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It's time for the Summer Outing of the Loweswater Discussion Group (The Farmers).
It's June this year instead of May but no matter, the format is well tried and tested and the date is a mere detail.
We meet up at Mitchell's car park and head out for a classic farm visit, a more technical visit to an attraction of some sort,
and finally throw in a few beers, lunch somewhere and supper at The Sportsman on the way home.
Well that's sorted . . . let's go . . .
A slight delay as our coach has been used on a distant school run
but at least it gave everyone time to catch up on events since our last formal evening get together at the Kirkstile in March.
Our first destination was Janice and John Longmire's Farm near Ulverston, organised by one of our colleagues Brian.
Nettleslack have traditionally farmed beef cattle but in recent years changed over to dairy . . . bucking the trend in many ways.
We look forward to finding out why they did it and how they've made a success of their new venture.
After a nearly fifty miles, rather twisty drive down the west coast, with only one minor wrong turn (!) we arrived at the farm.
We were immediately invited into one of the barns, where refreshments were offered and were very much appreciated.
John then gave us an insight into Nettleslack Farm over the years.
Our group of nineteen were approximately half farmers and half non-farming locals from the Loweswater area
so the interesting farm talk was listened to from several different perspectives.
From a purely beef farm, John had been pursuaded by his son to diversify into milk production.
After a year out gaining experience elsewhere, William returned and together they planned the new facilities they would need.
A new barn and a milking parlour were their first requirements.
Planning permission was received in April 2017, a builder organised and a 24 capacity milking parlour was purchased and installed last year.
The milking parlour has two banks of twelve stalls with a lower central section for ease of milking.
The cows soon learn to walk down the walkway and turn to face the wall, encouraged by an extra portion of feed in the hoppers.
When all twelve cows had been milked the barriers were lifted at the press of a button
and the cows could walk themselves back out into the yard . . . simple yet effective, needing minimum extra labour during milking.
They had approximately 120 cows and they milked twice a day . . . taking an hour or so to milk them all.
After each milking the floors were washed in order to maintain cleanliness and pleasant working conditions.
No stooping or bad backs here becasue the dairyman (John or William) was working at the same height as the business end of the cows.
The barn, which is used in the poorer winter weather and prior to each milking, also had soft flooring for the cattle to sit or stand on.
The stalls area was six inch deep rubber matting . . . both dairymen and cattle had the modern luxury of not constantly sitting or walking on hard floors.
The slatted floor seen here has a slurry pit underneath so the muck fell through and the unit was almost self-cleaning. . . except when it froze in winter !
They are digging out a larger pit to enable them to store more slurry . . . it is not regarded as waste as it is subsequently used to fertilise the land.
This new storage facility will make things easier for them when conditions are not suitable to spread the slurry back onto the fields.
Quality grass is one of their biggest assets so they must nurture the soil and not damage it by driving over it when it is soft and wet.
William explained how they cut and store grass as silage during the summer months.
A new barn, as yet still open to the sky, stores the grass in bulk rather than using plastic covered bales.
Time to head out and meet the other workers . . . fortunately the expected rain was nowhere to be seen.
To start their herd they bought in cattle from other farms in the north of England . . . a task which logistically needed to be accomplished between
the cow's morning and evening milkings. Now they nurture many of their own offspring each year to develop the herd and so become self sustainable.
Unlike the farm we visited two years ago where cattle had a three year working life, many of these animals are now reaching their tenth birthdays.
The Holsteins can produce more milk each year but don't maintain that high production over time. They can also be quite skittish !
The Friesian are more placid and produce good milk for a longer period of time . . . a winning combination for this farm.
John and William like to see about 27 litres of quality milk from each cow on a good day and had all the statistical information
about name, age, milk yield, offspring and full veterinary history to hand on a mobile phone App !
The farm also hosts their small herd of sucker calves and about 150 sheep . . . not forgetting William's sister's two fell ponies in the field above.
They've considered diversification into milk products on the farm but are not set up to make cheese, too remote to serve ice cream,
and too busy for one of them to take time out for local milk deliveries . . . so their milk is sold in bulk to the dairy industry.
As if to prove how friendly they were . . . the Friesians would often creep up behind us and give us a friendly nuzzle !
John, Janice and William seem to have set up a busy and profitable farm without too much stress for man or beast.
