October 29, 2012

Snow in October

This week brought a sudden and very surprising change.

We had all adjusted well to bright blue skies by day followed by fresh chilly evenings and cold nights. We had also tolerated a few days of rather English grey. But then, with very little warning (on the eve of the weekend) it snowed. It continued to snow for the whole day.

Bold autumn colours now lie hidden beneath soft white and every surface of any height is topped with a thick, white icing. The girls scoop it up like lollies and just can't seem to get enough of it.

For us, it has come rather earlier than expected. The vast stillness and peace is serene and beautiful yet also whispers of the imminent months ahead where temperatures will continue to drop and nothing more above ground will grow. Animals will need shelter and daily feeding as life on the farm contracts into winter hibernation.

On the first day of snow the chickens don't even venture out of their den. Wading almost a foot deep across the yard to feed them, along the way I scoop off the snow from the rabbit's hutch to find her huddling in the furthest corner, both her bowls hidden in a mass of white. She is simply cowering and staring wide eyed ahead of her.

The sheep also appear rather shell-shocked, even though they are the best equipped to deal with the cold. Two days on, there are at least enough tufts of grass beginning to re-emerge for them to munch on as no fresh snow fall allows the ground cover to begin to retreat. Yet to be on the safe side, we begin clearing out the old sheep barn designing the best combination for comfort and ease of access.

The rabbit will also need to come in, probably to the middle room where plastering has not yet begun. But we will hold off just a little while longer, as there is still a fair chance of some milder weather before winter properly takes hold. We have after all only just received the stunning palette of autumn colours, which are noticeably more intense at the mountainous borders of Czech where the season creeps on just a little ahead of us here in the 'low lands'.

This week also saw our first foray into the boisterous world of children's holiday camps! A rather short notice agreement to take three children (7, 9 and 11 from a family of eight!) for five days and engage them in farm life, resulted in nearly a week of constant activity. The boys – the two oldest – would wake on full steam, ready to tackle whatever came their way before we'd even had time to sip a coffee!

For all the management that comes with such a big family (so much more cleaning and tidying, extended meal preparations and regular herding away for moments of peace) we all thoroughly enjoyed our time together.

The boys were so keen to learn new skills and show off their strength: the electric fence was taken up and extended; the limbs of a birch to be felled in the coming weeks were stripped and dragged into the dry; stones were shifted for dry-stone landscaping; nettles were scythed and bonfires made of the debris beside the stream; and a good deal of plastering (with rather a lot of mess!) has made the vague hope of a finished kitchen by Christmas just a little bit more realistic...

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