Bella Hall: To drill or not to drill?

Two weddings, two birthdays and a swollen ankle.

These are the things that have been occupying our time. Or should I say my time, as Dave has been more than a little preoccupied with the drilling programme and the weather. To be fair, this has been an unusual drilling period and has involved what amounts to playing ‘chicken’ with the weather. How long would the conditions stay dry and therefore how long should he delay drilling the wheat?

Farmers in the eastern region face a stark choice. Drill early and without rain, the wheat will come up in patches and possibly need re-drilling later. Hold out for rain before drilling to get the perfect seed bed and you risk it raining indefinitely and not being able to drill at all. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

The situation required much scratching about in the soil, many conversations with neighbouring farmers, avid viewing of the weather forecasts on all channels (simultaneously if possible), looking up long-range forecasts on the internet, much furrowing of brows and general debate.

Dave favoured the “don’t” camp. As time went on, the pressure became palpable. A little drilling was done here and there, mainly to placate everyone. Those who drilled early had to watch as their wheat surfaced sporadically. A small amount of rain came, indicating perhaps a slight shift in the weather pattern. I couldn’t help but voice my opinion: “Please can you just get on with it!” We had all had enough.

“Proper” rain

Reluctantly, the drill swung into action. It was still dry. Eventually, the end was in sight, just 100 acres left to be drilled. That night, a Friday, we went to some friends for dinner. As we headed out the door it started to rain. “Proper” rain, as Dave would say. He was in raptures, saying how lovely it was to hear it on the windscreen. I couldn’t help having a fleeting thought about how it was going to ruin my hair.

Throughout the evening, Dave was unable to resist opening the door occasionally just to check the wet weather was continuing. Fortunately, our hosts have a rare breed pig herd and run an excellent farmers’ market in our village. They had some understanding of the situation so my husband’s slightly bizarre behaviour was forgiven.

I have to confess that, selfishly, the dry weather couldn’t have been better timed for me. It left Dave free at weekends when he would normally have been drilling. My brother tied the knot on-board a Tall Ship on Glasgow docks, bagpipes, ceilidh, the lot. Truly magnificent and a great gathering of the clan, who came from all corners of the country.

Wedding tears

The following weekend we had the wedding of one of my oldest friends, again an emotional and beautiful occasion. I have officially become a woman who cries at weddings and must make a mental note to take plenty of tissues to the next one. It must be an age thing.

The weekend after that, it was Dave who wanted to weep. Twenty five four-year-olds in a village hall to celebrate Charlie’s birthday. I have never seen Dave make so many cups of tea and coffee. Still it took his mind off the wheat drilling.

To round off this series of busy weekends, it was my birthday. To celebrate, I decided to make my return to playing competitive hockey. The ladies’ fourth team at our local club invited me to play. I hadn’t touched a hockey stick for over five years but thought I would give it a go. I managed to last the whole game and was moderately pleased with my performance. As I came off the pitch I could feel my muscles straining with every step and quite frankly felt like I had been run over by a steam roller. That night, after a long bath, I was relaxing in front of the TV when I realised that my ankle had started to swell and was becoming increasingly painful. I had obviously over done it.

The next day we had promised to watch Will play rugby. He had gone on tour with his school and their last game was near Stamford, a two-hour drive. We arrived and I hobbled over to the pitch. Will was reserve. Two minutes into the game one of the boys took a knock to the shoulder and had to come off. Will was needed. He was nowhere to be seen. I was limping around trying to find him, getting increasingly annoyed that his big moment had arrived and he had disappeared, not to mention the fact we had driven for two hours to support him and the team. In the end I started yelling. Dave was shrinking lower into his coat. I had turned into a screaming, pushy parent on the sports field. Eventually Will turned up looking nonplussed. What was all the fuss about? He had only taken the opportunity to visit the little boys’ room.

By the middle of the week, my ankle had recovered. I decided to give hockey another go the following weekend. I arrived a little late for the pre-match warm-up. Big mistake. The muscles that were complaining at the end of the previous game suddenly gave up on me two minutes into the match. All the muscles in my rear went into spasm and I found myself on the pitch but unable to move. Mortified, I had to come off. Thank goodness Dave had chosen not to bring the children to watch this time. I haven’t played since, but I plan to. Well, as soon as I can bend down to tie my shoelaces that is.

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