Greenfields Gazette

Issue: 16
Hi Folks,

I was beginning to think I'd never finish this! As it covers almost six months, there's a lot left out - but enough left to give you a flavour of what has been happening around here.

All Change at Greenfields
Much has been changed this year in the way of equipment, transport etc. I began this issue of the Gazette on my Pentium 166 computer and here I am continuing on our new Dell Pentium III, 600MHz super-machine. Our trusty old DeskJet printer ground to a halt (literally - the sound was dreadful!) and, after trying and returning a couple of likely replacements, we've settled for this Epson Stylus Photo 750 - probably the best graphics printer in its price range. As a result of the new computer, we now have access to the Internet. In time we will have our own web site up and running - but I think I'll learn to walk first! I did make an earlier attempt to get Internet access - I installed a modem into our old Pentium 166 but the accompanying CD did not possess the correct driver. It was supposed to be "Plug & Play", instant installation - I lost five hours of work trying to get the thing to function correctly! Then I pulled it out, returned it for refund and faxed Phill in the US - it's not fair but he's an easy target for getting rid of frustration! In return he sent me this beauty (which just about says it all!):

Our transport too has changed (in more ways than you might imagine!). My old Volvo 740 was showing signs of terminal failure. When the cost of a new clutch exceeds the value of a car, it seems a good time to change it. Having made something in five figures in four weeks with my latest print, I went looking for another 740 and, having had the benefit of black leather seats, sunroof, overdrive and so on, I was perhaps a little too choosy. All the 740s I could find were fitted with 2.0 litre engines and not the 2.3 litre I was used to. I finally went a little mad - well, I just couldn't resist it! - I bought a Volvo 760 estate instead. This beast has a 2.8 litre V6 engine, a thirst for petrol that rivals your average American gas-guzzler, full air-conditioning / climate control, and if a fitment can be made to work electrically it has been. Oh yes, and it's automatic - well, I reckoned my boy-racer, racing-change days were coming to and end! If nothing else this brute will pull the horsebox!

What horsebox? The one we haven't actually got yet but we have bought the essential contents - one horse called Cerys. She's a 14hh Welsh Cob, quite delightful and absolutely bombproof. She arrived on a pitch-black night in a 35 feet long horsebox - it looked as though the Titanic was reversing into our yard! Cerys's front end was eating hay before her rear end made it into our stable. The next evening I was working on Eric the Shetland Pony's exercise cart in full view of Cerys - arc welding, grinding in showers of sparks and hammering loudly. She took not one bit of notice!

Cerys came with her own tack and exercise cart - far more roomy and comfortable than Eric's. Indeed Eric's was a little too small as, in order for me to sit next to Jenny on the seat, I have to sit slightly corner-wise with one arm over the back. No more - I've cut the seat in half and welded in six inches of extra width.

Almost last but not least Jenny has once again changed her car. Her Volvo 240 estate was a sound vehicle but then it blew its head gasket and its troubles began. It worked just fine until it went into the local garage but from that moment on its days were numbered. The essential problem was that the distributor had seized in its mounting preventing the timing of the engine being set correctly. Everything was tried except brute force and a big hammer. This last would probably have worked but nobody possessed the courage to attempt it! Jenny now has a super-economical, busy little "sewing machine" (her description, not mine) of a Ford Fiesta and the benefit of 40 or more miles to the gallon.

And last - Mac the Mini has gone. We were given Mac (a 1966 Austin Mini automatic) about five years ago for me to restore - but it has become clear that I will never have the time to do the job properly. We advertised Mac in the local car-spares shop (insisting that he was on offer for restoration only) and he sold within two hours! He hasn't gone far so we can keep an eye open for his "MAC 268 E" registration plate. His new owner is a Mini enthusiast, runs two, is rebuilding a third for his daughter and has lately purchased an acre of land on which to build a workshop and store his future projects.

More Vehicle Fun and Games
but not the sort I wanted! Last year I purchased from George a central heating oil tank and boiler. The boiler we decided not to use but the tank was installed in the workshop to hold diesel fuel for the tractor and dumper. So far so good! Then I began to worry that it might leak - I had altered the filter and re-sited the outlet to suit its new use. My answer (unfortunately) was to pour 40 gallons of water into it. No leaks so I drained it - 39 gallons poured out. A few days in the heat of that time should have dried out the rest but I hadn't counted on the over-prompt delivery of diesel - the next morning - while we were shopping in Thirsk. Need I go on? Well, if I must... First the dumper ground to a halt in a cloud of oil smoke. Well I thought it was oil smoke but it turned out to be steam. Unfortunately this only occurred to me after the tractor went the same way. The dumper was a simple repair - it's a single cylinder affair with a mechanical pump. Soon drained, soon fixed. I drained the tractor and it started. It worked - for all of ten feet! Twice more I repeated the exercise each time draining more water from the tank. By now (in two days) the tractor had travelled twenty feet and that, it decided, was as far as it was going. No amount of coaxing could re-start it so I called in the local fixers. "Its yer injection pump" one said "They hates water. Slightest drop ruins 'em". How much for a new one?" I asked. "Not a lot of change out of a thousand pounds" was the reply. Bloomin' heck! I only paid £850 for the tractor!

