A Dowser’s Farming Diary

by Judy Thomas

Bornat the end of the war, with my father away in the Royal Navy, I spent my early years on my grandfather’s farm. His name was William Spry and he always had a battered brown trilby hat.

A man of the soil, he showed me how to do such things as putting a pane of glass in a window. He built a windmill that pumped the water into the house and that fascinated me, and he also made a horseshoe-shaped pond that he stocked with carp.

I spent hours watching the pond life and it was here that I met my first friend, known as “Gamel.” He wore a hood over his head, and much later it would dawn on me that he was a monk, my first guide.

I have always lived in the countryside, and always known where to find the flowers, the grasses, the trees and fungus. I have always identified the birds and their eggs and their different songs for the different times of the year and weather conditions: the robin’s song at the end of the summer, the little owl telling me the weather will be fine, the thrush (the storm cock) warning of rough weather. And I knew where the jays would hide their nuts for winter.

A garden of my own from the age of seven, my own hens, it’s in the blood. My gardens have always grown quickly with enthusiastic plants filling every corner.

I have discovered that one of the my great- grandmothers, Roseanne Winderlay, was a herbalist when it was not fashionable to display such a love of plants and folklore.

Christmas 1999 and everyone excited because of the new millennium. The presents lay beneath the tree and the first one unwrapped was “Gardening with Herbs” a National Trust Guide. As I was about to flick through the pages, the book ‘opened’ to show the walled gardens of Buckland Abbey.

“Strange,” I said, “that’s where my granddad, William, came from.” He had walked with his father and animals from Buckland Monocorum in Devon to a farm near Tewkesbury when he was aged 10 years old.

That Christmas my life changed. I became very aware that I was being shown things. I was scared at first and thought that I had a brain tumour. My family were frightened for me and doubted my sanity.

I was shown by lights and words and places that I was to use flowers, the Bach Flower Remedies. Having been advised by my Aunt Celia, a ‘visitor,’ to see a medium, I was amazed to be told, “You’re a healer, put your hands on people.” Serious doubts kicked in but I took the advice. My Aunt Celia was my grandfather’s youngest daughter and we were close. She had serious lower back problems and was told that surgery was the only answer. I went to her and put my hands on her lower spine and dowsed her Bach Remedy. She had not been able to drive or leave the house unaided for weeks.Within a month she drove herself to the Three Counties Show where she walked around all day. We started to research the family history of my grandfather. They said, “Yes, he knew how to find water and lots of strange things that no one else knew about.” We have traced the family back to William the Conqueror.

On one magical weekend in the summer of 2000, my son and I went to Devon. I went to the farm, the church and the Abbey. I seemed to know where to go, straight to where the main part of the Abbey had been destroyed in the Reformation. Later that weekend on a course with Geoff. King on Dartmoor, I was told by Judith Parsons that the person who was trying to contact me was Brother Peter, a Cistercian monk, a man of the soil. Buckland Abbey was a Cistercian Monastery.

Geoff King told me to think of my mind as a parachute, best used when open. So I jumped!

On returning to our family farm I was under the impression that we were being helped, and so started a different way of farming with Brother Peter to guide us.

He is obviously a sheep man and loves lambing time. During a difficult time I ask him for help, imaging the lambs lying in the correct birth position. I dowse how many are within and I ask male or female. Now that is an interesting topic. My son had two nanny goats. They went to visit the billy goat, and anxious to know what was within, I dowsed twins in each nanny. Not satisfied with that, my son wondered, “male or female?” I dowsed one of each sex in each nanny. So when the big day came and four male kids came, I wandered what had gone wrong. Not understanding how this had happened, self doubt set in. Within one week, two began to grow horns, whilst the other two remained feminine and of slight build. It is well known that in a set of calves, one twin will remain dominant. If a bull calf and a heifer calf are twins, you do not use the female calf for breeding as there can be a hormone imbalance.

