Amazing. Looks like this is the fifth day on the trot that we've had glorious sunshine with clear blue skies and not a cloud to be seen. Been warm too, so I've been able to conserve precious wood supplies by letting the kitchen stove burn out overnight and not re-lighting 'til the evening cooking session. Do that in the icy grip of winter and it means certain death by frostbite. Been keeping the little upstairs stove going though. It burns slower so it's more economical. Funny how heating becomes a big issue out here in winter, unlike back in the UK where it's almost taken for granted.

With all this recent sunshine, I've taken the opportunity to tidy up the Golf in preparation for tomorrow's visit by a prospective buyer. I'd probably keep the thing if I could replace that damned malfunctioning Digifiz dashboard (see previous posting), but I can't, so it's gotta go..., hopefully tomorrow. We'll see. Bloke sounds keen and apparently he has a Digifiz that works, so he may well buy. Then I might try and sell the VW camper van. And if that sells as well, I'll just be left with the smelly old dogwagon. Might be a good time to look around for a decent car. Maybe something more modern than my usual 'classic' vehicles. Trouble is, these modern cars are just so bland. And pricey. Ah well, just have to see what happens.

Evenings are getting lighter. Back in December I used to set off for the evening dogwalk at around 4ish and get back just before dark. However, the last few days I've been setting off around 4.30 or 5ish. And yesterday, I set off at 5.30. Sun was low but still bright. Went up the back field, through the copse, under the barbed wire fence and into the field over the back of the hill. Up there it's all in shade but across the valley the hills were pink with the evening sun. Meandered along to the recently cleared copse. It's an area about an acre in size that used to be completely overgrown with old trees and brambles. The trees have been felled and cut into logs, all neatly stacked in a couple of long piles ready to be used as heating for next winter. Brambles, undergrowth and tree branches have all been burnt. Next stage is to seed with grass, then, probably next year, it'll provide extra grazing for the farmer's increasing number of Limousin cattle.

Apparently the French government are encouraging (by subsidising?) farmers to increase cattle numbers. Which is why they're clearing woods and expanding their grazing areas. French cattle, especially the Limousin breed, are highly regarded for their excellent meat. I spoke to our local farmer a while back and he said a lot of Limousin meat is exported (hence government subsidies to encourage exports). Apparently there's growing demand throughout Europe but especially from Italy. Somewhat surprisingly, it's meat only, no milk. Our farmer doesn't do milk. Probably no money in it. Which reminds me...

Saw a telly prog a few weeks back. UK supermarkets forcing down milk prices, thus putting a lot of small-time farmers out of business. Terrible shame. Gave a glimpse of the future. Huge cattle sheds. Cattle penned in individual slots where they're treated like milk machines. Never get outdoors to romp in a field. Interviewed an American farmer who has already invested in such a system. Said the cows are quite happy. Lead very contented lives. My bloody arse, mate! If that's the future, it damned well stinks. I've seen our farmer unload a bunch of cows into a field from a trailer and they've literally jumped for joy at being in the great outdoors. Anyone who reckons cattle are happy being chained up indoors is an idiot. It's total bolleaux. Grr... If people are happy (wrong word but it'll do) to pay 6.50 quid for a gallon of petrol (which is what it now costs!), surely they'll be prepared to pay around 2 quid for a pint of milk from farmers with small herds of outdoor cows. Hey folks, stop buying your milk from supermarkets. Same with eggs. Look around and find a retailer who deals directly with small farmers who don't treat their livestock like dirt. Might cost a bit more but it's worth it. Try inconvenience shopping for a change. Go the extra mile.

Anyways..., where was I?

With hands in pockets and absent-mindedly kicking the dirt in that newly claimed field as I pondered the terrible future of dairy herds, I was suddenly aware of my dogs looking at me and wondering why we'd stopped. "Sorry lads, I was miles away. Onwards..." Headed back the way we'd come. Hit the sunlight again at the top of the hill. Sun just setting. Orange, in a clear blue sky. Church bells clanged six in the valley below. A few crows headed home overhead. Jock and Sprocket gave chase, barking. Always makes me smile. Put Sprock on his lead and ambled off downhill with Jock following. Into the shadows then home.

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