Making hay, thunderclaps and uncertainty

It has been a period of incessant activity. Juliet’s birthday, Lammastide and another glorious full moon came and went. Barely remarked on.

Weather of all sorts has visited us. Of course there have been blue skies and staggeringly beautiful sunsets. But also days of brain-fogging humidity. Clammy, restless nights. Thunder and lightning. Hot heavy showers. Brief power cuts when the storms were close. For a minute or so technology was extinguished. I was mid-conversation with a prospective guest when this happened two days ago. He rang back. ‘I think there’s a problem with my phone,’ he said. I didn’t correct him.

Bad weather is a problem in this holiday business. You feel – or I do anyway – personally responsible – when it rains or is unseasonably cold. Many guests expect perfect, sun-filled days. Some are in lush, green West Wales because their foreign holiday is not feasible or sensible this year. They’ve been locked in for months and their more exotic plans are just not going to happen this summer. And some visitors are here because they know us, have been here before and understand the vagaries of the UK climate.

I am aware of the emotional investment in a short break to the Welsh countryside. I want, in some small way, for a stay on our little farm to replenish these visitors after months of confinement. And I want them to appreciate what an amazing part of the UK we live in… Most do, I think.

Making longterm plans is impossible now. But today we’re making hay, with thunderclaps in the distance and the odd scary shower. This hay will feed our pampered pets for the winter. We have no illusions about being ‘real’ farmers.

It was stickiness in the extreme earlier. Even Miss Baxter looked worn out, overwhelmed by the heat, albeit in a languid feline kind of way. Two buzzards and a red kite circled above the farmyard this afternoon. The newly turned grass was obviously the draw, but, to us, it seemed as if they were waiting for one of us to drop.

Hay is being baled, despite late afternoon thunderclaps and fat globules of rain. The husband rang down earlier. ‘Get help,’ he said. ‘There’s more than we thought.’

It’ll be a late supper tonight.

On the difficulties of being green

I’m not referring to the Kermit the Frog song. There was once a TV series called ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’,(or rather three series), set in Cornwall. It followed a family’s renovations of a 400 year old farmhouse, and their ‘green’ journey. For a while this was compulsory viewing in our household. I suppose because we were, in a smaller way, doing something similar. But with the added challenge of trying to create a viable business. And without the film crews!

One quotation from the series was – ‘I don’t want to wear a hemp shirt and hairy knickers.’ I have no idea if hairy knickers are, or have ever been, a thing. I can’t imagine anyone wanting them. But hemp shirts – yes. Some of the nicest, comfiest, most treasured items of clothing I have bought for myself or others have been made of hemp.

Trying to be green, or as green as possible, involves making a lot of mistakes. It’s not a state; it’s a  journey with many minor adjustments en route . And, like everything else here, it involves maintenance. Our two solar thermal systems, (for creating hot water), have been underperforming for a while. There’s been no time or spare headspace for the husband,( or son who lives on the farm), to tackle the complex problems. But time became available on Saturday morning, and the solar thermal systems came to the top of the ‘to do’ list.

The process – which was messy and disruptive as often seems to be the case – involved hoses, ladders, running up and down the stairs in the farmhouse and much male shouting. But after a few hours, the mood was positive. ‘We’re on a solar roll,’ said one of my menfolk.

I’d like to report that the solar thermal was indeed fixed on Saturday morning, but alas, absolute joy was fleeting. All is not quite solved yet, but, apparently, we’re going in the right direction.

On birth, rain and the time to reflect

I spoke too soon. The downpour sort of rain arrived this morning. No thunderstorm and no gloopy, sticky, tropical stuff. But still lots of it. Rain. And a strong breeze too. After weeks of unbroken stillness, the grass was freckled with pink and white apple blossom.

I did admire the clematis, but it wasn’t at its best. A little bedraggled, windblown and underperforming. Rather like me today, I feel. Am sporting socks (for the first time in several warm weeks) and an oversized sweater belonging to the husband. On top of the usual ensemble.

After admiring and rinsing my two trays of sprouting seeds – (gosh, how that takes me back to the eighties and Bristol’s Gloucester Road!) – I made an easy soup. This was a riff on the spring vegetable theme, sourced from fridge finds, ranging in shades from the palest of sage to the most vibrant leprechaun green. We ate bread from a packet at lunchtime. Despite being brown and seeded, this felt very wrong.  The aroma of freshly baked bread has become the new feelgood norm, rather than the exception to it, in our five weeks plus confinement…

A baby for Boris – the news popped, unbidden, onto my phone. He’s joined ‘the club of six’ apparently. The other members, (who were also Members), seem to be from similarly privileged backgrounds. Strange that. But whatever you think of Boris, what a year he’s having?! Definitely not an uneventful 2020 for him and still only April.

Also on my phone there was a video of a poetry reading. Distinctive and powerful but not the kind of material I usually read, and nothing like the material that I write.  

On Sunday, I was asked some questions by email by the enthusiastic Romanian student. One of them was the ‘magic wand’ one… if I were allowed to come back, be born again…those impossibly unlikely scenarios. Feeling wrong-footed and still a bit unwell, I’d now give a different answer. I would come into my creativity younger, angrier and grittier, with a lot of angst and attitude, and the ability to swear convincingly. A bit taller perhaps too; that would be good. But much grittier.

‘I’m getting a bit bored with my own company,’ my friend said. She’s isolating alone now, as are so many others. I must remember how lucky I am.