I thought I'd have a go myself first - I couldn't make it worse! So I got the tractor stripped down and completely drained and picked up a second-hand pump for £40. Good bargain, eh?! Nope! Spotless on the outside and full of rusty water! But it gave me the opportunity of stripping it down without fear of ruining my own and, thanks to lessons learned, I successfully repaired the original pump. And we once again have a working tractor although one injector didn't quite recover fully and requires replacing sometime soon.

Bird life abounds
Now that our field and those surrounding us have finally dried out since the flooding of last year the bird life has altered once again. The Moorhens and Coots, the Mallards and Curlew and the Lapwings have left us for wetter areas. But in their place have come others. Snipe for certain, though we never saw one. Not alive anyway. Jimbo cat brought one home and allowed me to rescue the wings and head before he consumed the rest. The wings provided the detail (and decided the bird content) of my latest print - "Connemara Encounter" featuring the Irish Water Spaniel. We had a Sparrow Hawk in the area for a while and a Heron that visited the pond at Fullans. I think the dogs and I and the Heron and were all equally surprised one morning when it took flight from under the little bridge that carries our track over the ditch at the end of our land. I heard on the radio on a number of occasions that Skylarks are becoming a rarity. But not here they aren't! We've always had Skylarks flying over the cornfields bordering our land but this year their numbers multiplied many fold. On a walk across the stubble our German Shepherds, Abi and Kasha, disturbed a group of them and I counted eighteen in flight.  Then behind me I counted a further twelve. A rough estimate of fifty birds would not be an exaggeration. Owls are also abundant in the area and heard most nights. Both Tawny (or Screech) owls and Barn owls (they that hoot!). Though rarely seen, Abi and Kasha and I, enveloped in a beautiful sunset, watched a pair of Tawny Owls calling to each other as they flew around us on silent wings. Quite magical!

As was my encounter in the early hours of one morning with the Hound of the Baskervilles! Jenny was awakened first by the eerie sound and in turn woke me. I have never heard a sound like it and still don't know its source. A weird, prolonged and guttural "kraaaaaac" tailing off a little in power and pitch towards the end. Very bird-like in nature. I first thought it to be a goose in distress and probably in the jaws of a fox. But it continued, repeated every few minutes or so. So I hurriedly dressed and fought my way through the hedge into the field opposite Greenfields. It was 4:30 am and the air was exceptionally still. I heard the sound once more - very loud and carrying a considerable distance. And very close, then again away against the far boundary. Minutes later it called again from a midway point, then directly to my right - maybe sixty feet away.   The next call was identically placed and fixed its position so, torch in hand and held above my head, I snapped on the beam. I did not know what to expect. Certainly not the two eyes that looked back. This was no bird. Possibly a fox - certainly the eyes were about two feet from the ground and forward looking. But, as a sheep's eyes return a green light, a fox's eyes reflect a bright red. These eyes merely returned the white light they were receiving. A vixen is still my best guess. I know they call strangely to attract a mate from October's end. But I don't know what the call sounds like and this was September. All suggestions very welcome!

The last call came from behind me - either on our land or our neighbour's behind that. There was no sign of it by the time I had found my way over the potato rows in the dark and reached the track. But, strangely, all was peaceful and quite - the ponies were grazing and the rams contentedly chewing the cud. Whatever it was must have passed through them (and over two fences) but it had disturbed them not one jot.

Wife drives husband mad over stubble
No, I haven't given up shaving (though I do still possess the dead mouse on my top lip). Jenny is taking driving lessons - carriage driving - and under instruction from teacher Pat, she let rip at full gallop across a field of wheat stubble. Not along the lines of growth, I should point out, but across them. Fine for anyone sitting on the sole double seat. Not so fine for yours truly who travels standing on the back step. My teeth rattled. Every internal organ rippled. My brain beat time against the inside of my skull and the world vibrated before my eyes!

Since then she's calmed down - which makes for a much more pleasurable Sunday morning.

Jenny and Magic return from an hour of instruction

A Grand Day Out
My mother came to stay with us for a fortnight towards the end of August and Jenny decided to organise a combined birthday treat for both our mothers. Admittedly a month late in my mother's case but better late than never! Originally Jenny considered a canal cruise but, the weather being changeable, she finally decided on a river cruise around York. But first we had prepared another surprise. Our marquee/trade stand had already been erected in our field for a previous barbeque and was now to host the birthday lunch. While I took my mother for a walk, Jenny and our friend Ruth ferried all that was required from the house to the marquee. By the time Mum and I had returned and Jenny's parents had arrived, no outward sign of the feast was evident. Then at the allotted time the chauffeur (me) arrived to take both mothers on to a mystery location - and promptly drove them the thirty yards into the field! Jenny had prepared a marvellous spread beneath the "Happy Birthday" banner.

After lunch and the opening of presents we all left for York. The cruise visits many historical sights within view of or by the riverside so the trip would be interesting even if we had to shelter on the covered lower deck. As luck would have it, the weather was excellent for the duration of the cruise then deteriorated once we were travelling back home. For those of you not familiar with the history of York, it is incredibly rich in many aspects having at one time or another been home to the Vikings and Romans to name but two. It was also a major inland international port, the birthplace of Guy Fawkes (famous for failing to blow up the Houses of Parliament) and the place of execution of the Highwayman Dick Turpin (his cell still exists in the Castle Museum).