Frankie takes on the milking. War continues

Milking problems accumulate and Frankie found it impossible to get standards of cleanliness high enough, so she takes over herself.

31/7/42   Samples of everyone’s milk are tested by the Medical Officer of Health every so often. There are two tests, one is called the Methylene blue test and is for bacteria which may be present for a number of reasons and is difficult to trace. The other is for bacillus coli which can only be present in the milk if dung or urine has got in, i.e. thro’ dirty production. It is not only rather a disgrace to have a dirty test but also you may lose your TT and Accredited licences if you have too many.

cows being washed. Milking problems
Dairy cows bags being washed by landgirls before milking

We have had three dirty tests and the last two have been Bacillus Coli. I have threatened and implored etc and done everything I could and now we have had the third I have just said I won’t have Hall in the milking shed any more but will do it myself. He is a slovenly slut and doesn’t make any pretence of trying to produce clean milk, and I am fed up with it. I have said I will pay him the same money to work on the land for two months if he will stay, but otherwise he can get out with a week’s notice … Either way I’m not going to have him in the cowshed any more. It will mean I shall have to get up before 6 (which, until the extra hour comes off, is before 4) because I shall have to get the cows in myself and this takes ½ an hour, but it will be a good opportunity to get a lot of experience while Carling is still here to advise me.

ayrshire dairy cows in field
Fetching the cows from the field for milking

6/8/42   I am now head cowman and the alarm wakes me at 5.30 a.m. and I rush out to fetch the cows. Last night I went to bed at 8 o’clock. With the double summer time it really means that one is getting up at 3.0, which is practically the same as doing a night shift. I hope I shall adjust to it and finally not get too tired. It is all going very well. I am (very privately) convinced that I am a better cowman in every way (except stripping) than Hall. Not only is the shed spotless throughout the milking but the cows are up 5 gallons since I started. That can’t be counted to me as they have been moved to a field with more keep but as Carling predicted they would go down it is at least satisfactory.

The only news is that, thro’ a mistake or bloody mindedness, the Labour Exchange are threatening to call up Nora to a factory, in spite of representations made by me that I could not carry on the farm without her. I think it is a mistake, but if it isn’t, by the time I have marshalled the War Committee, Buck and if necessary Mr Bevin himself, they won’t be able to get away with it. But it worries me unceasingly just the same.

The war news is so utterly terrifying and awful I scarcely dare think of it or turn on the wireless. I have found myself asking myself whether it is conceivable we are not going to win this war. How shocking is the behaviour of Congress and of Mr Gandhi too. (see below)

8/8/42   I had a letter from you to-day written in the train and all about Bill’s friends. You say you hope I’m interested. Now just so as you shall have no excuse I must tell you that I am ABSOLUTELY FASCINATED. I want to hear every detail and all they say and do and what they look like and whether you have any political discussions and whether they like you and if you like them. My picture is of everything on our side being madly standoffish in a thoroughly boring middle-class way and then you arrive with real geniality and charm and friendliness and also are very efficient, and we deliver twice as much as ever before. For the first time I really envy you your job and please do what you can to allay jealousy by telling all the details.

10/8/42   The war news seems so much worse than it has ever been. How do we think we’re going to win if the Russians get beaten? (July 5, 1942  Soviet resistance in the Crimea ends. July 9, 1942  Germans begin a drive toward Stalingrad in the USSR. September 13, 1942  Battle of Stalingrad begins)

Then, what about Gandhi and his Congress Party? (On 8th August 1942, Mahatma Gandhi launched the Quit India Movement for freedom from British rule in Mumbai [Bombay]) Have you heard a single reason for their behaviour which throws a respectable light on it? I’ve always thought Gandhi a sort of saint and Nehru a very fine man; but what are these goings on? I am sure our offer was a genuine one. Cripps is honest and he would never have sponsored it if there had been a hidden loophole. And anyway, what a time to start playing into Japanese hands! Blast the Left. With the exception of the Russians themselves they let one down with equal perfidy and frivolity both to the right and the left.

Personal news is quite good. Carling saw the War Committee and quite likes the sound of their job and has gone to Northampton to-day about another job, and will probably take one or the other. I have heard from the Labour Exchange that Nora need not go for an interview, so that is a load off my mind. Then, (this is a superstitious one) I lost my watch, the one you gave me. The strap broke and I only knew I had lost it somewhere between here and the canal bank. I was slightly depressed. It seemed so horrid losing that particular thing. This morning the children were up at the farm and Thomas (whose arrival it marked) found it in the orchard. Just as there was more rejoicing over one that was lost and found, I find this is a good omen.

12/8/42   You say you are well and busy and I can see you are thrilled and for the first time I feel you are getting the right sort of fun out of life. You also say Reggie asks for Colonel Donaldson. It is grand, isn’t it? I wish they’d hurry up and put it through. For one thing, I’m told it makes a very real difference from the money point of view.

Rose Donaldson by car
Rose in macintosh hat standing by the Hillman MInx

The other day Rose and some of her beastly friends were at the farm. It was raining and she had on a macintosh hat. She came back without it and said in an airy way which nobody questioned that it had blown off, and she had lost it. To-day at lunch, Thomas (who is a fearful tell-tale) told us that she had put an egg in it and the egg had got broken, so in order not to admit to the broken egg she had chucked the whole lot, hat and egg away. She really is a vile child.

15/8/42   Yesterday I ran into Kitty Sackville in Stratford. She said she was staying with the Malcolm Sargents who had got a house there for a week to see the plays. I asked myself to lunch because I had never really met him and I thought it would be fun. He was very sweet but as a matter of fact we didn’t get on very well. I couldn’t think of anything to say to him, and he is a dreadful poseur, I think. He sent you many messages and was very friendly.

16/8/42  I had a blistering row with Carling this morning, which probably was a mistake and I probably wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t so frightfully tired. Have I told you that the other day we had an abortion? It really is a good one as the cows were tested only four weeks ago, and we had the most wonderful clear test. Then we get our first abortion in 2 ½ years. There is of course a chance that it was simply an ordinary abortion and not contagious, but one must act the other way. Anyway, this is particularly difficult to deal with because the animal aborted in the night at not more than three or four months and I simply found the foetus when I went down for the cows  the next morning. We have therefore been unable to trace the cow as they close up again immediately at that stage and so we can’t do anything for a month as since they were only tested a month ago they wouldn’t show any reaction in less than two months from then. But it is frightfully important to isolate the herd from everything else on the farm. We’ve got a lot of dry cows and heifers down the end of the farm and they have a nasty habit of getting out and coming home.

Yesterday they got out and I saw them in the field next the cows. It never occurred to me that Carling would leave them there and any way it’s simply a waste of time my giving him any orders about the movement of stock because he doesn’t take the slightest notice. This morning when I went down for the cows three of the dry cows were in with them. It was only luck that all the others weren’t in with them too — a risk of £500 to £1,000 worth of stock. So when I saw Carling I bawled him out — It didn’t do the slightest good, in fact only harm. You see he so sincerely thinks he is simply wonderful in every way and quite incapable of making a mistake that, when he is rebuked, he not only finds it tiresome but extremely unjust. So he becomes very rude indeed and very self righteously indignant. None of which improves my temper and we still have six weeks to go. He is going to take the job with the War Committee. Clyde Higgs is chairman of the Demonstration Committee. I hug to my heart the belief that one day Mr Higgs will tell him all the things about himself he ought to know.

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

A Woman's War