Life has changed unrecognisably

Writers Posted 27/04/20
Well... who knew that life could change so radically in such a short space of time?

There had been great excitement in our household for my brother’s impending visit from the States. Fortunately or unfortunately, plans changed at the eleventh hour. Mr Trump decided to exclude Europe and it was only a matter of time before that included the UK.

Coronavirus had hit. No trip across the pond for him. Plans cancelled from every angle. Life would change exponentially. Farm life continues as normal, but for the children and me life has changed unrecognisably.

School finished on 20 March and home schooling began. I have huge admiration for all school teachers. I’ve now confirmed why I had no desire to become a teacher. The children have had virtual lessons online and have had registration at their usual time. The only difference is they finish 45 minutes earlier as they have prep to do in their own time.

They have adapted so well to home schooling; I would even go as far as to say that they are enjoying it. It’s rather tough at times and they have to be very self-disciplined. It has certainly been character building. The schools have been fantastic; not only have the lessons been live (provided the internet is working), but the help and communication from them has been excellent.

The only lesson exception has been PE, and I believe the children have lots of physical exercise at home. We decided not to send them in to school although they would have qualified for “key worker” status, as I started to work from home permanently and have made no on-farm visits since.

Lockdown began in earnest on 23 March. No going out for the general public except for an hour’s exercise a day. Our footpaths have almost been overcrowded. It’s worse than the M25 in rush-hour. The final touch was a cyclist who came biking down the drive at a rate of knots and was inches from knocking Edward flying on his battery powered Gator. No apologies, no hand signals; he carried on regardless. I have to confess to reading the riot act in no uncertain terms.

I am sure that by the time you read this we shall be entering a further period of lockdown to try to combat this awful virus. Filling up with diesel or daring to venture into a shop fills me with dread. I can liken it to being a leper. The orderly queue outside our supermarkets was a sight to behold. As for the panic buying; why, oh why? Being limited to two of the same products is quite a challenge when there are six of us, including three strapping farmers all of whom could eat for England. I can assure you that nine toilet rolls and two loaves of bread don’t go far in our household.

How did the outbreak start? It is believed to have been at a “wet market” in Wuhan, China, which sold both dead and live animals including fish and birds. Such markets pose a heightened risk of viruses jumping from animals to humans. Hygiene standards are difficult to maintain if live animals are being butchered on site. They are also very densely packed.

The animal source of the outbreak is thought to have been bats. Bats are known virus carriers; in fact, because they live in such close proximity to each other, bats carry more viruses than any other mammal, so could anyone enlighten me as to why bats are a protected species?

A trip to the market to deliver some calves was the highlight of our Easter holiday outings. No pony club, swimming etc. No market breakfast and no venturing out of the truck. A drop and run service was in operation.

We have found so much to entertain us at home and we have all come to realise how lucky we are to live in such beautiful countryside. I came across a message on Facebook this morning that said: “The planes have stopped; the cars have stopped and the world has pretty much stopped. Funnily enough the pollution and C02 levels have dropped dramatically. Farmers haven’t stopped, they are still getting up to milk the cows, cattle are still being fed and the lambing sheds are in full swing. Crops are being drilled, yet the C02 has dropped. Maybe agriculture isn’t quite as bad as the media portrays it, maybe the world isn’t going to end because our livestock fart! Agriculture is actually going to be the one thing that saves us when this country needs feeding. Importing avocados, coconut milk, tropical fruits and anything else that is out of season is not sustainable for the future”.

Hopefully one thing to come out of this is that we realise as a society that we need to produce and manufacture at home and be far less reliant on imports. Two-thirds of the world’s antibiotics come from China; are scenarios like this really sensible?

Every industry or person involved in food production has risen to the challenge of providing for the nation. The pandemic has changed consumer behavior. For now, demand in the retail sector is high, while the food service sector is almost closed down. Producers are adapting to these market demands at great speed. Long may it continue. We can only hope that consumers continue to “buy local” and remember how hard everybody worked to keep the cupboards stocked in a crisis.

I have huge admiration for all the ‘Key workers’ in this country and of course the NHS which is proving to ‘come into its own’. Each and every member of staff, from cleaners to consultants, deserves a medal. I would hope that events like Sport Relief and Comic Relief would be prepared to fundraise for the NHS. Goodness only knows how long it will take to pay for all the costs associated with Covid-19.

One of the many good things that have come about from Covid-19 has been that our vegan activists have been rather quiet of late. When I sat down to write this article, I convinced myself that I wouldn’t go off at a tangent on Covid-19/coronavirus. Well, I do apologise for having a rant!

Life on the farm continues at its usual manic pace. Spring drilling has been finished and the crops appear to be growing well. The grass is looking good but could do with a drink; did I really say that? – although not too much as first cut silage won’t be long.

With no school run to do, we have completed a whole list of farm/house jobs that require attention. We have a string of ponies/horses that are competition fit and have no party to go to. The sheep have finished lambing and all went well. Lambing percentages would appear to have increased this year. The goats have finished kidding and the cows are milking well. Stay safe.


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