A little rain is a glorious thing!

“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”

Chris arrived back on Friday morning and should feel very pleased with how Alice and Tim kept the farm, and the Ulula team did the same for the diversified businesses – absent but certainly not disengaged. 

Farm News

We have actually enjoyed good rain this week, but I doubt if the total this month has been much over one and a half inches. Given that the monthly rainfall average over a number of years for this area is two and a half inches, unless next week surprises us all, another month has passed giving us far less rain than needed.  

Nonetheless, the past week has seen a significant improvement in growth in nearly all the pastures.  

At this stage of the season there is almost no sign of creeping thistle, but almost all fields have an uncomfortably heavy growth of buttercups – a sign of compaction and/or not enough rain. At least one field looks as if it will have to be topped in the near future, and one field feels as if it might be worth harvesting in due course. You will recall that part of our contractual agreement is that reseeded fields must be given a six-week period of freedom so that wild species may set seed. This week I am relieved to say there was evidence of different flora, especially grasses. Of the fields not subject to this restriction all looked good.  

Writing about compaction reminds me that there are growing concerns, particularly in the arable world, about soil compaction resulting from heavier and heavier machines being used. Even on this farm we worry about the effects of tractor movements and cattle staying on a field too long.   Quite how we solve this problem, particularly since all the evidence suggests minimum disturbance to the topsoil, and ever more limited use of ploughing is needed, yet, the saving heavy machinery is alleged to make to cereal production costs, is being pushed down farmers throats. Yet again a failure of government thinking in that it demands mutually incompatible results. 

It has been a mixed week as concerns the cattle, three animals needing treatment. In one it was a recurrence of an eye trouble, in two, abscesses which needed to be lanced. In all other respects the animals look good. The suckler herd now on a fresh pasture look the better for it, while the young stock seem very content where they are. All water troughs are now having borax on a weekly basis.  

Two new developments this week. The first was to inform us that of the four animals diagnosed as ‘reactors’ only the one had visible lesions. The other was a request from the traditional Hereford society for hair samples from two animals for DNA testing. Obviously, we complied but all the documentation we have suggests there should be no issue to be found.   The sheep remain on the field by the drive and are slowly making an impact on the grass. A key event was the putting back into storage of the shepherdess, as was the arrival, we assume, of the last new lamb. Inevitably it seems we have lost a couple more lambs. The theory is that the lambs should have mother given immunity from clostridial for up to six weeks, at which point they are vaccinated. Nice in theory, but the lambs, thankfully on the one hand, don’t all pop out on the same day! So, whichever point at which the vaccinations are given, some lambs are over six weeks old and some under – rather a no-win situation.  

Disturbingly I came across a statement which in passing alleged Llwyn sheep have a record of excessive susceptivity to parasites and worms. We chose this breed of sheep all those years ago because it appeared they had a good record when it came to birthing, mothering and being able to do well on less than brilliant pastures. So, this new information rather pushes us towards a decision we have been discussing for at least two years. The problem is which breed can survive and prosper on our heavy clay soil, which we well know contains too much molybdenum, and this being a major antagonist to other needed mineral trace elements aside from built in endemic animal diseases.  

Last week there was a major FoodEd event, followed up this week by a walk around the organisation’s demonstration farm. In our early years we attempted to take up opportunities that became available to attend events and farm walks. In recent years, we have been unable to continue this, first Covid, then Chris has been too busy, added to which was my suddenly much restricted mobility. Luckily, we could ask Alice to go on our behalf. 

And it is Alice who now walks around the farm and is usually the one to see birds and animals – helped not by being accompanied by dogs. Brendan also walks round the farm on a regular basis but always has a couple of dogs with him. So it is via Alice that we know the swifts have also returned, and that the barn owl which Paul sees on a regular basis walking along the drive, also hunts across the whole farm. My immobility forces me to use a vehicle, and that makes enough noise to wake the dead let alone wild birds and animals.  

Our garden is now looking very good with a host of plants and bushes in full flower, including one very attractive climbing rose. Add to that the fact the beech hedge is now green all over, and overall, sitting outside is a real pleasure. Should you not know, ‘Granny’s bonnets’, or perhaps better known as aquilegia, have this amazing habit of cross breeding and providing a rich palette of colours and to add to that, no action of any kind is needed!  

Rescued after flying into the kitchen!!

