Pregnancy Testing

I have shared with you a photograph of the moon, because this week we have had both a ‘corn’ and a ‘blue’ moon. Sadly, I gave all my ‘proper’ cameras to the Salvation Army 15 years ago, and my competence with the camera on my phone does not extend to turning the flash off. So be it, I do hope you got out on at least one cloudless night and enjoyed the sight of the real thing. 

On the 16th August I sadly reported on the brownish world around us – a clear sign I thought of Autumn. I should have known better. In this extraordinary year of weather our fields are now as green and sprightly as we might hope for in April. We seem to lurch from one extreme of weather to another in a completely random way. 

Before going further let me acknowledge that this week I attained the same age as my wife, that the weather permitted the whole of our Worcestershire family to have cake outside, and then at the appropriate time all have supper together. A great feeling to compensate for another year added on my personal clock. It was a special day also as we all knew after many months of having the grandchildren around all day, the return to school was coming in 3 days. 

Some lovely cards and messages, my favourite forbidden foods as presents, rock cakes, chocolate and crisps and to provide an appropriate challenge a new ‘tablet’. Since it is not an ‘Apple’  product, a steep learning curve faces me, but the truth is that the faithful iPad I have used for many years is showing the results of use it was not designed for. So, these are the last notes written on this good friend of mine. Realising how sorry you will feel for me faced with this new challenge, I should confess I do use a laptop running on Windows XL, so Windows 10 should not be a totally impossible task. 

As always, a slightly mixed week on the farm with overall more positives than negatives. A major achievement was on Bank Holiday Monday when Chris, starting at the crack of dawn and using the new tractor, sprayed every field with 501 (especially prepared silica). Where use of the tractor was impractical the task was completed by hand. 

On Tuesday all the lambs were drenched against parasites. All went well, but growth seemed not as good as hoped. The pasture-fed site has been much taken up with the challenge of ‘staggers’ – a copper deficiency problem. While not suggesting this is a problem we are currently experiencing, there are signs, including cattle developing winter coats, that our historic problems associated with low levels of trace elements may be with us again. This requires blood samples and then a wait of some days before we know what if any action is needed. 

The three redundant rams were sold on to new homes on Wednesday as we now have confirmation that a new Lleyn ram should be with us soon. 

On Thursday the cattle endured pregnancy testing and the news was good. Of the 26 animals that could be expected to be pregnant, 24 were – bear in mind that the suckler herd has just grown by five heifers, and cattle that have calved recently are not expected to be in calf. At the same time, nearly all were vaccinated against clostridials. Excluded were the very recent calves so they will need a first jab in a few weeks and the older calves their second jab. 

The poorly cow with an abscess seems slightly better so our efforts to restore her health continue. 

Hopes that field 4 would provide us with more haylage have been abandoned, but it will provide good grazing for some three weeks as cows are given a third of the field at a time. When Chris was spraying field 4 on Monday, he disturbed four hares and a deer on that field alone. As always it seems, the tractor was followed by at least one hopeful buzzard. The word is that red kites are back but not seen here as yet. The sheep likewise are in a different pasture while the young stock may need to be moved next week. 

Provisions for the winter are building up. Some 50 bales of bedding straw arrived during the week and are under cover while slightly fewer bales of organic straw for feeding our over fat cows are on order. Next week, work on the floor of the new barn will start ready for the build in five weeks’ time. 

So, looking back on a pretty busy week, with as a first very real positive the grandchildren greatly enjoying their return to school, and as a second an enthralling T20 match with Australia which unbelievably England won. Additionally, for those that felt allowing the verges to grow uncut to encourage wildflowers may have been environmentally friendly but was at the least, untidy, a sunny Saturday permitted verges and lawns to be cut. 


Melania Trump & her garden redesign

You may recall caustic comments made about Melania Trump’s redesign of ‘the Rose garden’ at the White House. Parallels were drawn between the design and that of the gardens at Versailles. The way in which the avenue of roses led directly to the Oval Office was seen to mirror that expression of power symbolised by the gardens at the Kings palace. 

Historically the gardens of the elite were seen as statements of power and Melania Trump, knowingly or not followed the model adopted by the creator of the gardens at Versailles. In the 1700’s a rival style of gardening was adopted in this country which reflected our quite different political climate. Led by the work of such as Capability Brown, in place of open vistas and straight lines, the rich and powerful enveloped their country houses within naturalistic landscapes of shady woods, bubbling streams, and winding paths. Neither lines of vision nor lines of power could flow uninterrupted in an English landscape, and knowingly or not, this reflected an understanding that those who wished to rule should do so with caution, never knowing what lay beyond the next bend in their path.  

