Rescuing moorhen chicks!

“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”

Four gems from the beginning of the week, culled from different sources. Concern it seems is growing in America that patriotism is in decline. The English reporter concerned, rather wryly reported, that a characteristic of this country is to be deeply unpatriotic, and a certain Ebenezer Alread had set this trend in the 18th century, to be followed in 1938 by that vote in the Oxford Union. In fairness, the reporter did admit that patriotism perhaps was of more concern in a newly formed country, given that if this country is threatened patriotism is buried in nearly all of us.  

The second has to be the amazingly rapid change of mind by the PM and Chancellor in realising that perhaps they were not above the law, having been ‘pinged’. Last week I suggested the problem generally among politicians was having ‘glue-ears’. I now realise that while that may be true, sadly for some, it is simply a belief that rules are for the hoi polloi.   

The third gem was to learn 19-year-olds feel robbed of clubbing during the lockdown. I know I am now ancient, but whatever world do we now live in if that is your vision of the meaning of life? I would, if I could, emulate the character in Dad’s army, who with a heavy Scottish accent would say. “We are all dooomed’. 

Finally, but as bizarre as anything to be found, concerned the fining of the Norwegian Beach Handball team for wearing shorts rather than bikini bottoms in a competition in Bulgaria. This ‘sport’ though no doubt figuring in the Olympic schedule of events, had previously passed me by. All though it is now clear it is actually an excuse to see, no doubt attractive, young women display their physical assets as they gavotte around on a small patch of sand – ogled no doubt by individuals of the various sexes that now are recognised.  

Briefly on a personal note, progress continues, despite a new injury to my right wrist area which makes my typing even slower – actually if typing is a word still in use. Despite family concerns my relationship with the physiotherapist who visits weekly is good. The concerns arose because of a very misguided view that I only did what I wanted. Should there be any truth in that canard, she and I, share a common objective, so friction could never be an issue.  

I intend to stick to the approach adopted last week. As much information as I can gather about the farm, followed by a few paragraphs on other issues, all I fear disturbing. I think I should first confess, that while the focal lengths of my eyes are so very different, I can only read if the light is good and the font large. My distance vision remains excellent but that helps little in this situation. Bluntly I am now over reliant on memory and that, which was all but infallible on most matters when I was younger is, I accept reluctantly, somewhat blurred by the size of memory bank, time and change in areas of interest. Interest probably being the key as it always has.  

Life on the farm

For the farm, life has been dominated by four issues. The first was of course the heat, which, though not extreme, by say Californian standards, was for us, over the top. Out of concern for the sheep they were moved close to the barn in which they could at least keep out of the direct sunlight.  The cattle were located in fields where there was at least plenty of shade.  

Then of course came the tedious business of moving bales off fields and to the barn where they were stacked on the prepared standing area. This activity has continued on and off every day of the whole week. It means that it we can look at the bales and feel confident we have feed for the coming winter.   

And then there have been specific health issues to tackle. That curse, New Forest Eye, has now spread, and about nine of the cattle are infected and held in the barn. On Friday it was only necessary to treat one. The treatment includes putting cream on each eye which fairly obviously required very close contact between the cream applier and the animal to be treated. Given all our cattle are horned this is not a task for an amateur!  Add to that, fly strike is with us again and already the ewe which was weakened by mastitis has died. Fly strike caught early is a relatively easy problem to manage; caught late when maggots have started feeding, and the task is very unpleasant.  

The week ended with a lengthy period with the sheep. Fortunately, the temperature was cooler. It was also the first real outing for our new sheep handling system, which by all accounts made the exercise better in every way. The day was mainly for the benefit of the lambs, though since all animals went through the race, the ewes were looked at carefully and no problems were found.  

When it came to the lambs it was a slightly less positive story. The lambs had to have their second anti clostridial jab, then the necessary mineral drench, before their backs were sprayed with an anti-fly strike measure. While the majority of the lambs looked bonny, a small number, perhaps 6%, were clearly not doing so well and so were not released but held back in the barn for closer attention. Tim had the support of two of our three grandsons. For Theo, who is now 13, it was his first experience, while Brendan is by now an experienced stock worker.  

As you know we sailed through our Soil Inspection, and this week got our Tractor Assurance ticket. We now have a date for our Biodynamic Inspection, which will happen on the 3rd of August. It will consist of two parts. The first will be an extended farm visit while the second part which involves the paperwork will be done by computer.  

