This morning I left our wee gatehouse and strolled along the lane towards the old manor. The sun was breaking between the trees lining the way, casting stripes of gold and shadow across the snow. I could see bird prints and cat prints and pine marten prints criss-crossing over the tyre marks. The air smelled of meltwater and damp wood. A fine start, I thought, to my New Year endeavour to become fit and healthy by going for walks.
The old manor is home to three generations of an eccentric family intent on living the Good Life. That is to say, they dream of becoming self-sufficient, of producing their own food through farming and hunting. Their grounds are beautiful and a haven for wildlife, and what the family lacks in knowledge, they make up for in enthusiasm. When I first moved here, I saw two highland cattle – all horns and hair – grazing on their lawn. But the cow failed to calf, and was given away to join a herd some miles away. The bull remained on his own, growing grumpier and grumpier until he too was given away. The following year, a pair of Tamworth pigs appeared. These animals greeted all passers-by with an abundance of delight, squealing the place down and barrelling towards us so fast that they were unable to stop, and would skid uncontrollably through the mud until they hit the gate. Within the first week, they had churned their meadow into a mudbath. After a month, the pigs’ legs had disappeared in the mire, so their owner started placing wooden planks on top of it as walkways for the animals. More and more walkways appeared, crisscrossing the meadow between sty and gate and trough and hay, and were gradually subsumed into the mud. And so the pigs were got rid of. That was last year.
Here’s what I found this morning when I emerged from the trees.
And they’re brown! A lovely chocolate brown that I have never seen on turkeys before. The ones I grew up around were black and white.