Waking Up

The cold blow of April deters us spending more time in the garden but the necessity spurs us on. A cold frame full of tender plants escapes the effects of late frosts. Cosmos in pots inside a trough with just muslin covering do not. We are excited to have tracked down and purchased (with all the trimmings) a small metal greenhouse (5’3″ x 6’5″) which will be with us around the end of May. The company we bought it from will send their contractor to erect it but we have to get the ground cleared and prepared. To that end, in the vegetable garden I’ve felled a conifer, transplanted ground covering euphorbia and geraniums, transplanted a former Xmas tree, re-positioned moss covered boundary stones and (most challenging of all) dug up half a dozen tree stumps. Sharp sand and stony gravel await in dumpy bags in the yard. I’ve also dug a drainage ditch between grass and beds and filled with stones to help drain what is otherwise a soggy edge to the garden. Our cheerful retired builder and his son will be shortly giving us a concrete pad on which the smart green greenhouse can be secured…Can’t wait!

Meanwhile, elsewhere round the garden I plant our main crop desiree seed potatoes in the raised bed after clearing the last of the old year’s salad vegetables….Out front I find a slumbering toad tucked up in grass and moss round the bole of the infant gean we planted on the roadside. There’s delight at the spread of fierce yellow globeflowers fringing the pond and sigh at the sad sight of one of our resident dunnocks floating drowned in the overflow of one of the water butts. However did it end up in there I wonder? The hedgehog Kim discovered (and re-covered) with leaves and moss on the bank border in the February warm spell has upped and left. Or has it? Searching for permeable liner in the railway carriage Kim once again uncovered a slumbering hog under an insulating cover of fleece. Is this the same creature seeking what it thought would be a berth where it would not be disturbed again? He/she sleeps on for now…We’re all wanting the year to properly turn and wake up our north country dormancy.

Lambing

Little Baa by Kim Lewis

This website has been down for the last month (trouble at ‘electronic mill) hence no posts. It’s a busy time of year for farmers and growers of course and the thread that links most farming activity around us is that of lambing. Fields get parcelled up: ewes with singles in one, twins in another, tups in a third. Barns start to fill with animals taken in by, ready to start delivering, and soon farmhouse kitchens will be lodged in by bottle fed orphans. Meanwhile, down in the valley with its richer sheltered ground the ewes and their lambs are already turned out. March brought the weather extremes it’s always associated with. Mid month, taking a short stroll up the lane from home, the ewes carrying started moving downfield to the lea of our garden wall. The incoming weather was so fierce I was pricked by needles of hail which half blinded me to a heads down stagger back with coat iced solid by the time I reached sanctuary. Another day, the massed assorted daffodils in our garden radiate in the sun, celandines glisten, plentiful buds on the damson display a beautiful subtle green, while the air is filled with birdsong and the curlews liquid call reverberates over the freshening fields. This hard land is low in minerals so our neighbour early in March had rounded up the pregnant ewes & walked them back to the farm where they were dosed with copper supplement. This reduces the high risk of illnesses like ‘Swayback’ where new born lambs can’t stand on their back legs. Another day the farmer is driving his quad over the rough ground dispensing pellets through a concentric feeder – the ‘snacker’ – with the flock in hot pursuit. The family have decided to lamb later this year due to the problems caused last Spring by the ‘Beast from the East’ and the poor grass growth. Even now in early April we’ve had two days of non settling snow showers and sharp east winds; just the sort of weather hill farmers do not need with masses of newborn lambs arriving. Before that, on a dry sunny day, as Kim & I gardened, the next door flock put up a hue and cry, baaing and trotting fenceward, convinced we were there to feed them, as we wheelbarrowed cuttings and foliage to the bonfire pile on the crags. These beasts are so keen eared to particular engine pitches that they set up a-bleating when the quad leaves the farm a third of a mile away. Our field is currently occupied by the half dozen tups that Southridge keep to service their mixed flock of Blackface, Swales, Mules and Cheviot. Mostly Texels (a favourite choice of farmers round here) these boys won’t win any prizes for pedigree, but they do the job they’re bred for and earn their keep. No longer rivals these testosterone driven progenitors are docile enough now but stand their ground, chewing mechanically when eyeballed, yet looking more done in than the ewes do. Often scratching lower bodies with their hooves I suspect the presence of ticks and other ovine irritants. Meanwhile they skillfully chew on anything vaguely edible deposited on the fire site and we grow grateful for the gift of lengthening days and a gradual return of colour and form to our upland topography.

Tups on the Crags