Poised and Waiting

Life may have changed irrevocably in many ways, but some things are just the same as ever.


This week, everyone is poised and waiting for harvest. Every year in late July and early August, there are constant checks to see if any of the crops are ready to harvest and the weather forecast consulted regularly in the hope of dry sunny days. As usual, this begins way in advance with varying estimates of the likely start date. Today Bill’s forecast was “not before the weekend”.

Bowl of freshly picked raspberries and alpine strawberries from English country garden


The garden is in full production with enough fruit and vegetables to feed us, so long as we don’t object to eating pretty much the same thing every day. As usual, we’re moving rapidly through the sequence of excitement at the first raspberry, bean or whatever, then getting rather bored with eating them every day and then finally, having a great fancy for them when there are none left.

In normal times, I’d be tempted to supplement the garden produce with something we don’t grow, but this year I’m trying to be more imaginative with it all in an effort to cut down the shopping. That said, today we’re having stuffed marrow with runner beans and new potatoes, which is not at all imaginative as I’ve probably eaten that every summer of my life.

wildflowers and weeds in a vase


There are always wildflowers and weeds to pick around the farm and yesterday I saw the first ripe blackberries, though I wasn’t tempted to pick them as they were next to the road.

peacock


Rather unusually, a peacock has taken up residence on the farm for the past couple of weeks and comes across the field each morning when I let the hens out, though they are deeply unimpressed by the tail waving, bottom waggling shuffle that he performs for them. The other day he flew onto the netting that covers the top of the hen run as he tried to join them or perhaps impress them with his flying prowess. I was worried that he’d get tangled up in the loose net but he just sort of bounced across it, as if it was a trampoline, and shook himself down when he reached the side pole. I suspect he’ll wander off soon, but he’s brought a vivid splash of colour to the farm.


Saturday is Lammas Day. Lammas was originally an Anglo Saxo festival that marked the beginning of harvest. The first grains of the new harvest would be baked into a loaf of bread that was taken into the church to be blessed, hence Loaf Mass. Normally, I’d say that bread is taken for granted, a basic foodstuff that’s thrown in the shopping trolley with little thought, but maybe it’s valued a tiny bit more after the bread and flour shortages earlier in the year.

Perhaps this year we should all bake a loaf to celebrate Lammas Day. If we can get the yeast, which still seems in very short supply.


It was upon a Lammas night,
   When corn rigs are bonie,
Beneath the moon’s unclouded light,
   I held awa to Annie;
The time flew by, wi tentless heed;
   Till, ‘tween the late and early,
Wi sma’ persuasion she agreed
   To see me thro the barley.

Robert Burns: The Rigs o’ Barley

Lockdown Diary Month One

Have shunned all social contact for one month. Every day, thank my lucky stars that I have a garden and that I’m not on my own or worse, stuck with someone I don’t want to be with.

Life much the same as before. Farm work continues as usual and still plenty to do in the farm office after my thirty second commute (which you can watch here). No cakes or biscuits to bake for printmaking classes as they’ve been cancelled. Garden under control with vegetable seeds in ground and some green shoots just discernible. Blossom on fruit trees is glorious.

Paper boat

Fully intended to use this isolation time for number of creative projects. Had brief obsession making paper boats, which led to reading this article about the elderly but relevant to us all at present and pulling out CD (see below) to listen to this song again. Ongoing exercise to print circle on old book page each day and do something with it. Bit weird and may not last. Other creative projects still a list in head.

Haven’t managed to secure delivery slot for groceries so relying on efficient daughter Beth who had booked several pre-lockdown. Trying to keep order to minimum as she is buying for five households so meals are basic and wholesome. Like they used to be decades ago when spaghetti came in tins and avocado was a rare luxury. Or just a bath colour.

Decided to Kondo the drinks cupboard instead of restocking (see above). Finished small bottle of Benedictine given to us c1983 when people had dinner parties and drank liqueurs from tiny glasses with their coffee. Just enough tequila and Grenadine syrup (only nine years out of date and solid in bottom of bottle) for Friday night Tequila Sunrise in reprise of my Eighties cocktail enthusiasm. Moved on to spark 1990s joy of Roger & Tonic.

Dragged out vinyl music collection for evening entertainment. Noticed several albums borrowed from sisters have not been returned. Some records enthusiastically taken from sleeve but not as good as remembered. Others surprisingly good and made me quite nostalgic for my youth. Briefly. Progressed to CD collection and rediscovered much music. Discussed the aptness of our Isolation Songs* -Bill’s is Louis Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World and mine is Woodstock sung by Matthews’ Southern Comfort.

Feel parts of life have slipped back decades. Suspicions confirmed when broadband disappeared over Easter.

Wonder how much life will change post-lockdown. To quote Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock lyrics “I feel just like a cog in something turning”

* Number One in the singles chart on your 12th birthday.

 


Verbal Doodling

A while ago I went for an appointment and as there were nine people in the queue before me, I decided to be one of those people who pulls out a notebook and makes quick, but wonderful sketches. I abandoned it after thirty seconds because it turns out (as I suspected) that I am not one of those people.

Book filled with verbal doodling
 

Instead, I started to write. About parking in the wrong place, about my stomach rumbling, my plans for the rest of the day and then just a stream of incoherent thoughts. I turned the page and wrote on top of what I’d written, which didn’t matter because it was just verbal doodling.

It turns out that verbal doodling is more relaxing than my normal impatient, foot tapping waiting technique.

Just passing it on in case you have a moment or two to fill.

 


The Tiger Who Came To Tea

Did you know we had a pet tiger roaming through the house? Who loves to sit with the grandchildren and read stories? You can guess his favourite.

tiger looking over small boy's shoulder as he reads The Tiger Who Came to Tea

In these days of social distancing, our family WhatsApp feed is filled with quizzes, shopping lists and “Have you tried this?”, the latest being that you can get 3D images of animals in your home. Who knew?

Open Google on your phone and search for an animal like tiger, alligator or giant panda. Scroll down and tap on View in 3D. Move your phone around and the animal should appear. You can resize it or move it around the room and then take a photo.

Hours of fun!

 


Walking Angst

Grass verge of field with primroses and violets

For years I’ve taken a daily walk through the fields with the dog, exchanging pleasantries or pausing for a brief conversation with other walkers on the footpaths. It would have seemed strange to avoid people (apart from the man with the two Staffordshire Bull Terriers that nearly all the dog walkers here avoid) or not smile and say hello.

In the space of a week, with the introduction of social distancing, it’s become normal to avoid all encounters we can. I scan the path ahead for approaching walkers. Some instantly turn around and retreat as soon as they see another person. Other people start walking in a wide arc so that we make a sort of choreographed pass and I supress the urge to do a little twirl.

I find it easiest to keep going and step aside into the field as the oncoming walker get closer. Time it wrong and we both step into the field necessitating a clumsy shuffle to pass while inwardly I calculate the distance between us and wonder how many steps to take before it’s safe to breathe in.

*

Just lately several blogs have been brought out of hibernation with short posts about the inconsequential. It’s as if we need to share the ordinary to make sense of all that’s happening around us at the moment but can’t encapsulate it in a tweet or an IG photo caption (apparently only a third of people always read the captions in Instagram anyway).


It seems a good idea.