Another first day of winter, another favorite time of year. This time last year, I opened the bedroom curtains early, maybe five in the morning, my little Rosemary-Wren miraculously stayed asleep while I made tea, got the fire lit in the next room, and huddled back into bed next to her. The view from the window across the Tud Valley, was dark and frosty, with moonlight and stars creating glow and shadow. It was eerie. Not frightening for those of us who called the valley home, but for those unaccustomed to its wild ways. I could hear the pigs gruffling with each other about something not far from the front of the house.The sheep and chickens were starting to wake up. Milly and Pat, two of the farm cats, were already up the bedroom window meaowing to come in for cuddles and breakfast. I love being with all of my animals, but I find pigs to be surprisingly excellent company when needing to just sit and be for a while; they're curious, loyal and very peaceful companions. It was always a warm feeling to hear them, or any of the animals; deer, owls, hedgehogs, frogs, foxes, the list is endless, before I'd opened my eyes in the morning. Simple. Profound. The opposite of lonely.
There was something electrifying about the energy that morning, like the air was rippling in front of my eyes, blending the lines that define our forms, each subject giving movement and current to the next and the next. Source was moving through the farm. I decided to go out for a walk. It was still dark, but I could navigate every nook with a blindfold, and there was just too much going on outside these walls to stay in bed. Rosemary was sound asleep and I would hear her if she woke. So I donned the fluffy socks and boots, wrapped a blanket around me without a jumper or coat (I wanted to feel the cold), and with a mug of tea in hand, headed out.
There was a bit of a gleeful crunch underfoot, a light frost had touched the grass. I savored every mouth watering step as I walked past my shed to where the chickens were chatting with each other in their coop. I tapped the top of their water bowl, filled their feeders with grain and opened their door early, greeting and being greeted by each one as they hopped over my feet straight on to the days tasks of scratching and foraging. I focused my ears back to the house for a moment. She's still sleeping. Onwards. I walked past Pauls shed, I'd left the window ajar just like he did, for the cats to go in and out. He liked that. His lamp was on, lighting up his hob and kettle and books. The cats must have switched it on again. I liked that they did that, it made me feel he was close by, like he was about to fling open the door with a fresh cuppa and beaming smile. I put my head down and smiled as I walked past, remembering and imagining. "I love you" I tell him. Onwards.
That there is the beautiful and civilised courtyard area of the farm. Beyond the courtyard gate is where the wild really happens. The difference between the look and the feel of the two parts of the farm still takes my breath away, and walking through the gate into the main field, I'm stunned again by the magnificence of the place. It wasn't as dark as it had seemed from the house at all; the starlight made the field shimmer and the polytunnel sparkle. There had been a lot of rain, and there were pockets of frosty mud dotted around, but there was no need for a torch. The sheep hadn't heard me yet, but the pigs had, they gently shnuffled at me '"come over here and sit with us!". The pigs winter in the same quarter of an acre space every year, with their own straw filled shed and plenty of space to be free. It's a walk from my house to theirs but their area is only about ten meters forward of my front door. So many times I've heard them so loudly from the house that I thought they'd escaped...just the direction of the wind. I walk over to the tree stump seat in front of their fence, deer starting to bark like dominos around the valley starting from the one closest to hear my footsteps. I sit for a moment holding my tea, already feeling that need to move again, the weight was starting to take over. Take a sip, take a breath, look about. The pigs weren't looking at me in anticipation like they do at meal times; they seemed to just sit with me, like they knew what was on my mind. I looked out onto the farm, at the horizon of tall trees, the hedgerows, veg plots, barns, sheds, polytunnels, fencing...it hurt me that it resembled the dishevelled farm I bought years ago, rather than how we had made it look in the glory of the past few years. It stung deep, and filled me with fear. How could I run this place alone? More than that; how could I run it with a tiny baby in tow and be the Muma I wanted and needed to be? How will I open the gates again? Will I physically be able to meet the challenge? Will I mentally be able to meet the challenge? How will I make enough money? How will I keep this place safe? How will I raise a daughter alone? How can I stay off grid? Is it for the best? What is for the best? How will I manage? Where will the will come from?
I'd sat for too long; my head spun with questions, each new question just creating another one without an answer. The more perfect the view the heavier the burden seemed. I'm a custodian, not an owner, of land. Eventually each question and worry became as formless as the energy that swept through the farm that morning, and felt just as powerful.
The trance broke and my eyes focused back onto what was in front of me. I hadn't realised that the ear ringing sound was in my head. The farm was relatively silent in comparison. My mixed flock were sat or standing around me, the noble Suffolk stood calmly munching something while holding my gaze, and the pigs were all laying contentedly not far off. Pat and Milly were huddled at my feet. Everything on the inside smiled, inhale faith, exhale fear. Then another question grounded itself; where can I start?
I wasn't elated, or excited, or enthralled. I was stubborn. I was determined. Let's start by enjoying this wonderful winter, one crunchy foot step at a time. The baby was awake. Onwards.