The Gardener’s Bonfire!

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The other day I changed out of my ‘farmer’s uniform’ of checked shirt, tweed jacket, wellies and cap into an old pair of corduroys, much-used baggy jersey, green anti-thorn gloves and a dirty old floppy hat. I had to change as I was about to do something that, as a farmer, is verboten. I was going to light a garden bonfire! As I was now officially ‘a gardener’ I had no need to await November 5th, or the festival of Eid, and had no need to apply for a derogation from a government department…

There is nothing that announces:
‘Autumn is almost here!’
than the smell of a garden bonfire,
around this time of year.
The cremation of dead tree branches,
too small for our sitting-room fire,
the sizzling of green holly leaves,
on the bottom-of-garden pyre.
As I stood staring into the flames,
I remembered things I’d seen,
how we used to set-light to stubble,
nature’s fire kept seedbed clean!

Have a good day and keep filling up the brown bins, you know it makes sense.
Please don’t complain about the smell it makes when they spread it on the land, you’re only getting your own back!

© Baldock Bard 2017
For more from the Baldock Bard click on ‘Home’ above
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E-mail: simon.holtom@btconnect.com

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Pondering the Precipitation!

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When I opened the curtains this morning something was wrong. It was then that I realised it was August 10th and it wasn’t raining! As soon as I was dressed I went out to the rain gauge. The result was greater than I’ve ever seen before, an amount usually found in parts of Wales, the West Country and Scotland. The lawn has grown so much I could crop it for silage and a new lake has shown up my laziness in not clearing a blocked drain…

An inch-and-a-quarter of rain has fallen,
according to my rain gauge,
a new record precipitation,
for this climate-change age!
The ducks and geese are ecstatic,
they can’t believe their luck,
as for the combine in the field,
I think it may be stuck!
Maybe we’ll continue harvest soon!

© Baldock Bard 2017
For more from the Baldock Bard click on ‘Home’ above
Facebook: Baldock Bard
Twitter: @baldockbard
E-mail: simon.holtom@btconnect.com

The Baldock ‘Boutique’ Boot Sale
STILL HERE AFTER 25 YEARS!
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Feed your hungry sat-nav with SG7 6RD

2017 Season
EVERY SATURDAY MORNING!
until mid-October
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The Barley Mow Lane

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One of the advantages of doing form-filling for the EU’s Basic Payment Scheme is that you visit those often overlooked, but beautiful parts of the farm. One such place is Barley Mow Lane (TL2731, 5940, WO12 Woodland 0.2439ha, in case you were wondering!). Years ago, this wooded track formed the walk from the farm’s cottages to the local pub. Dis-use due to nobody employed on the farm, cars conveying the thirsty to places afar, closure of the pub in the late seventies and cottages sold off, means it has reverted to a magical small piece of woodland…

Tommy, Bill and Paul,
were in the pub’s darts team,
they’d walk up from the cottages,
double-tops were their dream!
The hard work of the day,
washed away with many beers,
dominoes and companionship,
and the echoing of ‘Cheers!’
Now the track is silent,
Nature has taken its course,
very few now visit,
except sometimes on a horse!

All was peaceful until the farmer arrived with his drone!

© Baldock Bard 2017
For more from the Baldock Bard click on ‘Home’ above
Facebook: Baldock Bard
Twitter: @baldockbard
E-mail: simon.holtom@btconnect.com
The Baldock ‘Boutique’ Boot Sale
SG7 6RD
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2017 Season
EVERY SATURDAY!
until mid-October
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The Last Ploughman in the Village

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John's GraveOn Tuesday, in our little village, we laid a Son of the Soil to rest. I was asked to give a eulogy. It is always difficult but when it is the end of an era it is all the more poignant. I have reproduced some of what I said here, not as some sort of self-promotion, but as a testament to John C…

We are here today not only to say ‘goodbye’ to John, but to mark the end of an era.
Many folk in this modern world would find it unimaginable for somebody to spend their whole life in one place, working on the same farm.
That is what John C. did. He arrived in the village aged 18 months when his father got a job on the neighbouring farm to here with my great-uncle who was the tenant. He left only a few weeks ago when he was overtaken by illness aged 91.
John loathed modernity. He never had need of a passport or used a computer and only considered a phone when his mother became ill.
He was a skilled ploughman and was of that first generation to cross from using horse-power to tractor-power.
He was as much a part of the farm as the ashes, oaks and Hornbeam trees in the woods. He took pride in the local history and surroundings, loving those areas on the farm unseen by most but loved by him.

He was a great story-teller.
Two of his favourites include explosions…

Story One
During the early stages of the Second World War a team arrived with traction engines to plough up a field on the farm that had been pasture since time immemorial. One traction engine was on the headland by the Great Wood and the other on the far side of the field. The plough was winched between the two by steel hawser. To get that bit of extra horsepower the men would tie down the safety valves with string. Both crews would meet for their beaver break (local terminology for mid morning snack) in the middle of the field.
One day a crew, during their beaver break, forgot to untie the string on the safety valve and the resultant explosion was heard for miles.
Thankfully nobody was hurt.
Story Two
During the latter days of the Second World War a V2 rocket landed on the farm. Because it was just over the brow of the hill, the resultant explosion only cracked windows on the cottages and farmhouse. However there were smashed windows over four miles away at Letchworth. You can still see the enormous hole in the hill today.

With much of modern farming, men arrive with massive machines with one aim: To reach the far corner of each field as quickly and efficiently as possible. Computers judge that efficiency by mapping everything from progress to yield. Operators may know the names of the fields and hectarage, but little else. The history and origins of those fields are superfluous to their needs. Without local men on the farm, particularly ploughman, whose progress across the fields was slow, we are losing that detailed knowledge of the land that has been handed-down over the generations.

