Bottle feeding continues

“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”

Driving into Birmingham this Tuesday morning, it was hard not to think that we were in High Summer, edging into early autumn. Fields were brown, and many trees were moving into that Grey-Green phase of colour. Obviously, an absurd thought, though the longest day has past, and we are still in June. From this you will understand that like much of England we have had mostly bright warm, even hot, days. Hopefully rain will come next week but given the fallibility of weather forecasters it is impossible to conjure up much belief.  

I do not see how I can make no comment on the recent momentous decisions in America. Moreover, I do not even have to refer to the actual issues. What I can say is, what society can live with a justice system that reflects, not accumulated wisdom, and stands independent of the political world, but whose judges are determined by political intrigue, and make decisions on the basis of what powerful men determined ‘should be’ in a constitution that was thereafter sacrosanct, though written two hundred and fifty years ago. What an absolute perversion of the notion of a liberal democracy.  

The Farm 

Faced with the threat of hay fever and a minor physical adventure I confess that I have not been round the farm this week, and with no Alice to brief me every afternoon I am very poorly placed to personally comment on the state of the stock, other than to say I hear all seems well. Tim of course continues daily to walk through both the two cattle herds and the sheep flock and indicate when animals need to be moved on.  

Fedding time!

The orphan calf continues to be bottle fed and is making growth. She and the three rams seem to continue to bond and are normally to be found huddled together. The suckler herd, having strip grazed field 4 are now located in field A. That means a long drive when it comes to the follow up six week all herd TB test which is set for the 12th and 15th of July. 

On Thursday, as one part of government caught up with another, I received a letter reminding me of the dangers of zoonotic diseases – in this instance TB to staff. The most frightening of all these diseases is without doubt rabies, but in this country the main diseases to avoid are bovine TB and Orf, but to put the ‘dangers’ in perspective, cat scratches are a much greater hazard.  

The main section of the barn has now been cleared as the rather sad IR’s have been found a new home. These clearings from the barn went onto field 2 as the heap in field 5 needs time to ‘make’. Otherwise, activity has been limited to getting tyres mended and tidying up. Yannick joins us next week, and I suspect one of his first tasks will be to get into action with the strimmer and attack the nettles in both the Triangle and Ram’s field. 

‘Just me having an explore’

The 16th of July sees two events taking place. The annual General meeting of the Society and the Inkberrow Horse Show – the latter being very much a local get together. This will be the second time it has been held here following last year’s success. While I am unlikely to attend the Horse Show since horses do not attract me, nor I them, I do aim to attend the AGM if only as a spectator.  

The early Christian church 

I am well aware just how much there is to comment on but am determined to continue to explore the early years of the Christian Church. The discrepancies between the Gospel of St John, and the other gospels are hardly unknown, but generally glossed over in the belief that John had a unique contribution to make. The Dag Hammadi discoveries and the new light thrown by the discovery of the gospel St Thomas, together with the greater knowledge we have now have of the ins and outs of the process of ‘when and by whom’ being a Christian was determined, has become much clearer.  

The great gnostic thinkers of the second century directly challenged the thinking of many of the Christian communities, and there were many of these. These communities were strung out along much of the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and each was led by a powerful Bishop, and in that, there were many differences in practices, rituals and belief. Each to a degree reflecting the community from which they sprang though in doubt influenced by ideas from another group. 

This lack of conformity puzzled the Romans and was a major source of concern to those that ‘knew’ the truth. To go further, it is necessary to name some key figures: 

The hero or villain of the piece was Irenaeus Bishop of Lyons, the most powerful figure in the church communities of southern Europe. It was he who recognised a need for pulling together of the various strands of thought that were emanating from the various ‘Christian’ communities. After the direct influence of the first generation of apostles, that is between 80 and 150AD, a number of theosophical sects developed, and in particular the ideas coming from Corinth and Colossae challenged more straight forward ideas and looked for ‘higher meanings’ understandable to a few.  Leaders from this world as I have written before, were Simon Magus, Valentius and Marcion. 

The key problem for the conventional believers was determining whose words represented authority. Ignatius of Antioch insisted the local Bishop had a determining role, later Clement set in place the notion of apostolic succession, and finally the general acceptance of the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke enabled Irenaeus to claim what was to become the generally accepted version of the truth.  

