The very talented Helen at Everyday Stranger expressed the definitive opinion to have about Summer 2008. ‘Our English summer this year – like last year – has sucked a clown’s balls.’ 

And it has. It really, really has.

The combine and grain trailers keep getting stuck in the sodding mud.

We can’t even attempt some fields because, although not precipitous in themselves, they are too steep to negotiate on slippy ground. Combines are not excessively stable machines.


Hubby cheerfully announced last night that at one point he’d been sliding, sideways, toward the brook, in the dark. Arrghhh.

The grain itself is partially buggered where it has begun to chit where it stands. It is most unlikely that many of you will be munching bread or biscuits from Hairy Farmer flour this year. We have hundreds of tons of wet wheat backlogging up and the dryer takes about two hours to dry nine tons. Keeping wet and dry separate has meant we are essentially out of grainshed space. The dryer is a thirsty beast and has consumed thousands of pounds worth of fuel in short order.

Every time I stick my nose out of doors, in hopeful expectation of a baking evening walk through the golden straw stubble, the wintry blast sends me rapidly back inside. The leaves started falling off the bloody trees a week ago, FFS. It’s never been so damn soggy! This is the second year I have been deprived of my beloved harvest summer walks, and I’m properly pissed off about it.

I should point out that the above photos are courtesy of the thinly populated Farmers Weekly ‘Wreckers Yard’. No actual Hairy Farmer disasters have ever been caught on film, aside from the barn fire that I was able to surreptitiously snap from the safety of the house. 

You see, it is Not Done in agriculture to immortalise your little wee accidents. Publicity is shunned. For instance, Hairy Hubby has torched at least one combine and one loadall that I can think of – although most farmers have toasted something at some point, as oil and straw and electrics are a tricky combination. He has also reversed a combine into a landrover, mightily wounding its cosmetic appearance. Now, I’m pretty sure this is not actually his full charge sheet, yet my polite enquiries for more details have just been met with inarticulate grunts and whingey tired sounds. He does not sound keen to share with you, I’m afraid. After all – there may be (gulp) another farmer reading.

Perhaps this would make more sense if I tell you that farmers take a jubilant, elated, prurient pleasure in each other’s little disasters. They will travel miles – miles – to look at another farmer’s calamity. It’s often the highlight of their year.

The hedge margins of the field by my parents’ house were once sprayed for weeds, but the chap accidentally had the nozzles along the whole sprayer boom open, instead of just the very tip. Consequently, a decorative ten-metre strip of dying yellow wheat was shortly to be seen around the entire field. I’m telling you, they came from three counties away to laugh. They parked up on the verge in their dozens. They virtually blocked Mum and Dad’s drive. And dear God, they looked happy. Farming doesn’t get sweeter than when you’re leaning over a gateway, gazing enchantedly at someone else’s mistake.

Burning machinery is slightly less of an embarrassment, consisting as it does of a hefty helping of bad luck rather than ineptitude, but nevertheless, it is still indubitably farmer-porn. We are privileged in our view here at Hairy Farmer House, and Hubby is occasionally able to spy an interesting inferno or a curious column of smoke and pile hurriedly into his car in time to be in at the actual death. He has also been known to drive randomly round the countryside late into the evening on the strength of a rumour coming through on the jungle drums that somewhere, a piece of machinery is meeting its fiery end.

Even a motionless tractor minus its operator in the middle of a field is sufficient cause to anchor up, and back up to the gateway for a closer look. ‘He’s stopped right in the middle of the row, look! He’s broken down! God, you’d think he’d have tried to make it back to the headland at least.’

So: you do not precisely broadcastyour little debâcles. Not that it matters: truth will out, and the word of your adversity will hit the village sooner or later. So if you are, say, a HFF Wifey who is pretty out of practice at driving tractors, there’s plenty of pressure not to balls it up. I avoided grain carting last year (childbirth) and this year (small appendage to look after) yet I feel that over the coming month there will be polite pressure to park the youngster with my mother and get on a tractor for a few hours. I haven’t driven one for two years, so with that and the mud, it could be compelling viewing for spectators. If I fuck up in high style, I will endeavour to quietly capture it on film. Even if Hubby shakes me down for proper cameras, he can’t confiscate my mobile phone: I shall inevitably need it to call for help when I get stuck in the sticky stuff.

