“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
Probably because of the weather of the last two weeks, the blossom trees are still in bloom and most of the daffodils also continue to look bright and alive. Along the garden wall and close to the brickwork of the house are a whole range of flowers including violets and wallflowers.
The occasional break in the clouds makes a great difference to our moods and has facilitated work on the farm. Happily, at the end of the week we had some rain which, given there had been more compost spreading this week, was needed.
The event of the week on the farm was the spraying of 69 acres with preparation 500. This was the first time our new 1000 litre spraying tank was used. Setting it all up and attaching it to the new tractor was complicated and time consuming. Fortunately, in Chris we have an engineer manque, so he also had the skills to add a second nozzle to the tank which meant on each pass the area sprayed was doubled. Next week there are a further two good days on which the remainder of the farm may be sprayed.
There is little to share about the cattle and sheep. We have had no results as yet from the blood tests on the cattle, and otherwise all seems well there. We do now know to expect a calf in April. One lot of sheep were moved onto the north Gallop, and next week all but a handful of our remaining lambs go to Ford Hall Farm. A handful are being kept, in part to provide a group for Dot to start learning her trade.
The scrape, as you can see in the photo, is once again looking as it should. It sits in field 3, and when the field was sprayed, Tab and Chris saw a number of interesting birds. A pair of herons, two pairs of geese, a number of Larks and five water birds which were new to them which sound as if they might have been Water Rail.
One interesting piece of research was printed in the Guardian this week. This related to carbon retention in the soil. The uncontroversial part was that some 30% of the CO2 in the atmosphere is captured by the soil. However, this new research confirms that there needs to be plant cover and, much more importantly, that grassland is more efficient than woodland for this purpose. This slightly contradicts research by Tamar Organics, whose conclusion that woodland and grassland were almost equally effective, However, it is obviously good to plant some trees in grassland to provide shelter for stock, but hardly efficient to convert the grassland to forest. Yet another indication that the government’s environmental plan is not nearly as well founded as is claimed.
Incidentally, I have not as yet received the outcome of the soil tests nor, I regret to say, have I, as yet, properly read and digested the three papers issued by the government relating to the three strands of their new policy.
While life on the farm had been undramatic, great work has been going on not just in the gardens by the house but also in what we called the poly tunnel garden – set up of course to produce Demeter vegetables to sell. As you will probably recall we reached the position some three years ago that we, without outside support, just could not maintain it. The great news is that Tim, he who is paid for time spent each week keeping the business Park bushes and gardens trim has taken over the poly tunnel garden as a personal project. The area now looks much more under control, and last weekend he and another volunteer called Adam recovered the poly tunnel framework – all very exciting.
Incidentally, an issue that has come back with the opening of businesses on the park is the lack of concern about driving on the grass verges. We must do something, but just what is hard to decide. It’s not so much the tenants but the delivery vans and casual visitors.
I am conscious that I have not mentioned recently how Mrs Weaver is doing. The latest I heard was that she was enjoying being taken out into her garden on sunny days and certainly son Tim is more sanguine these days. If he is not mentioned much, it is simply because he knows what needs to be done and quietly gets on with it. One of the downsides of shielding is that our Friday morning meetings have not been held for months and these were opportunities for him to express views and also hear about wider developments.
Otherwise, it has been good to hear bees buzzing in the blossoms and to see, on a regular basis, our pair of resident buzzards. Having spoken about the bees I feel duty bound to share with you our resident population of house sparrows and an assortment of small brown birds and tits – mainly great and blue, are currently very noisy indeed, and some bird boxes already have residents. I am hoping to hear soon when Gert is going to be able to do his survey of birdlife on the farm. He certainly is likely to see the pair of green woodpeckers that spend time on the field behind the house and in the hedge there.
Two last comments: purely by accident we found and watched on BBC4 an episode from the first series of ‘Yes Minister’. At one level it was a joy to watch and listen to. On the other hand, it is still so relevant and leaving the worrying niggle that this may have been the final nail in the coffin of public trust in our political system.
I do not feel I can let go unremarked the death of Chris Barber. He, together with such stalwarts as Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball and Humphrey Lyttleton were the sound of traditional jazz in my formative years. All largely gone now, and I refuse to accept that as progress when I hear what passes for popular music today. All one can do is pity the young people of today. A particular favourite of mine was a band called ‘The Temperance Seven’; just the thing to play on one’s car radio as one drove along the promenade in Bournemouth on a warm sultry evening!
One action that seems innate is to pick at scabs. I feel in a way that the scab I cannot resist picking at, at the moment, is America. Putting to one side the two massacres described by an American commentator as a uniquely American problem, figures emerged about the number of guns sold last year, the number of gunshot deaths and the number of gunshot soundings – 50,000,000 guns sold; 20,000 gunshot deaths and 40,000 wounded. At a time when the Democrats hold all three levers of power, and the National Rifle Association is in disarray, you might imagine action was possible. (Sadly, a bad habit, still not fully irradicated in this country – dating from around 1870) – makes it almost impossible for significant changes to be agreed.
The filibuster is alive and well in the American Senate where it originated, and unless the Democrats can persuade ten Republicans to switch sides nothing, but an executive order, will effect change. Biden unlike Trump is uncomfortable operating in that way.
Last week I listened to a learned discussion on what is apparently the Greek playwright Euripides greatest play. In a way this tied into Lindsey Davis’s latest novel which included a sub plot about some parchments allegedly written by Greek authors some centuries before. A sub plot in which the reader learnt a great deal about the Romans interest in acquiring scripts from the Greek period, and how there was a well-developed trade in both copying, inventing and selling such scripts. The three experts made clear that the script of the play they were discussing had come down to us via a complete series of accidents. Inevitably I was left wondering, not necessarily about the attributed author, but about how they could be discussing so seriously a script whose authenticity had to be suspect. The notion of Chinese whispers is well known; a text originally written in Greek, then translated into Latin, then into Arabic and finally into English must carry some doubts.
