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gloomy

gloomy

Over the last two summers I’ve littered text with soggy simile, metaphor, adverb and adjective; written watery creative analogies; been moistly apocryphal, saturatingly colourful and squelchingly onomatopoeic. I’ve been sent bonkers by rain-driven frustration and suffered blue-gloom from lack of sunlight.

But now I’m emotionally ‘descripted’ out. From the once again watery swamplands of the farm I have absolutely nothing original to say about rain or sodden summers (though to be fair it’s only been July – it just seems so much longer – we did have a stunning spring and early summer, our memories though have been clean washed away).

I could, I suppose, thrill you with my efforts at pickling and preserving (but haven’t I told you about that a couple of times before?) or wax lyrical about the cleaning out and washing down of the cow palace (almost as captivating as watching paint dry, wouldn’t you say?).

Maybe I could let you into the little secret of the rat in the polytunnel…(ahha, I can see a glimmer of interest here!)? The one who munched his way through the whole of our corn crop in a night effectually destroying every cob? Who’s also gnawed each and every beetroot and is now thumbing his nose at us as he takes poisonously vicious bites out of all ripe or almost ripe tomatoes before we get a look in. Oh, and what about the powder mould that’s ripped through the courgette population and the worrying lack of growth with our second planting?

‘Yes!’ I hear you exclaim ‘Vengeance is sweet!’  Remember all the green ploytunnel envy?

ah well...

ah well...

I’m sure this isn’t the only job where you flip from total elation to utter dejection in a bat of an eye but it must rank pretty high on the list.

I was feeling very optimistic about this year. After all it was a fine winter: frost, ice, bright cold days and even snow. I liked it, a proper season with humans, stock and nature responding accordingly. And spring? Spring’s been magnificent; full of sun and promise, smiley people and happy animals. The difficulties of the last two summers began fading into the distance. I’d even started to plan…

Then last week it began to rain (actually I don’t mind rain, it’d be a stupid place to live if I did). But this is not gentle rain or even just normal rain, rather the stair-rod kind we’ve experienced more and more over the last two years – monsoon rain.

no grass, just thousands of orchids and wild flowers thriving in Dillings, our hay meadow

no grass, just thousands of orchids and wild flowers thriving in waterlogged Dillings, our hay meadow

A blogging cyber-friend, Elizabethm, came for an ‘in-the-flesh’ visit the afternoon the rain started in earnest. After she left I had a long phone call with my son in France about wedding arrangements (he and Berengere are getting married next month in Marseille) so by the time I got out to check the calving cows it was almost dark and still pelting with rain. One of the cows, Hermione, looked pretty imminent. It was too dark to move her so I left hoping she would hang on till morning.

All night I listened to the sound of torrential downpours and the wind frenziedly whipping and slapping at the bedroom curtains. As soon as it was light enough to see I was up to check the cow and sure enough there, by her side, was a sodden shaking calf. At least she was alive, though being born in the worst of the wind and rain she had not managed to suck and was fast becoming hypothermic. As quick as I could I moved them into the shed, towelled the calf and began the long laborious job of trying to get a sucking reflex. Not as easy as a lamb, you can’t put a 40 kilo calf on your lap, open its mouth, clamp it onto the teat, hold it there, stimulate sucking whilst pinning its 600 kilo mother against the wall with your shoulder. You desperately need the cooperation (hollow laugh) of both cow and calf. Suffice to say after nearly four hours and on the point of giving up, I managed to get the calf on the teat whereupon she miraculously changed from a fading shadow into a lusty ravenous monster-calf!

hermione with her heifer calf sucking lustily

hermione with her heifer calf sucking lustily

During this palaver and one of my ‘it’s-never-going-to-suck’ exits we went to check the main herd. More drama! The river was in full spate separating a couple of cows and a group of calves from the rest of the herd. Both groups were bawling franticly at each other divided by a dangerously fast flowing torrent. In a situation like this it’s best to do nothing (the animals could panic and throw themselves into the river) and hope that both the rain and river will ease off, fairly fast!

hermione licking her calf

hermione blissfully licking her new calf

Luckily by the time I’d finished with the cow and calf the herd had reunited and we were able to move them back to the farm for safety.