We also had a serious conversation mid-week about our management of farming our sheep, and for that matter cattle, on soils which either lacked vital mineral trace elements or were too rich in an element, known as an antagonist, which acts to suppress the minerals vital for healthy stock. I know I have gone on about this before, but because we are organic our animals need to derive everything that they need for good health from the grass they eat. It is not a matter of just having enough rich looking grass to ensure stomachs are full.   

These are not matters we normally consider as humans, though as a matter of fact, I am needing to take supplementary iron as a result of my self-inflicted odd diet. Elements that are rarely a matter of concern in humans are vital to the good health of our animals. To put it very bluntly, our soil is over rich in molybdenum, an antagonist, which locks up the vital supplies of cobalt, copper, iodine, selenium and zinc so vital to good health, hence the drenches for the sheep and the boluses for the cattle.  

We also discussed buying in new ewes and perhaps an additional ram. We change our bulls on a regular basis, and perhaps we should adopt the same policy for our rams, and in particular not use home bred rams. I share this because it is important for you to know we are constantly reading about farming, and then share our thoughts as to what we might be doing better while reaming true to our organic practices.  

A very positive end to the week was the rescuing of 5 moorhen chicks that were trapped in the flow form. The grandchildren and Chris released them all and rather enjoyed the task. Luckily for the chicks Chris had gone down to the flow form to make sure all was ready for spraying 500 next week.  


Now for less positive matters – I really do not relish being gloomy, but at times it is unavoidable – if you have any peaceful Chopin to hand it might be worth having it to hand.   Rubinstein has been my lifesaver in thinking of some of these matters every night.  

For me, an issue that, above all else seems counter to my notion of what this country stands for, is the way the Home Office approaches immigration.  

In my imagination it is staffed by the kind of petty bureaucrat beloved by certain European countries of the past. Puffed up and supported by ideologically committed political leadership, seeing individuals as objects rather than human beings. Indeed, as I write this, I have in mind two particular individuals Anne, and I encountered on our travels – both women sadly. The first was in Havana in the period prior to Obama seeking to ‘normalise’ relationships with Cuba. We entered an ex-Spanish mansion, now a museum, and needed to pay an entrance fee. The woman who took our money might have been a robot, her interest in her job, us and life itself, seemed dead. The second time it was the ticket seller at a railway station in what had been East Germany. Not a flicker of emotion, of interest or in fact anything. What redeemed that, was at a stop when a crowd of school children climbed aboard and suddenly there was normality.  

Of course, talking of the Home Office, it hard to know where to begin. But as an ex-maths teacher I thought I should start with the number of staff. The best figure I could come up came from a Freedom of Information request made in 2013. I doubt it is only 27,000 in 2021. As to what these civil servants may do… The most up to date information I could find stated that an eager and enthusiastic 7,500 immigration officers were deployed around the country.  

All this is not unsurprising. We learnt this year, because of the applications for settled status, that the Home Office notion of the number of foreign national living in this country was out by around two million.  

I am not in any way opposed to the notion that immigrant thugs and violent criminals be deported and see this as a matter of common sense. However, the home office seems more interested in chasing the small fry, breaking up families, and confirming the ‘Services’ ambition to out Putin. Every day harrowing stories emerge, some no doubt bogus, but given the level of public confidence, it is only too easy to believe them.  

What is absolutely lacking seems any belief in the Minister herself, after all her track record should bar her from any post within the cabinet. She comes over, whether in the media or in parliament as a hardnosed ideologue, who has almost completely forgotten the approach adopted by the British government in earlier times, especially when an absurd Ugandan despot, throughout all Asians in his country and the UK gave them a home.  

I particularly remember that period because I was then working as a junior education officer for Warwickshire County Education Authority and at, what had been RAF Gaydon, 7,000 of these refugees were temporarily housed. The county’s Adult Education Officer and I, representing Further Education, played a small role in helping the process of helping these poor folks adjust to life into this cold and slightly cheerless country which bore little relationship to their imagined idea of life in England.  

I wrote, ‘had almost completely forgotten’, because in a radio interview on, I think LBC, the Ministate was forced to admit that under her immigration policies, her parents would not have been accepted into this country. How very, very shameful, and how much it reveals of the change for the worse in public thinking. I note that the entire Police Force has made clear their lack of confidence in her.  

A new approach eagerly embraced by the Conservative party, while the labour party was slightly hampered by its previous open-door approach to central Europeans, whose approach to work and pay was anathema to the Trade Union movement. Hard to forget also that one of the loudest mouths other than Nigel Farage, he of the holder of a German passport, was the MP for Dover who despite his sexual peccadilloes held on to his position until the law decided enough was enough.  

What this says about the people of Dover you may wonder, you may wonder even more how his wife – later ex-wife, then replaced him as MP is even more revealing.  

