One might call this weather ridiculous, but it has been very welcome! We have seen the sun, and a drying wind has meant good grass growth and firmer ground. No doubt next week will be more normal… but this week’s warmth means that at last, spring has finally sprung. The hedgerows are white with blossom, dandelions are in bloom in all the road verges and the fruit trees are nearly at bud burst. We have heard our first cuckoo of the year, the noise of woodpeckers pecking and seen our first butterflies. The geese continue to fly over every morning just before 7.00am and then return in the early evening – their flight unmissable as they rather loudly honk to each other. The sudden activity by ants must surely mean we see green woodpeckers return to our garden.
Lambing has naturally dominated farm activities this week. As usual a slow start has been followed by considerable activity with perhaps nearly half of the flock having now given birth. Indeed, from Friday to Sunday some 50 ewes or a third of the flock lambed. There have been some fatalities and a number of prolapses but overall, so far so good! A set of quads are doing well as are several sets of triplets. Fostering has gone so well that the orphanage set up in our large poly tunnel is still not in use – all good news! Beatriz continues to be chief bottle feeder and at the end of the week we were grateful for the time of two more volunteers, Belinda and Nicki.
This year for the first time I have had to rely entirely on the reports from others – Chris in particular. I hear him setting out at all hours – day and night – often not returning for several hours at a time. It is most frustrating not to be alongside him for some of those journeys I assure you!
On Monday, the suckler herd went out onto a pasture. The twins continue to do well. In a game of cow twister, twelve youngsters from the suckler herd joined the herd of young stock, while three heifers from the young stock were old enough to move into the suckler herd, and the two eldest steers left us on Wednesday. Next week both herds will need to be put onto fresh grass, happily, for a change, while lambing continues, this is not an issue with the sheep.
One of our environmental aims in setting up the farm was to work to make the farm more hospitable to birds whose population numbers were in decline. To a degree we have been successful but supporting the continued breeding of ground nesting birds is proving more difficult. We can manage our farming practice, but not the weather, however a problem even greater is the expansion in numbers of predators.
For us this means foxes, badgers, crows, ravens and raptors and here we have to face up to a clash of moral imperatives. Ravens are beautiful to watch soaring over the welsh mountains, but they are a threat not just to ewes and lambs but also ground nesting birds. Raptors can pose a problem to small birds but some, like the pair of buzzards we have on the farm, do help keep down the rabbit population. Foxes are a real problem, they have no natural enemies other than the motor car and disease. Added to natural increases in numbers related to climate change, are the numbers of captured ‘urban foxes’ dumped on us by ‘kind hearted’ organisations and individuals. Badgers may be cute but leaving aside the issue of TB and that they can predate lambs, they, with foxes are to a significant degree responsible for the decline in the hedgehog population. Crows may be smart, but they really are vermin! On ‘managed land’, maintaining the natural balance between predators and their prey is a challenge, made all the more emotionally difficult when the prey is cute and new born. Richard Jefferies, the great Victorian writer essayist and novelist on nature, (see for example his books ‘Round about a great estate’ and ‘Field and Hedgerow’) are worth reading for all interested in nature.
My attempts at self-education continue. I am currently struggling to grasp the ideas of a German philosopher/psychologist/mythologist and polymath. Leaving aside my need to refer to the dictionary rather more frequently than I am accustomed to, I am also faced with the need to attempt to bring back from the memory what might be there relating to Homer, Plato and Aristotle.
I observe without comment that today’s English philosophers are easier to follow. However, I do need to say that the book I am reading is a translation and I do know translating German philosophers in particular – think of Nietzsche! – is not easy. I preserver because I believe the author may be making the case that our beliefs in the virtue of ‘liberal democracy’ are misguided, or at least out dated, and this is undoubtedly a view also being considered in the English-speaking world.
We had a power cut on Wednesday morning – an event which usually seems only to take place at night. “So what” you might say? but what an opportunity to realise how quiet the world can be, or put it another way how high is the everyday level of ‘white noise’ pollution caused by consumption of electricity. As the cut continued, I was also reminded how dependent we all now are on it, and how rarely we acknowledge this. It made me reminisce on our time in Africa without electricity, and what an issue it must be when you lose power for any length of time and have no experience of life without main grid electricity.
But even then, how blessed we are, despite all we complain about, to be living in a country like ours and at this time. So often I feel we have lost all notion of perspective. How fortunate we are to get agitated about matters which, if we lived in Syria as a refugee would perhaps seem rather trivial. As someone once said – shouldn’t we spend some time every day giving thanks to whatever deity we do or do not believe in for what we do have.
Early Spring – Poem by Rainer Maria Rilke
Harshness vanished. A sudden softness
has replaced the meadows’ wintry grey.
Little rivulets of water changed
their singing accents. Tenderness’s,
hesitantly, reach toward the earth
from space, and country lanes are showing
these unexpected subtle risings
that find expression in the empty trees.
And finally, I can’t resist this piece by Rupert Brooke – two mild puzzles: ‘frore’ is almost certainly an archaic word for frozen, ‘puts forth’ perhaps means puts away?
Song – Poem by Rupert Brooke
ALL suddenly the wind comes soft,
And Spring is here again;
And the hawthorn quickens with buds of green,
And my heart with buds of pain.
My heart all Winter lay so numb,
The earth so dead and frore,
That I never thought the Spring would come,
Or my heart wake any more.
But Winter’s broken and earth has woken,
And the small birds cry again;
And the hawthorn hedge puts forth its buds,
And my heart puts forth its pain.