't know how else to describe it) and feel both are needed to continue to feed the planet. Neither way is totally wrong and neither way is totally right, as far as I'm concerned. Both have room for improvements and I'm glad to say, I see much of that all the way around.

Again, I'm enjoying your posts very much and feel as if I'm beginning to 'know' you folks and like you! I look forward to reading more and hope you don't mind if I jump in now and then, too! ;-)

Steph

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Welcome Steph. Sorry to hear you got the trade in treatment - there have been a few of those around here, too. Never a good thing. As my mom always says, divorce, never, murder, maybe. It sounds like you've landed on both feet, though.

I think part of the problem with understanding farming is that the words have gotten all twisted. "Conventional" dairies don't graze their animals. You're only considered "commercial" if you're too big to do it all yourself, even though technically if you make a living off your farm, it is commercial. We are all supposed to be 'Agri-business" people, as being farmers denotes backwardness. I really don't know what's going to happen. It seems that cheap food is more important that the farms that produce it. Won't they be surprised when we disappear!

London, United Kingdom

Dear
Author Content
NEILMUIR1
London
United Kingdom
October 12, 2009
11:47 PM

Post #7163637

Edit

I do not know how your system works in the U.S.A., so I am hoping it is not as mad as ours which is controlled by Bureaucrats in Brussels, and not by the British farmers.
For the E.U. started paying our farmers NOT to grow cereals, then paying them NOT to grow anything at all. This is called set aside, where the farmers must leave their fields fallow. Some farmers have a way round this and grow wild flowers, the seeds which they then sell to gardeners, as who can prove that wild lowers did not just grow.
Then it was all over the newspapers as they are now paying farmers Not to rear pigs, and have NON milking cows.
So this is a letter I sent the Secretary of State for our farms DEFRA.

Rt Hon David Miliband MP
Secretary of State..
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),
Nobel House
17 Smith Square
London
SW1P 3JR
16 September 2009

Dear Secretary of State,
my friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs.. I would now like to join the “not rearing pigs” business.
In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the E.U. under the Common Agricultural Policy.
I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these?
As I see it, the hardest part of this program will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven’t reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?
My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.
If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100? I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department. Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases?
Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don’t rear?
I am also considering the “not milking cows” business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please could you also include the current DEFRA advice on set aside fields? Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with virtual fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares, on my computer)?

In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment benefits. I shall of course be voting for your party at the next general election.

Yours faithfully,
XXXX XXXX

Total madness, as you can imagine the public are in disbelief at all this, well at the least the letter has caused a few laughs.
Regards from England.
Neil.
twiggybuds
Moss Point, MS
(Zone 8b)
October 13, 2009
12:17 AM

Post #7163699

Political discussion isn't permitted on this site but maybe you can slide. Thank you for the entertainment. We may all be crying in our milk, from the cows that weren't, before we're done. In some twisted way, it's a small comfort to learn that agricultural insanity isn't limited to the US.
Kathleen
Panama, NY
(Zone 5a)
October 13, 2009
08:15 AM

Post #7164126

Neil, I think the EU has stolen a page from the USDA. The state of farming is pretty much the same here. Being dairy farmers, we are presently not being paid for making milk, which is pretty much as twisted as being paid for not raising pigs.

As twiggy said, politics are mostly verboten, but farming practices have become so politicized that I don't think we would be able to chat much without venturing off into the (im)politic.
Kathleen
Panama, NY
(Zone 5a)
October 13, 2009
08:16 AM

