Alex James: I'm so busy I forget how much I love it

Rural Notebook
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The Independent Online

I always imagined I would have more time. That was the plan; that I'd be floating around learning the Latin name for tomatoes, trying my hand at dowsing, spending cheery, hopeful afternoons looking for treasure with a metal detector, evenings peering through a telescope. But I never have time for anything remotely wafty.

It's all edge: a flurry of cut, thrust and hustle. On the phone with a mouthful, bolting down lunch, cutting a deal with a dodgy scaffolder, my eyes engaged elsewhere, darting back and forth over the Ordnance Survey plans of the land, which are boldly coloured to show where we're planting several thousand trees before the end of next month.

It occurs to me in passing that it would be remarkably easy to plant an entire forest in the wrong place. About 80 years ago a previous owner planted a giant sequoia, such as the one pictured left, in the back garden, between the duck pond and the house. The biggest living organism on the planet, the giant sequoia, and someone in such a hurry to place the thing in the ground they stuck it 10 feet from the front door. Now it's as tall as Big Ben.

Pipes freeze and spring dramatic leaks. Claire woke me up yesterday morning to say the cows had escaped again and were eating the neighbour's garden. Not so long ago, that kind of thing would have sent me into a blind panic. My heart didn't even begin to beat faster. "You know what to do," I said, half-asleep. "Yes, done it. It's all fine, just thought you'd like to know. I'm off to London now. Bye."

And off she went, in a whirl of her own.

I did take the morning off last week to go on a driven shoot up the road. Many of the other people taking part live in castles and spend the whole of the winter shooting. I spend my whole life working towards, and dreaming of, having nothing to do. All of a sudden it seemed a terrifying thought. To travel hopefully is so much better than to arrive.

Spy in the sky watches yew

Floating around gently 500ft above it all in a four-seater on Saturday, our house and barns still looked quite a mess compared to neighbouring farms, despite all the activity at ground level. We were fishing for ideas, looking at what everyone else has done from above. Spying, basically. Great fun. "Did you see that huge avenue of yews?" we said to each other as soon as we landed. Prettiest thing I've ever seen.

Leaking satellite...

Finally managed to find and fix a leak that has puzzled me since we moved in. Water was entering the building near the satellite dish via an old chimney we had no idea existed. Obviously the TV hasn't worked since it was fixed, but you can't have everything.