Another reasonably peaceful week here at Rush Farm – the animals appear well and content, the weather has been reasonable, and Tim has been able to get on with some of the many infrastructure jobs that figure every week on our ‘to do’ list.
The bridle path is very difficult to keep in good condition. The heavy treaded rear wheels of the tractor cause potholes, excessive rain causes ‘wash away’, and horses hardly help matters. We do now have quite a bit of hardcore but are still short of planeings, nonetheless it was possible this week to fill in and heavy roll one of the worst sections where the rainwater always seems to collect. So at least a start has been made.
Fencing is another bane of the farmer’s life. Obviously in some places electric fencing is an option, but for most field edges, and in particular the bridle path, fencing has to be wooden posts with pig wire stretched between them. The fencing we put in some 10 years ago has actually lasted better than expected but much needs to be either supported or replaced. The fence posts we now can buy are said to have a life of 15 years – perhaps!
But what of our marvellous hedges? I am not a great believer in hedge cutting – especially because at this time of year with the blackberries fading, the hips in the hedgerows look so splendid – but it does have to be part of the equation. Not particularly for the sake of appearance but, for example, along the bridle path and footpaths to ensure they remain open and in some fields to make sure the blackthorn, which is very invasive, does not over encroach. As always, we are dependent on contractors for hedge cutting, and their availability and cash flow do not always coincide.
We are now starting to sell this seasons lambs and, so far have been able to put them into the organic food chain. Here again is another balancing act to be managed. The later we sell them, the better the price but the more the pastures are eaten down. Though this year the pastures have been, and remain good, we are overstocked with sheep given our increasing numbers of cattle, and as I have already made clear, we shall be reducing our breeding flock but, here and now, we still have some 280 sheep to sell and in the meantime, find grass for. One option we are considering is putting the cattle into the barn a little earlier than in past years.
Staying with the issue of pastures, we shall be putting the Rams in with the ewes in about five weeks’ time and in doing so, will need to divide the ewe flock into two – so, including the lambs, we will be needing three pastures just for the sheep. The cattle occupy two – the bull, his ladies and their un-weaned young, and secondly the herd made up of young stock – steers and heifers. After tupping, the ewes can be brought together again, but will almost certainly need feeding at that time. The question there is do we keep them on one pasture or cycle them round – still a matter of debate!
We normally suggest spring is the best time to visit the wood. In actual fact, when you have the weather we had on Saturday, the wood is an extraordinarily beautiful place to take a walk. Because it is not overmanaged fungi are prolific, and perhaps because this autumn has been so dry, all parts are accessible.
With Thibaut and Anthony joining us for some 6 weeks we are given the opportunity for Tim to take holiday and also ensure Chris and his family get off the farm for a week at least. Thibaut, of course, was with us earlier in the year and so will mesh-in very easily. Hopefully Anthony will not find it all too much of a shock! Incidentally we have already had our first request from a woofer for next year.
Changing tack, my attention was drawn to the fact that there is no male equivalent of ‘granny’. Inevitably in this age of conspiracy theory and political correctness the mind spins wildly away… Does this suggest grandfathers only have a particular expected role, or is it that men marry older and die younger, or is it perhaps that ‘grampsy’ sounds a little too like ‘grumpy’? I confess I have heard that particular suggestion once or twice from younger grandchildren. All in all, it is rather worrying!
On the personal front, now that ribs have healed and the disc has returned to its rightful place the world, so long as the news is avoided, seems a brighter place.
I have abandoned my collection of early french stamps for the moment since what gaps I have reflect both scarcity and cost, and am now developing my collection of stamps from the countries now making up Malaysia. This, in passing, opens up new avenues; most of the area was once Dutch or British controlled, or in the case of Sarawak, ruled by an English family under licence from the Sultan of Brunei.
In so taking this new direction, I have been looking at the stamps my father collected fifty years ago. What this affirmed was just how relatively prosperous most of us are today. I was reminded of this fact by the reality that in my father’s time (even comparatively well-paid people, as he was) collected stamps solely for pleasure and interest in other parts of the world – stamp issues sixty years ago in their designs shone a lot of light on the people’s, culture, occupations and wild life. So, most collectors were more interested in having the stamps whatever their condition might be since ‘money did not grow on trees’ as somebody recently reminded us.
Now that I have the time to again take an interest in stamps I confess I would not dream of buying any stamp that was not in tip top condition – a clear reflection of the changes since the 1950’s in attitudes to this hobby.
Catching part of Desert Island discs on Friday morning before the farm meeting, various thoughts arose. The first, since the ‘victim’ was the composer James MacMillan, took me back to the series of programmes on the History of Choral Music. Even in MacMillan’s youth, communal singing was something most of us experienced at church, at school and Christmas concerts. Perhaps the fact that there are apparently only some 40,000 choirs existing today reflects the demise of those other opportunities for group singing.
The second, and not trying to ride on the back of the recent BBC’s W1A storyline I have been told about, was around the memory of the glory years of British Light Music. Ignored or viewed with contempt by high-brows, it was something we all related to and the radio waves carried it into every home. Until relatively recently it was only retained as link in music for programmes like Desert Island discs and the Archers and for background music to advertisements. Happily, much of it is now not only respected but available on both low-price cd’s like Naxos or on full price one’s like Hyperion.
Finally, reverting to the first programme on the History of Choral Music, light music was all about morale, contentment, nostalgia and even productivity – ‘Music While You Worked’ was an integral part of life in factories and homes…