Post #7164133

ps I love your letter
NEILMUIR1
London
United Kingdom
October 13, 2009
08:44 PM

Post #7166407

Edit

Dear Kathleen, I did get a letter back from them which said:
Dear Sir,
your points have been noted, and your letter will be passed on to the relevant department.
Yours Sincerely
Then it was just pp signed for the Secretary of State.
I was born on a farm right next to Blubberhouse moor in North Yorkshire. It is a very inhospitable and indeed dangerous place, especially in the harsh winters.
We could only have sheep as they were the only thing that could survive on the moor (apart from Grouse), and we kept some pigs and chickens close to the farm buildings. We moved to London when I was eight, and I still miss it even after all these years. Maybe it was the Hunting and the Trout fishing I miss, not the snow and ice cold winds.
I have after leaving the Army been in Horticulture and cooking, but when i did my Degree, I was offered a chance to do another one called N.D.A.G.W.H.M. This sounds complicated but basically it is a Degree in Agriculture, Game, Wildlife and Habitat Management.
This was brought about by the organic movement in the 1980s; not only were they protesting about chemical use, but also the stranglehold the supermarkets had on our consumers, and farmers.
So as the most powerful thing in any Nation is the consumers, for if they do not buy it, the supermarkets cannot sell it.
They demanded organic food and wanted to know where it came from, just like our very strict meat and fish regulations have to do!
So farmers had to diversify, which they have done to an amazing extent, the difference is quite stunning.
I know we are a little island, so it would probably not work in the U.S.A. as it is vast, but it has worked here!
We live on the London/Kent border, and Kent is the Garden of England, or it is supposed to be.
So the farmers have got together and opened farm shops all over, these sell everything from meat, vegetables and fruit to honey all produced locally, and labelled as such. It is cheaper and fresher than supermarket produce, so people will travel to get it.
Especially as a lot of the farms have a children's farm! It was stunning to find out that in a recent survey most of the inner city children in London have never seen a live farm animal, or indeed a fruit growing on a tree.
Other farmers apart from doing bed and breakfast, now have set up cookery schools, where Adults and the children can go, learn about where their food comes from and how to cook it. These are very popular, and most are booked up ages in advance.
Other people have set up trout lakes, not only for fishing but for selling the fish in the farm shops.
The list is endless, what they have done, and good luck to them.
Any restaurant who wishes to be in the Good Food guide, now has to prove where their produce comes from, so they use the farm shops.
I wish you all the best.
Regards from England.
Neil.
p.s. I did not know you are not supposed to mention politics, for our farming magazines and the internet sites are full of it.








Kathleen
Panama, NY
(Zone 5a)
October 14, 2009
08:57 AM

Post #7167493

Neil, I read your letter to Stan last night and he was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. He wondered if you would allow him to take copies to some friends who are rather depressed about the current state of farming here. Misery loves company, and your company is downright hilarious.

One the few shows that Stan likes to watch on a cable station called RFD-TV is a show that they run at 4 AM which is a sampling of shows from the UK on all things rural. He has occasionally dragged me out of bed to watch with him. One morning it was a Duke out there in his crap covered Wellies talking about his herd of heritage beef cows and their programs with the local schools, another morning it was a man weaving a willow fence.

I think the biggest problem with farming in the US is that farmers are NOT listening to the consumer, but rather to Agribusiness people (read:Monsanto) and the agricultural press whom they have convinced that the only way to farm is big and high tech.

oh, and the political ban is Dave's way of keeping the virtual bloodshed down, but he does occasionally allow a bit of leeway.
NEILMUIR1
London
United Kingdom
October 14, 2009
12:03 PM

