Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Tuesday, May 24th 8.45pm

The girls are in bed reading about cats surviving the sinking of the Titanic and a Labrador puppy with an over developed sense of humour.

Two ponies are in; one is out and the three must be reunited. I head up the path and tie open the gates. I'll have my hands full leading the two. They've been in on the yard all day and they are hungry.

Magpies laugh unseen high up in an ash tree. Millions of birds are singing their bed time songs. It is almost as loud as the dawn chorus but not quite.

Overhead the sky is cerulean blue. The clouds of this morning have departed, chased away by a toothy wind that reminds of the old wives' saying: Ne'er cast a clout 'til May is out. I have already tucked up tender beans and courgettes in the polytunnel and closed the door for the night.

Mrs Broody was cold. When I closed the pop hole on the broody pen I could only see a tuft of tail feathers. The other three hens were still awake; they always stay up late wringing the last drop of day out before roosting.

Pippin sees me approaching the gate and trots briskly down to me, ears pricked. She's looking forward to seeing her friends for the night.

Everywhere is green; the leaves have unfurled on the trees and still have the first fresh brightness. They haven't been leathered by the weather yet. On the elders the flowers are fat buds bringing the promise of champagne and cordial in a week or two.

A gull wheels in the sky above my head. Away in the distance mowers thrum, swiping the first cut of silage.

I put a head collar on one pony, the other will follow. They trot after me grabbing big mouthfuls of grass on the way. Bullseye dawdles behind as Itsy and I reach the field but as the gate swings open he springs forwards into a trot and the three of them leap and buck up the field together. A rabbit, stranded in the middle of the field far from cover skitters about unsure which way to go but the ponies run out of steam up the steep bank of the hill before they reach it. Other rabbits are vague brown shapes at the edges of the field.

Then the three ponies halt, snorting, knees buckle and they roll on the green grass groaning with the ecstasy of it all. Back on their feet they put their heads down to the serious business of catching up on a day's eating. Dieting is just as difficult for ponies as it is for humans.

I walk back to the yard swinging the head collar and rope in my hand. Only the hardiest of the midges are out tonight. One sinks its teeth into my left eyelid.

As I open the Dairy door to hang up the head collar and rope on the hook with the others, a swallow speeds out above my head. They've been back a few weeks now and already I've got so used to them that I no longer duck. The nests are back in all the outbuildings again and the air around the farm buildings and house is full of swallows' chatter.


  1. I was right with you. Beautiful post.

  2. What a lovely post - so lyrical and atmospheric.

  3. Such a lovely description of your evening routine with the ponies. Very much like mine. We have one pony stabled at present. The swallows swoop and dive around our heads when we are down in the yard with him.


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