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In the Country

If you live in the country, you are used to relative quiet. Indeed when we have visitors to stay, some find the silence, at night in particular, quite disturbing.

If you are used to the distant rumble of traffic, the sound of people in the street, the leakage of light into the house, their absence is a big change.

For us country-dwellers, it is a pleasure to sit out on a cloudless night under a sky with an uncountable number of stars and perhaps the spectacular brightness of the planet Venus.

Not that I find it challenging to adapt to the urban environment. For 30 years the Edinburgh-Glasgow trains shot by at 100 mph only 30 feet from the bedroom window. And I slept through it.

The clear, quiet sky is spectacular but brings a friend with it. The absence of cloud cover means that the day's heat escapes upwards and away. And delivers a morning frost. Or, later in the year when it's warmer, a morning dew.

Beautiful. But after 3 days of this, the usual happens - fog.

It's a special kind of fog called radiation fog. It is low lying, rarely much more than a 100 feet deep, top to bottom. And it is the warming morning sun that is evaporating that ice or dew back into the atmosphere.

It's then a race between the sun warming things up rapidly enough to dissipate the moisture away and the formation of sufficient mist to reflect the heat away from the top of the fog which stops the fog warming and dispersing.

If the radiation fog is still there at noon, it's there for the day.

Yesterday in Banffshire was just such a day. Or so I imagine as I could not fly over the fog to see if it was shallow or deep. But as I walked up the hill the fog thinned into a mist so probably a radiation fog.

If you are feeling a bit "techie" today, fog is when visibility is under 400 meters, mist it is between 400 and 1,500 meters and haze is when you cannot see beyond 5,000 meters.

But yesterday's fog or mist, which damps down the sound around us, still left the sounds of work in the country there to be heard.

Like many country activities, they were being undertaken alone.

I think we should all agree that agriculture, growing the food we need, is an essential service. So we should all be pleased to see a field being ploughed for a new season's crop. For as supply chains are being disrupted, our dependence on our farmers is probably greater than ever.

That solo working that is modern farming brings greater risks than working in a group. The farmers work with big beasts, who not with malicious intention, can crush a slightly distracted farmer against a wall. The heavy machinery used in the country also brings its own risks.

And the social isolation and worry that a self-employed farmer carries as he or she looks at the factors beyond their control, weather, crop prices, animal health, that can dramatically affect their lives, brings very real mental health issues into too many rural households.

For the rest of us, worried by the need for social distancing in the face of this nasty virus, it is a temporary phenomenon, albeit one for which we cannot yet see an end date. And yet an end date there will be.

The farmer lives with this all the time. Thank you all.

My misty walk was solitary but not totally without social contact.

I exchanged a few words with a man in his vegetable garden, getting his new season tatties bedded in and planting runner beans.

And once again met a neighbour out walking her three Westie dogs. (In an earlier diary I described them as Scotties. My spouse corrects me. They are "Westies".)

Early afternoon saw innovation. On online meeting involving four of us. And it worked really well. I am not sure, I forgot to ask, but think one attendee was in Germany. Another in London. Myself in Banffshire, and my assistant Kenny, a mere 30 miles away in Aberdeenshire.

A useful discussion about the role of vaccines in aiding animal health and the contribution it can make to farm economics and in reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture. All in the context of what the support structure should be for farming after the EU's Common Agriculture Policy no longer applies.

We may be captured by the urgent need to deal with the Coronovirus but we also still need to be planning ahead.

As I sat reading the day's media and adding some of it to my Twitter feed, I had an instant response from John, at ten past six a.m., that I should tone down the pessimism. He lives nearby, and despite his rather different political views, I think we have a good relationship. And it was probably a fair observation. So there is some, just some, good news in today's feed.

Our cats provide some useful guidance. Our Madelaine and next door's Mr Socks had a discussion yesterday. But they were careful not to get closer than four feet apart, the feline equivalent of 2 meters.

An example to us all. Oh, there she is at the window demanding in, ready with her report from the great outdoors.

Our outdoors is truly great.

Thankfully we can still go for (one) daily walk with (up to) one other person from our household. And, for our mental and physical health's sake, we should.

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