Spring!

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

Well, like millions no doubt before me, I survived my cataract operation. As a result, for some time to come, one eye can read without glasses while the other can see the televisions without glasses! The wonders of a brain which over a couple of days adjusted to that situation. Two weeks to avoid dust, dirt and animals and basically do even less than usual. Not even a visit to the lambing, or to the coming up TB tests, let alone rooting in my bookstore. That means more reliance on my memory than usual, so apologies in advance for errors that slip into details in the second half of my notes for a few weeks.  

The story of this week is rather short and straightforward.  

Firstly, we still have had no rain nor is there any in the forecast for next week. An issue which I shall write more about next week.  

The cattle remain in the barn as on Tuesday and Friday of next week is TB testing. A calf expected in June arrived on Friday evening, while the calf actually expected in April was born on Saturday, and unless there are disasters, we should have another due next month. No criticism of the vet, pregnancy diagnosing is basically to see if a cow is pregnant, and if they are, then a suggested time of arrival is just that.  

Lambing began at the start of the week, quietly at first and then lambs have been popping out in a rush. While a contingent of ewes is in the barn, most are lambing outdoors. Last year there was no tagging – not our normal practice – but this year it has been resumed though, in a way, the exercise is the harder when lambing is not in the barn. So, the day for Chris starts at 6am, Tim takes over at eight; then later in the day the lambs born must be tagged. The evening is for Chris again, though it has never been our practice to attempt to cover the period late evening to six although if there is an excitement those precious hours are not sacrosanct. At the weekends it is essentially Chris, except only for the spasmodic company of his son and niece, in other words lambing is a very punishing period for him since Ulula also requires time. Still half the ewes have now lambed.  

All, so far, seems to be going well, though one night our vet had to be disturbed because an animal was in great distress – turned out apparently to be severe constipation! Sadly, soon after, she gave birth to dead triplets. The slight positive is it proved possible to foster on to her a triplet from another ewe. When an animal has triplets, every attempt is made to foster one of them

I should add a positive note. The sunshine has been almost continuous, even though the early mornings have mostly been frosty. The grape hyacinths continue to flower, adding a brilliant blue to the garden, while in the field by the house dandelions flourish in a bright yellow shade. Fledglings are to be seen and heard more or less every hour of the day – all very welcome except those which are magpies. We have also seen our first swallow. 

The flowering trees, so badly frosted, are showing new leaves, and the apple trees are close to bud burst. So, aside from the lack of rain there is much to delight in.  

Robert using a ‘lazy dog’ put in an hour or so digging up hemlock, and that will be the practice for several weeks. It is only the one field at present that is afflicted, and if at all possible, we must not let it spread. The gardens are looking good, and the vegetable garden has been producing salad leaves for those who like rabbit food, while the rhubarb is producing enough for several families. Tim’s determination to keep both rabbits and dogs out has meant he is replacing yet another fence.  

Back to school!

This week, for the two grandchildren who live on the farm, Thursday meant the return to school This was a real challenge since they had not been attending school since last September. An adjustment for all of us, but they were certainly ready to attend. Mixed feelings for Sophie who has been responsible for home schooling for all that period. All were rather tense before the children returned from school, but very happy to find the children had had a very good return.  

Memories

Like millions of people all over the world, I watched the funeral last Saturday and came to the conclusion that what we witnessed was a belief in ideas that I hold dear, but seem no longer to be valued.  Old fashioned I may be, but I believe in the need to have a sense of morality, honour, honesty, integrity, concern and compassion for others, a sense that all have worth, an acceptance of responsibility rather than an assumption of entitlement, together with a belief in duty. This is not a claim that I at all times achieve these, but simply that I strive to live by them; the funeral service very much brought these thoughts to the fore.   

And while I am being so personal, the hymn which begins “Eternal Father strong to save for those in peril on the seas” brought a tear to my eyes. Leaving to one side the family stories of longshoremen and deep-water sailors, seventy odd years ago we lived in Great Yarmouth which was then a thriving fishing port. Every year the ‘silver darlings’ moved south in great numbers and the fishing season began in Scotland and followed the fish southwards. So, every season the drifters descended on Yarmouth, and for a few weeks the town population was increased by drifter men and Scottish women. 

It meant that the church we attended was very full during this period.  Our preacher who was supposed to be a Baptist, during this period, reverted to his Calvinist roots and his sermons were long and dramatic. The hymn of choice every Sunday was ‘Eternal Father…’ sung with great emotion by the largely increased congregation, particularly when a drifter either failed to make it back to port, or lost a man overboard, and these were not infrequent happenings.  

