“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
The news that on this day in 1901 the second opera written by Richard Strauss called ’Feuensnot’ was not actually about a group of scientists researching the common cold, is amusing but not true.
A useful reminder, if one is needed, to be ultra-cautious about what you accept. Having been caught this week, in a moment of inattention, by a very serious scam, beware, you may not have the family back up team I am so lucky to have.
After a period of no calves, I am delighted to share the news that this week a healthy male calf was born. The cows are still outside, but the work on the final stages of readiness of the barn is nearing completion at which point they will brought in.
Typically, the day on which the concrete was to be laid was wet and miserable, but I was assured laying the concrete in such conditions can proceed. Feed barriers will be bolted onto the side of the barn once the concrete is set, giving 36 feeding points and eliminating the need to take up space with feed trailers.
Further feed barriers on the right-hand side of the barn will provide an additional 36 feeding points and access to the whole of the right-hand side of the barn. These various efforts should significantly ease any overcrowding.
Additionally, a lot of thought and planning has been put into minimising the poaching around the two barns.
We also have a full length of barn with, hopefully, enough hay, haylage and straw to see us through the winter months.
As regards the lambs, this week a number went to our regular buyer. The lambs were not in as good a condition as we had hoped – theories abound but none seem to really stand up. One decision we have taken is to sell around sixty of the lambs as ‘stores’ in the hope we can do better with those we retain.
At the end of the week it had been hoped that the breeding flock would be split between two fields and each field receive two rams. The rams have a strange existence; on their own for the better part of ten months then expected to remember their key role in inseminating every ewe before isolation again. We will be eagerly looking out for the scanning results now we have fresh rams.
The first part of the week left the farm very wet, and despite the short ‘cold snap’ this remains the position. Mud is again a notable feature of progress round the farm. What once looked spick and span has very much lost its gloss.
After Daniel left us for sunnier climes, I informed Wwoof UK that we were not able to take volunteers while safeguarding was in force. So aside from having no woofers on the farm, an extra load for Chris has been the impact on Tim’s working life of sharing with his sisters the help needed to look after his mother who, quite understandably, is not enjoying life currently.
It appears that Ecole ISARA in Lyon still wants to place students here. If life allows that to happen this is certainly something to look forward to. Those who were going to join us last year were of course barred because of COVID-19. One of the four has remained in touch which has been a real bonus. The photographs she has shared with us have thrown into stark relief how flat is the countryside around us.
Our local woodpeckers have failed to come to terms with the new bird feeders. These in theory ought to be able to be useable by the large spotted woodpeckers if not the larger green variety. In fact we do have a large easier to use feeder much closer to the house and secure from raptors and this is very popular with various tits and other small birds, but too close to the house for comfort for jackdaws, magpies and crows. The suggestion that we were visited by a lesser spotted “wallyplomp” earlier in the week though exciting is sadly not true.
Home schooling for four mornings a week is also placing considerable demands on the Ulula team. Happily, Boots and Rosie are lapping learning up, despite having to follow slightly different learning paths considering their differing ages. It is a lot of work for ‘teacher’ Sophie. It also impacts on the other three since Chris also has to carry farm and parish responsibilities. Dragging them away on Wednesday afternoon for a couple of hours to ensure the computer network was not contaminated was a very negative contribution on my part. They do need a lengthy break at Christmas especially if we are actually plunging over the Brexit cliff.
Aside from moral support, background reading and just being here we help, little though, Anne has greatly enjoyed having sufficient breath again, to be fully involved in the filling of the horns. Because of restrictions in this country the new horns to be used next year had to be imported from Germany. At £4 a horn this was rather overpowering!
It occurs to me that you might imagine reading in this house is a solitary occupation. Far from it, though our taste in reading is not identical, what we both feel is the need to share ‘titbits’ as we come across them. For example, Anne at present is reading the authorised history of MI6. I admit to having skim read parts of it but rely very much on Anne to fill in the gaps and these often lead to extended conversations.
We used to listen to music together and still do when Anne feels up to it. So, we both enjoyed the performance on BBC2 of Mozart’s Requiem. I suppose I am more of a devotee than she, but the days when we could get to classical music concerts are fondly remembered. Initially we got together over our love of jazz, but that was a phase that passed. In Canada, perhaps for the wrong reasons, I came to enjoy Country Music, but that was not really to Anne’s taste. ‘Pop’ we largely missed since it came at the wrong time for both of us. As the sentimental one, I enjoyed crooners and singers like James Reeves.
