Pippa the Jack Russell thought the online TAMS health and safety course was a great way to spend an otherwise dull morning.

Sitting on my knee for most of the three hours with practically my undivided attention as I ran my fingers through her hair, both of us listening to the presentation. I can’t speak for her, but I certainly learned something.

I was a bit apprehensive about this Zoom meeting. I hadn’t done one before, and of course, my laptop chose to act up the night before so I had to do it on the iPhone. I was unsure whether I could answer the ringing phone while zooming, as I didn’t want the finer details of my love life listened to by half the TAMS dairy farmers in the country. I diverted to message minder.

That aside, it was a useful course and one would hope that when we’re flustered and foolishly throwing caution to the wind, we will pause for a moment and do the sensible thing.

As I’ve probably told you before – this will happen after 20 years writing – I don’t do change well

I needed the health and safety ticket to qualify for a TAMS grant payment on a new Bogballe fertiliser spreader. It’s not too different to its predecessor, but the new Bogballe computer has a touch screen and other dubious new features. A touch screen is a silly idea for farmer fingers covered in fertiliser. Besides, as any farmer’s wife will tell you, we don’t do touch very well.

However, some squeaky clean Nordic software engineer obviously thought a touch screen a good idea, as they did for the computer to bleep every 10 seconds when there’s less than 200kg in the spreader. I can see that, and stupid stuff like this bugs me (thus making an accident more likely to happen).

But I like Bogballe spreaders – I think this is my fourth – and anyhow at this stage in my life, I’m incapable of coping with making the change to other makes, which are just as good or maybe even better. As I’ve probably told you before – this will happen after 20 years writing – I don’t do change well. If Mrs P even changes the bedspread, I’ll likely ask ‘what did you change that for?’


It’s been a very long period of dry weather, but with little actual drying. Soakage, yes, has been excellent, but it’s been dull with poor drying. This allied to high atmospheric pressure is a textbook case of what’s known as anticyclonic gloom. There’s been little of the sharp wind and gently warming sunshine that you can get in February – and need – to suck up moisture and whiten the tilled ground. But it’s dry overhead, work is relaxed and I’m grateful for that.

The first round of fertiliser is out and crops are up-to-date. They have overwintered well with very few bare patches. And as ever, the min-tilled fields look just as well as those which were ploughed (for winter barley), but travel so much better. But as I write, sowing the beans is not finished, as the seedbeds are not as good as I would like. It’s also time to think about sowing the Husky oats, which didn’t happen in the autumn.

Reverting to TAMS, the announcement of the new scheme is very welcome news and especially starting afresh again with a super €90,000 limit. Eligible machinery and fixed asset work has been greatly widened. Full marks to the Department of Agriculture for implementing this new scheme.

So, will Pippa and I be sitting down to another TAMS health and safety course? Yes, but not with Pippa – it’ll be Billy’s turn. Billy has no regard for safety whatsoever, especially with wheels. But Pippa and I didn’t see anything on the course online about how to teach Jack Russells to chase cars safely.