It’s been a cold, bright day here on the Ffarm;
a dramatic plunge in temperature overnight leading me to hurriedly collect more wood for the fire & stoke up the woodburner against the chilly air. I was perversely delighted to find frozen slugs stuck to the iron-solid soil in the vegetable garden; after the plague we suffered this Summer, a good long cold ‘snap’ is just what we need to reduce the legions of pests which have troubled us, our veggies & our livestock earlier in the year.
I’d completed the morning chores alone, having left Tony to have a lie-in until around lunchtime as he’d worked so hard on hand-clearing muck from the goat shed the previous evening, & was also driving down to London for a trip to T’blisi in Georgia, that afternoon. Just as I was finishing up, sweeping the passageway in the shed, the scrunch of tyres on gravel in the upper yard heralded the arrival of near neighbour & fellow smallholder, Quae, accompanied by her father. Quae is a highly talented spinner & produces a variety of absolutely beautiful woollen items, either in the original colour of the fleece or using a stunning, rainbow array of natural pigments from hedgerow plants such as madder & woad. Needing some fresh fleece to work with, a colleague in Guildford suggested she read the LittleFfarm Dairy blog, as it was written by someone in the vicinity & who was advertising fleeces for sale. How ironic that we already knew one another!
I first showed her a few of the raw fleeces; they’d been tucked into their woolsack since the day they were sheared. Afterwards we went up to meet the ladies who produced the lovely, soft wool; & Quae was also interested in this year’s crop of lambs; tiddlers compared to her own flock they may be, but they have their sire’s superb quality of lustrous fleece & the same length of staple. Being a beautiful, bright but chilly morning, we enjoyed a fairly leisurely wander around, chatting to the animals with an ever-inquisitive Toto-pony getting in the way as usual. I buried my hands into Darwin’s deliciously warm, thick coat; now there’s a horse wearing his winter woollies! Meanwhile the goats are looking distinctly furry, too; but they need the extra warmth today. That said, the goats certainly appreciated a day in the sunshine, regardless of the cold – & they romped & frolicked up & down the field in high spirits. Inevitably, we were pursued by an ever-nosey Apricot, who simply has to taste every item of clothing in case she can turn it into a cheeky snackette!
Tony packed his case whilst I carried out some Internet research to find out for what price the British Wool Marketing Board is selling the raw commodity, this season; Quae had inquired how much I wanted for our fleece but I honestly didn’t have a clue & was reluctant to commit myself for fear of inadvertently ‘ripping her off’.
After Tony had left I headed back through the orchard & up to the caravan, in order to make sure any water had successfully drained from the caravan’s plumbing as it is getting so much colder. Then I wandered beneath the massive old beeches, collecting the last of the season’s mushrooms from beneath the trees before heading back to the house to grab a warming cuppa & carrying out the evening chores. A full, bright moon enabled me to even put the ducks to bed without the aid of a torch; bearing in mind there is no artificial light anywhere in the vicinity (this must be one of the last places in the UK with absolutely no light pollution – a godsend when stargazing) this was quite something. Indeed the glowing disc of the magical moon was quite stunning & even the silhouette of the mountains’ massive range, could be clearly discerned against the skyline. The only sound was the soft whisper of the river, the water a dancing shimmer of silver beneath the cold bare branches of the silent wood. Pure, polaresque peace.