BLOG: our excellent vet reveals we have 20 cows in calf

BLOG: our excellent vet reveals we have 20 cows in calf

Last Wednesday there was a much activity in the barn, which was in contrast to what was otherwise a quiet week in winter on the farm.

After all of the activity we knew that: we had 20 cows in calf with only two empty which was very good news indeed; the youngest calves were given their first clostridial vaccination, and one older calf was transferred into the group of weaned youngsters. Blood and faecal samples were also taken just to check the animal are as healthy as they look, and also because our excellent vet cannot believe how we escape liverfluke! In fact at this time of year it is lice that are starting to be a problem. Despite our best efforts to eradicate the problem we have yet to succeed.

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The breeding flock of sheep look good. They are now on one of the big fields at the back of the farm which at its top has limestone close to the surface so remains drier than most fields. The remaining small flock of animals to be sold also look good.

We shall have to buy in more bedding straw and hay but at least there will be grass covered pastures at turn out, and plenty for our compost heaps!

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The storm that did so much damage in Europe and disrupted life in Scotland and northern England did here blow down one dying chestnut tree but no more. Given the amount of wood we burn that was quite helpful.

While from one point of view the thought of a mild week ahead is rather cheering, the farm could actually benefit from some hard frosts – but of course, there is still plenty of time for that yet.

A thought that has been exercising not just my mind, but also involved a lively lunchtime discussion, was how it could be that slavery was abolished in 1792 but it was not until the 1882 Married Women’s Property Act was introduced, that wives ceased to be technically slaves in that they were regarded as the property of their husbands.

All this talk was triggered perhaps by the daily revelations of behaviour by powerful men in all walks of life, but also because of acquiring a replacement copy of Olaudah Equiano’s ‘Narrative’ – you may better recognise him as Gustavus Vassa. First published in 1789 and later published by Penguin Books in 1995. The latest revised version seems to be from 2003.

On a more personal note I continue to work my way through Schubert’s string quartets.

It is still too early for me to form any conclusions, but in an attempt to find words to describe the differences from those of Haydn I turned to my book shelves:

  • From the ‘New Musical Companion’ dated 1970 I discovered a great deal about the history of this kind of music and that Haydn was the first to produce what today we call the string quartet. As for Schubert I learnt no more than he was the first ‘romantic’ composer of the string quartet.
  • Frustrated, I turned to my collection of Pelican paperbacks which the back cover blurb said were written for: “Students who think about music and do not just approach music sensuously as one might a hot bath or a pipe of tobacco”. The book on Chamber Music was beyond me. If I gathered anything it was that only Schubert’s last four quartets were of good quality and that ‘The death of the maiden’ was not technically as competent as his last!

I can sight read music reasonably well and play it on the piano, but I completely lack the ability to hear the music unless I play it. In truth I am a listener not a performer, with an ear for what is right and what is wrong but no more, and like a child, enjoy harmony more than dissonance unless the dissonance adds value. So I have a ‘glue ear’ to most modern music which appears to have rejected notions of harmony and the value of a tune. The series of books incidentally, for those who have not yet guessed, dates from 1950.

Which allows me to end by saying if the achievements of Sir Allan Lane were not of the same order as those of Caxton, we nonetheless owe an enormous cultural debt to his Penguin imprint which, from 1936, brought, through cheap paperbacks, an amazing range of literature and thinking to us, the ordinary reader.

To misquote a famous poet of the past, this weekend’s rain has resulted in: “puddle, puddles everywhere and not a dry spot anywhere”, so, thinking back to our weather plea earlier, perhaps the song below will bring the change of weather we need:

A Warwickshire winter circa the 1590’s as expressed in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act V, Scene 2 [Winter]

When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp’d and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw
And birds sit brooding in the snow
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

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