“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
I hope that you know how fortunate we feel that we are to here at Rush Farm, not through inherited wealth, but through hard work on everybody’s part. Something I don’t refer to often enough is how lucky we are to be in a three-generation commune. We all benefit, none more so than me these days.
Sat on the ground on Saturday morning, feeling put out in all sorts of ways having failed to get into the driving seat of the farm vehicle, and definitely needing rescue, Boots ran like an Olympian to the house to get support, while Alice sat on the ground close by ensuring that, rather than feel sorry for myself, we continued the conversation we had previously been having. And then cavalry in the shape of Christopher and our old Golf appeared at speed. He and Alice got me upright and all was well again. Now past the age of feeling loss of pride, I was just enormously grateful, even if I had to promise to Alice that I would not do that to her again!
Now some days later the family are at work again on strengthening the leg I broke a year ago. As for myself, battered by demands to remember my age and think before and while I move, the bruises are subsiding, and the stretched muscles are almost only a memory. Whatever society may think of the extended family, if you can have it, grab it with both hands. In a sense it is rather like marriage. It will have its lows and highs, but that is life. Both I and my sister continue to enjoy long marriages – in our case last week we passed the 58-year mark, and shortly my sister, younger than I am, will have been married 55 years.
In many ways this has been a rather frantic week given Tabitha, Boots and Christopher fly out to Zimbabwe, both for a wedding and a much-needed break. Given the pivotal role Chris has, not only were there many needing briefing, but also, so many small jobs to be sorted out. None of the above should be read as suggesting Tab is not also a major player and having no Boots will feel very odd. So demanding days ahead for Sophie, Paul and his packing team; Nicki for the SCBS, and an exposed Tim. But of course, the strength of any strong team is to be able to rise to challenges, and we have no worries on that front.
I must admit at once that this week I have failed to get out and around all the pastures, but I can say that the rain last week, and on Wednesday, means that, though I say it very quietly, there is/was clear evidence of some greening on the fields near the house.
While the sheep have not been moved on, the cattle have – onto the field adjacent to the road, where the grass is around 15” high and closer to hay than living grass. Let’s hope they don’t get too unhappy and decide to hop over the gate! With the losses to TB, and the sale of three steers this week, numbers have been reduced by nine. Not unhelpful either financially, or in terms of grazing. What is quite clear is that a growing number of farmers in the dryer parts of the country are having to use their winter feedstocks already. A claim I recently heard from a weather source was that the UK should not expect a fall in total rainfall in the future, merely its distribution over the year. If this is the case the implications need exploring
Sky has been taken to the dog trainer who currently has Dot under training. Dot will be re-joining us later this month.
It was good to hear from Yannick who, after leaving us was setting out on a bicycle tour from Venice. Good also to have in writing his very positive review of his time here. As must be obvious, contact with our previous woofer, Alice, remains strong and regular as she faces new challenges on a daily basis.
A final note on the joys of this time of year here on the farm: High amongst these is being able to have open windows carrying in the smells of cut hay and straw, and if you are lucky the perfume of an adjacent lily.
To help with the task of learning to work with these new concepts and attitudes that Steiner suggested we develop in working with biodynamic methods, a farmer named Maria Thun, in the 1950’s, began her research to try to establish for herself whether or not, and in what way, the heavens with the planets and stars affect plant growth.
With incredible patience, she planted radish seed every hour, and observed and photographed the resulting plants. Over time a clear pattern emerged. And as news of her interesting work spread, other farmers joined her in her research.
It wasn’t many years before they produced a calendar reporting on the results of the previous years’ work, and suggestions to be followed for the current year. As word spread, she received feedback on her suggestions from all over the world.
What became clear is that the moon, in its circling the earth each month, as it passed in front of each constellation, caused clearly visible differences in the plants’ development.
They fell into four groups – the root, the leaf, the flower, and the seed or fruit. Or earth, water, air and warmth or fire, the four elements!
So, it is possible, by following the calendar’s suggestions, to experience a very real connection between oneself, one’s work in with the soil, growing and tending plants, and the starry world.
The three items I want to explore follow on from previous remarks. It has long been a hobby horse of mine that in our certainty of our ‘rights’, a sense of responsibility has gone out the window.
Few seem to understand that ‘rights’ have no inalienability to them – they are a human creation and exist only so long as a society accepts them. Responsibility on the other hand is a natural built-in facet of being a human being.
I have also long felt that our society has become over obsessed with the importance of feeling. I am not promoting the concept of ‘the stuff upper lip’, now so widely rejected, but do feel the balance has been completely lost. It appals me when an interviewers first question is ‘and so how do you feel’. Asked of a man who has just lost his wife or a child, any normal response should either be smash the person in the face, or preferably turn your back and walk away. Emotion suddenly dominates everything and is proudly displayed to the world.
Gillian Bridge has written a book which sits alongside the words above very comfortably. The book is called ‘Sweet Distress: How Our Love Affair with Feelings Has Fuelled the Current Mental Health Crisis’.
