5 o'clock and the sun is still shining - the hill over at Fir House catches the last of the light and tonight the fields are bathed in gold. I watch dainty pink clouds puff and flow on the horizon until they fade greyly into dusk.
Now, an hour later the light is all but gone though it's not yet truly dark. The sky is clear; a couple of stars are bright and a crescent moon lies on her back in the western sky. It will be cold tonight. Any romance to be found in this crystal clear evening is slightly diminished by the alarm cries of roosting pheasants and the pungent aroma of the cattle in the shed across the way. But still, it's pretty good, this February evening.
In her excellent blog 'Welsh Hills Again' Elizabethm nominates her 3 favourite things about the month of February - I agree with her about them all. Poor February does seem to get a bad press though - another cold dark month when we've had enough of winter. It's never welcomed as the herald of a new year like January or as a portal to spring like March. No, February is the guest who has outstayed their welcome. Clear 'orf. Be on your way. We've had enough.
I've a soft spot for this month though - for a start it is my birthday month. February welcomed me into the world and there were posies of snowdrops to welcome my mother and her newborn home.
A few years later, at school and learning to spell I loved spelling 'February' - loved those 2 'rs' which differentiated it from January - and even now I still, to myself, spell it out: Feb-ru-a-r-y.
It's a month for detail; look carefully and the world is stirring - buds, bulbs and catkins. Bird song too - how noisy they are this month, flocking and fluttering through those skeletal branches. (The Glam. Ass, as predicted, has made his annual pronouncement about birds getting more colourful prior to pairing up.)
The sleet forecast for today never really arrived - there were a couple of flurries of something cold and white before the sun came out. Time to do some tidying up outdoors. The G.A. distributed the last of the well-rotted manure and tidied his log pile. I pruned the Cornus (alba 'Sibirica', flaviramea and alba 'Kesselringii) which planted in blocks have provided welcome colour throughout autumn and winter. I know it's the time of year to cut them back but it seemed such a shame to lose their vibrant red, green and black stems that have been about the only shots of colour in the garden for the last few months. I've sown some seeds and they sit on a heated bench in the greenhouse - moisture and warmth will work their magic and draw them into life.
This is all for the future though isn't it? I've pruned for next year's colour and sown this summer's crops today. Tomorrow if the weather is kind enough I'll take some time to appreciate 'now' - look into the virginial heart of a snowdrop, search for the tiny red female flowers of the Hazel and listen to the mew of the buzzards as they circle in the thermals above Badnage Wood. The pulse quickens.