Just when we thought it was all over..another lamb arrived!

Just when we thought it was all over..another lamb arrived!

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

Farm News

It has been, in its way, a rather eventful week on the farm.  

On Wednesday Chris, starting at 7.30 am, had the pleasure of ensuring every lamb was vaccinated against clostridials, and then completed his morning going round the pastures, this time alongside a friendly expert, to form a view on the success of our re-seeding in 2019/20, and at the same time doing what I have been up to over the last two weeks, assessing pasture growth from the point of view of grazing and making hay.  After all that, we enjoyed an instructive time identifying the plants that had been plucked from the different sown pastures. Sadly, the supreme irony was that all but two of the pastures were blooming as species rich, while all but two were failing as grazing fields. I am being too dramatic of course, but we do potentially have a very real problem ahead of us during the summer and into the winter. We have had more rain but do still need a great deal more if the growth is to really take off.  

Looking at the pastures in these two different ways brought home to me the disaster the 2nd World war was for the style of farming in this country. During the war every scrap of land that could be used to grow vegetables was ploughed, and species rich farmland was ruthlessly destroyed in the interests of productivity. Then in 1947, The Agricultural Act confirmed that concern for the environment was of no interest but increasing food productivity was to be the future. From this time onwards small farms were unwelcomed, use of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides were encouraged by government. Hedges were ripped out and everything that could be cultivated in this new approach happened. All this coincided with the vast expansion of housing, and the further reduction in cultivatable land. Easy to criticise, but what else could be done. It is this balance between rebuilding the environment while increasing productivity that haunts us to this day.  

Vaccinating the lambs was also an opportunity to assess their growth and health. As far as their growth is concerned, the need now is to ensure the positive state they now show, continues to develop. Oddly one of the lambs had an abscess exactly where the two cows had theirs. All three animals are having homeopathic treatment, but the cow with the worse abscess is not showing much improvement – even though also receiving allopathic treatment from the vet.  

The ewes, unsurprisingly, are looking rather the worse for wear, especially those with large robust lambs. I wrote last week that it appeared lambing was finished, but inevitably another birth took place this week and we also had the arrival of a new bull calf. The orphan calf continues to live with the three rams and requires yet more milk it seems every day. 

In other news we learnt this week that the three French woofers due in June had decided to go elsewhere, but thankfully Alice is with us for perhaps two extra weeks.  

I shared with you last week that Alice had attended a FoodEd conference and her thoughts on the event are set out below: 

“The food and farming literature festival, the first of its kind that I’m aware of, was a day overflowing with inspiration and passion. Every single person in attendance was there because of a deep desire to better understand our food systems and how to affect positive change within them. Afterwards, I could hardly sleep, my brain was absolutely buzzing with ideas. 

The beauty of regenerative farming practices is that there are a multitude of different ways they can be implemented – the downside is deciding which ones to focus on! Since then, and after returning for one of their Friday farm tour’s, what has stood out to me most is that one must focus on three major outputs for the farm to be both successful and regenerative: 

  1. financial output – it doesn’t matter how eco-friendly a farm is, if it isn’t profitable, it isn’t sustainable; 
  1. food output – how much food is the farm producing? Most individual farms actually produce very little that you can eat. Think about those huge swathes of wheat, oil seed rape, and barley – most of that goes for brewing and animal feed; 
  1. biodiversity output – we need to get into the mindset that our farms aren’t simply there for our benefit, they must allow space for nature to thrive as well, or else we are simply allowing for the perpetuation of a system that is utterly sterile.  As stewards of the land, we must strive to do better.” 

Questions we are not asking! 

Turning to other matters, it never fails to puzzle me as to why new findings are seen to be sufficient in themselves. On Thursday morning we learnt that, buried under the amazon jungle, from special techniques used for aerial photography, was revealed an extensive urban civilisation which lasted for hundreds of years up to around 1400 AD. Now I understand the excitement of something new to speculate about, but why do more prosaic questions get ignored. If the Amazon forests are the lungs of the world, what might the climatic effects have been if they were far less extensive in the past? Did these civilisations cease to exist because of climatic change? How did rewilding achieve the results we have seen until recently? These are all questions to which hard answers might be found – less entertaining perhaps but possibly more useful than fanciful ideas.  

