Out on a short car journey mid-week, I thought the one word which summed up the day was ‘drab’. The verges had practically no colour other than the white of the odd member of the Umbelliferae group of plants; the hedgerows were only enlivened by the red on traffic signs, and the tired faded bunting in the village. It was a grey-green tired world and all this overshadowed by great concerns about Brexit, appalling behaviour by our politicians, the possible demise of our tractor and TB testing. 

The mood on Friday was lifted by the cattle being declared TB free. There will be another test in sixty days’ time, and if that is clear, we return to yearly testing. Depressingly, at the same time, news on the tractor offered no more than a glimmer of hope that the problem can be resolved by replacing the head gasket.

Though we missed the worst of the rain, and so despite a flood alert were not afflicted by that, the rise in water levels in the Bow Brook caused the three fords – close to us, but downstream – to become impassable – not that this stopped idiots from attempting to use them.

We have put land drains in our windrow area, which should mean the bridle path is drier. On the windrows itself, we now have an area of ‘quick-mud’ into which it is possible to sink up to your waist – a temporary problem we hope!

Other than that, the expression ‘the week was a wash out’ as said at our Friday meeting could not have been more apt in all senses of the phrase.

Aside from the good news about the outcome of the TB testing, I am able to say the cattle continue to look relaxed and well, though the two identified some time ago as lame are still requiring treatment. Apparently, an interpretation of the problem identified by the hoof trimmer is that some of the cattle are suffering from the equivalent of ‘scald’ in sheep. We are wondering now whether there might be transference. 

One thing they are not short of is grass! Though there have been a couple of nights of ground frost, temperatures otherwise have enabled the grass to continue growing. It is of course not as nutritious at this time of year. 

Except for finding late Friday a bad case of fly strike in a lamb, all appears well with the flock overall. With the rams due to go into action in six weeks or so, it is clearly time to wean the lambs to give the ewes a timely break. This will be done next week.

For the TB testing, the cattle were moved onto fields close to the barn. They, and the sheep will now go onto pastures needing to be grazed down for the re-seeding process.

I felt I needed to write to the BDAA about the disruption to our spraying programme. On top of waterlogged fields, if we do not have a working tractor, options are limited. There is still time, but spraying the whole farm by hand is a daunting and perhaps unrealistic proposition.

Barn owl

A high spot of the week was the sighting of an adult barn owl. Given that the hunting range of such birds is no more than half a mile or less, it suggests that the farm has been re-inhabited by these birds. They left us previously after the series of floods which wiped out the vole population near the brook.

It would be very remiss of me not to share with you that Theo leaves us on Thursday. We shall miss him a great deal, both for his cheerful and willing attitude, but also for the effort he has put into in improving his English, and the way he has stuck to the task and kept his sense of humour – and the good hearted way he copes with my French accent!

Woofer news

Theo returns to a different kind of schooling, and then the hopes of a good snowfall this winter, and goes with all our thanks and best wishes for his future.

His final tasks this week will include splitting out the lambs from the ewes and helping our new woofer from America – Ryan – manage his first days here.
We also say goodbye this week to Sarah, who has helped morale enormously these last weeks with the laughter and joy that she has brought to our lives whilst she has been staying with us.

Organic farming

The Soil Association monthly publication ‘Organic Farming’ contained several very interesting articles this week. Accepting that science in this area is pretty contentious, I think it worth sharing ideas expressed in three of the articles.

The first was about methane. A gas which is generally identified as from coming from cows. A recent study in the USA identified the operations to make animal feed produce much more methane than animals! In passing I now understand methane has a life of only 11 years, long enough perhaps, but rather shorter than usually suggested.

The second was about carbon storage in the ground. There is now hard evidence that pasture stores up to twice as much carbon as arable land. Does this suggest a vegetarian diet is more conducive to climate change than eating meat? Probably not, so long as land is never left without a green cover.

The final paper was rather more challenging. An Australian scientist has come to the conclusion that photosynthesis is more important to food production than encouraging the bacterial and fungal life within the soil. A useful new insight.

Words for this week

A common saying when enduring a lengthy wait for a bus, ‘if one comes others will immediately follow’. That saying came into mind as I started on the latest work by Tom Holland titled ‘Dominion – the making of the modern world.’ The early chapters cover similar territory to that written by John Barton and Karen Armstrong. What I have read so far, firmly underlines the great contribution made by Paul to what we know as Christianity.

Thursday was World Poetry Day. The chosen topic for this year was ‘truth’. How very apt for 2019! My days as a would-be poet are long gone, so I have attempted to choose something appropriate. A suggestion that a fragment of poetry by Sappho starting ‘some say horsemen, some say warriors’ might fit, was tempting, I have gone for something possibly more obvious and showing two quite different views.

Shakespeare, Sonnet 138

“When my love swears that she is made of truth, 
I do believe her, though I know she lies, 
That she might think me some untutored youth, 
Unlearnèd in the world’s false subtleties. 
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young, 
Although she knows my days are past the best, 
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue: 
On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed. 
But wherefore says she not she is unjust? 
And wherefore say not I that I am old? 
Oh, love’s best habit is in seeming trust, 
And age in love loves not to have years told. 
Therefore I lie with her and she with me, 
And in our faults by lies we flattered be.”

But Keats took a rather more romantic view:

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all

Ye know one earth, and all ye need to know.”

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