Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Comfort of Routine

I would love to be more organised. I really try. I make 'To Do' lists, and keep a diary on my phone with an alarm to remind me of appointments. I have bursts of tidiness - spring cleaning the house, and tackling the grey badger stripe that appears in my hairline with alarming regularity. I wake up every morning with an efficient plan to make best use of my days.

Pfftt. Who am I kidding?

In Dorset, I was flying by the seat of my pants. Now that I've moved counties and haven't yet got a routine to lean on, I am flying by the edge of the hem of the overstretched elastic of my knickers. Just. Without a routine, I am in a state of constant adapting and reacting in order to get the basics accomplished.

Take Kitty. I rented a paddock for Kitty, but the spring grass hadn't yet come in. With my winter hay supply still in Dorset, all I could do was to take Kitty for a walk and let her graze the grass verges 15 minutes in the morning and evening. The locals have rechristened her "Kitty Four-Legs" as it seems that there are already two Kittys of the human variety living on the estate. The "number of legs" nomenclature avoids confusion I'm told.

Kitty will be pleased to know that she is a topic of conversation on the estate, alongside current topics like who's heard a cuckoo (me!) and the Pothole Problem (capital P).

Sheep grazing has been even worse. My flock quickly ate their winter grazing down to the roots. There were only two small paddocks available, so I rented those, then fenced off the orchard in our garden to make a third paddock.

Our new view from the window

My flock is now divided into three mini flocks. Grazing the garden also solves the additional problem of not owning a mower big enough to tackle the new expanse of lawn. My "lawn" is now "sheep keep". It's all in the renaming.

Hey, this nomenclature thing really works.

The garden sheep are like a roving party of drunken louts, knocking down every bench, birdbath, and chicken fence they wander into. They freed the chickens today, flattening the electric netting around their house while trying to get to the wheat in their feeders. In turn, the now free-ranging chickens are scratching up my newly planted seedbeds. It's Farmageddon out there.

Our Land Rover is still languishing in Dorset with the hay. Besides towing trailers, the Land Rover was our dog transport vehicle. The new truck (which I've named "Truck") has no back on it. So as a temporary measure I cable tied a dog crate to the rings in the bed, and used old rubber car mats as non-slip flooring.

Spud and Quincy off on another wild goose chase - resulting in 40 lbs of goose meat!

It will have to do for now, and it's fine for short trips around the estate. I need to fetch the Land Rover before winter and shooting season.

When not walking horses or driving dogs, I am finding my way around the estate - locating pheasant pens, shortcuts to town, and safe lanes for riding Kitty. The locals use landmarks when giving out directions. I was confused when, out for a hack on Kitty, I was told to "ride to the rabbit in the hedge, then turn left".

Wait. The what in the who now?

Oh right.

There's also the "take a left when you see the silver birch", and "over the second cattle grid where the Suffolks lay up at night".

Suffolk sheep getting ready for bed?

Which begs the question: how do I plug these directions into my car's GPS? And where exactly do those sheep go in the day anyway?

I have been driving around looking for other fields suitable for grazing my flock (You know, seeing as the prime real estate over the second cattle grid has been taken by those lazy Suffolks.) We were offered a local castle. Yes, CASTLE. The remains of a 12th century Norman castle. How many shepherdesses can say their flock of sheep maintains the grounds of 900 year old castle? It's poor grazing, but tempting from a purely historical point of view. Would that make the meat from my lambs artisanal and historically interesting?

Next to the ruins of the castle is the Kilpeck church, built around 1140. It's still in use today. I'm told there are 12 churches in the local area serving a total of 150 parishioners. That's only a dozen per church if everyone shows up and spreads out!  If I was a church-goer, I would definitely go to the Kilpeck, just for its aesthetics. The door has Celtic-style carvings of serpents and dragons -

There's a basilisk (sometimes interpreted as a manticore) -

There is a "green man" on the column -

And 85 of these corbels running along the top of the stonework, described as a bestiary -

The Agnus Dei symbol in the centre

This is the most pagan looking church I have ever seen. There's even a Sheela na gig corbel that apparently so offended one of the more puritanical parishioners that she tried to knock it off repeatedly with a stick. Or so my neighbour told me, between his offerings of directions based on strange landmarks.

I wonder if the other eleven parish churches are equally fascinating. Even if the churches aren't, I'm sure the directions to get to them will be.

It will take time to find my way, and find a new routine. It's an uncomfortable process. A few landmarks is all I have to go by at the moment. We have our third pheasant hatch next Tuesday. Whether I'm organised or not, whether my phone alarm reminds me or not, they come every Tuesday. Well, I suppose that's a routine of sorts. It's a start.


Anonymous said...

Oh, great....you are back. I love your blog and look for it each and every day. Thanks.

Seester said...

Maybe you'll come across the Holy Stone of Clonrichert (formerly a class 2 relic!).
I wish I were there to discover new things with you. And to chase your chickens back home. Did the turkeys make it to Hereford?

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

I'm SO glad you're able to blog about this transition time for you and the animals. I'm sure it is often disconcerting to you, but it sure makes a great read for the rest of us! Love the peek into your life, so different from my own. Sending good thoughts for that organization thing - yep. I try. Every day. And fail, pretty much, everday. But I TRY. I WANT to be organized. I think that counts more than actually BEING organized. Hang on to that thought! Hugs.

Anonymous said...

Parishioners beating the local kirk?
Sounds like you are home.

Maria said...

I completely empathise re the process of learning a new place. It takes time, and it can be a bit wearing.

In other news, how do you know so much about architecture and churches? I've just learnt what a sheelagna gig is, and I'm very pleased :-)

Jennifer Montero said...

Thanks Anon -- comments like that really cheer me on

Jennifer Montero said...

Of course the turkeys are here. One is broody; the other does laps around the house all day, and stops in the incubator house at 4pm when we have our tea and biscuits, so she can demand her share. Then she goes back to doing laps. Turkeys be crazy.

Jennifer Montero said...

DHimC - It helps to know others try and don't always succeed with the whole organisation thing either. We'll both keep trying!

Jennifer Montero said...

Anon - I guess not all the Puritans fled to the new world after all!

Jennifer Montero said...

Maria - So many people take moving and learning new places in their stride. As a creature of habit, I am in awe of these people.

I don't know lots about churches but I recognise the symbolism from my years as a museum curator (my life pre-farming). Symbols is symbols, on building or in paintings, there are lots of shared motifs. In fact, the sheela na gig is similar to the African Yoni symbol. Full disclosure - I had to look up dates on Wikipedia, though!

SavvyChristine said...

My husband recently began farming with a local CSA farm (switching careers from pre-med), and after a month he says to me, "Try not to get so discouraged. Every day problems come up, and all you have to do improvise some sort of a solution instead of throwing money at it." It was funny to hear him say it because I've been feeling that way a lot. Farming is so different from any other career. Anyway, I know you know it already, but it's nice to see it in action. Hang on -- routine will come!

Jennifer Montero said...

SC - From pre-med to farming - I doff my cap to your husband. What a big change. And it's good to be reminded that innovation comes out of necessity (usually the necessity of not having enough money to throw at your problem!) Please wish his every success with the CSA from us.