Country life in summer
Stating the obvious, country life in summer is vastly different from winter and this week as I have been pottering about in the garden I have been contemplating how special the short summer months are. Autumn and early spring are great times for catching up on structural projects, as nature is in a passive phase and leaves the bare structure of the land visible. Winter is a time for solitude and contemplation, for dreaming and traveling and exploring both the inner and the outer worlds. Summer therefor is the hectic time when everything has to be crammed into a few short months - all the socialising with friends and family that come to stay, all the gardening and garden work, all the feeding and eating and all the country life pursuits such as hen keeping and croquet playing, swimming in the sea and mushroom picking. Summer is indulgent with its excess of natural light and endless evenings, leaving me the luxury of waking up late. In winter, by contrast, I am so keen on catching daylight hours that I go to bed really early in order to be awake when dawn breaks.
The biggest difference that summer brings with it is the amount of people at my farm that suddenly appear. My children return from their studies abroad, and friends come to stay for weeks at end. Weekend visitors pop in for a night, and even the animals multiply with friend's dogs coming to stay, the summer hens that come home to roost and Ziggy the cat that comes to spend his summer in the country. Much as other people play cards in the evening we go down to the kitchen garden and water the vegetables while we have long discussions about life and food. The food factor is always present. Are the potatoes ready? Should we make a new kale recipe for supper tomorrow? Boil the beetroots or make beetroot carpaccio? What about the beans..? Here on my farm each one is responsible for entertaining themselves and filling their days as they like, but dinner time is sacred! Then we all gather in the kitchen and divide the chores - peeling, chopping, boiling, marinating, taking out the compost, setting the table - and natter away until dinner is ready and we sit down to eat. And eat we do! Long happy lazy dinners that last long into the evenings with endless discussions and much love.
During the days in summertime I'm always busy. I sleep late, as it is the ultimate luxury to have so much daylight that there is no hurry to wake up. I am a grumpy morning person, so I spend a good hour having coffee in silence before I am ready to go. But then, I do get up and go. There is so much to do! Weeding and planting and who is driving to the shops today and can you please remember to bring the mustard and should I make a sauna or is it too warm and washing the sheets and making up the beds for new guests and oh my now the dachshunds have gotten into the hens cage and wow it is a massacre...! No, wait - thank god! - all the chicken survived although poor Gwendolyn has lost all her tail feathers and is so traumatised that she lies down and pretends to be dead as soon as someone enters their cage. Life is never boring in the country.
And then there are the perfect quiet moments when the sun is shining and I forget all that I am supposed to be doing and just take time to flop down by the water with a really lovely book. Sometimes I just lie there on my own for hours at end, and sometimes someone joins me and brings some cold rose wine and we just spend the afternoon in quiet symbiosis. These moments are like the crown jewels of the summer.