Post #7168167

Edit

Dear Kathleen, of course you can do whatever you so wish with the letter, be my guest.
I am glad it has caused some amusement on both side of the Atlantic, and in DEFRA no doubt!
Where you see the serious stuff in the farming journals, and on the Television, but it is all in percentages and quotas, which most people do not understand.
So by putting it logically, with a ' hint ' of sarcasm and humour in it, people will read it.
I am most surprised that you still have hassle from the Agribusiness, for after Rachel Carson's book ' Silent Spring ' which ahd a profound effect on millions who read it, I thought that had stopped in the U.S.A., obviously not.
It had a mass effect over here, suddenly Universities were doing courses on it alongside mainstream Agriculture, like the one I did!
Farmers were putting hedgerows back in and leaving conservation headlands around fields, so the public noticed a mass increase in the wildlife everywhere.
As I stated it was the Organic and Soil Association, who set the ball rolling, this produced a great response from the consumers, and it is the Housewives who rule the roost!
So it was either grow and rear what the Housewives wanted to eat and tell them where it came from, or go bankrupt as no one will buy it, simple and effective.
We now have four inner city farms in London, which are very popular, and they supply restaurants, and we have one restaurant that sources all their food from within the London Tube (subway), map!
Organic food was expensive when it first came out, but now the farmers have perfected it and it is only a few pennies more than normal sprayed food. Battery hens (hens in small cages), are very rare now as well, after the Television programs on them.
We have a lot of woodland here, so people fence it off, and put pigs in, they are free range and organic and the meat tastes great.
The greatest success was in the New forest in Hampshire. This huge woodland was set up by William the Conqueror in 1089, as his hunting land.
Unfortunately all the rich bought the houses and the small farms of the ' Foresters ' this put the house prices up so much the local people could not afford to live there. The other effect is that the whole forest is filled with wild ponies, everywhere. When the acorns drop off the oak trees in the Autumn (fall), ponies eat them. Acorns are poisonous to ponies, and it kills lots of them each year.
In the old days all ' Foresters ' kept pigs, which were let loose into the forest, to eat the acorns, as pigs love acorns, and it makes the meat taste wonderful. So the ponies did not die.
The rich do not want to keep pigs, they want a posh life so are not interested in anything like that. The problem was only animals kept by ' Foresters ' were allowed to forage in the forest by the 1089 law, as there were only a few left with pigs you have a problem.
So very quickly they changed the law, then fence off where the roads went through to stop any pigs going onto the roads, set it into areas, and invited farmers from all over to use the forest for their pigs.
The result was; very happy pigs as they had untold food, very happy farmers as they did not have to pay for food, happy forest managers, very happy conservationists, members of the public and no more dead ponies.
Success all round, I think.
I do not know who Stan is as you did not tell me, but give him my Regards from England.
Have fun copying the letter, glad it is of some use. Try not to get my name on it though!
Regards.
Neil.

Kathleen
Panama, NY
(Zone 5a)
October 14, 2009
03:24 PM

Post #7168866

Thank you, Neil. This will raise a few spirits over here.

Stan is my husband, sorry I didn't make that clear. There are a few articles about our farm here:
http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/by.php?user=Kathleen
Dave lets me try to explain modern farming to the masses, it keeps me out of trouble.

I love the fact that the New Forest predates the European 'discovery' of America by centuries. A bit of perspective there. We are strictly dairy on this farm, and not an oak tree bigger than a couple of feet on the whole place, so the pigs would fair ill.
NEILMUIR1
London
United Kingdom
October 15, 2009
12:40 AM