We dowse which crops to grow in each field. Given a choice of crops written on pieces of paper and turned over, the pendulum swings to the crop which will do best in each field. We have to watch Brother Peter, he loves his sheep and he loves oats to feed them. The first time that we tried this method of planting, he insisted on spring oats. My son and I both had the same result. “No,we don’t grow spring oats here,” came the firm response from my husband.We stuck to the result and promised to buy in replacement feed if the crop failed. This was going to be an expensive mistake, no-one grew spring oats on neighbouring farms! Well, they grew and flourished, a very heavy crop of oats and beautiful straw. The driver of the combine harvester wanted to know, “how, when and why.” He had never seen a crop of such quality. The neighbour now tries to grow them but we find the variety of seed is given to us and future weather seems to be taken into consideration.

Water on a farm is most important. The depth of drains, where both the leaks and damage are, can be found using the farm map. In this time of global warming we do not exactly know if we are going to have too much or too little water. While walking the dogs a few weeks ago, a flash of light appeared on the ground in front of me. Nothing obvious, but as I walked the ground became soft, my boots sticking in the soil. At teatime I commented on this fact and was told there used to be a pond there over 30 years ago. Well, there is going to be a pond there again, I think we will need this natural spring.

This was the second time I have been shown where to find water, the first was in 2000. I had heard the song American Pie on every radio in the house, car and shops for days, it was the first tune to hit me every morning. So I stood by the gate thinking this over and going through the words, as I reached “the levy was dry” – Oh! they needed water! – there was a flash of light two fields away. I marked the spot from an ash tree to a clump of nettles. I admired Geoff King and sent him my map, back came the exact spot marked, pure water 30 ft down, most unusual. The analysis has since proved him right.

Surveying a grassy field ready for cutting, my husband asked, “How many bales of silage will we get off this field?” Another test. I asked and counted, thirty came the reply. Two days later, at a tea time discussion, ” Only slightly out on your bales.””Oh, by how many?” ” There are 28 and 1 small.” Well, no one mentioned sizes, only bales!! Two days later whilst driving around the fields and checking the fences I came across a gate flattened onto the ground. Upon investigation I noticed the missing bale, lodged in an old quarry. It had obviously rolled down the slope, knocking over the gate and the fence, then disappearing from view. The apology was accepted.

While checking the sheep one day, a lamb was found lying dead. They like doing that, especially on a wet day when life has sent a few other things at you. Standing over the corpse and wondering what would be the best way to get it home, I wondered why and ran a quick eye over the rest of the flock to see if any other sheep was ailing. There was suddenly a flash of light over the top side of the field. Yes, there she was. A ewe dead on her back in the ditch, and two good lambs without a mother. A very late teatime that day.

Always say thank you for your crops and guidance. Suddenly we noticed that a field had become a clover field. It had not been planted, but had come to the fore and was flourishing. As  we stood there discussing the phenomenon, my husband said, “Well the lambs are ready for weaning, they will do best on here.” I said a silent “Thank you,” and received the acknowledging flash of light.

I went to have bed and breakfast at a farm in Devon, and was chatting to the lady owner. She inquired if I was on a painting course. “No,” I said gently, not wishing to frighten her. “I just dowse for water, I am on a dowsing weekend.” Her reaction amazed me. “Oh, how wonderful! Can you help me?”

She had had a water bill for several hundreds of pounds, and wondered if I could find the leak. They had repaired two, but the meter still just flew round. This was serious money, so I said that I would help.

  She produced her maps, and I set to work. I marked several places, and asked her to look. Four were water troughs in the fields. I rephrased my question. This time the two places which had alreadybeen amended showed, and a new one, which pinpointed the problem.

The outbreak of Foot and Mouth was a disaster, but it also gave many the chance to get rich quickly, with a total disregard for the health and welfare of their animals.

As soon as the news was announced, I dowsed to ask if we would be spared. “Yes,” came back the answer. So positive thought and great care were the names of the day. We used straw barriers, and put the animals in fields away from the roads. As the crisis deepened, I dowsed the Bach Flower Remedies to see if further help was needed. Rock Rose, for terror, fear of natural disaster and helplessness was shown to be the one. Well, that seemed accurate enough to me. So all the animals had Rock Rose in their water troughs, and the family dowsed morning and night.

We also sent to London for borax and dosed the drinking water. Our only losses were two calves lost in calving, as we were unable to move the cows to the calving bays as it meant crossing the road.

In my opinion many animals died unnecessarily.