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

I rarely use my smartphone for anything other than what I believe a phone is for; to communicate with people. This Friday morning for some reason, perhaps because I was finding Vanhal’s string quartets rather drab, or because I was separated from my tablet on which I wished to write, I carried out a mini exploration of what I could find on it. 

Normally I rely on Anne for information because she has taken this instrument more seriously than I have.  

Suddenly I found I had access to a long list of data sources, some absurd like British Glamour, but others rather interesting. I subscribe to key American publications, but here I found the lowdown on the economies and internal politics of European nations as well. So, overall, what did I learn; leaving to one side the tawdry behaviour of yet another of our politicians, and the dedication to the ruination of their nation by so many Americans, I learnt that: 

  • All parts of Europe are struggling economically 
  • That Macron is a ‘busted flush’ 
  • All fears of a German-French take over can now be put to one side for the next five years for after all, the Germans, once their military procurement system (Bundeswehr Beschaffung Beschleunigungsgesetz or the Armed Forces Procurement Acceleration Act)] can be defeated, aim to play a proper part in NATO 
  • Finally, that Eire continues to expect NATO to provide the defence umbrella it needs without putting any cash in the pot. At least unlike in WW2, its state of neutrality is not pro Europe’s enemy.  

The Farm 

Now to get down to business. As far as the farm is concerned the two really significant items were that all survived Chris being away for four days on parental ‘duty’. Tim held the fort with help as needed from Nicki and Paul, and especially with the shearing of our sheep. At least the weather, in its own peculiar way co-operated. The string of depressions that have passed over us have brought neither flood or the kind of heat wave that saw areas of the Arctic experiencing temperatures of over 30 degrees centigrade.  

Mind you, I do have one moan, we have had rain, but not in the quantities suggested by the weather forecasters, or as much as we could have hoped for. At the end of the month the depth of water in the Brook was measured as being 0.09 metres.  

I am able this week to give you an update on the state of the pastures and the bird and insect life that lives on them. All is fine, though both the suckler herd and the young stock need to be moved on to new ground. The re-seeding has, this year really paid off in terms of the variety of grasses and other traditional meadow plants. So good to know that we have larks in profusion, and a splendid number of, and types of, butterflies, while the buzz of bees is everywhere.  

There has been quite lively discussion on the Pasture Fed site this week about firstly the pros and cons of putting stock onto long grass, and similarly on allowing cattle to enter woodland. As usual the way forward is to shut your eyes and use a pin to decide on your position.  

We have had no calves this week, and apart from the daily routine have no particular news to share other than that New Forest Eye is again a problem.  Alice and Brendan went on a Farm Walk in the Cotswolds last week and were kind enough to report that, of course, the Herefords they saw there did not look as fine as ours.  

‘Biscuit’ the orphan calf being bottle fed had a disturbing day on Tuesday. First the three rams were taken away for shearing, leaving her on her own. Then later in the day she was persuaded to move to the field by the house. Enroute, she visited our next-door neighbour’s garden, got lost thereafter behind our beech hedge, before trotting past our buildings to the field where she obviously felt lonely and lost. Her relief when the rams joined her later in the day was very obvious as the four of them reformed their normal huddle.   

‘Biscuit’ the calf on the move!

From the previous paragraph you will have gathered all the sheep were sheared without hitch, though involving a lot of people to shove the fleeces into the sheets. Sadly, for one ewe it was the end of the line and she died shortly afterwards. Nicki, in addition to labouring hard, took a sequence of photographs of the exercise, from beginning to end. I hope you enjoy them. Also, at the end of the week Alice and Brendan had to deal with a very nasty case of flystrike. Fortunately, Chris could provide the necessary advice given extreme action was required. This morning all seemed well with the lamb and indeed all the lambs looked good.  

We had Alice stay this weekend and I had booked an outing round the farm with her. Sadly, when it came to it my back was too painful. Whether ’Biscuit’ remembered them was unclear. These days both the feeding task, as well as acting as official photographer has now fallen on Nicki’s shoulders. At some time next Monday, we look forward to having the company of Yannick. He will be with us for most of July, but we have nobody booked to come after that.  

