After all those weeks of heavy rain there is now a very sharp frost. Most days it is bright and sunny but there is such a keen wind blowing that the frost never goes. The roads are icy and our lane is almost impassable except with extreme care.
But because the ground is totally waterlogged and that water has now frozen, nothing can be done on the farm. Every grass field is peppered with hoof prints that are now hard so that walking is hard work, There is a film of white frost on the grass and the hedges are bare and black.
We were hoping that a few berries would survive on the holly so that it could be brought in to celebrate christmas - a tradition which goes back to the days when it was thought that holly protected a household from witches and mischevious house goblins - but all have gone. The birds need is greater than ours and one wonders how the fieldfares and redwings are surviving when all berries have gone and beaks cannot penetrate the hard ground in a search for grubs.
We have several holly trees which date back to the times when the ploughman would use a holly tree to line up his plough for the first furrow, and we also have plenty of holly in the hedges. Any branch which falls off is quickly utilised for the stove - it is the finest wood for burning.
Many small birds have come off the fields and are at the bird table from morning to night. Blackbirds in particular, which we rarely see in Summer, are now at the table most of the day and it is
not unusual to see a dozen or more waiting for seed to drop from the feeders where hungry goldfinches pull one sunflower heart out of the feeder and cause another dozen to drop on the floor. Pheasants join the blackbirds waiting at the base.
But all work is at a standstill. The cows in the loose housing eat their feed and then lay down in the warm straw, their sweet breath showing up against the cold air. They only come to the edge when they are hungry. The rest of the time they lie down snug and warm.
The sheep don't seem to notice the cold at all - but then they have good woolly coats and are accustomed to spending all year out in the elements. Even they appreciate a feeder with hay or silage in it for a bit of a supplement to the heavily frosted grass.
No let up in the weather is forecast. In the market today the roads and footpaths were like glass and walking was dangerous. I rang the farmer when he was at the Auction Mart and asked him to collect me in town, so that I didn't have to slip and slide and probably fall down.
We are keeping warm by the wood burner. The Christmas cards have started arriving and there is a feeling of Christmas in the air. I have made cakes, puddings and mincemeat and am now thinking about putting on the marzipan and icing. I love the Christmas season and I suppose this cold, crisp weather is Christmassy too but the older I get the thinner my blood gets (or so they say). Whatever the reason, I am keeping warm and looking at the weather through the window.