Sunday, 29 January 2012

PLEASE can we go sledging?

SNOW! A Friday afternoon flurry. Enough for a white carpet, followed by a clear-skied freezing night. Perfect ingredients for a Saturday morning of sledging.

Finally the kids are wearing enough layers, albeit of inappropriate clothes (Rosa doesn't do trousers at the moment and Joe insists on wearing his all-in-one furry Thomas pyjamas). We head out the yard, over the cattle grid, up the sheep field and launch the sledge - first with me and Rosa, then with me and Joe.

Brilliant run. Nobody falls off. No sheep are injured. I run back up the hill to where Malcolm is patiently awaiting his turn, only to realise the kids aren't following. In fact, there's a definite air of mutiny. We have an uphill/downhill stand off. Then Rosa and Joe appear to come to an agreement. They're going home without us.

We watch in disbelief: beautiful sunshine glistening on the snow-kissed fields, our very own sledge run, and our children clambering over the cattle grid to get back home as quickly as possible.

Who needs kids anyway.
"Bags I sledge down the hill!"
"No, it's MY turn."

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Jog in the fog

I'm beginning to get jogging, at least in this area.

We're surrounded by natural beauty and inclement weather.
Walking the moors has less appeal when it's cold, grey, drizzly and extremely boggy. Jogging along roads and farm tracks has the following advantages:
- it warms you up
- you don't need to put on five layers
- you're back home by the fire more quickly (and before it goes out)
- you feel entitled to that honey waffle with your mug of tea.

Of course there are also hurdles to overcome, namely:
- leaving the warmth of home in the first place
- braving the yard with the territorial sheepdogs
- feeling physically unfit and panting lots 
- getting past the hissing geese
- puddle hopping and mud skirting
- trying not to mind what passing drivers think.

I guess it's a case of matter over mind. Don't think, just do, breathe deeply, count the sheep and feel smug in the shower afterwards.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Sheep have caesareans too

It's bizarre how we can live on a farm in complete ignorance of farming. That's why I like talking to Farmer John.

The other night, while we were sleeping peacefully, he was across the yard snatching a few hours' kip in his car, waiting for one of the sheep's labour to progress. The early batch of lambs are top pedigree, artificially inseminated. One ewe needed a caesarean - an hour-and-a-half round trip to the vet's. Mum and baby are both doing well.

Are there any warning signs we should look out for in the lambing season? Apparently not. Farmer John has everything under control. The sheep are numbered in due date order and John's sideline in sonograms means he knows exactly what each sheep is expecting. Those carrying one lamb fend for themselves up on the hills. Those carrying two are lower down, with a heap of sugar beet. And those in the field next to us are carrying three or four. They get extra helpings.

I'm striving to share my newfound knowledge with my family. As the sheep obstruct the school run, I explain that they have baby lambs growing in their tummies. This leads to interesting questions such as "How do they come out?" and "Where are the Daddies?"

Meanwhile, Joe's been learning about babies at playgroup as well.
"When we were babies we drank milk from your boobies," he tells me. "It's called grassfed."

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Frozen Planet

The pale winter sun is struggling to melt the frosted grass. Wooden gates and stone walls are fringed with crystals. And, in the kids' eyes at least, the iced-up puddles are in desperate need of being broken. Trowel and stick in hand, they set about a bit of natural destruction.

Last night we snuggled under a duvet on the sofa, watching the Spring episode of David Attenborough's Frozen Planet. Today we're recreating it in the farmyard: watching the meltwater trickle under the sheets of ice, building penguins' nests out of little stones and, of course, breaking up the frozen troughs to make threatening icebergs.

The BBC blurb warns that Frozen Planet 'may be the last chance to witness these great wildernesses before they change forever.' I fear that's true of childhood too.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Why Joe doesn't want to go back to London

1) I don't want London, I want grass.
2) I want our new car.
(Actually it's a very old car - even has a tape deck - but don't tell Joe)

Friday, 6 January 2012

Table tennis

It's pretty cold in our farmhouse, as the wind whips sleet and hail against our windows. Not that I'm complaining. I can do layers, keep the hot plates open on the Aga, rig up a rug across the open doorway into the sitting room. Then there's the central heating. We've finally accepted that we cannot live on Aga and fire alone and have decided to TURN IT ON.

But there are still times when the chill sets in. Like this morning. The kids are at school and playgroup and Malcolm and I are working from home at the kitchen table. A couple of coffees later and our thick fleeces are struggling to keep out the cold.

Thank goodness the kids were given a junior ping-pong table for Christmas. It fits nicely in our sitting room. A couple of stonker rallies later and we're ready for another hour's work.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Coming home?

We spend a very merry Christmas in Somerset with my parents. The kids are old enough now to make Christmas special and enable us to recreate the Christmas of our childhood, complete with being yanked out of bed at 11pm on Christmas Eve to see Dad (now Grandpa) preside over Midnight Mass in the local village church.

"Will Grandpa come back with us?" whispers Joe after the service.
I assure him he will.
"Will he put his clothes on first?"

On our return to Lancashire we take a detour via Sheffield for the funeral of Joy Hope, an inspiring 101-year-old and close family friend. We're a bit early and it's too wet for the park so we pop into Sainsbury's to kill some time. The post-Christmas toy/chocolate/clothes sale are a materialistic argument waiting to happen, so we steer the kids down the vegetable aisle instead. The only pretext I can come up with is buying a carrot for the guinea pigs (waiting patiently in the car). Funny looks at the check-out are a small price to pay for happy children who are allowed to hand over 20p, share the change, and give half a carrot each to Holly and Nutella.

Joy gets a good send off at her church. We sit precariously near the front and there's a tense moment during the address when the penny drops for Joe and he asks in a stage whisper, "Has Joy died?"
But all is soon forgotten over sausage rolls and cheese straws.

We continue our journey to Lancashire in the dark and I wonder what it will feel like returning to our rented farmhouse. Will it feel like coming home?

Well, no. Not immediately.

Then we pile into the house, open the post, light a fire and suddenly we are home. Rosa's happily telling a barbie story, Joe's happily transferred to bed, the guinea pigs are happily coo-ing in fresh sawdust.

And Malcolm and I? I guess we're happily here and happily us and curious as to what 2012 will bring.