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My Heart Belongs to Mist and Freetown Klondyke

27th October. The storm of St Jude sweeps in from the west, gathering strength and we view it in satellitic swirls moving across the Atlantic. We batten down the hatches and secure anything that is likely to break free. I move the car away from the potential teetering of our tall pole barn which sways disturbingly in a high wind. It’s been raining all day but the worst of the wind is scheduled for the night.

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Later, I stand on the step in the dark, and feel the sharp sprays of rain on my cheek, the wind bouncing around in my ears. I can hear a menacing rumble at the horizon and tree branches are shaking and lashing together. I wonder if the cows are in their shelter and I’m tempted to go over there, but the thought of flying sheets of corrugated iron and tumbling ash branches encourages me to stay put in front of the fire. As it turns out, St Jude is a bit of a damp squib in these parts, a big storm but not a colossal one, and he whirls on through, travelling east, tearing up trees as he goes, in Temple Meads, on Hilly Fields.

The pigs in the pictures above belong to a friend who leases a 200 acre organic biodynamic farm not far from here – they have recently benefited from the Natural England Higher Level Stewardship scheme and grant which has made life a lot easier. Last year I went on a trip to a farm in Somerset to see some South Devon cattle she was interested in buying.

Winter temperatures have arrived despite a lone poppy making a brave stand on the brown roof. Water troughs start their seven month brimming. The land has become squelchy and soggy though the pasture still looks fresh. As the leaves fall different views are revealed.

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We moved the cows back into the Cow Field and there was sadly very little excitement from them…they just got down to their favourite occupation…eating. Which just goes to prove that cows are also stimulated by the new and unexpected in the same way we are. Last time they were far more thrilled by their unfamiliar surroundings. We have started supplementing their diet with some hay which helps them process the wet grass better.

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The time has now come for thinking about putting the the cows into calf. They are just over 2 years old. Regular readers will know that we lost our bull earlier this year so we have been thinking about how they are going to get pregnant. These are their pedigree certificates. I like their names, they are stupidly grand – Lower Eaton Ruby 14th, Lower Eaton Ruby 15th and Lower Eaton Amethyst 5th.

Buying another bull has now been rejected because after reflection it was decided that it would be good to be able to keep any female calves in the herd and we don’t have enough land to keep them separated from a bull. Hence our decision to go down the AI (Artificial Insemination) route. Welcome to the whole new world of The Semen Catalogue

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What about any of the above? I quite liked the look of Freetown Klondyke  …. until I had a long conversation with the extremely knowledgeable P from the Traditional Hereford Society who seemed to be able to recall the names of all the bulls going back to the 1960’s. He put the names of the girls into his computer and the clever software tells him which would be the most suitable donors…as there are only a relatively small number of the breed it is important to expand the bloodlines. Ours come from the Silver family apparently, the biggest.

Then and now.

Rowington Trump Card (1960’s), Gensyns Lionheart (1960’s), Llandinabo Quirk, Llandinabo Mackie

These are the names of the bulls which we should select from. There are others but they are reserved for breed improvement on a commercial scale.

He also advised that the best time for them to calve is in February because on our rich pasture it is difficult to keep them lean enough to calve easily in the growing season. (What, the girls, fat?!) I had heard this before and it is true that they do get extremely rotund on grass – one of the main reasons they are cherished as a beef breed because they require so little input. So we have decided to wait until next May to do the AI.

The other thing he suggested was that we get a young steer who will let us know when they are in season (bulling) as it is not always easy to tell. We have definitely noticed when they are bulling as they moo plaintively and pace up and down next to the fence, the other side being where the Limousin bull resides. But it doesn’t seem to last long at all – a kind of blink and you miss it scenario. You’d hope a steer would be more attuned to what’s going on…

In the meantime the world around us is changing…October2103 134

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I love the softness of the autumn days, misty and strange.

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And this fine fellow of brown, a South Devon bull belonging to L & J

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And this fine fellow, also of brown.

