Come On…Come On…

We’d watched and learned

Our noses pink from unseasonal warmth

Through April and May

How the farmer

Pulled stubborn lambs from the ewe

Revived the still-born with vigorous shakes

Rubbing orphans with the bloody mess birth makes

Sneaking them close, out of mother’s view

So she would stand and suckle two

Even though she had borne just one

.

Through new nettles we stepped

To gather up the nervous flock

To face down the boisterous lambs

Turning them towards their baa’ing mums

As they tried to twist and leap by

Running at us down the hill

Like gangs of children freed from school

And then later in the summer

You with strong maternal craft

Led the old sheep back to the barn

Without the need to catch her young

.

Daily moving, feeding and watering chickens

Removing victims of the fox

Returning together on the quad

Then in the orchard you sat with bottles

Feeding Daisy-Mae and the others

Naming animals, though not encouraged

Made morning and evening special

As blossom turned to small hard fruit

You happily fed your woolly babies

.

We watched the herd of fifty-six

Clear each fresh meadow of the sheep

To ensure that they would get the best

One day you stepped into their heavy midst

To rescue the little one enclosed by the cattle

He so curious, you so brave

No nonsense, firm and swiftly done

You saved him from the hefty hooves

Set him down and let him run

.

We watched and learned

Our skin weathered

By the wind and rain of mid-summer

To prepare the cows’ route

From field to field along the hedges

Along the electrified lines

We opened gates and stood well back

Leaving them their safe space

Then called them on and let them run

Down the hill and on between the posts

They could sense the fresh pasture in the air

On their sloppy, bubbled, rough tongues

They chased each other to the new grazing

In breath-taking leaps and thundering charge

.

In our first summer of such work

We grew fitter, stronger, closer

Until winter’s dark advance cast doubt

Separation leaving us scratched, stung and shocked

But the gate is open; has never closed

I cannot drive you where you will not go

But call as softly as I can

“Come on…Come on…”

That you might is yours to choose

.

CLP 27/12/2019

On August XXI

Now gone with all else

Held in cloudy memories

Bottled and pickled

.

n.b. The serious work has begun to collect the fruit, vegetables and crops from the summer. What must be gathered from the orchard floor and stored for winter; what can be collected from the vine and pressed; what can be cut from the plant and eaten fresh, or kept dry; what can be picked from the over-burdened trees and turned to juice, or pickled, or made to jams and chutneys; what can be best preserved frozen?

The stoves burn, jars are sterilised, temperatures carefully monitored; steam and sweetness fill the home. Hair tied back, aprons on while the heat in the kitchen turns us pink and sticky too during these long satisfying hours before labelling bottles and still warm pots and cleaning up in the company of curious wasps and to the buzz of frustrated flies.

.

CLP 01/09/2019

On August XVII

Grass turned to hay bales

Turf open again to sky

Crows stalk the stubble

.

n.b. The corvids leave the pasture in flower to other creatures, but as soon as the ground is clear they descend, spread themselves out, (respecting each others’ personal space), and start grubbing about searching for leather jackets and other insect larvae; anything tasty that just a few days prior was happy under the cover of the grasses.

CLP 27/08/2019

On August XVI

It is a little late in the year to make hay

Intense heat reduces to rain too frequently

Morning dew takes encouragement to lift

Cloud cover sitting like a cosy duvet on night-warmed bed has to be dragged off by the Sun

So the hours available to flick and line up the mowings are few

Time is short to bale and store

Interpreting the conflicting weather forecasts is a challenge

If it’s dry with hot Sun, the hay must be brought in now

We are on it

.

CLP 26/08/2019