“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
As I sit by the open window, the air no longer carries the smell of harvesting. Instead, it is rather bracing and carries no clue that are in the countryside, except for the absence of car fumes. Yesterday I thought it was unlikely I would write anything this week. I had a bug of some sort which rather left me in nether, nether land.
I had been well enough at the weekend to welcome back our travellers to Zimbabwe. Though they had gone essentially to celebrate a family wedding, they did have a few days in a game park and some time in Harare. Though we did remember the name of the road in which we lived for nine months, road and place names have changed in the fifty-five years since we lived there, and memories were far too vague to be helpful. The game park photos were rather stunning, but apart from photos of the sun setting over the Zambesi, which did bring back strong memories, little else brought the past back and we were not left with any strong feelings of regret for not settling there.
Alice and Brendan are coming this weekend, and while here, weather permitting, will give the farm a second spraying of prep. 500. The spraying will take them into every field so their comments on all aspects of the farm can be shared. Last time I went out with the pair of them was not an unmitigated success, so I will probably not test their nerves again this weekend, unless they want to share something.
In the event, Saturday proved an ideal day for the second spraying of preparation 500, and Alice and Brendan carried out the spraying while Chris ensured the mixing and stirring was carried out ready for loading in the sprayer. Their ‘trundle’ around the farm confirmed that pastures had largely thrown off the effects of the drought but that more rain was needed.
The sheep which are in in the field by the drive have now reached the stage where most lambs are as big as the ewes, there was some evidence of flystrike, but Tim will deal with that. Since this a topic frequently discussed by farmers, so far, we have seen no ill effects from their clearing the field they were in before of ragwort! ‘‘Wort’ is actually an interesting word in that it is of middle English origin simply meaning ‘plant’ and usually only found in plant language with a descriptive word attached to it.
Chris, having sold two steers, took them up north, otherwise the Suckler herd in the barn look good, though one is a little lame, while the four orphans assume a human presence means food. The young stock objected slightly to having the tractor rumble round their field spraying but aside from that seemed well.
The hedgerows are full of fruit which once would have suggested a hard winter was to follow – blackberries, damsons, sloes and the odd pear and apple too be found. No deer were seen, though that is hardly surprising, but hares were seen in at least three fields.
Given the year we have experienced, all in all, very positive.
As I wrote back in July, farming biodynamically asks you to, through the farming work, develop a relationship with the land, going further than might be assumed – the land needs to get to know you too.
For our helpers this last weekend, it was an opportunity to start to think about this as they travelled the farm spraying. Why the 500 now? How are we were looking for it to support the life forces in the plants in and around the fields? How might they themselves one day be able to farmland biodynamically having ‘got to know’ their fields – because the soil is alive, as are the plants – life is within and through everything.
You might recall I wrote about Preparation 500 a few weeks ago, and this is the preparation that was sprayed over the whole farm last weekend.
When we mix the Preparation at the flow form, we are doing so consciously. To the on-looker it might not be apparent, but for Chris and I, who have worked with the Preparations for so many years on the farm now, it is something that happens through us.
Preparation 500 helps the plants to connect with their natural world more productively – to be able to take up the nutrients in the soil, to be able to grow strong and tall. Such a support after this long, dry summer.
This is also the preparation Adrian needs most, and while we took a little of the 500 for the vegetable garden, we were able to catch him in the water droplets as we went past!
While appreciating that you must be exhausted by the reams I seem to have written lately on methane, climate change does matter to us all, and an update is required. Last week I shared with you a consultation on methane reduction additives. The survey in itself has raised great hostility through its ambiguous questions and suggestions. I disagree with none of them. Having a background in setting up surveys that attempt to get at the truth, this whole survey is, though the questions asked, pushing for certain answers and is very definitely not neutral. It appears that the government sees the way forward is to keep cows indoors and fed on additives – bizarre, unless your aim is to free more land for other purposes, but then what about the environment.
What I have yet to see is any challenge to the statistics used to explain the survey. Figures for methane emissions are tossed around without any attempt to justify or explain how they were calculated. I am surprised at one level the office for National Statistics has not intervened but understand they must be overwhelmed by the spurious numbers being thrown out by the Tory party leadership “would-be’s”.
One possibly positive development has been the publication of details of how to apply for the Sustainable Farming Initiative. Not totally sure that I fully understand it, but the three of us need to consider it. It could contribute some £4,000 to the income flow.
Writing is a truly fascinating exercise. Free writing which of course this is, is demanding not simply because of the need to for clarity and good English but because each paragraph almost takes control of its own direction of travel and where to travel next, and all this within a wider setting of the world outside, which easily makes what you are writing seem very trivial. This week has been dominated by the floods in Pakistan and the death of Gorbachev and those two facts have certainly affected all my thinking.
On Tuesday I had a route map in my mind but that was destroyed on Wednesday by the events I refer to above. Now towards the end of the week a new route is developing. I am looking for a link between Bonny Prince Charlie, the floods in Pakistan and the death of Gorbachev and I think I see one appearing. Without wishing to suggest in any way empires are to be glorified, other than that they seem to have been a fact of life for millennia, I wonder whether we have given enough attention to the inevitable consequences of their inevitable demise often for any one of a number of reasons.
Gorbachev is widely applauded in the west for his approach to the democratisation of the Soviet Union and for the freedom which came to those European countries which Russia had effectively annexed at the end of World War II. Some of this was clearly intentional but certainly not all. He may well have imagined as did Putin with Ukraine, that the people of these occupied countries loved their Russian overlords and would not wish to lose the benefits of Russian care and security. Certainly, as far as Putin is concerned he brought about the end of the glorious Russian empire by allowing people the freedom of choice. For many ex-colonies what replaced Russia was probably worse.
