“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
The weekend was dominated by the Remembrance gatherings, not just in London but all over our country and other Commonwealth nations. The national events were as ever emotive, and a model of style and management. These are not victory celebrations such as one sees in Russia, but essentially thanksgiving and a reminder that Haigh was not the uncaring soldier later generations saw him as, but a man forced by circumstances and an experience of war, quite unknown, having to take the kind of decisions no human should ever be faced with.
Watching the drumhead service, common from the 1700’s onwards, reminded me how much we had to thank our ancestors for in determining after the Cromwellian period; never again would the military serve any other than Parliament, and that our society has never regarded a large standing army as necessary, or the military as being entitled to any particular reverence. All this despite the fact that British forces seem to have engaged in action in all but a handful of countries over the past many centuries. I still remember the emotion I felt in Antigua coming across the graveyard of British soldiers not killed in battle but by fever in the Napoleonic period.
But it is not my intention to get over caught up in solemnity, nor rant over sleaze, or the success or failure of the climate conference. As Kissinger once is alleged to have said ‘corrupt politicians make the other 10% look bad’. Likewise, as India and China water down the clause on coal, we are not surprised that the PM claimed the death of coal had been agreed – so little changes. Chris on his return from a short family trip to Zimbabwe reminded us that from the outside the peccadilloes our politicians get up to hardly deserve mention. It is a shock though, that we are now regarded in the table of countries ranked by their level of corruption as only holding the eleventh position. We do after all, see ourselves as God’s chosen people despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Talking about ‘banter’ one lunch time, which of course deserves a paragraph in its own right, the conversation moved on to ‘the English problem’, that inbuilt and often unrecognised superiority that bedevils not just our interaction with the world, but realistically, facing our real position in the world.
Last week I mentioned the birdlife in the side garden and in my first draft wrote about the titmouse family. Subsequently I realised this was no longer a word in common use but, that said, it is a fascinating word in its own right. In the 14th century the word was titmase; tit had no sexual connotations merely meaning small something, (later we had the phrase ‘tit for tat’ – which had a quite different meaning) and mase meaning bird. By the 16th century almost inevitably it had become titmouse – so small mouse rather than small bird, the question the was then how to form the plural – both titmouses and titmice are acceptable, though these days people would usually opt for titmice.
A digression since what I wished to share with you is that the bird population on the other side of the house is significantly different, being a host of chattering sparrows, wrens and dunnocks whose concern about humans is almost negligible. Perhaps it is because it is a small courtyard with people coming and going which probably explains the birds nonchalance.
For the next few months there should be little hard farm news, unless disasters of some kind hit us. The rams are now in with the ewes and will remain with them for some six weeks. Thereafter, apart from scanning, which will take place in late January/early February, the need is to try to keep them in good health. The pure bred Llwyn ram is to go with the pure-bred ewes. This year the breeding flock is only 106 so with three rams to cover the ewes there should be few empties. The tupping fields abut the barns, so all can be brought under cover if need be, and by the time of lambing the cattle will be out again.
The cattle themselves are currently outside since the pastures are firm but are rarely out still come December. We have still not solved the replacement bull problem, but aside from that we have more calves to come, but with the extended barn space all should be well.
All the animals will soon need feeding, but our stocks are good. The farm itself, away from the bridle path looks good. The pastures are green, while our fine hedgerows look yellow, and in places a little bare. The wood, for this time of year is relatively dry, and most trees retain their leaves, which all seem to be different shades of orange. This display may not rival the Appalachians either in scale or range of colour but is still worth enjoying.
The fencing is not full completed yet but that is no problem at this stage in the year and, for the time being at least, the bridle path is fairly dry and not yet badly poached by the small but steady flow of horses.
Winter migrants have not yet descended on our fields, but the local mammal population is alive and seemingly well. The roe deer are often spotted, though shy away from dog walkers.
On a more technical front, we must welcome the fact that some published scientists finally, not only recognise the importance of the soil in retaining carbon, but additionally have recognised the key role of microbes in breaking down organic matter, and perhaps more significantly have recognised that microbes can survive, and flourish, should soil temperatures rise.
I have consciously tried to minimise my comments on COP26, but this I felt had to be shared, as recent information suggests that from both South America and China civilisations came and went largely because of climatic changes. Something for another generation to look forward to as this generation seems unable to look at the world through the eyes of any but their own. It illustrates the unbelievably vast difference between how that ever-growing group of the very rich live and play and the rest of us.
