May is drifting by lazily in a haze of sunshine and soil. My hands are blistered from wielding garden forks and walling hammers. Slowly, the veg patch takes shape.
Some evenings we walk around the lanes, and the last of the sunlight lighting up the cow parsley makes us feel like we're in a story.
The days are long, and the weeks feel timeless, with nowhere to go and nobody to see. We've not yet driven anywhere for exercise, and we have plenty of outside space of our own so no need to sunbathe elsewhere.
This strange new world is starting to take its toll in unexpected ways. I'm starting to worry about how I'll fit everything back in when life starts to turn back towards normality. My days are full now, and while of course it will be lovely to see people again, and be able to pop to a cafe, I will miss the long gardening hours.
Would the veg patch have progressed as much as it has this month if I'd been able to pop into town whenever I wanted, or meet up with friends, or idle away the mornings in a cafe?
I wouldn't have chosen this time (who would?) but I've tried to use it well. Not by taking up the bassoon, or learning to speak another language, but by slowing down. Not taking up new things, but spending more time doing the old things, the things I already enjoyed but often didn't leave time for. Nurturing seedlings. Long weekend mornings of reading. Writing letters. Eating tea in the garden.
It's looking like I won't be returning to work in my office until after Christmas. I can't say I'm sad about that. I like my job, and miss some of my colleagues, but I haven't stopped working, and often worked at home anyway, so I can easily live without my physical office space (which at any rate is just a desk in a large open plan room). I've not been in my office since 27th February anyway, so already it feels like a place that doesn't really exist any more.
My world has become small, in some ways at least. I'm grateful for not having to navigate city streets and busy parks right now, but I've seen so few faces since this began. I wonder how many faces we do see each day in normal times, just going about our normal business? Hundreds? Thousands?
Anyway, no new faces for me, not for a while. Peter of course, and the postman, and the farmer checking on his cows. An occasional neighbour on a ramble around the lanes. The woman who runs the village shop. Those will have to suffice for now. It's like going back in time (aside from a fortnightly supermarket trip, of course, although I'd happily do away with that too).
Anyway. It's easy to forget as the days roll by that there are still things to do. With what feels like endless tomorrows, it's easy to put things off. Today I'm back at work after a long weekend, and within five minutes the day won't feel endless, it will feel like the normal round of jumping between projects and trying to get things finished. But come five o clock I'll be back outside in the veg patch, the evening stretching out ahead, the sun (hopefully) still shining.
Where did the last two weeks go? It feels like forever since I've posted here. As always, I can see what I've been up to by scrolling through my photographs...
Hmm. But it hasn't all been entertaining visitors and eating. There's been plenty of pottering in the garden (although I'm saving all that for one post at the end of the month). I've also been creating us some footpath signs.
We don't get a lot of walkers here, maybe four or five lots in total over a sunny weekend. Most of them can read a map, and it's pretty obvious that the main footpath runs straight down our driveway. The side footpath isn't so obvious though until you're right on top of it, and a couple of groups of young people have gone wandering off into the wrong field (from which there isn't an exit), or stood around looking puzzled. So I've added a couple of yellow arrows and hopefully that will clear things up (I always appreciate clear footpath signs when I'm out walking - I hate standing in someone else's yard not knowing where I'm going!)
We've been making some progress inside the house too - although I use the term 'we' loosely as my involvement has mainly been providing the occasional cup of tea.
We're still struggling to find a builder who will remove that wall, so in the meantime Peter has removed everything else, including a false wall, the door frames, built in cupboards and old wiring. We can't use these rooms until this work is done so the rest of the house is full of boxes of stuff that should be up here. You can see how wonky the floor is.
All this sorting (and the sunshine) has at least given us a chance to air a few clothes that have been in boxes for a couple of years.
In slightly less alarming news, I've been on a few local outings. First off to a quarrying trade show - not my usual nice-trip-into-the-countryside but fascinating nevertheless.
The giant machines looked like toys inside the quarry. The main attraction for me though was this.
This is The Man Engine, and it was both extremely impressive and extremely beautiful. The tour has finished now, but if you do ever get a chance to see it I'd highly recommend it.
We've been to a couple of other localish events too - a school fair, and a Tudor fair, which I visited right at the end of the day, so was lucky enough to be given some home made butter to take home, wrapped in a butterbur leaf.
It was National Meadows Day recently so we also visited a farm with a hay meadow, and had a tour from the local Wildlife Trust to show us how to identify various grasses and flowers.
Quite a lot of the flowers had gone to seed because we've had such hot weather lately and so little rain. Everywhere here is dry (like much of the rest of the country) and we've had several moorland grass fires, which is very unusual round here. It's not often I find myself longing for rain, but lately I have been.
So that's where I've been - wandering about the countryside, drinking tea and looking at the view. And digging and planting and being at work of course, and various other things that I'll save for another post. In the mean time, I'll go back to hoping for a bit of rain soon.
We had friends to stay last weekend, and they brought the sunshine with them. It was utterly glorious, and we spent the whole of Saturday outside - until I landed up at the local hospital, with a swollen hand and fingers that wouldn't move as a result of a thorn in the back of my hand (I'm fine now, after a dose of industrial strength antibiotics).
Anyway, before that, we had a lovely time wandering about the fields and pottering in the garden.
We spotted a toad in a drain near the house, and our impromptu pond was seething with more tadpoles than I've ever seen in one place before.
It also became apparent that I'm going to need to decide what to do about the grass pretty soon.
I'm pretty set on a manual lawn mower for the little bit of garden round the house, although I am warned from all corners that our uneven ground will make mowing rather difficult. For the fields, there are a couple of options. The local farmer has offered us a few cows to munch on the grass, and in a couple of weeks a nice man is coming to show me how to use a scythe.
We had a visit this week from another nice man from the national park. He was quite excited about our fields, which are full of broadleaf plants (if you were after an actual lawn, you'd likely call them weeds). Apparently they're evidence that our fields are 'unimproved', which is quite clear by how much greener the surrounding fields are. This means they won't support much livestock - but they will support a lot of wildlife, which suits me just fine.
He's gone away to see if he can organise a botanical survey. I'm pretty excited. We'll see.
In the meantime, our battle with the wildlife inside the house continues. We're using humane traps for the mice in the loft, and have removed twelve mice in the last couple of weeks (plus an imaginary mouse, which we thought was in the trap, and which turned out to be a handful of sultanas rattling around).
I don't know how long this will go on for - much as I don't want to kill the little furry menaces, I'm getting rather sick of trekking up into the attic and down the back of the sofa each morning and several times during the evening to check the traps, and then down to the bottom of the fields to release the occupants. There's only so much more I can take. I can hear one up there now, running from one side of the loft to the other, wilfully ignoring the trap. Several have been witnessed actually escaping from the traps.
I'm pretty sure they're laughing at us now. We'll give them a few more days before the killing traps come out.
Sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'm Jenni, and I write here about our new foray into country living, which includes growing food, knitting, baking, wandering around the fields, and seeing which local cafe serves the best cake.