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

I have not been a member of any political party, so am ill placed to comment on what motivates individuals to become members of such, let alone the membership of the Conservative Party, but I am aware its numbers are less than 200,000, and that on a large poll, 75% of its membership thought B Johnson a first-rate chap and Prime Minister.  

More significantly, I am aware that this privileged group of 160,000 will chose our next PM.  

Given the vast range of crisis facing this country, what does it tell us, given that in the initial stages, both candidates saw immigration as the key problem to be resolved. Now the debate has moved onto economics, and who went to which type of school. Who can guess what the next issue might be around, heavy metal or Cliff Richard? Does it even matter when it seems that large numbers will vote for a third candidate not on the ballot papers – Boris Johnson!  

I can only assume ‘cloud cuckoo land’ will continue as strong as ever. Farce once was restricted to characters like Brian Rix dropping his trousers on stage, and that was the appropriate place for such activities. Now in the form of popularism it dominates politics.  

Enough, or Chris will be ‘chuntering’ at me! 

Sky reclining!

Farm News

Without doubt, the rain we have had in recent days has made the farm a greener world, and the lower temperatures experienced have suited both animals and the humans.  

In many ways the key event of this week has been the departure of Yannik. His time with us has flown by and his going is deplored by us all. But his departure, following on from that of Alice, leaves a gaping hole in our lives. They both contributed enormously physically and socially, and with Chris and family taking an actual holiday in Zimbabwe in the coming weeks, our world will seem very bare. The burden of farm and Ulula will fall on a very much reduced number of shoulders.  

At least the very hot weather seemed to not discommode our stock. A concentration on pulling ragwort has made it possible to place the suckler herd on to a field once out of bounds. The young stock are no longer in the barn after being given eye treatment. The sheep are on a run of fields and look to be doing well.  

Out of the blue it seems we had rain both on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Not tropical or flood inducing but good soaking rain.  

For the farm then, all is seemingly well, but trouble might mean Tim needs help, flystrike is always a possibility, and in any case, nothing is ever certain in farming. At least the feed and bedding for the winter is all in, and we are now so much more part of the local farming community and able to seek help.  

On Saturday, Alice and I went round the farm to look at the pastures first hand, and apart from one moment of idiocy on my part, it was well worth the effort. A delight to find we still have green fields, even if they are a minority. Plenty of grazing available, and a great deal of evidence that the fields resown under G8 of the Stewardship Grant are delivering that mix of grasses and plants that were hoped for.  

Yellow trefoil growing vigorously and even chicory to be seen. 

It is also necessary to admit we saw thistles, both in flower and seed. Docks had all reached the seed setting stage, while the burdock was not quite there yet. A paradise for small birds and seed eaters, but not quite the picture farmers as a generality hope to see.  

In at least three fields the growth is at least a foot high, and all containing several varieties of grasses in them. Some are already seed setting, others not yet at that stage. The choice appears to lie between grazing, topping or fogging. In those of these fields where animals are at present, in one case sheep and the other, cattle, their behaviour suggested that the sooner they were moved out the better the happier they would be.  

Despite the rain at the start of the week, ditches are dry and the ground, as I can personally confirm very hard.  

Nevertheless, hedges still look good, and no trees showed signs of distress. Perhaps, apart from the ditches, the most obvious signs of the lack of rain are to be seen in the state of the sloes and blackberries. 

On Wednesday evening Paul realised that there was some kind of issue around the flow form and found he had to rescue four ‘bundles of fluff’, a second brood of chicks for our resident moorhens!  

I expect you have noticed that at long last the government appears to now understand that drought is likely to be a problem for farmers as well as the general public, and of course the industries which consume vast amounts of water.  

According to the Met. Office, this region has had only 16% of the average rainfall for July, and this follows months when the rainfall has been nowhere near the amounts normally expected. I think we have to accept that ‘normal’ is no longer a meaningful concept.  

The question is, what can we do? Grass needs water, but the higher the amount of organic material, the less rainfall it can manage on. Cattle need water but so far, we have resisted thought of taking water from the stream. Perhaps we could construct another scrape, but evaporation in hot weather means great loss of water.  

