Winter and Rough Weather

Here shall he see / No enemy / But winter and rough weather  (As You Like It)

The annual marmalade making was last month’s culinary highlight. Seville oranges import a touch of far away sun into the kitchen and two extra lemons in the mix gives it the 2021 taste. Previous years keynotes have included black treacle and whisky. Usually our visitors depart with a pot at the end of their stay so currently we have a year’s backlog to get through (or prepare for a giveaway bonanza) when things are back to something like normal.

A naturalist friend had said it was the place to see them, up on the south facing slopes of the fell between us and the big village. But it was a couple we passed while out walking the lane leading to the telecoms mast who pointed them out and lent us their binoculars to get a better view. Golden plovers. That first time they were hanging out with starlings when quartering the fields. Looking rather like lapwings but with more distinctive pointed wings. The second time we saw them, a week since, they were on their own, a flock of some 40 – 50 birds, calling and flashing out on the turn, not settling for long, always moving. A beautiful, mesmerising sight and sound to lift the spirits on wet grey winter days.

The unchanging spell of mean weather ensures we get a lot done indoors. Glad one morning in the yard to catch up on news when taking delivery of a log drop and an unexpected gift of woodchip from our friends in the forest. Days later, determined to do something constructive outdoors, I start to spread the chippings in our mini woodlands and feel better for doing so.  The woodman tells me they got bogged down on the grounds of a school in the city where they were contracting and had to use his climbing ropes to pull their truck out of the mire. That’s £150 of ropes ruined, but a garage rescue would have cost a lot more.

Our farming neighbours too have no option but to be out and about, whatever the weather. Through the days of snow and then constant rain Southridge’s tractor has delivered round bales of hay to each and every ring feeder. They also rotate the metal frames to avoid the wear and tear of a flock’s hoof marks. Stock poached ground, when seen in isolation, puts me in mind of crop circles and UFOs.

All the neighbours have been getting their cattle sheds cleared of accumulated muck and straw and spreading it on their fields. The lucky ones did this while the ground was hard enough to more easily accommodate the combined weight of tractor and spreader. Southridge are pleased their Texel tups have exceeded expectations – all ewes being scanned and nearly all in lamb. They’ve put a flock of singles out on the rough grazing next to us. They’re less pleased with the price of hay. Last summer was so wet that some of the traditional hayfields failed and now they have to buy in, and prices are high.

Taking a short walk from the house each day, by field or lane, we came across this floating mass of bright greenery in a water trough. No flowers of course but plenty of healthy looking leaves. Can’t put a name to this winter wonder. Can you?

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