Thoughts

My putative list of matters to share is just too long to hold your interest. So, in particular my urge to comment on our present government is resisted, though I will share two quotes with you, one modern and one less so. That noted American satirist, Mencken, stated the following which in the light of the current Brexit problems seems almost too apposite: 

‘there is always a solution to every human problem, neat, plausible and wrong’.  

More recently, a politician for whom I regard normally with disinterest, said: 

 ‘a fish always starts rotting from its head’ 

I have no idea whether that is true, but it was definitely eye catching, and seemed appropriate to matters close to home. 

You will have noted the potential fragmentation of NATO’s united approach to the situation in Ukraine, and I am not referring to the negative responses expressed by Croatia and Turkey. In the case of Croatia, I have never understood how they were admitted in the first place given their record; Turkey is less unexpected, but except for real politique, it would have been evicted years ago when its leadership changed. 

I am talking about France, Germany and Italy.  

France behaves as it does, it would appear, because of its hatred of America and Britain. Partly no doubt because of the history of antagonism with Britain, partly because no one likes being beholden to another, especially if they are seen as part of the Anglo-Saxon world, and partly contempt for the mess America has made of the advice given it when barely new-born, added to which is its belief that France should naturally lead Europe.  

Germany just has failed to resolve its post war position and sees the needs of its economy as being paramount even against a country which its troops ravaged in the Second World War.  

Italy, rather like Greece, could very easily have joined the communist bloc years ago, but yet again, for Anglo-Saxon interference. Greece has sold out to China as a result of German monetary action while Italy specializes in corruption and political instability.  

I referred last week to the situation in America of the evangelic Church, now I learn the Methodist church is in the same parlous position. Some of you may remember Governor Wallace, dead and buried years ago, but in his time the charismatic leader of White supremacists, and no doubt a co- founder of the popular ‘Replacement conspiracy’, based on the notion that White liberals and Democrat leaders aim to fill America with immigrants who would force ‘native Americans’ into a minority position. Somehow failing to recall that they are not native Americans but colonists!  

So far as I know, White supremacists in this country have not yet picked up on this idea.  

Difficult perhaps because neither the Anglo-Saxon’s nor ‘Celtic people’ were anything other than colonists themselves. But I should not make light of this nonsense; it appears likely that the vast majority of Republicans believe it, and overall, perhaps more than 30% of the total population support it. Worse still, in my view, the majority of evangelicals identify their beliefs as being at one with the theory. A remarkable perversion of Christianity.  

Two final thoughts.  

The first is how underwhelming I found the photograph of the ‘Black hole’ – surely this is displacement theory carried to absurd extremes.  

The second is to plug again the radio programme ‘In our time’. The format works so much better than a lecture, but far, far more important, it forces us to consider in the topics it discusses, to recognise how little we really know about Europe, and central Europe in particular and how dreadfully Anglocentric we remain. 

Exploring belief

Last week I attempted to explore the early history of Christianity, which at its most basic level means trying to discover what Christianity is, given I am very uncomfortable with the definition of Christianity, which following pressure from the emperor Constantine led to the Nicene Creed, that has defined Christianity since the fourth century. I suspect that for many, and I would include myself, that the Creed does not square with my understanding of the values of many parts of the early Church.  

I am well aware that I am in deep waters here trying to understand how the Creed was finally agreed, or to explore the swirling currents of belief which existed within the various communities that called themselves God’s children in the first century.  

But before going further I want to explore the notion of belief. It may well be that the human being needs belief merely to exist, and I have no wish to challenge that notion.  

What I do think however is that belief needs to be recognised not only as a negative, as well as a positive, driver in our lives. A fact that should be obvious and unarguable with; think of the hatred seen all over the world in both the so-called developed societies and in the third World. It is also, I think, obvious why this should be. Belief is too often excluding, rather than uniting, or to use modern jargon it can be a very binary force and this, history shows us can be particularly viscous and common in the world of religion.  

Not so long ago, even in this country, people faced death for being seen to hold the wrong religious beliefs, and so being described as a heretic. Staying in this country, even closer in time, professing the wrong beliefs could bar people from a whole range of occupations. Nowadays glass ceilings continue to deny all from enjoying the same privileges. 

I think that the way forward is quite simple, and it is the approach we try to live by here on the farm. We obviously work to a set of beliefs about the environment, soil conservation and animal welfare. What we do not do is to attempt to thrust our ideas down the throats of others.  

