Compare and contrast

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

‘Remember that all is but opinion and all opinion depends of the mind. Take thine opinion away and then as a ship that hath stricken on within the arms and mouth of the harbour, a present calm; all things safe and steady; a Bay not capable of any storms and tempests: As the poet hath it’   

Marcus Aurelius, the Twelfth Book, XVI  

Speaks for itself I think, and reflecting on it, will restrain myself.  

A few quick thoughts, then onto farm matters. 

Our language is always moving, with new definitions entering and superfluous words leaving. So, we all now know ‘nurdles’ is no longer simply a cricketing term and have given up lost sight of the meaning of the word ‘honourable’. 

We all know rules are for us bourgeois souls only, so there can be no surprise that use of cocaine may be common in parliament, alongside bullying and sexual harassment by our politicians and their staff.  

Less well known is whether the Chinese or Indians invented chess. Our friend Donald was, of course among other things, a poor chess player. As he fought to preserve coal mining in America, the Chinese were busy buying up the sources of those rare metals’ information technology requires.  

Less happily, as English towns and cities were blighted by the building of ring roads and destruction of High Streets in the 1950’s and 1960’s, we now know this same craze for road building in America was used as a useful justification for destroying black neighbourhoods. What happened in Detroit was, it seems, commonplace.  

Human rights built into the ‘DNA’ of Americans…? President Biden, he who conveniently forgets his English heritage.  

“Free speech has gone too far” the Justice Secretary says alongside new proposals to allow ministers to ignore court decisions should it suit them to do so.   ‘Britain is the greatest country in the world’.   Our new Foreign Secretary declares.

The farm 

We seem to have got through the first two named storms of this winter unscathed, despite the high winds and bursts of torrential rain.  

A rather different week from 2012 when the weather was cold but quieter, at least until the end of the week when warmer times came. Lambs were sold, but the prices paid were not good, leading to discussions about the quality of our grass in what had been a very wet year.  

Good news received over the last few days is that government payments have been paid early – farmers were told the window for payments extended to June! Some information has leaking out about the future payments to replace the Basic Payment scheme, which had already led to reductions in the sums paid.  

It remains a matter of severe concern as to how organic farms will be able to access any such grants since our present practice is so close to that which the government wants to see all farmers adopt by the carrot of money. The first grant announced will be available to farmers who sow cover crops leaving no bare fields after harvesting. No organic or stock farmers can claim this because we already follow this approach.  

I am sorry to write about money, but if the nation wants our kind of farming to survive, it must continue to subsidise us to a degree because the general public, for a variety of reasons, including poverty, will not pay the real cost of food produced by not adopting all the practices that allow others to produce cheaper food.  

At the risk of boring you, our cattle take anything up to ten months longer to mature because they are not fed hormones or hard protein-rich manufactured food – which it must be pointed out, produces as a waste product carbon dioxide.  

Here the new calves thrive, and the sheep came through the storms unbothered. As new calves are born, older steers are sold, and two went early in the week. Next week our flock will be reduced as we start to sell them. After that I must return the annual sheep and goats return. Exactly why and for what purpose this information is required eludes me but there must be worthy reasons to justify the size of the fines that can be levied for non-compliance.  

We welcomed mid-week a return visit from one of our first woofers, and now very much a friend. Covid meant no visits for over two years and her impressions of the farm today were obviously of interest. She admired the physical changes, such as the barn extensions, but more importantly thought our pastures looked very green. Sadly, while she looks no different, the same could not be said about me! A lovely visit underling how cut off we have been over the past years. The Christmas Fair we held this week in 2012 was one of the last such events we supported.  

I am delighted to say the fencing has now been completed. It was a massive undertaking but will certainly see out our lifetimes.  

We also received confirmation from Demeter that our annual inspection revealed no non-compliances and a few nice words. My first reaction was one of surprise, but once I had been reminded that the inspection took place while I was immobile, all made sense.  

As important as anything else I have referred to, was an extended discussion between the three of us on the year that has passed, and what lessons we might have learnt.  

Not unusually we spent time on whether we had the numbers balance of sheep and cattle correct, and also not for the first time considered whether the choice of our breed of sheep, adopted all those years ago, still made sense. Another issue inevitably, and possibly related to this, was the lower productivity of our pastures given the new seed mix used had little protein rich perennial rye grass seed included in it. 

The garden  

The garden as always continues to provide daily entertainment. With the change in season the blackbirds and, though in smaller numbers, the thrushes also, are once again busy on the lawns. It has been particularly amusing to see a young spotted woodpecker having no difficulty working out how to get seed from the feeder while the older persists in believing it can peck its way through the plastic!  I realise it may seem absurd that situated as we are we put out bird feed, but it does ensure that we actually see so many of the birds that otherwise would be foraging elsewhere. With all the wind we have been having it has been a joy to see and admire the way the birds ride with the waving branches, quite amazing, however violent the movements. 

‘In Our Time’ returns

The radio programme, ‘In Our Time’ has duly returned, and as was to be expected, the range of issues selected over the first three sessions has been diverse. The first was about decadence, as exemplified by Oscar Wilde and perhaps not surprisingly failed to hold my attention.  The second took us back to Greek times and philosophy and in particular Plato’s ‘Gorgias’. The book is a product of the younger Plato, still smarting and hurt by the forced death of his great teacher Socrates. In it, Socrates is credited with engaging in discussion with a range of contemporary Greek philosophers on ‘rhetoric’. Those with Calicles – who may or may not have existed – lead Mervyn Bragg to ask the question as to whether any of this was relevant today.   

Understandably there was some reluctance to answer this, other than the suggestion that Nietzsche certainly followed in the footsteps of Calicles.  

To my mind the answer might better have been our Prime Minister, whose love of the classics must have included reading this, as for Calicles, rhetoric had nothing to do with truth, but was the ability to sway the thinking of the people. Trump also came to mind but had to be rejected since I doubt the depth of his knowledge of philosophy.  

I skate over whether parliament and the law today should have been referenced, also since any system based on an adversarial risk following the line attributed to Calicles. Certainly, any historic suggestion that the approach in parliament was Hegelian has been known to be rubbish for decades.  

The discussion last week was about Trafalgar and its consequences. There were fairly easy links that might be drawn with the discussion of the week before, but I shall restrict myself to remarking how useful it was to have been reminded of the background to Pitt the younger’s famous quote: “roll up that map of Europe, it will not be wanted again for ten years”. 

A musical interlude 

I have always been an admirer of the music of Caesar Franck, though given my dislike of organ music I cut myself off from some of his best work. Suddenly he seems to have a genuine French rival. A man indeed who Liszt described as the greatest organist ever.   

Known mainly for his compositions, the Carnival of the Animals and his Danse Macabre, his reputation in terms of his other works has, it seems, come and gone over the years, but now Saint Saen’s standing has risen again, and there are a number of recordings now on offer.  

For what it is worth let me admit I have always enjoyed his limited works on CD and now shall explore further. Either my ability to tune in to the zeitgeist of a growth in telepathic powers had afflicted me because at the weekend I discovered both the BBC Music magazine and the Gramophone magazine had leading articles on the man and machine!  

Compare and contrast!

Finally, two short extracts from women poets of the 18th century, one from early on, who died very young, and one written later by a woman who had a long life.  

One by a poet of the ‘labouring classes’, the other a poet from a more prosperous and educated older woman whose poetry might be said to be transitional between the 18th and 19th centuries, though very much in the mainstream poetic tradition.   For those of my generation, women poets might just as well have not existed for all we knew. Fortunately, we now have access to that particular world. Incidentally do the poems actually give any clue to the gender of the writer? 

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