Calling in reinforcements called Harry

By Martin Kirby

This farm is beyond us. We can't cope with it all on our own given all the other plates spinning above our heads, so we call in youthful reinforcements.
The latest volunteer is Harry Burton, a 21-year-old Norfolk Trojan who has waged into all manner of farm tasks with happy determination.
Harry is camping beneath the pines beside our spring, stopping off for maybe a month or more during a year-long meander through Europe. He has brought Norfolk to us, along with birding skills honed while working for the RSPB.
The observations of fresh eyes can be amusing. The scene of families with little children wandering the streets well into the small hours isn’t normal for Norfolk. “The only time I’ve seen anything like this was in the film Night of the Living Dead.”
The summer fiestas are now a fading memory, and it's back to school for Ella and Joe Joe next week. We have only just learned that Ella, now 14, didn't get to bed until 5am during a fiesta sleep over in a village ten miles away. Parental hesitation. But with all concerts (whether it be a dance band for pensioners or rock and roll) kicking off at midnight and ending at 4am the tide is impossibly strong to swim against. It is summer normality for all generations. We may never be able to stay awake even until midnight, but this is Ella’s widening world. She obviously wants to live it and we will live with it. The cement of community gives us faith that it is safe to do so.
At one point there were 21 people staying on the farm. This was a combination of holiday house guests, friends and more farm volunteers, with berths in the cottage, farmhouse, caravan and two tents. Feeding everyone was the challenge, but the rule is everyone has to muck in. The only real concern was that the plumbing would hold up. (It did).
As for those two armchairs from the tip I mentioned in my last missive, they stand eccentrically outside the door, lures to rest once in a while.
Why would anyone want to through serviceable, beautiful furniture away? I salvaged two wooden dining chairs for our outside table too. I have treated the woodworm, so all four will last two or three summers if we are gentle.
The armchairs comfortably offer the best views. Look left and you can see purpling grapes in the lower vineyard through the leaves of the overweight fig; ahead, the terraces step away with trees that have borne (apple and pear) and those yet to (quince, persimmon); right, the muddle of bits and pieces that huddle up to the barn; above, cloudless infinity, from blue of day to awe of night.
It is our habit to leave doors wide during the evening, which I was going to say serves no purpose but to let all manner of creatures in, but which I suppose subliminally extends our living space beyond the walls.
Anyway, while we have been continuously wandering out, a shrew has taken his or her chance and wandered in.
Have any of you had a shrew in the house? We thought it was a dopey mouse at first, until a long snout popped out from behind the cooker and our visitor bumbled short-sightedly up to a loaf of bread.
I in turn foraged on the internet for crumbs of knowledge about shrews, their habits and how I could detain and eject it. I still haven’t despite setting peanut butter traps (that’s what one website told me to do) and creeping up behind it and pouncing. My admiration for the critter is building.
Any advice gratefully received. We mean it no harm. We are told the interloper has a veracious appetite and will keep us clear of insects and mice of which it is no relative. True? I know they have a toxic nip and am being cautious - promise.

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