Thursday, 15 May 2008

Rambling on

I have just spent a happy hour and a half with a brush cutter cutting down the bracken, nettles, thistles and foxgloves that left unchecked would over run the two small fields we have that just about pass as grazing for the sheep and horses. When we first got here what identified it from the rest of the hill was that it had a fence around it, it was, just as the rest of the hill is, a tangle of brambles, gorse, bracken and weeds. We could have sprayed it and cleared it that way but we want to be as organic as possible here so we resorted to cutting it back. Which is why I spend hours of my time with the trusty brush cutter scything through two acres of weeds on what we call Oak Bank on account of it being the field behind the bank with the Oak tree on it.

While the brush cutter does its job as I swing it from side to side I can't help but think about the unanswerable questions in life. Sometimes these are interrupted by bits of nettle as they sting me by falling inside my boots of flying up and hitting me in the face. Tonight's rambling thoughts were varied, from the simple, like why do anti mist goggles always mist up (the pair I was wearing to protect my eyes from the flying debris were so foggy I had to take them off) to the complex like if mirrors need light to reflect what would happen if you were in total darkness in front of a mirror wearing night vision goggles, would you see a reflection?

These cerebral wanderings keep me occupied as I wage war against the weeds. If I am not pondering impossible questions then I am more likely to be contemplating how different my life is now compared to a few years ago when we lived in a modern three bed semi detached.

The longer you spend living the life of a smallholder the greater you realise the differences there are between you and non smallholders. This is most apparent when at work when I look at my co workers, none of them look tired, with the exception of one who is a first time Dad and so gets no sleep, they all look refreshed in the morning after a quiet night at home. None of them go home and start work again, and I know it’s a lifestyle choice but sometimes I do wish I could go to bed and sleep uninterrupted, or wake up naturally, not woken up by some insane dog barking at four am just to let us know that a goat was looking at her funny through the wire mesh of the kennels.

It would be nice to retire of an evening without having to worry about a night time attack on the poultry from the foxes on the hill, instead of sleeping lightly, jumping out of bed at the sound of a twig snapping in the lane and flying to the window holding the torch steady as Tracey gets ready to loose off a volley of shots at the intruding predator.

Co workers will get to work on time, or if they are late it will be due to traffic, or their car won’t start. Our reasons for lateness include these run of the mill excuses but include exciting variants from rounding up dogs who have run off, getting goats out of fences, getting the bucket off the sheep’s head, sheep delivering lambs, finding the missing rabbit, getting the goat out of the house, getting the goat off the car, taking pigs to the abattoir, floods, trees falling down and rock falls.

My co workers arrive at work dressed in clean and tidy apparel. I intend to, sometimes I even make it to the car clean only to be thwarted at the last second by an affectionate encounter with a goat, dog, or horse who want to share their drool, fur, bogeys or dirt with me or my clothes. My shoes usually look like I have been walking around a farmyard, which they been. I took to leaving a clean pair in the car, this worked until one of the dogs liberated the left one and concealed it somewhere on the hill. The next step is to leave a clean pair at work. This I will do as soon as I find the right shoe from my other pair which suffered a similar fate to the pair in the car once they were discovered in the workshop. I have before now set off to work in my farm boots and on one memorable occasion got to work wearing them.

Luckily I work in a supportive team who ignore the fact that they are talking to someone wearing chinos with a big brown muddy mark down the leg, or a shirt with a paw print on the back or boots that have enough dirt on them they could easily be used to grow a salad selection.

Their evening might be taken up with soaps, computer games or a quiet pint down the local and a game of pool. Mine might be spent carrying buckets of horse do through to the garden to put around the base of the 12 fruit bushes we planted last year, gardening or any number of animal related jobs or emergencies. We used to keep a jobs list, adding jobs when we thought of them and ticking them off as we did them, this practice stopped once the list got bigger than three sides of A4. Their conversation is about football, films and television, mine is about the latest addition to the clan at the Rock, our latest visit to the vet, the garden or more recently the building project.

I love living here, it's hard work, always different and I wouldn't swap it for anything.

Happiness is priceless.

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