Laws

An apology to begin with, I do not feel I can avoid writing about a situation in the USA where there are mass killings in schools once a week, and more mass killings in general than there have been days in this year. As Malcolm says – though I admit not about mass killings, but it seems very appropriate.  

“I think our country sinks beneath the yoke; 
It weeps, it bleeds; and each new day a gash 
Is added to her wounds:”  

Just what sort of society is the United States? In what other so-called liberal democratic country could a gun lobby allied to backwoods thinking so dominate decision making that, despite mass shooting after mass shooting, the issue can be brushed aside, and no action taken. Inevitably and sadly, the position in America of today has its origins in English law, and a determination to set out on paper the new constitution, the contents of which reflected dissatisfaction with the unwritten constitutional practice of their home country.  

In 1689 a Bill of Rights was published in England in which the right was established for every protestant man to carry arms – which of course reflected recent events. In 1760 Blackstone published in four volumes his understanding of citizens’ rights and included with a range of caveats the idea the men could own arms. The American Tucker in 1802(?) published in five volumes his American take on Blackstone. The same right to own guns were repeated, and for the same reasons as had applied so many years before, dislike of the thought of a standing army meant opting instead for civilian militias.  

The second amendment, for that is what I am writing about, caused relatively little discussion until 1984, when gun law restrictions were imposed. This was bitterly disliked later in the century, and so it was in 2008 that Miller was overturned, and Americans now suffer the consequences.  Little can change while you have a Supreme Court which interprets matters brought to it on the basis that the thinking of the writers of the constitution, when writing it, should be the only basis on which the Court can rule. 

I genuinely do, as my pupils in Zambia would say, my level best not to allow my system to be overly affected by the idiocy of today’s politics but, last week as a real humdinger, and this week started in the same vein.  

Last week we enjoyed cabinet ministers using the same kind of language common in the political world before the 1870’s – that “people struggling with the cost of living are simply stupid scumbags”. On top of that, preening was demonstrated over the dispatch of the first poor idiots to Rwanda, a key Liberal democracy, and then, in a display of utter indifference to public feelings about the police, that noted liberal Ms Patel, awarded the police complete freedom over ‘stop and search’. 

This week started brilliantly, yet more evidence of B. Johnsons love for the truth; the police doing their very best to confirm public opinion that respect for their leadership is spot on in terms of their unbiased decision making, and to top it all, a parliamentary group describe the Afghanistan withdrawal as a “catastrophe”, at least as far as all but the Ministry of Defence. I will pass over Yasmin Brown’s comments on Brexit as simply stating the obvious – “an ignorant mistake from the start based on lies, treachery and foundations of sand.”  

Of course, the media played its part both then and now.  

The Media

Headlines are more important than challenging real issues, so ‘partygate’ diverts the media from sharing vital information – such as the fact that veterinary medicines, as well as human medicines, are no longer available. From our point of view as farmers, the normal vaccine for clostridial is unavailable as are other routine drugs. Members of the family who need special drugs can no longer get the whole range – but do we hear about this? Of course not, even events in Ukraine have become non news, while ‘monkey pox’ is presented as next plague.   

Wednesday was another gem of a day when the Sue Gray report was published, and aside from the response of the Prime Minister, we learnt that his backbenchers, at a special meeting in the afternoon, lapped up his words and enjoyed his jokes which followed. I confess that I did not have the stomach to watch either his statement to parliament or the meeting he then held with the press. As was once said ‘A pox on the lot of them’, though that of course is unfair to those members who do not subscribe to this contempt for their constituents. 

