Sunday, 27 May 2012

Unwilling smallholder

    A Sunday evening after the first few days of full summer heat, I'm sitting on the sofa with a half-consumed pint of cider, enjoying the cool air. That slightly sticky hot day feeling, and the accumulated aches of a couple of days keeping the farm ticking over.
    The British countryside is about at its best in early summer. The vegetation is all brand new and there's not yet too much of it. The whole place echoes to the sound of hungry forage harvesters and their attendant trailers collecting the silage harvest, but that is as much transitory as it is part of the agricultural year.
    We were out this morning to check the cattle and to pick up a pile of fencing stakes and hurdles from  the field they have recently vacated. 'Hurdles' might bring to mind rustic woven withies, but these hurdles are large galvanised steel sectional pens, for which we needed the trailer behind our little 4-wheel-drive truck.
    It is a lot of fun, barreling down a minor road on a hot summer day in a vehicle with no weather protection beyond a roll-over bar. I have been bathing in SPF50 sun cream so my recently-lasered face escaped burning, but I was in the interesting position of having my hair blown all to hell by the wind. And filled up with blossom petals.
    It's been a weekend of machinery. The wonderfully named Billy Goat rough grass cutter, my parents' lawnmower and our little Italian cultivator with its incredibly reliable Japanese diesel engine. The latter would not have been my choice on Saturday, I had to do the job in three stages due to the heat. Still, all's now set for this year's vegetables.
    My parents are both worried that all this will get beyond them. It worries me too, that place is the only real home I've known. My wife and I have had various sometimes-unconventional abodes, but they've always been temporary. My parents place has always been a constant.
    My wife suggested to me again that I should consider transitioning, as she can see the effect of all this stress. I can see her point, but I'm still not ready to consider it. Life can be annoying sometimes.
    I dug a couple of rows of potato ridges. Those will take the earlies, one of next weekend's jobs will be to dig another two or three for the main crop. If this sounds a bit late, it's because our soil is very heavy and damp. Annoying to cultivate, but handy in a drought.
    I'm attached to this smallholding lark. I could do it, I know. But it's not for the faint-hearted, and I would be well-advised not to pursue an impossible dream.


  1. How many impossible dreams do you have!?

    How did you find the time to take all the photos whilst working so hard?

  2. Somehow Jenny I have never been able to see you in my mind's eye wearing a summer frock and wellies, things you should be wearing straddled across your machinery. What a sight that would be! Funny thing is I know a TG who does exactly that in her little village and the locals have come to simply accept it! Whether she struts about taking photos I am not sure but you could start a trend if you've a mind to.....

    Shirley Anne x

  3. Working the land can be incredibly therapeutic.

    Translation: Don't ever give up the farm. Keep it active in your parent's eyes, while they are here on this earth, and then continue the tradition yourself.

    When you are at your lowest, walk among the apple trees, as I do with my vines. Talk things over with them.

    Perhaps somewhat poetic or even nuts, but it works for me.

  4. Absolutely. The prospect of the taxman weighs heavily upon me though.