Tales of topping

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

Another week passes, and the heat and forest fires around the world continue. Thoughts that Covid was defeated are shown to be born more out of optimism rather than reality. Yet not all is doom and gloom.  

Manchester’s magnificent Town Hall is to be refurbished – though in truth despite the magnificent parts, offices were odd shaped and reflected a typical architects view of the unimportance of staff actually working within it. Jeremy Clarkson seems to have broken through the public’s false views around the reality of farming. Athletes from these islands have achieved remarkable results; rain saved England from defeat by India in the first Test in a five-match series, and the new form of cricket – ‘The Hundred’ is a cheering reminder that it is only a small and sad group of racists that the media feeds off.  

Figures for anti-sematic abuse rise sharply is always a concern and may be a great headline but when you look at the numbers you realise the media is at it again – anything for a story, ignore any sense of perspective.  

I quote from an article: 

“Journalism about climate change has a high ratio of certitude to certainty when reporting weather events or climate projections, such as this week’s U.N. report. There is a low ratio of evidence to passion in today’s exhortations to combat climate change with measures interestingly congruent with progressive agendas that pre-date climate anxieties.  

Last year, CNN announced: “Oceans are warming at the same rate as if five Hiroshima bombs were dropped in every second.” True. However: “The earth absorbs sunlight (and radiates an equal amount of heat energy) equivalent to two thousand Hiroshima bombs per second.” That sentence is from “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters,” by physicist Steven E. Koonin, formerly of Caltech, now at New York University after serving as the senior scientist in President Barack Obama’s Energy Department and working on alternative energy for BP.  

His points are exclusively from the relevant scientific literature.”  

I could of course chosen to speak of the behaviour of the Russian Olympics Committee, or the sickening on going situations in Belarus and Afghanistan, but to what end given the real challenge facing the Anglo-American world which I worry over later on in these notes.  

For myself, ‘convalescence’ proceeds, a pair of ordinary reading glasses have made a huge difference, including making possible using email once again.  

Bee and bramble

Farm News

There was a time when ‘topping’ had a quite different meaning. I was tempted to use it to describe this past week on the farm, but reality requires more honesty. Not to say things have been bad, but quiet would be the most accurate description. 

That said, there has been a lot of topping carried out on the farm by Tim. Given our own topper is ‘dead’, Chris had to hire one and saw it as a chance to explore the varieties of such machines on the market. I confess I was unaware that there was such a choice. We had discussed replacing our machine with a topper that was not just pulled by the tractor but operated beside the vehicle so that the tractor was not flattening the grass to be cut but the notion of a flail topper was new to me, and being honest, have limited understanding of. 

Hedge cutters are what come to mind when thinking of ‘flailing’, but in the world of toppers are, it seems, particularly suited to cutting dense grass. Our topper was used essentially to stop unwanted plants like thistle, docks and nettles going to seed. It did not leave a close cut. This hired flail topper was rather an experiment, the topping being essentially to remove stalks, scatter seeds and allow the new grass to come through unimpeded. Not a great success I gather, but it has certainly left a number of very tidy looking fields.  

There is little positive to say on the stock front. New Forest Eye continues to work its way through the young cattle, while the Soil Association clearly struggle to come to terms with the idea of being pragmatic. Their position appears to be ‘all or nothing’. As I understand it, the risk of something being used as a growth promoter outweighs the risk of recognising animal welfare should come first. I have some limited sympathy given our world had abandoned the word trust, but I cannot deny the level of irritation it has caused me.  

There is still a way forward, and that of course is to have detailed discussion with our regular vet who understands well our full commitment to remaking organic in both practice and certification.  

All looks good for the winter, but the failure of the promised heat wave to materialise has reduced the chances of a second cut, but, weather permitting, the cattle can hopefully stay out longer than usual.  

I have no update on our BD inspection. The submission from our end looked good and answered all the matters asked of us.  

We still remain in limbo over what we do to close the gap which opens up as the Basic Payment Scheme is run down. Perhaps Jeremy Clarkson could speak to some of his buddies!  

Who we are 

I was of course cheered by the fact that a group of very senior Church of England clerics chose to express concern about Englishness. Much was made of the feeling that those who govern us fail to represent us, together with the sense of shame that pervades so much of what is said or written about being English.  