No-Mow May goes on into July 

  • If you can bear the untidiness, two minor suggestions. Leaving part of your lawn to grow ‘wild’ lawn can bring some unexpected treasures. Here, smaller I admit than last year, ‘ladies bedstraw’ grows prolifically.  
  • Secondly allowing poppy heads to remain provides a rich feast for small seed eaters  


Last week a by-election in a rural and traditional Conservative constituency was won by the Liberal democrats. There will have been more than one reason for this of course, but an apparent factor was a final realisation by farmers that removing the subsidy known as basic payment could well mean the demise of small family managed farms of up to 250 acres in size. I have never been other than frank with you that without government subsidies, small undercapitalised or otherwise eco-friendly farms had no future. Diversify as much as is possible, but the reality is that survival is unlikely in the long term.  

Moreover, with the government offering grants to farmers of up to £100,000 to leave farming, it is hard not to believe it is all part of a clear policy – turn England over to big business who operate intensively, huge farms, support agricultural machinery companies and the agrochemical companies, and sadly to hell with what is left of England’s green and beautiful countryside when the housing developers have done their worst.  

That the government actually feels some guilt is apparent, we have had two DEFRA communications this week. The first confirmed that farmers will get half their basic payments in July, while the second informed us of grants for ‘sustainable farming’. How this latter grant fits in to the governments overall plan, who knows.  

I wrote last week about zoonotic diseases. This week we learn that from the overuse of hormones to accelerate pigs’ growth, antibiotic resistant to the superbug has now developed which puts us all at risk.  

And the source of this problem is of course the determination that the PM and Liz Truss have to develop free trade in agricultural food products from countries that gave lower or no concern for animal of human welfare.  

We are all familiar with anabolic steroids, but maybe less aware that a slightly different steroid or hormone if fed to animals routinely enables them to be ready for slaughter.  

Banned in this country, and thankfully Denmark, in America and elsewhere it is normal practice. The aim, cheap food at any cost to animal or human health at maximum profit to the industry.  

Thinking of the current round of pay claims, while fully understanding at one level why they are being made, at another level I cannot help thinking that, across a range of occupations, union leaders and their members have got the cart before the horse. They only have jobs because there is a need to be met, not jobs so they can have work.  

Across the Pond 

Last night, with some reluctance I watched on the BBC ‘Outside Source’ programme an extraordinary interview with an ex White House ‘staffer’. How can it be that man Trump is not in court facing charges of treason and insurrection? In comparison Johnson seems a nonentity, at least he is not sanctionable as clearly Trump should be if no other course is open to the authorities. Suddenly the realisation is there that, if, and he could, win the 2024 election, the free world is lost.  

It really is that serious. 

How on earth can we do anything to change the views of the hard-core fanatics who support him and the American Republican Party? 

The Supreme Court curbed the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to broadly regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants, a major defeat for the Biden administration’s attempts to slash emissions at a moment when scientists are sounding alarms about the accelerating pace of global warming. 

In addition, the court cut back agency authority in general invoking the so-called “major questions” doctrine — a ruling that will impact the federal government’s authority to regulate in other areas of climate policy, as well as regulation of the internet and worker safety.  

Returning to the themes of late… 

Returning to thought on the early years of Christianity, summarising crudely, particularly since I have no knowledge of what was happening in theological colleges or schools of divinity or thinking on the continent, the nineteenth century saw two diverging lines of religious movements. At the same time as a religious revival was taking place, natural science was increasingly coming to understand through geology, astronomy and archaeology that it was no longer possible to consider the Old Testament as a literal representation of how the world was created.  

