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I cut a meadow for hay on Saturday. I don’t do a lot, around 250-300 small bales for the sheep. Sheep are not keen on wrapped haylage, even if it’s dry and sweet, they will eat it if pushed though much prefer good old fashioned hay. At last, after weeks of ‘yes we can’, oh, ‘no we can’t’, those fonts of all knowledge, the weather stations, predict four to five days of dryish weather (of course leaving a 10-20% error margin for rain just in case those super-advanced technical pieces of seaweed are having an off day).

Coming back from turning the hay a second time late yesterday afternoon I was confronted by two very dejected bored dogs waiting for my return in the yard. Feeling guilty I rushed them off for a quick walk. Going past the woods I notice the ground was covered with large patches of golden leaves. Funny. I thought and went for a closer look. Not leaves but carpets of chanterelles! Quickly taking off my cardi I began to pick – but there were too many. I dashed back home to get my basket and a knife. I picked and I picked.

Last night we had omelettes with chanterelles, tonight it was chanterelle risotto, tomorrow it’ll be a chanterelle strogonoff. And, to boot, I have trays of them drying out in the sun and on top of the Aga. A totally unexpected delicious bonus.

It was hot and windy and oh-so-bright. Friday, last week. The sea spangled and sparkled in ten million dazzling triangles momentarily blinding the eye with strings of black blots gliding across a backdrop of shimmering rainbows.

We strolled slowly through the crowds, contented cats full of tapenade (a paste of olives, tuna, anchovy and capers), anchoïade (crushed anchovies in oil, served with raw vegetables), grand aioli (poached salt cod, with vegetables and aioli sauce), farci (aubergine, courgette, tomato, onion stuffed with a delicately perfumed forcemeat on a rich tomato sauce) and tourte (a pie of potatoes, onion and garlic bound together with cream and eggs, wrapped in cured ham and crumbly pastry, served with crème fraiche and salad) washed down with glasses of ice cold rosé, the palest of pale pink. We watched in relaxed companionship the remains of the morning’s fish market being packed away and listened to the harsh nasal twang of swarthy Marseillais fisher-folk as they hollered and shouted to one another across the port above the impatient revving traffic and gush of their flushing hoses. Little Camille, entranced by twinkling rainbow prisms caught in the cascade of cleaning water, ran, arms outstretched, trying to catch the elusive crystal drops. And a seagull shat on Benjamin.

In all the clamour I almost didn’t hear it. Insistent, irritated it brring-brringed, bring-brringed, brrringed against my hip. My phone! I pressed it firmly against one ear but even with my hand clamped tightly over the other could barely make out the faint voice at the other end.

“Mum…..bluetongue…we’m….ade….Devon now’s….red could…tion zone!”

“What? What? Olly, can’t hear…shout. Very noisy. What’s that? What? Ohmygod did you say we’re now a protection zone. Oh shit, oh no! Where is it? When did it happen? Have you phoned the vet? What did they say? Oh heavens. You’ll have to vaccinate. Is there any vaccine? What did you say the vets say? What? When? Hang on. Hang on, I’ll just find a hiding place. You want me to come home? Hang on.”

Eventually I got the gist of Olly’s call. We didn’t have bluetongue disease in Devon. The vaccination programme had been going so well they had now advanced the protection zone to Devon. Vaccine should be made available from the 26 May. Hoorah! This was good news, not the catastrophe I originally thought. I asked Olly to call the vets, confirm our stock numbers and get an idea of when the vaccine would be released. A couple of frustrating shouted calls later and we had a clearer idea of timing. The vaccine most probably wouldn’t be available until I was back.

We arrived back last night. I phoned the vets first thing this morning. My vaccine would be ready for collection after four this afternoon. I’ve got it. It’s in my fridge…and tomorrow, first thing, we’ll start bringing the stock back to begin our vaccination programme. Soon, but not just yet, I’ll breath a little more freely!

Locks Park Farm

Thanks for visiting my blog. All entries are presented in chronological order.

I have a small organic farm on the Culm grasslands near Hatherleigh in Devon, with sheep and beef cattle. I've been farming in the county for more than 30 years. I've set up this blog to share views on farming and the countryside - please do give your thoughts.

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The Campaign to Protect Rural England has helped set up this blog. We want farming to thrive in England, and believe that it is essential that people understand farming and farmers better in order for that to happen. Paula's views expressed here are her own and we won't necessarily share all of them, but we're happy to have helped give her a voice.

Find our more about CPRE and our views on food and farming at our website, www.cpre.org.uk

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