Despite all my dreams of living a life off the land, today has been a day when I’ve been glad I’m not a farmer. Not just because of the rain, which continues to fall, turning the fields around us into boot suckingly squelchy expanses, but we’ve also had sleet, and the air is bitingly cold. In the distance, the fells are glistening, in their winter coats.
This morning I ventured out to take the boy to school, which was enough to turn my fingers into icicles, and the heating to be turned up on our return home. I also had to leave the house to see to the chickens, but I left this as late as I dared, and made only a very short visit to them. Enough to check food and water levels, collect their eggs and provide their daily treat (I am growing more and more convinced they would just set about me if I failed to provide this).
Otherwise, this afternoon has been spent indoors, keeping warm and reading books and watching a film with the kids. I could probably have done something much more productive, but there’s something about a cold day which also seems to make my busy brain close down, and it’s no bad thing to have a lazy day with the children, once in a while.
However whilst we were being lazy, living next door to a farm, watching the tractors trundle past, you can’t ignore that farm life goes on, whatever the weather. Today at the farm, the housing for the livestock will have been cleaned out, the animals will have been fed, as lambing season is upon us, the ewes and lambs will have been checked and, those lambs that need it, bottle fed, feed will have been mixed, new cattle bought at market, brought home, settled in, and then more feeding. There’ll be an evening check for any new lambs, and to feed the cows, and potentially another check in the early hours of the morning for new lambs. Farming isn’t for the faint hearted, or those that aren’t committed to it.
Last night we watched Back to the Land, which profiled entrepreneurs living in rural Britain, and the businesses they had set up within the rural economy. Last night’s episode was set in the Lake District, and one of the businesses was a wedding barn, which was being run by a farming family. At one point, the presenter was speaking to them about the future of the wedding barn, and the fact that if they gave up the farm work and focussed on the wedding business, they’d make a lot more money. The couple managed to not look completely appalled by her suggestion, but they were having none of it; it was clear that farming is their life and not just a job, it’s actually an important part of who they are. By carrying on the farm work, they weren’t just focussing on their family’s future, they were also honouring their family’s past. This is something so very different to anything I’ve experienced in my own life, and something I find quite inspiring. We’re now very lucky to be a part of a farming community, and you can see the same story being lived by numerous families around us. And, as the rain falls and the wind howls and the snow covers the fells, you can’t but help imagine the people out there, working the land, looking after the livestock, and preserving this way of life for the next generation.