Disturbing the ground does bring water up, and that may have been a gardeners solution in ‘normal’ times, but for farms it goes against current thinking on good practice in so many ways. The only ways that I can see for the future include concentrating on stock that can cope with rougher and less nutritious grass varieties, and perhaps reducing the total numbers. I hasten to say that so far we are not in trouble, in part at least, because of our concentration on biodynamic approaches but…..  

In a way tied to this discussion, is the issue of whether to top or not to top. Topping is a routine activity which we are as guilty of as anybody. The question rarely asked is why. Is it to encourage new growth, to deal with docks, nettles or creeping thistles, or in the interests of tidiness? Recently of course, concern about the use of diesel has perhaps come into play. ‘Fogging’ was once a normal approach and that meant leaving pastures uncut with the view that this would protect new growth to be available in the spring. Given it is known that cattle may eat creeping thistles; that sheep will eat both docks and nettles, uncertainty creeps into yet another aspect of farming, particularly since insects, including butterflies and birds benefit from their existence.  

Farming Biodynamically: 

My shared thought last week was that in order to farm biodynamically, we must ‘get to know’ our fields. 

This week I was thinking through the statement that “All life can be found in a compost heap.” 

This is true in so many ways, one of which is that each and every stage of decay has own particular task; as the right conditions appear, a new life form appears. 

While these thoughts were percolating, the death was announced of James Lovelock, of whom I wrote last time. He was 102!  His last book, ‘Gaia ‘s Revenge’, was published not so long ago. He was someone to admire for his incredible integrity, knowledge and understanding.  

I believe it was he who persuaded Margaret Thatcher to take seriously the problems associated with the hole in the ozone layer, which she & Reagan then went onto successfully resolve for the world. Well, she had taken a science degree and understood what he was saying I suppose!  

The right conditions appeared so that Lovelock was heard, and solutions were sought and implemented. 

Would that those in power now had such ability to listen, understand and then grasp the nettle…  

Patronage and other thoughts

Some time ago I referred to humans often disastrous urge to see causal links where none exist. Sadly, if inevitably, we also miss links – think of the misreading of Putin. On a much more trivial matter, reading the programme notes attached to a CD, I realised what should have been obvious to me.  

Patronage is why there were so many classical European composers. Emilie Mayer, a major female composer of the mid-19th century, was able, following an inheritance from her father, to compose without the need of a patron. What a lot we owe to the huge number of minor states in Europe, each with their own Prince or Duke who saw his status enforced by maintaining an orchestra. How different life was in the United Kingdom where status rested on quite different matters, and power rested in the centre rather than in such a scattered way.  

Wilms of course lacked both a patron and money, and settled in Amsterdam where musical taste was probably closest to London than Vienna – hence his compositions falling out of favour even in his lifetime  

I enjoyed a radio programme on the 18th dynasty in ancient Egypt. Social customs then were rather different, particularly for the imperial leadership, and beliefs were undoubtedly what Christian missionaries of the 19th century would have regarded as pagan. What gave added piquancy to me was that it brought back powerful memories of the Velikovsky controversy of the 20th century. Emmanuel Velikovsky committed the cardinal sin of attempting to cross academic boundaries, and for this was widely condemned by the academic world.  

In the second episode, the series of events in the 18th dynasty were tied across to events described in Isiah in the Old Testament. Exactly the type of approach practised by Velikovsky.  

Looking back, it is difficult to remember in detail what caused most upset (solvable by using Wikipedia), but what I most remember is his challenge to the dating of the various dynasties of the ancient Egyptians. I enjoyed the controversy, and probably still have some of his books.  Upset academics can be truly beastly.  

Recently the airways have been much taken with Socrates. I have been listening to a series by Rory Stewart – he who in their infinite wisdom was rejected as a politician by his party because he actually had achieved great things in his life and was intelligent.  

His starting point in the series was that to avoid conflict, Socrates saw the way forward as to be argument and debate. Stewart believed that until the 20th century this was largely the position in the operation of parliament but is now lost. 

Debate now tends to be no more than two protagonists expressing their views with no attempt being made to listen and respond to the actual statements; that argument in itself no longer resulted in rational outcomes.  

Hegel was never mentioned, but he of course also expressed the naïve idea that argument could lead to solution.  

