Green fields and Spring flowers

Green fields and Spring flowers

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

Well, I am almost tempted to say this week has been our summer, but that perhaps is rather OTT. Whatever, it has been lovely weather, and one day walking down the drive, a woodpecker was either marking his territory or enlarging a nest site. If it had not been for a neighbour’s braying donkey, it would have been quite idyllic.  

I am very happy to share with you that the cows that had needed veterinary assistance are doing well: the stitches in the cow that had a C section will be taken out shortly, and the second cow which, for us and obviously her, was the first prolapse in a cow experienced on the farm.  

Talking to Tim about the sheep and expressing some concern he set me right and said all looked very positive to him. Certainly, the fields are looking to be much greener and with a heightened growth. 

Though it is far too early for the cattle to go out, and the sheep are getting hay, our overall feed situation is of no concern compared to last year, but then we have had the extra fields.   

There have been great forward movements in the garden, and we are seeing many developments. It is not just in the flower garden that there is growth – we look to be having strong and early rhubarb, and successional sowings of salad crops and onions are in trays in the cold frames. All in all, it looks as if we might return to the good days, we had years ago.  

It is of course not just the daffodils (by the house), crocus, cyclamen and witch hazel that are in bloom. 

Our flowering apricot tree looks splendid at the moment as the sun catches the blossom. 
The snowdrops, especially those in the sun are nearly done for this year. 

On a less positive note, attempts to get the Farm Practices Survey team to engage with me have failed so far. Indeed today, since I had not had the promised phone call, I used the ‘phone number they gave me, only to learn it was no longer in use.  

I still have to reply on the government’s consultation on GMO’s, but there I know that all the organic bodies will be expressing strong views. Remember how Brexit would allow us to adopt even higher standards than the European Union…?  

Time to step away 

I think I have been immersed in the ills of the world too much recently and I need to step away, and for me an obvious answer might be to re-read one of my favourite ‘fluffy’ novels, probably one by Georgette Heyer. Unlike the majority of her droves of imitators, she wrote well, left unsaid what was unnecessary and invariably ended her novels on a positive note.  

Most of these imitators tend to be American, some do absolutely no research, and some, even the best of them, feel the need to somehow slip into the territory of the explicit. The best are good story tellers, often weaving real, if modern day problems, into their stories and leaving the reader interested enough in the characters to read the next book in the series. Perhaps a key difference is that most of their female characters are allowed to be the heroines of the story, not merely fodder for the male lead character. Something that Heyer excelled at. 

Watching TV has been no fun in recent weeks, so we didn’t watch the adaption of one of best “modern Heyers”, Julia Quinn’s ‘Bridgeton’.  Watching the news hasn’t really required me to be able to ‘see’, but missing the cricket was hard – it turns out the issue being that I have a cataract that needs to be removed. 

Regency Britain

Given all the above you will not be surprised that I turned with great interest to Ian Mortimer’s very recent book “The time traveller’s guide to Regency Britain“ to  get a more accurate take on what life was actually like in this very short period of our history, since you could hardly expect a romantic novel to draw attention to issues of sewerage and safe drinking water!  

On the other hand, to be fair to the best novelists, the impact of the French Revolution was recognised, the need to consider social questions and the need for radical change. Change which pretty soon, clipped the wings of the aristocracy.  

While London at the beginning of that time was still a town of slightly under a million inhabitants, during the regency period its population was expanding very rapidly.  

The Thames had become an open sewer, the large number of horses and the increasing use of coal for heating meant not only that life there was astonishingly smelly but, remembering Birmingham in the 1960’s, the town much have been seen from a distance as covered by a vast yellow cloak of smog.  

I have no need to go further, the “Seven Curses of London” published in 1859 tells one all we need to know.  

If you want to explore the world of Georgette Heyer the following books might be worth dipping into: 

  • The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge Paperback   
  • Georgette Heyer Biography by Jennifer Kloester Paperback   
  • Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester  

Curiosity 

I suppose the truth is that apart from excellent historical novels, and again most are by women, but all historians as well as novelists, the remainder of my reading is triggered by curiosity.  

For example, after reading an interesting article on my smart phone coming from a German source about Jews having been in Germany for 1700 years following Emperor Constantine’s declaration in 321 that it was lawful for Jews to hold official office in Germany, I was bothered about one thing. The article was clearly written for all sorts of good reasons and was well written, but the date bothered me as not sitting comfortably with my memory. 

For the better part of Sunday, I was therefore absorbed in reading a book, which judging by the cobwebs I had not looked at for some thirty years, written by the historian Paul Johnson and titled “The History of The Jews”. Obviously bought because, of the three monotheistic religions, I knew least about Judaism. A book that clearly divided opinion at the time, but Johnson was an honest historian. I have no idea how I responded to it on first reading, but re-visiting it I found it deeply interesting.  

In passing, it reminded me of why the date bothered me; in the 340’s, persecution of the Jews reached new levels of nastiness so, while I do not doubt the claim for 321, that positive stance had a very short lifespan.  

Time for art..

Danny Newman sent me a lovely drawing of a ferret. In asking her if I might use it here, I expressed doubts as to how I could tie it in to this piece. And then inspiration struck. I remembered that in my bookstore was a book from a much earlier period. The title “The Boy Fancier” could hardly be used today, but in fact the book was about a range of animals a boy might keep.  

There was a great deal about rabbits, chickens and homing pigeons but also a whole section on housing, keeping, handling and using ferrets. All good stuff especially the section on how not to get bitten! 

To be honest I am not even sure that I have ever seen a ferret but here is Danny’s lovely drawing: 

… and music

I realise also that it is some while since I wrote about music listened to. Well, I have come to the conclusion that Bach is really not for me. Haydn and Mozart are enough, while I have also been enjoying Trevor Pennock’s revolutionary approach of some fifty years ago in using contemporary instruments in his orchestra and singers of the highest quality. A great soprano is truly a gift from the gods.  

Thinking this week I would choose a lighter poet, I turned to my small collection of light and numerous verse. In the event I never got past ‘the collected poems of Ogden Nash, and that is reflected in the verses below.  

I wonder whether his poetry is not sometimes misunderstood. Certainly, especially his poems on animals which relate to the piece of music called “The Carnival of the Animals” are neither political, or bitter sweet in the way of many of his poems – laugh aloud as many of them are.  

Crossing the Border‘  

Senescence begins 
And middle age ends 
The day your descendants 
Outnumber your friends. 

‘The Germ’  

A mighty creature is the germ,   
Though smaller than the pachyderm.   
His customary dwelling place   
Is deep within the human race.   
His childish pride he often pleases   
By giving people strange diseases.  
  

Do you, my popet, feel infirm?   
You probably contain a germ. 

England Expects‘– the first part of a longer poem:

Let us pause to consider the English, 
Who when they pause to consider themselves they get all reticently thrilled and tinglish. 
Englishmen are distinguished by their traditions and ceremonials, 
And also by their affection for their colonies and their condescension to their colonials. 
When foreigners ponder world affairs, why sometimes by doubts they are smitten, 
But Englishmen know instinctively that what the world needs most is whatever is best for Great Britain. 
English people disclaim sparkle and verve, 
But speak without reservations of their Anglo-Saxon reserve. 
After listening to little groups of English ladies and gentlemen at cocktail parties and in hotels and Pullmans, of defining Anglo-Saxon reserve I despair, 
But I think it consists of assuming that nobody else is there. 

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