“We may have thought that in winter the earth goes to sleep, but winter is the season when the plants above the earth fall down to be digested while warmth and light recede into the soil and the earth becomes inwardly sensitive and alive.”Hugh Lovel, author of the A Biodynamic Farm, for Growing Wholesome Food.
This week has certainly felt as though the warmth and light have receded into the soil here at Rush Farm! The weather did an about turn and became wintery, finally. Some days gave us sunshine, where the golden hues of the oak and birch leaves still on the trees’ shone through. Some days gave us heavy, and low-lying grey clouds. These days have suited our mood well as we went through both the annual Soil Association Inspection and celebrated a further two more family birthdays’ without Adrian with us.
So, to the inspection. The preparation was carried alone on Chris’s shoulders, but with Anne alongside on the day, the Rush Farm team were very much present. A lengthy inspection for several reasons; as mentioned last week, our inspector was also being inspected, and also because it is the Red Tractor inspection, as well as the Soil Association inspection. Despite knowing we are doing everything and more, there is always some feeling of nervousness at these events.
As it was, the organic inspection was passed perfectly, and for Red Tractor, Chris and Tim, even though between them they have decades of experience injecting animals, must have a piece of paper stating they are ‘trained’. Totally understandable while feeling a bit challenging at the same time! However, the training is now booked in, so that this is not something we will stumble over in the future.
The farm looked good as we drove the inspectors around. The ground was hard, the cows in the barn looked peaceful, and the sheep still out in the fields looked strong too.
Our next adventure is the TB testing on Wednesday this week, with results on Saturday. Brendan will be back which is a great help, and we have also drafted in support from Nicky and Judy too, so hopefully we will have enough hands-on-deck for Wednesday at least.
Sunday morning, and gone were the golden hues, to be replaced with a blanket of white. Snow had reached us. Not at all as per the weather report (of course!), but nonetheless, when the snow started to fall and continued falling for several hours it was a cheerful sight. It wasn’t deep, and it didn’t last, but the children and dogs were filled with great excitement, and they disappeared outside not to be seen again until lunchtime!
A walk across the farm enabled us to check that the sheep are happy. Their thick coats protect them against the cold, and as long as they have food and access to water, they seem content. There has been much talk on the Pasture Fed group in the last days about how to keep water unfrozen and accessible to the sheep – especially if they are eating hay not grass, which of course holds water within it.
We have had to find our own solutions as the freezing temperatures of the week mean ice in the water troughs, sometimes several inches thick. It takes a large hammer and a saw to cut through it. Gloves become soaked and hands are red raw. It is a job to keep the troughs clear. Mindful of the awful scenes in Solihull over the last days, it is a salient reminder that each generation must be taught respect for the many dangers of mother nature.
A crab apple in the hedgerow, laden with fruit provides food for at least ten blackbirds as we stop and watch. Then we walked across the fields to the barn. The rich smell of the cows reached across the field. It is a lovely smell of hay and the warm, earthy smell of the animals. It is familiar and comforting somehow. The group of three little calves lie together gazing out of the barn at the snow, perfectly peaceful and calm.
A quick mention of the cricket – always a joy to celebrate when England win – especially when the football is just as we might have expected. And without Adrian here to give all the history and context, we won’t start a conversation about the football hosts!
From the farm, thank you.
Anne, Chris & Brendan