If you are out there basking in record sunshine, please don’t tell me about it. I am obliged to remain here, sodden. I cannot transmigrate to where you are instead. I must learn to like our global warming.



Eureka! (Greek “I have found it!”) (Or: “Please hand me a bathrobe!”)

Your wonderful, caring comments made me feel… well, all warm really, despite the icy hand of fear clutching the Wifey-vitals. It’s so comforting to know that there are people inside our droning, rattling battleship of a PC! Lovely people! People that care! People that make hyper-intelligent suggestions, moreover! Albeit they have been unwittingly hamstrung by the fact that Ann has stupidly overlooked (and hence failed to report) some telling symptomology.

Harry still has reflux.

I kept typing and tapping and bashing his symptoms into Google, muttering feverishly to myself in bitter frustration that the only results popping up were for reflux. These I instantly dismissed with much wrath, as Harry was a spectacular purveyor of volcanic, copious reflux right up until he was 6 months old.

I lived reflux, for Chrissakes. Providentially for our shoulders and carpet, Harry’s reflux-vomiting stopped (virtually overnight) when he started solids. No vom? Oh, end of problem, then! We stopped his meds. But he’s always been intermittently difficult over food, and often grumpy for no discernable reason. We simply pigeonholed him as a bit of a diva. And in throwing myriad reflux references at me, Google, I felt, was attempting to teach my inner Granny to suck eggs. 

Yet I sat up late again last night, determined that Dr SearchEngine would stop pissing about and Cure My Bloody Baby. When my weary little brain could think of no new phrase to Google, it struck, and stopped sending messages to my eyes; they came to rest, lifelessly, on the screen. I suspect there are dead mackerel on a fish counter right now with more sparkle in their baby blues than I had at midnight. The eyes, however, freed of officious interference from the desiccated pellet that I term my brain, discovered something interesting. There is silent reflux. The non-vommy kind. The kind that Harry has just about every single symptom of.

  • irritability and pain
  • poor sleep habits typically with frequent waking
  • arching their necks and back during or after eating
  • frequent hiccups
  • frequent ear infections
  • refusing food or accepting only a few bites despite being hungry
  • food/oral aversions
  • anaemia
  • excessive drooling
  • running nose, sinus infections
  • sinus congestion
  • swallowing problems, gagging, choking
  • chronic hoarse voice
  • frequent red, sore throat without infection present
  • apnoea
  • respiratory problems-pneumonia, bronchitis, wheezing, asthma, night-time cough
  • gagging themselves with their fingers or fist (sign of esophagitis)
  • poor weight gain, weight loss, failure to thrive

So, this morning I rootled out some old packets of infant gaviscon and, by dint of placing the jollop in a popular-with-child smoothie pouch – wicked, tricksy Mummy – got a couple of swallows down his throat before he cottoned on to the vile parental treachery.


We then tootled off to a harvest widows and orphans lunch-gathering at a friend’s house, where Harry proceeded to munch half a banana, half a bread roll and a biscotti, before signalling a halt. This was a damn good effort, and I was really exceedingly pleased.

Half an hour passed, in which I was the life and happily-wittering soul of the party, before a late arrival brought her tuna rolls into the room. The change that the sight of this loaded plate brought to Harry’s demeanour was quite pronounced. Think… interest. Intense interest. Think….

He bustled over, knees wheel-spinning slightly, and stood expectantly by her knee, patting her leg insistently. I’ve never even seen my liquid-eyed spaniel, a consummate and practised beggar, work a victim over with such beseeching professionalism. A small chunk of bread was obligingly proffered, and consumed with gusto. This was duly upgraded to half the top layer, for which he needed both hands, so he plumped down cross-legged on the floor and proceeded to munch industriously. He then ate another biscotti. And then some more bread. And burped happily, before scampering off again to resume taking toys away from smaller children.

This evening I have repeated the gaviscon/smoothie deception, although with a far more suspicious child. He nevertheless swallowed enough to facilitate consumption of another half-banana, half a slice of bread and jam, and an ounce or so of cheese. He also helped himself to several bites of his father’s tea, not realising in quite how much danger he was placing himself.

