Everything came together this week to allow the start of this season’s biodynamic activity. In the first place, the weather allowed the newly drilled fields to be sprayed with preparation 500. For this the tractor was used but for the gardens it was the hands of Anne and Fleurine that were sufficient.
The horns that were buried last autumn, having been lifted last week, were emptied and their contents carefully stored. Finally, all the team were engaged in making cpp – a new experience for Fleurine. So, in this her last week, she had a chance to actually experience BD in practice. Very sadly she left us on Saturday, and Jack will once again be on his own. We have been very fortunate that Jack continues to find life here so acceptable and then to have first, Sarah, and then Fleurine, each with us for four weeks, and fitting in so well to the rhyme of life on the farm. We are enormously grateful.
While the sheep have given us no grounds for concern – indeed we had the birth of another lamb – matters relating to the cattle have been less happy. Aside from a still born calf, there seems to be an eye problem affecting both a number of cattle and young stock. A problem serious enough for us to call the vet out and for her to apply medication. But to put it in context, as you can see from recent photos, stock seem very content.
Work on the fencing has gone apace. Some 1,000 metres now completed and looking very good. To do the work ourselves would have taken weeks – it just shows how much time is saved by having the right equipment. For the record, a local farmer of many years standing designed and had built it himself.
Our reseeded fields are greening nicely, but one field at least needs rolling again before we can risk putting cattle on it. The others now have been re-fenced so two of the three fields are now available for grazing, releasing the strain on other pastures necessary since we have to hold back some fields for hay or haulage.
One comment on our gardens, this does seem to be a splendid year for aquilegia and roses. Our aquilegia like the forget me nots and the love in the mist are entirely self-sown, but unlike the other plants the aquilegia hybridise very easily and so we have them in a large number of different colours from white to dark blue.
With the longer lighter evenings I have brought forward my evening dog walk to just before sunset and with the bridle path dry at the moment usually visit the barn. I am always struck by the thought of what a more conventional farmer might think of our practice / tidiness. The bridle path is lined with waist high nettles, grass and cow parsley – hopefully a haven for insects and other small creatures.
On Thursday evening my ears were assailed by, on the one side two ‘barking’ geese in a field and on the other by the noise of rooks settling down for the night. Coming to the field holding the young stock this sound poem was added to by the thudding of their feet as they rushed away unsettled by the sight of the dogs. Despite my hay fever induced running eyes and nose, it was a most enjoyable saunter.
While most of the May and horse chestnut blossom seen is white, the blossoms can come in other colours. Sadly, we have only one tree of each with red blossom. These do stand out and provide a welcome contrast on the farm to the regular white we see everywhere at this time. Writing about colours reminds me that on Friday we saw our first bullfinch on the farm. Looking back over sixty years the change in the bird species seen frequently has radically changed. The chaffinch and bullfinch were frequently seen, and the latter had a bad reputation for destroying fruit buds. The urge to burst into ‘Where have all the birds(flowers) gone was very strong.
The question as to whether or not to vote in the EU elections was perhaps the issue this week. Fifty years ago, I was very interested in the idea of proportional representative – the system used in many countries today. Events in Egypt and Turkey, and sadly attitudes recently in this country, highlight the dangers of what we have, the ‘first past the post’ system. Unless this approach is allied to the belief that whosoever wins it is understood that they are to represent the total electorate in their constituency; that when it comes to voting they should answer to their own conscience rather than the party machine. The last point is rather ‘pie in the sky’ I do realise! Mind you tribal voting seems to be less important than it used to be and the number of ‘swing constituencies’ is growing.
The notion of being fined if you do not vote – the Australian system as I understand it – somehow basically offends me. Compulsion is not an attractive attitude in that it feels stalinistic. Non votes can send as clear as message as actual votes and indeed undermine the legitimacy of the winning candidate.
With all the talk of the two major parties splitting, I returned to ‘The English and their history’ to remind myself of the origins and development of our system. The deposing of Charles I was obviously a key moment where the split between rival religious movements took root. Moving on, this in time translated into the split between the Whigs and the Tories, and historians played a major role in this process. David Hume firstly providing the philosophy of the Tory party and subsequently Macauley that for the Whigs. And it was Whiggish historians who ruled the roost till the coming of the Marxist approach to history which dominated for some seven decades. I think the balance between historians is more even now but different schools of thought still exist. We are also seeing once again historians brave enough to tackle the sweep of history and not merely specialise in one aspect or time.
As Tombs writes ‘No country and people have had their history more thoroughly explored, debated and retold by themselves and by others. This is one of the principal ways in which a culture perpetuates and renews itself’ This statement surely has to be accurate and I have always seen it as a strength not a weakness that we are able to confront the past from all angles as I made clear weeks ago on the value or otherwise of myths.
Tombs background is not in English history but instead in that of the French. Having read the book, it seemed to me to be very even handed and indeed to benefit from being written by a semi-outsider. Since there appeared no obvious clue as to which political axe he might be grinding I had to turn to Google. Interestingly he is and was a firm believer in Brexit – where that places him politically I have no idea!
It occurred to me having reminded myself of Robert Tombs background, that though I was very familiar with the individual symphonic works of many French composers, except for the piano works of Satie and Franck to which I often listen, I had never really tried to ‘get into’ the pianist works of the so- called impressionist French composers. Accordingly, it has been a week of Chabrier, Debussy and Ravel on the CD player, when time allowed. I have no great thoughts to share, Chabrier I found the easiest to listen to and he was the composer least disliked by other members of the family. I assume that is because he was the earliest of the trio and so his music was closest to earlier composers.
Our younger grandchildren celebrated the season recently by dancing round the Maypole, each holding a coloured ribbon and singing a song which I had assumed had disappeared into the past and took me back to North Denes Junior school many, many years ago. So, in the expectation this may have memories for many of you the lyrics are set out below – I hope you can hear the tune in your head as clearly as I can.
“Girls and boys come out to play
The moon does shine as bright as day
Leave your supper and leave your sleep
And join your playfellows in the street
Come with a whoop and come with a call
Come with a good will or not at all
Up the ladder and down the wall
A halfpenny roll will serve us all
You’ll find milk and I’ll find flour
And we’ll have a pudding in half an hour
Boys and girls come out to play
The moon does shine as bright as day
Leave your supper and leave your sleep
And join your playfellows in the street”