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.