Earlier I referred to two books of the 1920’s which set out why the ‘canon’ was the only true set of writings for Christians. I did so as much as anything else to show how thinking was for centuries. Apocryphal writings were dismissed because “they did not achieve either of the two principal purposes for which they were written, the instilling of true religion and the conveyance of true history.”   

Rather says it all.  

In an attempt to be fair, it is true that no one believed or wanted to believe more knowledge would turn up, or that it might be as challenging as it proved to be. To what extent the contents of the Dag Hammadi ‘find’ disturb these long-held opinions, I will explore next time with my thoughts much affected by the writings of Elaine Pagels and the scholarship of groups in France and Germany.  

Malthus & rational behaviour

In my youth, the views of Malthus, first expressed in 1798, were regarded as laughable. The thought that the growing population of the world might strain the resources of the world to produce enough food, and lead to falling living standards if not worse, was seen to ignore the inevitable development of agriculture, and hence food supplies boosted by developing technologies, both mechanical and chemical.  

These days, that certainty that Malthus was wrong, is no longer so secure.  

It might still have a vestige of truth if we imagined rational behaviour to be the norm in all parts of the world. It might still be true if in rich countries a high proportion of bought food were not thrown away; it might be true if we accepted restrictions on what we eat, and generally it might be true if climate change was not happening. All this may have some hope in it, but even if the totality of food available was still sufficient, ensuring the adequacy of its distribution is a different matter. But above all, realisation is now dawning that technology may get us to the moon, but, except in wild dreams, how is that going to help feed the starving peoples of the world today.  

Talk of famine possibly having something to do with over population is only now daring to be once again considered. Given humankind’s certainty of undefeatability, it would at one level almost be humorous if we were to fall flat on our faces because, actually, we do not control nature or its forces. Overconfidence as so common could be our downfall.   

What Malthus had going for him, in terms of Europe certainly, was awareness that famine had threatened human lifetime after time in the history of England and Europe, whether through too much or too little rain, too much heat or too much cold, or any permutation of these factors and through disease. We, of course, these days see famine as a problem that afflicts others, and not us, but how long can we hang on to that thought.  

There is a poem by Philip Larkin about what parents do to their children – that poem might just as well be directed at humans and what they have done to this planet.  

Historically nature helped to keep population in balance, probably still would if medicine had stayed as ignorant as it was in 1798. I think we have here a situation that has no palatable solution.   

Accents, Arlott & Basingstoke

At my age, one of the minor amusements is reading how ground-breaking scientists ‘rediscover’ obvious truths identified by similar groups years before. In this case it was the finding that people with northern accents may find that accent prejudices their hopes of promotion. People have such short memories. Not that many years ago it was decried that regional accents should have the same, if not more respect, than the boring speech of people like myself, otherwise known as ‘standard received pronunciation’.  

I was charmed by a nonstandard accent listening to Dylan Thomas reading one of his poems last week, which reminded me of how English, rather surprisingly, can sound attractive. Two other such voices came to mind, the lead actor on the television series ‘Shetland’ and, given that in recent days cricket has held much of my attention, the voice of John Arlott. A man proud to come from Basingstoke, a supreme cricket commentator, once it seems a policeman, a connoisseur of wine, and hence a friend of Ian Botham, the anti-racist who brought Basil D’Oliveira to England from apartheid South Africa, a writer and the poet who I have turned to this week.  

Out of curiosity, and as one who had always seen Basingstoke as no more than a town to pass though on my way north, I looked up its history and understood why I had that feeling. The town was ruined, not directly by the Second World War, but by its aftermath when the town was designated as an ‘overspill’ location and the size of the population multiplied by ten. All rather sad since the history of the settlement goes back 3,000 years, and the name commemorates a tribe called the Basinga, that settled there in the Iron Age. No wonder Arlott had fond memories of the small pre-war market town.  

To be a supporter of any English cricket team demands a great deal from one, but recently performances by Bairstow, Butler and Stokes merit the words below from John Arlott

On a great batsman 

As the gull conceals in easeful glide  
The inborn gift to curb and ride  
The gale – merging the sea- wind’s force  
With lovely movement on a chosen course,  
So, in timed swoop, he moves to charm  
The ball down-swirling from the bowler’s arm  
Along some glissade of his own creation,  
Beyond the figure’s Black and white rotation,  
Recorded centuries leave no trace  
On memory of that timeless grace.

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