June 1

******THEY'RE HERE!******

At long last, our test animals have arrived. Sixteen calves and a dozen sheep.Oh what a lot of grass for us.

It was so good watching them walk off the trailers, although they were strangely silent, as if they were walking into a memorial chapel or something. With a MooMoo here...

It wasn't until I went to check them at midnight that I heard the first quiet "moo" to break the silence of eleven weeks and two days.

I was told by the MAFF man who supervised their arrival that we are the first in Essex to restock, and possibly the first in the country. We are still under "Form A" restrictions, that is to say, effectively quarantined, for another four weeks, with weekly veterinary inspections. It will be tight timing, but we still hope to re-open to the public for the summer holiday, provided movement orders are relaxed in time. News of the disease from up north is not encouraging, but, cynic that I am, I would not be surprised to hear a bit better news in time for the election. The Danish radio interview was broadcast and can be heard (if you're quick) on the internet. The address for the audiofile is http://www.dr.dk/orientering/or010523.ram and the British farming piece comes after 12 minutes (approx.).

10 June

Well, the animals have all settled in and passed their first veterinary inspection. The MAFF vet did say, however, that he couldn't see us getting the sheep back from Wales until after Christmas, since animals can't be moved from a higher risk area to a lower risk one. So I guess we mustn't get too excited about having an income again just yet.

I recently attended our local Business Council for a discussion on F&M; they were keen to help businesses who have lost out badly. An interesting point from the tourism side is that some country attractions have been doing really well because of the restrictions and closures. A local castle and a fishing lake have experienced an upturn, so I guess it is all gloom and boom.

We have been informed that we need a Ministry licence to make hay this year; I think our local office must be getting bored with having no new outbreaks, and so are thinking up new ways to occupy their time. During the first weeks of the outbreak we heard NOTHING from MAFF; no advice, no warnings of clinical signs, NOTHING when we really needed it. It was left to the NFU and trade associations to get out the message. Now we get reams of bumff about all sorts of things from forage conservation on infected premises to dioxins in milk. It would be nice to have some milk, with or without dioxins.

We still have a rather obvious reminder of our clean-up in the form of three huge tanks, full of slurry and disinfectant, which are still gracing our farmyard. The contents were sampled a fortnight ago, supposedly to determine what treatment, if any, was required before disposal. The big problem is that no-one seems to be able to take a decision on exactly what to do with the stuff. If it hangs around here much longer I might just be tempted to tell them! A man from the contractors also came on tank business: he was counting them. It seems that no less than 13 have managed to get lost - 13 tanks each about 3 metres in diameter and 10 metres long!

17 June

Another successful inspection by the vet takes us half-way to freedom. The sentinel animals are thriving, but some of the "old" ones are having problems. The Shetland stallion has got a touch of laminitis as a result of having too much grass around, and the old collie has taken to relieving the boredom by chasing the ducks until they drop with exhaustion. Roll on normality.

Essex County Council has been ordered by central government to re-open all footpaths next week. I 'phoned to check that they seriously wanted to open up our farmyard to walkers and was told that, yes, and they had no option! I pointed out the ridiculous situation whereby, whilst we have to be licensed and disinfect on and off, any other Tom, Dick or Harry can come and go at will! Another call to MAFF led, ultimately, to confirmation from London that the path was to remain closed whatever ECC said.

Friday saw my elder daughter's degree results published, an, hopefully, the end of all the stress and anxiety that entails. She is thrilled with her 2/1 and is now casting around looking for work. Does anyone require a first-class flautist?

29 June

Our fourth and last veterinary inspection has now taken place, complete with blood samples. Now all we have to do is await the results. In good MAFF (or DEFRA as they now like to call themselves) tradition, no-one can give me any indication of how long that wait might be. I'm hoping to hear within a week, but that is not based on any good information. Our problem is that we are in the vanguard of the restocking movement, and there are no rules, regulations or protocols to follow; without these, the ministry is lost.

The news of a new outbreak in Wales is a blow. Although about 30 miles from our hoped-for animals, it will, without doubt be a set-back to our getting them home.

Faced with a farm full of grass and no animals to eat it, we spent some of our compensation on a tractor that actually works so that we can get on with some hay-making.

The business of spending money has to be approached with extreme caution at the moment. We must be careful not to spend what is needed for replacement stock. Immediately after our being declared infected, our bank balance plummeted, only to swing wildly up as the compensation and contracting cheques arrived. I certainly can't blame those farmers who, at this point choose to quit, but since we don't intend to, we must farm this cash carefully. We have already been 15 weeks without any income, and it will probably be a full year at least before we can cover our costs, and maybe three before we are back to full strength. During this time we have to live and pay our way, whilst leaving sufficient for purchase of stock. It is going to be a nail-biting winter, I fear!

Exciting news for me is that I have a date - July 5th - for my second cataract operation. Maybe I will be able to spot the spelling mistaques by this time next week. .

4 July

Independence Day? Not yet for us, I fear; not until those blood test results come back.

We managed to get some hay round-baled, and a whole lot more is pretty close. I intend to turn it before I go off for my op., and hope that my son will be able to row it up for baling, because I will have to be a bit careful for a while. I only hope the weather holds another couple of days.

I attended a DEFRA seminar at Writtle College (my old college) this week, the aim of which was to consider where to go after F&M. This was principally aimed, I assume, at all those who are still in production, but who have been severely hit by the restrictions, but nevertheless it was quite a useful afternoon for me, if only from the people I met. I must admit that, at times, my mind went back to the Danish Radio broadcast, the theme of which was "The Death of British Farming". It is so tragic that it is now impossible to make a living from basic food production without loads of add-on gimmicks. It is no wonder so many farmers are just giving up the struggle. I fail to understand how a country expects to prosper if it neglects its primary and secondary industries. All we are left with then are service industries and the like, parasitic upon the production of other countries. I only hope we never have another war; we'll starve in days. You can't eat I.T.

End of moan! But I had to get that off my chest.