With 216.8mm rainfall recorded in Worcestershire’s by the 21st of this month, and an awful lot more rain that has fallen in this last week, we can at least say with certainty, it is not just winter, but February that has been very wet.

The lakes in field 8 are refilled, the brook comes up and goes down, and the water table is full. We do feel a little trepidatious that perhaps like Joseph and the seven years of feast, were followed by seven years of famine, or in our case, floods and then droughts. How do we prepare for that? All in all, it is very hard to know what the weather will do next.

With the last rainfall, a new excitement was to be had. The field 11 garden and polytunnel got its own small lake. It could have been worse, so the weekend job became the clearing of the ditches in and around the area to ensure it doesn’t flood like that again.  However, although we did discuss whether we should be growing rice rather than veggies, rain was not allowed to stop play when it came to seeding, and already first shoots are up, which is always so rewarding to see. No, that wasn’t a cricket reference – we won’t mention the cricket! As for the wet start to spring – we are going to need nematodes if we are going to keep the slug numbers down. In the meantime, discovering a Great Crested Newt was perfect.

You may have caught the news of a murmuration of starlings over Redditch last week. As close as we are to the town, we were lucky enough to think we saw the some of the display. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3fvxSsB7ek

The Guineafowl youngsters are out and about in the daytime. It was an exciting first day when they met with one of the Business Park Unit’s dogs, but despite our fearing the worst, by the end of the day, all were safely back in their cage, happy to be out of the trees, or for the poor little one who had the fright, out from the brambles! They may have been rather brambly, but they did their job as a safety fence well.

Half term was a week of being serenaded by one voice singing out in the hedgerows with the apparent call “Do-it!” “Do-it!”. As it was a rather busy half term, we felt that was appropriate. However, identifying the bird was less straightforward. In the end we lent on an App… which listened to the call and offered “Song Thrust – Almost Certain. Robin – Uncertain. Common Buzzard – Uncertain”. We fell back on the old, yet reliable, technique of try again. Three times it was almost certain it was a Song Thrush, so that’s what we agreed on! Somehow, its voice has become less clear amongst the awakening hedgerows this last week. In its place now, a whole host of songs and calls, and in the dead of night, a lone quack comes from the ditch that runs along our west boundary near the house. In that stormy night earlier this week, the wind howled, the duck quacked, and most surprising of all, the Tawny Owl’s call could also be heard. We are so fortunate that the owl is always close most nights, but so astonishing to hear it through those winds.

In the barn, the cattle are content, and despite the rain, the sheep are also doing well. One ewe is behaving out of ‘type’ so we are keeping a close eye on her. Alice was fortunate enough to see two Hares in the wood, and also two Deer and a large flock of starlings – and even foraged for Sarcoscypha coccinea, or as we known it, the scarlet elf cup. Intrepid as they are, Alice and Brendan foraged, ate, and were able to tell the tale the next day!

The Organic Market Report from Soil Association has been published, and reports that despite the political and economic turmoil of the last year, the organic market held strong. Delivering its 12th consecutive year of positive growth, the organic market has grown 2% in 2023 ending the year at £3.2 billion. However, in the UK, it is still just 3% of farmland that is being used for organic farming, and their figures collated on how much we import of meats, fruits and vegetables is very worrying. Whether organic, or non, if we can’t do our best to feed ourselves from our own land, we cannot feel we have food security in the UK, and more importantly, we cannot believe the reassurances we are given when we can see across the UK, Europe, and recently in India too, farmers are genuinely struggling to survive and therefore struggling to provide.

We know we touched on this last week, but as farmers, it would be mad to not at least mention more on this news here. The British farmers very politely circled the Dover ferry terminal roundabout a couple of times and then parked up in a nearby car park as part of their protests, and Cardiff Senedd has also been surrounded as farmers plead to be heard. In Belgium, the farmers have blockaded roads, set tyres on fire and sprayed manure over the streets. In Italy, Spain, France their farmers are all similarly distressed. In whichever way it is that their point is made, across the world, there is huge concern and discontent at the coalface in the farming sector – the sector where our foods are grown and produced, and it seems, no appetite for a cross party solution to be found. Having our farming and foods politicised is badly missing both the urgency and the point.

Late to the table, Sunak last week addressed the NFU conference – he promised nothing but platitudes, and the call that “at least he was there” seems somewhat tragic. The next day, other parties held hustings at the conference, and as the local reporter put it, “there is a strong whiff of election in the air”.

The world is in a pickle, and it’s almost time to stop listening to the news again, but these pesky history GCSE lessons continue to be rather close to the bone. It seems that a well-documented human trait in voting, throughout history, and across the world, is that when the economy is unstable, extreme political parties do better. When asked, the teacher elaborated that when life is hard, and the party in power aren’t making it any easier, you are prepared to take a risk, you are prepared to voice your discontent. Hello Brexit.  Add to this the knowledge that propaganda, i.e., telling people what they want to hear, is much easier to do when you are not holding centre ground, and, will very likely get your re-elected; oh yes, and making different promises to different groups who hold very different ideologies is not new – Hitler did it long before Alexander de Pfeffel ever did. Together we have the breeding ground for the kinds of headlines we read day in and day out at the moment. To really turn one’s stomach, in Mein Kampf, Hitler set out exactly who he was, what he wanted to happen, and that he was prepared to do what was necessary to make it happen but was given positions in the Reichstag because they felt they could “control him”. Hello Putin.  Adrian would already have re-read at least 19 books to ensure that he had squared the circle on these reflections on what it is to be human. A two-dimensional history lesson is of course just that, but seeing our current world crises through that 2D prism is still rather sobering.

On Being Human by C S Lewis

Angelic minds, they say, by simple intelligence
Behold the Forms of nature. They discern
Unerringly the Archtypes, all the verities
Which mortals lack or indirectly learn.
Transparent in primordial truth, unvarying,
Pure Earthness and right Stonehood from their clear,
High eminence are seen; unveiled, the seminal
                 Huge Principles appear.

The Tree-ness of the tree they know-the meaning of
Arboreal life, how from earth’s salty lap
The solar beam uplifts it; all the holiness
Enacted by leaves’ fall and rising sap;

But never an angel knows the knife-edged severance
Of sun from shadow where the trees begin,
The blessed cool at every pore caressing us
                 -An angel has no skin.

They see the Form of Air; but mortals breathing it
Drink the whole summer down into the breast.
The lavish pinks, the field new-mown, the ravishing
Sea-smells, the wood-fire smoke that whispers Rest.
The tremor on the rippled pool of memory
That from each smell in widening circles goes,
The pleasure and the pang —can angels measure it?
                 An angel has no nose.

The nourishing of life, and how it flourishes
On death, and why, they utterly know; but not
The hill-born, earthy spring, the dark cold bilberries.
The ripe peach from the southern wall still hot
Full-bellied tankards foamy-topped, the delicate
Half-lyric lamb, a new loaf’s billowy curves,
Nor porridge, nor the tingling taste of oranges.
                 —An angel has no nerves.

Far richer they!  I know the senses’ witchery
Guards us like air, from heavens too big to see;
Imminent death to man that barb’d sublimity
And dazzling edge of beauty unsheathed would be.
Yet here, within this tiny, charmed interior,
This parlour of the brain, their Maker shares
With living men some secrets in a privacy
                 Forever ours, not theirs

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