Given that all informed opinion sees a rise in temperature as likely to be 2.4 degrees rather than the 1.5 degrees aspirational target, despite commitments on methane discharges and steps, if slow, to halt deforestation, I think we must prepare ourselves for further changes for the worse. Exactly what different steps we can take here is unclear though it might be worthwhile creating more ponds and planting more willows.
There is now a new idea to add to our thinking about the weather. All of us are now familiar with the idea of the Jetstream, but now we have to come to terms with the idea of atmospheric rivers/ Americans have ‘gotten’ used to the term now, and American climate modellers have taken it on board, even if on this side of the Atlantic that is not the case. ‘Gotten’ by the way is an English expression, though now regarded with disdain, rather like ‘sidewalks’, but that is by the way.
The technical explanation is easier enough to understand, but I will not bore you with the details. These ‘rivers’ are what causes huge rainfall over a short space of time, and over a limited stretch of land. All this explains the disaster afflicting British Columbia where heavy torrential rain has done enormous damage.
Methane and cattle has I believe, now firmly been rejected but I came across some figures the other day which might interest you.
> 1970 Atmospheric carbon 325 ppm (part per million)
> 2021 Atmospheric carbon 425 ppm (part per million) – Higher than in the last 800,000 years
> 1970 World population 3.6 billion
> 2021 World population 7.9 billion
> 1970 Cars in the world 200 million
> 2021 Cars in the world 1.4 billion
> 1970 Air passengers 310 million
> 2021 Air Passengers 2.2 billion
> 1970 Worldwide cattle 1.08 billion
> 2021 Worldwide cattle 1.09 billion
The source is unverifiable but not disputed, but what a marvellous overview of how the world has changed.
A final thought on trees since Mr J and his minions in DEFRA still pin their faith in them as an important element of carbon sequestration: who could be against trees per se, but as a solution to the world’s carbon problems, reafforestation in these islands is total hogwash. Actually, if we are honest, what may or may not be done in the UK about climate change is, apart perhaps from symbolism, of minimal relevance to the world situation.
Moving on: I am in near despair as to how I finish work on my stamp collection, but even more so on how I find the time to read the fascinating books I have accumulated over recent months. I am well aware I can no longer work an eighteen-hour day, indeed five hours is stretching things, but while novels rarely cause one to side track onto new thoughts, this is not the case with non-fiction books. So, I am barely a twentieth of the way through ‘The Renaissance’, having found a host of poets in particular that I had never heard of. So, having spent hours reading and then thinking about the poetry of William Draper, I am now engaged in the reading of Mary Leapor’s poetry, and that of other women poets of the 18th century. That done, I will have to revisit philosophers of the period since though the names are familiar, I learnt about them in isolation from philosophers of other countries and from an all but blank cultural understanding.
And then there are other unanticipated matters. A conversation with my sister established that an ancestor of my mother’s was named Anthony Sandow, and his mother was a Blewitt. Sandow at that time was very much a Cornish name – my sister first suggested the surname was Sandeep and naturally I was very excited to think I had South Asian ancestry – sadly it was a typo. The really interesting part of this news was that they came from the Camborne area. That part of Cornwall particularly associated with copper mining, and a goodly distance from the sea.
My immediate Cornish ancestors came from the area around Mousehole, and my grandmother had left me with this idea that being Cornish meant being associated with the sea. Suddenly I realised this was not the case and needed to read about the real Cornwall. A Cornwall bearing no resemblance to that portrayed in Doc Martin – a series incidentally we are currently watching. Since I could never tolerate adverts on the television, much of the drama put out by ITV passed us by, meaning we have now a plethora of television programmes from the last century we can watch advert free by use of the control.
I realise my choice of poets may seem very old fashioned but this in part reflects the season we are in, or my current preoccupation, but essentially my choice is always based on the quality of the poem chosen. What does not drive my choice is any notion of a golden past world. Incidentally ‘starnels’ are starlings.
Autumn Leaves by John ClareI love to hear the autumn crows go by
And see the starnels darken down the sky;
The bleaching stack the bustling sparrow leaves,
And plops with merry note beneath the eaves.
The odd and later pigeon bounced by,
As if a wary watching hawk was nigh,
While far and fearing nothing, high and slow,
The stranger birds to distant places go;
While short of flight the evening robin comes
To watch the maiden sweeping out the crumbs,
Nor fears the idle shout pf passing boy,
But pecks about the door, and sings for joy;
Then in the hovel where the cows are fed
Finds till morning comes a pleasant bed.