John-William and I were away at Somerford Park farm, attending his annual pony camp. One of the highlights of his summer, he eagerly looks forward to catching up with his pony friends.
He had four days of enjoying the superb facilities. Acres of beautiful rolling fields, countless jumps and the many water obstacles that always cause shrieks of laughter and soggy pants, especially if your pony decides to get down and roll in the middle of one!
After several late nights of hide and seek, daredevil bike riding and party games we headed home, exhausted but elated.
It’s difficult to predict when straw time is, it can vary from the beginning of August to the middle of September, all completely reliant on the weather. It makes it almost impossible for us to plan anything in the summer holidays. Once all the sheep are clipped, the grass is to cut and bale, followed by the straw.
Both absolutely essential jobs and both prone to cause Paul a considerable amount of stress. For the first time in several years, however, I’d decided to chance it and booked a holiday.
Nothing far flung, just a week in a friend’s cottage in Anglesey.
Paul had, of course, told me he couldn’t possibly go on holiday then, or any of the other dates I’d suggested, but the pleading face of John-William and his desperation to go to the seaside won over and I booked it.
For once it looks like the straw run won’t spoil our plans, meaning we can finally have a much-needed break. Our good friend Martin is happy to look after the farm and we know he’ll cope with any problems.
With only weeks to go before our trip, the inevitable announcement came. A sheep sale, a very important sheep sale that he absolutely had to attend meant he wouldn’t be coming to Anglesey with us, but would instead join us later in the week.
I wasn’t in the least surprised, his work ethic is ground so very deeply into his soul, making time away from the farm almost impossible for him.
It’s a sad situation I’m sure many farmers can relate to. Desperate for a break, a change in scenery and some much-needed breathing space. But after a lifetime of work and responsibility, that break almost becomes more stressful than the daily grind you’re trying to escape.
The thought of something going wrong whilst we’re away and having to put on someone else to do what is essentially your work is too much for Paul. It’s a depressingly sad situation that thousands of farmers, frantically working all hours to pay the rent, balance the books and keep their heads above water, find themselves in.
However, John-William and I will ensure that he gets there and hopefully this cold, damp spell will have passed over and the sun will make an appearance.