Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Spring mending-time on the farm.







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.

24 comments:

Dartford Warbler said...

How good to hear that the Farmer is preserving hedges for wild birds to feed on and to shelter in.

I share your fascination with old gateways. Who has passed through them? Where were they going to? In the ground around one of our field gates we have found coins, buckles and buttons. Things that may have fallen out of pockets, in centuries past, while someone opened and closed the gate.

Jenn Jilks said...

I love your photos! Well done! Cheers from Canada. We're pretty much ice and snow these days.

mrsnesbitt said...

This is what I am doing right now, mending here and there in the garden for Spring!

Cindee said...

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post! I have a fascination with gates and doors - transitions, you know. And your land is so beautiful and steeped in history. I feel like I have been taken to some differant time period. Thank You.
Cindee
PS. What's a beck?

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I find it most interesting to think of all the farmers who have worked the land where you live. In America, we have lands long farmed, but not anywhere near the time in your country. To think of all those that have walked the same paths as you - and entered and closed gates in the same places - gives a feeling of intrigue. A wonder as to how many truly saw what you see and tell us.

Enjoyed this visit.

jeannette stgermain said...

I love the photo of the new wood of the gate and the very old stones on the side. Yes, I know from experience that people who have animals, have gates to keep the animals INSIDE! Once my then 2 year old had the idea to let all the chickens, roosters, etc.(30 some animals) out of our neighbor's pen by opening the gate! Worse, my toddler was laughing when the neighbor was scolding her:(

Heather said...

Another fascinating post Pat. I know I'm a romantic but I love that your stile stones mark the footpath used by monks on their way to Jervaulx Abbey all those years ago. We have no livestock to keep in, but my husband has just made a new gate for the side of the house. He has painted the posts which have to be bolted in place - one to the house itself and the other to our neighbours wall, and is plucking up the courage to hang the gate! Thankyou for your comment on my blog - I made my fleur-de-lis by stencilling the shape onto my painted fabric with glue, but you could draw or trace an outline and 'paint' the glue within it. Gesso stops the paint from soaking into the fabric and if you use it sparingly you can still stitch over it - it also gives an attractive worn look where the paint goes on over it, irregularly. While the glue was still wet I sprinkled the Gilding Flakes onto the design and pressed them gently but firmly. Any excess flakes can be shaken or brushed off and returned to the pot. They are available from www.craftynotions.com I haven't used them before but find them very easy to use and instructions come with them. Your project sounds interesting - I hope we get to see it. Sorry this is so long.

Elizabeth said...

How wonderful to be thinking of spring as we watch the snow fall.

Hedges, walls, gates and fences -- like windows and doors -- have something enigmatic about them

my best to you and the farmer!

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for the wonderful virtual walk in the fields! It seems to me that a farmer's work is never ending.

Kayla coo said...

The gate invites us to step into the landscape.
Your views are wonderful.x

steven said...

weaver - the stones, the fences, the ancient pathways, gates - oh i envy you that!!!! steven

Eryl Shields said...

Spring mending is a lovely phrase, and it's nice to see the farmer's new gate.

I've been spring cleaning myself. The kitchen took me all day today, but it was worth it just to walk in and see everything neat and gleaming. It won't last!

ChrisJ said...

I love the new gate -- and the two standing stones. I miss all the long walks and hikes we used to take so many years ago. I visit several of the blogs who visit you, because you all seem to share the same love of country side.
Yesterday we had snow on the faraway mountains but down here the desert wind blew in and it was in the seventies. It was gorgeous and we took a drive and found a spot to watch birds. It will be cold again by our reckoning by the weekend.

Golden West said...

Things are greening up so nicely there, Weaver! Thanks for the view and vivid description of your corner of the world - lovely!

Cloudia said...

thanks for the free passage on this lovely walk. I've closed the gate...



Aloha, Friend!


Comfort Spiral

Bernie said...

I enjoyed this post so much. Your descriptions are so vivid and excite the imagination. Just think how far back the monks were and on your land! I also remember when we visited England that blackbirds sing over there. Here they don't and are not a popular bird at all.

And of course, Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets.

dinesh chandra said...

good to watch.

regards
dinesh chandra

Dave King said...

Another gorgeous initiation into another aspect of country life. Wonderful.
Apologies for the mix-up over the new blog. I was sure I had read (on another blog) that it was yours. I discovered later that it is Willow's at Willow Manor.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for all your comments - yes we all seem agreed that these ancient stones and footpaths hold a wealth of history.

I was reminded after I had posted the blog that my father used to visit a pub called The Gate, which I think was somewhere in the Nottingham area. He was always fond of quoting what it said on the pub sign:-

The gate hangs well and hinders none.
Refresh and pay and carry on.

I feel there is a poem about gates lurking in my head - hope I can manage to coax it out for the 2010 challenge.

Sandy said...

I would call a small water way either a "creek" or a "stream" or as you mentioned a "brook". Mostly I say "creek".

Teacup Lane (Sandy)

PurestGreen said...

I think it would feel wonderfully strange to repair walls and gates that so many other hands have used and perhaps also repaired. These things cycle but just keep going, with a little help.

Bob said...

The farm should patent those hinges Weaver, he could be the next Bill Gates with those! I once saw some hinges made out of wellie soles.

BT said...

What a great post. Jim and I have been outside today tidying and mending. It has to be done. I love the farmer's gate, it looks 'rustic'. He'll like that word!! What a story behind those 2 stones - amazing. I hope the gate doesn't take too long to come, it looks so bare without it.

Teresa said...

Hi Weaver,

Been catching up and reading your blog posts I've missed. Particularly enjoyed this post... I enjoy all things rural and something about old walls and fences that is so evocative.

Thanks for the lovely walk!