Apple pressing time

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

Opening thoughts

Inappropriate though it may be, before I can go any further, I need to express my absolute disgust that it can be confirmed that this country, through the HSBC, really is the money laundering capital of the ‘free’ world, and that the President of the United States can publicly give voice to his belief in Nazi genetic theory. 

If you need more details, let me share that, particularly in a speech in Minnesota, Trump referred to blood lines and horses with the suggestion that it was because, especially, that the people attending the rally were of Swedish and German descent.  

Eugenics became a popular science in the late 19th century and important figures in this idea were British. It tied into ideas about Jews, non-white people and disable people. The early intellectual leaders of the Fabian society were much taken by these ideas and it took the Archbishop of Canterbury, I believe, to reject the ideas and as a view it was discredited in the UK. 

However, in Germany, Holland, Sweden and the USA it took hold firmly, and the notion of ‘ethnic purity’ was enforced in various ways apart from the gas chamber or firing squad. Sterilisation of ‘unsuitable’ mothers continued well after the war in America and Sweden. 

Fascism and communism, neo or otherwise, still cling to these beliefs. 

Racial purity could not really take hold in this country because we are not an ethnic group. The majority of Trumps supporters are very, very, conservative and racist. So, comments of this kind cement Trumps position.  

As you may remember from earlier notes when I wrote about the racism and Christianity in America, and about the ongoing influence of 17th and 18th ideas brought to the continent by the colonists, this feeds into my reflections here. 

The Nazis believed in ethnic purity which could only be achieved by throwing people out of the country or killing them. They regarded non-Aryans as sub-human including for example, the Slavic peoples.  

Farm News

This horror to one side for a moment, it has actually been quite an interesting week with the weather, as well as the farm. 

As regards the weather, Thursday was particularly exciting in terms of the ominous black clouds, rumbles of thunder and sudden downpours of rain. Mind you, in Droitwich, some 7 miles away they had torrential rain which turned the roads into streams and a fierce hailstorm as well. By great good chance the grandchildren were there as part of a party taking the remaining four puppies for immunisation. 

Unexpected hail storm

Since the first puppy to leave us went to friends we know all is well (see photo). Of the remaining four it appears two will not be sold but kept back as reserves. As you will see they are all now much more ‘dog like’. 

You may recall we thought blood tests for the animals might be needed because the young cattle already had developed winter coats. The tests received so far show conclusively that copper levels are far too low and that iodine levels could also be an issue, and so appropriate action will be taken and need to include the whole herd. As regards the lambs, matters were less extreme but concerning enough for them to be drenched. I have let the Soil Association and Demeter know the position. 

Winter coats

The fields are looking, rather belatedly, as we hoped they would a month ago, but at least with winter fast approaching feed concerns are low.  

All animals were moved around this week and that went smoothly. We continue to have two poorly animals. The cow you know about, the ewe perhaps not. We continue to do our best to help them. As a sign of winter coming, both the New Forest Eye and Orf have ceased being a concern.  

Talking of health and bearing in mind Tim’s wish to keep low profile, I feel I must none the less share our collective concern for his mother and for him as her age brings new troubles. 

During the week I had an opportunity to see all the infrastructure work that has been done, for myself. The old temporary woodshed is now changed into the winter garage for our old Zetor tractor. The old farm track is now made winter useable, and further preparatory work has been completed in the barn area. The bridle path up to and beyond the barn is no longer a challenge to the suspension of our aged Golf. All good stuff, which if other challenges had not had to be faced, would have been done years earlier. 

Winter housing for the old Zetor

One of the charming sights from our sitting room winter is no longer there. All the apples have been picked, and next week will go for pressing. I had to avert my eyes at times when Boots was high up in the tree. An activity that both was not available to me at his age, and probably I would not have enjoyed! 

Our planned spraying program was halted by a leak in the sprayer, uncomfortable though it is to admit, much of our gear is now up to 14 years old. Temporary repairs will be possible, but as soon as finance allows, we shall replace the existing sprayer with a much larger capacity one that the new tractor will be able to haul. 

To add to the pressure on Chris, a leak developed behind one of the units in the business Park. Life being what it is, the task of sorting the problem fell on him, taking the better part of his day out. The business park, though I say it myself, is once again looking really smart. 

