“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
This week has seen a great deal achieved, despite an awful level of grass pollen forcing most of us to stay indoors. It is very much to the credit of Alice, who is in her last week here, and Tim, that so much has been achieved. To Alice in particular who has worked long hours and grown into her upcoming role as a farm manager.
The pastures have had quite a lot of attention this week. Despite the warm but certainly not excessive heat of the week there is still a degree of springiness in the ground – though the rain that came on Saturday was helpful. On Friday Alice completed the final first spraying of the farm with preparation 500 which was a great relief, as fitting it in had proved difficult. A significant unlooked-for bonus was that, given the time of day perhaps, hares and a roe deer were seen, as well as a myriad of small flying beasties including the ‘marbled white’ butterfly shown in the photograph.
The two fields that badly needed topping were at last sorted, and time was found to ‘High top’ another field in an attempt to bring light to the new shoots hidden under the long grass. An alert eye meant a pheasant sitting on her eggs was left undisturbed.
You will recall that we have had a handful of animals suffering from swellings in their throats. Essentially, we are all baffled by this, but a very tentative suggestion has been that the transition to traditional, but tougher, grasses may have something to do with it. Even to untutored eye the modern perennial rye grass can be seen to be less tough in comparison to say fescue grass and perhaps to have more leaf.
Like the cattle, the sheep have been moved onto fresh ground. For the sheep the movement was easier than for the cattle, though disappointingly, a few animals show signs of orf, but thankfully there has only been one further case of fly strike.
Both herds of cattle have also been moved. In the case of the suckler herd this meant moving the electric fence to give the animals access to fresh pasture. The value of strong hedges, and trees in hedges, and free-standing trees, as ever proved their worth on the odd day when the sun shone brightly, and the sky was cloudless. Shelter matters as much to stock as it does to humans and that is especially true for sheep sheared or not.
For those visiting the farm, the rams and the calf that is still being bottle fed are no longer in the triangle but in the named ram’s field.
One piece of unexpectedly good news was that the beehive strapped to a tree is well tenanted. It’s always hard to know whether these bright ideas actually work. The type of hive can be seen in the photo and obviously attempts to replicate a natural situation.
Less dramatically, outside the kitchen door the air has been filled with the cheeping of newly fledged small birds and the deep buzzing of a bumble bee that has decided to make its nest in the corner between the wall and step. It seems to now understand actually visiting the kitchen is a waste of effort.
Otherwise, the week on the farm has included the boring but necessary tasks like collecting electric fencing from areas where it is not in use, moving the first part of the delivery of organic hay into the barn, and some nettle strimming.
Though the garden is full of colour from plants including many types of rose, self-sown poppies and nigella, the state of the peonies reminds one how temporary is our life on earth. The marvellous white peony blossoms are now crumpled browning sights rather like fresh snow quickly becomes brown mush.
Today, Saturday Tabitha, Alice, Chris and Brendan have all gone to the Three Counties Show at Malvern. While the outing is primarily meant as a ‘jolly’ it fits in with the endeavour we have shared with Alice to give her as wide a set of experiences as the farm allows. You will be aware from previous notes how well she has fitted into our little world, and hopefully how she has benefitted as much as we have from her time here. We wish her very well in her new venture, knowing that if outside help might be useful, we are only going to be an hour away. On the 4th of July, Yannick joins us for the best part of four weeks. A lifetime ago it seems, his older brother Samuel, was a very welcome member of the farm team, willing to entertain the cows blowing a loaned brass instrument. Yannick has been warned we have similar expectations of him!
A cardinal rule for anybody involved in advisory or consultancy role is to never lose sight of the fact that what may work for you, may well not work for the individual or institution that seeks your help. This rule actually should apply to all one’s dealings. People are as they are, not as you may wish or assume. It is the failure to recognise this which so often leads to international conflict let alone domestic troubles.
