Well a quiet week for me personally if not for our little world, let alone internationally. I have certainly enjoyed watching cricket and spending more time reading.
One of the books I have been re-reading is 1606 by the noted Shakespearean expert James Shapiro. Whether you call it synchronicity or coincidence, two chapters leapt out as directly relevant to today’s issues. The first was on equivocation which at once brought to mind the lies which seemed part of the day to day statements pre Brexit; the second was the opening chapter which related Shakespeare’s writing to the accession to the throne of King James and his attempts, which failed, to bring about the Union of England and Scotland; drew attention to the apparent fact that in the late 1590’s there were only 40 Scots listed in the alien register for London, that the English for the first time in many centuries were faced with a challenge to their identify! And Henry Ford, unfairly, is alleged to have said something akin to history is bunk’!
It has actually been a fairly quiet week on the farm, in large part because of the high temperatures, which have left humans and stock searching for shade and reluctant to move.
There was significant excitement on Monday when the bull Jupiter fell ill and we feared for the worst. Applications of many buckets of cold water helped, lifting attempts with the help of 5 men and a tractor, and time and the use of homeopathic remedies saw Jupiter through the crisis and back on his feet and again feeding by mid-week. Blood samples suggested that he had ingested, not ragwort, but possibly hemlock. A downside of topping is that the dried leaves of poisonous plants are far more dangerous than the fresh ones. Now it is a matter of hoping any liver damage is not too massive.
Results of the blood tests taken last week showed a shortage of selenium in most of our ewes and lambs which means action is needed. This won’t be the first time this remedial action has been needed. At least copper, cobalt, zinc and iodine levels seem fine.
With the tractor’s puncture mended, the current topping programme was completed. The period without a working full sized tractor just re-emphasised our desperate need for a second tractor. Tieran, who cut the grass in the orchard with his little antique tractor returned at the weekend and provided us with 52 small square bales!
When I first met Anne’s family l learnt of something called the ‘honey wagon’. The business park has three septic tanks and they are a constant source of trouble since, for any ‘townie or suburbanite’ as I was, one gives little thought to what goes down the lavatory – not so if you rely on septic tanks. Earth Source Energy discovered that one of these tanks was in the way of their workings so we took the opportunity to abandon the old tank and replace it with one twice the size and fitted with a bio-digester similar to the two we have for the farm house complex. The company have now essentially finished their work in the fields and shortly will be laying pipes through the business park itself – there may well be a degree of unhappiness while the digging takes place, but hopefully a degree of understanding too!
Returning to the stock, our young French WWOOF-er Sam, who incidentally has been a pleasure to have with us and who now, sadly, is in his last week, plays the euphonium. The mobile home is adjacent to the field in which our 14 teenage cattle are, and what we have discovered is that they find the sound irresistible and line up along the fence between them and the player to listen intently!
An email from an old friend reminded me that I have ignored our chickens and Guinea fowl for many months. The remaining 7 chickens continue to provide us with 7 eggs a day and hopefully in the process are cleansing the pasture. The Guinea fowl on the other hand behave quite differently. One was watched recently laying an egg on part of the concrete track and then moving on as if nothing had happened!
Anne has been very busy in the kitchen processing the vast weight of soft fruit that Sam has been picking and bringing to her every day. Much gets eaten raw but most gets turned into jam, juice or jelly. With the soft fruit, and later the apples and the damsons we, as a result of Anne’s efforts, have enough juice to see us through most of the year. We are very fortunate.
On Friday we had a visitor interested in learning more about biodynamics since the topic forms a module in his course on Sustainable Farming. A relative of Lady Eve Balfour the doyen of the pre-war organic movement and now looking to take on a large farm in the north. The session was challenging and very enjoyable – interested visitors are always a pleasure to meet.
Some last thoughts. The grandchildren have a purpose built playhouse in the garden yet what did I come across yesterday but both children happily playing in Milly’s day time kennel and run!
The pasture-fed movement have, via email, been writing about the value or otherwise of harrowing pastures. Leaving us with the question to consider whether we do it because one just does or whether it perhaps does more harm than good.
Finally, in case it seems that I read only great works about farming and the land, I will happily admit that the source of most of my reading comes from an excellent bookseller called Murder One!