Soggy pastures!

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

This coming week Anne and I ‘celebrate’ 12 months in shielded lockdown. While I have tried to make light of the situation knowing how much worse it has been for others, the truth is that we have not been left unaffected. In perhaps the most obvious way has been our struggle to conceive how we can ever cope with being social creatures again. 

After last week’s ‘beast from the east’ we have had sunshine and warmth and the effect on the spirits is immediate. The ground is still very wet which continues to restrict many actions, but the sheep have again been moved onto drier ground and all look good. The new sheep race, though not yet christened, has been displayed to us as the photograph shows – very impressive.  

The Sheep Race

In the 15 years since we bought our second-hand race, the company that originally dominated the market has gone, and in the process changes for the better have been made. The government generously contributed 40% of the total cost.  

There has been considerable action relating to the cattle; two more have been sold with a further two identified to go. The cow which required surgery a week is doing well, and we have had two more calves, both born without assistance and looking good to redress the balance.  

You may wonder at our numbers policy with cattle, but the truth is that in our approach to farming there is a limit to the number we retain, especially as we wish to build up our breeding sheep flock to around 200 again, believing as we do that best practice requires that mixing of sheep and cattle.  

While the pastures remain ‘soggy’ we have not had so much rain that flooding is likely.  

You will be interested to hear that the Government is seeking information on Farm Practices. Sadly, the questions are just too obviously designed to get information which can be used to support the government’s current thinking.  

For example: it totally ignores farmers who are Soil Association, Demeter, and or Pasture Fed certified.  

It is aimed essentially both at conventional and/or cereal growers, and the questions relating to livestock farmers are slanted solely towards productivity and assume that all stock are fed cereal products. Even worse is the refusal to accept the mass of research which demonstrates methane is not part of the CO2 problem.  

Rather unwisely it gave a telephone number which I was looking forward to use to express my views. I should have known better. Getting hold of a human, let alone one in a responsible position, is not this government’s style. I have of course sent an email setting out my objections in detail. 

Why oh why do they regard farmers as uneducated ignorant persons whom they are entirely justified in ignoring? 

Discussion and consultation, it seems, do not mean actually listening to a proper cross-section of the community concerned.   

If it does happen by accident, taking any notice seem inconceivable.  

On other matters of irritation, despite getting an email telling me to continue shielding, I shall be going to the opticians next Wednesday. Leaving aside the reality that over the past two years my eyesight has changed significantly, I sat on the one pair of glasses that help slightly, once too often. As a result, one lens feels the need to pop out at inconvenient moments. Mind you, they do no more than let me read subtitles! Anne goes the week after, but her eyesight seems less changed.  

Despite the eyesight problem, I was able to experience the Mars landing, though I confess my level of excitement was far less than watching the manned moon landing all those years ago together with a class of 17-year-old Saskatchewan students!  

Indeed, my excitement was so low as to wonder why nearly 2 million pounds were spent to see how earth will look in due course.  

There are times when writing this section of my notes I struggle with a sense of despair at the thought of the future awaiting our children and grandchildren, but after watching Boots and the two younger dogs race found and round the garden with boundless energy, enough strength is returned.  

Anne and I, having found the channel for CNN News, watched the greater part of the Senate hearings. Until the end it was reassuring and indeed impressive to hear the nine ‘house managers’ make the case against Trump, and even though one really knew the result, it was deeply depressing to listen to the three Republican Senators respond. 

Though all three were lawyers, they lied, used cut videos and displayed a level of insolence that shamed the whole proceedings. But then worse was to come when the minority leader Mitch McConnel spoke. Having agreed that the President was guilty of every charge brought against him, he lamely fell back on a defence that the Senate some four day before had ruled inadmissible and voted to acquit Trump.  

Dear Mr Johnson spoke of this as a triumph of American democracy. In contrast, the view of all the leading commentators in America saw it as evidence of just how weak and on the edge American Democracy had become, and that matters to all of us.  

Unless Trump loses out in the many legal and commercial challenges he faces, he could be back in 2024 continuing his aim to destroy American democracy and turn that country into a pale imitation of countries like Russia, Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, where their leaders can show their contempt for the role of law.  

And then, sadly, Germany confirmed exactly what it sees as that nation’s role. Go back a few years and remember that a minor shift from Mrs Merkel could have done much to remove Brexit from the table. Remember how Greece was treated – all confirming that the EU existed primarily to protect French agriculture and allow Germany to prosper economically.  

But now Germanys’ true foreign policy is clear to the whole world. Leaving to one side the decision to develop better economic links with China, and I shall return to that shortly, it has decided to support the building of a pipeline from Russia, under the Baltic thus cutting out payments to Ukraine – the Russians see this as assuaging the German guilt arising from the war.  

Even a limited reading shows that if any one country suffered in that war it was Ukraine.  

Reliable calculations show somewhere between one in four and one in five Ukrainians died in the conflict, more suffering than any other nation suffered.  

Over five million were killed by the Germans, and then it was the turn of the Russians, who killed another two million plus.  

And now Germany sides with Russia, exactly as it did all those years ago when that noxious pact was signed between the two countries. 

Germany obviously feels no need to take any international view other than to is own economic self-interest.  

It is no help to learn that tests in Japan have revealed that choirs singing in German must double their social distancing because of the multitude of strong consonants in that language which project droplets twice as far as when choirs sing only Japanese! 

Returning to the economic links with China, I would share that Beryl, Christopher’s mother was born in what is now Zimbabwe, and adjusted to the very new world after independence very well, despite Mugabe, but if there was one topic which caused her nerves to jangle it was talk about the Chinese and the way they treated Africans. Among the milder adjectives she used were racist, xenophobic, rapacious and solely driven by economic self-interest.  

As a final thought, the American farce has surely demonstrated completely the dangers of two elected houses. I have never felt strongly about the House of Lords, still having places reserved, but I have certainly worried about it becoming increasingly a parking ground for defeated or time expired politicians.  

I have always felt it would be absurd if its membership were determined by popular vote. A second house should exist to scrutinise in detail legalisation, and make its views clear to the primary elected House. That house always must have the final say. Members of the House of Lords are not tied to any particular constituency and can express their views untainted by concerns for electoral effects on any one constituency.  

So, unlike American senators they may express their views free of that tie. How the Americans with their written constitution ever get out of that hole defeats me. 

On a lighter note, it almost feels that spring is approaching.  

This year the snowdrops have been brilliant, as has the Witch Hazel. Along the drive the daffodils are now showing strongly, and this week the grass is growing again. To add to the feeling, the vegetable garden, now under the stewardship of another Tim, who comes in once a week, again looks trim and ready for the coming season.  

My first intention was to find a kind of ‘spring is sprung’ piece of poetry, but in the light of the thoughts expressed above, that felt frivolous. Hence the poem below: 

I heard a thousand blended notes,   
While in a grove I sate reclined,   
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts   
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.   

To her fair works did Nature link   
The human soul that through me ran;   
And much it grieved my heart to think   
What man has made of man.   

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,   
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;   
And ’tis my faith that every flower   
Enjoys the air it breathes.   

The birds around me hopped and played,   
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—   
But the least motion which they made   
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.   

The budding twigs spread out their fan,   
To catch the breezy air;   
And I must think, do all I can,   
That there was pleasure there.   

If this belief from heaven be sent,   
If such be Nature’s holy plan,   
Have I not reason to lament   
What man has made of man?

Wordsworth of course, but perhaps in a slightly different mode from that we are accustomed to.  

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