Autumn is here

So, autumn has definitely arrived, though the majority of trees retain their leaves and the roses are still in bloom. The horse chestnut trees are dropping their fruit, the sedums are looking at their best, and despite the blue skies, at night ground frost has been with us nearly every night leading to thoughts of lighting the wood stove.

On Saturday the weather went into reverse – a warm wind and a very warm day to enjoy before the rain on Sunday. Walking the dogs has been a pleasure, despite the chill, because the moon has been growing in size as each day passes and lighting my way.

Sadly it looks as if the jet stream is about to change direction and the wetter, duller and cooler side of autumn will be with us soon.


A Touch of cold in the Autumn night-
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children
(TE Hulme)

It would be idle to deny that the case in the Supreme Court has not dominated my attention. Should you have watched any of the arguments I think you will have been both impressed and made aware of how ignorant we all are about how our state is governed. It has also been interesting to see how carefully participants have attempted not to fall into the trap of moving into the position given the Supreme Court in the United States of America by their written constitution.

That has not of course interrupted any physical aspect of life on the farm, however much it has been in our minds though it has been a relatively quiet week.

Farm News

The news as regards our previously poorly cattle is positive. All have recovered sufficiently to be able to join their respective herds. This week the young stock have moved onto our largest field, and are sharing it with the sheep. The hoof trimmer came on Friday so the suckler herd were moved into the barn for all the animals to have their feet checked. The hoof trimmer’s machinery is very sophisticated. Not only did he have to trim the hooves of 13 animals, he also reported that four needed treatment with two in particular requiring medication. Not something we have experienced before. Action is obviously needed to deal with this non-viral infection.

We are getting ever closer to TB testing time, but we all remain calm for the present and our hope is that the last carrier in the herd has been eliminated.

All seems very well with the sheep who are now on fresh grass. Our first lambs went mid-week and we have, as we did, last year, a contract with a buyer of organic lamb to take all that we have.

While we will be spraying the whole farm with preparation 500 as soon as the calendar and the weather allow us, we were not able as planned this Friday to fill and bury our cow horns. The site chosen this year is different, which has meant quite a lot of work for Theo in digging and lining the pit.  Hopefully all this can be done next week and at the same time last year’s cpp can be lifted.

The hedge cutter remains unusable, but Chris has done the necessary welding on the sheep race to make it safer to use. In fairness the race was second-hand when we bought it, and that was rather a long time ago. It certainly has been a

vital piece of gear and managing without it is unthinkable.

The issue of the week on pasture-fed has been how to train store cattle. Not an issue I had ever given thought to since we have never bought in animals for fattening. For those that do it is obviously very important. Sadly, none of the suggestions have included recognition that for the animals it must be a traumatic shock which could perhaps be reduced both by the use of homeopathy and spending time with them.  So, as you might expect, most suggestions involve electric fencing carrying a high voltage. I suppose for humans, pain has only recently been largely taken out of use as a training and control tool.

Theo has continued with his mowing and stewardship of the vegetable garden. On Thursday he went up to Manchester to watch United play a team from Kurdistan. He went by coach as the cost was one tenth of the price by train – as he said,

 the fact that the journey was forty minutes longer was neither here or there. He enjoyed the trip and match very much even though Manchester United only managed to score one goal. 

He has another two weeks with us so he will overlap with our next woofer for three days. He came primarily to improve his English and though he may sometimes feel little progress has been made, he has in fact gained confidence and his fluency is strikingly greater than when he first arrived. In addition to that he has proved a very valuable of our team.

The vegetable garden

The vegetable garden continues to produce, or in the case of runner beans, overproduce. Sarah who planned the garden when a woofer with us in March, is staying with us at present and so is able to enjoy the fruits of her efforts earlier in 

the year. Undoubtedly, she will find it impossible to refrain from spending time in the garden! Already, between them, Theo has cut out the old raspberry canes, and Sarah has cut back the leaves so the squash may mature and potted up the best strawberry runners. Despite bad blight this year our tomatoes are at last in full production.

Climate change and salt

I had not intended to comment on this week’s climate change protest since all will be aware that we try and farm as carbon neutral as we can. But reading of the deliberate forest fires in Indonesia, adding to the damage being done in the Amazon Basin reminded me sharply of the built in human instinct to cut off the branch on which one sits – or to use a more familiar saying ‘cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face’.

In ancient times salt was a very valuable commodity, indeed we live close to what was a Roman road called ‘The salt way’ and any visitor to Droitwich walking down the high street will see the effect of salt extraction which began in prehistoric times, and in the 19th century was still such a valuable commodity that a new breed of men arose – the salt barons. The last of whom built Droitwich’s Chateau Impney in the 19th century – now a hotel on the outskirts of the town and looking as if it should be in the French countryside rather than in Worcestershire!

Those days are past, and we rely on deep mined salt from Cheshire for use on the roads, and as importantly for our stock. Salt is an essential ingredient for human and animal nutrition. So, wherever the cattle and sheep are, salt licks are vital. The downside is that they attract wildlife, including deer and badgers. We use about half a ton a year and our winter supply arrived this week. The lumps are a reddish colour and look nothing like our table salt, but then they are unadulterated.

