The weather this week has been the usual mix of sunshine, wind and rain and after Gareth, we have to face Hannah, but the forecast for next week is much more positive, particularly in that it suggests a week of no rain.
The pastures are awfully wet, but we must get the cattle out very soon since the first lambs might appear by the 6th April. By that time not only must the barn be cleared and cleaned out, but also it must be set up for lambing.
Sarah and Jack have, despite the weather, done a great deal to make the vegetable garden ready for use in terms of ground preparation and additionally begun the sowing programme for the year.
Well, after much angst, we have had our higher tier Stewardship approval sent to us for agreement and signing. We have 20 working days from the 13th March to work our way through the many documents sent by email, sign the agreement and email it off! Still this must be good news unless we find some error in it!
We have had a visitor from the TB advisory service and expect a report shortly. It appears likely that the contamination came from badgers. We were given some advice on action that might reduce the risk, but the overall view was that it was nothing to do with our general management. His outing also confirmed that there are other mammals still on the farm, including spotting three hares, a couple of muntjac and a fallow deer. Interestingly the resident heron was seeking food from the scrape which of course dried out completely last summer.
Now we have the pleasure of looking forward to our Soil Association inspection on the 4th April. I shall have the joy of filling in forms and pulling together our paperwork and ensuring we can explain the data held on our IT systems. Reporting this gives me a chance to express our appreciation to Steve Smith who has been our certification officer for many years and been elevated, if only temporally, to a more senior post. He has always been there to say yea or nay but in the latter case to offer helpful suggestions.
I was reminded by a friend that in some places fields still have names, as do milking cattle. In the village of Feckenham, on the wall of the village hall, is the original Elizabethan tithe map for the settlement. Parts of three of our fields can be found on that map.
To date, aside from this map, the earliest map I have which includes Rush Farm dates to the early 1800’s and appears to be drawn for military purposes. I do have a 6” scale map of the farm dated 1875 published by the Ordinance Survey. Sadly, none of the fields bear a name. In our complicated process of rebuilding the farm, giving names to fields was not high on our agenda. As a consequence, with a great lack of imagination, we fell back on numbering rather than naming most fields.
Perhaps being slightly defensive, as far as the government is concerned, all that matters are the numbers they give to fields, and since anxiety exists that farmers might gain a few pounds more than they are entitled to, physical and satellite surveys come and go often totally confusing farmers with their outcomes. It is hard not to wonder whether any notion of cost benefit analysis exists, or does it just reflect ‘disguised unemployment’ enabling other claims may be made.
With the cattle, perhaps because this is a stock farm, aside from the bull, again we know our animals by their passport, or for sheep their registered number. There are some exceptions, our bulls are referred to by their names as is the case with some rams. We have used names for older cows but in a way, it just makes it harder when they die.
Aware as always, I hope, of the sensitivity of certain topics in today’s strange world I share cautiously the following, both possibly relating to religion.
Early last week I was checking that my understanding of Moroccan history was not too out of date, and in particular my memory that Morocco was not part of the ‘Barbary Coast’ or associated with the enthusiasm of the Ottoman Empire to enslave white, and if possible, fair haired north Europeans. Later in the week the media began attacking the Conservative Party for islamaphobia – perhaps as a balance to the attacks on the Labour Party for being anti-Semitic (and by the way what a strange reversal of attitudes that is.) Then on International Women’s Day it was reported that police used tear gas and plastic bullets against the march by women in Istanbul, the onetime capital of the Ottoman Empire, while in New Zealand the heart breaking news of a white supremacist who kills people just because they are Muslim.
Until 1801 the Kingdom of Ireland stood alone. The union then introduced between that country and Great Britain never sat happily with many Irish, and by the mid 1880’s in recognition of this unease, the then Prime Minister, Gladstone, attempted to introduce a First Home Rule Bill which would have devoted power to the island of Ireland as a whole. By the time the fourth bill was accepted, the Ulster Volunteers, had exerted enough pressure to ensure the idea of a united Ireland had gone, and Northern Ireland remained in the union. Fascinating how a minority group can exert such disproportionate power. Between 1910 and 1912 the Ulster Volunteers were key players in the British government’s failure to give Home Rule to Ireland. Now in 2019 that same group is playing a similar role. Historians of the future are bound to enjoy exploring how a minority group can have so much power – it certainly reminds me of a certain London Borough in the 1980’s.
With the greatest of reluctance, I cannot avoid mention of Brexit. My personal views I have never concealed, now I have to contemplate the end of much farming as we know it, and the destruction of many of our industries. At a textbook level we are straight into the world described by Samuelson, (the American economic guru of traditional economic theory), of true unmanaged free trade.
In this world, businesses come and go as supply and demand vary. If you are not competitive your business goes to the wall and survival is about finding a new activity until you are priced out of that. A cycle of rise and fall – theoretically all good sense, except it ignores humanity. Zealotry added to bigotry, lies, stupidity, ignorance and pipe dreams seem to have overthrown pragmatic realism.
Poetry has not been much on my mind, what with health issues and farm business, nor has music though for days I did suffer what I believe is called ‘an earworm’ – it is Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer that bugs me at the moment. Nonetheless I wanted to end with a noted piece of poetry. In the end I resorted to opening at random an anthology compiled by the noted poet Robert Bridges. It fell open at the poem below:
A lament by Shelley by Robert Bridges
Oh world! O life, O time!
On whose last steps I cling,
Trembling at that where I had stood before;
When will return the glory of your prime?
No more – Oh never more!
Out of the day and night
A joy has taken flight;
Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hoar,
Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight
No more – Oh never more!
I hasten to add it is to be enjoyed for its drama, rather than be a reflection on my current feeling!