Getting prepared for a guilt-ridden holiday trip


Leaving John to take my granddaughter Jessica on holiday invokes guilt, anticipation, apprehension and an industrial cooking programme to ensure that he has enough meals in the freezer to cope

One fridge is devoted to beer and cider to assuage his thirst. Another to more mundane sustenance such as milk, cream and fruit.

The dining room table resembles a super market shelf. “I won’t be able to eat half of this before you get back,” John said. “ Perhaps not” I replied, “ But it makes me feel better about going away.”

My guilt also centres on the fact that I am not there at such a traditionally busy time of the farming year.

Except at the moment it has not been. Both our rape and wheat are safely combined.

The rape is away off the farm and there were never plans to sell the wheat straight out of the field.

It can bide its time in the corn store for a few months and our spring barley is several weeks off harvest.

Usually by now the orchard is buzzing with wasps gorging on ripe plums and i am trapping hundreds in bottles baited with sugar syrup.

But although the tree branches are bent low with the weight of plums, there is not one plum even starting to flush purple and soften.

All are resolutely green. So nothing doing there then.

Few of the apples are ready to pick yet and the blackbirds were first to spot that the cherries were ripe enough to eat.

There is of course the small matter of the poultry population, whose well being is usually totally my domain.

And walking the dogs. Routine husbandry of sheep and cattle fit into the farming day whether it is harvest or not. But the exponential increase in the guinea fowl and bantam population has placed strains on time allocation.

I have a strong suspicion it will be sink or swim time at nightfall. Either each hen and chicks makes their own way back to the safety of a coop as dusk falls, or they face being a tasty vulpine snack.

Improbably, just before I left, yet another guinea fowl turned up with a keet.

I say improbable because guinea fowl routinely all lay in one super nest but are rubbish parents even if they manage to hatch any of their eggs.

You will frequntly see three of the hens all trying to edge each other off the nest in a grand guinea fowl pie.

The majority of our guinea fowl have been laying in a huge extended nest under a big pile of old corrugated iron roofing.

Unless I dismantle the whole pile I cannot get at the eggs, and if I expose their nest, the birds will stop laying there anyway.

The guinea fowl with the individual nest a few weeks back was an anomaly.

So this is either one lucky guinea fowl Mum, or one very unlucky and destined for a short life keet.

I am leaving her with her baby, rubbish mother or not.