Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Rolling English Road

It has been a long, wild winter. A sting of nostalgia for the old ways in the old country bit me this morning as I snow-shoed out to the road once more and then tried to move the tractor from under mountains of snowdrift. G. K. Chesterton was a fascinating, erudite social critic who espoused a more just political system called Distributism, which has often been described in opposition to both socialism and capitalism, which distributists see as equally flawed and exploitative. He also had a joyous sense of humour as the following paean to the ways of old attests:

Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.

His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.

My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Snow Spiral

We now have a  snow spiral punctuating the landscape. Not a crop circle, but a snow spiral. I paid a visit early this sunny morning on snowshoes, essential footware for this wild winter of ours. The winds keep on blowing, and the snow keeps on falling and drifting. In the open fields the cover is not that deep – ideal foundation for a snow spiral to meditate upon from the upstairs reading room window.

So, what do I as an organic farmer without heated greenhouses do in the winter?
Of late: research food and farming, post blogs, muse on nature and political manipulations, promote my book High Up in the Rolling Hills with a blog tour, dream of the Greek Islands, watch Zorba The Greek in black and white on TV, read Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis, share convivial dinner with friends, bone up on soils, minerals and micro-organisms, chop wood, feed the woodstove, clear the heavy snow off the greenhouses, nursing sore leg muscles navigate the way through the drifts of snow to the car by the road and the outside world, bring in supplies of Seville oranges, lemons, sugar for marmalade making, and bottles of wine for sustenance, take in the opening of the Sochi winter Olympics (shaking my head at hearing of Canada’s new “swagger”). Stuff like that. Oh yes, and look out on a snow spiral glittering in the rising sun. With hard work for ten months combined with rest, snow and sun to recharge with over the two main months of winter, it is a wonderful living.

Armed with our fresh batch of Seville orange marmalade (currently suffusing the house with its citrusy aroma), grass-fed beef and dried herbs, spices and teas, we do aim to be at Evergreen Brickworks farmers market next Saturday, February 15, then weekly from March 8 on. Hard to believe that a month from now, it is traditionally time to turn over the thawing soil in the greenhouses and plant the first of the spring greens. I think we may be still skating on thin ice by then and putting off the growing season for a week or two. We’ll just have to see what Nature has in store for us next…