Fencing Matters

A quite extraordinary week ending with the majority of the family going to the Chipping Camden Music Feastival to man an Ulula stall. In between whiles, we had the departure of Jack for pastures new which left us feeling rather bereft. Tim returned from his ‘holiday’ seemingly fighting fit, and we had two birthdays to celebrate. And then to cap it all, an amazing Test Match in which England against all the odds won. Memories of 1981 came rushing back.

The farm has not been forgotten! At the start of the week Jonathan Boas came to inspect his earlier work in three fields and happily confirmed our view that the seeding had gone very well. We also discussed which fields to tackle next – remember we have seven to do – and decided on two which were both dry enough and had not too great a grass cover. By Wednesday the initial work was done. A real irony this year is that we have almost more grass than we can manage – certainly not a complaint as our fear on entering the new stewardship scheme would be lack of grazing!

With the ground drying out it has been possible to continue compost spreading. A slow process because aside from having only the one tractor, our spreader holds less than 3 tons. Still, two fields have been well covered. With the topper mended, several fields need a cut if only to keep control of weeds.

This seems to be the year of the ragwort. Despite a daily program of pulling, still it comes, and without the help of woofers heaven knows how we would manage despite all that Tim gathers. Theo is now all alone but we did manage to celebrate his birthday and he is very well settled in and is now engaged in the task of de-stapling the fencing posts since it is important to crack on with the re-fencing. He attended the Music Festival on Saturday – bright sun, the temperature over 30 degrees and little shade and apparently vast numbers of people. Our team were rather tired when they got back late on Sunday evening. Support from Davinder and Leslie from LSD, our onsite accountancy firm, was much appreciated.

I wrote last week about cultivation bringing into play seeds that have lain dormant. The idea of no till, in effect direct sowing, is not a new idea, certainly in the gardening world, but is now very much a topic on the Pasture Fed site with claims that it reduces, but does not eliminate, the need for herbicides – no surprise there! Unsurprisingly, but sadly there has been no mention of the benefits of this approach in terms also of not disturbing microorganisms in the soil. 

The animals seem both well and content. Jack by the time he left us had developed a very good relationship with the cattle. Driving them from field to field is one thing but actually on his own, cutting out one heifer and putting it in the barn requires real skill.

All cattle and sheep are now on new fields – those in fact that require grazing right down before Jonathan can work on them.

One of the sights of Sweden never to be forgotten was the presence of cattle and horses in woodland. We are well aware here that the hedges are grazed by both ruminants, but a suggestion running on the Pasture Fed site is that of harvesting hedge cuttings and using them dried as winter forage. I don’t think we will go that far, but perhaps we need to take this more seriously. Fallen willow is always put out for sheep and cattle but collecting the bare twigs is rather a nuisance.


Brexit rumbles on but somehow this week his counterpart across the ‘pond’ has deflected attention. Reading Donald Trump’s tweets this week surely suggests he needs to be ‘sectioned’. ‘I am the chosen one’ and happily retweeting the suggestion ‘he is King of Israel’ are quite different from his normal pathetic and obvious lies or bizarre rants.

I have been reminded that on the other side of the family, another girl went to Canada as a war bride, but on this occasion in 1949. Once reminded, Aunty Betty and her two children of course, came to mind. Inevitably perhaps, with the death of my father, her first cousin, links appear to have broken. I suspect very few of us do not have living relations in the dominions, and ancestors buried in distant parts of the world – certainly we do.

Naxos cd’s

I am sure I must have extolled the virtues of the NAXOS cd label before, but given my reading, I have been listening to discs from their amazing box set of Early Music. Playing at moment on this Bank Holiday Monday is, appropriately in terms of my reading, the first complete setting of the Ordinary of the Mass by a single composer – Guillaume De Machaut.

Studying the scriptures

Nearing the end of the book by John Barton I am now re-engaged in tackling “The lost art of scripture” by Karen Armstrong. There could not be more different approaches to the matters. I suspect it reveals quite a bit about my mind in that I am finding tuning in to “The lost Art” a more difficult task. Resting as it does on MacGilcrest’s ideas as to how the brain works provides a challenge, but getting past that, her argument is fascinating. Her thesis also seems to rely on the well accepted proposition that we cannot ever know the ‘real’ world since our knowledge of it rests solely on impressions – very Kantian.

For Barton, dating the epistle of Barnabus and hence judging its influence on the direction of the early Church is important; in Armstrong, Barnabas is referenced in no more than a reference  to the developing  scepticism about the biblical text that developed in the 18th century in England and Germany.

I think at this stage the most interesting section in Barton’s work is the discussion of how differently the Jews and Christians relate to the Old Testament. I confess this was all new to me and I suspect to most non-Jews and, perhaps explains the attitude of particularly ‘devout’ Jews. Shamefully I am better read on Islam than I am on Judaism. For the majority of Jews the Old Testament is primarily about the Jewish people, and not as a Christian sees it as in any way about salvation.

Or self-evidently, as Barton puts it – we pretend the Bible determines what we believe, but in reality, the belief systems of both Jews and Christians are to a considerable degree independent of the Scriptures.

So, returning to the books by Armstrong and Barton, they show totally different approaches, one appealing to the imagination, and one to the historian. Both a tour de force in their respective approaches, and if cast away on a desert island perhaps it is Armstrong’s book I would choose to have with me. But then, thinking of Barnabas, a man who is primarily referred to in the Acts of the Apostles, which we now know date from the second century – as does the Epistle of Barnabas which in the 4th century had the same status as writings which continue to figure in the New Testament – while the latest evidence points to a Barnabas perhaps being a contemporary of Mark’s, means perhaps I would want both books.

I know nothing of the poet of this rather whimsical poem, but it has at its core an eternal truth and stays my hand when I see the cabbages being eaten by white butterflies and later covered by green caterpillars.

White Butterflies by Vera N Wylde.

The lightest things are blind to their powers;
These butterflies that flicker through the hours
Of summer, are ghosts of last year’s flowers.

Their green-white wings are scattered in the sun
Like petal drained of colour idly spun
And twitched by the faint laughter from beneath,
From the usurpers, firm in stem and sheath
And in the neighbourhood of life, to grow
According to the season’s rise and flow.

While the drenched white phantoms overhead,
Free with the sightless freedom of the dead,
Haunt their lost world of yellow, gold and red.

And a translation from the Latin by Roy Fuller I just had to share

“Anyone happy in this age and place
Is daft or corrupt. Better to abdicate
From a material and spiritual terrain
Fit only for barbarians”

And going off at a tangent, it is interesting, if disturbing, that war poets of the Second World War such as Roy Fuller are not as recognised as poets of the first war were, and rarely are referenced in schools or universities, though perhaps ‘For Johnny’ is still not completely forgotten, though its author, John Pudney, is perhaps better known for his stories for children. And for anyone who has a memory of using the 303 rifle, the poem ‘Naming of the Parts’ by Henry Reed probably brings an instructors voice to mind!

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