So where's the snow?

Muddling through life from Austria to Wales; God, life and a small black dog

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Scenes at Farnham Rural life Museum


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Guest Post: Hope Ellis-Ashburn

Welcome to Hope! I found her latest book absolutely fascinating, the social history had me riveted, until the end!

Tell me about your life? Where do you live? Do you have a family or pets?

I grew up on a dairy farm in rural Southeast Tennessee, USA. We milked 125 head of Holstein cattle and raised crops such as alfalfa, corn, and soybeans on two farms totalling 600 acres. I love all animals but was born with a passion for horses. I got the first horse that I actually owned when I was 12 years old. She was a 13.2hh Spotted Saddle Horse (pony) that I rode English and western. While over the years I rode a variety of pony and horse-sized equines, my actual first horse-sized partner of my own was an Arabian gelding named Faax El Din. I won him as a prize in an essay contest when I was 16 years old. I have been devoted to the Arabian breed ever since. I attended college at Middle Tennessee State University where I was on the horse judging and equestrian teams while working toward my bachelor of science degree in horse science. I attended graduate school at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville earning a master of science degree in agricultural education. I hold teaching credentials in agricultural education and business education. I am married and have a 17-year-old daughter who is a senior in high school. Writing is my side job that I do on a part-time basis. I’m a full-time career and technology education teacher, instructing classes in business education at a local high school. Presently, I live near a small town about forty-five minutes away from where I grew up. My family and I reside in a remodelled 1927 farmhouse that was originally built by my husband’s grandparents. My husband and his family own the farm on which we live. It is a Tennessee Century Farm meaning that it has been in continuous agricultural operation by the same family for over 100 years. Our farm has met that criteria for 195 years! On our farm, we raise hay and black Angus cattle. My half-Arabian mare, Sally, lives on the farm with us along with her pet donkey, Harmony. We also have two Border Collie farm dogs, Gus and Daisy, and a house cat, Rose.

Why did I begin writing?

I’ve had a love for writing for as long as I can remember. In school, I often wrote short stories just for fun. Prior to my teaching career, I worked for the extension service which allowed me to write newspaper articles, newsletters, and some educational material. In 2015, on a whim, I wrote a true, short story about a horse show experience and submitted it to EQUUS magazine for consideration. It was picked up and it really all began then. Since then I’ve written everything from true stories to more technical pieces relying on my expertise in the horse industry which dates back over thirty years. My articles have covered everything from trailer tyres to pasture management, and everything in between. My client list is one I am proud of and includes: EQUUS, Horse Illustrated, the American Quarter Horse Journal, Arabian Horse Life, Sidelines, US Equestrian, and Hoof Beats magazines. I have also written for blog.

Tell me about your latest book:

In March of this year, I released my second book, “Always Hope: How dairy cows and Arabian horses inspired grit in a young girl’s life.” It’s my coming of age story about growing up on a dairy farm and my amazing first Arabian horse. It’s both sad and humorous and paints a true picture of farm life. It’s available on Amazon.

What are your future plans for writing?

With my current one just out, I haven’t thought much yet about another book. Certainly, I plan to continue writing for my clients.

What is your all-time favourite book?

I have always loved Gone with the Wind. Not only is it my favourite book, but it’s also my favourite movie! The main character, Scarlett O’Hara, is such a strong female personality. I admire her strength and resilience.

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Modern farming!

Today in Tamsweg was the most enormous queue of tractors and trailers. I think every farmer in Lungau was dumping the plastic wrappings and nets from their silage and haylage balls. Where will all this go? Better those who have a silage pit or clamp? Better back to more risky old fashioned hay making?

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We’re always being told about how things go back to your childhood, but this one I know goes back. No idea how old I was, but in our house in Winchester, we had a huge storm overhead. A loud one. and I was scared. I must have yelled. So for once I had my mother’s attention and I think my brothers too as they banged away on the piano and made me laugh. So I relate storms as being positive things, where I have some love and attention around me. Daft innit?


It also means that I like to play ‘scare’ in the garden when a storm comes down the valley, just how long before the closeness sends me scuttling in. There’s probably something Freudian in that too!


Coming storms also send me out with the camera for shots of building clouds and dark horizons. We’ve had a spate of daily storms going along with the recent hot spell.


