BLOG: What is big, red and eats rocks?…read on to find out!

Being British, I obviously have to start with the weather, which has been dominated this week by airflow from the Atlantic.

The hurricanes which have been devastating the Caribbean region and the southern United States put into some sort of perspective complaints about our weather. When ‘HARVEY’ and its successors reach our shores, they will have been tamed by crossing the cold waters of the North Atlantic. As it is, we have been happy to have the rain and the reasonably mild weather; our pastures have certainly benefited.

After moving both herds of cattle, the week has very much been about sheep. But before I go into that, I must share with you that we now have a total of 100 animals in our herds; perhaps even more to the point is that of that 100, 27 are breeding females, and so we are all-but-at our target number of 30. This record was achieved as four heifers reached maturity and could join the suckler herd. That herd was also increased in size over the last week by the birth of a further 3 calves, one female and two males.

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After having concerns about parasites in the sheep flocks we were much cheered by data from the vets making it clear that, aside from a minority of animals, most did not need to be drenched.  Since none of this year’s lambs had been previously drenched this was very positive and to be contrasted with the still ‘normal’ farming practice of drenching every three weeks regardless. However, a very nasty case of flystrike did mean the flocks’ had to be given preventative treatment.

We were rather disappointed in the average weight of the lambs but cheered ourselves by remembering we lambed a month later this year than usual. Our first sale is this weekend to an organic butcher.

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As, no doubt, I may have said before, when we started farming we had no idea how important were matters like fencing, gating and track maintenance. The bridle path which runs past the barn takes a real hammering from the constant use by the tractor and horses, and in addition, for one section, regular flooding. As a consequence, at all times it is hazardous to walk along, even if the holes in it are not full of water.

The pile of concrete we had accumulated to fill in the holes in the track could not be used until the large lumps of reinforced concrete had been crushed – a task which required specialised and expensive equipment. A long-standing family joke was: “What is big, red and eats rocks?” Answer – “A big red rock eater” … and last week this proved true when the equipment turned out to just that!

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So, at last that job has been done, and we are now in a position to fill the holes in with the crushed hard core, to then overlay that with planings, and then finally, to roll it in using our heavy-duty field roller.

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It has been rather a change to have no woofers with us, indeed we are on our own until mid-October but though they are gone, we remain in touch and that is very enjoyable.

It is probably no more than a sign of age, but snippets of, for me, new information, tend to set my mind of in new directions. I heard on the radio one morning this week that the poems found in “When we are very young” first appeared in instalments of Punch magazine. Later in the week I read a review of a new biography of Robert Louis Stephenson. And then I remembered how when I was young my father read poems to me before sleep and it was poems by those two poets/authors that I remember most vividly. Without wanting to decry modern writers for children, I do think our generation was really blessed. Not only did we have no television to compete for attention, but the range of authors writing for a young audience was impressive; John Masefield, AA Milne, RL Stephenson, Richard Jefferies, the Trease brothers, Ransome, Ballantine, Malcolm Saville, Audrey de Selincourt……….Perhaps they weren’t politically correct, perhaps they didn’t address the nasty issues of life, but at least they took one into new worlds and through that, they enhanced ones vocabulary and demonstrated the beauty of our language when well used.

Other than reviews, my reading this week has been limited. Moreover, though some of the books reviewed were obviously worthy for different reasons they will not appear on our shelves! I have the greatest respect for Anne Appelbaum, her writings about ‘mittel europe’ really ought to be on every-body’s reading lists, but right now, I just can’t face the thought of reading about the brutality of Stalin and his cohorts against the people of the Ukraine as explored at great length in her latest book ‘Red Famine’.

For different reasons, though I gather the latest book on Queen Victoria, which spreads new light on the mission she and Prince Albert saw they had to enlighten Europe by its anglicisation, is very readable, I shall let it pass me by.

In truth, aside from the business of day to day living, corresponding with friends and starting to get my mind round the exciting thought of our Demeter inspection, now scheduled for the 4th of October, I have been indulging in the music generated in the last week of the ‘Proms’.

Mind you, the week did not start well. My very positive view of Ed Cowan, morning presenter on Radio 3, had had to be revisited after he first introduced a section of ‘Music for 18 musicians’ by Steve Reich as being Reich’s “masterpiece”, and then at the conclusion of a rather tedious plonking piece, he said that he ‘just wished he could play it all’!

The Proms offer in the last week was a goodly range, taking us from Bach to Shostakovich, and including the Vienna Philharmonic giving their all when they gave us Mahler’s 6th symphony first, and on Friday, Beethoven’s 7th. Great stuff and sadly my feeling was that Saturday’s ‘Last Night of the Proms 2017’ fell a little flat after that!

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