How did I get into this? A 10-word “tie breaker” to win tickets to
Live 8 (I had a wonderful time, thank you) and the next minute I’m
being asked to tell Press Gazette readers about my working week. Panic
sets in as I realise that editing Cow Management, the UK’s leading
technical dairy farming magazine, is not like heading up the Radio
Times or Cosmopolitanâ€¦ this may be just a little bit different.
Day starts badly. My six-year-old “alarm clock” decides to pick
today to sleep in. It’s a mad dash to get out of the house in time for
the school run. Then it’s a drive to the Norfolk/Suffolk border to
interview what is fast becoming an endangered species – a dairy farmer
based in East Anglia.
In my rush, I leave my Wellingtons at home.
I spend an hour tiptoeing between cowpats in my smartest “work” shoes
as, sit-down interview finished, the farmer proudly shows me his
black-and-white dairy cows so I can take some photographs.
Thankfully, it isn’t raining and both shoes and my new digital camera survive unscathed.
4am start. Have to drive to the airport to catch a flight to Dublin.
I have a meeting with an international feeds company about their latest
nutritional innovations for beef and dairy cows. Then it’s a short
drive up to Northern Ireland to interview another dairy farmer. Cow
Management may be only three years old, but already dairy farmers say
it’s their preferred reading.
This is a hands-on job – quite literally. In all the excitement, the
farmer’s eldest son has left the gate from the farm to the main road
open and I help to block the road while his cows do their best to
abscond. I’ve met many camera-shy dairy farmers, but cows?
by this gaff and having to enrol my services, the farmer becomes
somewhat subdued and his wife flaps around the kitchen making cups of
tea and offering tempting slabs of homemade cake. I help myself – well,
it would be rude not to – the farmer calms down, his humour returns,
and I get my story.
Drive to Belfast and take the opportunity to
catch up with my sister. She’s “on tour” here as an army nurse. Just
time for an early dinner with her before she starts the night shift and
I go in search of a bed and breakfast and a good night’s sleep.
Back home and the emails are backing up. Mainly press releases from
the National Farmers’ Union and the Department for the Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs. I also get the usual bizarre selection whose
contents leave me wondering just how did my name end up on that mailing
There are a couple from my chief editor, who is based in Holland,
asking me to confirm which of the next issue’s features are on their
way and for possible dates for the next editorial meeting.
call from the local dairy farmer, asking if I’m free to help him with
milking tomorrow morning. Mornings are difficult (school run), but I
agree to do the afternoon milking.
It’s great to get your hands
dirty, once in a while. It’s good to be at the sharp end of milk
production – it helps me to appreciate dairy farmer concerns and to
plan topical features for future issues.
Deadlines are looming. Summer’s a busy time in the agricultural
calendar and everyone seems to want stories at the same time. But a
long day on the phone – and a long evening in front of the PC – should
keep me on track.
Will reward myself with escaping from the office this afternoon once
I’ve finished the feature that’s due on Friday about a producer who has
had considerable success in improving the quality of his herd’s milk. I
also have to interview the agricultural director of HSBC over the phone
and make my weekly call to the Meat and Livestock Commission and the
NFU to get an update on progress towards the end of the “over 30
months” beef testing scheme.
Cycle to the dairy farm and arrive
early (no punctures and a prevailing wind) and get the best job to
myself – fetching the cows in from their grazing field. Spend milking
thinking about an article I have to research and write on keeping cows
cool. Not concentrating and number 71, seizing her moment, demonstrates
her displeasure at being milked by someone other than the regular
herdsman. It’s one hell of a dirty protest and I’m in the wrong place
at the wrong time. And guess who thought it was too hot to wear her
Tired this evening. Fall asleep in front of
the early evening news after tea. Follow my son to bed at 9pm. So much
for working at my desk tonight.
Working from home can be distracting, but not normally in the early hours! A strange thudding sound wakes me at 5am.
I wander, half asleep, downstairs to find a starling flying around
the dining room and occasionally head-butting the French windows. It’s
not dissimilar to the way I behave when my computer crashes for the
third time in less than an hour.
That’s the one thing I miss about working in an office – IT support!
The starling looks like a blackbird after its descent of my chimney and there’s soot everywhere. No time to clean up.
and school bells dictate today’s pace. So I bravely open the French
doors to let the bird out and close the internal door to the hall on
the carnage. We breakfast in the kitchen and I try not to think about
Too many calls to make, words to write, photos to organise, pages to proof.
promise myself that if I just get that feature finished then I’ll clear
up the soot, do a pile of washing, make a lasagne for supper, sort out
the recycling basket, make a shopping list. If only the phone would