This farmhouse always reminds me of the house peeping over the hill at the start of ‘watch with mother’. Showing my age here!

The farmers around went mad cutting their fields for hay, and maybe for once showed more sense in realising that the weather would break earlier than the forecast said. A few did still get caught out with wet hay left in the field but I guess that’s not so important with silage.



Do You like storms?

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Cow Parsley Spring

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One of the effects of this long wet spell, is that the farmers have been unable to get into the fields to cut the first round of silage.  Normally the second two weeks in May means you’re permanently stuck behind a tractor. On the lower levels, all has been ok, but here at about 100o metres its a disaster.


The grass has gone to seed, and the common Dock or sorrel as I call it, have made a brown haze on the fields, more commonly associated in the UK with derelict land that is full of the larger Dock,which we use to rub out nettle stings.  I’m quite surprised there isn’t more as the slurry is well and truly spread here as soon as the snow goes.


Likewise, the buttercups are making as good a show as the Dandelions.  Most of all though, is the Cow Parsley. It’s just run rampant.  All of these would have normally been cut back  in the silage by now, but instead our flowering. Some fields I’ve seen are pure white, and there are very few Margarita daisies which make a fantastic show at this time.  So what effect will this have on the silage?  Can it still be made with all these flowers in which I know many animals will not eat?  Will everyone be searching for bailers next week? The rain will also make this long grass lodge, also making it difficult to cut. Poor farmers, they can’t win.


BUT it makes for great photos, which would be even better if it would stop raining long enough for the flowers to open!


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Wedding Anniversary

Typical Lungau farm kitchen/living room

Dave and I decided to take a beak away for our wedding anniversary -29 years on the 29th of May.  We actually havent had an ‘us’ weekend for ages, when we’ve been away its been to weddings or Christmas and so on. Everytime we drive to Salzburg Airport we see the signs for the Open Air Musem and I say I’d love to go, so we did at last!  We drove to a small town called Grossmain on the German border, having picked at random a Hotel from a guide book.

The first farmhouse!

It was lovely, we feasted in the restaurant – I had what later turned out to be cat fish, but which was nevertheless really tasty.  Then we slept so well and went down for an early breakfast.  It was the best I’ve ever had in a Hotel, all the usual cereal plus freshly made fruit salad, a huge selection of bread and to my joy, smoked salmon.  I feasted and Dave had sausage and bacon which was nearly as good as English!

In a lovely, sunny morning, we drove to the Museum and even before we went in, the camera was in overdrive.  We went in every building and it took us five hours and it was exhausting.  The farmhouses were from all the ‘Gaus’ in Salzburg,Lungau, Flachgau (the largest where Salzburg is situated), Pinzgau, Pongau and Tennengau.  They were all of a similarity but localised differences. Of course we were most interested in Lungau, but almost felt we could see better examples by just driving around.  We were surprised to see in the main farmhouse garden rows and rows of broad beans which we thought wouldn’t grow here.  There was a special Lungau exhibition and it really brought home o me about the poverty and individuality of the Lungau.  Only 15% was farmable and in the 1900s, the climate was so cold that often spring was so late that often crops didnt have time to mature before the snow came. There were large extended families, often with couples and children all living in one bedroom, a huge network of uncles, aunts and couples.  There were a lot of indentured servants, who had a high rate of illegitimate children who were farmed out, and farmers often didn’t marry until their 30s as they couldn’t afford it.  Oh and so much more!   A bit sickening was about the ‘Sauschnieder’ who travelled around castrating sows  without anaesthetic (and boars too presumably) because castrated animals are easier to look after – I would have thought the sows were for breeding.  Different culture, different times.

I felt an over all sense of sadness on the place.  The busy working lives of the buildings is over, they are shells of hardworking busy lives.  No fires, no animals making noise and smell (!)  no working of machinery. It was just too quiet.  The farmhouses were furnished – kitchens and bedrooms, people seemed to have few possessions.  What it needs is a working farm or enactment group to bring it to life.  I imagine the buildings were those left empty after a death or a new farm was built. One mill was there because it was in the way of the motorway. 

A wonderful experience, if I went again, I’d be more selective of what I see, and take less photos!!!!!!!!!!!!!