Happily, we have had another heifer calf – again completely unassisted. At the end of the week, while the young stock still had plenty of grass, it was clear that the main herd needed to be moved, and now they provide a fine sight to visitors to the Business Park!

Lambing is completed!

The sheep and their lambs are clearly happy where they are, and lambing is now completed! The last ewe to lamb presented us with a fine set of triplets.

Despite the absence of Tim, some tractor work has been possible. Nothing too exciting but fairly selective topping to ensure thistles and nettles within the fields are kept under control. Some evidence of hemlock but no evidence of ragwort yet.

One startling feature has shown in the field in which the ground source energy pipes were laid. Growth where the pipes are laid is not nearly as good as in the rest of the field – we did wonder what the effect might be but did not expect it to be quite so obvious.

Haylage making has been going on for some time in our neighbourhood but essentially on farms whose cattle are kept inside all year. We think we may have three fields ready for cutting and our contractor came to us over the weekend.

The swan rules supreme

The horns buried in the autumn to provide us with preparation 500 for use this year have now been dug up and will be emptied shorty. Given the weather forecast for next week we should be able to start the annual spraying cycle very soon.

Now we have confirmation of possible acceptance onto the new higher tier stewardship scheme, we learn what our first preliminary tasks are to be: Eleven of our fields are to be part of the scheme, and soil examples have to be taken from each and submitted for analysis.

On the wild and bird life front, hares have been seen most days in at least 3 fields. The swan continues to rule supreme over the scrape though a heron sometimes visits. Closer to the house, the goldfinches are back in numbers and an unusual visitor has been a chaffinch.

A cuckoo in full voice

Finally, a real first! One morning we had a cuckoo in full voice at an early hour in our front garden. Heard in the distance the sound of the cuckoo is a source of joy. Half an hour of it at close range is less welcome. The ‘cuck’ is preceded by a rasping sound as air is indrawn and is a very ugly sound. The following morning it was slightly further away and so could be properly appreciated!

‘In April,

Come he will.

In May,

He sings all day.

In June,

He changes his tune.

In July,

He prepares to fly.

In August,

Go he must go’

A childhood on the farm

Half term for the grandchildren has meant most mornings going out with Chris and Granny to check the animals, and on Friday for example, playing a full role in moving the cattle. One day hopefully they will look back on their childhood on the farm with great pleasure.

Having spent the bulk of Tuesday night wide awake, perhaps in anticipation of thunderstorms which might upset the four small grandchildren who were having a sleepover here, I listened at great length to six Haydn piano sonatas – in fact the same disc three times.  This time also left plenty of space for an overactive brain to work, time which was given over to thinking about the East India Company and its largely symbiotic relationship with local leaders and individuals in the days before the impact of indirect rule by the British after the India Act of 1785.

That, in due course led to an influx of British women on the hunt for husbands, which brought in Victorian notions of class, racial discrimination and missionary zeal. All pretty awful in their own right but far worse was the introduction of British politics and the need to find a market for the cotton products of north-west England.

Eventually I realised the trigger for these thoughts had to be of the novels of George McDonald Fraser set around the adventures of Flashman – the character first met in Tom Brown’s Schooldays. For a history of British Victorian overseas activities this is an eye-opening set of immensely enjoyable and in passing, fascinating history to read – accepting one has to cope with the rather vile ‘hero’.

The English East India Company, mostly only known for corruption and wealthy nabobs – including Clive and Hastings; its end, The Indian Mutiny, leading to indirect government control being replaced by direct control and perhaps mention of the rather fatuous battle of Pressy – 16 dead on the company side and 500 on the attackers who felt enough was enough.

John Company, as it was commonly called, founded in 1600 and was largely an English enterprise until Pitt’s India Act of 1795 effectively meant indirect control by the UK government. Originally dominated by the English but after the failed attempt by the Scots to establish their own empire and the necessary if unwelcome Union in 1707, Scotsmen became the key players as they were in many parts of the empire.

Before the ‘Flashman series’ the only ideas above the conventional I had, came from a novel by Ellis K Meacham – (American author – On the company’s Service A trilogy perhaps about the marine arm of the company the Bombay Marine.) and of course the novels of John Masters.

The Honourable Company

Subsequently I read ‘The Honourable Company’ by John Keay which is both a rattling good read and a history drawn from largely original documents. I believe a recent history by Nick Robins is more ‘correct’ in that the past is seen through 21st century eyes – I shall not bother with it.

Listening to a discussion on ‘in our time’ which happened to be about Henrik Ibsen, it came to me that in the early years of television when Reithian ethics still prevailed, television largely attempted to make up for the demise of local repertory theatres. Staple dramas from these formed the bedrock of television drama, Chekhov, Ibsen, Shaw, Shakespeare, Sherriff and the farces were part of the week; while on the radio, apart from the ‘soaps’ of that period – ‘Mrs Dale’s Diary’ and the like, light music such as ‘Workers Playtime’, what passed for comedy – who can forget Psyche the dog, in the evenings the great novels were dramatised – Trollope, Dickens and Galswort;  while on Sunday afternoon those who stay awake could listen to opera.

While I give thanks for the staggering improvements in our lot in 2018, there can be no doubt quite often ‘the baby was thrown out with the bath water’ in the last decades.

Finally, and I do mean that, and will because this section is so long not inflict a poem on you, can I recommend a new 15 minute series called ‘Classified Britain’. I had no intention of listening, knowing James Naughty was the presenter, but was so pleased prejudice did not prevail. We were taken to modern day Hereford together with a copy of the Hereford Chronicle for January 1st, 1800 – fascinating stuff and worth catching up on if you have iPlayer on your device.

 

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