Bad dancers bewareOne fine morning, it was announced that a new building would be constructed on a large open area inbetween an existing house and a tennis court. I initially thought that it was to be a garage or storehouse, but was told that it was actually for shade in the summer. Digging the holes for the vertical piles involved first breaking through several inches of frozen ground (the surface is a peculiar kind of grey redgra), which is not unlike concrete, and several hours were spent later on adjusting the angle and height to avoid severe strain on the horizontal cross-pieces. Roof trusses and a gable frame were added, and nothing has been added since. I’m not sure if it’s just a support frame for climbing plants or if walls and a roof (most likely corrugated iron) will be added later.

Ironically, one of our next tasks was the demolition of another outbuilding in a slightly less favourable place (later revealed as part of the site of a new polytunnel). This involved moving everything inside to a more permanent location and then driving the tractor at the outer wooden section until it collapsed. With the debris out of the way, the roof was removed (cue me catching corrugated iron sections as they were thrown down) leaving only the concrete skeleton of the main section. This was later demolished by a hired mechanical digger and buried under tons of earth to create a larger area for a new polytunnel.

Arriving back at the farm after Lunar New Year (more about that below), I was assigned the odious and odorous task of cleaning out some of the chicken coops and making a new compost heap out of the collected waste. This was not as difficult as I first imagined, as the cages are small and few in number, but several years’ worth of encrusted guano does not come off wire cage easily and during my Herculean efforts two chickens bushwhacked me in a flurry of clucking and feathers (one hit me on the nose) and escaped. They are still wandering around the farm (typically near their cages) and could be recaptured fairly easily, but for some reason I’ve been instructed to leave them to their new-found freedom.

The principal task around the farm was still ground preparation, and many days were spent raking together and burning various plants, polythene and old fence posts. Much of this I feel could have been reused or recycled (apparently the government has a recycling scheme and burning things is illegal), but force of habit, like gravity, seems to be irresistible. A huge new polytunnel was erected over the path to the local church and the remains of the building we demolished (also over the remains of one of the farm dogs, which died recently – for a few minutes I thought it was going to be burnt along with everything else), which involved much hole digging and heaving about of the enormous structural metal hoops and poles The next task will (probably) be covering it with polythene and possibly a mesh for plants to climb up.

I spent Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year) in and around Seoul and Yongin with Amy (the mysterious and captivating person whom I’ve been referring to and yes thank you to all the defenders of freedom of information who sent me messages pointing out I’d not mentioned her name or really elaborated on anything yet), baked more cookies than I thought even I could possibly eat, took some spectacularly good lemon pesto spaghetti out into the local woods for a picnic and confirmed that Mystery Science Theater 3000 is right up there with Monty Python as comic genius (so don’t be alarmed if I start peppering my conversations with such phrases as Big McLargeHuge! and Ophelia invoiced me for the wheat!).

On my way into Seoul, my attention was drawn by a rather strange bird call (like a goose honk, but with a kind of rumbling growl thrown in), which turned out to belong to a group of three ruddy shelducks (Tadorna ferruginea) – large ducks (thought not endangered) with beautiful orange and yellow colouring. Seoul is hosting a Louvre exhibition at the moment, which is to say the Louvre has lent a jaw-droppingly good collection of seventy paintings with the general trend of the relationships between nature and people. There are some truly excellent pieces (including Francois Gerard’s Amor and Psyche) but, not being an art critic, I don’t really have the vocabulary to elaborate further. It was encouraging to see so many locals taking in the European culture – I’m not sure how much Korean art the Louvre has on display..

My plans for onward travel are solidifying – I plan to leave the farm at the end of this week and catch the ferry to Qingdao the following Tuesday. All indications point to a long and torturous crossing, and I am going to avail myself of the finest nausea-fighting sleep-inducing drugs limited funds can buy. Before then, however, I have another carefree and blissful weekend in Seoul and Yongin planned. And before then, I have some more dry plants to burn.