The Story So Far... A Farm Novice’s Blog
After several days of rushed preparations the day has come to make Farm Week Live a reality.
This morning I got up much earlier than I was used to and put the last of the tech inside my already brimming BBC van. Step ladder: check. Cameras: check. Tools: check. Laptops: Check. Several thousand cables: check. Shoestring budget: ... (?)
Stopping at the first garage on route north/west for a sausage sandwich, I had the feeling this was going to become a regular routine.
Soon the BBC bus would be arriving at McFarlane’s Farm in Dungiven and our actions over the next few hours would determine how Farm Week Live would start to take shape.
In the week since I’d last been there, the farm had suffered a population.
Alwyn McFarlane, proud heir to the farm, is quick to explain. “Last week we were lambing 100 to 120 lambs a day.”
If I was under any illusions this was going to be an easy week, those ideas were quickly evaporating. Nesting under the Sperrins, in the green pastures of Co. Londonderry, I’d arrived at a fast paced, high stakes production-line of ‘biological’ proportions.
Our first jobs were to get the BBC bus into the farm and set-up as our production hub for the coming week.
Alwyn’s faithful dog Jan cleared our path, temporally blocked by groups of wooly new families.
The riggers, Billy and Ken, arrive in the radio production unit.
Safety would be a key factor in the success of this rig. With farm’s being one of the most challenging and hazardous locations to work in; Billy’s years’ experience proved vital in creating a cabling solution that would be workable for both us and the heavy traffic that visited the farm every day.
Once everything was in place the aim was to have 4 unmanned (Go-Pro) cameras up and running around the farm, 24 hours a day.
Over the course of the week there would be 5 x 30min Radio Ulster programmes broadcasting both from McFarlane’s and a selection of satellite locations.
During the live radio show we would cut the web feed to reflect the events unfolding on the radio, offering in effect, a bi-cast/simul-cast event.
The feed would be given real substance via a roaming camera (Canon XF305) that followed the presenters and action during the show. This would allow us to see and hear the dramatic births, lives and struggles on the farm and to follow our radio ulster presenters as they meet and talk with guests. (Effectively live web-TV).
Lambs are born.....
With stocks of expectant mothers depleting before our eyes, we’d just set our last Go-Pro in place when a kneeling Alwyn calls us over with urgency.
“You said you wanted to lamb one didn’t ya?” His smile tells me that he’s going to hold me to my enthusiasm for getting stuck in “at some point”.
I took off my watch.
“Right, so just grab the legs with your right hand there.”
Two wet, sticky white, hoofed legs stood proud from the back of a ewe laying on her side.
“...And pull. Watch the head now. Get your finger in to release the head and she’ll just come out easy.”
He was right. That was easy. Alwyn checked its breathing and the lamb was healthy.
I was a father now - of sorts.
“Right ...now you go in for the other one.”
Yep, it was twins.
....I was glad I took my watch off.
John Anthony, BBC Broadcast Operator