To date this is a two swim summer.
I love wild swimming and the river is just at the bottom of the farm –
but it does need to be hot.
On a day like today only a full body immersion will clear the day’s traffic from my skin and head.
A load of hay arrived today: the Italian boys and I rolled and stacked it in the shed: 46 round bales safely stowed against the winter.
It seems untimely to be garnering against the hard time of the year at a time of such abundance but it will roll round soon enough.
Having the barn part filled lends a quiet satisfaction, insuring against the queasy calculation of just how many bales I have to offer the animals before the spring grass.
Some years winter endures into May and other times it is so hard that the cattle spend all their time gathered at the ring feeders stoking up against the cold and wet.. These years subject all farmers to the same stringencies, and we run low or even exhaust our stocks at the same time.
Last year was mild and I survived through with two bales – just two- left over. The year before I was short but negotiated a timely supply from a neighbour with an excess: others ran out of the wherewithal to keep their stock, and were forced into shamefaced attendance on charity depots.
With my own silage due to be mown and wrapped next week I will top the critical 100 bales: a reasonable tally for my 20 animals.
I have done what I can – peace of mind is secured- for now.
But it was hot, dusty work loading into the barn with the old JCB manoeuvring carefully around the shed-
the river beckons.
I take the opportunity to engage with the animals on the way down: Holly standing for a tickle while her fine white heifer calf stands warily by; Angus Halfhorn who loves his head and neck scratched free of the mud that he has thrown over his head for cooling, black Abby grazing the tender shoots of the marsh plants by the lochainn. George Halfcalf, starting life with an aversion to mother’s milk, will never grow fully and is burdened with the thickest of winter coats causing him to pant pathetically. Survival is an effort for George, but he has shown willing over and over.
And finally – to the dark brown water of the lazy river- and the entry in the curve where the winter torrents have gouged a channel deep enough for me to dive in without fear-
and without clothes,
to strike out upstream toward the setting sun.