Septic tanks

A downside of living in the country is the need for septic tanks. Those installed when the farm buildings were converted into commercial units, after twenty-five years of use, are having to be replaced. This provides the opportunity to affect some rationalisation, and in particular separate the system for the business park from the farmhouse and land. Tenants have been alerted to the likely disruption and Sebastian has taken on the task of digging the necessary trenches, and a vast hole for the new tank to be buried in. While learning how to control the machine he is practicing on the bridle path – to the farm’s advantage!

This weeks reading

To turn to my reading for the week, ‘The Arabs’ is not a book to skim through. It is a history, but a history in the widest sense. It is fascinating to read a comprehensive account of the past 3000 years and I, for one, found the ancient history quite new to me. 

In terms of understanding the current situation certain matters stand out. 

The Arabs are not ‘one people’ ethnically or linguistically, though they are linked by religion – and, as with Christianity, divisions in belief and interpretation are a most divisive issue.

The current unrest in the Middle East is both a power and religious conflict. What the book makes no attempt to explore is the religion itself.

One common thread over all these centuries appears to be hostility between clans and tribes, usually resulting in war, and this seems an unchanged feature of the last 3000 years.  Another is the power of language and the apparent absence of any notion that truth has merit – shades of certain current politicians here and in America!

Over and above all this, there now seems to be a victim mentality fuelled by a refusal to look at the past in an overall way – to acknowledge both the good and the bad over past centuries. The result of this approach is it to blame everybody but oneself. Not of course that this is a problem solely of the Middle East – you only have to look at the strains in the United Kingdom and many European countries today.

All this despite periods where the Arab world has led the way in terms of architecture, science, mathematics, medicine and other aspects of culture, and times when it controlled one of the greatest empires in world history. These were periods of confidence, tolerance and openness to other’s ideas, now sadly, these attitudes seem gone.

As a digression, an historic divide between the British and Europeans was over the meaning of ‘freedom’. Freedom here for many centuries has related to matters physical, while on the continent it seems to have been more about what one was allowed to think.

This is a book written by a scholar who has lived in the Arab world for nearly three decades, is steeped in its world, and clearly has the greatest affection for it. Given what is happening in that part of the world today, perhaps our diplomats and leaders need to have it on their shelves as compulsory reading. 

Frankly I see no way forward for the world until the Arabs break out of the shackles of their own culture and imagined past. In that sense therefore, the story is deeply depressing. It all seems so bizarre that while here in Europe we were in the feudal period, the Arab world was a beacon of enlightenment, and now it seems they are stuck in a period akin to the European world in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Well the Proms are over now. How very fortunate we are in this country to have a national media service which among other things maintains a number of orchestras and every year provides us with seven weeks during which time the best bands in the world come to this country to play a vast range of classical, light, film and  world music. My only caveat is I wish that aside from the new composers they promote, they also turned to composers from the past who were in their time regarded as being in the same league as those we now revere. I write this as I listen to music by Michael Haydn, seen in his time as in the same class as his elder brother and Mozart, and only recently taken seriously again.

When our family moved to Bournemouth in 1953, for all its attractions, it was the fact that the public lending library was no more than three minutes’ walk away that was most exciting. Though at home my father actually had one room as a library, the truth was it contained very few children’s books, and those that it did had been read to us many times. So, though I was able to talk about Margaret Mead, Carter Dickson, Raymond Chandler, Simenon, English poetry and write simple messages in Egyptian hieroglyphics, a public library which had a large room devoted to books for children was fantastic. Moreover, the librarian actually loved reading, and children. Such a contrast to an experience much later in life when in a London Borough librarians’ went on strike because they had to work too hard.

And yet, as libraries shut all round us, I am aware how little I have done to fight against this, and feel guilty about this, since I am acutely aware of their importance in my early life. I am not going to attempt to defend my actions since of course, I know why this is. Not having the slightest interest in alcohol or gambling, together with an understanding wife and years spent outside the UK, I have both needed and could afford to buy my own books and to be able as the spirit moves me, to find the book I want on my own shelves exactly when I want it.

On Saturday the last professional cricket matches of the season took place. I feel a lament is needed, particularly since Worcestershire lost when the last ball of the last over was hit for four by an Essex tail ender, hence the poem below

Lines on a Cricket Match
by G. K. Chesterton
How was my spirit torn in twain 
When on the field arrayed 
My neighbours with my comrades strove, 
My town against my trade. 

And are the penmen players all? 
Did Shakespeare shine at cricket? 
And in what hour did Bunyan wait 
Like Christian at the wicket? 

When did domestic Dickens stand 
A fireside willow wielding? 
And playing cricket — on the hearth, 
And where was Henry Fielding? 

Is Kipling, as a flannelled fool, 
Or Belloc bowling guns, 
The name that he who runs may read 
By reading of his runs? 

Come all; our land hath laurels too, 
While round our beech-tree grows 
The shamrock of the exiled Burke 
Or Waller’s lovely rose. 

Who ever win or lose, our flags 
Of fun and honour furled, 
The glory of the game shall stand 
Stonewalling all the world, 

While those historic types survive 
For England to admire, 
Twin pillars of our storied past, 
The Burgess and the Squire.

Comments are closed.