Rural Notebook: A season bursting with potential

By Alex James
Wednesday 04 March 2009 01:00

Of course you never know which way it's going to roll with the weather in March. Can't tell. Today so grey, wet and windy it's hard to recall how balmy it was on Saturday.

Clear skies forever then, and the first time for as long as I can remember that we could walk the fields without Wellingtons; suddenly, the warmth inviting one to dawdle. The kids squeaked with delight as they explored a previously inaccessible patch of woodland, an overgrown spinney that I've just put a gate in, and suddenly the endless, bottomless complications of living on a farm all unexpectedly made sense; the big machine I live in paying out one of its occasional jackpots. Beguiling scenery; the enchantment of middle age; the transporting smells; the weather all of a sudden overwhelming. The visceral thrill of the throb of nature more than enough for now: Where else would I want to be?

Early March might be the greenest time of the year. The grass is almost lurid, practically psychedelic. You can tell everything in the ground is on the point of exploding but the conifers, the evergreens, are the richest, deepest, most soothing colour at the moment; colour acting like a mantra.

Later in the day it was utterly silent in the ancient field called Bank. As I came down the hill at a jog, quite alone, tripping over the ridges and furrows, lost in my thoughts, I caught sight of a vast and stately heron unfolding itself, not with the startled panic of a deer, but calm and statesmanlike. An improbably exotic creature, colour of liquid steel, stretching its wings and walking up an invisible ladder to settle at the very tip of a Scots pine, like a tasteful reinterpretation of a Christmas tree fairy announcing the festivities of the new season. I swear just before spring is the best time of year: all sweet anticipation and unfulfilled potential. Promise is always so much better than the real thing.

Winning the war of the roses

I have spent my entire EU single farm payment on fences, and it has utterly transformed the place. It won't last but, just for a minute, the farm looks immaculate: post and rail, barbed wire, stock netting, the works. Everywhere I look, all the unsightly rusty wire and rotten stakes removed, hedges trimmed. Big old haircut. Feel like a new man. Invincible. The best bit of fence is the bright orange electric one around the rose garden. I've had to replant that completely and the fence is an extra precaution. Everything that went in there last year died or was eaten.

I've had the man round with his ferrets, re-dug the drainage and re-fenced the entire farm. I will not be beaten. Rose garden! Battle of the Somme, more like.

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