By Sharon Blackie:
March is a month that hangs in the balance. Sometimes held on the side of winter, sometimes swinging forward to spring. Mostly undecided. Or, as my great-aunt from County Durham used to say, ‘neither nowt nor summat’. There are buds on the willow and rugosa; the sparse winter carpet of waterlogged grass slowly thickens in the paddock. But beware of taking too much for granted: just one salt-laden south-westerly gale and March can turn on you, leaving devastation in its wake. Sometimes, March kills its own babies.
On the croft, life also hangs in the balance. One of our sows is expecting her first litter any day now; we stare at her dropped belly and thirteen extended nipples and hope they’ll come on a warm day when we’re around to help. The sheep are heavy-bellied too; though David cares for their feet as much as he can, this wettest of winters has left them with intermittent hobbles. Lambing ewes need grass and their lambs will need grass and grass comes slowly when March hangs in the balance. When March hangs in the balance, life hangs in the balance.
March’s winter days dampen more than just the spirit, but March’s spring days can make believers of us all. Of the young heifer, dancing down the field, kicking up her back heels for the pleasure of her first spring. Of the young pig, emerging from her straw bed to stand in the sun, belly filled with wriggling kicking things for the first poorly understood time. Of the five-year-old ewe sitting in the field, knowing from the heaviness in her belly that that time is coming again, imagining perhaps that it might just turn out well. And of we humans, head tilted by a sudden skylark, flushing out the whirring snipe from the long grass, joyful at the return of the lapwing, bending to sniff the scent of the first daffodil.
Words & Pictures: Sharon Blackie