Until the next time.

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46 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lovely blog. I would go on the bull’s name, this is how I chose my wine, well that and if its got a nice label. Hope this helps, good luck!

    November 10, 2013
    • I’m a bit of a fan of choosing wine by label attractiveness too. The expert said that Llandinabo Mackie would be the best…must ask him why again, it’s all gone into a bit of a blur (after 2 hours of chat…wow that guy could talk!)

      November 11, 2013
  2. Rhonda Crowe #

    Lovely autumn pictures – it’s my favorite season! How appropriate the girls “officially” are named Ruby and Amethyst as they are all “jewels” 🙂 Lionheart sounds like a good, solid name for the daddy…how exciting to look forward to the babies! The “fine fellow of brown” is certainly a handsome boy! Glad that you dodged the worst of the storm; hope the winter weather is uneventful for you and the ladies ( I notice that the horns are coming into their own!), Good to hear from you -thanks for sharing the farm and girls with us 🙂

    November 10, 2013
    • Those horns are getting to be pretty long. Luckily they’re docile, though I keep out of the way when there’s food around! Glad you’ve enjoyed the pictures and the news update. The names are just great aren’t they? Thanks for spending time on my blog 🙂

      November 11, 2013
  3. David Pett #

    Lovely writing and pictures as usual . Yes I would have thought using AI semen would be the best way to go and safer by far than keeping a bull. As far as spotting the girls on heat goes perhaps you should think about using some tail paint. http://www.westpointfarmvets.co.uk/heat-detection/

    November 10, 2013
    • Why thank you David, that is most useful. In your experience does it work?

      November 11, 2013
  4. the Hereford catalogue looks like something issued by a slightly dodgy bovine dating agency. The names are great ‘westwood postman’ & ‘cherington glorybe’ but could be embarrassing doing a phone order. I was surprised how bare and wintery your trees look. Things are still quite leafy here, despite St Jude’s best efforts. Like the grey pig & misty window collage.

    November 10, 2013
    • I guess it is a kind of dating agency! I love the names too…you could almost write a poem with just them. Actually we never seem to get much of an autumn leaf display, not in the way it happens in the south east, what I’m most familiar with. I do miss the big trees, there just aren’t that many here. But plenty of other lovely stuff – pigs and rain.

      November 11, 2013
  5. Wenlock Vulgan sounds like something from Star Trek! Are you absolutely POSITIVE that you want alien DNA in your girls?!!! ;). Free Town Gambler sounds dangerous…the kind of “man” that you want your girls to steer clear of, the “love em’ and leave em'” kind…but I guess in this case, it might be appropriate ;).

    Just going by name…”Rowington Trump Card” probably has no chin, “Llandinabo Quirk, and Llandinabo Mackie” are obviously Welsh and as such are to be viewed with obvious suspicion so that leaves “Gensyns Lionheart”. A solid name with obvious tendency towards bravery and the obvious choice. Of course, if you are looking at breeding tendencies you would obviously have to go back to the drawing board to look at genetics but if you are choosing like most people choose their bets for the Melbourne Cup you would pick “Gensyns Lionheart” and be done with it…

    I LOVE that image of the clematis seed and your own bright blue barrel. I would love that stone wall as well. We have enough stones but not enough talent or money to attain anything as majestic as your wall 🙂

    Until next time, enjoy your winter to the max. Read, indulge in long languid sessions of beverage drinking next to the warm fire wrapped in blankets and plot your coming summer because before you know it, it will be back again 🙂

    November 10, 2013
    • Oh Narf you clearly have not done a winter here! It goes on, and on, and on…..etc etc 😉 But I’ll be doing as you say and wrapping up next to the fire and tip tapping on the keyboard – hopefully to get down to lots of writing. I’ve heard that Australia is going to have one of the warmest years on record…but maybe you’ll escape in Tassie.

      See what I did there with the barrel? Thought you’d like that one. Actually I played with it in photoshop a bit to make the blue brighter, to make it ping out.

