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.

A dragonfly

All four smalls were here yesterday morning; the mother of two of them was doing university work, but the parents of the other two had gone to see a funeral cortege and to watch the funeral remotely through zoom. Deaths are still occurring for other non C-19 reasons. This was a tragic road accident which has left children fatherless. Technology broke down nine minutes into the service.

It felt more like a blustery March day than late June. We all went for a walk before the weather broke – grey clouds were looming. First stop – the horses, who are currently number one attraction for the children. Despite their size, they are much less skittish and unpredictable than the donkeys. And then we walked the fields – a route not taken in nearly two weeks, as the recently deceased spaniel was too frail to walk it in his last few days.

In that fortnight we’ve had ideal growing conditions for brambles. The only way to get through in places was bearing sticks. The smalls enjoyed this. Creatures abounded – birds, butterflies, ladybirds (that eternally entertaining spot-counting exercise), assorted little bugs and beetles and the most extraordinarily-sized dragonfly, which kept us company for a while. When we googled later, it looked like we’d seen a golden-ringed dragonfly.

Technology here is finally improving after almost a week of at first patchy and then no mobile coverage. Fortunately, we have an office landline and a second internet connection through a different provider, so we weren’t totally cut off. But it was extremely frustrating while it lasted. My work computer has yet to be moved back to the farm office from the kitchen table.

There are other concerns, irritations and difficulties right now – a lot to do with communications from government. Announcing changes without having thought through the detail. Basic stuff really. Why should this surprise me?

As often happens, I found myself delving further into dragonfly territory. I started with Tennyson’s little poem, (barely clocked before), and then moved on to dragonfly eating habits. A dragonfly has a prodigious appetite, consuming its own weight in insects in 30 minutes. It’s carnivorous, and sometimes cannibalistic. Its wings typically beat 30 times per second, compared to an average bee speed of 300 beats per second. Despite lack of speed, the dragonfly is the strongest flyer in the insect world – its strength enabling it to hover even in strong headwinds. A thought to hold onto for a moment.