Lots of activity

It has not been an average week by any stretch of the imagination, and that statement ignores the change in the weather. The most important news is that, apart from incipient hay fever, all team members are once again well!!

The weather has been very Aprilish but at least we have had plenty of rain – and hail.

Lambing is starting to wind down, but is not yet quite complete, and it is too early to form a judgement as to its overall success or failure, though I think it can reasonably said to have been less dramatic than in some past years. The warmth and subsequent rain mean that there is good grass for the ewes and acceptable weather for the lambs.

Although it appears we have lost proportionately more ewes, we have lost fewer lambs, and one lesson seems clear, starting to give hard feed earlier, means the ewes have good milk.

As always there are a number of lambs needing to be bottle fed; six of these are with Tieran, while the others are in Jack’s tender care. I suspect he is very much looking forward to Fleurine’s arrival on Sunday to help with that task.

There are some concerns about grass growth in a number of pastures, especially now that some 30 acres has been cultivated and reseeded and so are not available. While the cultivation of the land went like clockwork, we ran into significant problems with the seed mix sent us. A saga which involved a number of players before a semi-satisfactory resolution could be found – satisfactory at least to Natural England who are the paymasters.

We have all been taking photographs of the work in progress and work done. Natural England now requires photographic confirmation that claimed activities actually took place.

To date all seems very well with the cattle though they are now reduced in number by the three seen to have TB who were taken off the farm on Thursday. To date there have been no further calves. The suckler herd is still needing a feed trailer as the number of animals means they eat the grass faster than it can grow. They clearly will need moving on soon.

Fortunately, the young stock are merely keeping the grass in their field under control and being in the field closest to the tenants being and giving entertainment.

Last week I shared a photo of the lady smock growing by our drive, puny specimens compared to those growing in the scrape as you can see from this week’s photo!

The scrape itself was in mid-week, by no means full, and the level of water in the main ditches were worryingly low.

The flowers in bloom along the road sides have changed. The purple dead nettle seems over but the white dead nettle continues to flourish. The dandelions are having a marvellous year, the cowslips are strong, and the cow parsley is now in flower.

Once Fleurine is with us, Tim and Jack can concentrate on tidying up – collecting feed trailers for example, and eventually clearing out the barn and disinfecting as necessary.

Areas around feed trailers will also need that attention. We have now agreed which boundaries should first be re-fenced and, to reduce costs, the farm team will also be involved in that.

In the news

Listening to the Schubert’ quartet – ‘Death of a maiden’, which in itself can bring a tear to the eye, led part of my thinking to the terrible attacks in Sri Lanka and the way in which the British media displayed its worst characteristics – how many dead – how many British – then finding a survivor who has lost all her/his family thrusting a microphone in front of their face and asking that most penetrating question, “so, how do you feel”. I long for the day when the survivor attempts to thrust the microphone down the Interviewers throat!!

A scientist recently described looking at the photograph of a black hole said it mirrored his picture of hell. This somewhat old-fashioned statement set me wondering about the concepts of hell and paradise. The notion of an afterlife – in one form or another – seems to have been in existence since Homo sapiens ruled the roost and the reasons for such beliefs are a well-trod path.


Would the notion of guilt exist were it not for these beliefs? Guilt certainly seems common to all but socio and psychopaths. Does it relate, one way or another to the belief – once not common in our ‘advanced societies’ – that nothing is accidental, which inevitably demands someone, or thing is to blame – a scapegoat in other words. Was it this ‘built in’ belief that was later taken up as a means of control or motivation particularly by the development of belief in a single all mighty God?

Ignoring thoughts about the afterlife, tempting topic though it is with the recent discovery of undisturbed tombs in Egypt, why do we use guilt so poorly. As a feeling it is worthless unless we use it positively. Too often it seems it acts in a self-destructive way. Where does self-awareness fit into this and self-regard.