      Love your interpretations of the names!

      November 11, 2013
      • Not a happy camper about that predicted heat wave but at the moment it is pouring down and cold and I am just about to wrap a blanky around me at 4.19pm and then head off to make some samosa’s. I loved the bright blue and it was subtle enough that I didn’t notice it was Photoshopped, kudos :). We did a bit of winter in Liverpool back in 2005/2006 and we didn’t even wear our thermals. We brought practically an entire department store of woolly things and hardly plundered them at all. We were ready for an ice age and got frost and 1 snow event that disappeared the next morning, all in all a bit of a fizog but we were up North so that might be part of it.

        November 12, 2013
  6. Can we see photos of the bulls your expert recommends? I did enjoy looking over the choices myself, and agreed that Klondike looked great. Not that I know doodle-squat about bulls or Herefords or cattle at all 🙂 it was still fun! Loved all the photos!

    November 10, 2013
    • I’ll see if they’re available…they are from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Looking at the prospective sires is a lot of fun, I’m glad you appreciated it! Thanks very much for the visit.

      November 12, 2013
  7. mmw #

    explosion of rosehips hovering … exactly

    November 10, 2013
  8. Anonymous #

    Cherington is a pretty village near us that has a fine village fete in the summer. Cherington Glorybe must be one of its more fervent offspring.

    November 11, 2013
  9. David Williams #

    Hi Sarah,
    a great blog once more. I came to see you one sunny day a couple of years ago with Robin T, when you were just about to move into your lovely house,,which you showed me round.
    My father used to breed Herefords (The Wayland bloodline)but they were polled, i.e. bred to reproduce without horns -much easier to handle and less pecking order trouble too !
    Here in Soggy South Devon we have been pulping and pressing a bumper apple crop to make juice and cider, so I was coveting all those windfall apples on your ground.We feed the pressed pulp to a friend’s Dexter cow and she goes mad for it . Are you still designing ? I worked on one of your garden designs in Camberwell many moons ago. If you ever need an extra pair of hands……. David Williams

    November 11, 2013
    • Oh yes I remember. Hope it’s going well in Devon I like the sound of the cider 😉 It was a good crop this year wasn’t it? The cows did love the apples but I was worried they might get stomach ache if they ate too many at once. I’m dabbling in design but not so much any more but thank you for the offer, much appreciated. The polled Herefords are a different breed entirely, much bigger, these are very small!

      November 13, 2013
  10. I love your photography……I always feel that I am right there alongside you. All those apples in the grass……It makes me want to make pies, tarts, and apple butter……..

    November 11, 2013
    • Ah thanks natureanalyst, I have just discovered a new setting on the camera which I’ve been playing with! Glad you’re enjoying. The apples were really abundant this year. We made juice and apple puree, which may be the same as your apple butter. I had some with rice pudding this evening, yum.

      November 13, 2013
  11. I was also apprehensive about St Jude since my workshop is no longer sheltered by it’s guardian tree-of-heaven but the roof stayed on and it was a storm in a teacup compared to Typhoon Haiyan. Llandinabo Mackie also sounds like a bit of a whirlwind.

    November 11, 2013
    • Glad your workshop survived…but as you say, nothing compared to the horror of what’s happened in the Phillipines. Llandinabo Mackie is apparently the best for my girls but as to why I can’t remember! Perhaps it’s because he has ‘thrown’ a few good calves…that most resemble the breed standard. I suppose I should mind these things if I’m planning to exhibit them one day! I see Jelly’s been busy 🙂

      November 13, 2013
      • Are you planning to exhibit them one day?
        Jelly’s a phenomenon. She’s a force of nature. 3:8)

        November 14, 2013
    • It is on the cards, though I’m not holding myself to it. We’ll see how it goes 🙂

      November 17, 2013
  12. Oh my! I simultaneously snorted and guffawed upon seeing the semen catalogue… but of course you have to go shopping for it, I just hadn’t directed any thought that way! Looking forward to catching up with you when I return home, fab pics and words as per always 🙂 x

    November 11, 2013
    • Not something one usually allots time to admittedly 😉 When are you home? Looking forward to seeing you and hearing all about it.x

      November 13, 2013
  13. Harriet #

    Love the feel of the photos with the blurry, bright pastel colours, they remind me of Albert Kahn autochromes http://www.albertkahn.co.uk

    November 11, 2013
    • I really like that book. It’ll have to go on the xmas wish list, thanks! Glad you like the pictures have been having a play.

