Breugel at Warland

We’ve just finished planting all along the road: drifts of crab apple, holly, wild cherry, service, lime and hornbeam among oak and hawthorn. We started in sunshine and finished in snow. It was a great exercise to get Monica engaged in planning and managing the land. The day we received 1,000 bare-root trees needed a big push and she got stuck right into the muddy work and they were in within a week.

We had an experimental winter solstice party before Christmas. A few local friends and family sat about the garage on hay bales, eating baked spuds and onion soup, while I kept a bonfire burning in the rain and Monica’s brother Kevin led some clogging and singing. I wanted this to lead into a stay-awake, log burning slobathon in the parlour with ghost stories, wee-hour feasts of strange pickles and tastings of the summer’s wines and flavoured spirits. Unfortunately, this had to be shelved because I had to attend a funeral in the early morning but maybe next year.

Ralph, who sold us the farm and who had become my good friend, died a week before, as did my best friend in Australia. You could guess I’ve been pretty sad and grumpy rather than festive. Planting trees is a great therapy because I feel they’ll last far longer than us puny humans. At least they’ll have the local farmers complaining about loss of grazing for generations.

Monica’s allotment has moved, recently, from the front field to the back because we found a less steep area that was unallocated. Now we’re looking for new uses for that area I fenced for her above the meadow: flowers or animals are possibilities because we haven’t any planned elsewhere.

This year should see the end of the planting and the start of building. M has booked me on a course near cousin Jackie to learn about traditional lime mortar in April.

In my twenties, I had a copy of Breugel’s “Hunters in the Snow” hung over my fireplace. This morning, I looked South out of the window at the snowy scene and realised the view along the canal is very similar. The cliffs, water, bridge, nearby trees and buildings are all in the same place and the land drops away similarly. I wonder if my subconscious spotted it when I first visited.

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