We are not entirely out of the woods, as the mere sight of a bowl and spoon this evening still sent him stratospheric. Entire meals consisting of finger food are new ground to him, as we usually spoon-feed him variations on mashed meat/carbs/veg, and rusk/squished fruit/yoghurt, but it seems that spoon-delivered foodstuffs are the subject of pain-association, unsurprisingly, and are not currently acceptable. His limited (eleven months adjusted) dexterity reduces our options a little and we shall have to have a fairly fundamental re-structure of his usual menu. We do not mind. We’re good like that. As we’ve merrily, blithely dismissed our beautiful child’s suffering and distress for over 6 months, we feel we can now find it within ourselves to be vaguely accommodating about some new food textures for him.

If anyone is passing with a small person, do drop in for lunch. I have a freezer full of yummy chunky mush, and no further use for same.

Yes, we have no bananas.

Dear New Readers who have been promised Funny. (Thanks Pru!)

I’m sincerely apologetic, but I am having a crisis. I am not funny today. Today, I am a thousand words of longwinded and horribly self-involved blathering instead. Perhaps come back next week?


I do wish I could be one of those people who react to a bit of misery by losing their appetite and going all consumptive.


Quite why I rationalise that my anxiety entitles me to roughly 1000 extra calories a day


when the hulking size of my shadow is itself a major source of angst, is totally beyond me. I am exercising, but only if you count the increasingly frantic rummaging through the kitchen cupboards, looking for something illicit to sustain me. Yesterday I emerged triumphant, waving a large packet of dark cooking chocolate clutched tightly in my grubby paw. Bit of a pyrrhic victory there, really.

This evening, I was cramming my mouth full of pancakes when Hubby came home, saw baby and I sat exhaustedly in our different corners of the kitchen, and gently enquired as to the state of affairs. This brutal approach tipped me over the emotional edge and I instantly began to sob and wail; choking horribly on my pancakes as I did so. I don’t want to die of pancakes, dammit, I’m too young.

The source of the Hairy Farmer Family anguish – because I estimate that we are all suffering to a roughly similar degree – is Harry’s refusal, for the past fortnight+, to eat. He has lost weight. He has been referred for an eating assessment, whatever one of those is. The GP I saw today drew a blank with his prodding and has told me to take him back next week if he hasn’t started to eat by then.

Fuck only knows what’s wrong with him. Besides his determination for nil-by-mouth, he wakes from sleep in a turd of a mood, and is driving us utterly barmy. Hungry, I expect.  He has, admittedly, been poorly, and still has a juicy, hacking cough. The excess phlegm (nice!) was also making him cough and choke whilst eating, making it plausible that he is now frightened of having another choking episode. He does have another toothy peg breaking the gum. And he’s always been a bit of a diva over food. I know kids do have phases like this. There’s probably no reason to worry.  

You can hear my hollow laughter, yes?

I know it doesn’t sound like much. FFS! I can hear you muttering. So he isn’t hungry; why the drama? And… yeah… it doesn’t sound like much, when I come to write it down. But I’ve cried at least twice a day all this week, and I’m ridiculously anxious about him now. Harry has been distressed and upset at every mealtime. John is worried and starting to lose patience. Two and a bit weeks is close on 50 mealtimes, and that’s an awful lot of food bowls for a baby to say No to. An insanely frustrating amount of No.

I estimate he used to eat about 8oz of food per meal; now it’s one spoonful. Maybe two or three if we’re lucky. The rest ends up either in the bin, on the floor, in us, or on us. So that’s, say, 50 x 8oz = 25lb of baby food. Plus the second meals we cooked to try and tempt him. I do not mind the waste, you understand. I just mind his trousers being looser, and his poor belly being empty to the tune of about 2 stone of needed ballast.

I’m sure he is hungry. Although he refuses deliveries via spoon, it isn’t as if he won’t actually put food IN his mouth. A small slice of cheese he will simply dive toward and stuff it happily past his gleaming row of gnashers. He begins coughing madly as it hits his tonsils, and he then has both hands up to his mouth, clawing desperately inside with his fingers to eject the food. Why he doesn’t just push it out with his tongue, I dunno, but he’s never spat food out in his life. So we tried him with soft finger food – mashed potato, squishy marrow – and he does the same: grabs it with gusto, stuffs it inside, and then scrapes whatever he can manage back out with his fingers. Even yoghurt, the ultimate Harry-yummy, is now rejected outright. Today he started to cry and shake his head when he saw John merely approach, yoghurt pot in hand.