Poems about Christmas trees are not hard to come by except that the setting is always winter. I think this is a shame. In our garden we have both a small holly tree and a much larger relic of a Christmas many years ago. Both are within five yards of a bird feeder; both are much used by the large number of birds found in our garden. Aside from when the holly tree is covered by berries, it provides little food for the birds but does provide safety from raptors.

The ‘Christmas tree’ on the other hand, is used by a much greater variety of birds, from the large such as crows (unwelcome) to wrens. It appears to provide food for much of the year for this variety of visitors. Depending on the time of year, this will include caterpillars, insects and fresh shoots.

It is not at any time of the year beautiful especially at this time of year, when so many other bushes and trees are in bloom, but it’s value to bird life by far outweighs that lack of beauty.

To a degree, we are what we are, as a result of the authors and books we were introduced to at an age when they could make most impression. I have never concealed the fact that, for me, Richard Jefferies was one such author. In his life, cut short by consumption, his later writings were those of the born naturalist, and except perhaps for his books ‘The story of my Life’ and ‘After London’, a natural essayist and to my mind an author all should read. His two most famous children’s books were ‘Wood Magic’ and ‘Bevis’ and it’s hard not to think Arthur Ransome in his series of books beginning with ‘Swallows and Amazons’ was not influenced by that later book.

I have selected two poems by him. The first is short and hearing a neighbour vainly trying to keep rooks off his newly sown crop, pertinent. The second is long, probably far too long, but in some ways says it all. Read it if you can find the time.

ROOKS by Richard Jefferies

There, where the rusty iron lies,

The rooks are cawing all the day.
Perhaps no man, until he dies,
Will understand them, what they say.

The evening makes the sky like clay.
The slow wind waits for night to rise.
The world is half-content. But they

Still trouble all the trees with cries,
That know, and cannot put away,
The yearning to the soul that flies
From day to night, from night to day.

DAWN by Richard Jefferies

And this is morning. Would you think
That this was the morning, when the land
Is full of heavy eyes that blink
Half-opened, and the tall trees stand
Too tired to shake away the drops
Of passing night that cling around
Their branches and weigh down their tops:
And the grey sky leans on the ground?
The thrush sings once or twice, but stops
Affrighted by the silent sound.
The sheep, scarce moving, munches, moans.
The slow herd mumbles, thick with phlegm.
The grey road-mender, hacking stones,
Is now become as one of them.

Old mother Earth has rubbed her eyes
And stayed, so senseless, lying down.
Old mother is too tired to rise
And lay aside her grey nightgown,
And come with singing and with strength
In loud exuberance of day,
Swift-darting. She is tired at length,
Done up, past bearing, you would say.
She’ll come no more in lust of strife,
In hedge’s leap, and wild bird’s cries,
In winds that cut you like a knife,
In days of laughter and swift skies,
That palpably pulsate with life,
With life that kills, with life that dies.
But in a morning such as this
Is neither life nor death to see,
Only that state which some call bliss,
Grey hopeless immortality.
Earth is at length bedrid. She is
Supinest of the things that be:
And stilly, heavy with long years,
Brings forth such days in dumb regret,
Immortal days, that rise in tears,
And cannot, though they strive to, set.

  * * * * * * *

The mists do move. The wind takes breath.
The sun appeareth over there,
And with red fingers hasteneth
From Earth’s grey bed the clothes to tear,
And strike the heavy mist’s dank tent.
And Earth uprises with a sigh.
She is astir. She is not spent.
And yet she lives and yet can die.
The grey road-mender from the ditch
Looks up. He has not looked before.
The stunted tree sways like the witch
It was: ’tis living witch once more.
The winds are washen. In the deep
Dew of the morn they’ve washed. The skies
Are changing dress. The clumsy sheep
Bound, and earth’s many bosoms rise,
And earth’s green tresses spring and leap
About her brow. The earth has eyes,
The earth has voice, the earth has breath,
As o’er the land and through the air,
With wingéd sandals, Life and Death
Speed hand in hand—that winsome pair!

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