“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
Even the wisest of men can self-deceive. Marcus Aurelius, quoting from his fifth book wrote:
‘How easy a thing is it for a man to pull off from him all turbulent adventitious imaginations, and presently to be in perfect rest and tranquillity’
January has been an exceptionally dry month here, and we have watched with some envy areas to the north getting so much more rain. Of course, in some respects this has had its benefits for us, but more worryingly it confirms the degree of variability in the rainfall pattern in recent years. For Chris there has been a lot of driving this week as we now have reduced our sheep flock to solely the breeding ewes and rams. In other words, all lambs have gone. Scanning takes place on the 3rd of February, and that will give an indication of the number of new lambs we may expect to have, and then all our sheep will remain close to the barn in the one group only.
We had another calf this week, and all seems well generally with the cattle, and indeed why should it not be. They have plenty of space, have plenty to eat and drink, and whatever the temperature outside have their own microclimate.
As usual we have met to talk about farm issues. This week, not so much about government intentions or lack of, but more about: coping with the irregularity of today’s climate – the see-saw effect of rain and drought in a new way; adjusting to the effects of new pastures whose seed mix contained little perennial rye grass which is the mainstay of conventional stock farming; talking through the implications all this might have on stocking ratios, and the varieties of animals that might do better in the future.
No decisions, but some reassurance that despite rain and drought at the wrong times, less protein rich pastures, and staffing demands, we had much to be pleased about. To further confirm this, our Soil Association ‘sign off’ arrived – in truth none of us could actually remember when the inspection took place.
We also thought more about our continued certification by the Pasture Fed organisation and what, if any, value we got from it. There does seem to be more interest in the organic market, but it is soil association certification that seems to matter most.
There are interesting discussions on the Pasture-Fed site, and I would not want to be cut off from these. For example, there have been interesting thoughts on the negative effects of rewilding and solar panels placed on fertile ground. The point being made that the consequent reduction in cereal production would drive farmers to indulge in yet more intensive growing methods to make up for the short fall resulting from the loss of yield. Back to the eternal truth, you cannot have your cake and eat it!
A walk around the garden confirmed that aside from a handful of cyclamens, the faded reddish brick walls, and the brown trunks of the trees, the only colour to be seen was green. Mind you I counted at least six different shades of green and those included bulbs pushing through, and large numbers of what will become primroses. I am assured that in the wilderness at the end of the garden snow drops in bloom can be found.
Our semi-regular trip to the clinic at Edgbaston was, for the passenger, as always, fascinating. On this occasion, for the architecture which covers just about every style from workman’s cottages to fantastic gothic Victorian public houses, to Edwardian villas and houses of the thirties onwards. Depending on the route, from the poorest to the houses of the prosperous.
The number of new builds in progress is staggering, and on these ‘new yet to be completed’ estates, the first built are already occupied. As to the architectural designs, appropriate words are hard to find, but I have to comment on the building which houses the Warwickshire County cricket club and fronts the cricket ground – it is a bulbous horror and eyes have to be averted when passing it.
On this journey, few people were to be seen, but on both the routes, the A441 which essentially runs through the poorer area, and back via the A 435 which runs through more prosperous housing, it was good to see no signs of segregation.
Much of the journey in and out is double carriageway, with a good selection of planted trees beyond the blackened verges. There are good displays of catkins, and even stretches where litter has been cleared. We are as a people lacking in many ways. Working in Manchester all those years ago I still remember a ‘vox pop’ on television about dropping litter – ‘well if we don’t drop litter, people will be out of a job’ – unanswerable!
Those of you who have got round to reading Montesquieu will have noted he singled out for comment two groups that no longer appear to exist. One of these was the Aleman, a group who, with hindsight should not have puzzled me at all, but actually did. Digging out my rather heavy historical atlas I realised that these were a tribe called the Alemanni, who had once inhabited South Germany and whose language became that of Swiss Germans.
Reading more widely, I found that there was a sharp divergence of opinion over the use of the phrase Germanic tribes or, and this seemed the majority view, tribes that had a Germanic culture. It is easy to understand why this distinction should be fought over so hard.
The tribes themselves were very many in number, and it is now believed were not pushed in from the east but had in fact migrated south from Scandinavia and the North Baltic coast.
Having made this connection, it is now obvious why the French call Germany, Allemande, but less obvious why Germany calls itself Deutschland or the “land of the people”. The Gaul’s first coined the word Germani and it is thought that the countries bordering ‘Germany’ used the name of the tribe they ‘bumped’ into such as Swabians, I do not know the answer to why the Germans call their country Deutschland, it most likely became common currency after 1867, the year of unification, but ‘deutsche’ I believe dates back hundreds of years. The OED failed me, as did my German dictionary, though for different reasons. The OED offered so many options on the word it helped not a bit. Certainly, the word ‘volk’ resonates there more than folk does here.
But what I can say is, after discovering just how many tribes there were, I at once, gave up tentative thoughts of exploration. Whether the 189 little states that existed before 1867 might be tied to particular tribes is for someone else to get a migraine over.
