How many layers!

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

I cannot resist starting with this advertisement, which at a time when the world looked bleak brought a smile to my face: 

“Naked oats grower needed.”  

Given the weather we have been experiencing this week, one wonders! Indeed, I think this has been the coldest winter for many years. Even with this heating on continuously in the farmhouse, temperatures in many parts of the house were below 13 degrees centigrade this week. Historically, we judged how cold it was inside by how many layers of clothing were needed. At worst it used to be six, but this year I think that might well have been inadequate especially given our age!  

Aside from the daily winter routine, an ongoing concern was the state of the cow which withstood major surgery last Friday. Happily, so far so good, if rather to the vet’s surprise!  

The main event however was scanning the ewes. In total there were 116. The vast majority were carrying twins, with only eight carrying triplets. Sadly 5 were ‘empties’ – my enquiries about this brought forth answers I can’t possibly share! 

With a scanning ratio of 1.77 we have done slightly better than last year. So, we can expect the birth of 205 lambs. In reality, if we end up with 180 live lambs, we will be content.  

This is not our inadequacy, merely the fact that even with the small number of sheep we have, natural problems in either the ewes or lambs happen despite our best efforts and here I include foxes and crows. 

Those of you who have visited the farm will know that there is a dry scrape in one of the smaller fields by the brook. This we dug out several years ago in the expectation it would help attract birds like the curlew. Sadly, though the sheep in particular enjoyed it, it never held water.  

The attached drone photograph provided an explanation. The scrape here full of water, clearly shows the original line of the brook. At some time, perhaps as an aide to the flow of water away from the corn mill which once existed at the junction of the Bow brook with the Brandon brook, the line of the now larger brook was straightened as clearly marked by the line of trees. As to when this happened, I know not, but assume it was in the Victorian period. 

One thing to thank the weather this week for – the scrape became a skating rink and was well enjoyed by the younger-than-us family members and the dogs – brave or foolhardy, they all enjoyed themselves enormously, even after dark thanks to headlights! 


In the back of my mind for most of the week were three quotations. Two of which were about good intentions, and the third by a man few admire – Donald Rumsfeld.  

Both TS Elliot and Camus, both men who saw the world through rather jaundiced eyes, tended to the view that, as Elliot put it:  

“Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.”  

While Camus wrote:  

“The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.”  

When you think about the outcome of the interventions by the ‘democracies’ in countries like Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq it is hard to argue with the point.  

In a much smaller way, there are plenty of examples within our own society, especially in the post war and first decades after its end, when whole communities were either moved or rehoused in order to give their occupants “a better life”.  

Too often the results were catastrophic for the people involved. Think of Moss Side in Manchester, or Chelmsley Wood in Solihull.  

Moss Side I know well. When it was rebuilt, architects from around the world came to admire the design and forward thinking. Actually, it was a disaster, and by the early eighties it had all been torn down.   

I have zero time for Michael Gove, but experts can be led astray by ambition – rather like theatre directors – and lose sight of the interests of the consumer of their offering. 

The Covid 19 crisis has for me made that famous quote from Rumsfeld seem to me particularly apt at present.  

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know.  

We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.  

But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”  

And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”  

The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, or vice versa.  

Later in the week, initially thinking how Hungary in 1949 was reduced both in physical area and by losing three quarters of its population, I was reminded of how ignorant we are/were about the vast displacement of peoples that took place following the second world war. And it was not just Germans but other ethnic groups as well.  

I can do no more than quote myself from a recent email I wrote. ‘Being English makes it so hard to make sense of the lives of other peoples or indeed of the world’.  

Like it or not, I think it is just how it is – underlined for me listening to the Senate in serious debate on the meanings and intentions of those who wrote the American Constitution all those years ago.  

To end..

Looking for something to calm my mind I found this, an extract, the final verse, from a much longer poem by Pushkin

Stormy clouds delirious straying 
Showers of snowflakes whirling white, 

And the pallid moonbeams waning– 
Sad the heavens, sad the night! 

Cloudward course the evil spirits 
In unceasing phantom bands, 

And their moaning and bewailing 
Grip my heart with icy hands!

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