Tess and I set off on our daily walk immediately after lunch - it has to be then because the minute the things are in the dish-washer, Tess is waiting at the door. We set off down the lane on a mild, still afternoon - Tess on the long leash and me in my trainers as I intend to go the full two miles today!
On the lane it still looks like winter, although the weather is mild. The verges are wet and muddy, the roadside hedges have all been cut (March 1st is the last day for cutting, to give the field birds good cover for their nesting). There is a variety of birds on the tops of the hedges - mostly already paired up. We see a pair of yellow hammer, the male magnificent with his full breeding plumage, and then a pair of the unobtrusive dunnocks, grey and brown, not spectacular - I always think of them as very neat birds. Overhead there is suddenly the sound of fieldfare and redwing as a much depleted flock swoop down into the meadow in search of food. Now that all the berries have gone they find it more difficult to get food and seem to have split into smaller flocks. I notice a few red rose hips in the hedge and wonder if they are perhaps too bitter to eat - or have the birds not seen them.
There are several clumps of daffodil on the verge, all of them in bud. The clumps get bigger every year, so they must like their situation. They have been there so many years now that we get to expect them. They will be followed by cowslips and common orchids before long.
Suddenly, peeping out from behind a hawthorn bush on the side of the beck we see a violent splash of colour - the gorse is out. Gorse is the "furze" of Egdon Heath in Thomas Hardy's novels. He often speaks of the furze cutters and I ask the farmer what they would cut it for.
It is very hard and prickly and we cannot think - it certainly wouldn't be for bedding or for eating. The farmer wonders if it might be to block holes up in the hedges - it would certainly be quite impenetrable in sheep country. Does anyone out there have a better idea? It is certainly a scourge on heathland as it spreads so quickly. You often smell its musky smell long before you see it.
Further on there is a pretty clump of mauve crocus. I noticed them for the first time last year and wondered if they would come again. So often mice get the corms but, yes, here they are, opening their stamens to the weak sunlight.
When Tess and I reach forty acre wood suddenly a stoat comes out of the wood. Together we are a quiet pair and I don't think he heard us. For a moment he stops, looks at us, then continues on his course into the wood on the other side of the lane. Tess goes demented, barking, growling, straining at the leash - I am glad she is on it or she would have been after him. She may not have liked the outcome if she had caught him up for their teeth are sharp and they are vicious creatures.
Here the lane is still in its winter garb, as is the ride into forty acre - no sign of Spring at all.
On our return we stop at Red Bank to look at the milk cows. They are still inside and will not be out to pasture for at least another six weeks, but they know that Spring is coming, they can smell the grass growing and they are restless - walking about the yard. They stare at us curiously as only cows can. Tess wags her tail tentatively and they sniff at her - they are old hands with dogs.
Nearer to home we see at least a dozen fully grown rabbits - no visible babies but the fact that there are so many explains why we haven't seen the farm cats for a few days. They are adept at catching the babies, sadly, so will be sleeping off their bunny meal.
In the field next to the farm house the farmer is building a new fence while the weather is good.
We watch him for a while then go back into the house to make a cup of tea.
Then I shall try out my new yard broom I bought this morning. The farmyard broom weighs a ton and is much too unwieldy for my use. Like everything on the farm, gates, doors, fences, they are built for strength, strong farmers and great hulking animals - so I need my own. The farmer is a bit dismissive of my broom, calling it a "toy broom" just like he calls my personal hammer a "toffee hammer."
Three of the hens have found their way through the farmyard and up on to my rockery - well that'll have to stop!
If you look at Jinksy's comment you will find various uses for gorse which she has found. Thanks for that Jinksy. And while we are on the subject I neglected to mention that round here the gorse is called gorze - interestingly it seems to be half way between furze and gorse.