“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
A quotation so brilliant I could not let it go to waste. I attribute to no one or suggest who it might best fit:
‘Inspiring is it not to see eyes ablaze with such insincerity’
The week started rather sadly as the four cattle identified as Reactors were carted off and it is within 60 days of that event, we have to undergo another full herd inspection for TB. Add to that, the sickly calf I referred to in an earlier post did not survive the week. On the other hand, the young calf left behind has now accepted bottle feeding and looks to be doing well.
We have had warmth this week and slightly more rain than we expected. None the less, to you give you a clearer idea of the situation, dairy farmers in the locality who would normally be taking their first cut of silage are faced with grass only 3” high at present. Still, we have warm weather forecast to continue into next week. Something I should have shared is the marvellous showing of dandelions – only consolation is that their tap roots may bring up nutrients and work against compacting.
The young stock are now in one of the three rented fields, and hopefully will rotate around the three which are grouped together. The suckler herd remain in the field over the river and it seems as if the orphan calf is managing to get some milk from other cows also suckling young ones.
The ewes and their lambs are now on the field reached through the gallop and so far, so good. Clostridial inspections are given after six weeks so that will take place before shearing. Lambing is still not completely over but is all but over.
There has been recent correspondence on how to deal with ragwort, and one farmer claims to avoid the need for pulling by putting his sheep on the field while the ragwort is young and letting them graze it down. Obviously far easier than pulling!
With the Reactors gone, the necessary post departure actions can be carried out, and used bedding put into compost heaps. Of course, all the cattle will have to come in again only too soon.
A cuckoo is still calling close to the farm, and on Saturday evening the swallows returned in good numbers. The goose sitting on the island in the scrape now has three goslings, but less positively, the number of Canada geese seems to be increasing. Given the recent report on the startling decline in flying insects over the past twenty years, it is enormously encouraging to realise that here on the farm that does not seem to be the case and as confirmation it appears our bat population seems to show no decline.
The garden has responded very positively to the warmth. The ‘forget- me-nots’ seem everywhere, most of the tulips still look good, as do the Easter daisies. The peonies under the sitting room window are very close to bud burst. The beech hedge is showing signs of greening, and the lawn is speckled with fallen petals from the apple tree. Before we know it, summer and hay fever will be upon us!
The journey to Inkberrow at this time of year is a treat, particularly if you avert your eyes from the new buildings which now cover some 30 acres of good farmland. The verges are alive with cow parsley, trees are sprouting new leaves and or blossom, particularly those majestic horse chestnut trees that still survive, while the hedges are now white from the blossom of hawthorns. In the ‘village’ itself the gardens show a bewildering array of colours.
Finally, an issue just about relevant to the farm. On the BBC news on Tuesday evening they reported, quite accurately, that attempts to create new woodlands had a very low success rate. Sadly, the report stopped there because there have been triumphs through adopting a different approach, and it seems Niger is setting the pace here. I wrote about willow trees being coppiced, a walk into our wood will reveal stools dating back to the enclosure of the wood in the 14th century. As it has been known for centuries, most trees can be coppiced, and will grow again. In Niger, rather than chopping trees down and planting new trees, which will die because their roots cannot reach groundwater, they have turned to coppicing with great success – sad the report did not mention this!
As usual my mind is buzzing with matters I have read and heard, and it is with the former I shall start since it fits in very nicely with comments I made last week about nationalism.
Mathew Syed, a name I expect most of you are familiar with, wrote in one of the Sunday papers about the beliefs of his father who had died a year ago. His father who had come from Pakistan, was fiercely proud of being British, and very aware that he lived in a society which was not troubled by tribalism. Syed made the suggestion that a sense of nationality is impossible where tribalism is the dominant way of self-identification. He suggests that it was Christianity and its ban on marriage even within the very extended family, that had ensured, before the Normans arrived, the English had one coinage, a common land tax, and a common system of justice, and an incipient sense of national identity.
He went further and suggested that right wing populism arises when a state loses its sense of self identity, and rather contrary to what I suggested, that it was our sense of Britishness – even though we might not be able to pin it’s meaning down, that was our ‘greatest and most precious asset’. I cannot demur from that. I did not know about the role of Christianity in suppressing tribalism, but slightly more thought on my part, would have led me to realise the disaster areas of the world are largely those where it is not solely nationalism but the passion of tribalism that drives all hate before it.
I cannot remember a time when I was not intensely curious about the period before Christianity became an attachment to political power. It was accordingly hardly surprising that once I thought more seriously, I realised that Christianity today is a term that covers a multitude of views, which are reflected not only in practice, but also in the fact that there is no common bible acceptable to all the various groupings.
Indeed, at an early stage having read the apocrypha, I was deeply puzzled as to how the contents of the bible I was brought up on – the King James Bible ignored such works and their contents.
In my occupation I was fortunate enough to glimpse some understanding, not only of Roman Catholicism, but also the beliefs of the various Orthodox churches, the Jewish world and its splits, and more deliberately non-Christian world religions, but in terms of the Christian faith was never quite sure how was it that at his Easter sermon in AD 367, Bishop Athanasius could be the first person to list the 27 books of the New Testament canon that stands today.
I have little excuse for this as I have read all this before, and indeed on a shelf in front of me containing a lucid explanation. Athanasius incidentally figures as a Saint in all but the low church world that I was exposed to for the bulk of my church going experiences.
But before I say more about the Apocrypha, I intend to share the understanding that some of the things I had never questioned in my life were perhaps not true – no doubt there are many others!