So my optimism has taken a knock. Still the rain rains and it’s hard not to feel a little pessimistic about the outcome. We thought that building the polytunnel was a sure fired way of guaranteeing a hot summer and now we’re not so sure…but this morning there’s watery sunlight, no wind and a grin on my face!

a blaze of hawthorn berries glow in the sunlight

a blaze of hawthorn berries glow in the sunlight

Two days…yes, two whole days of sun; gorgeous, glorious sun!
We’re smiling, grinning; no, not powerful enough – beaming? Beaming, intoxicated, euphoric and possibly a little silly.

I’ve at last sheared the lambs. Cows and calves went back out this afternoon onto the Rutleighs which are just about dry enough for them not to poach and damage. With any luck we could get onto the land by next week and do some much needed topping. Who knows – perhaps we’ll even manage to get our straw? I could be getting a wee bit carried away here.

I sat out on the bench, ate my lunch and felt too hot! I sweated walking up the hill with the cattle; my overalls clung in damp, sticky patches, my feet were hot-throb swollen in their thick socks and wellies and the nape of my neck clammy with perspiration.   Whining insects bizzed, bit, fed and sipped the salt on my skin. My eyes aren’t coping with the brightness either; they’re screwed up, squinty and watery. But I don’t mind. Oh, I so don’t mind!

a hornet drinking from an oak sap run

a hornet drinking from an oak sap run

The air has become alive with dancing butterflies, bees, hornets, wasps, dragonflies, midges, mozzies and a hundred more flying fluttering insects in a last ditch attempt to capture their fast disappearing season of life. And the countryside also thrums with frantic hum and drone of tractors, mowers, combines and balers in a concentrated endeavour to save flattened crops and grass.

this is ared deer hind with her yearling white albino calf and this years brown calf

this is a red deer hind with her female yearling white albino calf and this year's brown calf

Amid this background of frenetic activity groups of deer, some large, some small have appeared in the vast acres of uncut vegetation to graze and bask silently and peacefully in the dappled sunlight.

i've watched her and followed her progress for some time. She seems to prefer being solitary, with just her offspring for company.

I've followed her progress for sometime - she prefers a solitary existence with her offspring for company; unusual for red deer

You may remember Robert joked that Gaia was responding to global warming by making it rain more, both to cool the earth and lower the sea.  Well, maybe not.  But this week’s New Scientist reports that researchers in Switzerland have found that rainfall has been increasing by 3.5mm per year across the world.  The heat trapped by greenhouse gases has fuelled an increase in evaporation leading to more rain.  That’s not to say that everywhere has become wetter- wind has carried clouds away from some unfortunate places which have become drier, making others even wetter.  On the record of the last two years, Locks Park is definitely one such wetter place!

though I’ve only found one – this dragonfly.

totem pole? Could be couldn't it. Southern Hawker dragonfly

Totem pole? It could be couldn't it.

We found this vividly marked Southern Hawker dragonfly by the pond, its wings sprinkled with raindrops; they look so beautiful in this context. It’s dramatic colours and markings reminded me of a totem pole.

So only another 100 reasons to love rain. I think it’s safe to say I’ll have a struggle to find that many.

extraordinary Southern Hawker dragonfly

extraordinary Southern Hawker dragonfly

And now I have to go and get all the cattle in for dreaded TB testing. I am nervous.

Sneezewort against a leaden grey sky, Hannaborough

Sneezewort against a leaden grey sky, Hannaborough

The rain has washed-out, or at least diluted, any cogent thought in my head. I made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t mention the weather too much this summer – after all, my explosions of sodden thought and drenching words last year exhausted the whole gamut of wet noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, analogy and simile – official and invented. But, suffice to say, it’s getting to me.

Not just the rain; I’m okay with that – the waterproofs, the wellies and the squelching-squalching exuberance of just getting wet. No, it’s the dark this ‘summer’. The grey. The lack of light.

