Higher Tier Stewardship

This has been a very active week on the farm. The first stages of reseeding required for our Higher Tier Stewardship have been completed – in that 40 acres have been cultivated and drilled. Our concerns about lack of rain were answered on Thursday. This mattered because our part of the country has not had the normal amount of rain, and it shows. We hope that fencing will start shortly, and in preparation for that, Jack and Fleurine have been doing the necessary but laborious job of removing the staples holding the wires against fence posts along a stretch of the bridle path at the back of the farm.

Both herds of cattle have been moved, each having been on their previous pastures for over a week. A shame in a way since they are no longer close enough to the house to be greeted each morning, but necessary for our form of ‘mob grazing’. During the course of the week two more calves were born. Both have been tagged and the female will need to be registered with the Hereford Cattle Society once passports have arrived.

As I am sure I have said before, managing cows is rather like managing a group of large adolescents. If one student chooses to walk out the, adult’s options are limited. If a cow feels an urgent need to leave a field, fences of whatever kind will not stop her. Even our short-legged Herefords, in extremis, will jump a fence, hedge or gate. Fortunately, this does not happen frequently, but a cow who hears her calf, who is now somehow in a neighbouring field and wants its mother and tells the world – well, out she jumps – as one did on Thursday night!

Lambing appears to have stalled! We still have five ewes theoretically left to lamb. Ten lambs are being bottle fed. The ewe lambs from last year have been put in with the main flock and the rams moved on, for obvious reasons. A task that has to be done within the next two weeks is the vaccination of both calves and lambs against clostridials. So far this year very few lambs were still born, but proportionally more ewes have died than in previous years. A matter we have obviously discussed and concluded should not over concern us. 

With lambing taking up much of Jack’s time, the vegetable garden now needs attention. The hard work that Sarah started has, by and large, been maintained and those of us who like rabbit food will be eating our own lettuce very soon. Talking of rabbits, I have been disturbed to see young ones close to the house. They may be cuddly but…….Moving on to less cuddly wild life, precautions such as cleaning and emptying water tanks as stock moves out of a field has happened, and the stretches of field needing to be fence off has been done. Despite a neighbour’s efforts, there are still deer on the farm.

The call of a cuckoo has at last been heard and a number of garden birds have obviously fledged. The moorhens have also succeeded in producing a significant number of small fluffy chicks, who we worry about, as getting into our garden requires crossing our drive and visitors and members of the family are as guilty as delivery drivers, of ignoring the 5mph speed limit. A few butterflies have emerged to join the bees in enjoying the nectar, but with frost possible here for several weeks yet, early emergence is potentially dangerous

After long, and it turned out unnecessary, phone calls on my part, our annual basic claim form and HTS revenue claim form have been submitted. I say unnecessary because Chris downloaded them in seconds. At least my efforts did cause the family much laughter because in attempting to pass security I had to answer questions I had agreed to years ago! While my failing to remember a ‘memorable place’ was excusable, our joint failure to get the date of our wedding correct seemed hilarious (in our defence I need to say we were only two days out).

Back to school

The grandchildren all went back to school on Thursday and while it means the daytimes are quieter, they are missed. Most of the half term they spent outdoors, and a minor highlight was Boots proudly showing us what he had found in the flow form – I shall spare you the details but your imaginations might enable you to guess what he found!

A musical interlude

On the music front I have experienced only one disappointment in that a CD of keyboard sonatas written by a German called Daniel Gottlob Turk, which I tried, turned out to be essentially for the harpsichord. No wonder that instrument was so easily displaced by the piano. Is it amusing or sad that when an external voice recommends your favourite recording you feel a sense of pleasure, and when that same voice rubbishes a favourite, it produces a feeling of disbelief or ‘oh my God’ ? All this sparked was sparked by Saturday morning’s radio 3’s review of Beethoven piano trios opus 1. In the event it transpired that I have two of the three recommended box sets.

Reading and history

Reading, which resulted from a project of our second eldest grandson aged eleven, took me back into books about both the Hapsburg’s and the coming together of the Franks or Germanic tribes under Charlemagne. The reading also covered the subsequent division of that empire, that in due course and inevitably followed his death. I think I managed to explain why the French do not speak German, but overall this was territory I had not had cause to venture into for some time, and in any case was far too complicated for an eleven year old, let alone a person of my age! 

An easier read was a book called ‘Ottoman Odyssey’ by Alec Scott which left me wondering whether the ‘West’ has allowed itself to have its attention diverted from what might well be a very real threat in the future – the overpowering ambition of Erdigan to re-instate the Ottoman Empire.

The subtitle to the book is called ‘Travels through a lost Empire’ and that basically is exactly what you get, but read it in the light of the fact that the author has a Turkish Cypriot mother, and though both born and educated in the UK refers to Turkish as her native tongue. Do not

misunderstand me though, she is now banned from living or visiting Turkey because of her critical writing about President Erdogan including, his ambitions to restore the Ottoman Empire to its former glory.

It read so easily that I finished it in an evening, and it tells a fascinating story. Perhaps the odd pinch of salt is needed here and there, and there is the occasional failure on the editor’s part – though the time line at the back of the book looks accurate and is actually very informative. There are plenty of books available about the Ottomans, but this book adds a new slant on the Middle East. I found it left me much to reflect on.

Reading about the cradle of Judaism, Christianity and Islam tied in, in my mind at least, to the thoughts expressed about which I wrote at an earlier date in relation to the word a scientist recently said, after looking at the photograph of a black hole, that it mirrored his picture of hell. Frankly his picture of hell was much more limited than Swedenborg shared with us nearly three hundred years earlier and was still around in certain parts of Europe in the late 19th century.

After probably inflicting too much poetry on you last week I have chosen a short poem about April written by an American poet in the 19th century called – Helen Hunt Jackson.

“No days such honored days as these! When yet

Fair Aphrodite reigned, men seeking wide
For some fair thing which should forever bide
On earth, her beauteous memory to set
In fitting frame that no age could forget,
Her name in lovely April’s name did hide,
And leave it there, eternally allied
To all the fairest flowers Spring did beget.
And when fair Aphrodite passed from earth,
Her shrines forgotten and her feasts of mirth,
A holier symbol still in seal and sign,
Sweet April took, of kingdom most divine,
When Christ ascended, in the time of birth
Of spring anemones, in Palestine”

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