On my travels

On a more personal note, after five visits to the chiropractor it feels as though my floating ribs may be moving closer to their correct position and this, allied to weather changes has meant my breathing is better. Those of you of my age will know how draining constant pain and breathing difficulties really are. Sorry, I slightly lost the plot. I referred to the visits because I wanted to share with you the different experiences we enjoy going by one route to Edgbaston and returning by another. Whichever route we take, a large part of the journey is along heavily wooded roads, and it was obvious both that autumn is really with us and horse chestnut trees are in an increasingly sorry state. 

The route we take into Birmingham runs through an affluent suburb where trees abound, shops are not boarded up and the architecture is really interesting and defining of the date of erection. The route back takes us through a much more depressed part of the city. Many shops boarded up, narrower crowded roads and buildings either Victorian schools, pubs or churches together with possibly Georgian working-class terraces. The contrast is great, a stark reminder of how wealth is divided and an affecting experience. 


Where to start on my weekly ramble, I think it must be education. Some of you may have read the obituary of Professor Ken Robinson. He was not a supporter of the way he saw education going, and in particular the disappearance of creativity as a central part of a good education.  

His appointment at Warwick University took place just after I retired so I had no opportunity to interact with him personally, though obviously I had read his writings. By chance, shortly after reading this, I was asked by my children on my views on their children returning to school. 

I confess I struggled to respond. In truth, over recent years my confidence that the education provided by most local authorities and many private schools was fit for purpose has seriously fallen.  

Education surely has to be more than providing work for teachers and keeping unemployment figures respectable and if that is a surprising suggestion, think back to school leaving age being increased – not to keep young adults in full time education, but to ensure they didn’t increase the unemployment numbers that the government of the day measure themselves against.  

We have found no answer to so many things, including the reality that far too many children go on to secondary school with such limited literacy that their secondary schooling achieves little other than produce unemployable and unhappy adults.  

For my generation very many of us saw education as a vocation. An attitude which was badly eroded when teacher unions led by individuals more concerned with politics, rather than children, persuaded the government to limit teachers’ working hours to 1250 hrs.  

Fortunately, of course, there are still teachers who see time in school as being about pupils and their own time for marking and preparation. 

What are universities actually for these days – certainly not it would seem to educate young people usefully, either for their personal life, or the country’s economic needs.  

As with education for younger pupils, it appears an increasingly meaningless or even dangerous experience in terms of developing citizenship or personal development. A memory that lingers in my mind from forty years ago was interviewing a would-be teacher of English who despite her first-class degree had restricted her reading to going no further than the set books. So, when asked about a set authors’ other books, was completely flummoxed. More recently, when one of the children attempted to go back to university to re-train as a teacher, she and the majority of the room were dismissed out of hand because their first degree results had been lower than a 2:1… all that experience and all those life skills thrown away on the whim of an exam result from years ago. 

So back to the question put to me. Given that all our children have one or more life threatening illness; given the ages of all grandparents; given the anxiety this was engendering in the parents; given that our grandchildren are enormously privileged in terms of their home situation, if not in financial security, though it was clearly their decision, I said that I supported their intention to attempt home education. Two hours a day and remembered discipline on the part of adults and children, and in particular, helping to develop children develop self-discipline must be part of the process. 

Personally, I think schools and universities are currently in an all but impossible position.  

Words with multiple meanings and other thoughts

Words and their usage is a matter dear to me. Of late I have become more aware of how our language has so many words in it that actually can have multiple meanings.  

A tree is a tree, though even here, we could argue whether a hawthorn is a bush or tree. But what about words like ‘truth’ or ‘fact’ or ‘reality’. All are words in daily use, yet marvellously imprecise. Some like ’frankly’ at least normally tell you a ‘porky’ is coming.  

So, yet another complication, ‘if your friend says the truth is’ your assumption is correctly to understand the unspoken end to the sentence ‘in my view’ or ‘it appears to be’. On the other hand, if a politician says it, alarm bells ring.  

President Trump inadvertently underlined the point this week by saying he will accept the election results if ‘they are free and fair’ – of course on his interpretation of ‘free and fair’! We have a truly fantastic language. 

For those who remember Terry Wogan, this gives me a splendid radio two link. Returning to my author of the moment. David Fischer, and bearing in mind the turmoil caused in the western Christian church over the matter – I refer to the words used by St Paul on freedom – the four British groups of settlers to North America of course brought with them both the words ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ since the two words refer to different ideas and are drawn from separate roots.  