I do not imagine for one moment that these were new doubts, but when heresy meant death at the stake or later exclusion from a whole range of occupations, such thoughts were best kept to oneself  

At the same time as the century proceeded, scholars began looking seriously at the contents of the New Testament, and by the end of the century scraps of papyrus began to be discovered which raised further questions. Historians began to delve into the early years of the Christian Era, exploring the age of the gospels and their internal contradictions and gaining a much greater understanding of how the New Testament came into being. These and later findings were either in Greek – the lingua franca for years, or Coptic the last remnant of the Egyptian language.  

In 1955 a collection of 52 papyrus bound into 13 books were discovered and eventually found their way to Europe where after a degree of contested argument, their translation eventually appeared some twenty years later. Scholars from Germany, France and America eventually worked together and in 2007 an authorised translation appeared under the editorial oversight of Martin Meyer, though the introduction was by both Meyer and Pagels.  

Before that in, 1977 Elaine Pagels published a book called the Gnostic Gospels, and subsequently various other research works including a book on the Revelations, a book on the connection by leading gnostic thinkers of the writings of Paul and a discussion of why John was adopted in preference to Thomas, even though that gospel is believed to have been written only forty years after the death of Jesus, and at least a century before the gospel of St John.  

In my next notes I shall attempt to wind up this exhausting exploration, my sanity if not yours is at stake.  

Being Human 

I frequently have referred to design faults in the human brain but two I may have missed are I think rather crucial. The first is our desperate need to label, and at least as dangerous is our tendency to see causal links where none actually exist.  

This later fault is no doubt inevitable given the inbuilt insecurity which most of us struggle with all their lives.  

It is also the territory in which the best historians can excel, since their memory or knowledge banks provide that holistic need required to separate out the corn from the chaff.  

I confess I was rather miffed that such a real linkage recently passed me by and was spotted by another. But credit where credit is due, so I share the connection I missed: 

The Sino-Russian war of 1904 was driven by one expanding empire engaging in a war with another such empire. Both seeking to steal territory from a rather struggling Chinese nation, with obvious parallels to the urge in the previous and present century to grab parts of the disintegrating Ottoman empire. The humiliating loss by the Russians in that war had clear and subsequent world-shattering consequences.  

For the Romanov dynasty it was the beginning of the end, and the subsequent rule of Lenin.  

For the Japanese the boost it gave to their position led to terrible action in the region in the thirties, and eventually the humiliation of the British, the joining of forces with Nazi Germany, and eventually to defeat at the hands of the Americans, with support from the UK and its mixed national forces, and the end of Japanese imperial ambitions – and in passing, the end of the British empire which had after all been an avowed aim of the Americans from the moment of their entry into the war.  

Ironically/interestingly/amusingly – take your pick, without significant support from the UK, the outcome of that war in 1904 might have been rather different. We all know Putin’s grasp on history is not the tightest, and it seems that this defeat, and its consequences may have passed him by unnoticed.   To end, last week I chose a poem by John Arlott, this week I have chosen one from his anthology of poems  called ‘The Coloured Counties’ and from a faint sense of ancestral feeling for Somerset, and childhood memories of going up the notorious hill in a car which barely made it, and of the story of 100 men and 18 horses pulling the lifeboat from Lynmouth up Countisbury Hill (one in four ), across the heath, and then down Porlock Hill (also one in four) in 1899, and then launching and saving a vessel that was at risk. (Incidentally in those days lifeboats had no engines and so relied on oarsmen). I have settled on the following poem which sadly ignores this most notorious feature of the area. 

by Robert Southey  

“PORLOCK! thy verdant vale so fair to sight,  
Thy lofty hills which fern and furze imbrown,  
The waters that roll musically down  
Thy woody glens, the traveller with delight  
Recalls to memory, and the channel gray  
Circling its surges in thy level bay.  
Porlock! I also shall forget thee not,  
Here by the unwelcome summer rain confined;  
But often shall hereafter call to mind  
How here, a patient prisoner, ’t was my lot  
To wear the lonely, lingering close of day,  
Making my sonnet by the alehouse fire,  
Whilst Idleness and Solitude inspire  
Dull rhymes to pass the duller hours away”  

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