Farmers show great resilience

Frozen crops in winter near Chirnside in the Borders.

Frozen crops in winter near Chirnside in the Borders.

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Flooding must be one of the most miserable experiences a householder, business owner or farmer can suffer.

Gales, frost and snow can all cause damage and problems, but trying to salvage possessions or rescue animals from rising water while knowing what the soggy, stinking, aftermath is likely to be must top any non-fatal misery list.

It would certainly top mine. Over the years I’ve been lucky in that what I call ‘flooding’ has not involved danger or loss of livestock, only temporary stock movement and small lakes forming in fields. Seeing the effect of raging rivers and fields flooded to depths of many feet has only been at second hand. Watching television and newspaper pictures of what happened in Cumbria, the central Borders and elsewhere recently make me hope that continues.

We know from floods of recent years that people in hard-hit areas show great resilience and it is remarkable how quickly things return superficially to normal. But it can’t be easy when animals have drowned, fences and walls have been swept away, crops are waterlogged and buildings and houses flooded and damaged with the full extent of damage still hidden under water and mud.

As always, a weather disaster brought out the best in most people. This time there seemed to be even more concentration on self-help rather than blaming the government. Unfortunately, again as always, disaster brought out the worst in a few with stories of houses and business premises being looted.

It reminded me of how much daily life is based on trusting each other, including and perhaps particularly farming with its tradition of deals made on a word or a handshake. I was also reminded of that by a recent court case where two farmers in Cumbria were found guilty of sheep stealing.

I’ve thought for some time that in most cases where sheep, cattle or pigs have been stolen that professional know-how must be involved. The conviction of Charles Raine and his nephew Philip Raine confirms that.

I don’t know which branch of the family they are, but the name Raine has been synonymous with Cumbrian sheep farming for a long time. The two convicted obviously knew exactly what they were doing and what the removal of 116 sheep would mean to their owner. It’s a sorry day when sheep farmers can’t trust their own, even sorrier that this is not an isolated incident.

Robert Burns, as he so often did, got it right with that line about some power giving us the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us. That came home to me when I called at Hogarth’s mill in Kelso to collect our early winter supply of a five kilo bag of their excellent porridge oats.

They were temporarily out of five kilo bags so, thinking ahead and with other porridge users in the family in mind, I opted for a 25 kilo bag. We had to go to the mill for that and food rules now being what they are the young female receptionist had to go in while I stood and waited. The killer was when she returned with the bag on her shoulder and said ‘Are you sure you can manage it?’ Even after flicking it onto my shoulder and setting off at a brisk walk I suddenly felt much older.