The week has been dominated by two matters. The first is that it has been a week of endings – school holidays, promenade concerts, the summer, and Joan’s time with us. The second, very obviously, TB testing.
The school holidays provided all grandchildren with a wide range of happy events, the ‘proms’ I can continue to enjoy though recordings, the summer, despite our concern about the lack of rain, gave us marvellous weather, and Joan has been a pleasure to get to know.
The TB results, while disappointing, since 5 animals out of 78 were identified as either a definite reactor or in the case of four inconclusively, could have been much worse. The exercise was at least seen as a model of good management, helped by the fact that the vet had five helpers. The vet was also very positive about the condition of our animals and identified 14 cows as being pregnant – since 10 have calved recently that is very good.
Watching on, underlined just how physical the process is, and how critical is the relationship between humans and animals. Working in a confined space with some forty mature horned animals requires both competence, awareness and confidence. Persuading our unringed bull Bacchus into the crush would be all but impossible if he chose to be awkward or felt animosity to the humans who work with him.
Working the crush, which is constructed of heavy steel, demands both care and sheer strength – no wonder on our ‘farm risk analysis’ I wrote that no one individual is allowed to use it on their own. Anything which cows come into contact with has to be sturdy – even a young steer can weigh 500 kg!
The tractor has been busy all week. Three fields have been chain harrowed, and another field has had compost spread. A field which was once full of ragwort but had been clear for a couple of years, this year, probably sadly caused by wind drift, has seen it reappear, though in small numbers, which meant pulling ragwort was back on the agenda, and after that job was done the field was topped.
As usual, animals have had to be relocated. Not quite as difficult to decide where to move them as it was at the height of the drought. We still have some hopes for a further cut should the daytime temperatures stay relatively high.
We finally have reached the point in our application, for the higher tier stewardship scheme to start in 2019, where it can be submitted. Our application has two parts; the first for revenue which will provide an annual payment for ten years, while the second is for capital work – work which will do much to improve the farm infrastructure.
The papers have come for our Demeter inspection, but since it is some four weeks away, completing the rather tedious paperwork can be done without stress, and having the vet complimenting us on the state of health of our pastures and stock is a fillip to our confidence.
The rabbit population is suffering at the moment. While we would prefer this not to be the case, we have to hope it is myxomatosis rather than the latest nasty virus which has come to the UK via firstly China and more immediately France. Why – because myxomatosis poses no threat to our thriving hare population.
Perhaps because we watch ‘Beyond a 100 Days’ I have often found myself thinking about the “special “relationship” said to exist between America and the UK. Two books I have read recently have further confirmed in me in my long-standing belief that there is no such thing.
I shared with you my reading of Jon Sopel’s book ‘If only they didn’t speak English’. I have just completed reading ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ which reviews some two hundred years of Anglo American history. Written by a very distinguished author, any idea that the relationship is special, except in that American political thinking was dominated for years by envy and dislike of the British, is destroyed. American exceptionalism and unvisitable national myths dominate.
The radio in the form of radio 4 has offered two series which caught my attention. Ex Chief Rabbi Sacks explored the idea of morality. Each programme involved inputs from academics and British sixth formers. All in all, heartening in many ways, depressing in others. It interested me not least because Moral and Ethical Philosophy was the only part of my degree course that really grabbed my attention. One of the academics was the Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson. His latest book is called ’12 Rules For Life’. Though his ideas sounded sensible, I have an inbuilt prejudice against titles such as that. Overall, I was left feeling this was a series that should be required listening to – and then discussing by all post 16 students.
The second series was presented by Ian Hislop on the topic of dissent. Following along a well-trodden path, he had picked out 100 items from the British Museum which for him exemplified dissent over the millennia. Inevitably cartoons figured, particularly from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He referred to Hogarth but gave most of his attention to James Gillray, probably the greatest cartoonist of all time. Whatever, it led me to think of matters today. In looking for dissent you can opt for the viscous or the subtle. Cartoons in the Times are at the savage extreme, Matt at the Telegraph is as effective, but lacking nastiness. On television I suppose the two extremes were best illustrated by ‘Spitting Image’ and ‘Yes Minister’.
Finally, I just cannot resist this Bedouin proverb: ‘I am against my brother and my brother and I are against our cousins, our cousins, my brother and I are against all others’. Plus ça change! Which ties in nicely to the rule in the Caliphate that on the accession of a new ruler, all male relatives had to be killed – sounds brutal but think of the succession problems in Anglo Saxon and early Medieval English history!
Reminded of that emotive poem ‘Darkling Thrush’ by the Dorset poet Thomas Hardy, which I may share later in the year, the poem below seemed appropriate for now and our garden:
Whose apples? (in three voices) by Paul Hansford, July 2016
This is my garden; my apple tree
has over-reached itself. The branches,
weighed down with fruit, threaten to break.
If I had read the signs, thinned out when it was time,
the crop would be less heavy, the fruit less small.
And what there is, is damaged. If it’s not birds
it’s caterpillar, wasp, or earwig.
It will all be rotten soon. I don’t know why I bother.
This is my garden; this tree I sat in
and proclaimed my own when it was full of blossom
with war-cry love-call song.
Then mating, nesting, bringing up the brood.
The days were scarcely long enough, but that
was long ago. My children gone,
there’s time now for myself, time for a treat.
My yellow chisel bill breaks in the flesh
of these fine apples. Delicious. This is the life.
This is our garden – insects do not have time
for individuality. We built the colony, us lads,
chewed wood to make our paper nest, and now
we work to feed the grubs.
“Lads”, that is, using the word loosely – for us
gender is not important; that’s for the queen,
and, as it may be, the ones who service her,
none of our business.
But we need food too,
and if sustenance gives pleasure,
so much the better. When we find a fruit
where blackbird’s chisel bill has broken in,
we eat our way inside, till only skin and core
encase our private eating/drinking den.
So what if it’s fermenting? If we get tiddly,
and roll about, and buzz a drunken hum,
then who’s to care? And if they do, we’ll sting ’em.”