Last winter it was hardly fired up as it was so mild, and I have a reputation for being mean when it comes to heating the house; I encourage my family to put on extra layers rather than turn up the thermostat. So very little wood was burnt, which meant there was little need to refill the wood shed during the summer – one less job to do.
We are told that last year was the hottest since records began. I find this somewhat surprising. As far as I can recall we never really had any exceptionally hot days during the summer, although it is correct to say the autumn and early winter were exceptionally mild.
It is interesting how the weather buffs like to play with statistics and temperatures. No doubt someone will before too long come up with an alternative analysis, suggesting all predictions of man-made rising temperatures to be groundless, or at least are just part of normal climate fluctuation.
Farmers have since 1991 been encouraged by successive governments and commissions to diversify into all kinds of alternative businesses, to ensure we do not rely wholly upon traditional agriculture. This we have done, none more so than small family farms which have used resources such as old farm buildings, and converted them into business units, workshops, farm shops and tea rooms. Others have created woodland walks and play areas for paintballing, clay pigeon shooting, and other outdoor activities for the public.
There have also been opportunities for landowners to boost income during difficult times, with telecom mast installations. By allowing phone operators to install and operate a typical mast site of 10x 10m, the annual income has been around £5,000. When most farmers took up these options some twenty years ago, farming incomes where at a low, much like they are today. This additional income was and still is, in many cases a lifeline.
Now new government proposals for an Infrastructure Bill would allow the secretary of state to step in and interfere with negotiations and decide what a landowner could charge an operator for site use. This could result in farmers losing out significantly. Amendments suggest the fee would be based on the value of the land and\or crops lost, rather than the site to the operator. This could be as little as £20 – when normally the annual income expected is around £5,000.
In addition to this the amendments would allow operators to share sites and equipment without paying any additional fee, or sell their lease to another operator or infrastructure company.
The Infrastructure Bill is due to be debated this week in Parliament, let us hope that enough MPs recognise the financial damage this legislation could inflict upon farmers. The mast operators benefit hugely from siting their sub stations and masts on private land, and they don’t exactly give away their services to millions of mobile phone users. This is yet another instance when politicians should stop interfering; they are meant to be reducing red tape and bureaucracy not increasing it.
There may be some hope at last for dairy farmers. It seems that dairy cattle meat is being tipped to take London steakhouses by storm in preference to traditional beef cattle meat. Once thought to be worthy of only being fed to animals or sold at knockdown prices to processors, dairy cattle meat is now becoming popular with producers, restaurants and diners.
Meat from dairy cattle, some as old as fifteen is now considered a tasty delicacy. Perhaps if the public are not prepared to pay a fair price for the milk these cattle produce, they can eat them instead. This could result in a decline in numbers which in turn may perhaps create a shortage of milk, thus raising once again the price of our daily pint to a realistic level.
The wedding industry is about to become transformed. Chris Grayling is for some reason; perhaps he has little else to do, looking at reviewing where and how marriages take place, in the wake of the gay wedding legalisation. Weddings which were once a solemn and significant event, could soon be conducted by just about anyone, anywhere; apparently even down the aisle of a Tesco store. Well, I suppose even supermarkets need to diversify.
In the light of this my neighbours could well be in for a shock as I note that British Naturists are looking to hold weddings out in the open with the bride and groom and the guests in the nude! Oh well, there goes my reputation once again, but ever a slave to diversification! It’s a funny old world.
Carola Godman Irvine