All this came sharply into focus on Sunday evening as, to keep ourselves awake, we turned on the television and sat gripped by a programme about Putin and his life and career. It could have been about Stalin, Hitler or any number of similar strange individuals that some identify as sociopaths. Because in our more normal world, we assume rational discourse is the way to handle things, we really have no strategies to hand when it comes to dealing with the extreme ideologue or ‘mad’ person actually in power. Or to be brutally frank, we do actually have an option, from which we shy away, imagining that behaviour like that has no place in our world.
With those thoughts in my head, a radio programme on the move towards the cash-less society chimed in with those slightly worrying thoughts. We have had many family conversations in recent days about the way in which society seems to have handed from Parliament decision making to corporations. Indeed, the associated thought is that having given permission for a robot to control our lives, we now experience the consequences.
The banking crisis of 2008 exemplified this. Acting on the principle that efficiency is tied to size, by that date banking was in the hands of a small group. Parliament approved of course, but parliaments by their very nature, are only interested in the short term. Of course, if we go back to the 1950’s when Hire Purchase was welcomed with open arms and ‘living on tick’ was no longer a shameful necessity, the origins of our dilemma stand out clearly.
As a general rule I assume incompetence rather than some ‘cunning plan’, but I admit that I am increasingly of the view that government and large corporations are, for entirely selfish reasons, pushing us towards the plastic card rather than cash. The reasons are twofold I would suggest, reducing costs, and gaining ever more personal information. I wonder whether we would be so relaxed if we lived in an autocratic society. At present we can shrug our shoulders and/or merely get irritated as advertisers tailor their offers to our perceived weaknesses, secure as we are in our own self confidence about our society.
In a way that the younger generations may not realise, a great deal has changed in our sense of self security. The first blow was terrorism, or its threat, not entirely new perhaps, but it seemed so widespread and mindless when the IRA was at its peak. Suddenly at airports viewing areas were diminished, and terminals were patrolled by armed policemen, not just in case but, because real risks had arisen of attacks. The second change I would point to is fear of fraud and money laundering. I learnt the other day that just to prove who I was required production of documents including a passport. It is no longer sufficient that the person to whom you are talking has known you for 40 or so years.
Has our society become so nervous, fearful, corrupt, poorly led and complicated that little seems to work anymore, and absurdly, it feels as if we are intent on slipping into the status of a third world society – I suspect so and that I am merely whistling in the wind?
Having reread those words a day later, I realise how nonsensical and insulting to poor countries it is to compare our situation with theirs, but the reality here, is that that is a common feeling. And I can too easily become part of this ‘losing all sense of perspective’.
Looked at from the outside, despite what Italians may think (that the wheels are coming off), from Malawi, Venezuela or Somalia, for example, even the poorest here live far better than they do. And let us not forget, despite our ambitions, poverty has always been with us, and that it is a relative term. For large scale absolute poverty, you need not look that far from these shores.
So where does all this gloom and doom come from, obviously in large part from our puerile leadership, but also from the media, especially 24-hour news cranking out the same dismal message hour in and hour out. But not just from that world, listening to the today program this morning I was left with the feeling that if this was wartime, the producers would probably face imprisonment for their utterly defeatist tone.
I have no idea what triggered this mood of mine. After all, England won its second test match against the world champions New Zealand, and the series; perhaps it is the adrenaline drop after the Jubilee, and the instant media assumption that the end of the monarchy is now in sight…..Boris as President, heaven help us.
Inevitably I suppose, the music I turned to reflected my thoughts, so as I have been writing the above, I have also listened to Vanhal’s Misa Solemness on a loop.
The appropriate poem to choose was a real challenge, and in the end, it came down to a choice between Auden and Yeats. My irrational dislike of Auden struggled with the feeling that he really dipped his nose in the gutter, and so in the end I plumped for Auden’s poem:
The fall of RomeThe piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.
Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.
Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.
Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.
Caesar’s double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK
On a pink official form.
Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.