Busy Days!

As always lambing is a hard time for those actively involved. After 15 days, more than two-thirds of the ewes have lambed. It means long hard days for Jack and Tim and broken nights and early starts for Chris. Early in the week, most days were relatively quiet but, on the downside, coping with inaction and a biting easterly wind is no joke. As the week warmed up, conditions improved greatly. Inevitably there have been losses, a number of lambs still born and a handful of ewes as a result of the birthing process. To help us, Tieran has kindly taken over some of our orphans – he has six. This year as so often, Leslie has been helping when she can, all the more useful as for the first time in a number of years Katja has not been able to come.

The suckler herd are now out of the barn and on a field not grazed this year. The move prompted the arrival of a new calf, a female, so there are still eleven more to come this summer. Tagging of the new calf was not without difficulty until, fortunately, Julia her mother, saw that Tim was in attendance, and then all was well! 

On Thursday the young stock were moved down the bridle path to the field adjacent to the house. Now thirty-one in total, in a variety of sizes but all looking good. A real pleasure to walk out of the house to the gate and just stand and enjoy watching them. They share the field with three rams and by now a slightly uneasy peace has been established between the two sets!

Seeding Preparations

The arrival of both seed and dry weather meant that by Saturday two fields had been prepared for re-seeding as part of our new agreement with Natural England. This work was carried out by Jonathan Boas, a noted name locally as a farmer and conservationist but also, like so many other farmers forced into having to find other income streams. His enthusiasm remains undimmed and so do his energy levels, he is not a young man, and though he may find it as hard as I do to stand up straight, that clearly does not hinder him – very, very impressive! We were interested to hear Jonathan’s views as to the condition of the two fields involved. 

On Tuesday, weather permitting, the seed will go in and then both fields will be rolled.

Given the recent lively discussion on the Pasture-fed site about the merits of ‘dung beetles’ I, while on the field just vacated by the young stock, took the opportunity to check we had them here. To actually get to see a beetle a lump of dung has to be placed in a bucket full of water to cause a beetle evacuation. That was too much, but the evidence they exist is found when you see their entry holes – the attached photo confirms their presence. They are a good thing!

Much variety in the garden and the farm

While our garden is already a mass of colour so are the verges on the farm. Garlic mustard, white and purple dead nettle, lady smock and cowslips competing with dandelions and the last of the daffodils. Above the verges the hedges are full of new growth and white blossom. Since manicuring our hedges is not one of my key considerations, our hedgerows, however untidy they may appear to be, are a source of delight to me and ideal for our bird life and other living creatures and insects.

Dead Nettle
Garlic Mustard

Those of you whose education was somewhat in the past will remember a line which went something like ‘the mummering of innumerable bees in the immemorial elms’; by Tennyson as I remember it, and not read again since schooldays. I suspect that my ‘quote’ is a conflation of two lines of verse and was taught us as an example of onomatopoeia. Well the elms may no longer be with us but standing under this apple tree the line came into my mind at once. The pink blossom has attracted a vast number of bees, and their mummering was intense.

Beautiful birdlife

In the middle of the week we saw what was possibly a red kite. More certainly the swallows are with us again. The less regular sighting of the moorhens suggests they have other matters to manage. We still await the cuckoo. The geese are not only on the scrape but feeding on the field by the drive.

A musical interlude

It has been another week in which I have listened to little radio or watched television. One programme I did catch was ‘Janet Baker at 85 in her own words’ the talk was interspersed with clips of her singing. What a fantastic voice and what a real person we heard from – all of it inspiring.

I have been listening to music on my headphones and very much enjoyed the music of the eldest son of Bach though more his flute music and cantatas rather than the harpsichord concertos. In due course I moved on to re-listen to choral works by Ora Gjello as providing something more soothing even if less appropriate for Easter. Sadly, I had forgotten one track was less than calming!

Guilt part 2

To return to a topic raised last week I realise I should have added ‘guilt’ to my list of misused words, my only excuse being an intention to explore that concept in greater depth in due course.

Noting, and rejecting that it was inappropriate that certain politicians demand apologies for the Amritsar massacre, I should have made the obvious point that ‘guilt’ by society and present generations in this context is equally absurd.

Should Turks living today feel guilty about what their ancestors did to Armenians – certainly not, though it does appal me that their history denies that genocide took place; should English children be taught to feel guilty about the ‘Great famine’ in 1845/1846 or, even worse, Irish children not to be taught that the ‘Great famine’ was not restricted to Ireland but was part of equal levels of starvation and mass emigration to many nations in Northern Europe especially Scandinavia.

Matters could obviously have been better addressed by the UK government of the time and it is entirely appropriate that this is taught to British children. 

Should you be thinking why no reference to Japan or Germany, the answer is simple. My knowledge of Japanese history and culture is very limited though I am aware of their general history and in particular the atrocities of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Germany I pass over not because of family links but simply because it is so obvious, and I hope there, while great regret is appropriate and the reasons for that taught, feelings of guilt should not a burden on the younger generations, not least because many studies show how the psychology of defeat can so easily lead to a sense of victimisation as is so clearly shown in parts of the British Islands, France and the southern American states. 

Email responses

Looking at my emails I realised, though not for the first time, how I miss, in this paperless world, a pending tray. Given the propensity of my right forefinger to find the delete button and my lack of consistent interest in looking back at emails, the only safe way forward is to reply to the interesting ones at once rather than to acknowledge and then respond in due course. This also throws up the interesting question as to when to acknowledge, or not. In conversation the ‘grunt’ is a useful tool but what is the equivalent on email? 

Bromsgrove and the chamber concert

Bromsgrove though on the face of it a rather ordinary small town ruined rather by post-war re-development as so many places have been, has existed since Anglo-Saxon times and in the 19th century became a major centre for nail manufacture. It has produced two of the greatest English poets – A E Housman and Geoffrey William Hill, the latter having been described as the best English poet of the 20th century.

Ordinary the town may seem, but the Bromsgrove Chamber Concert Festival is nationally known, the Bromsgrove Choral Society flourishes, an amateur orchestra exists together with a new arts centre and live music can be found most nights in one of the local pubs. All reminding us that cultural life is found not only in the cities! It also really would be remiss of me not to mention that the county’s new poet laureate is Nina Lewis from Bromsgrove. I feel unable to resist saying that the copy of Geoffrey Hill’s collected works I have, was only obtainable at a reasonable price from the USA not from an English bookseller.

The wind by Geoffrey Hill

Whether or not shadows are of the substance
such is the expectation I can
wait to surprise my vision as a wind
enters the valley: sudden and silent
in its arrival, drawing to full cry
the whorled invisibilities, glassen towers
freighted with sky-chaff; that, as barnstorming
powers, rammack the small
orchard; that well-steaded oaks
ride stolidly, that rake the light-leafed ash,
that glowing yew trees, cumbrous, heave aside.
Amidst and abroad tumultuous lumina,
regents, reagents, cloud-fêted, sun-ordained,
fly tally over hedgerows, across fields.

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