Farming in the North Pennine Dales
By Eric Wilson
Now back over the river Tees and up to the fringes of the Durham pit district, another day and another milking machine installation. This one was different in that it had two byres separated by a walkway. No problem we thought – a little bit of piping high enough to walk under would easily connect the two buildings and supply vacuum to each.
We disagreed with the ideas of the farmer who wanted the pipe to go underground. He said they got some very hard frosts and didn’t want any bother in the middle of the winter. We thought that he didn’t understand it was a vacuum pipe, and there was nothing to freeze! If it was put underground, it would create a low point in the line which could collect condensation, and which unless drained out could possibly freeze.
He would listen attentively to all we said and just when we thought we had convinced him, he would say “Aye, but ahd still like it unnergrund”!
We got the salesman to have a word. He could talk the hind leg off a donkey, or a cow for that matter. But after half an hour and a lot of head nodding, the response was still the same - “Aye, but ahd still like it there Philip – unnergrund”.
As a last resort, we mentioned the situation to the boss who said he would call in, ostensibly to check how the work was progressing. But his other plan was to explain that an underground pipe was not necessary because it carried vacuum – not even air.
He was also thinking of the cost, as these jobs were quoted for and a price agreed before the work commenced. When the boss realised that he also was getting nowhere with the argument, he brought up the subject of extra cost – thinking that would surely touch a new nerve. But no – the farmer agreed to the extra cost, even dug the trench and tunneled under the foundations at each end. We had to put drain pipes at the low points just in case of frost.
The salesman reported later that the farmer only used the machine at busy times of the year. When everything was covered in snow, he too liked to hibernate in the warmth of the byre and spend a bit of time keeping his hand in, just in case one day the engine wouldn’t start. Well that was his story.