Blog: a triumphant week on the farm!

In many ways, this last week has been a triumphant week on the farm. Our Soil Association inspection went well, and while done very thoroughly, was also a very good-humoured affair.
Our anxieties about the dire shortage of hay and straw were eventually laid to rest though at a cost!
Another new calf
All our animals seem well and happy, if, in the case of the cattle, too fat, and we have another new calf. So already we have had two out of the hoped for twenty – a heifer and a bull calf. We have hopefully sold another couple of steers which will go some way to pay for the extra straw we have had to buy in.
Fields too wet to move the cattle out
Lambing is not far off – we had hoped to move the cattle out of the barn this week, but we have had so much rain that even though the grass is starting to grow, the fields are far too wet to carry 600kg animals on.
A surprising iodine deficiency
A second call from our vet on Saturday evening wobbled us slightly. The first was very positive about the last sequence of tests that had been carried out on our sheep. The second however was to say “… but, the ewes are showing a significantly low level of iodine and this needs urgent attention on Monday morning.” This has to be because the haylage they have been eating recently, for some unknown reason, was deficient in iodine. The other regular problems such as cobalt, selenium and copper are not an issue currently. As I have often said – hey ho, that’s a farmer’s life for you!
NFU officer visits
We had an unexpected visit from a local NFU officer who had to cope with a litany of complaints from us – not that his colleagues hadn’t heard them before – but that let off quite a bit of steam!
Next week we have a meeting to talk about the Stewardship scheme. At latest count, there are 368 pages of tightly written prose to be digested by Wednesday.
Birds signal spring is definitely on the way

Equally positively, despite the blast from the past or, if you prefer, the mini beast from the east, spring is definitely on the way. Leaving aside the seven ducks that sat in one of the puddles by the drive, the lapwing are nesting, as are a mass of other birds including sadly, jackdaws, Wood pigeons and Canada geese. So far, no fawns have been seen but adult deer are clearly with us, as are the brown hares.

Music and memories

Music has not been high on my agenda this week though I have returned to Vorisek, this time his works for piano. Sadly, to my ear at least, they seemed rather ordinary and not at the same level as his Kyrie. What I do intend to listen to next week is Bliss’s oratorio ‘The Beatitudes’ which I am not at all familiar with.
Smell or smells linger long in the memory. On Wednesday I was suddenly taken back to being a small boy standing at the end of the short cross runway at Hurn airport as BOAC pilots practised take offs and landings of the new Comet 1’s and the overwhelming smell of burning kerosene – rather a come down to realise it was but the annual check of our very ancient oil burning AGA.

Glass ceilings

I have recently bene sharing poems that reflected my own family background. The divide between working on the land and working at sea was for those who lived near the coast not ‘absolute’. With family roots in Cornwall and Suffolk some ancestors were at different times both fishermen and farm labourers; some went on to be ship officers and captains, others to be farmers, others ended their days in the poorhouses.
Social mobility, either up or down, was always a factor of life. Glass ceilings no doubt always existed, but only really stood out during that period when, for a very small minority of society, probably resulting from fear, ‘breeding’ mattered a great deal. And later of course, alongside gender and ethnicity. Sadly, glass ceilings still exist of course, related still to gender, and more and more related to education – with the idea of a vocational skill being regarded as inferior to a degree.
John Clare was the born into a farm labourer’s family and his poetry is rooted in that world. A great favourite of mine, his poem “The Cottager” is too long to share in its entirety but is recommended to you. It speaks of a world not that long gone; not nostalgic, but throwing a perhaps rosy light on the life of those, who until industrialisation, were a significant part of village life and could easily be describing one of my long gone Suffolk ancestors whose gravestones can be found in a small area of that county close to the sea and underlining both the essential conservatism (with a small c) of much of the British population and the staggering change in the world that has taken place.

The Cottager by John Clare

“True as the church clock hand the hour pursues
He plods about his toils and reads the news,
And at the blacksmith’s shop his hour will stand
To talk of ‘Lunun’ as a foreign land.
For from his cottage door in peace or strife
He neer went fifty miles in all his life.
His knowledge with old notions still combined
Is twenty years behind the march of mind.
He views new knowledge with suspicious eyes
And thinks it blasphemy to be so wise…

His Bible first in place; from worth and age
Whose grandsire’s name adorns the title page,
And blank leaves once, now filled with kindred claims,
Display a world’s epitome of names.
Parents and children and grandchildren all
Memory’s affections in the lists recall.
And prayer-book next, much worn though strongly bound,
Proves him a churchman orthodox and sound.
The ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ and the ‘Death of Abel’
Are seldom missing from his Sunday table…”

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