Last Thursday, ‘In our time’ explored the whole issue of the martyrdom of Christians in the first 300 years after the death of Christ. In the course of the scene setting, it was suggested that the Roman Empire was actually run on a ‘shoestring’, that provincial governors had few forces at their disposal, were left very much to their devices, but all had a fear of rebellion which they, perhaps reasonably, associated with people meeting in groups: that there was no drive against Christianity in particular, since there was no united Christian body, but actually many different ‘Christianities’ spread across North Africa and the Eastern and Northern coasts of the Mediterranean. If Christian groups were killed it was because nervous rulers would periodically crack down on any and all groupings.
And to add to all that, it appears to have been a belief dating back to the Greeks that one should aim for a good death which meant facing death, however death came, with stoical courage, knowing that whichever God you worshipped would expect this of you. So, martyrdom for members of any group was a death not to be feared but welcomed.
To date, and as a momentary side track, I have attempted to avoid comment on the situation in Ukraine but, talking about death, gives me the excuse to ask what it is about the Russians, or at least their leaders, which makes them see killing other people as so necessary a part of life. Certainly, from Stalin onwards the death toll inflicted one way or another on a whole range of people and peoples is quite beyond belief. Bizarrely, in so many ways, their behaviour seems to mirror Roman practice. Apparently, Putin intends to do what the Romans did, what Stalin did, and that is to parade captured soldiers through the streets of Moscow.
On Saturday morning, Anne who is reading ‘Borderland’, which is very much about Ukraine and it’s recent past, stopped suddenly and said that what was happening today in Ukraine was a re-run of the events towards the end of the second world war, and though life in England was still uncomfortable here in England in those first years of our life, nothing could compare with the suffering in Europe and the utter inhumanity inflicted by the Germans and Russians, and now nearly 75 years later the Russians are once again displaying. Where is the difference between the Russians and the Taliban?
It is now believed that by 200 AD there were some 200,000 Christians in total, so when the real persecution of the Christians took place between 303 AD and 309 AD, the numbers executed may have been in the tens of thousands. And it seems that it was not until later in that century, stories of martyrdom began spreading as a valuable propaganda tool. This of course brings to mind Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which appeared in 1563 and was a work of Protestant History and helped ensure anti- Catholic feelings for many centuries.
I must not be disingenuous, my shelves contain a number of books on theology, including John Barton’s authoritative work entitled ‘A history of the Bible’, which explains much about the political process, which led to the agreed canon of 367. He also confirms suggested dates for the four gospels which underline the reality that the earliest to be written was almost certainly that of Mark, probably written about thirty years after the death of Christ, tackles the inconsistencies between the gospels, and suggests the agenda’s which may have underlain each. He also makes a point that seems too often forgotten, which is that the letters or epistles of Paul were by far the earliest documents to be written after the crucifixion.
If he explored Gnosticism or the apocrypha in depth, my memory fails me, and locating books these days since they are spread over many rooms is too often a challenge too far. Chadwick, however, I do have to hand, and he devotes consideration to Gnosticism, it’s possible roots and links to the community in Corinth, and possible interpretation of Paul as a gnostic. However, Chadwick that ‘aristocrat among Anglican scholars’ died well before the contents of the Dag Hammadi were available. He edited the Pelican History of the Church, writing the first volume ‘The Early Church’ while his equally distinguished brother wrote the third volume on the ‘Reformation’
A couple of weeks ago I read the first definitive commentary on the contents of the Dag Hammadi find of 1945. For a variety of reasons, some understandable others less so, it was not until 1977, that Professor Elaine Pagels was able to publish her guide to the contents of the jar in which the documents had been held, placed there apparently in the 4th century or a little later, and possible to avoid their destruction for heresy. I also own a later text from 2007 which, apart from anything else suggests intense rivalry within the community of scholars, as it only refers to Elaine Pagels very briefly – this book is the product of German and French scholars.
Before getting too carried away and starting to swim in the sea of Gnosticism, I now step back a little, and next week will attempt to grasp the wider picture, including how did the Dead Sea Scrolls fit into all this, also discovered in 1945, or the documents found in 1898, and the apocrypha.
On Friday we had two birthdays to celebrate, first that of Alice’s mother, which was actually a week ago. She is over in England for a brief period and only arrived on Thursday, and then that of Alice herself. All went very well, and after cake in the afternoon we, in due course further celebrated by having fish and chips for supper.
Given that they both hold American as well as British passports I have decided to choose a poem written by an American woman. In truth I hold more poetry by Canadians than Americans, in fact my only resource was Harold Bloom and his collection of ‘the best Poems of the English Language’.
His choice could hardly justify the title, as the book contains only poetry from English and American poets!
The extract below comes from a long poem by Marianne Moore, and in the lines, I have selected, it appears to be a rebuff to D.H. Lawrence’s attitude towards women. I may be wrong of course, and merely prejudiced towards a novelist I feel to be grossly overrated. There were others I could have chosen, but as always getting the pitch correct is everything.
There is actually a poem called simply ‘Alice’ by Paul Lawrence Dunbar which Alice might enjoy, but it ignores her mother, who may actually better enjoy the extract I have chosen, which comes from Marianne Moore’s long poem entitled ‘Marriage’
“ ‘treading chasms
on the uncertain footing of a spear”
forgetting there is in women
a quality of kind
which as an instinctive manifestation
he goes on speaking
in a formal customary strain’. “