And to a large degree it is generated by the media some years later, by mining the xenophobia present at some level in all societies, and not far from the surface in a society going through the trauma of coming to terms with the demise of the heavy industries on which the country had once led the world, and the desolation of the communities that had built up around them. While politicians were losing that vision of what this country had once stood for.  

No longer being a world power is a trivial matter compared with losing our moral compass which our current leaders appear to regard with contempt.   

I wrote about cricket last week. Earlier this week, Old Trafford hosted the deciding match in a three match series of 20/20 games. The stadium was full, just as it had been for the previous match. The atmosphere at times felt as though the game was being played in Pakistan. In fact, the spectators were all living and working in this country whatever their ethnic origin’s might be: The English side included three first class bowlers whose parents had come to this country as immigrants but were totally at ease playing against the side representing their parents’ homeland.   

The crowd knew who they hoped would win but wanted as much to see marvellous play from both sides. The match was an epic, and in the last over either side might have won. In the event it was England that prevailed, but it was a great game hugely enjoyed by all, whichever side they might have hoped would win. That is the world we surely want for this country. 

For the sake of perspective, since recent headlines scream at us that record numbers of immigrants are landing on our beaches every day, consider this: 

The population of the United States is somewhere around six times greater than that of the UK. Their intake of illegal immigrants is annually in excess of one million. Our situation might be comparable if we took in something over 180,000 a year. The media whipped up by xenophobic politicians, has fits at some 2,000 a year arriving here – absolute madness especially at a time when the USA is recording 6.000 a month.  

And the bizarre thing is these people, if allowed to stay, will actually work, which is more that can be said for too many English youngsters comfortable to live on the ‘dole’ and any safe illegal earnings they can accrue from the drug trade.  

This country is built on emigrants and has been for centuries, not always loved and often a target in the early days of their resettlement, but these people have overall made a great contribution, in every conceivable way to our society. Bear in mind also these islands have been the greatest supplier of emigrants, of any other nation, to the rest of the world.  

Eleven days in hospital underlined that at every level within the institution, except perhaps at senior management, without immigrants we would be totally sunk.  

Every hard figure from any source but one dedicated to attacking immigration, confirms what I have written.   

In our village of Inkberrow the most trusted doctor of choice at the surgery is Indian, and how fortunate we are that he was brave enough to work in a community that is not only almost entirely white, but has families, whose roots here, go back centuries but people who thankfully are able to assess an individual on his worth not his ethnicity.  

It’s the same old story. Let’s cut our noses off to spite our faces or if I am a journalist let’s cut off the branch on which I sit.  

Compare and contrast 

I shall now be calmer having got that of my chest, and because I am going to compare two leading American figures, one a man known and widely disliked, one a man unknown outside his country, one a man for whom honour had meaning, and one for whom that was an unknown notion, one who was deeply patriotic and one for whom patriotism was for the birds, one who was widely admired and liked by his friends, one for whom friendship was not an issue of interest.   

You will have guessed by now the names of these two men. The first was Rumsfeld, the second Mitch McConnell. The genesis of this possibly unreliable assessment is based solely on my observation and on other’s written words.  

I start with McConnell since he is probably the least well known on this side of the Atlantic. Twelve years ago, he became leader of the Republican party in the Senate and at 79 has begun his campaign to retain that position in the 2022 elections. Attempts to interview him have been in vain until very recently. He has been a senator for Kentucky for many years and that is not a state noted for being yet out of the 19th century.  

We learn from the interview that for him politics is no more than a game and using some analogy from American football it would seem the model he has adopted is of being on the offensive rather than on the defensive.  

As leader in the senate he succeeded in forcing a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, he has successfully blocked attempts to limit the power of the filibuster (a practice no longer permitted here), he, despite earlier public utterances, ensured the bipartisan Committee to look into the events of the 6th of January was set back many months so as not to embarrass Trump, but above all, is totally committed to blocking any and all democratic policy proposals. The notion of considering a policy on its merits seems utterly alien to him.  

Anne shared with me an assessment written in the Telegraph, a paper whose political opinion is clear of the recent interview with Cummings shown on the BBC. Despite the obvious bias shown, I have to confess I caught a whiff of Mitch McConnell in the sense that for both, politics is a game to be won by any means. So, we now know Cummings was never driven by any ideological aims in conning the public to vote for Brexit, and indeed has no significant confidence in it being a good thing. Ah well, the great British public had no difficulties in swallowing the lies and the absurd decoupling might follow the Gwyneth Paltrow model. 

