NEW BLOG: meet Francesco and Marco, our Italian volunteers

At this time of year there is little bird song in the mornings other than the doves, whose cooing comes straight down the chimney! Today, however, at 5.40 am, for the first time in weeks I heard the twit to-woo of a hunting(?) tawny owl. Very nice indeed.

Another relatively quiet week on the farm. Sadly, we lost one of the apparently strongest lambs but happily this was counterbalanced by the arrival of two more of our spring calving – only ten more to come!


The pastures are looking good so we can continue moving animals around frequently, and the re-sown field is actually looking as if it might not need remedial action. The second flowering of ragwort meant that Francesco and Marco spent a whole day pulling up all that they could see. Local authorities are required to take action against the ragwort growing along road sides but this, understandably, is honoured more in the breech than in the action.

Knowing we shall not have to hold fields back for a late cut is very helpful. Reluctantly, because of thistles and nettles, some topping had to be done – I say reluctantly because cut grass left on the ground is not eaten!

Aside from fencing work the new calves have had to be tagged – one of the new mothers is rather protective but the job was done without incident and the lambs and their mothers are now reconciled to their separation.

I rarely comment on the Wood, which has had a fair amount of work done in it over the years.  At this time of year, it is perhaps at its least interesting, but the footpath and permissive path have both been mown for public use. At some point, when money allows, we shall have to ask John, our ‘Wood-Man’, to spend some time ensuring that his work from previous years is not lost!

Although our log burner is fuelled to a degree from timber cut from the wood, the bulk comes from fallen trees and necessary cutting back along paths. This week the log splitting operator spent a day cutting up the timber that had accumulated over the last two years in the compound. Marco and Francesco ably assisted, with Flash as ever playing the role of constant companion.


We are rapidly approaching the time when the next cycle of BD spraying is done. At least the ground is firm enough for the tractor to go over the pastures without inadvertently doing damage. In the meantime, I need to order the preparations that will be inserted into the large compost heaps.


Francesco and Marco are spending their last weekend in England exploring London. They enjoyed their trip to the North West last weekend, finding Liverpool more interesting than Manchester. The rugby match between France and England last Tuesday caused heavy email-traffic between here and past French woofers! Sadly, the women lost yesterday. At the risk of losing a great deal of credibility I felt both games were more exciting than many of the matches in this seasons Six Nations Cup.

I have not listened to much radio this week, indeed given that there has been cricket on the box most evenings, my listening to the Proms has been restricted. I did catch the next Talk on Chords, which this week was about the so-called ‘screaming’ chord that is used uniquely in Mahler’s 10th sympathy. A certain amount of psychobabble about how this very discordant sound may have related to the death of his daughter, the discovery of the seriousness of his heart problem and of course his discovery of his wife’s adultery. On a separate level, there was also an attempt to tie this chord to Munch’s ‘The scream’. This I found less convincing.

I also caught the tail end of a discussion of the results of an attempt to list the ten best comedy films of all time. Apparently 253 film critics from over 50 countries were involved and the main finding seemed to that while there was little difference between men and women, there was a big difference between Europeans and Americans. Needless to say, the choice seemed to come down to Anglo-American dialogues films and, wonder of wonders, I recognised some of them. The results were totally rejected by our French friends!

The Boer War was probably not something for the British to be too proud of but, rather like the Crimean war of the mid 1800 hundreds, positive change came out of it, including the adoption of the South American song “Goodbye Dolly Grey” which in its time was as iconic as songs by Vera Lynn are today. Perhaps rather more important, was the realisation that the physical health of men recruited into the army was so very poor that the state needed to take steps to improve matters. This was the beginning of the welfare state.

The belief that somehow this was the creation of the Attlee government is just another of those myths that litter our history. Labour did establish the national health service and today we pay the price of a botched job by A Bevan esq.

I was about to write “on a lighter note”, but in truth, though the book I have been reading is ‘fiction’, what it shares is the terrible position in the late 1500 hundreds in France when struggles for power and religious intolerance led to the most awful atrocities, with parallels to the English civil war with Henri III probably as incompetent as Charles I.

I need to end by saying that in my next notes I shall either be grieving or rejoicing after our annual TB cattle testing…


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