Lockdown and beyond! Reflections on March to September 2020

A short story in photos and words about life at the farm over the last 7 months or so…

A Greek island, lockdown, ponies: sounds like heaven! But with only two of us looking after 36 ponies, 3 dogs, 10 cats, multiple chickens, a goat and from late June onwards a rescue sheep too, our lives became much harder and just occasionally it felt more like hell than paradise!!

It was a long 6 months from March to the end of August, as I imagine it was for most people… All of us have had our worlds turned upside down and have had to adapt.

For us, the reality hit when our final volunteer, Eloide, left on the last day before Greece’s lockdown in March. Suddenly there were just two of us, at the age of 56, to do the work of 4 to 5 people… This became our new norm. So how did we cope and what was our daily routine?

Goodbye lovely Eloide, blimey we look old here and thats even before the grind had started and well before masks were even being discussed!!

Tonnes and tonnes of this to be picked up early morning and late evening… We probably picked up 30 tonnes at least in total during those 5 and a half months!

The tools of our trade .. Wheelbarrows and hand rakes!!

The weather wasn’t always kind in late March through to May. Which made life at times that much more challenging !

Over 30 tonnes of hay to be fed over 6 months, shared out 3 times a day. That’s about 7 to 8 bales a day – fed early in the morning , midday and late in the evening . This is split between 11 fields, both at the farm and down the road. It’s tiring!

Lots of water buckets to be filled up three times a day and during hot weather refilled far more often (as well as daily cleaning). This includes delivering water down the road to fields where we have no water source, using a wheelbarrow or balanced on Stathis’ moped!

But the inclement spring did make for some lovely grazing which the herd gobbled up incredibly quickly.

Add into this mix dealing with the occasional colic, administering sweet itch meds, worm/parasite treatment, fly control, flea control for cats and dogs and essential haircuts – for the dogs, not us!! Mild cuts and abrasions to clean and manage, sand clear treatment to be made up and given, cutting down the overgrowth along the fence-line, mending fences. Next thing you know our neighbour’s herd of sheep have escaped into the stallion pen! Then the phone rings and another neighbour’s horse has got a mild colic or wound and wants help and advice on nursing it….The daily slog of running a farm. Yards to be swept, stables to be cleaned. The day never seems to begin or end: it just becomes a part of an endless cycle.

May was Hay… Yup 3 lorries of hay and a small lorry of oaten hay!! Approximately 38 tonnes – that’s about 1750 bales… We wanted to make sure that as long as we were economical we at least had hay to feed the horses until December….Clearing storage spaces of old hay and then unloading and stacking the new… Phew! Thank God we had help and we could do it within lockdown measures in the last few weeks of May!

June was setting up a Paddock Paradise track system which was a huge success for the main mares herd. However unfortunately it was a disaster for our stallions, who found it utterly unsettling to be able to see the mares one minute and not the next as they disappear off round the track. So the challenge for us now is to re-house/re-field the stallions so that we can use the track system, as it appears to have so many benefits for some of our herd.

On the first of July we celebrated receiving notification that we had been registered as an official Greek Non-Profit. This would not have been possible without the help of Kostas Lorentzo, who basically did all the hard work of getting all our paper work together. We owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.

But by July we were exhausted. Neither of us had had a day off and also the challenges of working and living together 24/7 with no one else around was taking its toll. We weren’t able to find anyone local to come and help as people were preparing for whatever small tourist season we were going to get on the island and we really had no money to pay anyone even a very basic amount. We weren’t taking any volunteers as we felt it was too big a risk. We were also very aware that Stathis had not had any spare moment to make any ceramics, meaning opening his ceramic shop was a no-go for 2020. The pressure, our exhaustion from relentless physical work, the awareness that our economic situation was tight (when isn’t it) and the heat began to build and life really did become hard.

August arrived and the news of two mature horse-experienced volunteers interested in a 3 month+ stay in late August gave us a glimmer of hope, the idea of a breather, light at the end of the tunnel. So our focus became getting the volunteers room cleaned and serviceable, as it had been used as a feed  store and general dumping ground over lockdown. In reality it became three amazing volunteers Eloise and Lucy who arrrived in late August beginning of September and Hebe who arrived in Mid October . Huge sigh of relief, massively helpful, truly grateful and the reason why we have had the time to start to connect once again with the outside world…

Yes, we’re much fitter and much thinner too! But also older and exhausted, doing the work of 4 people, with just 2 of you at 56, has been tiring. Yes, we are resilient, but not super human. We have learnt many lessons which we now need to act on… But that is for our next post…….

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