Reading back Adrian’s notes for this week last year, it was good to look back and see the arc of these last 12 months; no natural book worm, it is harder for me to triangulate in the same ways Adrian always has. So, being able to use his notes as a foundation for my thoughts is a legacy, which I am sure he had planned for.
The last weeks have been an upheaval in every which way, but farming the way we do, nature and the natural world, even with the effects of climate change, keep us anchored, for which we are grateful.
We have the Soil Association inspection in two weeks, and there is, as always, a great deal of paperwork preparation to be done. I consider myself fortunate that in the last years, this was work I had already, with Adrian, shared responsibility for. There are only so many mountains one should have to climb at one time!
I am sure we can all hear Adrian’s thoughts on the recent conclusions of the COP27 meeting. We decided here at supper that the thing we can do is to keep doing what we are doing and keep hoping that the powers-that-be find a sense of reason and responsibility in enough time. The long wait for recognition that the methane levels can only be successfully addressed if big business is held to account still goes on.
The new government and the environment ministers are still to show their hand, so we wait and see what their turn arounds might mean for us.
The Pasture Fed community were talking through the possible ramifications to the German meat industry after a price hike of 40%. We wait to see what it may mean for us here. At least we have so far been able, in our relationship with Ford Hall Farm, to keep the Rush Farm meat exclusively in the organic chain, and that it continues to be available.
Finally, a huge thank you to all who are keeping in touch with us. Replies are due, but we read your words and feel the comfort. Thank you.
Winter is ‘icumin in’ – or so it feels at last. The tail end of the week has brought crisp mornings and blindingly clear skies that have all but eradicated the memory of the wash out that was the middle of the week.
The clear morning sky has allowed us to see the rapidly waning crescent moon hovering over the southern horizon, although sadly I did not wake up early enough to admire the stars. Having done a fair bit of travelling this week, from Worcestershire to London, then to Bristol via Banbury, it has been interesting to note the change in local climates. London obviously is still fairly warm, and the trees still have many leaves, however Oxfordshire and Somerset seem to have been struck hard, and the skyline is cluttered with denuded tree trunks. The trip back from Oxfordshire, through Warwickshire and into Worcestershire was almost like a trip back through time as the trees became less bare and more colourful.
There have been a few events on the farm this week, commencing with an early start on Monday as sixteen of our cull ewes and fourteen fat lambs were collected. There was obviously something in the air that day as the sheep were very frisky, with one particularly vast and energetic lamb jumping the hurdles three times! In the end it took four of us to persuade them to get into the trailer. It is a relief to have started moving stock off the farm however, and we have another 50-60 planned to leave over the next few weeks.
The breeding flock moved off the field by the main drive to field one, which is (perhaps obviously) the first field you drive past as you enter the farm. The ewes seem happy, as do the rams, and in excellent news the ram with suspected kidney stones is much better and back out on the grass. He is a ram we bred ourselves and has been with us for a while, so we have decided that in a few weeks he will also be moved on.
As you can imagine with all the rain in the middle of the week, we decided that it was time the young stock came in for the winter. With the suckler herd already in the barn, we decided to make the most of the day and wean the older calves at the same time. So followed an elegant dance around the barn as Chris, Tim and I tried to section the calves in one half. It must be said that the system of gates designed by Wwooffer Sebastien some years ago makes operations such as these much easier!
With the twelve biggest calves weaned and put in the new barn next to the hay, the next task was to separate the two heifers that are joining the main herd as breeding cows out of the young stock.
After a few false starts this also was completed, which left only the separating of our biggest steers from the young stock. We wanted to do this for two reasons – with the cattle in closer proximity in the barn it is much better we split them into smaller groups, and also, we are hoping that (December’s TB test allowing) we will be able to send these stock off the farm soon. So, the thirteen steers have joined the uncastrated bullock in another section of the barn.
Two brief sojourns to the cities of London and Bristol made me think about our society and its relationship with food. In London there appears to be such a disconnect between the food available and the source of the food. The endless chain cafés and fast-food outlets (even those that attempt to be healthy) all produce goods for consumption with so little effort or consideration for season/climate/locality. There is absolutely no reason for the consumer to consider where their food came from, or how it got to them. Of course, this is something of a gross generalisation, however the food culture seemed quite different in Bristol. The chains, although present were less visible, and small restaurants and bakeries were making delicious smells all day. Of course, the Soil Association are also headquartered in Bristol so perhaps it has always been a place for those who care about food production to gather.
Another moment that provoked thought – while stopping over at the magnificent Gloucester service station for supper – was an overheard phone conversation that concerned the presence of eggs in the service station (also a farm shop) so should they buy them all up as there are none to be found in the supermarkets. It is easy to think that the ‘shortage’ of eggs is down to the recent outbreak of avian flu, however, dig a little deeper and it seems that there are as many eggs as usual, and the real reason for the shortage is a pay dispute. The farmers, understandably upset at the low prices they get from supermarkets, asked for more money for their eggs. The supermarkets responded by raising the price to the consumer by about 50p, and the price paid to the farmers by about 7p – and refusing to buy any eggs at any higher price than that. It has even been reported that supermarkets are importing eggs from Spain. Truly, the mind boggles!
After the excitement of this week, we are hoping for a slightly more relaxed time over the next few days, but who knows what will happen!
My turn. Last, but I know not least!
I am most grateful to have received your messages of sympathy and support – from those of you who have known us all for years, those who have known us through our farming years, and those who have known us through Adrian’s blog – thank you all.
We have received a suggestion for a wonderful favourite poem of Adrian’s with which to end today’s notes. Thank you so much for seeing the perfect poem so clearly.
Plus, a beautiful sampler message which has travelled alongside a ‘blog friend’ of Adrian’s – both of which we share below.
To you all, for your kindness, thank you.
Halfway Down by A A Milne
Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where I sit.
there isn’t any
I‘m not at the bottom,
I’m not at the top;
so this is the stair
Halfway up the stairs
And it isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn’t really
It’s somewhere else
And, more kindness, shared from a sampler by an embroidery teacher in Heckmondwike, Yorkshire, in 1976:
Thro’ sun and shadow our journey goes,
No night so dark but one star glows.
No grief can last forever,
Beneath the snows,
We may be certain,
Smiles the rose