20 November 1998

WARMED inside with a good cup of tea and honey I padded across the floor of the kitchen this morning before anyone was about – rare for me.

In spite of the early hour, I didnt need to put the light on, the moon shone as bright as day through the window and as I opened the back door the heat escaped into crisp, cold air. There had been a light frost and the grass crunched under my feet which was a bit of a give-away as I approached the dog kennels, but the inhabitants still made no noise as I unbolted the outer door. They obviously werent expecting anyone so soon. I let four of them out and the silence was broken as those left behind complained loudly. I ineffectively put my fingers to my lips to hush them and headed up to the calf-house.

The sky was clear and lightening gradually, but the moon and stars shone brightly still. By the time I reached the calf-house door the dogs left in bed had stopped barking and I very quietly opened the calf-house door, not wanting to set them off again.

A rare sight indeed – calves lying down and still asleep, theyre usually very noisy and hungry – when they see me coming in the morning. Then the ritual singing and banging started up as I forewarned any unwelcome furry visitors that I was on my way into mix the milk powder. (Weve had pest control in for the first time this year as we had a particularly bad visitation from rats in the summer, and I saw something run out from under the pallet where the milk powder sits last week. Im not very brave!)

The calf-house is filling-up now, which is good news for Tim; Im not as busy as I usually am. Everything was fed, watered and bedded down by 6:30 and an hour later, when Im usually up feeding calves I too was fed, washed and on the road for an early morning lesson.

Whats worrying us is will this crisp dry weather, so different from the appalling rain which caused the dairy to flood two days ago, hold for Saturday when we have our "Halloween-come-bonfire night" celebrations?

Halloween has taken France by storm this year. The shops have caught onto a good thing and pumpkins are selling like hot cakes. Our girls, missing the fun of their childhood, are having friends children, around to make masks, a Guy Fawkes and build a bonfire. I, for one, am pleased that, if the weather does hold, I wont be appearing at 5:45am again this week.

Chrissie Green tackles her regular morning calf house chores, but she wont be making a habit of early morning starts. Once in awhile is OK.