What the fuck do we do? We’re like a pair of headless chickens here. We’re just about astute enough to realise that the more worked up we become, the more antsy he will react, so we’re always Jolly Hockey Sticks and calm about meals, even when it’s going uber-shit. We’ve tried accepting his refusals immediately, hoping he’ll eat the next meal. And we’ve tried persevering in a You’re-Not-Getting-Out-Of-That-Chair-Til-You’ve-Eaten-Something-Young-Man-type manner. And we’ve tried following him round the house all day, coaxing him to have a bite here and a bite there.

There was a tiny breakthrough this morning, when we realised that he will sit and feed himself half a banana, biting off chunks and swallowing without choking and clawing at every mouthful. Hence, he has been assiduously given a banana for breakfast, lunch, and supper, and we are now Out Of Bananas.

He has to eat properly again soon. All I can see when I shut my eyes is that bloody NG tube that he couldn’t lose.


Not in a good place currently.

Send help.

In a Jam

Very occasionally, Hairy Farmer Wifey does Farmer Wifey type-things. The regional agricultural show has rolled round again, and it is time to Strut My Domestic Stuff. I missed out on my sheaf of red rosettes last year due to child being unable to read the post-it note in my knickers reading Stay In, You Daft Bugger. 

The spirit of competition is generally alive and well in Maison Hairy – Hubby never forgets he is a younger twin, with everything to prove. And there’s always a frisson of fear and excitement when you take on the local mafia. I haven’t made jam for a year or two, so I thought I would limber up beforehand with some plums my MIL had scrumped and despatched to me, with her compliments.

Method as follows:

Wait for child to nap. Poorly child refuses to nap. Eventually select non-mouldy plums from their squishy friends and wash listlessly.  

Feel sorry for self and sore throat. Divide and extract stones. Reach 5lb and stop, because you have run out of saucepan room. Ring Hubby and instruct to borrow MIL’s jam kettle. Grind to halt for next 8 hours.

After protracted 2 hour screaming bedtime with miserable child, return to kitchen and chuck plums into jam kettle. Place on low heat and wander off absent-mindedly to read blogs.

15 minutes later. Curse. Scurry back in a panic and add 1.25 pints of water. Prod with wooden spoon. Return to blogs.

After 10 minutes, lose patience with stubborn large chunks of plum and lob the blender in. Press button. Entirely fail to avoid hot splashes. Curse. Prod with wooden spoon and pronounce sufficiently simmered. Add 5lbs of sugar. Attempt to open cupboard in order to return remaining 12oz in the bag to storage. Trip over child’s trike. Curse. Kick trike in temper. Curse loudly.


Whinge about foot. Can no longer be bothered to open cupboard. Chuck extra 12oz of sugar into jam.

Complain to Hubby that his expensive Nikon not bloody working again. Hubby takes photo successfully. Is smug. Meh.

Dissolve sugar. Crank heat up and watch jam reach rolling boil. Wrest camera from Hubby and take picture of luscious dark bubbles.

Watch bubbles in mesmerised fashion. Spoons off plum scum. Yum yum. Realise have forgotten to add knob of butter before turning up heat. Curse. Add it anyway. Hubby wanders in to observe spottling nuclear reactor core that is jam kettle. Suggests that naked jam-making would be exciting adrenaline sport. Appears dejected when no clothes are removed. Departs again.

Remove spoonful of bubbling jam from reactor core, at great personal risk, and add to chilled plate. Scrutinise intently whilst prodding with finger. Repeat until jam is wrinkly and fingertip blisters. Curse.

Hubby responds to innate mysterious inner voice telling him that something is approaching edibility, and hovers. Takes photo. (Does not notice that jam has unfortunately made its sticky way onto his Nikon. Does not, in consequence, lose mind.)

Ladle jam into clean, dry, sterilised rinsed jars. Lost the lid-closer-contraption off one jar. Curse.

Stand back proudly to observe jars of glistening sticky liquid. Tastes residue in kettle with one finger. Gums recede back from teeth as sickeningly excessive sugar level registers. Curse.

