It can’t be autumn yet!

It can’t be autumn yet!

In Ireland, August was, and may still be, regarded as the first month of autumn, and this followed the Celtic calendar. On that basis we should feel no surprise at either this week’s weather, or that forecast for the week to come. Despite this we successfully cut a 3-acre field for hay and baled and wrapped the cut before the heavens opened towards the end of the week.

Farm News

I am happy to say all has gone well with the animals this week. While both the sheep and young stock have needed to be moved, the sheep seem fine. Our cattle numbers have increased by one as we have a new heifer. The eye infection among the young stock is still an issue but otherwise all looks good. There are still a small number of heifers that need to be registered with the Hereford Society but as far as the Cattle Movement Service is concerned all they require has been completed.

Jack has played his part in making the Business Park look trim and finished the process for the time being by mowing the verges beside the drive. Actually, as those of who have visited will know, given the slope on the verges, considerable skill is needed. Since Wednesday evening he has had the company of Theo who has joined us from France and is very welcome.

As I wrote earlier, one of our smallest fields was cut and baled during the week. The yield was good, but then generally farms are reporting good hay crops. One of our younger neighbours, a budding entrepreneur, if ever I have seen one, has moved from being on the fringes of farm life to being an associate. One immediate benefit of that was that our topper is now operational again and can be used next week!

We have a number of dates in our diary now for October including the next 60-day TB test and our annual Demeter inspection. In the meantime, we are gearing up to completing the re-seeding required as part of our HTS contract.

The exchange of views on the Pasture Fed site has been really interesting. There has been much discussion about cattle handling, and in particular making it as stress free as possible for the animals. Nothing startling new, but good to know it is seen as a real issue. Thoughts on managing lameness among lambs not related to scald or foot rot may be useful to us in time should the problem occur here. Of immediate interest has been discussion both before and after the latest report on climate change and its implications for agriculture.

A key discussion has been over the relative merits of trees or pasture as to the most effective way of carbon sequestration. Those who push for a change to a more plant-based diet never name intensive farming as where their sights are set, and ignore the fact that cereal cultivation is, particularly if intensive, not a very effective way to reduce carbon. One thing we certainly can agree with is the view that our form of farming is regarded as the best way forward – pasture, substantial hedges, many trees and low stocking ratios. Oddly and as an aside, little attention is paid to the apparent 28% of food that is wasted even though the impact of that on carbon emissions exceeds most other emission sources

The urge of bats to impinge on our lives has now slightly lessened as we have gone into fortress mode. Despite this, a young bat beat the system and it took Anne’s great skill to encourage it out via the window – where it of course flew off at once. Why bother to come in at all we cry!

Welcoming the displaced 

I referred last week to ethnic cleansing in Spain. In fairness perhaps I should have related this act to that of Edward I in 1290, when all Jews were expelled from England, even though the numbers were much smaller. All this was brought into sharp focus by reading of the Russian activities in north Prussia at the end of the World War II. The best that can be said for it is that it may be marginally less awful than genocide. I raise the issue solely because there is a tendency to think it is what ‘others’ do, rather than Europeans, and this is not and never had been the case. On the ‘plus’ side, the UK has benefited enormously from an immigration policy that welcomed these displaced persons coming to live here. 

Thoughts on the Bible

I am still working my way through John Barton’s book about the Bible, bolstered not just by the clarity of his writing and thinking but additionally by the respect for his work shown by trustworthy reviewers. The book contains much textual analysis, particularly as regards the Old Testament, and interesting comparisons of Jewish and Christian interpretations, and in the latter respect, covers ground not discussed in other books I own.

I have to admit I had not fully realised the significance of Paul in so many matters. He was responsible for the founding of Christian groups around the Mediterranean; for carrying the message to gentiles that they did not have to observe Jewish traditions, and for his attitude to women which was so modern. Nor had I realised that his writings were by far the earliest to be found in the New Testament, but I was aware that Paul’s writings had much to do with the thinking of Martin Luther.

My understanding of The Acts of the Apostles was, I now see incorrect. For not only were the Acts written years later, they also sit so poorly with what Paul himself wrote. 

I was certainly interested in the consensus view that Titus was not written by Paul. The significance of this is that, a first justification of celibacy relates to a statement made in Titus 1:8 regarding the behaviour of Bishops. The idea of a church hierarchy came after the time Paul was writing – a bit of a giveaway.

A big plus, for me at least, is the plentiful use of well-chosen quotations. Well-chosen both to illustrate points, and also to remind me of the beautiful language to be found in the Bible – however inaccurate the translation from the original Greek. The quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version which largely follows the King James Bible which stems from the Wycliffe translation.

Teaching English 

The teaching of reading is much influenced by fashion. At present the emphasis is on phonics, despite the reality that the spelling of our words bears very limited relation to their pronunciation. But all that is by the way. Most years, I spend time with woofers attempting to help them improve their English skills. In truth I have moved in my thinking a long way from the model I was exposed to at secondary school, the model I was expected to espouse when teaching in an English language school, and the various models I saw in use as administrator and advisor in local education authorities.

As a thought, but no more than that, I wonder whether or not we have a misplaced idea of the role of grammar; is it, in fact like economics, no more than an attempt to describe practice, or is practice determined by grammar. 

Is using terms like nouns, adjectives, adverbs or verbs really relevant in a language which has moved so far from its Teutonic roots, and which was never based on Latin. After all, when is a noun a noun – answer, it all depends. Most nouns can function with or without modification as adjective, adverb or verb. Have we perhaps yet another example of the need of the human psyche to label and create frameworks in order to cope with life.

Herbert Road

The poem I have chosen this week is by Herbert Read. He was a poet, a ‘master’ of English prose, art historian and co- founder of the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He wrote two seminal works: ‘English prose style’, and ‘Form in modern poetry’. One of his books recently republished was ‘To hell with culture’ – reflecting his anarchist tendencies. Perhaps the main reason he fell out of favour was his hostility to Marxism and its approach to poetry, prose and in particular art. He and Anthony Blunt saw the world in quite different ways and bore each other considerable enmity.

Though he is normally classified as a World War I poet, and as such regarded as the equal of Owen et al, perhaps, because he survived the war and was decorated at least twice for his courage, he is not remembered or celebrated as such. I have chosen a work he wrote around the time of the Second World War from a collection of poems that has sat unloved for too long in one of my bookcases entitled very baldly ‘Thirty Five poems’ and published by Faber and Faber first in 1940.

Summer Rain by Herbert Read

Against the window pane
against the temple of my brain
beat the muffled taps of rain.

Upon the scorched and mottled leaves
upon the bleached and penned sheaves
the land receives

the liquid food:
water like a flush of blood 
returns to the parched rood.

The Fox has left his fetid hovel
to lick the drenched blades of sorrel;
Odours rise from thyme and fennel.

The worm in his retreat deep under
the earth’s insipid crust
hearing a distant drumming thunder

blindly renews his upward undulation
The soil respires as if in emulation
of living things. All elements their maculation

desire and achieve. A warm breath
issues from the nostrils beneath
the mask of death

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