Tag Archives: snow

The known voice

The sheep keep the seasons for me. The year starts in the autumn at Hallowe’en. Then, all over Scotland, sheep start to move. Every country road sees large and small trailers and cattle floats with sheep. Some youngsters go off the gentler pastures by the coasts and in the south, to spend the winter of the cow pastures there. Ewes are moved into the kinder upland grazings, and the tups (rams) make the most exciting move of the year: into the flocks of ewes. And my ewes were no exception. In early November they went on a short ride in the wee trailer behind the farmer’s quad bike to find themselves a husband in his flock.

That of course is the time of the Celtic New Year. It is the beginning, although a hidden one, and not the end of the cycle. The sheep move in a time of plenty, with grass still long after the summer. That part of the year ends as the grass is eaten back and dies off. Then it is time for sheep to get a little extra care.

So in January each year, the ewes are released back into the fields below my house, and it is time to set out to find my own. The process is simple. The fields there are not sheep proof, and the animals flow around the pastures, with groups in each of the sets of fields. I know them as the Corner Field, the Low Fields, the Gallop Field and the Side Field.

Accordingly, I tried the Corner Field, and all the sheep fled. The Gallop Field, the Low Field. It was a wet day, and because I was climbing over barbed wire I had not worn my water proof trousers. My legs brushed against rushes all the time. I began to worry something BAD had happened to my girls. Or that I would not recognise them, among a sea of their sisters and cousins.

Then I went into the Side Field and repeated the process. It is, as I said, a simple one. I call the sheep. I walk. I call the sheep. And here the magic worked at last. Instantly there was a response. A voice answered mine. Then two voices. Then fifty five sheep ran in terror from me, and two sheep ran in joyful recognition towards me. Before the snow and the bad weather, my sheep came home with me.



About a foot of snow went in twenty four hours went suddenly, felled as though by Aslan, by rain and warm wind. The dogs and I went for a walk – a real walk with big strides. We found these, at first unexplained by eye, though read at once by nose.

It took more examples to tell me what they were – mole tracks. The moles had tunnelled along with the earth below and the snow above. Occasionally, they had tunnelled with a very little earth above.

There are yards and yards of these tunnels. And the great thing is that because no silage is made, the moles are safe. God bless the moles (bet the worms don’t think so.)

Life giving

Water is running again. The cold drought is ending. Yes the snow was beautiful and yes, I enjoyed aspects of it. The purity, the challenges.

But it was sterile. Hard to keep water alive even in buckets in the stable. No grass. No pickings for the birds. the poor hares stripped the bark off one of my apple trees, killing it, unless I can manage a graft. No sound os water. And now it is back, off every roof, in every ditch, down every path. Beautiful life giving healing water.



At places on my holding the snow has drifted deeply, as you can see from that old poser Mace, standing up to his woolly knees in it. He does not have to, and usually he prefers the field at the front, where it is much less deep. The cold does not seem to trouble him or the others – the way all the grass has got covered up does. They are reduced to eating the rushes, which they can knock clean of snow. It keeps them going between feeds. They are not shod, and so the snow does not build up under their hooves. They also have a stable, and can use it any time they want. During the sunlight hours, and we have had wonderful sun during the brief days, it is much warmer outside.

It is ups and downs. I have enjoyed the morning walk to the car, parked at my neighbours, half a mile away, but it makes the days longer. I carry my mobile all the time, just in case I slip and need help. It is stunningly beautiful. I have been freed up from some of the things I would otherwise have felt compelled to do, and could not get to the last customer today – their very long drive is not passable to normal cars. I have got to know some new neighbours, which is very positive, and they can help me get more feed to here if I need to – so my only real worry has evaporated. I long for skis. I give thanks daily that I got the barn roofs sorted when I did. They would most surely collapsed otherwise, causing huge damage. I have seen field markings far more clearly than I could have otherwise. Those below are pretty modern.

I can’t work up the distress over the snow that others do – though I worry about legs, not mine, marauding foxes (nice for them to be well fed, but not my chicken, please). But the sun, and the novelty and perhaps even a little sledging tomorrow, that would be cool. Well below zero cool.


