Learning to milk: Preparing to take over

16/6/42   Something happened to-day which I took as an omen. One of the men was fixing a pipe (we were making silage for which you need a lot of water.) There was an elbow joint between two pipes and he broke a bit so that there were no threads left to screw the joint on. Consternation! I thought to myself how, when I am the bailiff, I shall have to deal with this sort of problem and I simply don’t understand them and black out in face of them. And I had that sinking of the tummy which I often have when I think about being without Carling. I went to watch — he tried one or two futile ideas and no-one had any idea of what to do. Then I said “You know there’s a rubber elbow joint exactly that shape on the milking machine”. Terrific smiles and general relief all round, and it worked and I was privately fit to bust with pride! As an achievement, not very great, but as an omen, lovely.

There was a heavenly bit in your letter, where you said there was one thing you couldn’t approve  and that was the once mentioned suggestion that I should send the children away — in fact, you wouldn’t allow it. About once a year you say you won’t allow something, and I really don’t know which gives me the more pleasure, the fact that you do allow me to do all sorts of things which no-one else would allow their wives to do, or the fact, that just every now and then, you say you won’t allow this, that or the other. I think it is a purely masculine reaction to say “I won’t allow” and a purely feminine one to enjoy it. Of course I should never dream of sending the children away. What would I do without them? I must have been at a very low ebb the day I suggested that.

23/6/42   I have painted the garden side of the house the blue of the cowshed and white. You have no idea how pretty it looks. I think it has put £100 on the value of the farm. And I am having some barn roofs mended and all the doors in the yard mended and painted. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for it. I shall do the inside of the house as nicely as I can in wartime and it will all be great fun. And perhaps next year you’ll come back and share it.

I have started to learn to hand-milk. The first morning Carling came to show me and he didn’t believe I had never done it before. So I was pleased. But this morning I had another and more difficult cow and I found out there was something to learn and that Carling was quite good at teaching. So I was pleased at that too, because I love learning.

handmilking a dairy cow. Learning to milk
Milking a cow by hand

Foremilk stripping: Several squirts of milk are removed from each quarter. This is done into a strip cup, where the white flakes or clots in the milk will be collected and show up against the black screen of the strip cup top.  Cows with flakes or clots in their milk probably have some form of mastitis. This is the most common means of identifying clinical mastitis. Typically, the milk that was furthest down in the gland at the start of milking, that is closest to the teat end, is high in somatic cells. Eliminating this by stripping results in lowered overall somatic cells in the milk that is harvested. Learning to milk was important for Frankie.
23/6/42   The news is awful, isn’t it? I can’t stop thinking about that jaundice and how I should be feeling. (Jack would still have been in Tobruk if he had not had jaundice) I should also very much like to know where you are. I hope it is Persia, but I have a faint feeling it may be further, as you spoke of flying, and I shouldn’t have thought you would have to fly that distance. I do hope it isn’t further.

Thomas’s arithmetic is really brilliant and he is beginning to read a bit. I think you could now start a serious correspondence in block letters with him. Make the words short and simple and he will be able to read it and to answer himself.

This country is now absolutely lousy with American soldiers so I suppose there really is going to be a second front. Everyone says we haven’t got the ships to get them there, much less supply them.

24/6/42   I work hard and I am tired but, in spite of the appalling war news, I’m happy. I’m excited about the farm. I’m awfully pleased with the painting and the house looks so absolutely sweet that I bicycle right round it to get to the buildings just to have a look at it. I dream of next winter when I shall chop down all those ghastly laurels and plant flowering shrubs. When I have made a garden in addition to all the concrete and paint, and when I’ve done the inside of the house, no-one will know the place.

I’m getting on slowly but fairly surely with the hand-milking in the morning and in the afternoon I am more or less permanently second cowman. I must say I find them all pretty stupid. I’ve only been milking a short time, but if I was head cowman I would reorganize the whole routine and system of milking and I absolutely know I’d get better yields.

The war news is unbelievably awful, isn’t it? I believe they’ll get Egypt. Anyway, thank God you’re not there. (June 21, 1942  Rommel captures Tobruk.)

29/6/42   Anni and Haschi were here. I had a letter from Malcolm Messer. He is going to publish my article on housing and he said he and Mary Griggs, who edits the women’s section, were quarrelling over which of them should have it. I am very pleased and I want you to know about it because the article is very left wing and quite unequivocal about nationalisation. I don’t know what the circulation of the Farmers’ Weekly is, but at least it must be many times as great as the people who read A to F. It has all worked out exactly as I had hoped. I think it is far better to get a name for writing a book which entertains people and doesn’t touch on socialism, and then come out as socialist afterwards than to go at it hammer and tongs before anyone cares what you think.

30/6/42   The news is appalling (June 30, 1942  Rommel reaches El Alamein near Cairo, Egypt.) — I don’t believe we’ve got a dog’s chance of holding Egypt and I think the papers have already started preparing the public mind for the fact that we may have to get out of the Mediterranean altogether. I wouldn’t mind so much if it meant home for you. But I’m afraid it could only mean imprisonment by the Germans or India and the Japs, either of which would be so much worse than the present.

scything or grass cutting
Scything can be used to clear places where a mowing machine does go easily

In the meantime I am becoming quite a good cowman, but this morning, I wielded a scythe and  my hands, which I thought were so hard, are now covered in enormous water blisters and I shan’t be able to hand-milk for a few days. I thought of you while scything.

 

 

 

 

Jack wrote from Iran about his new work:   

Jack Donaldson in World War II1/7/42   I’ve been terribly busy, and the heat down south here is so intense it leaves one hardly able to get thro’ the day’s work. The day before yesterday I cracked, and produced a temperature of 103, which may be sandfly fever. However, I’m in quite a comfortable hospital, and will have lost Terence the tape-worm by the time I go out.  To give you some idea of the heat — at 5 am the bathwater is still too hot to get under — you can burn your hand by touching metal in the shade — nobody tries to sleep in the afternoons — you sweat too  much — it’s been 123/4 in the shade lately — there have been a number of deaths from heatstroke. It couldn’t be more tiresome to crack up just now, as we’re just beginning to get the new organization going, and I want to be everywhere all the time. The job is going to be a very good one and a very exciting one, and I think I can make a go of it. It will carry a Lt.Colonel later, which is all to the good.

2/7/42    The most interesting thing here is that Bill’s friends (the Russians) are, so to speak, the chief customers. They seem to be very sticky and narrow-minded, but I feel confident, probably wrongly, that by a little  bullying I can make them less so. I haven’t met them yet, so I don’t know. But it’s nice to see an occasional red star in the streets. They seem a tough and simple lot. This for them is a sort of rest from the real war, and they are changed every so often

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A Woman's War