Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Dark Days.
















It is half past two in the afternoon and already the light is beginning to go. As Tess and I set out for our afternoon walk down the lane, the sky is heavy with unspilt rain, black clouds hanging low. There is an overall atmosphere of damp and desolation. The trees are bare, their leaves lying dead on the edges of the lane. There is a smell - not unpleasant - of rotting vegetation. As we approach our neighbour's cottage, a hundred yards down the lane, I smell, long before we get there, that they have lit the log fire. The sweet smell of burning wood pours from the chimney and billows down into the lane in the low pressure, and as I pass I catch a glimpse of a roaring log fire.
The hedgerows are mostly bare branches now except for the blackthorn, where the yellow leaves hang limply, waiting for the first real frost. Some of the ash saplings on the lane side are also hanging on to their leaves - you can see them in the photograph.
The birds are largely silent except for a gaggle of quarelling sparrows in a blackthorn bush and a sentinel robin singing his heart out in the tree top.
But Tess can smell pheasant! Luckily for me, she is on the long leash so she cannot disappear into the undergrowth, but she stands on her back legs and looks into the hedge bottom, pushing into the dense foliage wherever she can and setting up disturbed pheasant. In the field where the beef heifers are still out, there are nine pheasants perched on the edges of the food troughs cleaning up the crumbs that the cattle have left.
The sheep in the field with the ram are all grazing contentedly, many of them already showing the tell-tale red rumps which signify that they have been serviced by the ram and are - hopefully - in lamb for the Spring. I love how the farming year is constantly looking forward to the next season.
The farmer is just finishing off cleaning out the midden. Yesterday morning he cleaned out the loose housing, just in time, as after lunch seventeen in calf Holstein heifers came in for the winter. They look happy to be in and as you can see in the photograph are happily ensconced in the deep, clean straw. The cats are not so pleased though, as this was their prime mousing site.
The farmer is tipping the contents of the midden into the field, as the land is too wet to spread it. You can see from the photograph that deep ruts show his passage into the field. They will have to be harrowed out early in the year.
This weekend is Remembrance weekend here in the UK, when we remember those who were killed or badly injured in all the wars since the 1914-18 war. We have had two timely reminders this week - one in Afghanistan, where soldiers were killed by a colleague as they relaxed and another in the US where a similar situation occurred. War is a terrible thing - it kills the innocent far more often that it kills the guilty and because, in this instance, it is so far away, it is easier to push it all to the back of our minds. A dear friend has had a grandson wounded in
Afghanistan this week. He is now safely back in UK and she says "in good spirits", but others in the incident were not so lucky. So tomorrow, Remembrance Sunday, is a good time to pause and think about our boys who are fighting - and the civilian population who are trying to get on with their everyday lives, many of them, I am sure, just want it all to be over. There are no winners in any war - everyone loses.
In the garden the roses keep on flowering. Almost every bush is full of buds - the last rose of summer is a long time blooming this year. The first real frost will no doubt finish them off.

27 comments:

ewix said...

Weaver, I almost wept at the photo of the muddy track leading into the field
quintessential England. How I miss gum boots and muddy walks.
Yes, Veterans Day here on the 11th.
Only a very few poppies here and lacking the significance of them in England I think.
War brutalizes in so many ways.
A pat for Tess and a greeting for the Farmer.

Linda said...

I was buying groceries this week and over on the cheese kiosk I noticed this. A white 10oz. cake of Wensleydale Cheese. I thought of you, Weaver. I didn't purchase it because I am on a little bit of a strange diet right now. Does it come from these very cows lying in this clean straw? I loved your post today. It reminded me of a James Herroit tale. Your war comments ring so very true. Peace and love.

steven said...

hello weaver - you're so very observant and happily blessed with a keen hand to record all that you see. your sentiment about there being no winners in war echoes a discussion i had yesterday with my grade six class who expressed that very same understanding when one of their classmates used the terms winners and losers when discussing the world wars. have a peaceful day in the dale. steven

Jane Moxey said...

What a lovely post! Juxtaposed between the thoughts of death -the leaves, Poppy Day - were the hopeful words of life and renewal with all the pregnant animals. How cosy those heifers look in the barn. I can almost smell them! And Hooray for the English Rose still blooming!

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

No winners indeed. I do believe that Remembrance Day is becoming more and more associated with the lives lost in more recent wars. Sadly, they make it all too relevant.

5pm now and very dark. Time to shut up shop! Enjoy the remainder of your weekend.

Heather said...

We haven't got a chimney so no real fires for us, but I love the smell of a log fire. If you let Tess off the lead you might have pheasant for dinner! The heifers look very cosy in their luxury accommodation, and those rosebuds are so lovely. I give thanks so often for the fact that my son has now retired from the Army, and my heart goes out to those whose sons are still serving.

