Isn’t it funny how life sometimes deals us a hand of cards that, although unwelcome, turns out for the best?
When I finally succumbed to ‘the COVID’ I was extremely annoyed because it seemed set to interfere with my summer relaxation plans. In fact, it was fortuitous that it came along when the farm workload couldn’t have been much lighter. If it had hit me during lambing, I have no idea how I might have managed.
Just as I was beginning to assume that natural immunity or being symptomless were the only explanations for missing out, this nasty little virus sneaked up and bit me.
People had generally warned that it was little more than a heavy cold, and after about a week, things would return to normal. In my case, they were partially correct.
Sting in the tail
The line on the Lateral Flow Indicator went from faint on day one to bold (and instantaneous) on day three, and gradually faded again after day six. However, the sting in the tail came afterwards, because weeks later and my energy levels are still on the floor.
That’s the bit I wasn’t expecting and now I know what all those skiving, useless, lazy people have been complaining about!
On a practical level, three weeks after ‘going clear’, a full day’s work sees me staggering into the house between half five and six and collapsing horizontally on the sofa. Only a well-prepared, delicious feast can tempt me to shuffle in the direction of the kitchen table before returning to a deep slumber. My wife knows I would never exaggerate or milk the situation for sympathy.
Up until the first evening, when noisy coughing and emptying of the lungs indicated something wasn’t quite right, the summer plan had seemed to be bombproof.
We had been invited to several weddings, I had organised a weekend trip across the water to visit the youngsters and a large family gathering was planned for me and my twin sister’s 60th birthday.
Therefore, I managed to issue a grovelling request to my poultry connections, begging them to let me lie out of birds for an extra couple of months. I have no bother getting someone to keep an eye on cattle and sheep for a day or two, but the ageing poultry houses are a different ballgame altogether and tie me completely for the 16-week occupancy.
Once the last house of birds was cleared, I reckoned it would be the easiest spell imaginable. As usual, I was wrong.
Work tends to expand and fill whatever time is available, and just because there was no panic in preparing the houses for another crop did not translate into laid-back days of gentle farming tasks. It just does not happen that way.
Even allowing for the lack of energy and motivation due to COVID-19, the days seemed just as busy as any other year. Perhaps my time management skills and prioritisation aren’t all they should be?
Something else that has surprised me this summer concerned the gaining of knowledge within our farming world. Surprisingly, this didn’t come about courtesy of several Business Development Group (BDG) meetings, but from every one of the weddings which we attended.
All had a strong farming flavour and two of them exclusively so, with both families exuding nothing but pure farming pedigree in every direction.
Irrespective of your views on the amount that is learned at BDG meetings, it pales in insignificance when set beside a group of well-lubricated farmers at a wedding. Forget about ‘4t per acre’, or ‘215% lambing’. You’ll hear far more accurate information about what’s really happening on farms at these late-night social gatherings.
Of course, the opposite side of young couples making lifetime plans is steadily happening in rural communities too, and I also attended a farming funeral at the start of the summer.
A slightly different atmosphere prevails, but it is still a way to catch up with local people that we only ever wave at from the tractor.
To sum up my agricultural year so far, the film Four Weddings and a Funeral comes to mind.