Post #7170864

Edit

Dear Kathleen I have read a lot of your articles before, especially the ones about leaves, plants and poems.
However I did not realise I was writing to you, so my humble apologies.
It is strange how our interests are very similar; for before I went in the Army my mother forced me to go to catering college, and I left there as a trained chef at just over 18, then after the Army, I trained and trained in Horticulture getting to the top of that, and did Agriculture as well at University.
So if you combine all three, no wonder I have a sense of humour, it is the only thing that keeps me from total madness, and becoming a Euro M.P.!
My point about the New forest is that it would not have happened twenty years ago! For a lot of the big chemical companies were in power, and no doubt would have developed a way of spraying a chemical to stop acorns growing at vast expense to the taxpayer and to the environment.
For they are interested in profit not what the chemical does to everything else, if it breaks to food chain in nature, they are not interested.
The monks had been using pigs in the New forest since 800 ad and probably further back than then.
There are a lot of instances of this that were highlighted by Country file, which is the U.K. program that Stan, may watch bits out of.
A classic one was hedgerows which were brought in in the early part of the 17 Th. century, unfortunately they were cut in down in a lot of cases as farmers were told more is better. This wiped out the wildlife, in a big way. A lot were suddenly put back in a way of conservation and the fact in some cases it was illegal to take them out! Then they learnt that less is in fact more! Hedgerows are easy to tell their age simply by counting the plant species in each hedgerow, so if you have a hedgerow with 25 species of plant in it you work out that each species is worth 15 years, then it is roughly 375 years old.
As hedgerows are laid every twelve years or so, which means the main stem is cut 2/3 across the bottom and then the plant is pulled down to a 45 degree angle into hazel sticks and bound up, they regrow from the main cut shoot and the bit of the plant that is at an angle, and are totally stock proof.
However they need trimming every year (twice), and laying every twelve years or so, this is expensive to say the least.
So a chemical company came out with a spray. You cut the hedgerows in the spring and then you leave it for a couple of weeks, then spray this stuff. It then lasts for 18-24 months where you do not have to cut the hedgerow or do anything to it.
The problem was that it was so effective it stopped the plants flowering; no flowers, no insects, no pollination, no food!
Consumers complained as the price of honey spiralled out of control, so it was instantly banned!
I bought a small old cottage near Oxford, but in the countryside. It was in a terrible state, and took over three years of very hard work to get it liveable in.
Although I lived in it in a sleeping bag whilst I did it. The cottage is in the Domesday book which was finished in 1086, then it burnt down in 1403 and rebuilt in 1432, now it is lovely and is mine.
That has a field with hedgerows that our also mine, but I rent that out to the local farmer for a nominal fee, and he lets me shoot/fish on his land.
Sorry this is so long, but unless I go to kent or the cottage, I never get to speak to anyone about what goes on in the country!
Regards. from England.
Neil.
p.s. My little nephew is gardening, cooking and farming mad (plus eating), so he likes to read the recipes I put on the recipe forum from my Grandmas 1911-1921 diary, as he wants to make it, and eat it.
So here is a picture of him in a little bit of my garden, stood on a small wall, with his new T-shirt on!











Click the image for an enlarged view.

twiggybuds
Moss Point, MS
(Zone 8b)
October 15, 2009
02:47 AM

Post #7171039

I saw a honey bee today. A real live working honey bee. And I smiled and watched like it was some kind of exotic bird. Then I realized what I was doing and got disgusted. I looked for others but there was only the one. Isn't that just pitiful? They've been very few and far between. Ditto for butterflies, fireflies and most birds.

There are miles of totally wild areas very near here, mostly swamps and marsh that's never been touched by man, except whatever we've done to the air and water. It's really getting scary.

Good that the Brits stood up and called for some sense in it all. Lead the charge! We're getting around to it slowly but the masses still will eat anything that comes in a box or plastic and requires little to no cooking.

I'd be proud of that new shirt too, except the part about the spiders. He sure does look capable of some major mischief, can't miss that gleam in his eyes. I think he's a lucky little guy to have such a talented uncle to show him the way (writing great letters included).


NEILMUIR1
London
United Kingdom
October 15, 2009
04:28 AM

Post #7171075

Edit

Dear twiggybuds, yes that is so sad it is indescribable, it is not just pitiful, it is insane!
Rachel Carson the American writer warned of this in her book, in the 1960s ' Silent Spring ' and I assumed it had been stopped, so I am wrong.

Man has lost the capacity to
foresee and forestall.
I fear he will he will end,
by destroying the Earth!

