Spring is in the air!

Well it would be absurd to make no reference to what is happening outside the farm, but I cannot believe platitudes, historic references or psychobabble are useful. We are where we are, and what the eventual outcome socially and economically will be is anyone’s guess. Sufficient therefore perhaps to say that though Anne and I are in the ‘most vulnerable group’ we are exceedingly fortunate compared to so many, being in as good a position as anyone could hope to be. The violets still bloom, and blossom is in bud in the hedgerows, and the birds are busy with their nesting.

News from the farm is somewhat limited this week not least since we are now in purdah, but I have to share with you a recent example of every silver lining having a cloud. Rejoicing in the fact that the herd is TB free we were brought down to earth by the results of the herd health test. The condition which still prevails in the herd is not life threatening to the affected animals nor does it affect their saleability, but it is irritating.

Concerned that some pregnant ewes were looking a little thin, all were individually checked on Wednesday and 30 pulled out and put on fresh grass which with reduced competition means they should get a better share of the organic protein nuts.

Concerns that the animals are going to require feeding for longer than normal has driven us to buy in more organic hay. Promises of support for farmers who have been financially hurt by flooding sadly has not been extended to the vast majority of farmers, like ourselves, who while not actually have been flooded have had to cope with long term water logging.

The various inspecting bodies are looking to put in place remote inspections. As you know we had to postpone our Soil Association inspection which would have had attached to it the Red Tractor Assurance inspection. Now I wait to see what will be required from the farm to meet this amended challenge.

The vegetable garden

We have not given up on the vegetable garden. The transplanted rhubarb is doing well and with custard is a first-rate dessert. The strawberry patch has been weeded and the new plants which went in last autumn are looking good. Peas, broad beans and tomatoes have been sown in the green house and with the children’s school closed, hopefully propagating trays will be watered routinely.


You may wonder why I have not referred to any discussions on the pasture-fed site recently. Partly this is simply a reflection of everybody having other concerns, but in part because the current discussion on ‘Plate Meters’ highlights an area which, if there was more time, and we had a greater acreage, we know we should take more seriously. Basically, the Plate Meter enables the farmer to have ‘better informed’ information on grass growth to help guide decisions on when to move grazing stock. 

The food we eat

From a different source come sad but interesting statistics on the drop in the proportion of family income in the UK spent on food. It seems that in the 1950’s somewhere between 30% and 50% of all such expenditure was on food. The latest official figure is 8.2% for the UK – for the USA 6.4%. The same source put hard figures on the drop in nutritional value of carrots. These today contain 75% less copper and 48 % less calcium. Perhaps the purchase of supplements from health food shops really is necessary! 

So, we spend less on food, and buy food that is far less nutritious than it used to be, from which it is easy to develop conspiracy theories, especially when the real cost of the ‘food’ we eat is concealed. A quote on Friday suggested that the real cost of a ’Big Mac’ was £150! I am so glad that we went organic all those years ago and put feeding the family with good food as more important than trotting off to lie on some foreign beach.


A last few words about ‘guilt’. In the middle of the week I found at the back of a drawer a paperback dating back to 2010 written by Peter Sloterdijk called ‘Rage and Time’. If one can get past the notion of ‘thymotic’ ideas and psychoanalysis ‘being rooted in erotodynamic thinking‘ you will find at the end of the book not just ideas I expressed last week, but a respectful nod to John Locke and a putting in his place of Nietzsche.  To quote:

“no politics of balancing suffering that is built on holding past injustices will allow the space for future paradigms of detoxified worldly wisdom”.

Even worse for many readers, he goes to say that only in those cultures which embrace the three essential ideas in Locke’s thinking – the basic rights to life, freedom and property – do we have true enlightenment.

Thinking and language

For many years I have believed thinking was in some way related to the language spoken. This view rested on no more evidence than my experience in working with bilingual colleagues. Though I was aware that at one time linguistic scholars also thought this way I was also aware that the notion was seen to have been discredited. All very complicated and only partially understood on my part, but I believe that the language of some remote and small group of people had something to do with it, as did colour recognition. To be honest until we had woofers I thought no more about the issue. Some of them thought the idea sound, others rejected it. As a postscript it is now believed altitude effects what sounds humans use though apparently in Nepal and Tibet, a way round this exists.

Well it now appears to be regarded once again, in a modified form, as a plausible reality. I say ‘appears’ because much though I love words, linguistics is, as I’ve said, ‘not my bag’. The phonetic alphabet defeated me, whereas reading music was never a problem. What I have been forced to think about when working with woofers is how sounds in English are actually made, and not simply where stress and intonation are important. Actually, fascinating stuff, if not something I had ever given thought to when as a youngster teaching English.

Choosing a poem this week has been rather a challenge so in terms of balance I have ‘ducked out’ by selecting two. The first was written by Yeats in 1919 and reflected a mood which bears some relation to the current situation. The second is simply a verse which I, as an ex-bureaucrat, much enjoyed.

Yeats in 1919

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? 

A prayer for all civil servants

O thou who sees all things below,
Grant that Thy servant may go slow,
That they may study to comply,
With regulations till they die

Teach us, O Lord, to reverence

committee more than common sense;
To train our minds to make no plan
And pass the baby when we can.

So when the tempter seeks to give

Us feelings of initiative,
Or when alone we go too far,
Chastise us with a circular.

Mid war and tumult, fire and storms,

Give strength O Lord, to deal out forms.
Thus may Thy servants ever be,
A flock of perfect sheep for Thee

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