The return of Dot!

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

Three weeks ago, it was realised that this was the tenth year in which I had been writing notes on a weekly basis, except for Christmases. What a feat!   

There has been a bug circulating in the family for some three weeks, which has made me feel very worse for wear, but at last this week, signs of recovery are showing themselves. With my asthma making itself known, I was thinking about the usual language used. An asthma “attack” is a misnomer, as any other asthmatic will confirm. As with any chronic condition, one is not up and about in a couple of days – sadly it drags on reluctant to let go for days!   

Clearly the farm notes reflect yet again an indirect appreciation of this week since even moderate mobility is some way off, I regret this, but that’s life, and the farm notes are really the raison d’être for this exercise.   

The Farm 

So, turning to the farm, perhaps the best news to share is that even those, of necessity, overworked pastures, are coming back strongly. The field by the drive looks a little brown but that simply is because the sheep grazed it well. They, incidentally, after fly strike treatment have moved. Their condition was pretty good so, as and when, the market improves the lambs will be sold.   

As the week has progressed, so have the temperatures fallen. It really is Autumn now.    

Oddly enough, most of the apparent activity on the farm has been in the vicinity of the farmhouse and garden. A wall, which has been down on the ‘to do list’ for some time, reached the top of the list, and therefore, a potential hazard has been dealt with. Upkeep of anywhere, in terms of repairing and rebuilding, make for a very long-term job list!  

From the point of views of one young man here on the farm, the highlight of the week was the return of Dot, released at last from her training, and apparently now fully trained, and a first-class working dog – as well as a loving house pet. Sky remains under training and in due course Brendan will also have an excellent dog.   

There has been much mention of this being a bad time for ticks, especially if cattle have been grazing in long grass.   

Normally I would ignore such items, but as the suckler herd are currently in such a field I took notice. Lice, especially when the animals have been in the barn over winter are always a problem, because our cattle have substantial skin folds. Still, if ticks are an issue, the same solution as for lice will do the trick.   

Finally, to update you on the position re Farm Subsistence Grants, the application is in hand, but typically you can’t tell what is required without completing the form.   

This week  

There are however two matters that I have been thinking over.   

An article in the Atlantic I feel permits me to address a major problem of today. The article baldly stated ‘Ukraine stands, fights and wins’ – presumably a take on Julius Caesar which brings back memories of ‘O’ level Latin.    

Churchill said ‘jaw, jaw is better than war, war.’ Somehow this very sensible notion was both misunderstood at the time and in this day and age, which, whether talking about diplomacy, or more everyday matters, has translated into ‘compromise at all costs’. Mind you, the dangers of this approach were very evident before Churchill spoke – Wilson in 1919, Europe in 1937, and Roosevelt in 1944, when Churchill was the minor partner.   

This essentially western Liberal belief, in part at least, no doubt was both a reaction to the ‘gung-ho’ approach of the past, but more particularly, awareness of the dreadful cost of WW1, and at a more personal level, of the absurdity of risking life and limb over trivial matters.   

The consequences of this thinking meant that Putin had, almost understandably, gained the belief that he could act with impunity, and indeed in 2014, Crimea fell into his hands with no more than meaningless platitudes from other European countries. And in January, if Ukraine itself had not gathered its act together, that would have been that, but the Ukrainian response woke the western world up – slowly though it has to be admitted.   

Recognising that self-interest really did demand action, NATO justified its existence.    

It is such a common human fault, as I have remarked before, to assume all peoples of the world are of one mind.   

A reason for British foreign policy, seeming duplicitous to so many other national leaders, reflects that even within a small area like Europe, many, many different notions exist, even if overall there is a common concept of what being a decent human being entails.   

But what we have clearly seen, at least on the part of most NATO countries, is that from time to time, to fight rather than appease is the right thing to do, as it was in 1939 when the United Kingdom stood alone against a ‘Putin like’ character in the shape of Hitler.  

In the news   

The news last Thursday from Balmoral still shakes me, and has I imagine impinged on nearly every one of us.   

Enough words have already been spoken and written on the death of the Queen for me to be unwilling to write a great deal, but though I was not glued to the television I saw a variety of moving sections and wish to share some impressions.    

