Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hard as Iron

Walking from Stunts Green to Cowbeech and back again this morning, the ground was unyielding underfoot. After three consecutive nights of frost, and with temperatures barely getting above freezing in shaded areas during the day, the earth stood hard as iron. The long-legged dog took this all in his stride but the little-legged dog struggled: the deep ruts from tractor tyres on the farm tracks had been frozen into hurdles, the clods thrown up by horses’ hooves on the bridle paths had become boulders and the boggy field at the foot of Kiln Wood was an icy no-man’s land. I could tell by his Scottish Terrier grumbling and chuntering, as he tried to negotiate all of these obstacles, that he was not happy. It was only when we got onto the worn-smooth paths of Scrip Wood that he was able to make any progress without complaining about the weather, and I was able to enjoy the sight of the blanched north faces of the sloping fields, hidden from the eastern sun.

As we came back through the wood and passed the allotments, I was in two minds about the frost: the low temperatures might have finally killed off the legion of slugs on my plot but the winter digging-over, which I had aimed to finish before the year expired, was going to have to be postponed yet again. Having only recently harvested the last of the leeks, there is still a whole corner to be dug. Despite it being bathed in a bright but low sun, it’s unlikely that the earth will have warmed enough by tomorrow and, with another frost forecast for tonight, it looks as though I will be spared some New Year’s Eve digging. I had never envisaged seeing out the final afternoon of 2014 with heavy spadework, so my plan to be warming myself in the kitchen, as the interregnum between Christmas and New Year runs out, seems to be safe. And the little-legged dog will be with me.

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