He is a great little boy and is really no trouble; apart from getting filthy in the garden, so we keep spare clothes for him here, so he goes in the bath, whilst we wash and dry his clothes, as he often stays over for the weekend, but what can you expect from a six year old coming up to seven!
He has three older sisters, so prefers to be in my company, than what he calls doing "Girlie things."
As I am ex Army he also knows I do not take any nonsense off him, at any time.
We do fight for what is right in our countryside, as everyone has a right to do so, and if everyone complains, they must take notice, in the end.
I have already stated it is the consumers that have the power in the end ( supply and demand), for if they do not buy it the supermarkets cannot sell it, the farmers will not grow it, and the Agribusiness is defunct!
If the farmers do not need chemicals, then no one can sell them at all.
Hence the wildlife comes back to the benefit of us all, for if you break a link in natures food chain, everything suffers.
Due to the fact our bees were suffering, especially Bumble bees, the Government brought a scheme in where you can get a Bumblebee overwintering box for free! It has all the instructions and winter bedding, and you just put it in your garden. Bumblebees do not hurt you as they would die if they did, they will only sting if you really annoy them, I pick them up and put them back in the sun when they are too worn out to fly when laden with pollen.
They are essential for the pollinating of plants, so why spray and kill them and everything else off?
We were as guilty as the US for pollution and indeed many other Countries, our Island is small, 866 miles from the southern to the most northern tip.
That would fit in a small corner of some states in your Country!
So something had to be done and is it, at last, but it takes time as some people do not like change, especially the youngsters.
During the second World War there was food rationing in this Country, and yet our Nation was never healthier, so just to shock some people here is the food ration per Adult per week, during the War.
Butter: 50g (2oz). Bacon and ham: 100g (4oz). Margarine: 100g (4oz).
Sugar: 225g (8oz). Meat: To the value of 1s.2d (one shilling and sixpence per week. That is about 6p today). Milk: 3 pints(1800ml) occasionally dropping to 2 pints (1200ml).
Cheese: 2oz (50g). Eggs: 1 fresh egg a week. Tea: 50g (2oz).
Jam: 450g (1lb) every two months. Dried eggs 1 packet every four weeks. Sweets: 350g(12oz) every four weeks.

Vegetables were not rationed, but clothing was as well.
There were no chemicals as the factories were bombed or used for weapon production, so it had to be done the old way, and it worked.
Can you imagine a youngster living on that a week.
Yet the Veterans I look after as I am a Royal British Legion Caseworker, had to!
Yes we have an American one and three British ones as well, that I look after.
They all come to dinner every fortnight, and the wife and I go down to the farm shops in Kent every Sunday, to get them a food bag each.
They get meat, vegetables, fruit, butter, cheese, cream, milk and eggs, for the week, and I pay for it. Veterans are not treated very well over here, I should know, as I am considered one. Although I am not as old as they are.
I meet them in the pub every Sunday afternoon, and they get their food bags of whatever we can get, yet they never complain.
For free range fresh eggs are lovely and so is smoked bacon and sausages for their breakfasts, trust me they never go hungry!
Regards from England.
Neil.
p.s. here is a picture from my garden of a Bumblebee on my Calistemon 'Splendens'.
We counted over a hundred before we gave up counting them in one go!













Click the image for an enlarged view.

Kathleen
Panama, NY
(Zone 5a)
October 15, 2009
03:08 PM

Post #7172511

Beautiful boy - looks like he could get up to some interesting mayhem.

We had honey bees this year for the first time in quite awhile. I am guessing that there's a wild 'hive' back in the woods. There used to be a big old bee tree back there, but it succumbed. It could be that some of the Amish families have started hives and the bees have found my gardens. My bumble bees are quite well, thank you.

The hedgerows around here were mostly knocked down years ago. We have maintained some of of ours, although Stan and one neighbor did pull one out years ago. I think we should replant it, perhaps it would keep the neighbor on his side of the line. There are enough farms that have gone under and gone back to scrub and brush that the wildlife populations are increasing. In my lifetime, wild turkey, bears and bald eagles have returned to the area. The deer population has increased and ruffed grouse have maintained a steady population.

I'm afraid that the gap between the pastoral America that Jefferson envisioned and the urban America that we now have is too wide. I just don't know.
NEILMUIR1
London
United Kingdom
October 15, 2009
10:54 PM