As I mentioned last week, I had no idea of the impact of the event on myself, let alone on the massive scale it would have across the nation.   

I had not expected to be carried through the long, often difficult history of this kingdom in such a graphic way.   

I ended with a vastly more emotional feeling for Scottish history, and also the problems of Charles the First. We have not had to know or think about so much through such a long reign, it has just been there behind the scenes, only a few aware, and never, it seems, a moment when journalistically it was deemed important to research.   

We were much struck hearing a Scottish woman being interviewed after she had walked past the Queen lying at rest in St Giles and filled with emotion asking the reporter if she knew the Queen was also, actually “Queen of Scotland” too, because the lady had not known this, and was profoundly moved by the realisation.   

On this theme, the proclamation demonstrated to us how keenly the monarchy, the processes, and systems, always worked and work to keep the Church of Scotland safe, to not impinge, to ensure that our United Kingdom ‘work’ alongside one another. Basically, to reveal to us how independence, trust and respect already exists in the structures in place – in a very real way – making political rhetoric and hysteria null and void. If only the country had been shown such clarity before the vote on Brexit.   

I remember a friend from the Channel Islands saying when we visited an ancient church, ‘this is your history, not mine’. However, the Queen, has revealed herself to be a shared history for all of us, a great big ‘something in common’ after all, across not just the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, but across the Commonwealth and the wider world.   

One of the abiding memories I shall take away is how we have been fortunate enough to grow up in a nation which has had such a long evolutionary history. Parts to feel pride in, much to feel uncomfortable about, but a society which learns and is anxious to improve.    

A final thought  

And a last thought, we live in one of the least militarised of nations, the military, albeit in small numbers does exist, but is not in the forefront of society, yet when they turn out in all their glory, and the drums of War sound, something buried deep inside one is stirred, especially by the drum beat to which thousands of our compatriots must have marched toward the guns and artillery of the nation’s enemies over the centuries.    

As I wrote the above, I was sharply reminded of the sound of the bagpipes as the procession walked up the cobbled streets of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and, could then visualise the orderly progression of the English troops in 1745 as they advanced in disciplined ranks against the beat of the drums, while from across the valley the less disciplined Scottish troops attacked against the sound of the bagpipes.   

All myth and hogwash of course – though not the bagpipes – the Scottish troops also were formed in regiments and had been well trained by the French. Moreover, the numbers were equally balanced, but where the Hanoverians had the advantage was in cavalry numbers – 400 against 40, but the myth, the outcome, and memory of Culloden will never be forgotten.   

Incidentally, last week I inadvertently downplayed the significance of the battle of Sheriff Muir, which had two branches – including the attack by the English Jacobite’s which was defeated at Preston. The Scottish attack in 1715 more closely resembled the image of Culloden, where, though the Jacobites were by far the largest group, they were the least trained, and were turned back by a well-trained army. At this early stage, the Spanish and the French had not yet seized on the advantages of giving their wholehearted support to what they saw as both a religious and power matter almost as much as anything else.   

I have also, in the interests of space and controversy, not gone into history of the bagpipes in this island. Suffice it to say, record of their use in England dates back to the 12th century, even if they actually were brought by the Romans and were adopted as a weapon of war by the Scots in the 16th century.    

Finally, turning to music, for those who think I merely pass from one unknown composer to another, it has been the music of Emilie Mayer which has supported me day and night this last week.   

I want to end on a positive note. As I have said before, English is not the most beautiful of languages – it is neither melodious, harmonious or commanding – but more a reflection of its speakers who seek easy functionality and the challenge of obscurity.   

Useless for opera, but somehow suited for poetry and playwrights. John Keats is one on those immortals, and on a sunny September day there can be no better poet to turn to.

Ode to Autumn by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,   
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;   
Conspiring with him how to load and bless   
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;   
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,   
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;   
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells   
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,   
And still more, later flowers for the bees,   
Until they think warm days will never cease,   
      For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.   
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?   
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find   
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,   
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;   
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,   
   Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook   
      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:   
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep   
   Steady thy laden head across a brook;   
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,   
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.   
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?   
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—   
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,   
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;   
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn   
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft   
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;   
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;   
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft   
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;   
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.   

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