In passing, I confess we only visited the gardens of Versailles the once and found it rather dispiriting with it’s many wide gravel paths. Worst of all, as far as our daughters were concerned, was the main feature, a large circular pond filled with equally as large rather revolting looking fish. 


There are two topics I feel I must return to even if you feel you have heard more than enough from me already. I am still rather obsessed with a period of our history whose significance I feel is massively undervalued. Of course, we all know about the execution of Charles I and the re-instatement of the monarchy in 1660 with the return of Charles II. I think far too little attention has been given to the in-between period, when so many key issues from which we benefit today derive. Plato and Hobbes both believed society needed leadership, and for this country, it was that period in our history which determined what kind of leadership this country would tolerate, and the nature of religion that a majority could live with. 

This was the period when some 18 different dissenting sects fought for dominance. From the Fifth Monarchists to the Levellers, perhaps the oddest of all, the Muggletonians. Bizarrely it was followed by an outburst of intellectual curiosity given that the Bible in all its parts was still taken as the direct voice of God. I fear too much consideration is given to the three leaders, Charles I, Cromwell and Charles II explicitly, rather than the bubbling world beneath them. 


Secondly, and on the topic of slavery, some statistics for the present day, to help perspective and maybe help the conversation move onto what is happening today – somewhere where positive change could be made. NB: By ‘states’ is meant ‘nations’ – the situation in individual states is harder to identify: 

Twelve states only have instituted to the full the United Nations policy on slavery while -: 

  • 94 states (49 per cent) appear not to have criminal legislation prohibiting slavery  
  • 112 states (58 per cent) appear not to have put in place penal provisions punishing forced labour  
  • 180 states (93 per cent) appear not to have enacted legislative provisions criminalising servitude  
  • 170 states (88 per cent) appear to have failed to criminalise the four institutions and practices similar to slavery.  


You may well feel the poem below no longer is appropriate, that ‘God’ should be replaced by the word ‘science’, that coronavirus is on the retreat though the world is still reeling from its effects. But recent events have highlighted how historical re-enactments, and ideas that people of today, are no different from those of hundreds of years ago – basically flawed.  

It is totally impossible to convey the feeling of living in a world about which little was known, and knowing how little could be done if ill-health stuck, or the politics of a country were as uncertain. Even in the 19th century in this country, of live births, 15% died before the age of one. It appears around one in three women died in giving birth. Or to put it another way material mortality rates were over 5%.  It was a truly hazardous business – but then so was life. Health and safety were not words with meaning at that time, but having just discovered that work on a second floor window now requires professional scaffolders to be involved, while only 35 years ago, I used scaffolding erected for myself for my own use, and thought nothing of it…  The question that is taboo is, at what point does the marginal cost of perhaps saving one life need consideration. 

On the other hand, the poem is beautiful and so truthful I could not resist it. 

A Litany in Time of Plague by Thomas Nashe

Adieu, farewell, earth’s bliss; 
This world uncertain is; 
Fond are life’s lustful joys; 
Death proves them all but toys; 
None from his darts can fly; 
I am sick, I must die. 
    Lord, have mercy on us! 
Rich men, trust not in wealth, 
Gold cannot buy you health; 
Physic himself must fade. 
All things to end are made, 
The plague full swift goes by; 
I am sick, I must die. 
    Lord, have mercy on us! 

Beauty is but a flower 
Which wrinkles will devour; 
Brightness falls from the air; 
Queens have died young and fair; 
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye. 
I am sick, I must die. 
    Lord, have mercy on us! 

Strength stoops unto the grave, 
Worms feed on Hector brave; 
Swords may not fight with fate, 
Earth still holds open her gate. 
“Come, come!” the bells do cry. 
I am sick, I must die. 
    Lord, have mercy on us! 

Wit with his wantonness 
Tasteth death’s bitterness; 
Hell’s executioner 
Hath no ears for to hear 
What vain art can reply. 
I am sick, I must die. 
    Lord, have mercy on us! 

Haste, therefore, each degree, 
To welcome destiny; 
Heaven is our heritage, 
Earth but a player’s stage; 
Mount we unto the sky. 
I am sick, I must die. 
    Lord, have mercy on us! 

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