Though in everyday use we may use at times, these two words interchangeably, most of us recognise that they have separate, if ill-defined meanings.  

In English, which is of course a mish mash of a language, words are drawn from various sources, and this gives us a vast vocabulary to draw upon. However, the fact that liberty and freedom mean different things does not mean of course lead to unanimity on what each word actually means. 

Fischer argues that the four different waves of immigrants from different parts of Great Britain to the North American continent took with them at least four different understandings of each word, and that this is and continues to be a problem for the politics of the United States.  

Bear in mind his general thesis, whether Americans like it or not, is that though today the percentage of Americans whose ancestry is from these islands is now small, the writers of the constitution of that country came with the ideas that these four streams had brought with them, and re-interpreted over the years before independence. 

Let me admit here and now, my belief is that there cannot be a worse option than having a written constitution. For the obvious reason that flexibility becomes difficult if not impossible. A constitutional right that had some justification two hundred years ago may in this day and age be totally inappropriate.  

This is of course not unknown in this country, in which case Parliament will act appropriately. Whatever we may think of politics and politicians in this country, changes to our laws rest entirely with our elected representatives. Our legal system operates independently of politicians since its role is to apply the decisions of Parliament. Membership of our Supreme Court is made by the Queen, though of course on the advice of the Prime Minister, but she or he makes a recommendation from a short list of names put forward by the legal profession based on experience and professional regard. Now it is impossible for any of us given the current rumpus to be unaware of the stark differences between how the membership of our Supreme Court and of the American is determined and the problems this can ensure for that country. 

Attempting to be fair, the colonialists understandably wished to establish a wide gap between practice in their new country and the country they came from. Staying with a legal approach based on common law was probably therefore out of the question. But then why go for a model which kept so many features of the world they had left behind?  

So, an elected President, but one who had many of the powers of a monarch, especially when two elected bodies were also established, one of which had similar powers to the House of Lords in England at that time. Put this all together and the potential for stalemate, or a form of dictatorship was on the cards. Sadly, this was recognised over a century ago but how to act. 

We all love the NHS, and all three English parties claim credit for its existence. Sadly, an organisation of this size can never be expected to live up to the image we may have of it, not least when it is such a political football. At its best no doubt world beating but… Recently I had a set of experiences which I gather are common across the country and relate to what I personally have always seen as especially important – General Practice. On three occasions a visit to the surgery to see a nurse was required. The nurse wore protective clothing, and I wore a mask. It was all a bit slower than usual because all touched surfaces had to be wiped down, between patients, but otherwise entirely normal. On three occasions I have wanted to see a doctor but failed over the telephone to persuade a doctor that a face to face appointment was necessary. Now, how is it that poorly paid nurses can take risks that highly paid GP’s will not?  

And how is that the top person in the GP profession can claim face to face appointments should be a thing of the past? 

In my previous life I was involved in many hundreds of appointments – all of course face to face. I would never have countenanced a telephone interview and I was not involved in life or death decisions. 

Finally, to confirm how limited my general knowledge is. I was asked by Anne what I knew about Delaware. All I could come up with was that it was an American river and that it was an area primarily settled by Quakers from the middle of England in the mid 1660’s.  

How pathetic an answer from me, given that David Fischer had made his name by writing a book called Washington’s Crossing. It was the Delaware he crossed, and so ensured defeat for the British forces. I assume every American Grade one pupil would know that and, somehow, I knew it not – very salutary. 

On a lighter note, I was somewhat surprised by a spokesperson for Liverpool talking about new Corvid restrictions, claiming that the cultural life of Liverpool resided in its bars, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos and by implication strip clubs and brothels.  

It does actually have more going for it than that! Though on our first visit to the city in the 1960’s we were amazed how every street corner appeared to boast a pub, but we were young and effete southerners. 

This week I have chosen a poem by an individual I hold in high regard – some of you may well regard it as rather slight, but I find it charming – note the use of ‘fall’ despite the poems title and yes, I do know his wife was an American. 

Robert Louis Stephenson 

Autumns Fires 
In the other gardens 
And all up the vale, 
From the autumn bonfires 
See the smoke trail! 
Pleasant summer over 
And all the summer flowers, 
The red fire blazes, 
The grey smoke towers. 
Sing a song of seasons! 
Something bright in all! 
Flowers in the summer, 
Fires in the fall! 

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