Seasons under my Sky

This page contains extracts from
Seasons under my Sky, a selection of rural writings by Christopher Hilsdon, a local farmer.  Most of the prose articles first appeared in The Link, the magazine of the West Buckingham Benefice and were compiled into book form in 2010 to raise money for the St Giles Church Restoration Fund, with additional poems by the author and illustrations by Sara Hack.  The book is available from the author at £6.99.

from Twilight Moods, January 2007

….....  A glass door in our office opens out onto the garden, but we have not used it for a while, and an old cotoneaster nearby has become overgrown with brambles, which have spread into the doorway.  We have intentionally allowed this tangle of growth to remain, because it is such a pleasure to watch the antics of wrens through the glass, sometimes only a few inches away, busily hopping and darting about through the branches, constantly examining their surroundings and looking for insects and spiders.  It's like having a window on the secret world of the wren.

Winter is only about halfway through, but increasing day length is a welcome sign of progress towards spring.  The light lasts longer every day as twilight comes a little later each evening, fading into dusk before completing the transformation from day to night.  The length of the twilight period is related to our distance from the equator; those living closer to it have less time to watch the sun go down.  Everyone likes to watch beautiful sunsets; artists try to reproduce them, photographers try to capture them.  As you gaze at the splendour, you feel that, should you turn away even for a few seconds, the spell will be broken and everything will have changed.  Colourful skies can appear as the sun goes down at any time of the year, but a flaming sunset in the clear sharp air of winter is spectacular.  Seeing the fiery red, pink and gold colours constantly changing as low-angle light bounces off particles of dust, ice crystals and smoke suspended in the air, is like watching a movie. Molecules of water vapour redden the light still further, as the rays of the sinking sun are reflected back and forth between clouds and the surface of the Earth, producing a painted sky. ….......

Windsong (first verse)

Do you remember how the wind, when in a certain quarter,
Outside our house would murmur and moan?
We have known many nights
When teasing ancient bricks and slates
And streaming past old walls of stone
The wind enchanted us, with mysterious music
In a wailing melancholy tone;
The haunting sound rising and falling,
Like the baying of a distant hound,
Or a lonely owl, endlessly calling.


from Leverets and Wayward Flowers May 2009

…..... By the first few days of April clouds of dust were rising from the ring rolls as they went clanking over the fields of freshly drilled linseed, leaving the ribbed surface of the soil looking like corduroy.  'Plant seed in the dust – come it must' my father used to say.  And so it was that initial worries about seedbeds drying out were later dispelled by the rains in the second half of the month. Each spring is different and in some years it is not possible to roll before seed germinates, because the soil may be too damp, and liable to stick to the iron sections.  However, I like to use my ring (or Cambridge) rolls whenever possible, after both spring and autumn planting.  Many of our fields are the limestone brash type of soil with some quite large stones; pressing them down by rolling helps to avoid damage to the combine during harvest, while at the same time ensuring that the seed is firmly in contact with the soil.  Some of our stoniest fields are very light in colour after cultivation, and in wet weather the limestone is washed clean with rain.  From a distance  the bare land looks bleached, like the colour of last year's dead grass.

Before seedbeds were prepared, some weeds were growing on the over-wintered land and I enjoyed seeing again the tiny sky-blue flowers of speedwell, and the purple and creamy yellows of field pansy.  This plant is closely related to wild pansy, also known as heartsease; the flowers are perfect miniatures of their garden cousins. …........

All pictures ©
 Sara Hack