Post #7174155

Edit

Dear Kathleen, I know how you feel! It is not the Bumblebees that are the problem or caused it, it is people that have done it.
People who work 9-5, five days a week, claim they do not have time to garden, so they simply patio or concrete the whole garden!
Then put some decking down, a barbecue and a few containers with some non flowering plants from the garden centre, they do not have to look after, that is what is wiping the bees out.
I was very lucky over a chance meeting in a pub, I got the job of researching and restoring a Gertrude Jekyll garden, which to me was the best and most satisfying thing I have ever done, it beat winning the Chelsea flower show, which I did!
So it got my wife into herbaceous plants,so a lot of my plants were moved and she has her own border.
The bees love it, it is like Heaven to them!
We get lots of honey bees because; there is a large bomb site near us from the war, that has never been rebuilt, so four Gentlemen have put their hives on it and spread the ground with wildflowers.
It is not the lack of flowers in some cases for bumblebees, it is nowhere for them to overwinter, with modern housing.
As for my nephew; I do not know what he gets up with at home, he is strictly controlled here. but his latest stunt at school, I found funny.
For gardening is part of his lessons at school, and he loves it! However he had to plant at tree, which he knows how to do as he has done it lots of times with me, so he duly planted "his tree." The next week they went out on their gardening lesson and he found "his tree," covered in snails and hardly any leaves left! So he stormed off to the school kitchen and demanded some salt of course they would not give him any but were intrigued why he wanted it. So taking him back to his teacher the catering ladies explained to his teacher, he had been demanding salt.
When asked to explain himself by his teacher he is alleged to have said "My Uncle Neil is a clever gardener, and when you find slugs or snails, you put salt on them till they fizz and die, then they don't kill trees or plants!"
What a boy!
We have a mass problem with Deer to such an extent that 175,00 died of starvation in Scotland a couple of years ago, this has been caused by the EU as well.
Our grouse population goes up and down with the Heather which they totally rely on for food, but if managed properly they are pretty abundant.
The biggest problem is the Animal Liberation Front, they have caused havoc and now got Fox hunting banned, the they wanted to get fishing banned but that did not work. now they are trying to get shooting banned.
They went to far by firstly putting a bomb in an animal researchers car, when she got in it blew up and killed her and her new baby, the public went mad.
Then by picking on a farmer who raised rabbits for science; they threatened him, tried to black mail him, and finally dug his recently dead Grandma up and would not give her body back, till he stopped rearing rabbits. So wild was the public reaction to this they were foun in d in days, and got life in prison.
I know you have the American constitution, some of which was taken from the Magna Carta this country. There is a memorial their laid by President J.F. Kennedy, on the spot where it was signed in 1215 at Runnymede in Surrey by the King.
Using that legal document they set up a "green belt." around London which has never and cannot be broken. This belt will allow no building of any sort apart from Agricultural, with planning permission.
So the developers are up the creek without a paddle, as much as they would love to get their hnds on it, touch it and you are in serious trouble.
Regards to your good self and Stan from England.
Neil.








dstarr
Sealy, TX
October 16, 2009
07:20 PM

Post #7177136

Kathleen and Neil - I just have to say that reading these posts has been simply wonderful! Sometimes we get the feeling we're "all alone in the country" and it's so nice to hear of other places and what all's going on in their corners!
Thank you for the great read!
Deb
NEILMUIR1
London
United Kingdom
October 17, 2009
02:07 AM

Post #7178577

Edit

Dear Deb, I do hope you do not mind me calling you that?
You are never alone, and thank you for your comments. Kathleen has been brilliant in her replies and has made me laugh a lot with her comments.
The British way is it seems a bit different from the US, for if someone has a complaint they normally will say or write about it.
The top Newspaper in this Country is the Times and you often see a plethora of letters in that fine newspaper complaining about something, normally finished with "Yours most disgusted" and then their name.
Even our local Newspapers are the same, they are swamped with letters as well.
Public meetings are held about proposed developments, and are quite lively to say the least, and can be indeed humorous.
For the internet is a great tool, but a properly worded, delivered and looking more official letter, can and normally is more effective, than something on a computer screen you can delete in seconds.
Keep in touch.
Regards from England.
Neil.

Sharran
Calvert City, KY
(Zone 6b)
October 17, 2009
02:48 AM

Post #7178588

I am enjoying your posts again, Neil.
Thank you for opening our eyes to plights other than our own.
Good for you, my friend.
Sharon
NEILMUIR1
London
United Kingdom
October 17, 2009
07:37 AM

Post #7178718

Edit

Dear Sharon, I dont just put posts on about gardening, I grew up in the countryside, which is 15 minutes in a car away from me.
I also went to catering college before the Army so I do put recipes on as well.
Plus I do believe in fighting for what is right, not what we are told to think should be right.
That is why I help our Veterans out and other jobs I do.
Regards from England.
Neil
greenhouse_gal
Port Elizabeth, NJ
(Zone 7a)
October 17, 2009
07:58 AM

Post #7178735

Hi, Neil. I have already shared your wonderful letter with friends who loved it as much as I did. How appalling about the Animal Liberation Front; it's like the anti-abortion "pro-lifers" who kill doctors who perform such surgeries.

