It seems that every farm throughout the world has Spring mending-time. Here bits of wall are down, gates have fallen into disrepair, and as Robert Frost so rightly says,
'Noone has seen them made or heard them made.
but at Spring mending-time we find them there.'
Bits of wall have become heaps of stones out into the field, one gate has rotted away, another has a gate post which has rotted, branches have been ripped off trees by harsh winds and now lie across hedges - giving sheep an ideal 'ladder' to freedom.
Land two hundred feet higher than the farm has had quite a covering of snow overnight. Driving through the countryside this morning the surrounding hills shine pure white in the sunshine, while down at our level it is quite a Springlike day. Cars in our little market town's market place
have two or three inches of snow on their roofs, telling us they have driven in from higher ground.
So tidying up and mending has begun. The stile leading from the barn pasture in John's# is just about wide enough to allow a lamb to pop through and get separated from its mother. In another month or so ewes and lambs will be in the pasture and the gate which covers the stile has fallen off, so the farmer's first job is to make a new gate. I show you it here. A work of art it is not but nevertheless it performs its job well and the sturdy ' hinges' made from old tyres will last a few years - watch out if you pass through that stile, those hinges snap back and catch your heels if you are not wary.
At the other side of the same pasture the gate post has rotted away and the old wooden gate hangs sadly drooping into the mud of the gateway. There is an unwritten rule on farms that gateways always get muddy in winter - whether there is stock in the field or not - it is one of life's little mysteries. Now the old wooden gate has become firewood for our wood-burning stove , as has the gate post. In its place is a sturdy metal gate post and a new gate has been ordered. Do notice the stile at the side of the opening. It is marked by two huge stones which have most likely been in place there for hundreds of years, for this particular footpath which runs along the side of the beck, has been the way through for monks at Jervaulx Abbey, who farmed this land in the Middle Ages.
There is something about a gate, isn't there? When we take photographs we like to photograph open gates, thus leading the eye through the gate and into the picture. My header last month had just such a gate, leading the viewer through and up the snowy hill and then out of sight over the hilltop. These gates, however, are closed - their purpose is to keep things in, not lead them out. For sure as eggs is eggs if there is an open gate whatever animal happens to be in the field will be out of the field in no time. Not for nothing do we have notices around saying ' Please Close the Gate'.
These ancient fields with their well-trodden footpaths could tell a tale or two. At one time they were all much smaller fields but over the generations farmers have taken out hedgerows. The other photograph I have posted today shows an old 'cam' (a local dialect word for an old hedge) which used to be a field boundary but no longer serves a useful purpose. The farmer leaves it there because it is mostly hawthorn and provides berries for the birds each winter and nesting sites each Spring. For the past few years a blackbird has nested at the foot of one of the hawthorn trees in this cam, well hidden by bramble thorns and ivy. But the dogs know where the nest is and frequently go to have a look at it. When this happened last Spring Mrs Blackbird sat tight on her eggs and looked at them with her beady eye and they both backed off. Sensible dogs.