2 November 2001

Poetic farm musings

JEANNE Hutton and her husband Keith have farmed in the West Country for over 30 years – for the past eight in Somerset at New Manor Farm, Witham Priory. When friends and relations in Devon and south Gloucestershire lost animals to foot-and-mouth, Jeanne spent hours lending a sympathetic ear to them and these conversations moved her to write a book of poetry*, which her daughter, Emma Bruce, has illustrated with pencil drawings.

Moving but not gruesome, and even gently amusing at times, her poems feature animals from a goldfish to an elephant, an actress, a dentist and all sorts of farmers, including her husband.

"The current state of British farming has resulted in a deterioration in the health of my formerly hearty and carefree husband," she says. "Forced to spend time away from the farm, his hands have become smooth. They are soft and blemish free these days, complete strangers to me." His hands feature in the following poem:

My Husbands Hands

As he leant across the farmyard gateI noticed his hands

Powerful hands weathered and gnarled -hands that have laboured long and hardto secure and nurture this herd.

Any day now these cows could be gone!Theyd be gone in a flashif things went wrong –

what would he do then I thoughtwith nothing but timeon his hands

* Taking Stock by Jeanne Hutton, published by Hutton-Bruce Books. £5.99 plus 50p postage from J. Hutton, New Manor Farm, Witham Friary, Frome, Somerset BA11 5HF. A donation of 50p from the sale of each book will be donated to the Arc-Addington Fund.