The LP records I still have, reflect well our passage through musical genres. Largely because of laziness I no longer play these given that my double disc CD player eliminates the need to get up every 25 minutes!
Reading the write up of an interview with Michael Parkinson I was struck by how much of our modern world came into being by the use of something which today is vilified on all sides. I refer of course to coal. Not enough on its own to trigger the industrial revolution, but crucial to the growth of steam and transport. Not even a substance previously unknown to the ancient world, but something which helped by steam power could enable mines to open far, far below the surface. Steam allowed men to go down and up, steam allowed water to be pumped out of the mines, steam allowed easy and rapid transport of the raw material to a modern world dependent on coal for so many reasons including domestic heating; A blessing or a curse or, since aside from computers and some politicians, our world is not actually binary, being perhaps something of both.
Reminded recently of Elizabeth Lutyens contempt for English composers of the early 20th century whom she described as the ‘cow pat’ brigade, I was further reminded how British culture was for years, if not centuries, regarded as, if not insignificant, completely inferior to that of other European States, though an exception might be made of Shakespeare, but who was after all a plagiarist. Sadly, as far as music was concerned, the view was as firmly entrenched here as outside the country.
I am here of course referring to our cultural leaders. Music for the commonality was of course thriving, whether it be folk song, opera, music for dancing, military or merely as background ‘noise No doubt there are experts who ‘know’ why but a possible reason for this inferiority complex came back into my mind on buying a recent CD release called ‘London circa 1720 – a gem by the way.
Music in most European countries was linked to patronage, as it had been in this country at say the time of Shakespeare. The growth of the middle class linked to a growing interest in more demanding music meant that here, composers no longer relied on patronage in the same way. Demand in London for music made coming to this country an attractive proposition as real money could be earned by providing music for this increasingly affluent group.
In these circumstances the British composers of ‘serious’ music struggled to be heard given that the major continental composers and performers were easily persuaded to visit knowing they would both be well paid, and that the audiences would be large and enthusiastic. Quite a number of these were very happy to stay and make their homes here.
Today attitudes have moved on a long way. I quote from a Warwick University publication:
“This efflorescence of secular and sacred musical culture in the capital found its counterpart in the provinces: or the growth of Britain’s provincial and smaller towns far surpassed that of the rest of Europe, apart from the Netherlands”
The arrival of recording machines, and then gramophone records, tended to concentrate listening on the ‘safe’ composers. In the early years of tape and then CD, this continued for a number of years, but eventually for a variety of reasons we began being able to listen to music composed outside the Austro-German world. We also began to understand how fortune and fashion played a part. Bach after all was a nonentity before Mendelssohn, Haydn’s popularity came and went. In communist Russia and Nazi Germany, the state felt a need to determine what was good and what was rubbish.
And to return to my starting point, the commissioning editor for Radio Three – in cultural matters the British mini equivalent of Stalin and Hitler – shared Elizabeth Lutyens view of what good music was, and hence the punishment of our ears of music without harmony, tunefulness and melody. Light music was out, the music that during the war years had kept factory workers and ordinary people in reasonable spirits disappeared except as introductory music for serials and advertisements.
The ‘literati’ forget that singing and dancing are as key apart of culture as the most erudite mathematically constructed piece of serious music.
Driving through deprived parts of Birmingham it’s very easy to remember this poem:
In gaudy yellow brick and red,
With rooting pipes, like creepers rank,
The shoddy terraces o’erspread
Meadow, and garth, and daisied bank.
With shelves for rooms the houses crowd,
Like draughty cupboards in a row –
Ice-chests when wintry winds are loud,
Ovens when summer breezes blow.
Roused by the fee’d policeman’s knock,
And sad that day should come again,
Under the stars the workmen flock
In haste to reach the workmen’s train.
For here dwell those who must fulfil
Dull tasks in uncongenial spheres,
Who toil through dread of coming ill,
And not with hope of happier years –
The lowly folk who scarcely dare
Conceive themselves perhaps misplaced,
Whose prize for unremitting care
Is only not to be disgraced.
The poem was written by John Davidson in the 1850’s and actually called ‘A northern suburb’, but suburbs are suburbs wherever they are created.
Hopefully now better built and with modern amenities and these days as often for the aspiring middle class.
A chance also for me to confess that I once thought the North began at Watford Gap 😉