Irritation

On a very much more trivial note, for too long I have been disturbed by the use of certain particular phrases so often heard on radio and television. For example, ‘have a listen to’ and ‘have a listen’. At last, I have worked out why this irritates me, and of course once spotted, the reason is actually blindingly obvious. One of the habits of English users is to happily use words as almost any part of speech but sometimes it jars. “Listen” is a verb and therefor what ‘should’ be said is ‘listen to this’. Progress, ignorance, lack of thought, or just demonstrating our language is never static. I still don’t like it though!   

The next phrase beloved of many is ‘at this moment in time’ – why not just say now. An equally beloved phrase is ‘carrying out a forensic examination’ while showing a ragged line of police with sticks looking for clues in the undergrowth. How can this be described as forensic? Bizarre!  

For a few years after retirement, and before the financial world seemingly collapsed, Anne and I patronised the Fred Olsen cruise company. Aside from one not so good crossing of the Atlantic years ago, we had both enjoyed a variety of sea passages before going cruising, so this was no great challenge.  

Visiting Ravenna

The Olsen line made/makes its money by using small vessels, by concentrating on the British market, and an older age group. The smaller ships meant places could be visited that larger vessel were unable to access, and the downside that the ships usually docked in commercial berths was trivial. In this way we visited a variety of places now not accessible and saw a wide range of sights.  

All this is merely to set the background to what I want to write about. Of all the places we visited, it is Ravenna that made the longest lasting impression. It is in Ravenna that, what had been an Arian church, can be seen. A church full of the most amazing mosaics, and a reminder of a remarkable time both for Christianity and Europe.

I referred last week to the latitudinarianism beliefs of Ralph Cudworth and this week surprisingly on “In our time” the topic was Arianism. At this point I resist exploring latitudinarianism, except to note that the word includes Arianism, but while I am thinking of that programme, though I am unimpressed by Melvin Bragg’s novels, I am happy to recognise his huge influence in making these programmes so interesting.  

The choice of guest experts is only part of this, what is crucial is the way, Bragg, who always has prepared carefully, manages the discussion and asks pertinent questions. Hats off to him!  

I confess much that was shared in the programme I had not known before. I had known that in the 3rd century it was a shock to the first Roman emperor to adopt Christianity to discover what a fractured group Christians were, and as a result it caused him to arrange a number of gatherings to attempt to find common agreement. I had known Arianism was seen as a heresy, and in due course was rejected by the now dominant Catholic Church, though I had not really grasped why. I also knew little about the Visigoths, other than that they were a Germanic people pushed out of the East, and that they were the western branch of the Goths. It was the Visigoths who defeated Rome first, but then, thereafter, apparently conquered the Iberian Peninsula and settled there.  

Later the Ostrogoths – the Eastern branch of the Goths – conquered Rome again, and by the 5th century had control.  

I had not known that the form of Christianity they adopted was Arianism rather than Catholicism, nor had I realised that the man who converted them was the man who translated the bible into Gothic, a script that remained in use in Denmark until late in the 19th century.  

It was the leader of the Ostrogoths, Theodoric, who established in Ravenna this fantastic church with its marvellous mosaics and his mausoleum still stands. (I should, in the interests of attempted accuracy, say that even noted authorities disagree over where these Germanic tribes came from) and as to what happened to the Ostrogoths after Theodoric’s death, I know not, nor is really relevant since my point of reference is the glory that is central Ravenna – do not be put off by the city’s industrial outskirts…..  

(The gulf between the Catholic and Arians was essentially the issue of whether there was a hierarchy involving God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and to the Visigoths and Ostrogoths and their social order, the idea of a hierarchy made far better sense. This issue of course has rumbled on until the present day. though rejected in the strongest terms by Anglicans and Roman Catholics alike).  

Given that the lambing season in now in full sway I have ‘lifted’ a poem from a Farmer’s magazine. though I have omitted some verses. It well describes life this week.  

Good luck to all you lambers By Jan Millward  

Good luck to all you lambers  
I hope you get some sleep. 
If you have too much trouble, 
you could try counting sheep!  


Good luck to all you shepherds 
with weary arms and legs. 
Out with gel and torches, 
checking on the tegs.  


I’m thinking of you farmers 
leaving your cosy beds, with PJ’s tucked in wellies 
inspecting ewes in sheds.  


Three cheers to all the workers 
with purple stains and scratches. 
Heads bent against the weather, 
battening down the hatches.  


To those of you who smell like 
you haven’t washed for days. 
Who don’t know what the time is 
and nights pass in a haze.  

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