Wheelbarrow Farm

"For Hilary Menos, farming life is a natural seam. The poems flow like wealth from an unstoppable source: brutal, beautiful, brilliant." — Helena Nelson

Wheelbarrow Farm was one of four winning submissions in the 2010 Templar Pamphlet & Collection Awards.

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Smalll farms — especially organic farms — had it tough in 2009 in the UK. Wheelbarrow Farm examines the often grim business of farming and farm workers in and around an area of South Devon. The characters who populate this short collection are fictional, but their challenges and preoccupations are very real.

Wheelbarrow Farm

When hell freezes over, he swears by three things.
Lard on the lips. Two pairs of socks. His wheelbarrow,
crucial on the steep when even the Ford won't grip

This morning he opened the door to a clean sweep
right up to the dairy's slate slab step, frost
spangling the tank, and briefly he's ten years old

but now it's taking the piss. Grunt glares at the snow
and it glares back. He kicks the water trough,
heels a hole through the ice. First floods, now this,

the daily round, in arctic sludge. Milk substitute
for the calves, a scoop of pellets for the fowls.
He rolls out a silage bale in the cubicle house

and forks it to the cows, sets a can at the yard tap
drumming up chilly water for the dogs,
for the lambs in the barn, the fifty hogs on the hill.

A neighbour phones on the scrounge for the loan of a box
and a tow out of the ditch where he spent the night.
Grunt goes off to do what he does best

apply excess force in a tractor. He's back at noon
to fix a burst pipe, by which time two sheep on the hill
haven't moved for an hour; are past fixing

Dirty snow starts to fall as Grunt, grunting,
moils up the slope, hauls one into the wheelbarrow,
picks his way down, and barrows up again.