Thursday, April 12, 2007
Just A Few Lambs...
Life in A Dust Bowl, Spring, Paisley News and Stuff
Well, maybe not quite a dust bowl but after one of the wettest winters in recent memory we have had about a month or so of really dry weather and it seems like everything has turned to dust. I think most of the folks (all around me) who are lambing are rejoicing at the warm, mild weather - it really does make the lambing go easier and I reckon the survival rate must be significantly higher. But jeez, every time you move a foot a cloud of dust rises up and swirls around your head. It helps that the farm where I stay is near a big quarry, limestone and such...but well, I guess what I'm trying to say is...city folks just don't really live by the weather the same way farming folks do.
Now all this talk about dust has me thirsty. A few weeks ago the creeks and rivers around here were rising and turning the fields around them into pools....now some of the streams have gone dry. In April! Farmers are going about their work planting spuds and lupins and so forth, probably glad they're not bogging down in the mud, yet those seeds and crops can use some rain. So me, I'm hoping for some rain. A good rainy day or two would be real, real nice...put things right.
Today I had to cross the border into England and travel to a city some 30 miles distant...it was a lovely day for a drive. Put me in mind of my first spring here, 2002, when I took the double-decker bus from a nearby village to that same city and what joy I felt from my vantage point in the front window of the 2nd floor of the bus as I easily saw over the hedgerows and into every field, the giant tractors and ploughs, the power harrows working down the ground, the fields of ewes and racing lambs, the large swaths of oilseed rape in flower, flourescent yellow in the lateday sun.
Doesn't everything seem wonderful this time of year as the hedgerows bloom and the animals thrive on lush grass and kick up their heels as they run, as children race around enjoying a break from lessons and the flowering pears and apple trees put on their flowery finest. It is pure joy to be alive. The daffodils have finally peaked and are beginning to wither and make way for flowers of a different color...in my garden that would be the bluebells and hopefully the lilacs will bloom before I must (reluctantly) fly back across the pond. Still I have spring in the Catskill Mountains to look forward to, and seeing all those friends I've missed these winter months.
Danny Paisley and the boys have been in the studio at long last and are working on a new release for Rounder Records; that from the horse's mouth, mind. It'll be good to see old friends in America and get around to some of the festivals once again.
I'm drifting and the doctor says I should go to bed - and rise again - early. So I'll sign off for now and try to make an early start tomorrow. Remember to take the time to revel in the springtime.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
A Fox, The Wood and A Lovely Day
So the girls from across the farm and I were out in the lower wood today working in a large pen, formerly used for pheasants, clearing the ground and piling branches in the corner. We spent a couple of very productive hours clearing away brush and trimming branches, raking leaves into the corners of the pen and piling dry twigs for kindling. We have a fire ring in there we've been intending to use for 2 or 3 years now, never quite got around to it. Until today. I figure it's good to teach the girls some basic skills like how to start - and build - a small fire, things like that.
Mind, it's dry around here so I didn't want to start _much_ of a fire, and we didn't. But we had a jolly good time doing all the "prep" work, raking down to the soil for about 1o feet all around the fire ring which is in a fairly open part of the wood in the middle of this pheasant pen. We took along many water jugs in case anything went awry and I explained some of the science of fire building (at least MY science) and about responsibility and making sure to drown the ashes and not leave anything smouldering and all that good stuff I learned about so long ago as a camp counselor all those high school summers. Heck back then we had what were called "family groups" (this was a Methodist church camp at a lovely place called Sky Lake) -- a group of about 10 girls stayed with a teenage female counselor and a group of about 10 boys stayed with a teenage male counselor. I always seemed to get these really "sissy" co-counselors who didn't like building leantos and frightening away wild animals (I mean like skunks and raccoons!) in the night...so it always seemed to fall on me to get with the boys and build the camp and supervise the fire and so forth. Okay by me!
Today L and K and I spent a very happy afternoon (warm and sunny and lovely) in the lower wood in the old pheasant pen that is now called "Leaping Hound Lodge." This is considered L's fort; K's is in the upper wood and is situated in a grove of laurels and is called "Hound Haven." K likes the "koala trees" there (good bendy trees for climbing). Just over the fence were hundreds of ewes and lambs (even some pure black ones) and it made me smile to see them over there lazing in the lush grass. Of course where there's lambs there are races and all sorts of action and there was plenty of that as well.
So we did all this work and folks who know me realize I don't see all that well past the end of my nose. So L and K and I had brought along 3 folding chairs (this was indeed a big production, after all) and we were sitting there admiring our work and eating some nice juicy Gala apples and I glanced over through the hedge at the field of sheep and something caught my eye. I jumped up and there loping in the sunlight past the startled lambs and stamping ewes was a gorgeous red fox. Must have been a dog fox...big and fat and healthy....the girls began to squeal a bit and we all reveled in the lovely sight, watching him run through the sheep and onto an old railway line that runs through the farm. Nope, I didn't have my camera, but I can honestly say I probably enjoyed the sight of that fox more than I would have had I been trying to race out of the pen, around the side, over to a bare spot in the hedge and then focusing....no I would have missed the entire thing.
There are precious few times that I've been SO not expecting to see a fox (and frankly I don't often see them)...what a pure delight! Stay tuned. I need to get back into the swing of writing. And I'll post some more photos soon. It's "high spring" here in Wales, the blackthorn hedges are blossoming and the lanes are dotted with celendines and primroses. What a great time to be alive.