Vow to buy Hartley’s in future.

Fields of Gold

Today is our anniversary. Not of our marriage, or our first date precisely, but just the start of… us. Six years ago today – or possibly tomorrow, I’m never quite sure – John and I were, to quote his Best Man’s wedding speech, alone together in the dusty confines of his combine cab.

We had a reservation booked at a local restaurant for Sunday dinner, but we cancelled. I was up most of the night with Harry, who desperately worried us early this morning with his continuous heartbreakingly thin threnody of single-note wailing. I’ve never seen him look so pale and ill since NICU, and he was writhing about, obviously in pain. He finally vomited a good pint or more of undigested milk all over me, soaking me right through to bra and knickers. Heaven only knows where he’d been keeping it all. The poor lad had been breastfeeding for comfort all through the night and early this morning, and had obviously digested not one drop. 

Of course, we galloped him up the drive to be prodded at by the Delightful Doctors Next Door. They get no peace from us whatsobloodyever, poor souls. Harry took a long whiff of fresh hill breeze en-route, and visibly decided that he was much happier with his life minus the milk-belly; the little rascal perked right up. Once frog-marched back down again in disgrace (as it’s the third time he’s pulled that particular recovery trick now) he went promptly went worringly limp and inconsolable again. Grrrr. He’s improved again this afternoon; has eaten a tiny amount, and is now tucked up quietly in bed, although I am pessimistically not expecting much in the way of rest in the small hours.

We agreed that there are far worse ways to spend an anniversary than nursing and coddling a much-adored, much suffered-for, long-awaited son. John managed to dash out between the storms to combine for a couple of hours earlier this evening, so I put a reasonably cheerful Harry in the car, and drove down the track and across the fields to show him the combine – a newer one, as it happens – and the place where his parents’ story began.

He cried. Silly young bugger.

I’ll yell

Harry moved into the nursery last Wednesday, at the ripe old age of 1 year & three days old. He occupied a moses basket pulled tight to my bedside for the first few months of his life, followed by a disastrous move into the cotbed placed at the foot of our bed when the basket started to look cramped. Even lying with the pillows turned to the footrest of our bed, I still burst into tears after an hour because there were bars between me and my baby that I couldn’t reach between, prompting his hasty shoehorning back into the basket by a snivelling mama.

He was still waking for a feed at least twice a night at that point – probably didn’t need ’em, but was damn determined to get ’em – so we borrowed a cotbed that boasted drop sides, as opposed to our beautiful but impractical solid chunk of oak, and pulled that up close to the bedside to facilitate A) the nightly flopping-out of my boobs and B) my incessant checks on his breathing.

By the end of May he was still being a bugger, but, after his 4 month bout of virus, was made to go cold-turkey on the night feeds, and I successfully managed the emotional hurdle of his re-transition to foot-of-bed-oak-chunk. I even put the pillows back at the right end! He began to sleep through shortly afterwards. Which was nice. And there the situation has halted.

Since the beginning of July I have muttered vaguely about moving him, but the room wasn’t really ready, the status quo was acceptable, and John & I are lazy slobs. It took me an embarrassing number of weeks to get the prints framed, sew the blind, sew the doorstop, sew a change-table-tidy-type-object and paint the storage units, before taking my father hostage in order to get him to slap some paint on the enormous chimney breast

Now, before you all gasp in awe at the tree, let me tell you that Dad would be horrified did he know that I was displaying his handiwork (termed by him upon completion ‘a load of crap’) to the world. I had actually commissioned my father (when I was seven months pregnant) to reproduce this:

which he is perfectly able to render a detailed and exact freehand copy of except that it would involve him having started it… oohhh, about when I first asked him to, really. Dad hasn’t painted in quite a while, and is, admittedly, quite a busy chap. I had to promise to feed him and set my mother on him in order to lure him over here with his paint box at all. The ‘interim’ tree is fabulous for less than 2 hours work – although there is something decidedly odd about the hastily-added owl; Dad also had mislaid his yellow, rendering the bark distinctly more purply than he would have liked; exponentially increasing his stylistic woe. He has bought boards to work on at home, and has promised the Real Thing by Christmas. We shall expect it precisely when we see it.

