I grew up on a farm, and although my family were not the farmers, the farmers were like my family. And the farm was my world, my playground, my home; it was the place where my daydreams came to life, and I could be whatever I wanted to be.
It was a proper, old-fashioned mixed farm. There were dairy cows, that were still milked by hand when I was very young, and there were beef cattle, which were locally butchered and then sold from the farm. There were pens full of piglets, reared for the table; and sheep bred for their meat and their fleeces. I remember watching the shearing, and marvelling at how the fleece came off in one piece, and the skinny little sheep looked so funny without all that fluff around them! Oh, and there were two huge hen houses and a big flock of hens, so we had a never-ending supply of fresh eggs.
Right outside the windows of our home, there was the most amazing fruit garden, with rows and rows of raspberries, which I still remember the taste of … two in the basket, one in the mouth! And alongside the raspberries, grew strawberries, gooseberries and rhubarb, all of which tasted wonderful and were made into the tastiest of jams.
There were fields of corn and barley, and acres of tatties and neeps (that’s potatoes and turnips to those of you not au fait with the Scottish vocabulary!). The farmer was a proper old-fashioned farmer, who loved his land and his “beasts”, and took care of them well; his wife was the perfect farmer’s wife – she baked and cooked and cared for her family, the real one and the “adopted” one (us!), with love and a no nonsense attitude.
Growing up on the farm was fun, it was an adventure every day. It was climbing on haystacks and riding on tractors; it was following the potato harvester through wet, pungent soil and filling my wire basket with tatties.
Trees were for climbing up and sweeping out of, on scarily high rope swings. And there were miles and miles of fields to roam around, dry stone dykes to clamber over and balance upon, and streams and burns to paddle in. There were masses of outbuildings and barns to play in… a girl could stay hidden from sight all day long, while she went about her games of make-believe.
Summers were long and hot, and nothing tasted better than tea out of a thermos flask and homemade cake, sitting in a field of stubble with my back against a newly-bound bale. (This was Scotland, so I’m sure that in actual fact it rained a lot. But it’s the sunshine and the smell of fresh cut hay that I remember when I think of summer on the farm.)
I missed the farm, when I had to move into a town. I’ve always felt more at home in the country. And although I live in a town now, it’s a very old market town, which nestles in the Wiltshire countryside, and all around us is farmland. Everywhere I travel, everywhere I stop to take a photograph, I can see the handiwork of farmers, the product of their labours.
I see herds of cows and flocks of sheep; I drive along byways hemmed in by fields of crops, or stretches of newly-ploughed earth.
Around these parts there are plenty of pheasant and partridge farmers who grow their birds for the shoot, which many people abhor; but the abundance of fowl means an abundance of food for the birds of prey and the carrion-eaters, so that Red Kites and Buzzards can be seen hanging in the air and spiralling on thermals every day; carrion crows and rooks and jackdaws populate the skies by the score; and on still days, the distinctive “kraa” of ravens can be heard high above.
There are fields of wheat and barley, which give the world a golden glow, and attract the crop-circle makers! There are great expanses of yellow oilseed rape, and small pockets of blue and purple, where linseed or borage are experimented with.
Alongside the cultivation of crops, run strips of carefully-stewarded land, where wild flowers grow, and birds and bees and butterflies can thrive.
All of these things that I see as I go about my life in Wiltshire remind me of how much I love living in the country. You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl! Every day, I’m grateful that I live right here. But it’s harvest time that really stirs my memories of that long-ago farm. It’s when I see the combines at work, and grain pouring into trailers, or stacks of bales and lines of stubble, that I’m right back there, in my world, my playground, my home.
If you would like to explore more of the lovely countryside of Wiltshire, as seen through the eyes of this wandering, wondering redhead, then please come and visit my farming life album on Flickr.
If you would like to purchase cards inspired by Wiltshire, please send me a message on my Facebook page.