I find January a slightly unsettling month. After the post-Christmas clear up of the Christmas Barns and the paperwork that has inevitably built up, there’s a distinct lack of enthusiasm for doing anything more than necessary. The days are grey and gloomy, the office is cold and the novelty of the new year soon wears off. Then we’re back into Christmas mode as we visit the trade shows, transported into Winter Wonderland, Scandi Heaven or whatever weird name the collections have been called. And back to the mundaneness of January.
But gradually, I realise that instead of rushing out at 4pm to shut up the ducks and hen, it’s crept back to almost 5 o’clock. Yes, just one hen. Last July I got another batch of hens but one by one, they’ve disappeared, taken by a fox or possibly a fox terrier. The last two went on Christmas Day, leaving only a trail of feathers and ironically, the hen in this photograph captioned Fox Fodder is the only one remaining. But I digress.
Recently, a couple of hard frosts and a blue sky jolted the season out of its greyness, even if it was only for a few days. Suddenly, the desire to be productive returned with the seasonal shift. Cooking became less of a chore as I recovered my enthusiasm for baking, my hands are now inky from test driving a new printing course in the Barley Barn and instead of pottering around the farm with the dog we took a brisk walk along the Essex coast. I’ve even enjoyed doing the VAT.
It makes me wonder if we’ve removed ourselves so much from nature that life is lived despite the seasons rather than with them. A thought that often comes to mind when people in T-shirts come into the Christmas Tree Barn on a freezing day. Farm work is seasonal, with long hours at certain times of the year, but when it’s quieter there’s a tendency to find jobs to fill the working day rather than taking time off. Maybe we should shift slightly with the season and experiment with a shorter working week on the farm in January, offset by longer hours when there’s important work to be done.
Younger members of our family see shorter working weeks as the way forward, encouraging more time for family, volunteering, hobbies, relaxation and learning but it’s a difficult concept for some of the older generation raised on the ethic of hard work and discipline. I’m lucky that I don’t work full time and can choose my work hours but, when I’m not working and everybody else is, I feel a need to be constructive. There are times when I could be accused of being busy for the sake of it so, if everybody else was working a shorter week, I could let up a bit too.
Next year, I should embrace the start of the year and try to channel a little laid back, slow living. Maybe I could suggest an official four-day working week for January so that I can read a book or learn how to paint or take up a new hobby without feeling guilty that I’m not Doing Something Useful.
How about you? Does your life change with the seasons?