June on the farm (2023)

Dog rose in a Moreton Road Hedge

Richard Fonge writes;

The buttercups in Madam’s Close were quite an astounding sight this year. A real centre piece to the village. The two other pastures to admire are on the Barrow hill footpath, where a wild flower mixture was planted many years ago and are now a blaze of flower. Walking along the railway line are more wild flowers. As you climb the recently made path to the old line there are broom bushes with their lovely yellow flowers. Broom has a smooth stem, gorse has spines. Dog daisies or oxeyes are abundant, and the dog rose with its white or pink flower can be seen intermittently. The dog rose is often found in our field hedges, with it’s vicious thorns. The fruit of this rose is called the hip, a red oval fruit full of vitamin C with noted herbal cures for many ailments when cured into a syrup. Another delicacy is rose hip tea.

Wild flower names were once used as names for milking cows when herds were small and milked in cowsheds, so buttercup, daisy, dandelion, cowslip were the favourites. I named a cow Up and Downer as a boy after her horn got caught in my trouser pocket and she tossed me up and down a few times when I was untying her chain!

The many flocks of sheep have now been shorn, and this hard, back bending job is often done by young New Zealanders who come over for the season. Wool is not of great value with the shearing cost hardly covered by its sale price. Man made fibres have seen to that. Sheep shear best when the grease is rising, the grease being Lanolin which when extracted is used in many ointments and creams. Go handling fleeces for a day and you will come away with soft hands. 

Of course it was wool that made the Washington family of Sulgrave Manor fame great wealth in the Middle Ages as it did many other families, with the Cotswolds in particular thriving on the wool, with towns such as Chipping Norton and Chipping Camden becoming centres of the trade. Chipping meaning market of course.

The recent storms will be most welcome to the crops, especially the late sown maize and barley up the concrete road. A late lamb has been born to one of the young sheep on Castle Mound. They are called cuckoo lambs (although we sadly don’t hear the cuckoo now). This sheep has “stolen the ram” as we say. Rather like a teenage pregnancy with Father unknown!

Richard Fonge.



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