Bovey Belle said...

I have been busy indoors today, whilst my husband was out at an auction. We notice the dark days especially in this house, which faces East, so has little natural light in the rooms on a gloomy day.

I was glad I didn't do my daily walk because just as I was considering it, the heavens opened and torrents fell . . . just as our son had gone off with his friends for a bonfire party tonight . . .

My husband was in the armed services, so we always mark Remembrance Day - his grandfather and great uncle were killed in WW1 within a fortnight of one another. Of course, he remembers those of his friends who passed too. Sadly, a friend of ours who was in the Marines, and marches every year, has reported that there is an element of the town lads from the estate who mock them as they march past. I find that very hard to understand.

ArtPropelled said...

The roses are going to look stunning when they open ....if the frost holds off. I enjoyed my afternoon walk again thanks Weaver.

Rachel Fox said...

Much the same script here - dog walks and logs burning and thinking about death. We try to keep full of hope but in the face of so much sadness sometimes. That is another battle.
x

Poet in Residence said...

enjoyed afternoon walk despite the falling light, the gloom, or maybe even because of it - an antidote to frivolity perhaps - it reminds me of my childhood and playing out with my brother and other boys until pitch dark at 5pm and a street of mums yelling their orders from the doorsteps - just like a row of sergeant majors

Poet in Residence said...

ps- Re Rememberance Day I reckon Kipling's short poem about the death of his son in 1915 - "Garden of Gethsemane" - which I posted in Nov 2008 says it all. Anybody interested can access the poem and comments via my blog searchbox.

Elisabeth said...

One day you might collect all these postings into a book, Weaver. you have such a beautiful way of drawing your reader into your world.

I sit here in Melbourne, Australia where we have been promised about seven days of temperatures in the early thirties, hot hot hot and imagine what it is like for you there on the other side of the world, the beauty of this reverie suddenly dashed by your poignant comments on war.

The images shift instantly to a talk I heard yesterday by a woman who fled Afghanistan in the early 1980s and now works with refugees in Sydney. she showed us photos pf Afghanistan before the devastation of war and of the Taliban, and other photos of now after war, the landscape bleached of beauty.

We must hold fast to the beauty of the land for as long as we can. Thanks for your wonderful posting.

Golden West said...

I read earlier this week on war correspondent Michael Yon's blog from Afghanistan about the terrible loss of one of Britain's finest, Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid. My heart goes out to his widow and young child and I hope his courage and commitment will long be remembered. Heartfelt thanks to your armed forces.

Weaver, it is such a pleasure to accompany you on your walks - you have a way of giving great life to words.

Cloudia said...

Quite a juxtaposition you paint today, Weaver. Timeless/timely.


Aloha, Friend!


Comfort Spiral

Pam said...

A thoughtful post Weaver - thoughts with that very English backdrop of dark afternoons and woodsmoke. I think Remembrance Day is very special. Growing up here in Australia, we were requested to stand at our school desks on the llth hour of the 11th month as the last post was sounded,and while respectful, we had no idea really of the realities of long-past wars. Now, as others have noted, recent wars are very much part of our experience, with many experiencing profound personal losses.Thank you also for your recent post and photo on the challenges your animals face.It does good to acknowledge others suffering,and give it a voice, whatever the species. In our country it is fly-blown sheep that are the tragedy, one of the main reasons for mulesing which, of course is not a popular concept with many.Thanks again Weaver for this post.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Elizabeth - at present you are very welcome to muddy walks - there are no other sort here!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Linda - yes indeed - the cows who reside in our barn give their milk to be sent to the Wensleydale Creamery - it is lovely, mild cheese and very popular.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you Steven for the interesting comment.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for the comment Jane.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for the comment Jane.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Derrick - we are getting such dull weather here in the East of the Pennines, whereas the Western side is sitting in sunshine. We had almost an inch of rain overnight.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Bovey Belle - that last paragraph is very sad - maybe they don't realise - although with all the graphic pictures of the Afghan war on the TV I find it hard to think there is anyone who doesn't see it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Glad you enjoyed the walk Robyn

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes Rachel - and I for one feel quite helpless.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Oh Poet - the days of sergeant major mums is past I think - more's the pity!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Elizabeth - your piece about the Afghan woman is interesting and so awful. The trouble is I find that the beautiful scenery adds to the poignancy of it all - nowhere was that more true than in the famine in Ethiopia a few years ago - the image of those starving people walking against the backdrop of the desert was hauntingly beautiful, It somehow made their starvation quite unbearable to behold.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks to you all. The darkness has come down early again, with very little sun today. Curtains are closed, fires are lit and we will settle down to an evening of TV and favourite books. Enjoy your evening too.