Corona Virus Lockdown, Thoughtful

Down and Out in Kettering

In the Spring Bill and I were locked down in Wales which was bliss. The winter finds us in urban Northamptonshire — locked down and out of Wales. I miss the hills, the cool rain, the conviviality of all the socially distanced nods and waves and yelled greetings from passing quad bikes.

Memory of home

But there are compensations here — my bad back and gammy knee have improved. We have sorted out lots of things (had a new bathroom fitted), I have been writing a lot about my medical student days, ‘A Testicle on a plate,’ and the Christmas wine delivery has just arrived.

Once the school traffic has gone the streets are empty and the robins are in full throttle and the shrubs are full of berries.

Today I donned my new FFFP3 mask (by order of offspring) and walked in to the centre of this old shoe town to get my boots mended — it was very quiet and, apart from a few food shops, the cobbler was the only other place awake — in Northampton cobbling is essential (even the football team is called the ‘Cobblers’).

The new book is to be the first of a trilogy — the prequel to Iolo’s Revenge (published a couple of years ago) — I am tempted to entitle it ‘The Badass Trilogy’ as in ‘what turns a nice girl into the woman I have become (according to my daughter)?’ Of course the answer is ‘Life!’

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Corona Virus, Thoughtful

Embrace Uncertainty!

“The more certain someone is about covid-19, the less you should trust them.” This is the conclusion of an excellent article by Smith G.D., Blastland M. and Munafo M. in this week’s British Medical Journal freely available on their website.

They are not discussing loonies or even those with reputational or political agendas but the serious science — that knowledge that is evolving every day in the fields of epidemiology, behavioural science, immunology and (I add) economics. This is a new pandemic at a unique time — there is no certainty, we are feeling our way. It is not a battle of philosophies — nothing is that simple. We have to listen and try to understand what is going on, and next week we may learn something new that will change our understanding and that is good — not bad!

Never have we needed to be more open minded.

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Corona Virus Lockdown, Hill Farming

Adapt or Die!

Reappraisal, re-purposing and a lot of digging:  that is what we have been doing during the corona lock-down as we wait to see what Nature throws at us next.

When Bill and I renewed our friendship we had just come through difficult times having both recently lost much loved spouses after long illnesses.  In the past we’d worked together for many years so knew we got on and are still getting on in both senses (three score years and ten!)  We also lived in and are rooted in different parts of the Britain, he in England, me in Wales.

As the Corona Pandemic started to unfold it became evident that movements would be restricted but I think we had already made a leap of faith and  here we are — locked-down together in Wales.

I had sold or re-homed all my stock (apart from my dear old pet “lamb”, Aby seen below in her new role as artistic muse!) We should have been making the most of our new found mobility…  Lisa runs her sheep on the land now.

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Recent portrait of Aby — lady of leisure.

But there is still a lot to do and so much better with a willing helper!

I’ve always believed when you run out of space what you need to do is sort things out, de-clutter and find the space that you had just mislaid!  We have tidied the tools.

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We have processed the remains of the demolished, unsafe, storm damaged and rotten barn and removed the remains of the rat infested container — taken down in the nick of time.  All the higgledy-piggledy timber we have cut and stacked.

We have surveyed the fences and arranged for all the wobbly ones to be reinforced by new posts now that contractors are free to come. We have removed the debris.

I have repurposed the now deserted chicken run — digging vegetable beds and converting the coop into a potting shed.  The feed troughs that are no longer needed have been filled with compost and planted with lettuce, onions, coriander and radishes. Brought up on Beatrice Potter I’ve always identified with Peter Rabbit!  Not any more — I’m  Mr McGregor.  As the new baby rabbits gathered in awe around my magnificent courgette plant, I rushed to the now tidy shed and put my hand directly on the  roll of chicken wire, grabbing the staples with the other, and made haste to increase security.

The grass from the chicken run was raised like an old carpet and re-laid on the scar that was left by the container and seeds sown where it would not stretch.

The compacted stony ground within the chicken run, the only rabbit proof area, has been dug and re-dug and fertilised and planted. The seedling beans got frosted the night after they were planted out (I’m on a learning curve) and the onions got mowed (so is Bill) but it all looks more promising than any of my previous attempts at gardening. The Jerusalem artichokes left over from a recipe that gave us hurricane levels of wind are growing fantastically — a mixed blessing.

Bill has cut the bracken and the thistles on the pasture with the new topper pulled by the newly serviced quad-bike without mishap and I cut the ones on the steepest banks by hand.

During all this time nature has entertained us. The birdsong is less deafening now as this years fledglings hop about in the low branches and the parents flit about busily feeding them. Kites soar above as two buzzards and a magpies skirmish in the field over one less rabbit for me to worry about. Neither of us have ever witnessed the Spring unfolding in such detail and the weather has never been so good.

Jerusalem Artichoke
Salad planted in feed troughs

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