Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

Comment: Life's a breeze when country is in full bloom

The Cuckooflower
The Cuckooflower
Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

Looking from our kitchen, the countryside has never seemed more vibrantly beautiful.

Out the westerly window, the first thing I see in the evening sunshine, through the post-and-rail garden fence, is a bunch of cows and their calves.

Having come into the field this morning, most of the cows are grazing languorously, slowly sweeping up large mouthfuls of lush, shiny, grass. It's sprinkled with daisies and a smattering of dandelions.

Most of the calves are lying down. Some are stretched out, others chewing their cuds, necks arched heavenwards into the blissful rays, eyes closed in contentment.

On the slope further away, a sneaky breeze is blowing waves across the surface of the dark green field of winter barley.

Turning to look northwards, under the trampoline and safe from the lawnmower, pale lilac cuckooflowers dance amidst the gossamer grass.

Incidentally, the cuckooflower is one of the plants which the National Biodiversity Data Centre is asking the public to submit sightings of for its spring species project. All of these are believed to be in decline. Another of these is the cowslip and I will be interested to see the findings on this front. Once common on grazing lands, it has recently become much scarcer. In the North, it is now a protected species. However, and maybe it's my imagination, I think cowslips are much more common this year, especially along roadways.

By the way, it's not hard to encourage cowslip spread in the lawn - just cut around them until after they have seeded.

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Meanwhile, past the various ornamental flowers and shrubs, my eyes are drawn to a couple of young horse chestnut trees whose rolled leaves have burst forth like a volcano. At the bottom of the garden is an ash, which just appeared there four years ago. It's obviously happy with its lodgings because it's already over 10ft tall.

Nearby, a beech planted years ago is finally starting to show signs of life. Past the mown garden, delicate pinky white blossoms are like pinheads on green cushions atop the apple trees, which are over 100 years old. Later on, the trees will look more homogeneous but, for now, they are an emerging palate of greens.

Most striking in a line of trees along the neighbouring field boundary is a statuesque beech. Its lowest branches stretch out in several directions, like a preacher's arms. The vegetation will become darker, denser and almost continuous. But, for now, each pale greeny-mustard leaf is clearly separate and, in the blustery wind, they look like a stadium of fans jumping up and down as their team a goal.

Next door is an ash, forked from near the base. Grey trunked, it's still asleep except for the rooks busily tending their nests near the top. All day, their black shadows fly over and back, with food for their freshly fledged, insatiable, squawking brood.

It's a scene of rich everyday beauty, of vibrant, changing colours, rhythms of nature, of life being lived at its natural pace.

The scene will change. Even as I write, cumulus clouds are filling in while the swallows are swooping closer to the ground. Though a drop of rain might wash away the brusque wind.

In a world where we humans now live our lives on high - or higher - alert, we all need to find moments of simple pleasure.

Take time to smell the roses.

Indo Farming