All quiet on the Western Front…

And other such lies. Life has been far from one of bonbons and more like a need for bourbons for that matter. Things started going amuck about three weeks ago. A burst pipe, then no water supply, three day bonding with a misbehaving water trough, a cow needing extra pre-calving support (ie, feed; not some antenatal class to tell her to practice her hypnobirthing), an overheating polytunnel, a pig on the run for an entire day, and a jungle of seedlings growing like weeds was my equivalent to ‘what level of Scrabble are you?’ while chatting on zoom meetings.

Not only that, my youngest decided I should have an adaptation to a Keeping in Touch (KIT) day with work. A late night call to NHS 24 with a child having serious breathing problems meant they called for an ambulance. Spiking fever, not eating, hardly drinking, minimal sleeping, crackly breathing had all been off and on rehearsals for several nights before. Nights were worse, days passable; always borderline about ringing the GP, but generally thinking we could manage at home.

Knowledge can be pants. Knowing your child has a high respiration rate is not an easy thing to assess what your response should be at 3am. A spiking fever hitting 40 degrees didn’t help. Things had seemed to be improving though. A day with a bit of food and no fever seemed promising. Until 9.30 at night. And several things were not right. Eventually I made the call to ask for advice. The ambulance was called. As I kept the lights on, waiting, unable to put him down, the soft lights of the neighbours slowly diminished. It felt like a long wait. And then vehicle lights could be seen. Just as I caught a glimpse, my son stopped crying and breathed normally. Nooo! Don’t tell me the paramedics are driving all the way out and you stop the exact thing they have been called for. But yes, he looked them in the eye (not the dazed, unresponsive look like earlier). He even smiled at the one by the end. Aghhh. No short, sharp intakes. No crying, no ridged body. Not even the sound of the stuck but contented cat came from his lungs. I know I should be thankful that he suddenly improved. I am thankful for the paramedics who came. I am thankful for the lady on NHS 24 who heard him and knew I wasn’t making it up. Thinking positively, I got to see some of the paramedics equipment. I have swotted up on paediatric observation norms. I didn’t have to commute for the KIT experience. Let’s not miss the opportunity.

The following day was proof that coffee does save lives. I had about five more than the usual amount. We got through. Thankfully with lockdown we don’t have to go anywhere and we rarely see others. Theoughout the day, the Micro seemed to have made a change not just for the paramedics.

So with that, we do now appear to be all quiet (well, if you ignore the sound of the bad radio connection coming from my son’s lungs). Apart from Hilda, who looks like she will pop a calf out soon and hasn’t been reading up on her hypnobirthing…

Rock Chick of the Century

I really don’t think Amy MacDonald was thinking about agriculture when she wrote the lyrics of the ‘Mr Rock and Roll’ song. But, when you spend two mornings picking up stones to clear a field, you do feel like the title. Not in an egotistical sense, but more that you have just shifted more than a 100 stones and that you have a step count higher than a cricketer getting a century.

Maybe it’s time Rock Chick got a new image? Not a jumping up and down at a festival or singing along in a studio, but a ‘dancing in a boiler suit, on her own and no, she doesn’t care’ image.

A field of stones can be daunting. The field is not massive, but in terms of stone picking, it’s only slightly up from finding a needle in a haystack.

How to deal with the task? Focus on the road we’re building, not the field we’re clearing. This is not the first (or sixth) time I have been over clearing stones since it got ploughed last summer. Several trailer loads have been shifted. But there is still more. Shifting stones gives you time to think. It’s a good time to process events. Have epiphanies. Keep forgetting the lines to the third verse of a catchy song. And become an expert out standing in your field (sorry, but you must have known that was coming!).

I can now tell you the current terroir and climate are perfect for the job. The ground isn’t frozen, the soil isn’t too muddy, the ground isn’t rock hard. The grass/weeds haven’t swamped the stones, there are no midgies. So what better way to spend my time. It will help improve the soil. The cows (and tractor implements) will be thankful (well, we’ll be thankful they haven’t been damaged by stones). It will help access all the trees we have planted. It makes you appreciative of things such as the Romans, muscle rub and hot baths.

The elephant in the room

My comment last week about dreaming of being in the Crofter’s shoes in Norway was not made up. It is thought through with awareness of all implications. The view out the window of the industrial builder’s yard. The twice weekly knock, drop and run food delivery. The scandi decor of minimal decorating. Nope, it does not sound dismal to me. I really would think that ideal for completing several things.

At home, on the croft, cows, the polytunnel, the laundry, all speak loudly. In comparison, I have two boxes of knitting wool that silently whisper to me every time I walk past. The knitting needles themselves need a bit of organising (another project) but stand in their container silently watching the world go by. There are three books that are my priority reads (2020 goals). Their covers cast their longing looks from their neglected pile. Another five are ‘one day I may learn to speed read and polish off the lot so keep them handy”. But they too join the room, in a soft, muted tone; being more akin to decorative wallpaper. They affect the ambiance of the room but having no demanding presence (particularly when you stand at a window looking out at the outside seeing what work to do).

However, the most silent, is the elephant in the room. No, not the “who did you vote for in the last election, how much money have you got in your piggy bank, or will you be watching church online?” elephant-in-the-room. But an actual elephant (well two, if you count the wee one). See, they are small in size, they have been evolving for more than 10 years, making appearances on holidays (in the past) and so have not been worked on since the Mini Crofter arrived. Yes, it’s cross stitch. Another of those ‘why do I like doing so many different things hobbies?’. It doesn’t matter if you are stuck in solitary confinement, you can take it with you and just slowly (and yes, think of Mr Slow in the Mister Men books) work through it. One day, I dream of completing it. One day, it too can join the room to watch the world go by (from the wall, rather than a box so not that exciting). But while two boys can disassemble chairs in 10 minutes flat, misplace keys and turn on water hoses, it remains in its box.

Cinderelly, Cinderwelly

While many others are able to share about converting egg boxes into Art Deco, recreating famous artwork, or learning Japanese with their children; I am more akin to recreating Cinderella.

The Fairy Godmother is called Gin, the lost slipper was put in the loo by the 14 month old and 8pm is the new midnight. We have a chariot, but a Thule Chariot for the bike, not a horse drawn carriage. I’m waiting for my pumpkin seeds to grow. The mice never read the blurb on social distancing, and Gus Gus is a dog (our dog) rather than a mouse who was well before his time in showing evidence of stockpiling.

For the boys, I could say I am letting them expand their imagination and creativity. In reality, it looks like they are more feral than the last cat. But hey, Cinderella let the mice run riot on her watch.

When jobs need done, you do walk round in literal circles to achieve them (but that’s circles with the buggy/Chariot you understand; I’m not wandering round the driveway with the hoover just to ward off any potential visitors, I’m just trying to get someone asleep). For some jobs need at least one child (the Micro) asleep to ensure safety. But when the older falls asleep by accident and the younger is content to watch the world go by unless you take two steps away, you might as well have the two Ugly Stepsisters demanding your time.

Never fear, the cows eventually got their straw and hay. The boys were fed, and the Fairy Gin-mother disappeared…