On Monday morning I had an epiphany as I walked around the farm doing my work. I have had one or two of these moments whilst doing menial chores and I wonder if they can only occur when my mind is in a state of none thought. These moments aren’t anything to do with the beauty of the land or the sunshine, they aren’t dependent on the environment at all, they come out of nowhere. Suddenly in the most shittiest of weather, when I’m not really thinking about anything in particular I suddenly understand something and then there’s clarity in that moment. True wisdom.
Monday morning coming up the yard in the pissing rain, I’d just finished feeding the baby calves their milk. I saw string hanging on the sheep hurdle and I stopped to look at it and then I photographed it, I became aware that this string wasn’t just string at all. It wasn’t random because it was there for a reason, it had been used and it still had a purpose and was justified in being there. It was waiting to be used again.
Sometimes, when I’m ‘on one’ like most women from time to time, I have a nag about the mess around the farmyard: buckets, gates, fencing posts, gravel etc that are in various places, ‘dumped there’ as I put it. I get an image in my head of what our farmyard should look like and it doesn’t match what it looks like in reality. So I suggest tidying up the farm spending time storing things away, smartening it up when really Keith hardly has enough time to do what he has to do daily without an added job and no time to rest.
When I looked at this string, tatty and worn, I realised the string was in the right place at the right time, the sheep hurdle too and from that small vision I saw a further peripheral view of everything around the farmyard and saw it all had a use and a purpose and it was there for convenience, ready to be used when needed.
So in that moment I didn’t see mess anymore, I saw life, farm life and the former mess wasn’t mess at all. My image wasn’t reality and my image was wrong. It was meant to be this way and it was perfectly chaotic. All of a sudden the string and the gate and all the other items and their layout seemed so intelligently organised that they seemed alive and they existed in their own right and as a group.
From that moment and at times throughout the day I kept on noticing string around the farm, as if my eyes were open to seeing. I noticed and thought about all the practical uses baler twine has for us in our daily life. And I felt compelled to write about it.
It isn’t just string
It isn’t just string, it’s a marvellous thing an essential for countryside life. Looped, knotted or tied on gates nationwide, to cut it you’ll need your penknife.
It hardly wears out and it keeps things together, it can withstand the harshest of Lake District weather. It’s a handle, a line, a lock or a lead, it’s an industrious friend whenever you need.
String keeps a door shut, or hods it back and a farmer’s knot has a particular knack. But when it’s done right your stock won’t get out, it’s versatile tackle without any doubt.
With a number of gates you can make a pen, untie them and use it again and again. You can secure some hurdles to the inside of your trailer or use it as twine in your summer grass baler.
It’ll make a good belt or hinges that swing, there’s probably a lad who’s proposed with a ring … made of string … before he bought the real thing.
It keeps a bale a bale but it does leave a trail, on the floor when it’s left lying around, you can get tangled up in it or fall in the shit with it so its best not thrown on the ground.
String up your veg, beans tomatoes or peas, we even use it for hanging up keys, it’s for lifting stuff up and hodding things down, there’s an assortment of colours, go bright or go brown.
It’s always best to have some handy if there’s none in your pocket there’ll be some in the landy, but it often gets left in the pockets of jeans when I empty the washer you’ll hear my loud screams.
But ‘Don’t throw it out!’ That’s the cardinal sin, you can’t discard that ‘Good bit of string!’
During lambing its used on a prolapsed ewe, if she’s pushing her womb out before she is due, we put in a spoon which we tie to her fleece it hopefully stays put till she lambs, then released.
To adopt a dry lamb onto another, we tie up its legs and call it ‘wet mother’ a new lamb is birthed on top of the dry, if the ewe accepts it, then its untied.
We use that said string to secure our tree when we transport it from wherever it be, at Christmas time. Summer, Spring all year through we use it daily I bet you never knew.
It isn’t just string it’s a wonderful thing, it never loses its charm. Free to hang loose wherever it’s left, it deserves its place on the farm.