My views on nationalism are clear: While I do not feel any particular pride in being born English, since I had no hand in the matter, I certainly see no need to feel shame, and feel, yet again, a minority is being treated with over much respect. Why feel pride in your sexuality, ancestry or colour.  Pride, if it matters to you, surely requires some effort on your own part, not on your genetic makeup.  

The quotation that follows is from a well-known left-wing writer who was a masters’ wife at a pretty respectable public school before becoming a ‘go to’ figure for the Sky Press Review and any issue relating to ethnicity.  

I confess I am not a fan – nor do I accept her ideological view of private education, so even in this statement, exaggeration may be assumed: 

“The greed of men like Boris Johnson and David Cameron is the product of a private education Johnson, Cameron and others who hold power were not born this way. No one is.”  

Fortunately, health, parental and personal reluctance allied to the reality that the nearest public school was in terms of intellectual intake and facilities held in low esteem made the decision easy. Indeed, I only met public school products at the age of eighteen, when I was selected to join the 1960 British Schools Exploring Society excursion to Iceland. It turned out that we were only four of the fifty odd boys that had not gone through the public school system.  

By 1960, the word ‘British’ had replaced the word ‘Public’.  

So, we four middle class boys coming from homes where we had our own bedrooms, behaved as members of loving families, had to come to terms with the feral behaviour of the others, had to learn the survival tactics needed, but not to regress to their standards. That played its part in ensuring that in later life, products of public schools were, if anything, regarded by me with sympathy and certainly not awe.   

Obviously, the selection process for the expedition had weeded out a large number of would-be leaders, but my goodness, what an experience at the end of which my powers of physical survival had been tested to the limit as had my mental strength. I owe my parents and especially our local GP a great debt. For by that time, I had my rybarvin inhaler, and though tent sharers feared I might expire some nights, the GP had faith. That experience, together with flying solo for the first time, were as critical to the man I became, as other significant factors.  

The esteemed intellectual Peter York wrote: “Public schools are there to legitimise people who think they were born to rule, rather than just trained to know the ropes.” To get to their rightful place “they have to be desensitised first”.  

Groomed too, so they operate without penitence or shame, and show no pity for those they harm.  

Obviously, a gross generalisation, but one I certainly recognise as being there in certain public figures. Nor should it be forgotten we are referring to a world as it was until at least thirty years ago.  

Now to the serious stuff.  

Poem no 1

I am going to quote two poems this week. The first is by an American and of the 20th century, and I start with that. The second is by an Englishman and was published in 1802 and that will end these notes  

 Next to of course god america i

“next to of course god america i 
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh 
say can you see by the dawn’s early my 
country ’tis of centuries come and go 
and are no more what of it we should worry 
in every language even deafanddumb 
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry 
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum 
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut- 
iful than these heroic happy dead 
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter 
they did not stop to think they died instead 
then shall the voice of liberty be mu

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water  

A few weeks ago, courtesy of an article in CNN I became aware of a film partially and reluctantly released by the Fox Corporation called ‘Idiocracy’. Best described as dystopian, it predicted the state of America in 500 years.  

It was a savage attack on American corporatism and years later it became a cult film.  The character in the film who played the President said many years later, “Idiocracy was “so prophetic in so many ways it actually scares people”.   

For the film predicted a future in which America had become controlled by vast corporations unchallengeable by any other than themselves. Well, the truth is we are all but at that point now.  

I came across it as I was contemplating the cash feast that lawyers and accountants would make in assuring that legal cases brought against Donald Trumps would never come to anything. Moreover, all this came to light at the same time as the amounts the coal and oil industries were paying out to Republican politicians in the states where livelihood depended on those industries in order to ensure they were re-elected.  

The power of the big corporation in America is hardly credible. That film was set in America but aren’t we in some ways going down the same path. Bigger is best, at least for lawyers and accountants, and what control does the state actually have when it routinely turns to these same corporations for advice?  

We may have better control of the lobby group but the level of nepotism there is frightening. There are rules to prevent ex ministers and civil servants cashing in on past experience and knowledge, but who controls all this? Is it in fact rather like the ministerial code?  

