Where there’s muck . . .


THERE is nothing, but nothing, like the aroma of muck spreading. Even I can detect it after three sinus operations about 25 years ago just about knocked out my sense of smell (for example I can barely smell TCP disinfectant), so it must be strong. But it lasts only a short time, less than a day I would say.

It is basically cowpats collected while the cows are indoors in the winter, plus the straw they are kept on, then left outside to rot. (No wonder it stinks.) It contains nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and adds organic matter to the soil. Best of all, it’s free (apart from the labour involved in handling it).

For a long time muck spreading was not permitted in the autumn but last year the government rules were relaxed in most places in view of rising fertiliser costs and shortage of supply caused partly by the Ukraine war and the increase in energy prices. According to the House of Lords library, in the year to May 2022 the price of UK-produced ammonia nitrate fertiliser had increased by 152 per cent and imported prices had increased by 171 per cent. The price of potassium chloride fertiliser (potash) was up by 165 per cent and phosphate fertilisers by up to 128 per cent. This means that slurry has risen in value – literally ‘where there’s muck there’s brass’.

There are still strict rules about not spreading it when the soil is waterlogged or frozen, and a buffer zone must be left beside water courses.

I think this video was made for children (I hope it was anyway, otherwise it’s a bit patronising) but it is very informative.


It’s past the middle of October and we have had a couple of quite sharp frosts but this sunflower in the village is still smiling cheerfully.

And here are some spear thistles (Cirsium vulgare) building up their strength for winter. Next summer they should be about 4ft tall. 


This isn’t one of my usual topics for this column, but it’s a Note by me and I live in the Sticks, so I think it counts. Last week I discovered the most amazing young pianist, Yunchan Lim from South Korea. He is only 19 but he is already a star.

Here he is with the third movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 5, which I think was recorded when he was 18. Apart from the marvellous performance, I love the joy he (and the conductor) show.

This joy is wonderfully evident in this short video of the 14-year-old Lim and a friend attacking the finale of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 2 at school in Seoul. I defy you to watch it without smiling.

These young men and other musicians in the Far East give me hope that some shreds of Western civilisation may survive, even if on a different continent.


Goat of the Week

I AM running a bit low on sheep so from now on I am going to intersperse them with other livestock and poultry.

The Golden Guernsey is a rare breed of dairy goat from Guernsey, where it has been known for more than two hundred years. By the 1930s it was almost extinct when a Miss Miriam Milbourne set up a breeding group. In 1940 the Channel Islands were invaded by Germany and during the war most livestock was slaughtered. However the story goes (repeated, as ever, almost word for word on every internet site) that Miss Milbourne was able to hide a small group for several years, and the breed survived. I would be intrigued to know how on earth anyone can hide a herd of goats, and indeed a 2020 article in the Guernsey Press says that the goats were not concealed but kept in a small field opposite the home where Miss Milbourne lived with her parents, being locked up only at night. However food for both islanders and occupiers was desperately short and it is surprising that the goats did not end up on the table.

In 1965 Golden Guernseys were exported to the mainland for the first time.

As the name suggests, they are golden in colour, in all shades, with or without small white markings and blaze or star on the head. There is great variety in coat length. The males usually have splendid horns. They are smaller and more fine-boned than other British milking goats, and are easy to handle.

The breed has a moderate milk yield, producing around 4 or 5 pints per day, but since it has a lower food intake it is considered an efficient producer. The milk has a high butterfat and protein content and so is good for making yoghurt or cheese.

You can learn more about the breed at the Golden Guernsey Goat Society website

Here is a video in which a youngster tries to teach itself the laws of physics.


Wheels of the Week

TODAY we are resuming the occasional series featuring cars photographed by TCW contributor Brian Meredith when he chanced upon the Mille Miglia Rally in Florence in 2013. I wrote about the background here, and this is part of the article as a reminder:

‘The “Mille Miglia” (“a thousand miles”) was a race which took place on public roads in Italy 24 times from 1927 to 1957 (thirteen before World War II, eleven from 1947). There were various routes of roughly 1,000 miles. It was shockingly dangerous. Over the 24 races in 30 years, 56 people died – 24 drivers/co-drivers and 32 spectators. It all ended in 1957 when Spaniard Alphonso de Portago crashed his 4-litre Ferrari 335 S, killing himself, his co-driver and nine spectators, five of whom were children. These days, they hold the Mille Miglia Rally for cars which were registered to take part in the original race.’

This is an Austin Healey 100/4 BN1 made in 1954, 2,660cc.

The 100 BN1 was the first car produced by Austin-Healey which was   formed in 1952 through a joint venture between the Austin division of the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and the Donald Healey Motor Company. Healey (1898-1988), an English car designer and rally driver, had established his firm in 1945 in Warwick.

The car was named for its ability to reach 100 mph. A BN1 tested by Motor magazine in 1953 had a top speed of 106 mph and could accelerate from 0–60 mph in 11.2 seconds. Fuel consumption was 22.5 mpg. It cost £1,063 including taxes (£24,638 now, according to the Bank of England inflation calculator). They are worth a lot more now, as this sales listing shows. The top price is £139,000.

There are lots of details in this listing from another dealer.

A total of 10,030 BN1s were built from May 1953 until the model was replaced by the BN2 in August 1955. I have been unable to discover what the ‘/4’ designates.

Here is a video of a similar model in full-throated action.

Engine fans might enjoy this video in which a group of enthusiasts attempt to get a 100 engine going after about 50 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *