Wednesday, 3 March 2010


In the past I have always enjoyed Winter.
I like cold, crisp days and have never really been affected by the lack of sunlight.

But this winter has been different.

On my Welsh hilltop, Winter normally means rain. And lots of it. It always comes from the West and lashes horizontally against the side of my house.
For weeks on end sometimes.

This year it was replaced by snow.
Snow which has done its best to wreck what remains of my social life. It has sometimes felt that every time I have invited someone over, the snow has fallen. The latest was last week when my friend Rosie spun her car on her way over to supper. Fortunately she was OK and is made of sterner stuff than many other people, so she made it all the way here, we had a lovely evening and she stayed overnight until the snowplough went through in the morning.

I can live with the quiet evenings, but the ground was frozen solid which has meant that I haven't been able to get outside to do all the tidying that I would have normally done by now. Not to mention all the Winter chores that R used to do like cleaning out the gutters.

So I guess the snow did me a favour when it brought the guttering off the wall and sent it crashing through the porch roof. Having that repaired is a bill I could do without, but the lovely man who is doing the work is also doing a number of other little jobs that needed doing and I was unlikely to get to any time soon, like painting a couple of windows. And as the exterior is going to look so much smarter, it has inspired me to start cleaning up the inside of the porch as well - another job that is long overdue. I have been a regular visitor to the tip this week, and it has been good for the soul!

But it still bothers me that I haven't been able to dig over the vegetable garden or sort out the greenhouse. The garden has been so far from my thoughts that I haven't even ordered any vegetable seeds yet. Normally by early March I have already sown the first peas, sweet peas, broad beans, cabbages and leeks. The salad crops and oriental greens are starting to come up in the greenhouse. I might not have managed to dig over all the raised beds, but at least some should be ready by now to plant onion sets, garlic and shallots. I should be itching to get the heated propagator running with the next batch of seeds, and the annual clearance of space on the windowsills should have begun.

And on the animal side too, I have only been doing the bare minimum - cleaning out the henhouses, feeding everyone, going out several times a day with warm water to replenish the frozen waterers.
I haven't yet built the chicken pens that will keep the birds from marauding round the garden and digging up what I have just sown. There are still several Muscovy drakes and a couple of cockerels that really should be in the freezer. I haven't sorted out the floor of the pig ark, so I won't be ready to go if a couple of suitable weaners become available at short notice.

And most depressing of all is that my sheep have been surviving on a régime of benign neglect.
I have two wonderful neighbours who have been towers of strength since R died. They have made sure that the sheep are up-to-date with their vaccinations, brought their ram round to visit my ladies and best of all have helped me with the foot trimming.

But I can't keep relying on them to essentially do what is my work. If I am going to do that, I should be entirely honest about it, get rid of my own sheep and simply allow them to graze theirs on my land.

And while I'm being honest, if I don't keep the garden going, what is the point of having this land? I can barely justify having a house that is more than twice as large as I need as it is (we had plans to turn part of it into a holiday cottage or possibly a bed and breakfast), so the sight of the garden getting away from me and starting to look so messy was really getting me down. To the extent of wondering whether I should simply give up, sell the house and buy somewhere more sensible.

Fortunately the sun came out this weekend and I was able to get outside and do some proper tidying in the garden.

Most importantly of all, I had enough get-up-and-go to take a good look at the sheep. A couple had been limping slightly, which is a sure sign that their feet need trimming. If you are a strapping chap like my neighbour Dave, foot-trimming means grabbing a sheep, turning it onto its bum and holding there while you wield the clippers.

If you are considerably smaller than that, female and your sheep aren't known for sitting meekly while you trim their feet, then you need a cradle. This is essentially a sloping metal box that you up-end the sheep into and it is unable to get up until you let it. This is a job that R and I used to do together, and one which I had been putting off trying because I knew that, if I couldn't do it, then I would have to stop keeping sheep.

So this weekend it was make-or-break time.
For once, the sheep went easily into the corral and I decided to give it a go.
I managed to get the little one into the cradle without any problems and gave her a much-needed pedicure. She has a hint of scald - an infection that will clear up quickly after an antibiotic injection - but otherwise it went fine. The next one was a bit heavier, but she is my best behaved girl and it all went OK.

Then came grandmother. She is the biggest of the three and had absolutely no intention of lying on her back in a metal crate! When I finally got her pinned in a corner and up onto her back legs, we then danced a bizarre tango while I backed her into position. A final burst of effort got the stubborn little madam on her back. Even then, she struggled and wriggled throughout the entire procedure to the extent that my back was screaming with pain by the time it was all over.

But I did it.
On my own!
I can't put into words how triumphant I feel about it.
It means that I can do it on my own. I can stay here without everything falling apart. The place may not be as tidy as it was, or at least not yet. But if I put my mind to it, I can do it.

It somehow seems disloyal to say that I can do it without him, and maybe that thought has been holding me back all these months. Perhaps I just need to change my emphasis and convince myself that I can do it for him and keep our dream alive.


  1. I can sense your optimism and reinvigorated spirit and I'm so glad for this outlook for you. It is also great that you are giving yourself credit for what you are accomplishing. I was pretty impressed with what you did trimming your sheep's feet because that is something that would be very difficult for me. Too often, most of us do not acknowledge our achievements be they big or small. And we need to give ourselves this credit.

    I hope your fighting spirit continues and you do what it is YOU want to do. Just remember Rome wasn't built in a day but it looks like you're not out to conquer the world yet. The photo of the ram is absolutely too dear, cute and funny! Maybe you should now treat yourself to a pedicure of your own - it seems fitting in this situation.

  2. "Maybe you should now treat yourself to a pedicure of your own - it seems fitting in this situation."

    Oooh. What a lovely idea.
    Would you believe I have never had a pedicure myself? Probably because I have very ticklish feet!