BLOG: Snowmageddon

What an interesting week we just had! Bright, sunny and cold for the first part of the week then high winds and snow. Once or twice we were reminded of Saskatchewan as the snow ‘devils’ swirled around! The difference was of course the temperature. Even taking into account the wind chill it has been nothing like as cold here, as there. Nonetheless, cold enough, especially in the farmhouse even with the wood stove at full blast.

We smiled a little at the excitement on the news when a low of -11.7 C was reached: In our first years here, we had temperatures of -19C in two successive winters.

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Cow whispering with Baachus

Of the two excitements expected this week only one actually took place. On Wednesday all the cattle went through the crush for blood samples to be taken, vaccinations given, and general condition checked. For the first time Baachus deigned to go through the crush – a challenge for him and us since he had to put his head through sideways to accommodate his horns. Unusually perhaps, he does not have a nose ring, so persuasion is all that is there is to manage him. Now we wait to hear the results.

It was a bitterly cold day – when Beatriz came in for lunch she thought she probably had frostbite in her feet! Happily, that was not the case and all were impressed with how well she had coped with, what was for her, a very new experience. She has also had to cope with no running water in the caravan as the pipes into it had all frozen. All credit to her, no complaints and a preference to remaining in the caravan to living in the house.

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Soil Association snowed off

On Thursday we were all geared up for our Soil Association inspection. In the event, the state of the roads allied to the fact that fields were covered in several inches of snow, resulted in the visit being cancelled.

The snow and wind required the movement of some sheep off a field lacking shelter, but otherwise apart from the animals needing more feed, and the ice in the water troughs needing to be regularly broken, all seems well – the animals are all very well insulated after all. The sights across the fields, for those who ventured out were impressive, as were the roads around us, some of which had drifts higher than the land rover, and having been snow ploughed, allowed for travel through these walls of snow. Typically, our next weather concern will be flooding!  But that is a bridge not to be crossed yet.

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An interruption to business

Life for tenants on the business park has been a little difficult. The high winds meant snow drifts blocked parts of the area and in particular sections of the long drive. Without the use of the tractor to clear the considerable snow drifts along the drive, access on three days would have been impossible.

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And school!

The grandchildren have, of course, been very happy indeed. School closures meant they could spend most of their time outside enjoying the snow. Periodically, red cheeks and noses would come in, with feet bringing in a combination of snow and salt which when it dried left the brown tiles looking very white! Like the farm animals, their food consumption shot up, but what a set of memories for them to take forward into adulthood.

On a personal note, despite my back being much better, concerns over my ability to injure myself, have meant imprisonment in the house for several days!

What it has meant is that the farm office is tidier than it has been for many a day. I have yet to work my way through the hundreds of pages, and I exaggerate not, involved in applying for higher tier Stewardship. Thank goodness we have at least six weeks to make sense of it and complete the forms. These days nothing comes in hard print so any farmer not up to speed with modern technology will struggle.

The cold has meant, rather like wrens are said to huddle together in cold weather, life in the house has been restricted to just three rooms meaning no Hi-Fi and no stamps but slightly more television watching, writing and of course reading.

An email from Michaelangelo usefully put our weather problems into perspective. Southern Italy has experienced snow and cold which is potentially devastating for farmers there. Our thoughts are very much with his family.

Anne is currently reading Obama’s autobiography. When asked what I knew of ‘Dred Scott’ who had lost a court case in which he asked to be declared a free man I confessed I remembered the case but not the man’s name. The case which led the Supreme Court to rule in 1857 that no black person could be considered a citizen of the United States (a ruling overturned some years later) somehow underlined the discussion on the Today programme on Friday of Rosa Parks the Afro-American woman who in 1955 refused to give up her seat to a white man in a bus. And all this happened so recently. The Empire Windrush in 1948 landed the first set of ‘immigrants’ from the Caribbean who had been invited by the government to come to the UK – we know how badly many of them were received.

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A note on positivity

I write about this because in my last notes I did perhaps strike too pessimistic a note.

Pinker is right. Things are far better now across a whole range of issues, including the rejection of racism, and it is important not to lose sight of that reality. Perspective does matter, even if one hurts at man’s inhumanity to others in so many parts of the world.

I had intended to finish with an extract from a poem by John Clare but the combination of the weather we have been experiencing, together with the pictures out of Syria and Myanmar almost inevitably turned my thoughts to how bitter sweet life is, and to Shakespeare – the man who somehow had words for all situations:

Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind by William Shakespeare

“Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship if feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As a friend remembered not.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.”

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