Plans for the future of the farm

26/11/43    I don’t know whether I’ve told you but on the recommendations of the War Agricultural Committee the electric light people are now prepared to put electric light and power on and are getting out a scheme now. It would be a very real advantage on the farm and would make such things as grass dryers (which I think may have a great future) a possibility quite apart from any amenities it may provide in the house. My inclination is to go on spending but that’s because I’m a spendthrift by nature and can’t bear not to do improvements. What do you feel about it.

27/11/43   My darling Jack you are everything in the world I want in a husband and even at the distance of – I never know how far it is – you succeed in giving some ballast to my irresponsible and wavering mind. And I agree with every word you say. You see the thing is that apart from all the grumbles etc I like farming. I like it better than golf and tennis and riding and parties and everything I’ve ever enjoyed all rolled into one. I’m pretty sure that must be true or I wouldn’t be here now. Yesterday for instance was vile – sleet and wind. I’ve got a semi-broken cob which I’m not prepared to trust to land girls. So I took her out myself to take mangolds down to some heifers. I came in feeling good at a net cost of nothing. And I like that. The part I hate is the loneliness and dullness at night. If you were here I’d love it all.

Then about the farm. I’m really so awfully pleased about your attitude. You see I absolutely hate this place and it’s cold and gloomy, and wet and muddy and boring to an extreme. But for 3 1/2 years I’ve sweated at it and every penny I’ve ever earned I’ve put back into it and now I’ve got two good cottages and a wonderful staff of frightfully nice men – not one of them is less nice than Webb – and the cows are doing well for the first time and I made well over £2,000 in wheat alone this year and in spite of that my overdraft isn’t any smaller and so on and so forth, and the net result is that I don’t really want to be parted with it – at least not until I’ve got the hedges laid and the yard concreted and forty thousand other things it will take me at least five years to do. But when you come back I’ll want to do whatever you want to do. Only I think in my secret heart I’ll always want a farm otherwise I’ll feel jealous and out of it every time I see a haystack. But that I’m sure we could arrange without your necessarily having to farm too if you decide you don’t want to.

Darling do come home soon. I’m bored with this.

27/11/43   I’ve let myself in for a mess. I wrote to Lady Eve Balfour after I read her book and asked to go down and I’m afraid I wrote in the spirit of a possible disciple. She wrote a charming letter back and there’s no way out but in the meantime Stapes and Pat between them have quietly demolished every point I thought any good at all. So I’ve either got to go as a fraud or as an arguer which wasn’t the point at all and I’m no good at that sort of situation – and feel generally horrified. I wish you were here to go with me.

Frances Donaldson
Frankie more relaxed

2/12/43  I want to give you another lecture about the farm. My life has changed a lot lately. I’ve stopped doing any work. I don’t mean by that I do nothing. There are always heaps of things to go and look at and see are all right and I walk round among the men or I use Meg to move sheep or cattle etc. But I never do any work. I shall have to of course in the summer but now I just don’t. Also I don’t go out before breakfast. I just take the attitude that Highman can run the farm until breakfast time and if I want anything special done I tell him the night before. It’s quite all right because in the winter they’ve nearly all got a routine job to do before breakfast – milking, feeding, carting mangolds etc. the result of this new way of behaving is simply extraordinary and I realise fully now what a strain the last year has been. First I look five years younger and much prettier. Then I’m never bad tempered and seldom depressed. And I’m so wonderful with the children. I read to them and play with them and never bite their heads off. And lastly I am so comparatively happy.

Rose Donaldson
Rose

For the first time for about three years I really love the farm. I walk round it feeling good and really liking it and I get real pleasure out of small things like that the cows are really milking extraordinarily well (which isn’t a small thing) and that last night we mated Bubbles to Bonzo. It’s a bad cross because he is a Border and she a white smooth terrier and very small but I couldn’t hear of a terrier dog and he is a very good ratter and rabbiter. We spent hours thinking of names for her puppies. They have to be B’s and all the best ones have been taken by Bubb who bred Bubbles. Finally we decided on Bantam, Bramble, Beastly and Belinda. If you can think of any better ones you can let me know as there’s 9 weeks to go. The names want to suggest a rather cocky and courageous little dog.

My mother also privately gave them names of several b-swearwords as a joke but these had to be given up when the puppies found homes. My puppy was called Biscuit and slept with me every night until my father came home from the war. He was very shocked and talked me into giving her away. I remember my mother being very angry when she discovered what he had done. Dogs were always important to her.

4/12/43   Here is the lecture I promised you two days ago. If your cows in milk are averaging less than 2 gallons a head you are doing damn badly. If they’re doing 3 you’ve reached the meccas of the milk producers’ dreams. Darling I think we’re about to start making money. If I could add at all I could tell you how. …

4/12/43   I’ve been explaining why I think we’ve made money here. Of course Price (the cowman) has a lot to do with it but it doesn’t matter how it’s done as long as it is. Of course I suppose I get more kick out of all this because I’ve always had so much trouble with the cows and I always found it more difficult to get high yields than someone who kicked off fairly well as a lot of people do. But any way I’m as proud as a turkey cock and I nearly embrace Price every time I see him and I really do think there’s reason to suppose I’ve at last broken the back of it and things should go now.

I therefore – now that you’ve decided we won’t sell the farm – propose to spend some more money on it. I want to put in electric light if at all possible, I want to do whatever is necessary to improve the water supply and I want to do something about the roads and the yard. I don’t know whether we can afford to do all these this year or not but they would make it a possible place to live in and they wouldn’t have actually to be paid for before the spring or summer when we shall be nearer next harvest. So I hope to get general approval from you.

Land girls in WWII
Land girls clearing mud, with Thomas helping

 

One reason I want to do all these things is I want it to be nice for you. I want you to be able to bring your friends down a reasonable drive through a reasonable yard into a comfortable house. And I want you to be able to show them fields with the hedges laid (not that they’d notice or care but still) etc. etc. You’ve never been here in the winter so you’ve no idea how God awful it is at the moment.

Dick wrote. He will send you some books and still wants me to write another. A cow kicked me on the nose this afternoon. She actually got me with her hock. It didn’t bleed much but is completely bunged up and I can’t breathe so I must assume a position where I don’t have to bend my head over. So I’ll stop. Do come soon and help spend the money. All my love my own darling

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A Woman's War