I ♥ January (133 days to go…)

by Max Akroyd

I was waiting for the weather to turn filthy. Wall-to-wall rain means pigs stay in bed and the peasant of very little brain can make overdue alterations to their electrical enclosures…

… But the rain/snow/sleet hasn’t set in during this January in Brittany. Instead, it’s been a scruffy, two-faced month, always perched on the cusp of Atlantic low and Continental high. Just mild and blustery days allow you to savour the new season’s incremental return: each higher gradation of sunlight reaching further through our windows and spotlighting certain objects; a ball of wool in the studio or a dog snoring in her basket. You can even detect the faintest hint of spring’s green in the air and hear a paltry dawn chorus, lines fluffed by an over-enthusiastic early bird.

So we had to build and install a gate to keep those Mummy pigs in their barn. The latter part of this much-postponed operation is particularly tricky when you’re being nudged and nibbled by those big sisters. But it got done one way or another. The multiple bolts on the new gate were bolted and a load of new straw thrown in with the newly-penned pigs. That stuff keeps them happy for hours: they strip it of any tasty seeds and then build and rebuild their nest like the couple of old fusspots they are… Meanwhile, I was shrinking their outdoor area to a degree which means they’ll dig it over thoroughly – and just in time for me to plant those Jerusalem artichoke tubers. Which I’ll dig up next November and feed to the pigs. You know it’s right when it’s circular.

Good job the place is awash with spring-like sun. Because the securing of the gate caused a cascade of other jobs to occur. The fence posts liberated from the Mummy pigs’ field were used to redesign their daughters’ outdoor area on the main field. This now occupies a big area in the centre of things and the rough and lanky turf will keep them happy well into spring. It also ties together, somehow, the two halves of the field which have felt a bit disjointed thus far. In turn, the area earmarked for potatoes was liberated from the piglets’ dominion and trenching could begin.

The soil is very heavy, but I can’t delay. The garlic has pierced it’s cold, damp cover and, amazingly, those November-sown peas I’d given up on are now showing too. The hens are laying properly and the cockerel is wearing all his finery again. It seems the increasing power of the sun suffuses all. But even after the purgatory of December I suspect we can’t just ascend happily into Spring. Inevitably, February frosts or March’s weeds will tarnish the sentiment. But just now I’m in raptures in the presence of rebirth.