Quicke off the mark: Mary Quicke gets the spring cleaning bug

Mary Quicke

Mary Quicke - Credit: Archant

Our columnist MARY QUICKE finds that this time of year brings a sense of sprucing up – along with some unexpected and welcome discoveries

Spring’s here! The birds busy themselves making nests. The strengthening sun streams in through the window. Except I can’t see the birds clearly through the windows, what with the accumulated debris and dust of winter, which the stronger sun shows up. Time for spring cleaning, busying myself about the nest, an echo of the birds. I need to get on with it before outside work gets more interesting, which it almost always is.

My daughter came home, and promptly set about cleaning my kitchen shelves, a gentle reproach for my sloppy housekeeping. She found some pickled walnuts I hadn’t seen for several years – I could even introduce my dubious son to their joys. It was the seven different kinds of honey and six different yeast extracts that really struck her. I promise myself (and her) to sort out the rest of the shelves.

We get the spring cleaning bug on the farm. Hamish found the link box, a handy thing to carry calves, bags and small stuff behind a tractor, lost for a couple of years. That’ll come in handy for the calving happening now. Under the same mound of fencing materials he found the forks for the tractor – useful to give a helping hand to any cow struggling to stand if calving battered them.

We use the mole plough in spring and autumn when the soil is just right, not too wet, not too dry, to make fissures deep in the soil to channel water into the field drains. It gets put down somewhere really obvious after it’s used. The soil being just right, we are always in a tearing hurry getting everything else done. No surprise then that we always scratch our heads before we find when the weather is just perfect. There it is, just behind the barn, hiding in the nettles.

We’re still trying to find one of the field trough water meters. South West Water moved their track that goes across our field to access the main road more safely. The water meter must have got marooned on the old track now filling with blackthorns. That’ll take some scrabbling to find.

Just in the next field – which we’ve fallowed for wildlife - a couple of summers ago, we came across a careful little garden of cannabis plants, tended behind chicken wire. We told the police (who were not very excited by the one plant we hadn’t trimmed). It may have been my imagination, but I did see an old hippy looking remarkably grumpy walking down the road away from the field few days later.

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Stuart (who you may see at shows, selling our cheese) now does a lot of great work on the farm clearing neglected orchards and hedges, getting them into good order. At the top of a very bedraggled orchard that none of us have seen clear for decades, he found the remains of some old cob cottages, miners’ cottages built in the 18th century when an ancestor of mine brought mining expertise to the village courtesy of her previous husband, a mining magnate from Cornwall. It sent a shiver through my mind to see this relic of a former time, and to imagine the lives the miners and their families led.

Back to Stuart. Tony the forester saw his van by the top of a hanging bank down a steep hill, where he was restoring a hedge. He wondered where he’d got to. He then saw a pair of legs waving. Stuart had slipped down and hadn’t managed to get the right way up. No harm done, and a good job Tony came along when he did.

I still haven’t got my house quite spruced up. There just seems to be more fun happening elsewhere!

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