Tennyson

When we show pictures of our life there, or when we hear from friends, Adelaide seems a long, long way from wet and windy Calderdale . There have been a few sunny days to show us the potential delights of summer at Warland Farm but April has been a step back towards Winter. As Ralph, the previous owner said yesterday, “This is the wettest drought on record”. Much of the South-East has a hose-pipe ban in place.

Please don’t get any impression that we’re at all unhappy, though. The Aga takes the edge off the coldest days and projects are proceeding despite the weather. I have been here less than six months (Monica less than four) but we have many thousands of trees planted and my woodwork shop is nearing completion; our families in nearby towns and cities are quite used to popping in at a moment’s notice; and the locals, a cheery lot, are happy to see us when we’re buying our food at the traditional markets.

Until well after Christmas, our furniture and my tools remained on the high seas, so we had a delightful period of irresponsibility and scruffiness. With just the clothes from our suitcases, a few sticks of furniture kindly left by Ralph and no telly, we managed to entertain the many friends and family who turned up in small and large groups from far and wide. The occasional quiet night was equally delightful, lounging in front of a blazing log fire listening to the quiet of the countryside.

The arrival of all our possessions was a major interruption from which we’re still tidying up but we can now accommodate up to six guests in comfort and I can find tools to start work to implement the ideas we’ve generated while under-employed. Alongside all of this, Treesponsibility have put up Warland Farm as the poster-project for their successful grant applications, the result being all those trees: some oak and birch in an attempt to replace an ancient woodland that went missing in the thirties but the majority in oak, ash and hazel coppices that will keep us warm and busy in years to come. Seven hundred metres of hedgerow, the two-acre forest garden to feed us and two meadows for the birds and wild-flowers are about to be started.

This weekend, Monica is in Liverpool learning how to keep bees; they’re probably the only livestock we’ll attempt to manage in the short term though Monica has an ambition to rescue a donkey once we’re settled. Bandit is very happy here, now she’s learnt not to get muddy (and hence cold) on our walks along the canal. She has a large yard with a couple of lawns to patrol and has even proven quite a good sheep-dog, unembarrassed by the titters of the spectators who think her a little small and rather too like a sheep herself. She just moves in on the strays with confidence and a cough to get them moving, sees them through the boundary fence and then returns to us. Who knew?

The local town has a good-sized health centre where Monica and I have been to sort out aches and pains and regular prescriptions and, apart from a rather zany booking system that no-one understands, we’ve had excellent, professional service, mainly from the nurse-practitioners who are the bulwark of the National Health System these days. As we get older and bugger up our joints with farm-work, it’s great to know we’re ten minutes from such help.

As we switch from set-up tasks to longer-term projects like the barn conversion, we’ve set cash budgets to keep everything on track (hoping that the AUS$ stays strong and keeps our pension fund buoyant) but time is not of the essence: if we miss the schedule it just means we spend a bit slower which is a good thing. Hence, we’re looking forward to a happy existence of honest work interrupted (as often as possible) by visiting guests and explorations to re-acquaint ourselves with this foreign land.

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