      November 13, 2013
  14. Those windfall apples look marvelous. I’d forgotten how much I loved the autumn for just that reason. Applesauce was our do-up of choice. We’d can and can until we had so much applesauce we knew we could be happy until March!

    I was all in for Freetown Klondyke, until I took a gander at the names of his parents – Freetown Gambler and Freetown Clamour. I’m not sure you’d want that heritage wandering your pastures. It sounds vaguely like something out of Jack London – or a Robert Service story-poem.

    I am glad to hear you suffered no damage from the St. Jude storm. And I love your single poppy – a lovely reminder of summer, and of Remembrance Day, too!

    November 12, 2013
    • Yes, up to my ears in applesauce, or stewed apple as we call it, or apple puree…. actually I just couldn’t keep up with it! You obviously had far more stamina 😉

      The Freetown heritage does seem a little dodgy doesn’t it?! Did you see the comment about the tail paint to tell if the heifers are bulling? It sounds good and probably cheaper than buying a whole new animal.

      Do you know I didn’t even make the remembrance connection – how very observant of you! It is such a beautiful colour, though I did do a bit of enhancing as my camera is not as sophisticated as the human eye…that’s exactly how it appeared to me.

      November 13, 2013
  15. Gue' #

    Oh, gosh… You’ve entered the wonderful and exciting world of AI. So many choices but it was good to see that you’ve determined what family the girls should ‘marry’ into to help the bloodlines.

    Tail paint? What will they think of next?

    ‘Course, it’s been a while since Papa sold his herd and I’m out of touch with the latest on cattle breeding. Not that the menfolk would knowingly discuss that in front of us kids. Esp the girls. We eavesdropped!

    He always kept a bull, anyway, so it was never much of a problem trying to figure out when the cows were bulling. The head honcho always knew and took care of the job, all on his own.

    The girls are looking in fine fettle. Do you think they know what’s up?

    Loved the photos, esp the last two just before the South Devon bull. Glad to hear that St. Jude didn’t treat you too badly. It really looked scary and the weather forecasters were all screaming, “Death, Doom and Destruction.”

    November 16, 2013
    • That is the definite advantage of keeping a bull. No problemo…. 😉

      I quite like the sound of tail paint – from talking to people it all seems quite hit and miss with these old breeds so could get expensive!

      Glad you like the photos Gue. I have been experimenting! And thank you for paying a visit and your comment – really enjoyable.

      November 17, 2013
  16. I’ve missed your posts! And this one is a beaut — each photo more stunning than the next. Well, the pig closeups are wonderfully weird. But I could feel the wind, the misty rain…
    “Vulgan”? “Quirk”? What great names!

    November 17, 2013
    • Hi tricia! I was just over at your blog the other day writing a long comment on your travel post….then my computer did one of those computer things and I lost it. Sigh….will return soon 🙂

      Glad you like the photos…and that you ‘feel’ the weather coming through…that was my intention so it pleases me immensely!

      November 17, 2013
  17. Another beautiful post.
    Good luck with the AI. That was my intent back during my brief tenure as a cattleman, but it seemed I was never home (or paying attention) when ours were ready. After a couple of years it began to seem likely that our heifers were never going to be cows, so we got rid of them.

    On those stormy nights I hope that the livestock are safe and dry in their shelters. But I always wonder about the wildlife.

