What to throw out? Tubs of limewash, old gates, a pile of stone - they may all come in useful

It is generally at about this time of year that I nerve myself to conduct a purge of the buildings round the farmyard - the problem always being to decide whether an object has some potential use or whether it is junk. Much depends, of course, on how you want your premises to look. One mason who did some work here advocated the indefinite retention of everything. "After all," he said, about a pile of stone, "stood in a corner there, it don't eat nor drink nothing, do it?" He had a point; but I have a point as well, and that is that the place should not become like a tip.

So where do we begin the annual clear-out? Most of that stone is still with us, 10 years on. Some has been put to good use, and the rest may come in handy any time. If we wanted to make space, we could shift it out and add it to another pile along the edge of a spinney, but it is better off under cover, where rain and frost cannot damage it. Clearly, it has to stay.

Next to it stand three substantial tubs of limewash, left over from refurbishing one end of the house. Will they ever come into their own? The idea was that if the new rendering should crack or flake off, we would have spare limewash, exactly the right colour, with which to repair the damage. But now, a year later, nothing has shifted. Furthermore, scratched in pencil on a beam in the woodshed, we have the recipe from which Adrian, our master builder, concocted the final, creamy coat: in an emergency, we could re- create the colour from fresh ingredients. So should I throw out the tubs? I think I'd rather hang on to them for the time being.

What about the four farm gates jammed into a corner of the yard? They are all damaged, and not worth repairing. On the other hand, they make excellent temporary barriers, if one suddenly needs to construct an ad hoc enclosure. Hard by them is a cattle-crush - a narrow cage of steel tubing designed to trap a single beast so that one can dose, inject or otherwise treat it. This, too, is inactive for probably 364 days a year, but all the same ...

Back under cover, access to my work bench is almost blocked by a stack of fence-posts, planks and lengths of four-by-two salvaged from earlier structures. All this dry timber would burn splendidly: one good blaze- up would clear the lot. On the other hand, most of the pieces will eventually give good service in some other incarnation - a sheep trough, a nesting- box for the chickens, a new stile - and even a carpenter with my Neanderthal skills will enjoy working with them.

It is at the back of the work-bench, in the far corner, that the most difficult decisions lurk. What about this box of fallow deer antlers, lovingly collected against a rainy day? Time was when they fetched pounds 5 per kilo. Then the trade collapsed, and they became worthless. Should they now go to the tip - or might the market revive?

And what about this carton of two-inch nails, bought in a moment of weakness? "Ten pahnd for a fiver," the man bellowed, and, like an idiot, I fell for it. He made no secret of the fact that the nails were seconds, lacking points. "They'll still go in," he insisted - and he was just about right. They will go in, but they are a pain to use, and after eight years I have about 9lb left, fused into a rusty mass. They really should go to the dump - and perhaps they will, along with 20 tins of paint long past their use-by date.

I pass over the long-handled Tipperary spade, bought in the county of that name, the antique, heart-shaped turf-lifter which we inherited when we arrived, the blade for the old hay-knife, and a dozen items of similar antiquity.

If I hardened my heart and threw them all out, the shed might look a bit neater. Yet I am fairly sure that, come February 1998, they will all still be in situ. A certain amount of clutter gives the farmyard interest and character; I feel that without it the place would be impoverished.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence