What a very frustrating week. As if mirroring politics, the needed rain has come in excess. As a result, much of what was planned had to be abandoned, and some fields are indeed now waterlogged.
More positively I can say that our animals seem in good shape and there is plenty of grass for them to eat. I write ‘seem’ because with TB testing next week, who really knows.
Our farm meeting on Friday was light two members as there was a conference in Birmingham on preparedness for Brexit. If it does in fact come about, we can only hope that the UK – should it continue to exist as such – has set aside monies to help small and medium sized businesses. The closer you look at the likely realities, the more difficult matters appear.
Given the weather this week, and that forecast for next, there was not a great amount to discuss in the meeting. No spraying was possible and cow horns could not be filled and buried despite the flow form having been cleaned and ready. Tim did manage to spread compost on one field and then grass harrow it, but otherwise, aside from some ragwort pulling, little could be done other than use the chainsaw in the compound to cut up wood and do some tidying.
Perhaps inevitably given the weather, what did come up at the meeting was a depressing list of equipment needing repair or servicing. Some of this work we can do in house but too much will require others to be involved.
The digger has been working on two projects, but even on this front, the rain has massively impeded progress. In places the mud is 9 inches deep! Sebastian is struggling a little to keep his spirits up faced with this situation. Theo’s contribution has been invaluable as the attached photo demonstrates. Chris managed earlier in the week to do some work in the windrows making the area look rather better.
I am starting to get a little nervous about completing our stewardship tasks since for the re-seeding of the remaining four fields time is beginning to look an issue. Even for the re-fencing programme, firm ground is necessary, though we may have the bodies to help in the task.
Next week is the last full week that Theo is with us, but he will be here to help the new woofer who joins us on Wednesday. Ryan and his dog are joining us from America and are with us hopefully for several months. Ryan does have family relatively close to us which may help him adjust to life over here. There certainly will be work for him!
Sarah has been active in both the garden and kitchen, and Anne has enjoyed eating new dishes. All the beetroot and parsnips have been lifted and put into storage. The beetroot this year have been very successful – attempts to grow carrots, inevitably it seems, failed. While we may have been unsuccessful in ensuring succession sowing of lettuce, the position is very different with the leeks; we may even get more broad beans – the runner beans continue to run amok!
I usually find something to share that the farming community is buzzing about, but I doubt you want to hear of current fears, anguish about climate change, or do it yourself faecal parasite egg counting…
To add to the general depression, there was a report today on the news that horse chestnut trees are now on the likely extinction list, along with ash and possibly oak trees. Some countries have taken strong steps in recent years to attempt to prevent diseases being imported alongside plants. There has been no such effort in this country, and we are now paying the price.
Certainly, the conker trees that line the drive look sicker each year, and this winter there are several we will have to fell for safety reasons. When we came here the driveway in spring was lined with daffodils and very healthy trees. By and large the daffodils survive but in patches, where large puddles accumulate, there are now gaps. We have continued to feed the remaining plants and tried to help the chestnut trees to survive but nature, rather like the tide, is an irresistible force.
On a positive note, walking the dogs requires at the moment attention to where feet are placed because there are goodly numbers of amphibians on the move. For different reasons I try to avoid treading on snails given the unpleasant sound when one is stepped on!
Last week these notes were rather long. Given the news from America, the judgement of the Supreme Court, and the scenes in the House of Commons on Wednesday, they could be as long this week but, frankly, you all know what you think, and don’t need my views to add to the pot this week.
In the post yesterday was a letter from a close friend now in his mid-nineties and resident in Canada since the early 1950’s. Not a feted Battle of Britain ‘hero’, but instead one of those forgotten heroes who fought in the Far East. Flying the ‘wooden wonder’ out there must have been a nightmare. All flying crew had ‘Delhi Belly’ but were stuck in their aircraft for long hours, flying in temperatures where the glue holding the wings on, frequently failed, flying over some of the most inhospitable places in the world, and knowing if you survived a crash and were found you would be faced by life in a Japanese camp.
That generation really believed the cause they were fighting would lead to a better world. As our friend recently wrote ‘some hope indeed’. The despair emanating from his letter was/is very hard to cope with. What a mess of our world we have made in so many ways. And I am a ‘glass half full’ individual.
Jo Haynes, in a letter published in the Times, and speaking of recent behaviour in the Commons, decried the lack of wit and elegance and its replacement with crude insult and abuse. For all the advances on some fronts, ‘dumbing down’ is a central feature of our present culture.
As I mentioned earlier, three of our number attended an event in Birmingham designed to tell businesses what Brexit would require of them. Overall our team felt that their attendance had been worthwhile, if depressing and very concerning. They brought home a well written and succinct booklet summarising what they had heard. Credit where credit is due.
As always, I have turned to music to help the retention of a reasonably quiet mind. Masses by Michael Haydn and Nocturnes from Chopin and Field have for me been very helpful these last days.
Looking for solace in poetry was more difficult to find. English poets when not writing of unfulfilled lust/love or death turned often to the seasons as a source of inspiration, and I can, from a very limited knowledge base, think of none who did not write an autumn inspired work.
The poem below by Richard Dixon is one of the least gloomy!
The feathers of the willow
Are half of them grown yellow
Above the swelling stream; And ragged are the bushes,
And rusty now the rushes,
And wild the clouded gleam.
The thistle now is older,
His stalk begins to moulder,
His head is white as snow; The branches all are barer,
The linnet’s song is rarer,
The robin pipeth now.
and in a positive vein Thomas Hood’s poem ‘The Departure of Summer’ includes the words.
…….But thou wilt come again
On the gay wings of butterflies.
Spring at thy approach will sprout
Her new Corinthian beauties out,
Leaf-woven homes, where twitter-words
Will grow to songs, and eggs to birds;
Ambitious buds shall swell to flowers,
And April smiles to sunny hours.