Jul 01 2016

Unsettled Summer

Raindrops hammer against my study window as I write; a black sky sits ominously overhead; gloom fills the air. Early this morning Millie and I walked over the hills, heads down, she chasing rabbits, me checking damp sheep huddled in the hedgerow. Water trickled off my coat down my trousers and into my wellies; squelch, squelch. We walked in a strange eerie circle of mist, no sign of Dartmoor from the top fields; the River Dart just a faint watery shadow below us. Neighbour John’s big silo, a strange medieval turret floating in the mist across the valley. I felt I was walking through some strange metaphor of our country’s confusion and turmoil since the Referendum; nothing clear, everything blurry and uncertain, familiar landmarks taking on new ghostly shapes. Where am I, I wonder? The landscape seems so familiar, and yet?

This June has rattled through, wet windy and uncertain. For weeks politicians have been fighting their corner each clamouring for our attention, good or bad. But all the while everyday life goes on.

And the winners....!

The County Show came and went. Sheep were judged, alpaca too and cows, pigs and poultry .

All things agricultural were on show for all to share and much more too. Cider and beer flowed, food stalls fed us handsomely. Tractors, harvesters, hedgers and ditchers, all things mechanical could be found for the farm.

Dog shows, horse shows, pony trials even donkeys, hurrah, had their place!

My Donkeys!

The crowds flocked in day after day, happy people filled the showground. And the Hurdy-gurdy played on.

Next came sheep shearing, dagging and spraying. The relentless rain meant sheep had to come into the shed the evening before shearing to be sure their fleece would be dry.

Rams were sorted into pens well away from ewes and lambs. Next morning we separated mothers and children for the first time. The cacophony was ear splitting as they called each other across the yard.

Phil arrived as usual, setting up his shearing pen at midday. Paul man-handled sheep, one by one, pushing them through to Phil for their annual haircut. I folded fleece and placed them in the woolsack as they have been placed for hundreds of years. White, lighter, shorn and clean, the itch-free ladies went back to their children and more confusion ensued, mothers unrecognisable without their winter coats; more barging and baa-ing, then happy reunions   We finished at 6 o’clock, a long day.

And all the while preparations continued for our National Garden Scheme Open Days. We dashed out between storms and squalls to dig borders, plant vegetables, trim edges, cut grass, prepare the plant stall and complete a myriad of other tasks. Signs went up, the Anchorstone Cafe donated hundreds of scones, Dartmouth Dairy insisted on giving huge quantities of clotted a cream. Dear friends lined up to help at the gate, serve teas, marshal parking, sell plants; the weekend arrived.

Saturday was truly wonderful. Despite cold evenings, the roses did bloom in time. Even “Seagull” reluctantly opened her petals over the pond. The waterlilies exploded into magnificence and delphiniums reached for the sky. Embothrium held onto her flowers so late we had a scarlet shadow across the sky. And as always the astrantia proved to be star of the show.

Eighty people filled our garden, even the sun tried a bit of shining. Cream teas flew from the Hut and my head spun with plant names and happiness. But, alas, rain returned the next day. Even so twenty five stalwarts turned up braving the elements. Tuesday brought sun and a local gardening club and, to our delight, Jilly Sutton’s beautiful “Big Fish” sculpture sold, so all was not lost.

Despite the weather we were delighted to be able to send nearly £1300 to support the NGS nursing charities.

So life goes on as politicians ponder, prevaricate and procrastinate, world markets helter skelter, journalists try to alarm or calm. On Sunday we leave for a week in France. I wonder what the mood will be there!

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