Calypso music was in my head on Thursday morning, and in particular the words ‘cricket lovely cricket’ as the first match of the World Cup began. England’s first match saw them defeat South Africa in a comprehensive fashion. The coming weeks will highlight both the women’s and men’s teams competing at the highest level, and somebody close to me will be a ‘cricket widow’ for an extended period – though a key date in the diary will not be overlooked!
Moving on to matters rather more pertinent to the farm, I am happy to report that our one and only tractor is once again operational. Replacement track rods arrived and in no time, they had been fitted by Chris. Coping without a tractor, once the stock no longer need feeding, is of course easier but a range of important jobs just cannot be done.
Having Jack with us is very very important as Tim can only do so much. This week, for example, both herds of cattle had to be moved as well as the sheep flock, and to achieve this requires bodies! With Fleurine gone, the vegetable garden is rather losing out, but hopefully will not be totally overgrown by the time our next woofers arrive towards the end of June.
The fencers will not return until lots more of the original fencing is removed. This requires the extraction of staples and given each fence post has up to seven, the task is tedious in the extreme especially when you are doing it on your own.
With the tractor mended, rolling in two fields could be completed and then the three fields that the sheep were on have been harrowed. There will need to be topping next week as this year it is nettles rather than thistles are the trouble.
The cycle of births, deaths and sales continue. Three lambs born, one older lamb dead, while a cow and a trio of steers have been sold. While our sheep probably need to go through a footbath to deal with lameness, the bigger concern is the eye infection that seems to be moving through the young stock. Hereford’s are rather susceptible to eye problems as the hair around their eyes is white. At the moment there are five in the barn being treated. Clearly the vet had to be involved but a homeopathic nosode has also been ordered.
We have had some rain, but not nearly enough, despite how well the pastures are growing. On my evening walks at the beginning of the week it was impossible not to notice how the showers had brought out large numbers of snails and several toads. Aside from those and the odd rabbit there is little to see or hear in the evenings.
The pasture fed site this week has been interesting. The key topics related to hemlock, docks and creeping thistle. Interestingly many of the new members are new to farming and really are seeking guidance. There are plenty ready to offer that, but some of the advice does feel rather questionable! The most entertaining email said that their family of swans ensured hemlock was not an issue!
A couple of weeks ago I referred to roses and aquilegia dominating the garden. While yet more roses are in bloom, it is now the peonies, poppies and nigella that catch the eye.
The poppies are almost as diverse in colour as the aquilegia, but while the long-headed poppy (papaver dubium) seem to lose their petals by lunchtime, the opium poppies keep their flowers over several days. All self-seeded of course and showing single, double and multiple petals in a range of pinkish colours. So flamboyant compared to the field poppies of which we also have plenty. Now the Lady’s Smock are over, that part of the drive in which they thrive, can be mown and tidied up as soon as the seed heads have spread their content.
A lesson learnt on Wednesday was that trying to contact the Rural Payments office is not only tiring and testing but also very expensive – my BT bill was quite shocking. This, added to grey and chilly weather led me to turn to Mahler’s 5th symphony which matched my mood precisely. Later in the week Felicity Lott singing ‘Morgen’ by Richard Strauss also fitted my zeitgeist.
Talking of communication, I think I should share with you that though I may have a Facebook page, it was opened in a flush of enthusiasm years ago and is not a site I visit. My email addresses are not state secrets and are my preferred method of being contacted and contacting others.
With the AGM coming up in the 15th I feel bound to warn those susceptible to hay fever to take action. We three are finding it very heavy at the moment though manageable if pills and inhalers are used. It is, as earlier mentioned, the nettles that are the main cause of difficulty at the moment.
Half-term for the grandchildren has been largely spent outdoors. It seems at this age they linger on an activity for no more than a couple of days. The present ‘craze’ is fishing after it was noticed that the brook seems well stocked with fish again – we have not had a flood for a while which perhaps explains that. While I was imagining seeing a kingfisher again, father and son went out and caught a fair-sized minnow! We have often been told stories of successful fishing expeditions, but I confess I always took them with a pinch of salt – clearly unfair of me.
It’s not been a great week for reading or thinking. The books I have read have been rather depressing. For six or seven years we regularly spent some four weeks a year in a very rural part of southern Sweden. This was solely related to spending time with a friend and recharging our batteries. Life moves on and visits there ceased several years ago. Subsequently events occurred that suggested there was a side to Sweden we had not experienced. Swedish ‘noir’ told the story of a rather rigid and unpleasant society. Malmo started appearing in the news for the action of right-wing thugs against immigrants. Journalists like Elizabeth Asbrink produced unsettling reports, and finally a journalist called Kansa Norman really revealed an unpleasant world. The quote below from a Swedish Prime Minister says it all.
“I as well as the government to which I belong will, in every context, forcefully stigmatise (branbmarka) those who speak ill of Sweden abroad”
The word “branbmarka” literally means to ‘brand’” as with cattle, and in the past criminals and Jews. Sweden is not the liberal country we all allowed ourselves to imagine.
I am of course apolitical in what I share but the current political situation in the country is hard to bear. Things have of course been worse, but I thought the poem below very appropriate. By Walter de la Mare as many of you will recognise.
Oh Lovely England by Walter de la Mare
Oh lovely England, whose ancient peace
The direst dangers fret,
Be on the memory of your past
Your sure devotion set;
Give still true freedom to fulfil,
Your all without regret!
Heed, through the troubles that benumb,
Voices now stilled, yet clear,
Chaunting their deathless sings – too oft
To ears that would not hear;
Urging you, solemn, sweet to meet
Your fate unmoved by fear.
Earth’s ardent life invites you yet
Beyond the encircling seas;
And calls to causes else forlorn,
The children at your knees:
May their brave hearts up days to come
Dream unashamed of these!