They seem to have managed to blend a good work/life balance which was a delight to see. . . full marks.
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After our tour of the farm we said our goodbyes . . . and as per that forecast, it started raining . . . perfect timing !
The White Hart Inn . . . Bouth, near Haverthwaite in the south Cumbrian Rusland Valley.
John and William joined us for lunch in the pub.
I tried for a group photo but some of the guys were a bit slow in finishing their beers !
No names . . . to protect the guilty.
[ Photo by our Jansen bus driver,whose name escapes me . . . many thanks for your skills, both driving and photographic.]
- - - o o o - - -
It was a short hop to the farm on the other side of the village for our afternoon visit.
Straight out to the fields on our arrival as our hosts were already out giving a working horse demonstration.
Two lovely Shire Horses were pulling a spiked chain mat, tilling the ground and breaking up the weeds prior to planting.
At four and five years old, these two were only just starting to develop their full potential.
Charlotte explained the chain tiller and the harness system needed to balance the pull of the two horses.
Back to the farm after the demonstration . . . what you can see in the background gives you a clue to the rest of the day.
- - - o o o - - -
First a guided walk around the farm explaining the background of their purchase . . . neither had much farming experience before they started.
Our talk was nicely adapted to suit the farming nature of the group today
and described what we could see later when we had chance to walk around by ourselves.
Outside in the farm driveway was a self-service, bring-your-own-bottle, milk dispenser.
The old farm had an historic Spinning Gallery, one of only a few left in Cumbria.
Charlotte also explained the problems of maintaining the physical structure of Old Hall Farm and its many outbuildings.
The barns held a multitude of old equipment . . . here an Irish donkey cart, now used for giving rides to children.
The non-Irish donkey, a birthday present for Charlotte in recent years, had just been housed back in the stables next to the horses.
After the animals came the machinery . . . they have a huge collection of vintage farm equipment on show.
A short section of railway track through the farm yard allowed the steam crane to be moved, in order to assist lifting the timber.
It arrived on the farm after a journey down from Beamish where it was "surplus to requirements" . . . it has found a good working home here.
Moving inside away from the damp weather and we find a barn full of traction engines !
These ones were used to pull field ploughs, as seen mounted high in the barn in the photo below (blue with red wheels and silver ploughs).
To avoid compacting the soil they dragged the plough over the fields between two engines, using cables mounted under their chassis.
The field plough and an old Sentinel Steam Lorry
[ beautifully restored after spending years at the bottom of a ravine near Patterdale's Greenside Mine.]
As the vehicles were not 'in steam' there was chance to see them in action on the video presentations inside the barn.
The classic John Fowler Company had ceased production so the owners of Old Hall have purchased the company name
and if you are an engineering enthusiast what better thing to do . . .
. . . than to build your own brand new traction engine to original plans produced by the Fowler company.
This would explain the purpose of the water bowser we saw earlier . . . it carried water for the steam traction engines.
The old mobile workman's huts would be mobile living accommodation for the tractor men when they were working away from home.
All this walking around is thirsty work . . . and refreshments were on offer in the farm tearooms.
Chance to discuss what we've seen over a grand cup of tea . . . cheers !
- - - o o o - - -
With our guided talk over we have chance to go back and explore the farm for ourselves . . . here are just a few more of the highlights.
The Sharphouse business runs its own transport for Historic Steam Days.
Sadly the lads didn't have time to partake in a go cart race in the rain . . . as it was time for us to leave.
Everyone back on the bus . . . time to be on our way.
A big thanks to Charlotte Sharphouse and her staff who made our damp afternoon a very interesting one.
. . . the bar at the Sportsman Inn near Threlkeld, on the A66 Penrith to Keswick Road.
We had a nice meal here last year so why not re-visit once more.
Despite the poor weather in the second half, we've had a good day out.
May we raise our glasses to William, Richard and Brian who have beavered away in the background to provide us all
with another excellent "Farmer's Summer Outing" for 2019.
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Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Panasonic Lumix TZ60, or my Panasonic Lumix Gx8 Camera.
Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.
This site best viewed with . . . Traditional farming and "traction attractions"
Previous walks - 10 - 25th May - Our Outer Hebrides Holiday 2019
A previous summer trip - take your pick from the list above !
Next walk - 2nd/6th June - Garden, the Howarths and Ling Fell