Anyhoo, decor was finally complete-ish, so child was moved. He spent two uneventful (I slept! And I didn’t actually cry!) nights in there, before he caught a stinking cold and proceeded to become so distressed by his cough that he ended up sleeping between us for three nights. He hasn’t managed to inveigle himself between the hairy hubby and I for many months, and I had forgotten how smugly contented his angelic little sleeping face can appear. Harry woke first, greatly delighted by the change of cot scenery, and immediately commenced on a great work: epilation of Daddy’s back. Yes… back. Hubby is a gorilla. Not a waxed back, sac and crack man. Harry didn’t get beyond the first couple of hairs before the scenery started to heave and protest vigorously, but it’s easy to see that the child will continue to find John’s hirsute areas – about 90% of the available total – irresistible.

Harry has been back in his own room (OMG! my baby has his own room now!) for the last few nights, and I am… ok with it. I would even go so far as to say I have enjoyed having the use of the en-suite (the only bath in the house I can fit my podgy form into comfily) returned to me. Unfortunately, the bathroom John generally uses is right opposite Harry’s new doorway, and the kid sleeps with one ear pinned back, so I am now sharing my sink with John and his bionic facial hair. Meh.

Of course, when I say ok with it… I still have Harry on the apnoea monitor that he doesn’t need, but, umm, I do. It emits an immensely reassuring LED flash with his every breath, but the wire to the mattress is only a few feet long so, aha, I have trained the video camera onto the flashing apnoea monitor, feeding back to the video monitor that I have on my bedside table. If I look closely at the tiny monitor and squint, I can still see the flashes. Score. When he cries – he’s only in the next room, for crying out loud Pete’s sake – I can hear him in eerie stereo.

One year old, in his own room, babbling, cruising and climbing busily, standing sometimes without support… my babymy baby… is growing up at breathtaking speed.

Time for another, the hubby says, with a gleam.

Hah. If only it were that easy, hey?!


Go to sleep, Mum,
I won’t stop breathing
suddenly, in the night.

Go to sleep, I won’t
climb out of my cot and
tumble downstairs.

Mum, I won’t swallow
the pills the doctor gave you or
put hairpins in electric
sockets, just go to sleep.

I won’t cry
when you take me to school and leave me:
I’ll be happy with other children
my own age.

Sleep, Mum, sleep.
I won’t
fall in the pond, play with matches,
run under a lorry or even consider
sweets from strangers.

No, I won’t
give you a lot of lip,
not like some.

I won’t sniff glue,
fail all my exams,
get myself/
my girlfriend pregnant.
I’ll work hard and get a steady/
really worthwhile job.
I promise, go to sleep.

I’ll never forget
to drop in/phone/write
and if
I need any milk, I’ll yell.

Rosemary Norman

Funny Peculiar

The very nice Sam tagged me a little while back for 6 quirky things about me. Compiling the list has not been difficult; merely a challenge to edit, as the list of my oddities is rather long.

1) My hatred towards drivers of BMWs and sport motorbikes is unrelenting and fierce. I almost wish I had one so that I too could behave like an immortal selfish dickhead. However, anyone reading this who owns either of the above is formally permitted to co-exist with me on the road, because blogosphere denizens are special.

2) I am extraordinarily hard to please in the pillow-firmness department. Essentially, only a house-brick with a thin layer of foam will do.

3) I drank oodles of milk during the first six months of Harry’s life, as I was truly convinced – still am! -that it would make my boobs refill quicker than drinking water. Less molecule conversion work, you see. [Sounds Off: Insane laughter from Hubby] 

4) I own – and occasionally play – a banjo. Also a guitar. Those are the nights in which Hubby retreats behind two closed doors and cranks the TV volume up.

5) John is driven wild by the fact that I rarely finish any hot drink, although mightily enjoying the first 5/6ths of them. I have a dim childhood memory of a burst teabag and the resulting horrifying mouthful of tea-leaves.

6) I have two uteri. The full Didelphys monty.

It just don’t get quirkier than that.

Now, I’m always a bit diffident about tagging others, mainly because I’m far too nervous, and also because I’m sure you’ve all been ‘it’ already. If you would like a go at out-performing me in the zany, do feel personally invited to have a crack. You will, though, need to have a very freakishly strange bodily oddity in order to eclipse my didelphys. Anyone want to share…?

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