Silently, softly but nonetheless surprisingly, the morning light delivers a wide awake vista of snow covered field, woods and forest as far as the eye can see. And around here that’s quite a way, with more flakes flowing gently earthwards. Light traffic has forged ribbed tracks along the C road that angles the house and the occasional lit up log lorry looms out of the settling mist to creep cautiously by or neighbouring farmers in tractors ferrying round hay bales on mechanical forks for feeding stock, nothing much is moving at all over this beautiful winter white landscape.
We remind ourselves the snow will not be settled long so we walk out, well wrapped up, taking in the detailed highlights and recording them as images. If any of the grandchildren were here we’d be sledging on our field but as they’re not one mustn’t let that stop one from having some seasonal fun so I dig out the red plastic sledge from the garage and head out. Zig-zagging a wild course down tussocky slopes, I end up a laughing heap before a sprawl of recently cut timber.
A few weeks back a friend, with me labouring, took his chain saw to some intrusive leaning willows. The edge of a dense Carr (willow bog) here in the north burn’s valley, part of our neighbour’s land, where ducks gather and the guns can sometimes be heard hunting them. The trunks of these succouring trees have been gradually breaking down the boundary fence that secures stock kept on our land from wandering. When time and weather allow my mate and I will finish the job, staking out new poles and re-fixing the fallen strands of barbed wire. We’ll break down felled boughs into portable branches, which, back in the yard, I’ll gradually feed through the shredder. The resulting material makes for great garden mulch, especially in the copses and spinneys where it will intensify and quicken the woodland cycle of decay, fertility and growth.
On one of the local wanders in the snow up the lane I clock a mature cream coloured cat furtively hunting the verges opposite Easterhouse’s yard. I know such a distinctive feline does not claim any of our immediate neighbours farms as home. The next day, crunching across the yard, cat and me come face to startled face in the old rail goods wagon that serves as our garden hut. With no obvious route of escape the panicked puss leaped backward into the far corner, diving head first into a pile of flowerpots and sacks where it remained motionless, rear legs and tail stuck up in the air. Bemused, I stepped back and retreated. Later I put food in a bowl out to encourage our hungry visitor to return, but it did not, and like the snow a few days later disappeared from view, at least for now. A pity, because since our dear little Pip died in the autumn of 2019 we were half expecting a replacement to pad its way in from somewhere to claim vacant territory. We would value such a creature for its necessary vermin control role, in return for board & lodgings. Without any other agency a suitable cat has to find us and not the other way round.