I have never met McConnell, only seen him in action on the television, and if I allowed myself to use such words, would describe him as despicable. A man whose loyalty is to himself and his party and to hell with the country that has given him such a good living. 

Recently obituaries have been written on the death of Donald Rumsfeld. In general, they have not been positive; seeing him as the architect of the disastrous wars in the middle East. They present him as a harsh taskmaster and personally responsible for all that went wrong.  

I confess I always had a soft spot for him as an individual, as one who did not mince his words, spoke the truth as he saw it, and coined the immortal phrase: ‘There are known knowns but the ones that trip us up are the unknown unknowns’ which is of course blindingly true but rarely remembered. His belief in the military was a sad mistake.  

In a recent article in Politico written by Matt Latimer, a man who knew Rumsfeld, first as his chief speech writer, but then entered into a seventeen-year friendship with Don and his lifelong wife Joyce we get a fuller, rounded and fairer assessment of the man – warts and all.  

The article from Politico is “Opinion: The Don Rumsfeld the Obituaries Won’t Write About”  

I have no intention of attempting to precis it for you but do want to highlight the way in which the man, once loved, coped with all the opprobrium that followed even though these were decisions taken by a group of people, and indeed many that he had reservations about. He never whinged, never pointed the finger at those others who shared the ‘guilt’ if that was now how it appeared. He just got on with his life, writing, helping in the community and being what he had always been, a loving husband and father. In my book a man to honour and respect as indeed he was by his community and friends.  

Some of you may recall the idea put forward by thar eminent scientist James Lovelock. His idea was that the Earth had a built-in self-regulating system to enable a level of constancy.  

The idea was attractive but took no serious account of humans determined to destroy their world – I hardly know where to start since the whole of the northern hemisphere has been overtaken by climatic crisis. Excessive heat sitting on top of the western side if North America associated with continuous drought and wildfires. Extreme rainfall over parts of Europe and loss of life and property after late frosts did terrible damage  

But the real crisis is surely taking place in Siberia and the Arctic. Temperatures in Siberia have been so high that the permafrost is melting and releasing gases that can only warm the world further. The fires rage and the forests burn sending up into the atmosphere noxious pollution – no different from the fires on the Weser coast of America which are making breathing hard as Far East as New York  

On top of all this the ice in the Arctic Ocean is melting at an alarming rate releasing unsalted water into the seas around it with who knows what effect on the ocean currents we have grown to love and benefit from.   

And all this is the northern hemisphere. Further south we have seen absurd monsoon rainfall on the sub- continent and now catastrophic floods in China.   

Whether all that is going on is manmade or just a new uncomfortable cycle the world is going through, I fear that even if by some miracle humankind could agree and act, the future is going to be very different with the outcomes all but unimaginable and, for not the first time we may be forced to recognise how puny humankind is in comparison with the natural world.  

The species to which we belong has existed in geological time for only a few seconds. It is only our need to believe that the world we have created is there for all time. Personally, I don’t yet see this as the end, nor do I believe it is beyond our powers to make adjustments, but it will be different.  

 Herbert Read 

Sophie gave me a second hand hard back copy of an anthology of poetry called ‘This Way Delight’.  

When our children were children, I had a paperback copy of these poems selected by Herbert Read. It was a joy not just to reacquaint myself, not just with his choice, but to find at the end of his selection, an essay called ‘What is poetry’. One sentence which for me really hit the mark was this. “Poetry is like the bird’s song, but since it is sung by a human being it has more meaning and that meaning is given in words”. 

A poem I much love by Walter De La Mare, but to date have hesitated to use in case of misunderstanding.  

I think we have been together now for long enough for that not to happen, so I share that poem with you now. Over sentimental perhaps but so what, and by one of our very best poets for young and old. 

Nod by Walter de la Mare 

Softly along the road of evening,  
    In a twilight dim with rose,  
  Wrinkled with age, and drenched with dew  
    Old Nod, the shepherd, goes.  
  His drowsy flock streams on before him,  
    Their fleeces charged with gold,  
  To where the sun’s last beam leans low  
    On Nod the shepherd’s fold.  
  The hedge is quick and green with briar,  
    From their sand the conies creep;  
  And all the birds that fly in heaven  
    Flock singing home to sleep.  
  His lambs outnumber a noon’s roses,  
    Yet, when night’s shadows fall,  
  His blind old sheep-dog, Slumber-soon,  
    Misses not one of all.  
  His are the quiet steeps of dreamland,  
    The waters of no-more-pain,  
  His ram’s bell rings ‘neath an arch of stars,  
    “Rest, rest, and rest again.”  

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