What stands out in both Stephen Saylor’s and Lindsey Davis’s novels – and they both are knowledgeable and readable, and Greek tragedies, is the love both of brutality and torture. Both cultures were of course militaristic at base. Socrates, undoubtedly a great thinker, paid the ultimate price for his unpalatable ideas. Though in the 19th century both civilisations were held in the highest regard it is unimaginable that any of us would have wanted to live then.
I have been struggling to make sense of an argument by the French philosopher Etienne Balbiar, that it was neither Descartes or Leibniz who first came up with the notion of consciousness or identity, but was in fact John Locke. I am making some progress, even though it reminds me so much of my undergraduate days. It also brings back memories of wondering why I was wasting my time in such futile enterprises. Looking back, it was, I now realise, Bertrand Russell and his History of Western Philosophy that led me down that path. In a piglet moment it struck me that whether we are discussing religion, philosophy or economics they are all driven by the same imperative. The urge to make sense of our existence, and the need to ignore the fact that answers there may be none.
From the earliest known times ‘man’ has pursued this struggle; for and from Neolithic times, Greeks, Romans and other pagan societies, the notion of spirits and Gods were the answer. At a later date monotheism caught hold from the Jews, and the key problem for philosophers then was making sense of the world against the backcloth of an omnipotent God.
That particular problem has gone for many, but even so, a need is felt to turn to something to make sense of it all, and that something now seems to science. The ‘Big Bang’ was, it seems, when the universe came into being.
Splendid, but what was there before that event – you cannot actually get something out of nothing. But, the drive to know is immense, and nations, rich and poor, pour billions both into space exploration, and attempting to know more, not just about our universe, but the innumerable others out there, is quite something.
Of course, there have been spin off benefits but at what cost, and thinking of Mars, do we really want to know what the earth will eventually become.
Actually, as I cannot conceal, I am very interested in the history of these subjects since they cast some light on the issues of today, but that interest is based on a clear understanding of the limits of such studies which also illuminate only too clearly the sands on which they are based, and the people words and languages of their own they have created.
Nor am I in way disparaging those, from Socrates onwards, who asked the pertinent questions they sought answers to, as would those of any philosopher living today, reflected the world as it was then and the inescapable reality that humans can never really address a question with a mind as John Locke suggested, a blank slate.
Similarly, thinking solely of Christianity, the decisions made years after the death of Christ made it possible for a multitude of people to cope with the vicissitudes they daily faced.
Similarly, the thinking of economists represented a genuine attempt to both understand and point a way forward for the better management of the economy, and a better life for the peoples who inhabit societies.
What bedevilled their progress is, and was, the reality that they were faced with accounting for human behaviour, which despite years of study has not been bottomed, and may well never be. Remembering the great American economist Samuelson, I have often wondered whether it bothered him that his and other studies rested on the assumption that rationality was the basis on which human decisions were made.
None of the above means I do not recognise the contribution made in all three disciplines to lives in the past and present – some good, some arguable and some deeply damaging.
Depressing these thoughts may be, but surely better for some of us, than what seems to be wishful thinking, and most importantly, no reason not to make the very most of what we have, and this last matter for both of us has been a driving force.
Of course, hearing that our beautiful garden in Zambia lasted weeks only before the next inhabitants decided it to turn it into a chicken run, or the garden in Manchester lovingly created over 12 years lasted only weeks after we left it. But it is going to be different at Rush Farm when we are gone, there will of course be changes, but the basic framework is set and legally protected for the foreseeable future.
It is in that positive spirit I chose the poem below rather than the verse on the same topic written by Thomas Hardy, since in this poem it is implicit that one is as old as one feels despite being aware of one physical mortality.
Youth and Age by Samuel Taylor ColeridgeVerse, a breeze mid blossoms straying,
Where Hope clung feeding, like a bee—
Both were mine! Life went a-maying
With Nature, Hope, and Poesy,
When I was young!
When I was young?—Ah, woful When!
Ah! for the change ‘twixt Now and Then!
This breathing house not built with hands,
This body that does me grievous wrong,
O’er aery cliffs and glittering sands,
How lightly then it flashed along:—
Like those trim skiffs, unknown of yore,
On winding lakes and rivers wide,
That ask no aid of sail or oar,
That fear no spite of wind or tide!
Nought cared this body for wind or weather
When Youth and I lived in’t together.
Flowers are lovely; Love is flower-like;
Friendship is a sheltering tree;
O! the joys, that came down shower-like,
Of Friendship, Love, and Liberty,
Ere I was old!
Ere I was old? Ah woful Ere,
Which tells me, Youth’s no longer here!
O Youth! for years so many and sweet,
‘Tis known, that Thou and I were one,
I’ll think it but a fond conceit—
It cannot be that Thou art gone!
Thy vesper-bell hath not yet toll’d:—
And thou wert aye a masker bold!
What strange disguise hast now put on,
To make believe, that thou are gone?
I see these locks in silvery slips,
This drooping gait, this altered size:
But Spring-tide blossoms on thy lips,
And tears take sunshine from thine eyes!
Life is but thought: so think I will
That Youth and I are house-mates still.
Dew-drops are the gems of morning,
But the tears of mournful eve!
Where no hope is, life’s a warning
That only serves to make us grieve,
When we are old:
That only serves to make us grieve
With oft and tedious taking-leave,
Like some poor nigh-related guest,
That may not rudely be dismist;
Yet hath outstay’d his welcome while,
And tells the jest without the smile.