Notes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin

Roger Deakin was a writer, broadcaster and film-maker, with a particular interest in nature and the environment.

For the last six years of his life he kept journals of his life, musings and memories. Those journals form the basis of this book.

Walnut Tree Farm

After his death in 2006, his friends assembled entries to build a picture of a composite year.

The pieces are short and dis-jointed. The prose is plain and the style is unpolished. But then these weren’t words necessarily written for publication, so maybe better that way than polishing things and running the risk of losing a true voice.

Some of his views were naive and many of his expectations unrealistic, but Roger Deakin’s words paint a wonderful portrait of a man living close to nature.

This isn’t a book to read from cover to cover, but a book to pick up and dip into from time to time. You might just enjoy the company, or you might hit upon a perfect observation or idea.

And because I can’t explain things as well as I like, I will finish with a quote that struck me from each of the twelve months.

Read and enjoy!

January

Books are like seeds: they come to life when you read them, and grow spines and leaves. I need trees around me as I need books, so building bookshelves is something like planting trees.

February

Poaching is a symptom of poverty. People have to need a rabbit or a pheasant and need it enough to pluck or skin it and gut it too, and hang it a few days in the shed.

March

What we need is the farming equivilant of conscientious objectors: people who are prepared to stand up and say, ” No, we won’t do this any more”, at whatever personal risk.

April

The magic of outdoor skating is all too rare a pleasure these days. As a child I remember skating all the time every winter. As soon as winter clamps down with a big frost, you are in another world.

May

Every now and again you find yourself slipping into a little pocket, a little envelope, of country that is unknown to anyone else, which feels as though it is your own secret land.

June

I can’t bear to mow my lawn because it would mean mowing all the blueness out of it, the vanishing blues of self-heal, bugle and germander speedwell. They are worth more to me than the neatness of a mown lawn: in truth I have loathed neatness ever since school – and uniform, and collars and ties, and haircuts.

July

Yesterday, in the rain, a bedraggled little hedgehog appeared in the kitche, on the brick step. It shuffled around the kitchen, hoovering up bits of food or crumbs. The uneaten cat food was soon polished off and the dish left gleaming.

August

Why would anyone want to go and live abroad when they can live in several countries at once just by being in England. Yesterday was hot, clammy and humid, with sunshine and dramatic cloud. I might have been in Singapore, fighting for breath. This morning it is another country, soft and damp aftyer rain, cool and breezy. Last night we were in monsoon India, and, according to the weather forecast, we will be in the sunny south of France this weekend.

September

I am teaching myself to draw, and Alfie obliges me each morning at breakfast time by posing on the kitchen doorstep, just outside the door, in the early sunshine. He adopts a pose, holds very still for five minutes, while I sketch him, then shifts into a profile, or turns his great black head to face me, fixing his owlish golden eyes on me as I draw.

October

The real wages of potters are in the daily silent appreciations of their customers as they pour the morning tea from the teapot, or drink coffee from their mug, or eat dinner from their plate. To be thus involved in the daily lives of people who appreciate and admire your work enough to but it must bring deep pleasure and reassurance. It is a king of immortality you can enjoy while still living.

November

Wild is an absolute: you can’t have wildish, or semi-wild.

December

A shooting star, and another shooting star.

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