The author is neither an oldy or a young whippersnapper, but a working ‘addiction specialist’, whose credentials are substantial, who, speaking at the 2019 Headmasters and Mistresses Independent Schools Conference, told them that what she saw as the root cause of mass unhappiness was ‘this focus on me, myself and I’.
Her book was reviewed extensively in the Daily Telegraph, and if I were a tad younger would quickly appear on my bookshelves. I have not the slightest doubt that she is correct. Self-obsession helps no one, least of all the victim.
On Tuesday Rory Stewart concluded his three-part series on “Argument”. I was, at the end of it, better informed on the American ‘primary voting’ system and, subject to the normal caveats, impressed by the intent, if not the outcomes. He came up with a series of suggestions as to how we might improve matters.
Sadly, while I bought into so much of what he put forward, I cannot see how we get closer to the improvements he suggests. Among these were the ideas that:
There are a few politicians who do actually see argument as a way forward, not many, but some names come to mind at once. Both sides have their extreme idiots, one of whom looks ready to self-ignite so often, I have hopes. David Trimble was a man who I am sure Stewart admired since he ticked all the right boxes, having achieved so much yet obviously had to be rejected.
Self-obsession and emotion rule the day in politics in every part of the English-speaking world. Adversarial debating chambers can only work if, to use what I believe is the Americanism, there is dialogue across the aisle, and those days that seems all but to have gone.
Irrelevant in some ways I know, but in line, I think, with what I have written above, who, other than the self-obsessed or mentally deficient would want to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at this point. There used to be an old army saying – ‘never, ever volunteer’. Spike Milligan certainly held that view.
Anne referred to James Lovelock’s book “The revenge of Gaia”. I think if he were writing today, the title might more probably be “The end of Gaia and this planet”.
He wrote in that book:
“By good countryside I mean farming land and communities that live well with the Earth and represent an ecosystem which, though dominated by people has ample room left for woodlands, hedgerows and meadows’ this was his vision and one which we try to achieve.”
He also wrote in that book an old verse:
“They thieve and plot and toil and plod and go to church on Sunday. It’s true enough that some fear God but they all fear Mrs Grundy. The scientific world has its share of Dr Grundy’s, some genuinely uncertain, but far too many have sold their souls to Big Business.”
I suspect because Lovelock was not only an independent scientist, but one wanting to see the best in people, he could not bring himself to accept the degree to which we have given power to those whose only interests are short term and financial, and almost certain to see the end of humanity as we have known it.
A recent article expressed this brilliantly. From the Wall Street Journal, its heading is “Why pretend green pork will stop climate change”, the author is Holman W. Jenkin
One analysis pinpointed in the fewest possible words why: “Alternative energy is not replacement energy.”
Such packages are sold on the public’s faulty intuition that an “erg” of green energy consumed is an “erg” of fossil energy that stays in the ground. But it does not follow.
The most widely celebrated paper in recent years on the economics of climate change, concludes that green-energy subsidies mostly just increase total energy consumption rather than displace fossil fuels.
The impact on CO2 and temperatures is “minuscule,” according to Princeton’s José Luis Cruz Álvarez and Esteban Rossi-Hansberg.
But organised green interests want your money; voters want a warm feeling from being told they’re doing something about climate change (as long as it doesn’t involve a carbon tax). Even so, notice that Joe Biden and his aides have been careful to voice their support for the Senate bill in terms of “energy security,” not anything that sounds like “green new deal.” They know the public is wising up.’
Why should I add more? Can people really believe you get something for nothing? Electric driven cars almost certainly overall use more energy to make and use than conventional vehicles. Wind turbines, solar panels, you name it are as energy demanding as saving. How we love to deceive ourselves, anything rather than face up to unpleasant facts.
Onto other thoughts and turning to my ever-necessary editor seeking help on what I might leave out of my list of possible items, I was left with four, three of which take forward ideas and are expressed above, but trying to end on a positive note, something rather different.
On Tuesday afternoon I listened to Prom 16 again. Good but a pale imitation of the programme played live on the television on Friday night. I am talking about Vaughan William’s ‘A Sea Symphony’, not regarded I know as one of his best, but watching Andrew Manze, a diminutive, or so it seemed, figure, marshalling his forces of two choirs, made up of some 200 singers and a very full orchestra with the sound as loud as it would have been if I had been at the Albert Hall itself, the experience was electrifying.
Despite my strong family links to the sea, and the substantial numbers of voyages I have personally undertaken, I have never lost my awareness of the sea’s vast impersonal power, and the fragility of those who travel upon it. I look at the paintings of the sailing vessels my great, great grandfather sailed as master mariner across the oceans of the world and am humbled – in comparison I am a milksop.
I had believed that I had used a poem by Dylan Thomas some weeks ago but was reminded this past weekend that I while I may have carried out the impulse in my head, in practice I had failed. For that I apologise.
This is one he recorded a lifetime ago, and though I have no way of showing the actual cadences of his speaking voice, for those of you who are Welsh, or can assume the accent, do read it aloud. Afterwards perhaps feel sorry for a genius who had such a strong self-destruct impulse.
In my craft or sullen art by Dylan Thomas In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.
Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art