Opinion: Getting some off-farm downtime is time well spent

By the time this is published we should be back from a short break. Three days in a place with limited facilities, the same climate and less attractive surroundings than we have at home is not what we originally hoped for from a holiday this year.

However, I have become convinced that it will just be good to get away.

My husband, Jake, is probably not the only livestock farmer who finds it impossible to stop working and relax unless they are physically off the premises.

The sheep and cattle have to be checked and dogs have to be fed every day, and there are always jobs to do, even if nothing major is happening. If we are at home, work never completely stops.

See also: The grass is greener once you cross the Irish Sea

The production side of our farming activities has actually gone as well as anyone could have hoped so far this year. The lambing went smoothly, with minimal losses.

Silage making has just been completed without any of the usual fretting over whether the contractors would arrive in time to get everything done in a tiny suitable window in the weather. We now have a big stack of high-quality bales which should see us through the winter.  

But this year, of all years, it seems particularly important to have a change of scene to avoid becoming mentally worn down and exhausted. 

The Covid-19 lockdown has been oppressive, even if you haven’t been directly affected by sickness, bereavement, shielding, redundancy or a serious loss of income. 

I know many people have found it an anxious time. I have certainly found it unsettling and have sometimes found it difficult to sleep properly.

It is disconcerting to find ourselves in the midst of such a major crisis – not least because nobody knows when it is going to end and what the consequences are going to be. 

The mixed messages from our leaders have not enhanced my confidence. As I write, we are simultaneously being told to eat out by the chancellor and to lose weight by the prime minister, and I’m not sure how many people we are officially allowed to meet and at what distance.

It seems likely that there will be further virus outbreaks and a reimposition of some restrictions in the coming months. So we are opting to take a break to recharge while we can.

The cost will not be entirely met by the proceeds of this year’s wool clip. Indeed, I’m not expecting that to cover more than tea on day one. However, it is amazing how much we have managed to save by not going anywhere and not buying anything. Even Sky Sports froze the subscription for a while.

Strangely, our dentist has charged a monthly fee throughout. The only service currently available is a recorded message, unless you get to the “about-to-remove-the-tooth-with-pliers” stage of pain.

This has propelled dentists to the top of my most disliked profession rankings, leapfrogging the lawyers and land agents who usually contest that title.

I am advised that regular scheduled exercise, especially running, is beneficial for mental wellbeing and for aiding sleep. I aim to phase this in alongside the courgette-based diet I anticipate in the coming weeks, once the two plants in the garden really gear up to full production. 

Enjoy the rest of the summer.

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