Kathleen, I had never read any of your articles; they're wonderful. I'll have to meander through them when I have more time. We have a 20-acre farm on a river, but although we do sell eggs and wood products it's nothing like yours.

Neil, I love hearing about your cottage and reading your recipes. And your nephew is adorable; my son would have wanted that shirt at his age. Isn't it nice to have a youngster around to pass on your lore? He is very lucky, but so are you. We have a similar relationship with our granddaughter and it does seem to make our lifestyle even more worthwhile, knowing that it's having an impression on the next generation and hopefully teaching them life skills. We took our granddaughter to France when she was ten, and now she says that when she grows up she wants to live in France and have a farm!

Regards from the US!
Leslie
Kathleen
Panama, NY
(Zone 5a)
October 17, 2009
10:18 AM

Post #7179060

Ah, well, if you don't laugh, all you can do is cry!

greenhouse gal, thanks for the kind words. My dad grew up in northern NJ and my grandmother retired to Erma. I haven't been to Cape May since she died in the '80s. I miss the shore. Our farming was one of those things that happened. Stan was going to be an electrical engineer and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. We went into dairying on a whim (yes, the people who live in my house are crazy people). I suppose having both come from small farms had a great deal to do with it.

greenhouse_gal
Port Elizabeth, NJ
(Zone 7a)
October 17, 2009
01:16 PM

Post #7179517

Kathleen, that's okay, I started off as a French major, switched to psych, had a career in that, retired, and am now a portrait artist along with being a part-time farmer and protector of natural resources. We did used to have dairy goats and I made cheese, but we got out of that long ago. Milking twice a day has to be a calling, and ours stopped calling to us! My husband's dad always had a garden and so did my grandfather, so I think that helped us get into a more agrarian lifestyle.
NEILMUIR1
London
United Kingdom
October 17, 2009
10:08 PM

