Ahh, 2019. Blimey, the years are cracking on. Years ago, the thought of 2020 was so far away I couldn’t relate to it. I could just imagine being really old and past it. Life, a lived rather than life ahead…
Well here we are, those life years have wracked up and I don’t feel old, anything but, perhaps more comfortable in my own skin. Less to prove, but lots still to WANT to learn. That's the difference, back in the 90’s it was all about living for the present. Party central. Planning ahead, conjuring where life would take me was not on the agenda. It feels different now, more observation and intrigue but less outright fun. More thinking really.
Back on planet Lanagbridge, the winter is slowly marching on. The days are getting lighter by 1 minute a day. But still the yomp to the cattle shed for morning feeding is still a dark old affair. It's a routine, the misery of going out into the cold and damp from the warm fug of bed and Aga soon dissipates.
In to the farm store, light on, head torch, overalls, wellies, Barbour, hat and off into the still dark farmscape, with a morning chorus of low’s, clucks, screams and snorts. The dogs following on behind looking disinterested in the potter ahead.
Pigs first. Snort snort snort, noses alive with scent and excitement for food, a snuffle, a trot and canter across the pitted carnage of the orchard landscape and into the trough like a porcine rugby scrum. Fill up the water trough with unhelpful buckets. Then over to the chickens. Alert and bouncing down the stairway to the feeder, often one of them has only one thing on their mind.: ‘Egg, Egg’ Hop to the old shed, up on the big round straw bales and a cosy brood, bomb doors open, release. Cluck. Oddly formed egg, warm and toasty ready for toast.
Across Woodshed field, down through Dingly Dell, note: the speed of the stream water no longer rushing in the channel beside the lake - we’ve had a dry January, after a soggy 162mm in December. Dogs shoot off, like canon balls once I force open the broken gate into Chives. Every morning it’s the same. What they are rushing at, I never know, but they gun it, North across the boggy reeds on the lower slope of the field, 20 seconds later some wild barking. I am sure there is nothing there. They are fixated by some inanimate object. Each day they are surprised. Goldfish bowl like.
Trudge to the shed. The lowing, getting more frenzied., occasional screams of malevolence. The haylage bale, having collapsed in the night is reluctant to offer up its booty, and so begins a tug and pulling on the finger nails as I heave out the hay from the tangled bundle. As more haylage hits the feeder barriers, the frenzied lowing disseminates, and I am left with chew and cud, the occasional shove as one of the bigger cows decides it wants to change place. The floodlights illuminate 35 cattle heads, their breath rising up into the eves. It's a wonderfully calming moment, the angst has left the barn, the frump and clump of their mouths, a peaceful soundtrack of satisfied cowstomers. Ouch. That is bad, baby.
The bedding area is a constant fret for me. 24hours after a whole big round bale of straw is laid out across the shed, the memories of the golden summer are gone, the bed now dung ridden, glistening almost by the water troughs. The cows are messy drinkers, slopping and slapping the water everywhere, think dog with cumbersome tongues!
The only cows not munching are the calves, utterly sold on Mothers milk, they skittle round on the straw, chasing each other like banshees, tails up, letting out little croaks of joy. Bless 'em.
So off back to the farm yard, and then another load to feed, this time it's the yearling calves. Cossetted in the old shed the sounds are muffled, deadened by the surrounding stack of straw bales. On my way there, a loud chatter of disagreement and competitive preening, the mallards are strutting their stuff, eager to win the attentions of all the teen ducks. The lake is now clear of green duckweed, just hoping this year we come to see a flotilla of ducklings one winter’s morn. Roland please don’t ruin it again.
It's the same everyday, but always something new to take in, to savour such is the delight of a small dark farm above the River Taw in Winter