JWM Turner, that most British of painters, painted a lot in the Yorkshire Dales because he so admired the quality of the light. This week, with the snow on the ground and the sun shining, the light has been exceptional. I took the photograph of the snowy field, just outside the kitchen window, at about three thirty one afternoon as the sun was low in the sky. The ground was frozen solid and the snow hadn't gone at all.
Frozen ground at this time of the year presents a golden opportunity to "muck out" ( sorry, but you cannot avoid poo on this site). While the ground is really hard the loose housing can be shovelled out into the trailer, load by load, and transported to a field where it will sit in a steaming heap until spring, ready to be spread on the fields when the grass begins to grow. The heap will rot down some more, birds will scratch in it and sheep will gallivant up and down it just because it is there.
So, on Wednesday morning the farmer opened the doors of the loose housing, shut the gates of the fold yard back and began to work with his shovel (mechanical, I hasten to add). The sun was shining but it was freezing hard. Out streamed the cattle. Some of the older matrons, who had seen it all before, stood in the sun and enjoyed it on their backs, but some of the heifers began to jostle and push and jump for joy, tails in the air. Great steaming trailer loads kept going past my kitchen window - all was going well. Then disaster struck!
Fear not - it was only a minor disaster - after all we are well-insured. One frolicking heifer caught the edge of the door of the tractor and crash, the glass shattered into a thousand pieces.
The cow was unhurt but there was glass everywhere, which had to be cleaned up. Now the farmer is sitting in a very chilly and draughty tractor (normally he has the heater going full blast).
Ordering the new glass took me the best part of the morning - it became something like a Keystone Cops silent film! It went something like this:-
Phone call 1. (what is the registration number? Don't know, will find log book and ring you back)
Phone call 2. What is the distance between the door hinges? Don't know, will measure it up and then ring you back
Phone call 3. Is the glass tinted or is it plain glass? Don't know, will ring the farmer on his mobile and then ring you back.
Phone call 4. We think you would be better ordering it from our other depot. Here is the number.
Phone call 5. Hello, this is Skipton taxi service. (they had given me the wrong number).
Phone call 6. Ordered the part.
Phone call 7. Rang the insurance company (straightforward!)
Now the cattle are in their spanking clean housing (farm cats not so happy as it is not as warm without that layer of heat underneath). Looking at the photograph it is hard to believe that there are thirty animals in there, but many of them are eating at the bay along the side (see the other photograph). They enjoyed their frolic in the sun but seem happy to be back in the new straw. As for happiness, this can't be said of the farmer as he goes up and down taking feed to the sheep with a lot of fresh air getting into his cab!