We are saying goodbye to John today, a man who lived and understood the land that he worked, the whole of his working life was a testament to this green and pleasant land.
That is why this is the end of an era, 

John was ‘The Last Ploughman in the Village’.

© Baldock Bard 2016
For more from the Baldock Bard click on ‘Home’ above

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Honey Bees and the Naughty Pig!

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HoneySome friends came to lunch yesterday and bought a wonderful pot of honey from their hives. I’m afraid, like most things, I’m useless with bees, they seem to treat me like a pin-cushion and it hurts! Many years ago we were loading pigs when one escaped the lorry…

We were loading pigs up for export,
(for breeding abroad they were bred),
when one escaped from the ramp,
disappeared round the back of the shed.

It’s gruntings became ever quieter,
It was chased by the driver and Tom,
All over a sudden there was a shout,
“Look Out! The bee hives have gone!”

Back running came the driver,
old Tom was running with ease,
the pig overtaking them both,
All three being chased by the bees!

© Baldock Bard 2016
For more from the Baldock Bard click on ‘Home’ above
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Twitter: @baldockbard
E-mail: baldockbard@u-boot.co.uk

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Mutterings from the Logpile!

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LogsThe other afternoon the sun shone, there was hardly a cloud to be seen and it didn’t seem like February. However, mindful that the evenings were still drawing in early and that Jack Frost was about, I decided to saw and split some logs for the woodburner. While taking great care not to saw or add any part of me to the pile of logs, I let my mind wander…

If Donald Trump got the hump,
would Hillary Clinton care?
If he were sawing rather than boring,
He’d have sawdust in his hair!

If David Cameron visited Amazon,
and ordered a book from the store,
a European guide for an easier ride,
his renegotiation they’d not ignore!

Onward I sawed without being bored,
practising my ‘Acceptance Speech!’
Ladies and Gents I won’t sit on the fence,
“I think my latest film or book is a peach!”

After a while I broke into a smile,
the trailer-full of logs was done,
put the daydream away said “Now let us pray!”
Time had sped past and was fun!

WARNING: Daydreaming while using any machinery can harm your heath.
You must never daydream and drive. If you feel yourself becoming a Womble, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or Elsa from Frozen, pull over in the next safe place, give yourself a slap and pull yourself together.

© Baldock Bard 2016
For more from the Baldock Bard click on ‘Home’ above
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Twitter: @baldockbard
E-mail: baldockbard@u-boot.co.uk

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The Cowman’s Lament

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Milk ValueWhen I left school I worked on a dairy farm. In those days, every country road used to see a dairy tanker in the mornings. Now I have trouble working out where my nearest milk producing farm is, I think there might be one in Essex but I’m not sure. When the price of a single cigarette is more expensive than milk, you know somethings wrong…

Old Sam used to love his cows,
more love for them than his wife allows!
‘Marlene Three’ was his dear,
She’d stamp and flick her tail in your ear!
He’d call her always “ma wee hoor!”
before she exited the parlour door.
What he’d make of milk today?
“I’m better off in heaven'” he’d say.

With love and best wishes to dairy farmers across the UK, and especially those facing a future without cows. Sam died over thirty yeas ago and cows disappeared from the farm he worked on some time later.

© Baldock Bard 2015
For more from the Baldock Bard click on ‘Home’ above

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The Road Sweeper!

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Road SweeperThe road outside the farm has been resurfaced with tar and stone chippings. Many lorry-loads of stone arrived to be evenly spread on the tar. For some time most motorists using the road were unusualy cautious about speed for fear of slippage and windscreen or paintwork chips. Then along came the road-sweeper…

Like a bad-tempered tortoise,
it crawls down the road,
gathering road-stone,
to make up its load.

You hear it from a distance,
with a high-powered roar,
as if it’s walking bare-foot,
on a stone-covered floor.

But when it has gone,
motorists should shout ‘hooray’!
There’ll be less stone chips
in windscreens today!

© Baldock Bard 2015
For more from the Baldock Bard click on ‘Home’ above

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It’s Called Progress!

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Fert lorryYesterday I unloaded thirty-eight tonnes of fertiliser (ready for next Spring) without breaking into a sweat. Twenty-five years ago fertilizer came in 50kg bags on a pallet. Unloading from the lorry was easy but loading into the spreader was by hand. Going back to my father’s day the unloading of the lorry, onto the trailer and into the spreader was all by hand. How times have changed…
Fert TractorOur fertilizer used to be
In twenty bags to the ton
And we loaded into the spreader
By hand one by one!
Now it comes in big bags
So easy to lift a tonne
We now just pull a lever,
Without sweat the job is done!
© Baldock Bard 2014
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Waving At Aircraft!

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ContrailHave you ever lain on your back on a hot summer’s day, looked up at the sky and wondered where that plane is going? The other day I watched a contrail from the garden. I pointed my phone at the sky and discovered though an app (PF AR) that it was carrying freight from Mineapplois to Stansted. If I was able to do that with my i-phone, how could someone with more resources ‘lose’ an aircraft…

In lay on my back
Looked up to the sky
Watching an aircraft
And wondering why
It leaves a trail
Wherever it’s been
Although sometimes
This cannot be seen

Then I wondered
About that Malaysian plane
Where it could be
Will it be seen again
The news is now silent,
The press have moved on
And nobody knows
Where it has gone

All of those relations
Of the passengers lost
How must they feel
When they count the cost
Of families parted
Never seen again
Because the authorities
Can’t find just one plane

© Baldock Bard 2014
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E-mail: baldockbard@u-boot.co.uk
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