Spring is gathering pace, but for all the grass is rising and the soil’s warm, I find a backlog of chores growing behind me. There’s a turnip drill to fettle, and the tractor’s leaking again.
I’ve sold the calves from last summer, but the transaction hangs on my ability to gather and load them into the trailer. This is harder than it seemed a month ago when a bale of hay would bring them tumbling down into the pens. Now they’re fat and glossy with new grass, and last summer’s bales have lost their pull. The calves hang around the gateway and toss their heads with suspicion, and I’m forced to postpone the sale until I can lure them into the race and shut the door behind them. It might be this evening, but it might take another week; patience is king.
And I bought chain harrows, but they’re a pain to move and I haven’t got anything big enough to lift them. In trying to set them up, I borrowed a track digger and broke the steering valve, then pulled the wiring loom off the bottom of my trailer and set myself back by a week and three hundred pounds.
And still there’s an electric fence to draw out on the moor so the rowdy bull can go away and boil his head in the litter of larks and bog cotton. That’s just a matter of cost and time, but I can hardly afford either.
And the new calves are coming in a fortnight and there’s so much to do before that can happen.
My chest feels tight with the drive of it all, and every plan draws on chain links which twist and shear with each passing hour. Rapt and straining at this weight of work, the spring now comes in a spatter of tiny images. A stolen reek of hawthorn blossom and wild garlic above the tractor’s din; the hum of warm stones above sunburn and cracked fingers. I look up from some diesel-reeking job and find that I’ve been listening to a swallow all the while; there’s a cuckoo beyond the blisters, or a sedge warbler racketing through the tang of lanolin and bull sweat. These are birds at the pitch of distraction, and for all I rage at the din of my obstacles, I wouldn’t change a thing.