All the signs of Autumn are here now. In the fields the grass has all been cut, baled and stored away. The fields at the moment are striped with the pale green of the new grass and the pale cream of the dead grass. It makes a most marvellous foil for the colourful cock pheasant who frequents our bird table now that the weather is getting cooler. Of course, when I went out this morning to take his photograph, he was nowhere to be seen.
The grass-cutter has been cleaned and oiled. Its cover is on and it stands in the corner of the paddock waiting to be put away in the implement shed.
Around the paddock the hedge is full of ripening brambles and pale orange rose hips. I looked at them and remembered the marvellous display of wild roses earlier in the year. Really the wild rose (rosa canina) really pays us back for allowing her to bloom in our hedge - first the beautiful pale pink flowers with their delicate scent and then the rose hips to colour the hedge as it bares for winter - and there is a third thing too - the fieldfares and redwings will be here shortly and they will flock to the hedge to devour the ripening berries.
All but the final nest of fledgling swallows have gone. One morning, earlier in the week, we got up to find the yard empty of the swooping house martins and swallows - now there are just three or four still practising their flying skills. I hope they make it to Africa.
And this morning - joy of joys - as I sat up in bed drinking my morning cup of coffee (tea all the week and coffee on a Sunday - the farmer is a creature of long-held habit) a hundred rooks flapped past, filling my bedroom window with a ready-made painting - last week it was house martins swooping down from the eaves of the house - this week it is rooks flapping up from their rookery in Forty Acre Wood to their feeding grounds up the Dale. A few leave the flock here and forage in our fields - the rest fly on. At dusk they will return - we shall hear them coming before we see them if we are out on a walk.
Two other signs of Autumn on the farm. Yesterday the over-wintering sheep came. One hundred and fifty Swaledales - already they are FTB, as the farmer would say (full to bursting) with our better-quality grass (they have come from the tops, where the grass has already stopped growing with the cold nights) -and they lie contentedly in the bottom pasture. You will see that each one has their owner's mark (two red spots) - so that if they get out (they are very clever at escaping) we can easily pick them out from the sheep on the neighbouring farm.
And, finally, the ever-present question of manure rears its head again. Last Winter's final lot of manure in the Loose Housing has yet to be cleared. It will have to be done soon so that the building can be prepared for this winter's heifers from our neighbour. So this week the farmer will hire a giant muck-spreader for the day and work from dawn to dusk spreading it on the fields. The farm cats will not be happy - they have spent the summer lying in there - mice are easy-pickings in between the baby rabbits from the fields.
Finally - I can't resist putting on my Rook poem again. I wrote it last Autumn and posted it then. But the rooks are back again, so forgive me for giving it another airing. Have a lovely Sunday.
It seems to me the wind
is your friend.
playing with the thermals
on a still day.
cutting along the hedge-top,
manipulating the gale.
Chattering, flying high,
sailing home on a
Building your stick nest
high in the bare branches
for it to rock and rattle
round the rookery.
You joyful bird
with your black lustrous plumage
and your crusty beak
that stabs the ground
fill the sky with movement,
write a tune on the wires,
blacken a field with your parliament,
and fill my heart with joy as you
surge past my window
in your thousands
at dawn on a cold, winter morning. P.T.