The farm is so very wet, the heavens so grey, and the fields, though now well grassed, are puddled wherever a vehicle has passed – hardly surprising since it appears here in Worcestershire we had double the amount of rain in March normally experienced. The wood is lush with growth but the furrows dating back to enclosure, perhaps 600 years ago, are filled with water. If it weren’t for the new life now starting to surround us it would be easy to feel rather dismal.
On the 12th of this month, two days later than anticipated our first lambs appeared and by that time the right-hand side of the barn was cleared of the young cattle and litter, and ready for them. Chris and Tim have support from Beatriz, very important since this year an orphanage seems inevitable and, in the coming days we are fortunate to have other volunteers arriving to help, including Katja who has just finished lambing a flock of 450 ewes!
The young cattle, when let out into a field, rather disappointed the spectators, in that they showed none of the normal antics which celebrate release. Instead decorum seemed to be the order of the day. It was either that, or they were objecting to the rain that was falling on that first day and then continued to fall through their first week without a barn over their heads!
The main herd will go out on Monday come what may. Driving some fifty animals ranging in age from four months to twelve years from one side of the farm to the other, through three fields, is not convenient, but preferable to taking the easier route which is through the Business Park. With the suckler herd gone from the barn, more space will be available to be used when lambing gets fully into action.
The organic market for beef seems to have come to life again. At the risk of seeming too conventional I have to say selling another two or three steers will certainly help our finances.
I am very happy to record that our submission for entry into the Higher Tier Stewardship scheme was completed and submitted in good time. The task in completing the forms compared to that facing farmers in 2008, when we joined the earlier scheme, was stark. Now all is computerised, and heaven help the poor farmer who is not fully computer competent.
One of the interesting issues, but perhaps typical of the modern world, was the way in which two parts of the system work against each other. New maps derived from satellite pictures insist we have 36 ‘parcels’ of land, as against the 19 we thought we had. In part this is because where the mappers saw clumps of trees or scrub they were regarded as not part of an existing field… So, the reality is, that by doing this it reduces the basic farm grant, even though the government is urging farmers to leave areas such as this uncultivated for environmental reasons.
All in all, despite the wet, this was not a bad week, and, with other highlights! The first swallow of the year has been seen, the lapwings heard, and I actually saw a gold crest on the larch tree. The blackthorn blossom on the farm, though at least four weeks later than usual, is now in flower, as are our goat willows and, though the daffodils are all but over, the violets and primroses continue to bloom and are seemingly overnight now joined by grape hyacinth. I recorded the first sighting of a bumble bee some time ago, I can now report the activity of masonry bees has started. For about a month they cause some concern to those disliking insects, and then they seem to go again. Old buildings seem to be the what most attracts them, and we have plenty of those!
After several sessions listening to some of Schubert’s choral work I was attracted to a recently issued CD entitled ‘Silent Masses’ containing a mass from Frank Martin, and choral works by Jan Martineau. Both of these composers I have tended to shy away from; Martin possibly because he is, rightly or wrongly, associated in my mind with 12 tone composition, and Martineau because works by his contemporaries have never pleased my ears. Well, I was ‘blown away’, though my supposedly hi-tech headphones struggled to cope with some of the high-pitched crescendos. Pieces I will certainly listen to many times and, to be frank, more moving than the pieces I had been listening to by Schubert.
It’s been a good week for radio. Early in the week John Gray speculated on the future of liberal democracy. Part of his argument was the way in which the vote could and does promote dictatorships, and another was the way in which a country such as China showed economic prosperity despite the absence of freedom for its people. From this came the most challenging proposition to consider which was, whether universally, freedom actually mattered more than economic well-being and security to the majority of citizens.
The programme ‘The Long journey’ was fascinating in a different way. The programme suggested that parallels could be drawn between the way in which the Catholic Church had to manage the position after Luther posted his 95 Theses, and the travails Facebook is currently undergoing. Whether Mark Zuckerberg can respond as well as Rome did in the Counter Revolution is yet to be seen!
Listening to the programme ‘Soul music’, my memory instantly allowed me to ‘hum’ along. What it did not do was tell me the name of the singer or the song. Sadly, in my case, this is usually the case whether listening to classical or popular music. There are certain singers whose voices are instantly recognisable, and I can name them, just as certain classical pieces can be at once associated with a particular composer.
Memory remains as much of a mystery to me as does learning. My mind does both but how, I know not, despite every effort to fathom the matters. All rather shocking in a way because, as an ‘educator’ for so many years I surely ought to know. Of course, I know the literature, and could in the vast majority of instances recognise the appropriate approach for any particular student, but to be honest that was more a matter of trial and error and, dare I say it, intuition.
The forecast for the week ahead suggests warmth but little in the way of sunshine. Below is one desperate view translated from the Icelandic
The Farmer In Wet Weather – Poem by Jonas Hallgrimsson
Goddess of drizzle,
driving your big
cartloads of mist
across my fields!
Send me some sun
and I’ll sacrifice
my cow — my wife —
And on Saturday the sun shone, fitfully and hazily but it was the sun and I have no intention of sacrificing Anne!