The obvious question is why the change. Stewart sees the media in all its various forms as being largely responsible, and so it may be, but what I doubt is whether this splendid idea was ever to be normally found in reality. Surely the death sentence reached on Socrates at his trial actually showed that the decision was more based on rhetoric than fact.  

Rhetoric, like the ancient languages, was once a core part of a young mans’ education. Our legal system, however uncomfortable it is to admit, is built on rhetoric rather than justice.  

The significance of Socrates was also the centre of one of those documentaries presented by an academic, best enjoyed by shutting one’s eyes and merely listening. I draw it to your attention because the starting point was that at about the same time in the East two other aluminise appeared, and they figure individually in the final two episodes.  

The recognition that intelligent thought was not confined to Europe alone is a small step forward.  

At some point I wish to continue the argument that an overemphasis on the legacy of ancient Greece and Rome did great damage to our education system, but not today.   

An interesting similarity exists between discussion about Socrates and Jesus, in that in neither case do we actually know them, other than through the writings of others. In other words, when we discuss what they might have meant, it is not through their own words, but through the medium of others memory or interpretation. A great pity this is so rarely remembered.  

The poem I have chosen this week called ‘The rain in summer’ by Henry Longfellow and was inspired by the heavy shower we had last Friday evening, and the smell arising as the rain fell on the dry earth. I accept there was also a hint of nostalgia in it for me as I was transported back into Zambia as the dry season ended and the first rains fell. A marvellous moment when the air smelt so good.  

The poem is, I admit, too long but poets of that time were not competing against today’s demands on our time, so feel no compulsion to read it all.  

“How beautiful is the rain! 
After the dust and heat, 
In the broad and fiery street, 
In the narrow lane, 
How beautiful is the rain!  
How it clatters along the roofs, 
Like the tramp of hoofs 
How it gushes and struggles out 
From the throat of the overflowing spout!  
Across the window-pane 
It pours and pours; 
And swift and wide, 
With a muddy tide, 
Like a river down the gutter roars 
The rain, the welcome rain!  
The sick man from his chamber looks 
At the twisted brooks; 
He can feel the cool 
Breath of each little pool; 
His fevered brain 
Grows calm again, 
And he breathes a blessing on the rain.  
From the neighboring school 
Come the boys, 
With more than their wonted noise 
And commotion; 
And down the wet streets 
Sail their mimic fleets, 
Till the treacherous pool 
Ingulfs them in its whirling 
And turbulent ocean.  
In the country, on every side, 
Where far and wide, 
Like a leopard’s tawny and spotted hide, 
Stretches the plain, 
To the dry grass and the drier grain 
How welcome is the rain!  
In the furrowed land 
The toilsome and patient oxen stand; 
Lifting the yoke encumbered head, 
With their dilated nostrils spread, 
They silently inhale 
The clover-scented gale, 
And the vapors that arise 
From the well-watered and smoking soil. 
For this rest in the furrow after toil 
Their large and lustrous eyes 
Seem to thank the Lord, 
More than man’s spoken word.  
Near at hand, 
From under the sheltering trees, 
The farmer sees 
His pastures, and his fields of grain, 
As they bend their tops 
To the numberless beating drops 
Of the incessant rain. 
He counts it as no sin 
That he sees therein 
Only his own thrift and gain.  
These, and far more than these, 
The Poet sees! 
He can behold 
Aquarius old 
Walking the fenceless fields of air; 
And from each ample fold 
Of the clouds about him rolled 
Scattering everywhere 
The showery rain, 
As the farmer scatters his grain.  
He can behold 
Things manifold 
That have not yet been wholly told,– 
Have not been wholly sung nor said. 
For his thought, that never stops, 
Follows the water-drops 
Down to the graves of the dead, 
Down through chasms and gulfs profound, 
To the dreary fountain-head 
Of lakes and rivers under ground; 
And sees them, when the rain is done, 
On the bridge of colors seven 
Climbing up once more to heaven, 
Opposite the setting sun.  
Thus the Seer, 
With vision clear, 
Sees forms appear and disappear, 
In the perpetual round of strange, 
Mysterious change 
From birth to death, from death to birth, 
From earth to heaven, from heaven to earth; 
Till glimpses more sublime 
Of things, unseen before, 
Unto his wondering eyes reveal 
The Universe, as an immeasurable wheel 
Turning forevermore 
In the rapid and rushing river of Time.“  

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