A quick side-track. Freedom promises so much and nearly always delivers a future far less secure than previously ‘enjoyed’. A marvellous deluded slogan, used in so many to achieve independence in ex colonies, and leading to a sad reality – the promised land – is always just one ruler away. There are certain inevitabilities in life, one of course is death, unfairness is not far behind and ‘jam is always tomorrow’
While squashing myths, most modern states gained their independence from the U.K. because the colonial power either felt the troops were needed elsewhere or, especially after WW II that public opinion would not support loss of lives and/or the maintenance of colonies.
Thinking about imperial India what the British did was no more than put in place yet another empire which grouped together many states or nations. There was of course a key difference between this empire and those that preceded it. This new empire was rather indifferent to religion unless you count trade as one. This empire was never entirely peaceful, but it did bring a long period of stability to a grouping of people divided in a host of ways. The principal divide was religious, it flared up in the mid-19th century when Muslims were led to believe their religion was being insulted – worth remembering of course this was suppressed by the Indian Army, or in other words Indians of a different set of beliefs. To call it an Indian Rebellion is really rather false as would be calling the Jacobite period a Scottish Rebellion.
A novel feature of this empire was providing top quality education, much of it in London where ideas of freedom and human rights were much discussed. Indians exposed to this were never going to settle for less for their own country. The key problem inevitably was religion. Largely quiescent for years, accelerated by the huge troop involvement in WW I, by the 1920’s the hostility between Hindu and Muslim was open and there for all to see. Although the Indian army played a brave part in the Second World War it was the last gasp before Independence. There are many suggestions as to why Partition took the form it did, but in many ways it took on all the terrible aspects of the movement of people in Europe slightly earlier.
A consequence was that the two Muslim states really did chose the short end of the straw when it came to the effects of the monsoon. Indeed with climate change, one has to ask whether either nation has a viable future. Flooding takes no account of religion
Empires, Federations or Spheres of Interest. They are not all built on conquest, they come together for a variety of reasons and tend to last while self-interest on the majority of those involved the group makes them seem worthwhile. Some of course do persist solely because of the power of the key player but that is not the only reason. Religion is also not the invariable cause of break ups though that is often the key reason.
The Indian empire survived so long because it suited most people not through armed British troops. The Russian Empire survived simply because people knew no better and the brutal power, initially of Stalin. Burma or Myanmar only held together because of the power of the British, once that was gone, not only did religious wars break out but peoples in the north who were largely left alone by the empire and had no major axe to grind, felt now threatened and rebelled.
The United Kingdom is rather an outlier. Of course Wales initially was conquered by the English but it is/was the power of language and industry that in due course mattered to the majority. The Scots did not actually join the union by brute force but because the Darien fiasco broke their economy and union was the only financial way forward. But in any case, rather like Wales, Scotland is not actually one nation and like Wales the economic power of English and its language may hold the federation together. Something most English struggle to understand is the pull of nationality and mythology. Should Scotland become independent that might be down to the man who failed in 1745 but never truly lost his hold on the minds of many Scots.
I realise I have made no reference to Ukraine. The key divide there was not in the first place religion but the manic mind of one man, Putin, who by his aggressive actions, invoked old memories and strengthened the nascent sense of nationhood that was there below the surface in Ukraine. Empires created by brute force, like all empires, have a limited life – the evidence is there historically and though China may hold on for decades yet, Russia will not prevail.
I realise I was a little harsh on the composer Dora Pejacevic last week. I have now listened to an alternative version of her symphony as well as some of her chamber music and feel more enthused as a result. I have also re-listened to some of Emilie Mayer’s works and struggle to understand why we hear so little of her music. Listening to Record Review on Saturday morning I was tempted to add Bach to my list of composers I have heard enough of. But then the organ is not a musical instrument that ‘turns me on’ for reasons I have shared. Bottom line of course is that though it pretends to be able to mimic every instrument it is pretence.
I had intended to begin exploring what the Renaissance actually meant but a combination of ill health and a butterfly mind took me off in other directions. In fact, it is highly likely that if I have managed to read and take on board the contents of Colin Woodward’s book suggesting that North America is made up of eleven nations then that will figure next week.
Having just seen the weather map I think we now have to accept autumn is upon us. Just as conversation about the weather is a commonplace, so for English poets in particular, the seasons are a staple topic and the choice is absurdly wide. But I can offer you a treat this week. A German friend of long standing, Antje, has provided me with a further translation of one of Erich Kastner’s poems – he is best known here for the translation of his children’s book ‘Felix and the Detectives’
September (Erich Kästner)
This is a farewell with colourful pennants
In blue of plums and apple’s green.
Garden flies flags of Aegeans and asters
and thousands of mulleins are glowing keen.
This is a farewell with the sound of trombones,
Thanksgiving too, and farmer’s ball.
The cowbells ring as herds of brown
and pied cows to their stables go.
This is a farewell of many scents
from a world close to oblivion.
Pureé and jelly the stove presents.
Smoulder of fires, first whirling, then gone.
This is a farewell with lots of turmoil,
with broilers on roasts and beer in jugs.
Swingboats are yearning to reach the heav‘ns.
But then, they are not devout enough.
Starlings start to travel now.
Gossamer is blown by wind.
It is this farewell loud and low.
More round than merry the carousels go.
What seemed to be over now begins.