Obviously any one of us is willing to show others what we do, and if asked to explain, why. Many things may work in a dictatorship but in day-to-day life confrontation can only too often be counterproductive.  

Religion 

Returning to the world of religion and Christianity, the creed almost certainly pushes as many away as it attracts because of its rejection of so many who may well have faith but cannot accept all tenets of the Creed.  

Personally, I rather like the 1st century description of God’s children since the term is so all embracing, even if not meant in that way, then.  

To return to my original aim, which is to explore in general terms what it is, and why those large numbers of texts which are classified as apocryphal are so classified, and what they consist of.   

In going forward, I am relying heavily on the views expressed prior to the examination of the Dag Hamadi documents, and in particular to ‘Excluded books of the New Testament’ and ‘The Apocryphal New Testament’, both first issued in 1924 and edited or translated by eminent Anglican clergymen. I have other sources but these two do, I think, still represent writings current fifty years later and certainly indicate thinking which may still persist.  

My starting point is I admit the shorter of the two books. It contains nine items which in the editor’s opinion split into two main parts. The first five are examples of gospels of the Infancy, and gospels relating to the death of Jesus and are not considered worthy.  

The first two, that of James, the most significant of the group, and Thomas, relate to the infancy of Jesus, and though the former was accepted as written in the second century, is rejected as being too ignorant of Jewish life and customs, while the second is written off as ‘frivolous’. The next three, two assigned to Peter, and one to Nikodemus, are particularly interesting in that their rejection appears to be because they exculpate the Romans from blame. Both are interested in the setting out of what follows death for the unrighteous. Nicodemus perhaps written in the fourth century is also discarded as ‘frivolous’; in today’s language the writer might have better used ‘fanciful’.  I will pick this up again next week.  

Arcadia

A few weeks ago, I heard the BBC lead international reporter Lyse Doucet claim that she was a proud Arcadian. This somewhat puzzled me since the only Arcadia I knew was in Greek literature. Obviously, I had to explore the claim and turned up, what was for me, quite unknown facts. Arcadia was a French colony in Canada, adjacent to but not part of Quebec. First settled in 1604 on the island of Doucet! The settlers that came in larger numbers in the 1630’s were from the Vendee and Occitan, and so brought their own language.  

The events of the Seven Year War meant not only the capture of Quebec, but the temporary end of Arcadia, which sprawled over parts of Maine, Quebec and three of Canada’s Atlantic islands. Because the inhabitants were seen to be French and Roman Catholic. and hence a potential threat, nearly all were deported, of whom some went to France. As others had gone to Louisiana, those that were sent to France were bribed by the Spanish King to settle in Louisiana as well, and hence the Cajuns came into existence.  

In due course many returned from exile to the maritime area, but Arcadia is now more a memory than an area, though its inhabitants are recognised as a minority group, and I think early in this century received a royal apology for their treatment.  

Poetry

The words below come from the fourth canto of a long poem by Longfellow about this expulsion and entitled “Evangeline”.  

As you would expect from Longfellow it reads really well, despite his knowledge being a little limited as he thought the Arcadians came from Normandy.  

“So passed the morning away. And lo! with a summons sonorous  
Sounded the bell from its tower, and over the meadows a drum beat.  
Thronged erelong was the church with men. Without, in the churchyard,  
Waited the women. They stood by the graves, and hung on the headstones  
Garlands of autumn-leaves and evergreens fresh from the forest.  
Then came the guard from the ships, and marching proudly among them  
Entered the sacred portal. With loud and dissonant clangor  
Echoed the sound of their brazen drums from ceiling and casement,–  
Echoed a moment only, and slowly the ponderous portal  
Closed, and in silence the crowd awaited the will of the soldiers.  
Then uprose their commander, and spoke from the steps of the altar,  
Holding aloft in his hands, with its seals, the royal commission.  
“You are convened this day,” he said, “by his Majesty’s orders.  
Clement and kind has he been; but how you have answered his kindness,  
Let your own hearts reply! To my natural make and my temper  
Painful the task is I do, which to you I know must be grievous.  
Yet must I bow and obey, and deliver the will of our monarch;  
Namely, that all your lands, and dwellings, and cattle of all kinds  
Forfeited be to the crown; and that you yourselves from this province  
Be transported to other lands. God grant you may dwell there”  
Ever as faithful subjects, a happy and peaceable people!  
Prisoners now I declare you; for such is his Majesty’s pleasure!”   

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