Post #7181003

Edit

Dear Leslie, I love my cottage for it is a tranquil and peaceful heaven.
No phones, no buses, or lorries, if you see more than six cars in a day you wonder what is going on, just an old lady who sells free range eggs, and a tiny shop/house, that sells the bare necessities.
Everyone says hello and good morning/ afternoon/ evening to each other, and most of them I do not even know.
The local pub is a mile and a half walk, in the big village, it has 36 houses and 3 shops. It is the view from the road which is high up over the countryside that stuns you. Just emerald green, the differing colours of the hedgerows, and the huge majestic oaks.
Then the clever farmers who have got around set aside by growing wildflowers; blue cornflowers, yellow corn marigolds, ox eyed daises and the red of poppies growing through them, a truly breathtaking sight.
The pub is wonderful and gives me a rest from cooking when I eat there, as the food is all local, fresh, organic and superb.
Plus the beer is good as well, and the pub is quite modern 1751 to what the rest of the village is.
They have an original "idle post" there near the butter-cross, although it has not been used since the late 1800s.
The law was simple then; if any (male or female) teenager was considered to be idle or lazy, gossiping, they were stripped to the waist and then shackled to the post in a morning, then all day the villagers could pelt them with rotten fruit or vegetables, just before dusk the village assembled and the sentence was read out. Depending on what they had done, or indeed had not done, they were then given the sentence of however many lashes they were to have with a horse whip. Stocks and Dunking stools were kept for the adults.
Useless bit of history for you, sorry about that.
The farmer who rents my field, allows to me to shoot and fish on his land, which is handy. He has a watermill with a huge great mill pond, which he stocked with Brown Trout, then as they are very slow growers he gave up with them.
So as soon as the Trout season opens (March), I go up there to fish and see the early purple Orchids that grow around the mill pond, lovely sight.
There is no gas at all and electricity was only put in after the fire that burnt the roofs of most of the village in 1969.
My cottage has a walk in fire (logs), in the living room, that keeps everything warm in there, and an Aga in the kitchen (wood burning), that does the cooking and heats the hot water and upstairs.
It has one large bedroom and one tiny one, so I can only take one of my nieces or nephews at a time, which is a shame.
I am very proud of Alfie and he is not a bad lad, has had his moments, but don't all six nearly seven year olds.
He loves to go up the cottage, fishing, shooting and all the other things he can do. However we make him go to bed, then we go, he is straight back downstairs and curls up on the little sofa in front of the log fire, strange. He cannot get to the fire as it ha a very heavy fire guard on it, must be watching the flames that amuses him.
My oldest niece is a clever girl, for she won a scholarship like me, to a very good school. So at 14 coming up to 15 she can speak fluent French, German and is learning Italian! Has a natural gift for languages, I think. She loves cooking, so I taught her to make pasta; so on her birthday I bought her a pasta machine and an Italian cookbook in Italian, she loves it.
She used to love going up the cottage, but does not come up so much now, too interested in boys, her computer and pop music.
I go down the pub but the big village has a dark side that I could never put anywhere on this site.
Your granddaughter is lucky, having a knowledgeable Grandparents, who are prepared to teach and pass their knowledge on. I know this sounds unbelievable but some people are not willing to do that. A lot of this country still works in Victorian times, where children should be seen and not heard!
In a survey in Connie's class (oldest niece), a stunning 91% had never seen fruit growing on trees, or farm animals.
So I went to see the headteacher; he said if I could get a coach and a Health and Safety person, then I could take the class to my friends farm in Kent.
I saw the Council and they were quite happy to help with a coach etc. so we all went, to the excitement of the girls.
They loved seeing a cow milked by hand, although the Health and Safety bloke would not let them drink any as it was not pasteurised, just straight out of the cow. He would not let them eat picked fruit straight from the trees, or raspberries, unless they had been washed.
In fact he was a pain with everything, till old Bill the farmer pulled him to one side and said something to him, strangely quiet after that.
Old Bills wife had unbeknown to me, laid a ploughmans lunch on for everyone in the large barn. That had everything from the ham the girls had seen them making to the Goats cheese, salad, herbs they had seen, homemade bread, butter and pickles etc. They loved it a real feast.
Then they were allowed in the farm shop and had a discount, they went wild in there, even the Health and Safety man bought some stuff.
A result and they still talk about it.
I am so pleased that you have a great relationship with your granddaughter, it is important that they learn life skills, and that cannot be taught that in a book.
Regards from England.
Neil.




Dear wheatwidow, I was born in a farm house an the edge of Blubberhouse Moor in North Yorkshire.
On the Moor is a dangerous place, so we only had sheep, as they could survive out there!
We did have some pigs for our own use and some chickens, plus some cows that were always kept in. For it was a bit cold and windy out on the moor for them, and indeed too dangerous.
I will be honest with everyone, there was a lot of deer around and game birds.
so therefore, we also used to eat them!
Plus the river that ran through our land had our native brown Trout, so we eat a lot of them as well!
The total farm was 866 acres, but you could allow the sheep onto the moor, which had untold space. Well maybe not in American terms but it was huge to me.
Today is Remembrance Day, as an ex Soldier we Honour our War Heroes, and yours!
I always get upset on this day and indeed on Armistice day, the 11th.
So I have been up all night polishing and cleaning things to wear and doing my boots etc.
Kathleen is a great person, I wish I could fly out to the US one day and shake her hand!
A lot of my grandmas recipes are on the recipe and cooking, forum, mostly Yorkshire things. For she started in 1911 as a scullery maid, due to the first world War, she made it to Head Chef, in Northallerton in Yorkshire.
She cooked for the best including the King and Winston Churchill, amongst others! she died when she was 103 years old, good luck and God bless1
Here is a picture of one of my nephews with my regimental blazer, just taken and him him stood in font of it,
My kindest Regards from England.
Neil.













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