..and the cold grows stronger

This is what I left behind – I gather it is now deeper, crisper and colder.

Stunningly beautiful, totally impractical.

I gather all at my address are currently dreaming of a green Christmas – just like the ones we used to know


A non driving driver

I hate driving – and it is not something at which I am skilled. Therefore I surprised myself recently. On 22 Dec. the south west of Scotland was hit by heavy snow, and had I had any choice, I would not have driving at all. However I had an essential dental appointment – essential if I was not to spend Christmas in pain. So I headed out, and on my return heaved a sigh of relief as Kilmarnock and well known roads cane into view. The journey form Killie to home is fifteen minutes. Twenty, max. The roundabout was at a standstill. The Hurlford road was grid locked. I came back by devious ways, and was much delayed by the need to out manoeuvre motorists who were getting stuck by not observing the obvious rule that you need momentum to get up snow covered hill roads, and stopping half way up is disaster. I made it to the mouth of my drive. It had taken over two hours.

The following day a huge and ancient suitcase turned into a covered sledge, and in a foot of snow, it took three hours to accomplish a double walk to the road end – 3/4 mile in each direction. Normally, it would take an hour. My neighbours dug my car out, and I was on my way south by the longer and safer route – motorways all the way.

What astonishes me is that I succeeded while all around me, better drivers failed.

Pictures are all on my phone, which is refusing to talk to my laptop – though both have bluetooth. However, don’t get your hopes up – simply beautiful pictures of trees and snow.

Later that day, more snow fell, and the B road off which I live became impassable again.


Snow on snow

All four advent wreath candles are burning bright. I decided that snow should not put me off going to see them, especially as I had in store what these days is a rare treat, and always, for me, a delicious treat – namely reading aloud in church. I had the seventh lesson to read at the service of lessons and carols. My car was already parked down at the neighbours, so I set off on foot, wrapped in my coat, which is very warm but otherwise shares the more notable characteristics of a hair shirt. The road, when I finally got off the drive and on to it, was noticeably snowy – but we live at the highest point of the road, and the middle point, and I was relieved to see the snow fade out as I got further towards Galston. The Moscow (yes, really) and Waterside road got less and less snow, and in Glasgow it was just a sprinkle. My luck held with parking places, and then a seat with a friend. The music was as always superb and yes, I enjoyed reading every bit as much as I had anticipated. I just hope the omelet only had the correct quotient of eggs. Then out. Oh dear, more snow. Never mind, on to motorway.

It was when I could see snow on the carriage way that I began to wonder. I should have left just before Waterside – and could see the slip road was seriously snowy. I decided against it, and instead went the long way round into Kilmarnock, and back by Hurlford, through street lights and dwellings and busy roads. I realised things were not as they might be when there was snow on the Galston streets. Off on the B road, and the start of the climb up. Much snow on the road. The little car sliding gracefully, and struggling to find her wheels even in first. Up the twisty road. Then the road opens out a bit, and I was getting hopeful. It is usually a busy road. I had it to myself, until I came round the corner and saw a recovery vehicle trying to rescue a car form the ditch. The little car stopped at a respectful distance. We watched. The car in the ditch was another little car. It was gracefully pulling the recovery vehicle into the ditch. We spoke a few kind words to the two harassed drivers, who were spurred on to another attempt. The recovery vehicle made it – and ended up on the clearish bit of the road with the other car behind it. Little car had to go round the side, the two drivers cheering her on and offering to push if she got stuck. By this point you could not see any tarmac on the road, and I was travelling at ten miles an hour. I saw no other cars at all. Somehow she made it all the way to the drive, where she finally stuck, and my long suffering neighbour, a professional driver, had to rescue her. She is now down at their house and if the forecast is to be believed, I am likely to have to get all my packing, etc etc down there in a wheelbarrow for my trip down south. The extra half mile up a steep hill and round a sharp bend is not to be contemplated.

The trouble was, snow had fallen, snow on snow, while the earth was hard as iron, and you could have taken the water for stone.