Even the swallows could stand it no longer, and they headed off to sub-Saharan Africa without so much as a “cheerio” or “see ya in a few months, loser”.

I follow their arrival and departure in near obsessive detail and get a real kick when the first one is spotted flitting in and out of the stone buildings in our yard.

Equally, I am intrigued when they begin to gather on overhead power lines in late September, and it is fascinating to listen to them chattering and discussing details of their travel itinerary.

In normal years, they leave here in dribs and drabs, with the whole exodus taking place over a period of two weeks or more.

After a deluge of rain on grazing land, one positive is just how well grassland can repair itself if left well alone.

Torrential rain on 18 August saw the heifers seriously poaching this field margin, yet by 4 October it was almost unrecognisable.

But not this year – storm Agnes (27 September) seems to have been the catalyst for the entire local population to decide they’d had enough wet, miserable weather, and off they flew. No gathering on the wires. No prolonged deliberations. Gone, just like that.


I can’t help thinking the swallows’ behaviour could serve as a perfect metaphor to sum up the past few months of wet weather. It has been appalling.

Like everyone else, I have been managing the poor ground conditions as best I can. Rehousing cattle on two occasions (for two or three days at a time) following heavy rainfall allowed fields to soak slightly, but the more recent deluges (55mm in mid-September and 50mm ten days later) really felt like the final straw.

Another unfortunate result of the constant downpours has been near impossible field conditions for late-harvested spring cereals, with some fields proving too much for any sort of machinery travel.

I suppose mild, wet conditions allow us to grow plenty of grass – it’s the utilisation of it that causes problems.

Negative impact

How many farmers would admit that prolonged wet weather has a negative impact on their mental health? If I had to fill in a questionnaire, then top of my list of things that really get me down would be precisely the sort of summer and autumn we’ve had thus far.

If I compare myself walking out of the house on a glorious sunny morning, against a night of listening to the rain hammering on the windows and then heading out with it still raining – those are two completely different people.

One is an enthusiastic farmer, looking forward to seeing his livestock and getting torn into a hard day’s graft. The other has no energy, little enthusiasm, and has lain awake half the night, worrying about the state of his farm in the morning.

This one, Mr Anxious, shares none of Mr Cheerful’s joie de vivre and general contentment, yet they are the same person. I wonder how many farming folk recognise a wee bit of those two characters in themselves?

Throwaway remark

“I’m in bad oul form”, is an oft-repeated phrase that covers the whole spectrum of mental health within the farming community. Over the decades, I’ve frequently heard those words used by farmers to sum up how they have reacted to poor prices, bad weather or some other problem in their world.

It’s one of those throwaway remarks that can mean almost anything; within the conservative world of agricultural speak, the last thing most people want is to open up about how they truly feel when things are getting on top of them.

Personally, I cannot overemphasise just how negatively bad weather affects me. It’s hard to admit that some of the thoughts that flit through your mind at 3am when the rain is cascading off the guttering seem utterly ludicrous in the cold light of day, but that’s how it is.

Even more bizarre is the speed that my mood alters when, after endless hours of rain, the sun comes out. I then undergo an immediate and complete character transformation.

I hope I’m not the only one?

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