Sun-touched hedgerow holly
With the rising of the sun dawns a feeling of fresh hope. The cold, clear morning light revealed a sharp air frost had decorated the trees in the valley with a delicate cloak of pearlescent white, giving the slender limbs & boughs an otherworldy luminescence.
I started the day with a couple of slices of crisp wholemeal toast, spread with a liberal coating of Marmite; upon which I munched thoughtfully whilst reflecting on the rollercoaster events of the past twelve months. And yes, I did set myself some reasonably achievable resolutions; although I am not going to divulge them here for fear that if I break them I will be castigated!
After completing the morning chores I whistled to the dog & we went for a brisk walk to ‘beat the bounds’ – checking the farm’s perimeter fences. We are lucky in that the previous owners of the farm looked after it extremely well; the majority of the fields are bounded by stout hedgerows with an additional barrier of sturdy stock fencing; so as was to be expected I thankfully unearthed few problems. We enjoyed our walk with the delicate cerulean blue of the sky fostering a feeling of well-being & the sort of sunny optimism that only comes once a year….
On returning to the farmyard to serve my caprine charges their lunch however, said feelings fizzled away as the first true challenge of the year presented itself in full fountainous glory: two burst pipes in the Dairy Complex. With the sun’s warm rays penetrating the icy grasp of night, hard-frozen pipes had commenced a rapid thaw – with disastrous results.
The goats weren’t just indignant; they were furious. Huddled at the furthest end of their pen from the automatic drinking bowl which had blown its’ regulation valve, they chorused their profound disapproval at my evident ineptitude at preventing this from happening in the first place. I had to sympathise though; as part of their accommodation was already under several inches of freezing water mixed with a heady cocktail of deep-litter straw & goat guano; & the water had been gushing out at a furious rate in a horizontal stream, almost to the centre of the capacious pen. It was, indeed, nothing short of spectacular.
Partially to appease their grumpiness & also to keep them otherwise engaged (as, being incredibly curious creatures they love to ‘supervise’ any such tasks) I heaped hay & lucerne into their racks at the far end of the pen, which they attacked with gusto.
I hurriedly consulted the schematic diagram of all the electricity & water points on the farm, created for just such an emergency as this. Having located the appropriate stopcock to stem the flow I set to work to closer investigate the thorny problem. Unfortunately there were no spare valves; & the offending article was nowhere to be seen even though I desperately attempted to calculate its trajectory when it was forced from the pipe. So there was nothing for it but to sift desperately through the freezing slurry & try to locate said missing valve.
After several long & frankly grim minutes, my numb fingers grasped the hard little nub of bone-white plastic that had caused the problem. Having anxiously assessed its condition & unable to find anything obviously wrong with it I wielded my screwdriver to good effect & soon had the problem fixed; before turning my atttention to the leaking pipe above the other drinking bowl in the neighbouring pen, a more delicate & involved operation which involved balancing on a precariously wobbly wooden chair whilst trying to reach a dislodged pipe that is just-a-little-too-tall for stubby old me. But it had to be done; & I did it.
I tentatively turned the stopcock back on & observed with palpable relief that everything was now thankfully back to normal. Wiping my filthy hands with an old rag & a resigned sigh, I exited the Dairy Complex muttering “Happy-bloody-New-Year to you too” before stomping back across the yard to gather up feed for our flock of feisty sheep, who were grazing the upper pastures.
But I halted in amazement at the curious sight of the two Frenni Mountains; the gateway to the Preseli Hills which lie to the west of the farm. A curious cap of mist encircled the Frenni Fawr (Big Frenni) like a coverlet of sky-cast snow.
“Let’s hope that’s not a premonition”, I thought uneasily. However as no serious snow had been forecast I did not feel unduly concerned.
As I left the valley & puffed my way up the steep hill to the upper pastures with Brynn capering gleefully beside me, more of the skyline gradually revealed itself. The first surprise was that the majestic Foel Cwmcerwyn Mountain was completely covered with snow; although the surrounding hills & fields were a wintry shade of dull brown. The second was the ominous scudding of angry, inky clouds across the northern horizon….heading straight towards us.
Snow on Foel Cwmcerwyn
Not exactly anxious to get dumped on by whatever-it-was that the clouds concealed I summoned Brynn & beat a hasty retreat back down the hill & into the shelter of the Dairy Complex.
Clambering up into the haystack I set to work sorting out the goats’ supper, pulling thin wedges of hay from a large square bale much as if removing slices of bread from a giant brown loaf.
I was alerted by an odd hissing noise; which made me groan inwardly as I automatically cast about for signs of yet another burst pipe. But no; it was coming from outside, & all around; judging by the sudden twilight atmosphere those clouds had indeed arrived & were now discharging their burden over the Ffarm.
Popping my head out of the heavy galvanised doors I expected to be greeted by a rainy deluge; but to my dismay was met instead by a rather folorn collie sporting a light overcoat of crumbs of fine snow. In only those few short seconds the ground had already turned a ghostly white.
My hopes that this would prove a short-lived shower were increasingly dashed as the tiny spheres of ice were gradually replaced by big fat flakes of downy snow; which just kept on tumbling endlessly out of the gaunt grey sky….
Sabe & Toto in New Year snow
And so by the time it came to ‘shut up shop’ for the night, the world was muffled in a thick, white, chilly blanket once more; & I found myself resolving to do the only thing I honestly could for as long as it might last….just make the best of it; & keep on, keeping on.
What a start to 2010.