A week in which the hay bales were collected in, the garden transformed, critical farm financial matters dealt with, the delivery of the wool booked in, good growth in the pastures and an easing of the hay fever, so a good week on all fronts.

The daily round of checking all the animal threw up no significant issues. With plentiful grass, full water troughs, no rain or excessive heat, all was contentment. The sheep had their peace disturbed on Friday when all were moved to the barn, and then run through the race so that, aside from checking on condition, all went through a footpath to eliminate any lameness. For the lambs it was rather more disturbing since it was time for their final part of the clostridial vaccination programme. For the humans a far harder task since the vaccination injection had to be given under the skin and the lambs are no longer small wriggly creatures!

Overall, the outcome was that the ewes were rather overweight, so weaning was not necessary yet, and that neither they nor the lambs evidenced any sign of foot rot. In other words, all was good.

The ewe that at the beginning of the week looked likely to die has after daily attention and treatment seemingly recovered and is back in the flock. The cattle after TB testing are on new pastures and look good. The need for new fencing was underlined this week as on most days’ calves were found to have got out of their field and moved in with the sheep.

The first part of the week for Tim, was taken up with moving bales. The wrapped bales had to be collected from the fields and stacked behind the barn. As our trailer can carry no more than eight bales at a time and to load it the tractor has to be uncoupled and then once the trailer is loaded, the tractor coupled up again and there were 172 bales to collect, that exercise took the best part of two days, and over twenty round trips. On Wednesday the organic hay from our neighbours came across on a long trailer which could take thirty bales at a time. Sadly, the trailer could not get to the stack, so had to be unloaded at the front of the barn and then transported though the barn to its resting place. Writing this I was strongly reminded of the Hoffnung monologue on the workman hoisting bricks – his delivery in strongly accented English once heard, could never be forgotten https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZUJLO6lMhI


While that task was ongoing, Aélis, Florian and Jack were able to give time to our house vegetable garden which is now not only supplying fresh fruit and vegetables but is tidy and weed free. The dry weather now means that aside from the pots there is the need to water regularly.

Talking of Aélis and Florian, now that they seem fully settled in, we have started having an hour or so at the end of the working day to get together to talk and read and enjoy poetry. One of the passages the three of us read together came from ecclesiastics – Chapter 3 verses 1 to 9. – “For everything there is a season…” In the process we all hope their English is helped – very enjoyable.

Rural country show

In a rural area, the country show still thrives, indeed there are several within 5 miles of us each year. On Saturday it was the Hanbury Show taking place on the farm from which we buy our organic hay. By road the distance is about 5 miles, if you walk perhaps only two. Chris was there at 6am doing something involving sheep, others in the family including Jack, Aélis and Florian understandably went later. To our shame Anne and I cried off. Happily, or of course possibly sadly, hay fever makes such outings unbearable. We should of course attend since these are as much social occasions as anything else. Of course, it is an opportunity to show off your best sheep and cattle, display your horsey skills and explore the various stands with goods for sale.

In our time

In this week’s episode of “In our time” the discussion cantered on Frederiko García Lorca. In the announcement hearing the name in Spanish convinced me this must be a person I had never heard of – it was a relief to hear Melvin Bragg give the surname in English, and to realise my ignorance was not as complete as I thought. There were, for me, many spin off thoughts. Why did Spanish sound so impenetrable, the irony of America’s claim not to have been a colonial power and what was poetry.

Going back to an author I have referred to before, I reread the chapter on Spanish in Gaston Doreen’s book “Lingo” called ‘The Iberian machine gun’. In a slightly hard to follow explanation, Spanish sounds faster than English because It uses words with more syllables in than we do and sounds more percussive than English because Spaniards don’t use stressed and unstressed syllables, which means a flatter set of sounds. The suggestion is that actually Spanish is in reality spoken not that much faster than other languages – it just sounds as though it is. Additionally, the language apparently has only five vowels instead of the more than twenty used in English. Add to that a series of sounds not found in English and all is clear – it seems. We are then told that apparently, speakers of Spanish in Latin America speak far more slowly!

Having spent a couple of hours reading Lorca’s most highly regarded poems and, ignoring the impression they left on me as to the man’s character, I was left wondering whether I knew what poetry actually was, and the degree to which language played a part in determining the form. Anglo-Saxon poetry specialised in alliteration, rarely found in later poets. I am accustomed to poets who use rhyme or structured form like the sonnet, to comic, nonsense and limericks. Indeed, I have the collected works of Ogden Nash by my chair and the collected works of Lear nearby. Lorca left me cold.

The other strand of thought the programme triggered was the hypocrisy of the Americans over empire and colonies. Shortly after Lorca’s birth and following the Spanish-American War, the U.S. acquired a colonial empire consisting of the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, Samoa, and Midway in the Pacific and Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Virgin Islands, and the Panama Canal Zone in the Caribbean. The United States record during that period is no different from that of the European states such as Germany, Belgium and Italy, though it must be admitted the territories it gained were not the left overs in Africa that other states that came late into the land grab, obtained.

John Barton 

I have been reading John Barton’s book. His approach to the Bible is interesting and reading his chosen selections to reflect points he is making, has reminded me of the great contribution to our language and way of life the King James Bible has made. At school, over four years at the rate of one lesson a week, we read and made notes on the whole Bible while in passing neither reflecting on the beauty of the language or it’s possible meanings. At church from the pulpit there were always readings from the old and new testaments followed by a sermon built on the preacher’s interpretation of one or both of the readings. Whether passionate or otherwise, each sermon would have three points to make spread over forty minutes. My parents chose to let me take a book rather than have me fidget, or as I got older, stand up and challenge what I was hearing. So much of organised religion is just not found in the Bible and how easily this is ignored.

I was sorry that the women’s cricket and football teams have adopted the true English approach to their games which is, of course, to lose with a brave smile on your face. Winning is so outré after all. In any case as we were taught at school it is not winning that matters but taking part and leaning to accept defeat gracefully – the British(?) way.

A slice of Mr Kipling

I have been wanting to include a poem by Kipling from the start but finding one which I could justify including in my notes has proved very hard. He wrote so much (my version of his complete works is nearly three inches thick) and so often the poems are long and on subjects hard to justify inclusion, that I had all but given up, when I stumbled across the poem below. I felt able to use it since we do have a wood with overgrown tracks!

The Way through the Woods’ by Rudyard Kipling

“They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees. 
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,

As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods.
But there is no road through the woods”

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