‘It’s daffodils time’ – a phrase which I felt just had to be used – with its undertones of the film ‘The Producers’ from Mel Brooks, and the song ‘Tulips from Amsterdam’!
As a result of the weather we have had, and there was still snow on the ground on Thursday, the cattle remain in the barn – no doubt getting even fatter! We had hoped to put them out two weeks ago. With more rain forecast in the next few days it is impossible to predict when the pastures will be dry enough.
This has been a very expensive and difficult ‘spring’ for farmers. These past weeks have been so wet that much more straw has been required than normal and it’s not just that the price per ton has doubled, finding any to buy, and this applies to hay as well, has been very difficult. All in all, I judge our spending on straw and hay this year will be double the amount we spent last year, and we are still to start serious lambing! As you will be aware, profit margins for stock farmers are very thin in normal times. Unless the price of British lamb this summer and autumn is higher than last year even more farmers will either give up or become more indebted.
But real spring, and I now know there are three possible dates from which spring can be said to have started, surely can’t be that far away. Aside from the daffodils, the primroses and the blossom on the Mirabelle plums, I saw my first bumble bee of the year on Wednesday.
The ewes, aside from getting hard feed daily, were on Monday, given a drench to boost their iodine levels. Lambing for the breeding flock is now getting ever closer though hopefully not starting before the tenth of April.
Our meeting to discuss entry onto the new Stewardship scheme had to be postponed last week. Fortunately, it could be re-diarised for next week, and to be honest that has been really helpful as not only have I been able to read and digest the mountain of paperwork but also to sift out the options that look most suitable for us. Hearing this morning that our new blue passports were to be printed on the continent because of EU tendering rules – totally ignored by France in terms of their passports – it was perhaps no surprise to be told that DEFRA now require farmers to declare whether or not they dock lamb’s tails or castrate male animals. If our civil servants can find a way to generate more paperwork it seems they just cannot resist.
Beatriz had been experiencing yet another new activity. She has been sowing vegetable seeds and planting out onion sets and garlic cloves, and is now chief bottle feeder to five unexpected lambs which have arrived early! Our English sessions continue, and Bea is doing very well. Before working with Bea, I had absolutely no idea how different our two languages are in terms of the sounds we use, but we continue to both laugh a lot and, as I said before, make progress. I must also thank Bea for the splendid photos this week.
Sadly, most if not all, the horse chestnuts lining the drive have the dreaded ‘canker’ which is slowly killing conker trees all over the country. Much though we hate to do, it we have started felling the worst affected because of the risk they pose to vehicles using the drive. We have started discussing what we should replace them with.
Jung gave us the word ‘synchronicity’ and this week I experienced a splendid example of this. I am reading Jon Sopel’s recent book ‘If only they didn’t speak English’. On the Thursday edition of ‘In our time’ there was a discussion of de Tocqueville’s experience when he visited America in 1831. Two comments stood out, these were firstly that a major strand of thinking in Europe at that time was that the civilisation developing in America was so different from those in Europe nothing could be learned from it. The point so eloquently made by Sopel in his book is that we delude ourselves if we imagine Americans either think like us or have a society similar to ours.
Secondly, while de Tocqueville saw much to admire, he was deeply worried by the differences between the European notion of what being a Republic meant. He was staggered by the universally accepted attitudes of self-interest and material concern and the commonality of thinking and felt that as a consequence there was a strong possibility at some time in the future of a despotic and self-interested individual being elected as a President. Well it’s taken some 170 years to happen but now…
I am not ready to express a view on ‘The Beatitudes’ but I would like to say that anyone who didn’t watch the recent series ‘Shetland’ missed out on great television. It’s bound to come out on DVD soon or via streaming – don’t miss it!
The weather reports for the week ahead do not fill us with happiness, but perhaps the forecasters are mistaken and the rain and ‘beast from the east mark 3’ will not throw themselves down upon us after all. We can but hope! If I might borrow the Gardener’s World famous programme end-line… Whatever the weather, happy Easter weekend to you all!
Finally, as it was World Poetry Day on the 21st March, I am going to ‘inflict’ two poems on you. Enjoy!
Winter ‘The Huntsman’: Osbert Sitwell
Through his iron glades
Rides Winter the Huntsman,
All colour fades
As his horn is heard sighing.
Far through the forest
His wild hooves crash and thunder,
Till many a mighty branch
Is torn asunder.
And the red reynard creeps
To his hole near the river,
The copper leaves fall
And the bare trees shiver.
As night creeps from the ground,
Hides each tree from its brother,
And each dying sound
Reveals yet another.
Is it Winter the Huntsman
Who gallops through his iron glades,
Cracking his cruel whip
To the gathering shades?
A March Day: William Wordsworth
The cock is crowing,
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,
The lake doth glitter
The green field sleeps in the sun;
The oldest and youngest
Are at work with the strongest;
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
There are forty feeding like one!
Like an army defeated
The snow hath retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the bare hill;
The plowboy is whooping- anon-anon:
There’s joy in the mountains;
There’s life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing,
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!