One year ago

A friend sent me a picture of the boys making hay a year ago. There was no pandemic, no furlough and there was a sunny window of opportunity between weddings. So we made hay. While the sun shone. Although it looks overcast and brooding in the photo.

Our first guests arrive tomorrow. It’s been like a March pre-season flurry of busyness, only it’s mid-July. Some of the activity has been the usual stuff – bringing yurts and their contents out of their winter hibernation, putting them up, re-waterproofing them and getting them ready them for occupation. But there have been processes to document, forms to fill in. A lot of paperwork. Added to this has been the return to part-time work of a few of the team, and introducing them to the way things have to be done now. The new normal which is anything but normal. It seems sad that we have to pare down what we provide in accommodation, prune it right back. No frills this season.

There’s been productive busyness down the lane. My daughter’s hive was overpopulated. Just before the weekend, her beekeeping mentor visited and helped her to set up a second hive.

There are 44 big round wrapped bales waiting to be taken away. This strange year, we decided to sell hay off the field, rather than deal with it ourselves. Three fields were cut and I think they’ve made haylage.

I’m a romantic. I confess it freely. I love the scent of fresh hay and the look of the small rectangular bales stacked high in a barn. The job has been done anyway. These bales will be gone soon.

Pizza, fleeces, bees and a tree

I mentioned gluten-free pizza. Finding the perfect flour for a gluten-free pizza dough has taken a long time. But the company we buy our pizza flour from also produces a gluten-free flour. It is, albeit eye-wateringly expensive, amazing.

The youngest and largest sheep, Gwilym, has been getting bossier. When sheep nut treats arrive there’s great excitement, followed by a little tussle with Gwyneth. Gwilym wants the lion’s share. However, he’s usually very respectful of the old lady, Blackberry. Not so today and yesterday. Despite his size and greed, he’s more cautious than the girls, less interested in being petted. Though he will now eat from my hand.

We have the beginnings of a plan for their fleeces.  I’m not a spinner or knitter, weaver or felter, so insulation is the answer. We’re going to wash the fleeces and then incorporate them into the insulation of the upcycled hot water tank for the new showers.

Today, the men worked between and during downpours. It was cats and dogs. Stair rods. When the donkeys finally made it out to their field, I told them to be sensible, take cover in their purpose-built shelter or hide under the trees. I didn’t want to find them standing in the rain, at the gate, looking mournful and accusing. Did they listen?

The bus roof repair is completed. Two yurts have been put up and waterproofed. One more to go, as we will only have three bookable this season. We going to have to leave out some of the frills and the non-essentials this year to minimise the risk of infection.

Cleaning materials, PPE and essential pieces of kit arrive almost daily. I’m trying to find the greenest way of complying with all current advice and recommendations. A package which arrived today contained a note saying my order had funded the planting of a tree.

We love trees. Bees too. My daughter, a novice beekeeper, has a surfeit. Her mentor is currently advising her on the setting up of a second hive. There’s also a new swarm which arrived a couple of weeks ago and seems to have settled next door. They must like it here. Long may this continue.

Fathers’ Day, a damp squib and an emergency cat

Several of us slept badly on Saturday night – maybe it was the loudness of the rain or the shortness of the night. Several of us felt quite tired and a bit flat on Sunday morning. The paper made for dismal reading. Brains proved inadequate for both crossword and sudokus.

Then, on the way to put the donks out, I rescued a rather beautiful butterfly from one of the barns and we collected a handful of courgettes and small squashes from a polytunnel.

Towards midday, between heavy rain showers, there were visits and presents – three fathers together in the conservatory – the husband, the son-in-law and my elder son. Silverback gorilla, (aka the husband), received chocolate, homemade cards, a painted ‘You Rock’ stone, a bottle of homemade elderflower cordial and a jar of homemade lime pickle. We drank tea, coffee and squash, sampled the elderflower gift and ate cake. My daughter made a lemon drizzle cake with raspberries. Orla baked cupcakes for the festivities, entirely unaided.

These past three months have been punctuated by small celebrations on the farm – Easter, an anniversary, a birthday, VE Day and then yesterday, Fathers’ Day. A whole season has passed. The internet was full of suggestions for make-the-solstice-special-at-home ideas. No-one here was especially inspired. The solstice came and went.

Dependent on the next First Minister bulletin, and of course the ‘R’ number, it looks like we will be  opening guest accommodation from 13th July – a reduced number of yurts, no shared facilities, no camping – but some business. Over the weekend we were updating prices and availability on our website. Plans for the remainder of Summer 2020 are still fluid and we’re waiting to receive details about the rules, regulations and protocols. It doesn’t quite feel real yet.

Soon we may be able to see other family members and good friends living beyond the current permitted area. That’s a definite end-of-tunnel light.

A few of my friends, for various reasons, have been much less lucky than I have and have spent the last three months more-or-less alone. One has an allotment to keep her busy. One has a beloved small dog. A third is in real need of an emergency cat. We all need something living – if not human company, then something which grows. Or better still, something which breathes and responds to us. I wish I could dispense, where required, an emergency cat or two.

from the polytunnel on Fathers’ Day