Given what I have written above, I think I should confirm I have never been a member of any political party, left or right, and that I have felt disenfranchised all my life. As with religion, I am interested in politics, but not in its organised form. You probably will not be surprised that I regarded the ‘hippy’ movement and the notion of ‘dropping out’ with a degree of indifference. The only ‘ism’ that attracted me once upon a time, was anarchism as expressed by George Woodcock, but since, I was always a do-er rather than a pontificator – then if not now! – my concern for the state of educational practice overcame other thoughts, and as one who was, and is, instinctively anti-authorisation, somehow rose to become an authoritarian figure, but then life is a bit of a joke as we all know.  

Anarchism 

Schumacher’s book ‘Small is beautiful’ always haunted me from the moment I first read it and increasing age has taken me back to thoughts of anarchism, which actually is the belief in reducing the power of the centre to an absolute minimum, and rebuilding the concept of responsibility, rather than rights.  

Completely contrary to public belief, it is not about bringing chaos into the world.  

It is a belief in establishing a society in which no one individual or institution can have the power to completely dominate the rest of society. No doubt ‘pie in the sky’ but one can but hope.  

Talking of hope, if you did not watch the BBC television programme ‘The Prince of Muck’ try to access it one way or another. It was both moving and inspiring; a man of vision and, indomitable even if he surely was very difficult to live with.   

Returning to the apocrypha

Since I am returning to the apocrypha it is worth bearing in mind that the lingua franca of the day in the Mediterranean area was in fact Greek, just as in later centuries it became Latin, which persisted the longest in the Holy Roman Empire where local languages such as Romance, Teutonic and Slavic meant a mutually intelligible language was required. Latin in the UK persisted only in a few specialised areas of life, French had its own time in the sun, as did the languages of the Iberian Peninsula, but of course today it is English, for all its quirks that, for now, dominates. 

Continuing with my exploration of why ‘books’ were excluded from the Canon of the New Testament; I end with four which were seen as being of significant historic significance but failed either to be included or were later excluded because they failed the test of it being able to be proved they had Apostolic authority.  

The first of these was 1 Clement, and was certainly written towards the end of the first century, while the work known as the second Clement was likely written fifty years later.   

The Epistle of St. Barnabas may well have been written around AD 70, but certainly was written before the middle of the second century. It was written in Alexandria where there were intense rivalries between Jews and Christians, and accordingly is very anti-Jewish in tone. Why the name Barnabas was attached to it is unknown.  

The final document is ‘The shepherd of Hermas’ and in some ways is the more interesting read. It was widely available by the middle of the second century, but seems to have attracted much speculation as to when it was written, and by whom. The earliest date suggested is around AD 70. The latest date considered assumes that Hermas was a brother of Pope Pius the First. Given the work begins with the words ‘The master who reared me….’ suggests Hermas might well have been the individual referred to by St. Paul in AD 58.  

I had thought to conclude at this point, but I need to finalise this topic, and to do that requires more thought, and so this will not appear for a while since I have fallen behind in my reading and reflection; I therefore aim to restrict myself for a while to sharing events on the farm and comments on books and music which l found interesting.  

Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote less than forty poems, and of those he did not burn, most were published after his death. A committed Jesuit, he appeared to feel slightly uncomfortable about his great poetic talent. His poetry demands close attention to extract the most from it. The poem that is most commonly known is the Felling of the Binsey Aspens (a variety of poplar) and which contains some beautiful alliteration – ‘…..wind wandering weed winding bank’ but I, on reflection, chose to share a less well-known poem which is perhaps more difficult to grasp, and reflects the poet’s strong religious faith.  

The Starlight Night by Gerald Manley Hopkins

Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies! 
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air! 
The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there! 
Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves’-eyes! 
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies! 
Wind-beat whitebeam! airy abeles set on a flare! 
Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!  
Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize. 
 
Buy then! bid then! — What? — Prayer, patience, alms, vows. 
Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs! 
Look! March-bloom, like on mealed-with-yellow sallows! 
These are indeed the barn; withindoors house 
The shocks. This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse 
Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows. 

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