This morning I opened an eye and sensing the still dim light thought ‘Oh good, it’s early’ and snuggled back into warm cosy bedclothes with a sigh. Drifting in a delicious half-dream state, some inner prodding nevertheless made me squint at the clock. I was late! Struggling out of bed I lurched over to the window, where a small lozenge of pearl grey hovered, drew the curtains and peered out. Dark smudged semi-light, fingers of misting rain licking the concrete to deadened lead-grey, rivulets of oily water streaked with sickly yellow clay running down the drive, vegetation hung heavy and lifeless broken down with the weight of water; a couple of rabbits, soaked to the skin, hopped into the sodden tangled disorder of the verge; no vitality nor vibrancy; dankness and rot dominated. I leant on the window ledge ‘So dark, so gloomy’ I thought ‘I don’t want this anymore on an August summer’s morning’.

I’m a morning person. Generally at my best as soon as I open my eyes. Ideas, thoughts, plans and actions are on the boil, immediate and ready. It’s not an effort to get up – much more of one to stay in bed. But I do have difficulty with dark mornings. Spring and summer with bright zinging dawns are a top-up for my soul; I’m so ready after a seeming eternity of getting up and working through dark winter mornings for the injection of first light vitality and exuberance. Until this year I didn’t realise how important this seasonal top-up was to me. And I’m not getting enough, not in the morning, not in the day and not in the evenings.

Tangled vegitation with drifts of meadowsweet and marsh thistles

Tangled vegitation with drifts of meadowsweet and marsh thistles

Procrastinate, postpone, put off, delay, dilly dally, dragging feet
Drumming, hammering, pounding – the rain buckets down

water gushing over the dam

water gushing over the dam

All day avoidance tactics. Work to do. Toppling piles of the stuff. But somehow I just can’t settle. I vaccinate Ginny’s calf with her second does of bluetongue vaccination; the last animal to be covered, hoorah. I come back in drenched; dry, change and get ready to work…

Sidestepping the real tasks I clean up my computer; I arrange all my books in alphabetical order. Eventually I make it to the work in hand. I try to call people…planning department, builder, energy consultants (totally useless), soil association (bone to pick), Devon Cattle Breeders (cattle to sell): no one’s there; are they playing the avoidance game too or they are away on holiday? Scuppered; I don’t need much to stop me dead in my tracks today.

I take the dogs for a walk hoping the pouring rain will refresh enliven and stimulate.
Plish, plash, plosh, splish, splash, splosh – I’m in a world of green wetness.
I slip trying to cross the dam to take a photo of the impressive waterfall. My boot fills with cold muddy water. Squelch squash squish – warm spurts are propelled out of my boots. The dogs are intrigued by the noise and pouts of water landing on their noses.

the young stock sheltering from the rain

the young stock sheltering from the rain

After I returned from my wet walk I tried to upload my photos onto my blog, but as yesterday’s luck would have it they refused to upload. After an hour or so fiddling and loosing patience I was rescued – by some good friends. A life saver; wine, nosh, talk and a laugh!

wet wetness

wet wetness

yesterday as the grass began to dry

Yesterday emotions ricocheted. Trepidation in the morning as clouds loomed over the farm; to the beginnings of buoyancy as they were cracked apart by fingers of sun and blown by a drying wind; to sheer relief as I heard the grass begin to rustle under the tines of the turner.

transferred worry

The first fat drop of rain fell at six o’clock, by seven it had been joined by the multitudes. I’d somehow managed to keep away from the compulsive-weather-checking so Olly filled me in. We were experiencing the edge of a massive low travelling across Ireland. Intermittent showers were expected throughout the night till seven or possibly ten the next morning…this was turning into my worst nightmare.

I was up at five this morning peering out of the window at the moist wet world. Whilst checking the sheep the heavens opened. I was despondent, dejected and downhearted.

olly takes over turning this morning

By nine this morning a healthy wind was beginning to blow although the sky was still heavy with oppressive dark clouds. A plan was made. Turn to lift the grass of the ground and let the wind and air get to it. Row up where the grass could continue to dry and if all was well bale, and wrap late afternoon.

clouds and grass all rowed-up in path field

Nature, thankfully, had almost finished playing with me. By mid-day the wind was blowing with purposeful single-mindedness, the sun shone hard, the clouds scudded and the fast drying grass smelled sweet. I felt jubilant. It was going to be okay after all.

lining up

The bailer moved in at five and as I write the zee-zee-zee of the wrapper working in the dusky dark is music to my ears! The biggest ‘thank-you’ in the world to all you positive thinkers, for a monent there it was touch and go!

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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