    November 19, 2013
    • This made me smile. I can understand why it never happened, i think you have to be pretty determined…I’m not sure I am!

      You’re right it’s probably a pretty tough life being a wild creature. I suppose they all huddle down as best they can. It’s an interesting question…as human beings we tend to anthropomorphize – we feel what it must be like – and without warmth or a comfortable bed it all seems unimaginable.

      November 21, 2013
  18. Hi again Thinkingcowgirl! We also embarked on the AI business with our Traditional Hereford girls – we have had calves by St Mary’s Gethin, Gwastad Fergus and Paddock Nimrod. Our next calves will be by Withington Hero and Freeby Laird. We tried the “watching for them bulling” routine but with spectacular lack of success as they seemed very shy and I suspect were doing it at night when we weren’t around. It also wasn’t helped by the fact that our delightful inseminators will only come in the afternoon. So we reluctantly (it seemed so unnatural) agreed to go with our vets’ recommendation of CIDRs, Estrumate and GNRH injections and had reasonable success. If you need any advice just ask!

    December 5, 2013
    • Hi Serena! Ah yes, we have definitely considered that too…and may have to go down that route eventually. The only thing that put us off was that the guy I spoke to from the society said that there have been lots of cases that if it isn’t successful the first time then it becomes almost impossible to get her pregnant – something about the hormones interfering with everything. I would be interested to know if you’d heard the same thing or indeed if you’ve had any problems. Thanks for the offer of advice I will keep it in mind. Hope you’ve got some pics of the calves on the web site I’m going to head over there!

      Thanks for the comment, much appreciated.

      December 5, 2013
      • We have one cow that it becoming a problem with getting pregnant but I think it’s because she’s too fat! One of our heifers didn’t take to first round of AI so we let her run with our young bull and she has just calved – see our Facebook page for pics. Don’t think there is any veterinary reason why the treatment should make any difference – it doesn’t stay in the system as far as I know – I think that’s an old wives tale.

        December 7, 2013
      • Just had a wild thought – just in case you find the thought of AI too daunting, we have a 10 month well bred very quiet dehorned bull calf who would be ideal for your heifers by next May…. He’s going to be castrated soon, such a shame – can’t blame me for trying! Pic on website….You could sell him on after he’s done the job…..

        December 8, 2013
      • Now that’s a thought! But maybe too expensive to transport? Not sure how much it would all cost. Will give it some consideration…thanks!

        December 10, 2013
  19. Gue' #

    I thought I’d pop by and wish you all a Happy Christmas. I hope it’s a nice one. Give the girls a Christmas hug for me!

    December 21, 2013
    • It’ll be a bit of a soggy hug…torrential rain and wind here! Thanks Gue very thoughtful of you to pop by I wish you a very Happy Christmas too. I’m hoping to join in the blogging world again soon – it’s been ages, posts are piling up in my inbox and my camera is full! What to choose what to choose 🙂

      December 23, 2013
  20. Really enjoying your site, my wife and I have gone down the Traditional Hereford Cattle road in 2009, it has completely taken over our lives. We have now gone down the road to search for our own farm since the farm we are renting is not big enough. We are now up to 9 breeding cows but will have 12 at the end of this year if all goes well, if you are thinking of showing the girls the Small holders show in Builth Wells is great fun and not madly competitive. Having never shown cattle until a few years ago we have made really good friends and everyone is always willing to help out with advice.

    January 5, 2014
    • Hi Willem I’ve just had a good look round your website it’s wonderful! So great to see pictures of your herd – and hear all about them. I’m used to looking at only three so it’s lovely to see a few more together. You seem very knowledgeable about the bloodlines which is something I’ve yet to get my head around. Thanks for the tip about the show. If I do it will be in a year or so…my current heifers are a little on the wild side and not halter trained and mostly terrified of anyone apart from us!. At what age do you start, I’m guessing right from the beginning. I can understand how it took over your life!

      All the best and thanks for the visit.

      January 5, 2014

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