Liberté, fraternité, egallité: All words that speak for themselves, and especially for the French, but there is one word that of late has filled news from France and that is läcitié, a word that meant very little to me. An article in the December edition of the Atlantic magazine was given over to trying to explain to non-French people what the word meant. I confess I rejected the article having read the statement “The histories of few countries are as deeply intertwined as those of France and the United States”. Since that seemed so naïve that it had the same effect on me as if the clock struck 13. Did he really think the main driver of support by the French for the American’s push for independence was philosophical rather than a strike against the historic enemy of France, England?
Returning to the article many weeks later, I felt that if the ‘guff’ was ignored the article was a worthwhile read, and indeed made sense of much I had never before been able to make sense of. I discovered, or rather it was claimed, that it arose out of the religious wars France had suffered from in the past, together with a determination to throw off the power of the Catholic Church. It was here that parallels with the United States were invoked.
The United States, in guaranteeing freedom of religion ‘sought to shield religion from state involvement’ while in France to achieve the same result the effort ‘sought to shield the state from religious involvement’.
The word, it seems, means freedom from religion, or an ‘insistence that religion along with religious symbols and dress be absent from the public sphere. It also has been interpreted as requiring assimilation. “France is open to everyone but there is only one path, and that is universalism”, at least as far as your behaviour in public. That of course has led to much disagreement as to the meaning of ‘in public’ as we know even here in England.
I referred elsewhere to the 1905 act, one of which was the provision that all churches in France built before that date now belonged to the state. All of which makes sense of what we saw in Auxerre Cathedral many years ago – almost total neglect, rotting tapestries and a sense of decay.
It is very interesting looking at the ways in which different societies deal with the past and when these issues were tackled. Civil wars based on religion were not peculiar to France, domination of a society by a religious order was hardly unknown even at that time – now widespread of course.
Anglicanism had a hold in this country, though not as extreme as in France and Eire, for many years, though more in lip service than anything else. Its grip on schools and universities just faded away. Mind you the 17th century essentially eliminated any thoughts of religious war for this country. Eire suffered the fate of domination of the church almost up to the end of the last century, tied of course to a love/hate for the English, but time and growing secularisation, not mention, discoveries of atrocities by Nuns and priests ended this domination. Other continental states adopted different approaches.
Leaving aside the dreadful situations relating to religions including those of others than Christians, it is very disturbing to see in the southern American states an evangelic belief tied to a large group, claiming to be Christian who seek apartheid and the end of democracy.
To finish, a few reports that have caught my attention, and in no particular order.
The first was that the earth’s core is, apparently growing colder than expected. To what extent the earth’s core affects the climate, if at all, I have no idea but….
The second was the news of a new coral reef growing at a greater depth than expected and flourishing. I think I have expressed before my amazement we spend vast sums of money, while so little money is spent on learning more about our earth and in particular the seas that cover the majority of the globe.
Two items unrelated to the above, but just as interesting, I think. Our common belief that the First Europeans to settle the islands of the north North Atlantic has now to be discarded as new evidence shows the first settlements were made some 300 years before the Vikings used sails; at that time the use of sails in the north Atlantic was essentially restricted to the Irish and Scottish monks.
Vaguely related to that is the realisation that the German navy is substantially larger than the Royal Navy – numbers of course show only a partial picture but as the ex-prime minister of Australia pointed out rather brutally to Liz Truss, the UK is now a ‘busted flush’ as a third-rate world power. Mind you the way she spends taxpayers’ money on her transport shows how she little she understands this. An irony about this abuse of taxpayer’s money is that in 2008 she claimed to be fiercely opposed to politicians allowing themselves to believe it was their money to be spent at whim.
Thinking of Germany, I think some sympathy is required of that countries approach to the situation in Ukraine. Though Germany has never really contributed to Nato defence, their present contribution to the Ukraine crisis of 5000 helmets does seem, at best, half hearted. During the second world war Ukrainians fought for both the Russians and the Germans. All parties committed ghastly atrocities and over a million killed. Moreover, Ukrainians are of course of Slavic origin and bizarrely, that still seems to matter.
Finally, I have to apologise to all I said about when French regional languages were squashed. The First World War may have cemented the position, but it was in fact a hotly disputed law passed in 1905 that determined the matter. Discovering this coincided with reading about a small Italian village where the language still used was Occitan – one the regional language of Province squashed in 1905. I found this particularly interested as a mother of one of our French student visitors, was one of those fighting in France to keep Occitan alive.
The poem I have chosen is by a member of the family that produced that epic poem, ‘The Ancient Mariner’ – required reading for many generations. Mary Coleridge was a noted poet in her own right, influenced by her religious beliefs and a degree of gloom. This poem was chosen essentially because it feels a very long time since we last saw the moon, and because I thought it was interesting to contrast the poetry of one whose great ancestor was known to all of us through required study of ‘The Ancient Mariner’.
Dispraise of the Moon by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
I would not be the Moon, the sickly thing,
To summon owls and bats upon the wing;
For when the noble Sun is gone away,
She turns his night into a pallid day.
She hath no air, no radiance of her own,
That world unmusical of earth and stone.
She wakes her dim, uncolored, voiceless hosts,
Ghost of the Sun, herself the sun of ghosts.
The mortal eyes that gaze too long on her
Of Reason’s piercing ray defrauded are.
Light in itself doth feed the living brain;
That light, reflected, but makes darkness plain.