At last we have had a goodly amount of rain. For the time being at least, the great cracks in the ground have closed, and if we have the forecast promised warmth, the pastures may at last ‘take off’.
I think It was a positive comment on our approach to farming that I was told sharply the other day that at least our fields were green!
All this on top of, and in addition to, one of those days when a passing shower accidentally dropped some rain on us, and for an hour or so afterwards made it a pleasure to sit outside enveloped in the smell of newly dampened soil and sweetly perfumed roses while the air was full of the noise of bees enjoying the flowers, while our resident population of small birds chattered noisily away.
From the above you can tell the mood here is positive. The stock generally seem healthy and content, they all seem to have accepted that a regular change of pasture is the new norm and now, assisted by the new gates that have been installed, all is much more able to be managed by one person.
Checking health and water supplies still of course are part of the daily routine. No doubt we shall have to keep a careful eye out for fly strike given this dramatic change in weather, but at least the ewes and rams have been sheared and the lambs treated. Certainly, bats have been more obvious at dusk than previously.
I wrote that paragraph after two days of rain; being normal, irrational human beings, after the third day we were very much feeling that it was time for the tap to be turned off again!
Another steer has been sold, and it looks as if we are finding a regular market for our beef as well as our lamb. General uncertainty as well as market trends suggest we should reverse our decision to reduce the size of our breeding flock, and to do this we both need to buy in more ewes, but as importantly, bring in new rams.
Aside from the fact that we have hung onto five rams even as the number of ewes fell, we have relied entirely on home bred rams, and this is beginning to affect the quality of the lambs born. The other truth is we have kept ewes well past their normal breeding life since we had thought to eventually drop the number to well under a hundred.
From the above you will realise that in a moment of unexpected calm, we were able to find time to lift our line of vision, to set aside time to send paperwork to the soil association, to review progress on meeting HLS demands, and to feel comfortable that on top of our expectations for harvesting hay here, the arrangements made to rent organic land for additional hay were firmly in place. Moreover with some financial support from the treasury in the form of a low interest rate loan, the way in which both the need and demand for Demeter baby food has held up well doing the current health crisis, and good oversight of the accounts, financial matters while still tight are slightly less worrying. Moreover, the situation has been much helped by the understanding of our landlords as concerns rent.
I think I wrote before that the garden in terms of colour is at rather an in-between stage. As far as the birds are concerned now is a splendid time for both seed and insect eaters. This year for perhaps the first time I have realised how valuable these self-sown poppies are to wildlife. While in flower, and some still are, insects love them; now there are handsome green ‘crowned’ seed heads, both insects and birds drill holes in them to enable getting at the seeds. No wastage here and an ensuring that there will be more poppies next year.
While we have heard nothing from the RPA, we did have the good news that planning approval was not needed to allow us to erect a new barn adjacent to our existing one. This means that, assuming we can raise the money, stores of hay, straw and equipment will be able to be kept under cover. The knock-on effect of this is that should the need arise, there will be space in the original barn to house all the stock. All very exciting and requiring a great deal of patience.
The news on the progress of the Agriculture Bill is far from clear, but other developments give some hope. Should Biden win the autumn presidential election it seems likely that a trade agreement with the United States will not be high on his list of priorities, moreover, it appears interest in this country has shifted somewhat to membership of the Trans Pacific group which includes countries like Canada, Australia and Japan. But all this is essentially speculation.
Although I have no intention of commenting on either current management of the coronavirus outbreak or the Black Lives matter since neither have any direct link to the farm, the latter in particular is outstandingly obviously something to be supported, whether by kneeling, pulling down statues; pretending that we have been and/or are the worst imperialists of all time may be arguable. One undeniable fact is that as a white Englishman there is a range of feelings that might be assigned to ‘me’ that I have never felt or am likely to feel.
My restraint is not sufficient to prevent me sharing with you two nuggets learnt this week. The first is that President Trump was the second American President to call on his Army to break up a political demonstration. President Hoover – of the Hoover Dam – on 1932 used the army, also in Washington, to break up what was called the Bonus March of unemployed ex-servicemen, their wives and their children. The numbers of demonstrators was a hundred times larger than the Jarrow march. Indeed, I hardly need remind you that the last time the army was invoked in this way in this country was in 1811 – the Peterloo Massacre!
The second real surprise was to learn that the members of the 18,000 police forces in the United States are unregulated, untrained and working to no common professional code of practice. Add to this the fact that leading police posts are elected, and is it any wonder that the only basic code American police see themselves as following is maintaining law and order – back to the Wild West of the imagination.
Finally, I had my first experience of the new NHS. It was that time to review my medication, so I attempted to see a Doctor. No way was that possible. I got a phone call instead, and a reference to a couple of websites. Sadly, I have not been asked to rate the experience.
Returning to the start of this piece I, inevitably, with birdsong in my ears as I write this, chose the poem below:
The ThrushWithin a thick and spreading hawthorn bush
That overhung a molehill large and round,
I heard from morn to morn a merry thrush
Sing hymns to sunrise, and I drank the sound
With joy; and often, an intruding guest,
I watched her secret toil from day to day –
How true she warped the moss to form a nest,
And modelled it within with wood and clay;
And by and by, like heath-bells gilt with dew,
There lay her shining eggs, as bright as flowers,
Ink-spotted over shells of greeny blue;
And there I witnessed, in the sunny hours,
A brood of nature’s minstrels chirp and fly,
Glad as the sunshine and the laughing sky.
My excuse, if one is needed, is that we do have a blackbird nesting in the pyracantha on the wall close to our kitchen window. The words are of course by John Clare.