So, Guy Fawkes day has come and gone. Of course, most these days know as little about its origins as they do about Christmas, Easter and Whitsun. In my memory it was a rather more significant event, and words used by William Barnes nearly 200 years ago encapsulated this –

An’ some wi’ hissen squibs did run,
To pay off some what they’d a-done
An’ let them off so loud’s a gun”
Agean their smoken polls:

Not of course that I ever did that – our mother ensured otherwise!

It has been another wet week though we have not suffered as much as some. Nonetheless met office statistics show that this area had in nine weeks as much rain in total as is normal for the whole of the autumn. True to form, towards the end of the week we had hard frosts followed at once by heavy rain. Walking the dogs one evening under a bright moon I caused panic to the ducks (that have adopted the mini lakes in the field by the drive) causing them to take flight with much noise!

All but the sheep, and a handful of cattle are now firmly established in the barn, so feeding is a daily need for all stock. Aside from this, a day was given over to dividing the sheep into two groups for tupping. Sadly, a number of ewes were identified as not being fit to breed from. These were those which age has caught up with and were now toothless, and for those for whom mastitis had left lasting damage. All in all, our breeding flock looks likely to have fallen to its lowest total for years, while our number of rams is excessive! The rams this year will go in later than usual towards the end of the month.

The decline in the size of our breeding flock, while in line with thinking I have shared with you before, does however go with our need to bring new bloodlines in. We have done so in the past but with mixed outcomes. Indeed, it seems clear that bringing in ewes from areas where soil conditions are very different is not very successful; certainly, we need at least one new ram.  All that is for action next year. In the meantime, lambing should be a less time-consuming period.

I have no update on our hopes to swap Baachus, but am pleased to say that we have a new calf. An in-calf cow was brought into the barn early last week because of the sodden pastures, but in the event the calf actually decided to join us on the Monday of this week; mother and offspring are doing well.

I share again with you our anxiety about the future of stock farming. The market at the moment is flooded with cheap beef imports from South America, the public, in reading about the need to eat less red meat are not informed that climate issues and cattle relates to intensive farming and not to those farmers like ourselves who rely entirely on the mixed grasses and herbs growing in our pastures.

A local news item described the situation facing cereal farmers in our area. Fields are just too wet to make it possible to get machines onto them, let alone drill wheat – hence our seeking derogation to conclude our re-seeding program in the spring. This continuing inability to work the land means that other tasks can be completed.

Clement and Ryan, over and above their daily activities, have been replacing the styles on footpaths through the farm, and replacing a rust damaged gate with a new one. On Friday for a change they worked in the wood to re-establish the area in the wood used for forest school. This involved putting up a new parachute and clearing the ground under it. The area was ‘christened’ on Saturday when Ulula had a photo shoot. 

Inevitably for the photo shoot, the weather was dire – cold and very wet!  The shoot concerned primarily MOGLi Demeter foods, and locations included both the barn and the wood. The children and dogs enjoyed themselves immensely, while the adults attempted to make the best of the situation! Periodically the farm kitchen provided warmth, hot drinks and hot soup.

Slightly unbelievably, one now sees the wood in many ways at its most attractive. As always there are a plethora of fungi, and of course a range of colours on leaves both fallen and still on the trees. At all times of the year the wood is a haven for wildlife including hares, hedgehogs and deer – this is even more true over the winter. Though there is a public footpath through the wood, this seems to be rarely used except perhaps in the spring. It is of course a wet wood, and the remains of the 14th century ridge and furrow maintain this state. As an aside, you will not be surprised that the groundwater level is only just below the surface.

Clement joined us on Monday evening and seems to have settled in very well. He is coping admirably with the fact that, except when he speaks on the telephone to his long-term girlfriend, he hears only English, whether American or English. But it does seem to be ‘paying off’ and after Friday’s ‘lesson’ I could say genuinely he has achieved much in only four days! I will admit my French has also improved. Slightly unusually, my pronunciation is understood, and my vocabulary is also widening. It is still basically franglais but with more of the ‘frang’ than the ‘lais’.

Far too much time and energy has gone into attempting to change the position the Rural Payments Agency is adopting towards our claim for repayment of the cost of the seed – nothing short of totally outrageous. 

Despite some organisational disturbances, the Pasture Fed site continues to throw up interesting information.  Recent emails promulgated the idea that agricultural practices that excludes cattle has in many instances led to desertification. Two recent authors are cited: David Montgomery and Walt Davis

In his book “Dirt: The Erosion of civilisations” Montgomery argues that tillage was, and is, tied to loss of soil volume and soil life, and is a key element in the creation of erosion. The book by Davis is called “The Green Revolution Delusion.” He argues convincingly that cattle are a necessary part in the process of maintaining soil structure and fertility. None of this is exactly new. Rudolf Steiner, in his advice to farmers in what was then Silesia, places cattle at the centre of his advice and writings on Biodynamic Agriculture.

Without, I am sure, any attempt to make political points, the issue discussed this week on “In our time” was the Battle of Limerick. A battle in which the Protestant forces were led by a Dutch general, and the Jacobite forces by two French Generals. A battle fought on Irish soil with Irishmen on both sides which was essentially about the European issue as to who should prevail – the French under the expansionist Catholic king Louis XIV, or the mixed religious forces of northern and Southern Europe. Largely about religion, but as much about power. The role of England then, as for so many centuries, was to fund and engage in diplomatic activities with European countries, with a view to ensure no one European power controlled the entire continent. When on earth do the Brexiteers imagine this country stood isolated from continental affairs. Do they not realise this nation has been multi-ethnic since the last ice-age?

To have power over others is something one does not need
For tis only by good example that one can ever lead
And many with power over others their power they do abuse
And for those who abuse others there cannot be an excuse.

If you wish to be a leader some sort of form of power you crave
And what it takes to be a great leader is to be understanding kind and brave
But leaders with such qualities to say the least seem rare
To some very ordinary people they do favourably compare.

For to have power over others a good person does not desire
And many power hungry people are those we should not admire
Power over others and personal power are different from night and day
We all do need some personal power for to serve survival’s way.

To have power over others is something one can do without
And on those who desire such powers one has to cast some doubt
They seem to be control freaks with darkness of the soul
The lives of other people they do need to control.

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