Well autumn has certainly arrived. In the farmhouse I register the temperature by the number of layers of clothing it is necessary to wear under and above my shirt. The current figure is still no more than four but…Having been rather negative, the fact is, we have enjoyed a week of sunshine and that special autumnal light that enhances the colours of the trees, their leaves and the fruit in the hedgerows. Moreover, at this time of year our resident moorhens are more to be seen.
The week overall has gone well despite the death of a lamb. A new heifer calf arrived mid-week and made its presence known by climbing into the water trough. The Rams have been moved onto new grass and judging by their pungent odour are all but ready for their annual task. They have all become used to having small amounts of hard feed to ready them for their coming task. A positive result of this is that shaking a bucket is basically all that was needed to get them out of the field gate and along to new pasture!
We have now received all the organic straw we ordered, and about one third of the bedding straw. Our bought in organic hay seems to be much enjoyed and we had to bring more bales across this week. The bedding straw comes in huge rectangular bales and is compacted so much that the task of spreading it is very hard work. Judging by the height of the bedding now, a clearing is likely to be necessary by Christmas.
There was this week some rather disturbing news in the press about the prevalence of TB in cattle herds. We all, farmers and vets, believe the present testing regime is flawed and causes too many animals to be slaughtered unnecessarily, and a new test appears to show that the present test not only causes healthy cattle to be slaughtered but misses very many infected animals…oh dear conspiracy theories will have a field day.
Clearing the workshop is still not completed – not through lack of effort nor simply because of the amount of material that has had to be sorted, tidied or cleared, but because now the cattle are housed in the barn, time has to set aside for filling the feed trailers and spreading more bedding straw as needed.
Apart from the change in the weather, this week we have had to contend with the putting back of the clocks. This is not something welcomed by any of us as we are all afflicted by a kind of ‘jet lag’ – indeed early in the week having failed to update my wrist watch confusion reigned on more than one occasion.
Fortunately, the livestock seem unaffected by the sound of fireworks. This is definitely not the case for two of our dogs. Milly seems unaffected, but the others, after the first bang is heard, are instantly to be discovered one on one’s lap (without asking first I might stress), or sitting as close as they might get!
As a last rumination on change I have to comment on how the 5th of November is celebrated now, in comparison to how matters were arranged in the 59’s and 60’s. Then, every family that had a garden, however small, would gather together around a homemade bonfire, and father or mother would be responsible for lighting the fireworks and keeping everybody safe. We all knew what the day was about and even if no Guy Fawkes had been made for the fire, youngsters would have been pushing old prams containing roughly made images of the wretched man and shouting ‘penny for the guy, gov’ for several days before. Going out on that evening could be perilous as firecrackers could be tossed onto buses or lit under empty tin cans, while ‘jumping jacks’ could also be a hazard. All banned now, including ‘Catherine wheels’ and, except, perhaps this year, because of a particularly ‘bloody’ three-part series on the Gunpowder Plot, few will know what is all about. Of course, all this is sensible; deaths and injuries are down to fewer than a quarter of the numbers of that period but it is hard not to feel that something for family life has been lost.
On a more lighted hearted note, it is marvellous where curiosity and the ownership of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (shorter because only two volumes rather than twelve) can take one. Attempting to discover more about the Dresden Motettenchor led me to wonder what the relationship between choir and choral might be, why we pronounced them so differently, and why both had a silent ‘h’. Historically the word for choir was quere but a sound shift which also affected breve and frere (briar and friar) led to the word being written pronounced quire. At some point some busy body decided to show a link with choral and chorus and so spelt quire as choir. People however preferred the old pronunciation and so we still say quire! Incidentally this addition of an unsounded ‘h’ seems not to be an English peculiarity – the German word ‘chor’ also contains an unsounded ‘h’.
Sobering up for a paragraph, in this week’s Times there was a report on the finding of mass graves in St Helena of slaves who either were found dead or who died on the island while waiting for relocation having been seized by ships of the Royal Navy from slaver’s boats after the banning of slavery by the British government. Apparently by 1860 some 1200 boats had been taken and over 150,000 slaves freed. The reason I refer to this, and as a remain voter I can say this, is that it was in Victorian Britain that the values of the ‘civilised world – and I am happy to include the EU in this, first developed legislation relating to factory acts, public health and so on. ‘The dark satanic mills’ of the poem Jerusalem by Blake helped prompt the middle class and key figures in the aristocracy to develop a social conscience (no doubt helped by the fact that the economy was booming).
Finally, something entirely trivial. I now believe I know what ‘grime’ means in the modern ‘music’ world. According to the Today programme it is rhyming rap originating from the black community of south London. Despite still being uncertain what ‘grunge’ might be, I now feel more in touch with youth culture.
In light of the date, two verses in Dorset dialect from a poem by William Barnes entitled, perhaps not surprisingly ‘Guy Faux’s Night:
Guy Faux’s night, dost know, we chaps,
A-putten on our woldest traps,
Went up the highest o’ the knaps,
An’meade up such a view!
An’ thou an’ Tom were all we miss’d
Or if a sarpent had a-hiss’d
Among the rest in thy sprack visit,
Our fun’d a-been the higher.
An’zome wi’hissen squibs did run
To pay off zone what they’d a-done
An’ let em off so loud’s a gun
Agean their smoked polls;
An’ some did stir their nimble pages
Wi’ crackers in between their lags,while some did burn their cwoats to rags Or wes’cots out in holes.