There may be an independent overseer, but it turns out the PM can just overrule him without reference to anybody, let alone parliament  

But to turn the clock back as a student I accept I failed to recognise the built-in dangers of the thinkers like Adam Smith, and the subsequent disasters that followers like Reagan, who was by all accounts a thoroughly decent man could cause. We are taking about ‘economies of scale’ ‘maximising profits’- of recognising the point at which the return is less than the outlay, of specialisation and of course the assumption that the buyer and seller will always act in a rational way. All of which will be of benefit should benefit rich and poor.  

Sadly, the reality of all this was that the figures at the head of corporations saw their incomes rise at a ridiculous rate, so that the differential between that individual and the basic workers is now unbelievable.  

The second outcome was that directors see their loyalty entirely to the current shareholders. In this country puerile attempts to limit all of this unsurprisingly have made little difference.  

The balance between individualism and collectivism which was always precarious was fundamentally, if accidentally, broken by Reagan during his time as President by him making the same fundamental errors as Adam Smith and his subsequent followers such as Friedrich von Hayek.  

The real fault in Smith and his contemporaries’ thinking came from their naive assumptions about human behaviour and this really showed under the presidency of Reagan, who loosened the regulatory mechanisms which had before that date gone some way to stop the richer getting richer and the poorer getting poorer. He also seems to have allowed an environment to grow in which corporations grew larger and wholes regulation became all but non-existent.  

Individualism without control is in its own way as dreadful as its opposite where the state is everything and the individual in her or his own right means nothing and, human nature being what it is, all power will eventually fall into the hands of one person. All as so accurately predicted by George Orwell and derived in large part by the thinking that had for a period dominated the thinking of leading members of the labour party.  

And on this side of the Atlantic we had a Prime Minister trapped in the same way of thinking. To be fair to her, Harold Wilson had begun the programme of shutting the coal mines. Why carry on subsidising heavy industries when those goods could be bought elsewhere for a fraction of the cost of keeping our heavy industries going. Still trying to be fair, real efforts were made to find alternative employment and payments to those made redundant were not negligible.  

Equally less we forget there was a real battle going on as to where political power should reside. Not that those who hate her will ever concede anything.  

The issue is normally presented in a very simply way, what percentage of the nation’s earnings should be spent by the government, which obscures the real issue which is, on what that money should be spent, in other words how to cut the cake in a democracy when politicians seemingly inevitable are driven by whatever they think will help them hold their seat at the next election, and where moral imperatives cut across one another (under Margaret Thatcher the percentage spend by the government actually rose).  

On a personal level, I am naturally drawn to the idea that the state should keep its nose out of my affairs, not least because the civil service values my time as it’s to waste as it wishes, and so easily forgets the money it so happily spends is derived from the public.  

On the other hand, it was the reforms established in the 19th century and 20th century by governments of all hues that made this country what it is.  

The state clearly has a vital role to play, but how did short termism come to dominate political decisions? When did politicians lose sight of their real responsibilities – which are to protect the citizens? Have lawyers and accountants in huge corporations any moral sense? To Sebastian’s embarrassment, after an abortive meeting with accountants from one of the government’s favourite groups, I felt I had to challenge them collectively as highly educated parasites without any moral sense of anything but their careers and earnings – not a one felt able to respond. Since you know that I am a man without strong feelings and prejudices you will realise that I really need to feel provoked.  

So back to corporations and the role of government. In our own world little agricultural world, just a glance at any NFU literature underlines the power of the chemical and engineering businesses. It is the interests of such businesses and the huge landowners that the NFU represents. And which groups does our environmentally concerned government consult and take most seriously…  

How on earth do we dig our way out of this dilemma common to all English-speaking countries? Are we heading for a total breakdown? I have no answers. 

A demagogue might step forward, but then how will that individual be held in check? What a future we have left for our grandchildren, and all this ignores the other challenges they will have to face.  

Poem no 2

London 1802 by William Wordsworth

Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:  
England hath need of thee: she is a fen  
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,  
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,  
Have forfeited their ancient English dower  
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;  
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;  
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.  
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:  
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:  
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,  
So didst thou travel on life’s common way,  
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart  
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.  

Sadly, next week I cannot avoid writing about Afghanistan, Covid and Brexit🙁🙁🙁  

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