“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
Last week I conformed by beginning with the weather, but not this week.
I have three matters to share before starting this week’s farm news.
On Thursday morning, as I usually do, I listened to the radio programme ‘In our time’ – not always interesting, but this Thursday fascinating. Then, from talk about events in the first three centuries, I switched on my iPad and was forced to adjust to the day’s unpleasantness’s.
Secondly, I wanted to ensure that there could be no misunderstandings as to who takes the photographs I share, in the hope that the Stock and Bradley Chronicle do not wrongly ascribe to me photographs that come from any one of the family or Alice. It is nice that some assume my mobility has suddenly returned, but that is not the case.
Finally in this British world of agism, it might be worth remembering that individuals long dead read the runes about the future all too accurately. I am sure my generation at least, will remember Helen Shapiro’s famous first pop hit of 1961, we may indeed at the time have shared her sentiments, but age does give one a modicum of wisdom, experience and some sense of perspective.
And now to the utterly depressing weather. A very dry March, followed by an even drier April, and no serious rain in the forecast for next week. It was no help to be reminded that last May had been very wet since firstly that is not how we remember it, and secondly, there is apparently no sign of real rain in the longer-term forecast.
Reversing normal practice, I am going to start with all the good news first:
While we have not yet begun spraying, the cow horns buried last autumn have now been dug up, and by all accounts their contents are first rate and will be part of the 500-spraying routine.
A concern that has bothered me for years is now no more. The willow trees by the pond have been pollarded. Not a pretty sight at the moment, but all will look better in a year or two, and the danger of storm damage causing falling tree debris is gone. At the same time, the three really dead horse chestnut trees along the drive have been removed – another worry removed. What is more, traffic was not troubled, nor the wildflowers planted in the drive damaged.
Lambing this year seems to have gone really well, indeed only a handful of ewes have yet to lamb. We do have more lambs needing to be bottle fed than in recent years, and so have had to wheel the shepherdess back into use, and it sits in an enclosed area in the ‘triangle’ with one side the back wall of our garden, and further sheltered by the overhanging branches of the plum trees. Few of these lambs are actually orphans but rather one of triplets, and with multiples we try to either foster one on another ewe or if that proves impossible bottle feed.
Edging towards the sadder end of the happiness spectrum we have, as is sadly common, lost several ewes during the lambing process. In some instances, the cause is clearcut, but not always, and you can do no more than scratch your head.
This year for the first time since covid Belinda joined the lambing team for a couple of days – a welcome break from her normal responsibilities in a care team. Otherwise, the core team has been Alice and Tim, with Brendan at weekends and Chris on call as needed.
Continuing in this vein I heard at the beginning of the week from the TB testing laboratory that they had determined that one of our inconclusive reactors should be reclassified as a reactor. So, on the 3rd of May, four animals will be taken off the farm, and then after 60 days the whole dismal process will have to repeated.
For us a particular problem is that the loss of a cow leaving a barely two-month-old calf is hardly good news for the calf or us. Of the small number of options open to us we have decided to try and raise it.
On the other hand, both the young stock and the suckler herd are out on the pastures
But to end on a high note, a recent announcement from the government means yet more restrictive post Brexit demands are being put back to 2023. This as a great relief, the amount of paperwork required since Brexit has been even worse than us cynics expected. A triumph for our great leader, a disaster for so many of his people and all built on a series of sandcastles.
So where to begin on a personal and family basis; this has not been the easiest of weeks. Nothing for particular concern, but the discovery of the dreaded carpet moth inevitably caused a frensy of activity, and apart from smoke bombs, moth spotting and squashing ruled the day for a while.
Admittedly, on a personal level all this largely passed me by except for the relocation of my seat.
My attempt to explore for these notes all of Professor Elaine’s publications, post the wide release of the contents of the Dag Hammadi documents, I very quickly realised was totally unrealistic. Not because the contents are dull, or in any way uninteresting, but because a host of new words, as well as ideas had to be assimilated. I do however intend to comment on her first book as soon as I can since it throws new light on the period when a range of Christianity’s coalesced into that which is recognised today.
In between whiles, reflecting on how I had described freedom in a liberal democracy last week I realised that I had been far too simplistic, but it did at least tie in with existing thoughts such as my concerns about the growth of nationalism, America’s lurch towards the end of liberal democracy, and of course connected with it all, that is ‘cancel culture’, minority groups punching far above their real weight, and the slow creep of ‘taboo’ subjects, or to put it more bluntly, the increasing restrictions on free speech.
Stealing words from another source. ‘There are some issues so sensitive, so combustible, that by just writing about them requires asbestos gloves’. This binary approach to matters I find very disturbing, and I do not accept that this is just a sign of my age, but instead a frightening move back to the problems of centuries ago. “If you are not for me, you are by definition against me”. This is Putin talk, and it is in my view awful that it seems to be rushing into our culture.
Nationalism is not an idea I am comfortable with since while it can be vital, and understandable when your way of life is threatened, it can also be as great a negative force. So today the Ukrainians feel it, but so also, however bizarre we may find it, do the Russians – how can reconciliation be found in those conditions.
Speaking entirely for myself as an Englishman, there are a host of issues that are understandable as ideas, but not as feelings, and certainly not feelings of passion. I am bound to say that I think this is something to be very grateful for, that for the majority of us it appears that passion is restricted to football, rugby and indeed a whole variety of games, and possibly to one’s partner, but except for ‘oddballs’, no more.
What we are apparently seeing in America is the end of the democracy that they claimed to stand for. I am not going to bore you again with the thoughts and fears that men like Montesquieu and de Tocqueville expressed all these years ago, but how correct their prognostications now appear.
