Bella Hall: Stymied by silage

Silage. I don’t know why, but it fills me with a sense of foreboding weeks before it begins. It looms on the horizon in the form of conversational warnings several months before the grass is ready.

Do not, I tell myself, organise any family trips during the children’s half term because it will be “silage time”. Generally speaking, it does seem to coincide with their summer term break, which is OK because we plan around it. This year, however, silage was unusually early sending my plans awry.

I had organised a trip out with some girlfriends just before the half term. I hadn’t had a day away with just my friends for well over a year so seized this opportunity. The children would be at school and would only need Dave to pick them up; plus, silaging wouldn’t have started because that takes place in the holiday. Everything would be fine.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. That week everything happened that shouldn’t have happened.

It started with the guys who come to mark out the maze deciding it would fit in better with their schedule if they could do ours before the half term. No problem, I said. They stayed with us on Monday night and marked out on the Tuesday. They are always good fun and great house guests. They bring nice wine for us and sweets galore for the kids. This year they surpassed themselves by turning up with a 5kg bucket of sweets. The marking out went well, but the slightly longer maze design meant it took a little more time than usual.

While over at the maze, Dave inspected the grass (again) and decided that it was ready to be cut. We had had such a long dry spell (which is still continuing) that it had brought the growth forward. He got the silage gang on the field. A while later he stopped them. It was too dry and all the grass was blowing out of the trailers. That night it rained. As it turned out, they didn’t have much moisture, but enough to make Dave wish he hadn’t stopped them.

The next day our marshes lay claim to another vehicle. No matter how dry the weather is, there are still parts of the marsh that are “no-go” areas for heavy machinery. This particular one had been cordoned off with red tape, but one of the contractor’s trailers sailed along too close to the edge and sunk in over the axle. The grass had to be off-loaded, a tractor and the harvester pulled the front end while their loader lifted the back end. Out at last, work resumed.

All these delays brought the job of covering up the clamp to the very day I was going away. Not only this, but the maze paths needed cutting out and the guy who does this with his mini-tractor and rotivator could only come that same day. This would all have been OK if Charlie was at nursery, but he’d woken up with a temperature so no nursery for him. To top it all, Dave – who is never ill apart from the occasional bout of “man flu” – had an upset stomach. He insisted valiantly that I should go off on my trip anyway. But by the time we had worked out who was going to be looking after Charlie (Dave’s Mum came to the rescue) and how everyone was going to manage, I was getting short of time to catch the train.

On arrival at the station in the Land Rover I found I didn’t have enough change for the parking ticket. I sprinted up the steps, over the bridge and down the other side, much to the amusement of my waiting friends who’d had a change whip-round. I raced back up the steps, stuffed coins in the machine and, hearing the announcement for our train, took whatever ticket it could give me, put it on display in the Land Rover, but couldn’t lock the door so abandoned it to fate. I felt, collapsing in my seat on the train, like I’d just been filming Challenge Anneka.

In my absence, everyone managed as I knew they would. Charlie recovered quickly, as did Dave, the silage was covered up, the maze paths cut out and Will and Evie were picked up from the right places at the right times.

I was exhausted before I’d even got on the train and lucky not to be faced with a wheel clamp on my return… or worse still, no Land Rover at all.

As it turned out, it was great to get the maze marking out and the silage done early, leaving us more freedom to enjoy the half term, spend some time with the children and see friends.

Soon after the break, we were given a date for the installation of a new piece of play equipment for the maze. It’s the “Jumping Pillow” – a fantastic air-filled pocket of canvas in the shape of a giant pillow for people to jump on. The children love it.

It was installed amid great excitement by a guy who also has a maze up in North Norfolk. It was good to be able to chat about our mazes and compare our crops. He needs sun and we need, yes you’ve guessed it… rain.

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