Byebye tipi and feeding the sheep

Today the chaps have been taking down one of the tipi frames in the yard. We’re going to leave one frame there and cover it – when time permits. But the other canvas is beyond repair. It’s over eight years old now so has lasted well!

The frame was made on the farm with Welsh poles we brought back to de-bark here. The canvas was 50% flax and 50% organic canvas. At that time, (the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012), we couldn’t find a British giant tipi maker. All giant tipis seemed to be imports. Which is why we chose the self-build route.

Taking down the second skeleton is part of the tidying-up the farmyard project. We plan to offer socially distanced eating and drinking there soon – maybe twice a week. There’s painting to do and the creation of a mural based on local children’s designs.

However ready you are for guests, it’s the last details which eat up time. When you’re not on mains – for gas, water or sewage – there’s bound to be an occasional glitch too. It’s part of the way of life here and keeps us from complacency.

But our first visitors have arrived – three units were occupied from yesterday and a fourth today. It’s all short breaks. Harder work now though, with the additional hoops to jump through.

The weather has been a bit disappointing for our first two days. Yesterday the forecast worsened as the day moved on. I wanted sun. I wanted our little smallholding to look at its best. But the barometer had other ideas.

The husband, and the guy who lives with us on the farm, have been working long and many days. We’ve been on a mission to get ready for our partial re-opening. Even the in-theory-office-bound one has been busy physically. According to the gadget on my wrist I walked over 16,000 steps yesterday. No walk, just visitor-preparation activity. For the moment at least, the rather more relaxed way of life of recent months is submerged.

Apparently there was a success on the plumbing front yesterday. It’s a complex system here, a black art understood only by the husband. It needs documenting for the ‘Clapham omnibus’ scenario…though he assures anyone who asks that there are ‘schematics’. Would anyone else understand them? I rest my case.

Early yesterday evening I was mucking out the donks and two guests toddled past – a child of about 18 months and his grandfather. I gave them a bucket of sheep treats. Sheep have very soft mouths and nibble gently when hand-fed. It reminds me of one of the really good aspects of doing what we do. And for now, that, and a G&T is enough reward for one evening.

Sunstroke and water

Around 200 hectares of damaged grassland and forest. The last time I checked the local news online, the fire was still burning. A hectare is just under two and a half acres, so this is insignificant set against Australia or Indonesia. But’s still horrible and it will have caused, and be causing, enormous harm to our wildlife.

Nellie has sunstroke and has to be kept in to recuperate. Her owner popped down the lane for a couple of bales of hay for her this morning. She and her mother, Bonnie, are Welsh cob x Shire horses. For the last few years, they’ve pulled our cart for the wedding couples who’ve opted for this mode of transport.

Investigation of the on-and-off water situation was ongoing today. The current thought is that the level is low but not critical. A pipe leak was found and repaired. So far so good.

The sheep have barely stirred today, except of course for their evening nuts. They’ve been immobile, hugging the shady edges of their paddock. Two days to shearing. I want to tell them – not long to wait – but they wouldn’t understand. I’ve had to cancel the spaniel’s coiffure appointment for later in June. Trisha, the lovely mobile dog groomer, has been allowed to resume her work, but with very strict guidelines. I’ve decided this new regime would be too traumatic for our old spaniel, so he’s going to stay unkempt.

On the phone to my sister this afternoon, we riffed on the endlessly entertaining topic of the state of our roots, and what we may or may not be doing about them anytime soon. Despite being more unlocked there, over the bridge, than we are here…there is still no salon excursion on the cards for her. Neither of us will be going purple.

Jenny Joseph’s ‘Warning’ was written in 1961 when she was only 29. Its purple referred to clothes, not hair. In 1996, There was a BBC poll for the most popular post-war poem and ‘Warning’ won, beating Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’. Jenny Joseph’s poem, (however dated some of the references seem today), has been a notable ode to nonconformity, especially female nonconformity, for almost sixty years.

We had a few wedding enquiries today, one from a woman who should have got married in Barcelona two days ago…so many personal disappointments and thwarted plans over the last ten weeks or so. I’ve been recalling the only two non-UK weddings I’ve been to – one in Northern Spain and one in Croatia. Both sunny and warm as you’d expect, but there was a fierce thunderstorm during the Croatian reception.

Rain, rain, rain. We’ve been promised a drop in temperature and light showers tomorrow. Fauna and flora – everything needs it.

Flaming June

The first day of Summer, though it feels so familiar. And there have been flames, a grassland and forest fire a couple of miles away, which started late yesterday. Driving to buy some garden plants this afternoon, from a small local nursery with an honesty box, we saw plumes of smoke. And a flash, as sunlight caught the moment a helicopter tipped its cache of water on the blaze. It’s just so dry. We came past scorched lawns and banks – very unlike West Wales.

It would have been my mother-in-law’s birthday today, an indomitable little Yorkshire woman. Tough exterior but a soft centre. I still miss her. In a rare moment of abandon, she slipped off her chair at my sister’s wedding. She blamed the upholstery rather than the bubbly.

Today is also my sister’s wedding anniversary, her 29th. She’s messaged me a picture of the table set before the celebration tea-party. Fizz, flutes, cakes, china and a tablecloth – very English country garden. The wedding was like that too – a small affair for about forty or so people. A Victorian church, top hats and tails for the key males. The bridesmaid wore Laura Ashley. There was much sunshine and it was all quite lovely. More charming and more understated than the traditional weddings of ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ three years later.

It’s been a day or two of projects. My son has hung cargo netting – donated by a friend – between trees in the veggie garden, for the older ones to play on. It’s in an area of dappled light, not the full glare. Just what these fair-skinned girls need.

The husband has been making taps – copper ones – out of odds and ends, leftovers and gifted pieces. They’ve been drying outside in the sun post their anti-rust coat of oil. My one-and-only washing up bowl was deployed in the cooling process after soldering yesterday. I’d only just retrieved it, after it had been borrowed on Saturday as a temporary home for goldfish. They’ve been moved now from small pond to bigger pond. The eco pond clean solution has still not worked, so it was hard to find them this morning. But we did. All four.

This evening the new equine guests are moving onto our fields. I’ll visit them tomorrow.

Much to applaud

It was the last scheduled clap last night. There’s been little audible round here, but it’s hard to hear above the birdsong and we don’t have immediate neighbours beyond the tribe. Eight is also a little late for the smalls.

Still, they have painted a sheet with a cheery rainbow message, and it’s suspended from trees facing onto the lane. And there is more to appreciation than applause.

Today began with a call about a donkey escape. One of the cross-rails of their stable enclosure had broken, they’d limboed under it and were off. Happily alternating between chomping on grass quietly, and then, kicking up their heels in joyous come-and-get-me-if-you-can friskiness. They weren’t free-range for long. The lure of two buckets of donkey nuts proved too great, and the bar has been fixed.

Another successful fix is WATER. Late morning the water pressure dropped. We were all planting in the meadow above the polytunnels. We’d sown seed and grown a vast number of wildflower plants. It was time, past time really, to transplant them to the field. But the ground was hard and bone dry. Kids and adults alike were wilting in the heat.

And then the water stopped. The three year old diagnosed the problem as a ‘kink’ (his favourite word this morning) in the hose. Alas, this proved not to be so.

We aborted today’s attempt at meadow prettifying. Miraculously, around 4.30 this afternoon, the water was back on. The explanation? A pump 64 metres down in our bore hole had tripped.

Apparently, it’s the sunniest spring since records began in 1928. And although we’ve still got two days left, it could well be the driest May for 124 years. There are murmurings and warnings about drought…