Where is the common ground between the core of Trumpian republics and the so-called Democratic party? One positive I think we can feel is that the gap in this country between the north and south, while being very real and needing political action, is of a quite different nature.
All that having been said, undue complacency here about our democracy is, I believe misplaced. There is a growing gap between what is currently believed to be ‘politically correct’, and what the majority might think. In some ways, our society has to date adjusted to changes which seemed threatening to national cohesion astonishingly well: the ending of executions, the introduction of speed limits, crash helmets, safety belts and tight gun laws, even sadly Brexit. I suspect that all this has been achieved by allowing time and/or common sense to change thinking – evolution not revolution.
Take an issue like homosexuality. I was actually at college with the son of Lord Wolfenden, the man who eventually got the legalisation through. For the vast majority of us this was an issue which meant nothing – indeed Penguin Books saw an opportunity to make money by bringing out a Pelican book explaining what the word meant. Despite all the potential for mass disturbances, the reality was that the vast majority of heterosexuals were essentially uninterested – what people did in private was their own business.
But I genuinely wonder if today some are pushing societies’ envelope of indifference too hard, and we all must know, from even a limited knowledge of history, that a backlash is always a possibility, and that is bound to happen when a majority begin to feel their rights of expression are being stolen. This, being a society, which has in its basic memory of the past, a clear sense of the dangers of violence, this probably will mean no more than a straightforward ignoring of the new constraints – you can only lock so many people up. Here, unlike in certain other countries, the law takes note of the world in which it operates. Remember the house owner who was charged with the murder of a house breaker? Living in a reasonable sensible world, the man was released because self-defence was accepted – of course if he had shot the burglar in the back as he ran away, that would be murder.
Energy and the future
Moving on, recent revelations make it clear that clean energy is not quite as green as we are led to believe. With nearly 300 acres near us likely to be covered on solar panels very shortly it was sad/amusing to learn that solar panels radiate heat into the atmosphere which will, if only in a small way perhaps add to climate heating. As to the cost of manufacture who knows. Indeed, who knows the cost of wind farms, their maintenance and eventual removal. Even more worrying is to learn that in the area of China where the rare metals needed for modern technology, great lakes of toxic waste exist which may also be radioactive – as to what happens to spent batteries, smart phones, iPad and so on, even asking, achieves little more than a shrug.
On the other and far more positive side, it appears scientists in Holland believe they have made a major breakthrough in having developed on a production scale, a battery whose main components are salt and water, yet which can produce significant amounts of heat for longish periods, and for recharging merely requires the reheating of the salt. My knowledge of chemistry has never been great, but as I understand it hot salt meeting cold water generates a chemical reaction which releases heat. (At my stage in life I can admit that I was able to avoid chemistry in case the fumes triggered an asthma attack, and in those days schools had absolutely no experience of handling asthma).
Ten years or so ago when visiting a surgery, I would either avert my eyes or take off my glasses to avoid reading the notices on the board, on the basis that if I ever read symptoms within minutes, I would know I had the frightening disease. However, one notice I did pass over without fear, was the danger of falling in the home. How foolish, some eleven years later my personal record on that front is substantial, including a head butting an outside wall, breaking bones, and leaking blood everywhere – thank goodness our collective sense of humour to date has never broken. Last night fate intervened again and that, added to a headline saying Russia is about to declare World War III, has led me to decide to postpone my exploration of the Dag Hammadi documents to another day so a few odds and ends I think you might find interesting.
A fascinating article in an American News Paper covered much of what I shared with you in past notes on the history of Ukraine, but this article took the story on to the present day. What really caused my eyes to light up was the recognition that the USSR, like Russia today, was a colonial power. Sadly, it did not go on to admit that America is just the same. The upshot is that Ukraine is actually in a post-colonial state. In passing, the article also highlighted yet another example of the awful decisions of that walking disaster Woodrow Wilson.
One thing I feel we need to accept, and I have referred to it above, the bulk of the Russian people are behind Putin, and this is hardly surprising since they have only ever been ‘free’ for a few weeks in their entire existence as a society. With their history little else can be expected especially from a society which is ‘bottom weighted’.
Thinking about Russia I only found out this week that completely contrary to my previous understanding, serfdom was not introduced into Poland and basically European Russia until the 16th century. Amusingly, though that is obviously in many ways quite the wrong word to use, as serfdom finally ended in western Europe, it began in the east.
My memory suggests a date of around 1527 for Elizabeth the first to make it illegal in England. If true, that is also a surprise in that the history books tell us the ‘Black Death’ signalled the end of feudalism in this country.
China has a rather different history though in the sense of no experience of ‘freedom’ very similar. In any state of that size, maintaining central control clearly has always been a problem, and with the helpful efforts of British and American heroin dealers, internal stability was lost for long periods in both the 19th and 20th centuries.
All this is fresh in my mind as I read ‘The plant hunter’ by T L Mogford, perhaps better known to you as a writer of detective stories. Plant hunting was a rewarding if dangerous career from the 16th century onwards, with many of the most exotic plants coming from China and that general area.
Incidentally, having read again the ‘Ipcress File’ I have been on a Len Deighton binge at the expense of more valuable use of time.
The poem this week basically chose itself. It may not be his finest poem but given last week’s words on alliterative verse and lines being split this poem holds to the same model of the caesuras.
“Song on May Morning” (1632–33) by John Milton
NOW the bright morning-star, Day’s harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth, and youth, and warm desire!
Woods and groves are of thy dressing;
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.