“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
One morning this week, when a burst of sunshine illuminated our side garden, I was even more slow to move than usual as I was captured by the activity of small birds in the Christmas Tree planted by previous owners, and now as tall as the house. That tree and a substantial Holly tree nearby provide food, shelter and a haven from predators for large numbers of small birds – mainly species from the Tit family.
Watching their nonstop activity set me wondering what they make of their short lives, but that is a rather mawkish thought. A sense of self or self-consciousness seems restricted only to humans and has, it seems no connection to memory – which even cows have or play or even use of tools.
For my generation many children’s books took a slightly anthropomorphic approach to stories about animals. Stories like Black Beauty and Tarka the Otter may be remembered, but there were many other authors such as Mortimer Batten and Montgomery Rutherford.
Despite this inherent weakness, these books for all that, had a great value in introducing children to nature. The ‘I spy’ series included an ‘I Spy Bird book’. All this seems to have gone, and I feel sad that that is the case. So, the gap with the real-world increases, while nuance, subtlety and aesthetics go out of the window.
Looking back to a National Trust survey in, I think, 2008, there was much alarm at the time since it appeared more children could identify a Dalek than a magpie or oak tree. A survey in 2020 suggested that matters had worsened, now it was cartoon characters that had replaced the Daleks – a finding that suggested the artificial world had become more real than the real world itself.
We at Rush Farm are always ready to give children and adults an experience of nature as it actually is, even if that includes understanding that nature is neither friendly or unfriendly – it just is. We can do that, not simply because of our cattle and sheep, but because we have established an oasis where nearly all facets of nature can be seen and experienced over the seasons. Turning outwards in my thoughts, I have no intention of either addressing the accusations of sleaze or attempting to assess the outcomes of the Climate Conference, though next week may be a different story. There is plenty about both in the media. But in writing about the farm this week the latter cannot be entirely ignored.
Actually, there is little to share about activities on the farm this week. With Tim the only member of the team available, the key task was one of animal care and no problems showed up. Expectations that the fencing would be completed were, it turned out, unfounded.
To date the hedges and trees are still largely green, though the poor sad horse chestnuts are leafless after three frosty nights a fortnight ago, and a number really need to be cut down. On the other hand, the variety of trees planted by the family this year, and given the appropriate TLC, all looked to have taken really well.
There was a major event at the end of the week when Chris and Boots returned from a brief family visit to Zimbabwe. As we also had Boots birthday to celebrate, their return was a very happy event together with an opportunity for them to show us photos they had taken.
We have not had any new demands on us from the government, nor has any more clarity been given on what their plans for the future might be.
Avian flu’ has again been identified locally, but current restrictions do not impinge on our lives.
The threat of a meat tax comes and goes, but since U turns by this government are now the norm, my guess is that one will not be imposed. Why should they bother now that Ms Truss has already signed international deals which will allow ever cheaper meat imports from countries such as Australia after all?
Certain, apparent outcomes from the Climate Conference are, for the farm, helpful. As regards methane, there is now acknowledgment that cattle are not the real problem, though that is not say, intensive cattle farming in countries such as Brazil and America do not contribute to the problem. The real problem is leakage from pipelines and petrochemical plants and landfill sites.
President Biden is already committed to tackling pipeline losses, and that is a very positive step.
An example of what can be done from landfill sites also comes from America. At the disused landfill site outside Droitwich, pipes jut out of the ground venting the gases coming from the breakdown of the buried material.
Blue Ridge landfill site in Texas captures the methane, which is the inevitable emission from decomposing material.
Republic Services who operate this, and 74 other sites, claim they now generate enough renewable energy to fully power more than 250,000 homes annually.
In America, where citizens discard more than three times per person a year than in this country, and where these sites overall contribute to 20% of America’s methane emissions, this is a really big deal, but sadly, due in part to those against eating meat, in this country emphasis has been deflected from the real problem.
Another issue on which new light has been shone is the absurdity of thinking enough trees can be planted to save the world.
Leaving aside the fact that there is just not enough land in which to plant new trees, the planting of the wrong trees reduces water supply in countries facing drought, since some trees really guzzle water. Moreover, tree planting can only capture carbon once trees reach maturity – years too late to save the world! All this ought to be the death knell for carbon offset, but that of course is wishful thinking since this provides such a marvellous ‘out’ for many of the worst offenders.
For a farm this size it is only too apparent that the government is anxious to force us into extinction, or into accepting becoming part of a larger whole. This notion is driven not just by crudely understood benefits of scale, but by a more sinister body.
Klaus Schwab, leader of the World Economic Union, which is made up of bankers, leaders of large corporations and the very rich has a very clear view of how economies should operate. His book ‘The great reset’ is the driving force of the group.
This is not just paranoia or conspiracy theory.
The objective of this group, which has connections to the United Nations, believes that what we should aim for is that instead of corporations serving many stakeholders, in a multi-stakeholder model of global governance, corporations are instead promoted to being official stakeholders in global decision-making, while governments are relegated to being one of many stakeholders. In practice this would mean corporations become the main stakeholders, while governments take a backseat role, and civil society is mainly window dressing.
How deeply depressing, as though these corporations do not already have far too much power.
In an effort to take my mind off this, I shall revert to something horrifying but in a different way. Tribalism and religious extremism are no longer such a curse in most democratic governments, just as it is understood seeking popularity by taking over territory once owned by a neighbour is not a route for leaders anymore. Looking at what is happening in Ethiopia and Afghanistan makes clear that these societies are in so many ways where Western Europe was once but has now escaped from.
This to me, suggests the only solution is to stay clear and expect time, over goodness knows how many decades or centuries, to resolve matters.
Interference and magic wands will solve nothing though they may make us feel better.
A genuine aspect of colonialism was to move societies into a better space, and this is worth remembering however misguided these attempts were. A simple example: the British intervention in what is now Zimbabwe was driven by a mix of motives, some positive, some simply of economic gain. But on the positive side, the peaceful Shona people were protected from the invading Matabele. Sadly, come independence the country’s leader, a Shona, did his best to exterminate the Matabele.
When Johnson was talking about voting for Brexit, said ‘we could have our cake and eat it.’ I suspect even Brexit supporters thought the claim nonsense. Recent study of the government’s own figures confirm how false the statement was. But this not an attack on Johnson in particular. Indeed, at first sight it is unclear whether it was economists or politicians in general who have left the NHS in the terrible state it is in today.
It made some sense to reduce the defence budget as a post-cold war bonus. It made no sense to cut the ‘fat’ seen to be in not just the NHS but all services, from education to social services, to probation services, the police and the justice system. I assume the basic thinking was related to the move in supermarkets to expect to hold stock for no more than 24 hours.
This has been going on for many years, first under the conservatives then labour and finally under the conservatives again. Why the did they behave in this way?
It is of course true that the nationalised industries, however much people worship that period, did both provide disguised unemployment – which of course meant unemployment figures were kept low – but this was at the expense of productivity and tackling basic problems such as updating the infrastructure.
But behind all this was the basic political fact that it is much easy to give than to take away and attempts to turn this way of thinking only lead to immediate unpopularity. In other words, this notion of having one’s cake and eating it seems now built into the British psyche.
We are masters of complaint about failings but refuse to accept that we need to contribute financially to solve the problem. All this is of course tied tightly to the belief we have rights but no responsibilities.
Unlike the Americans who can manage a national debt of over 17 trillion (short version), and essentially just print more money, as when the House just agreed a one trillion injection of money to update the country’s infrastructure, this country, post the Second World War, is very significantly less wealthy than it was for centuries, so cannot just print more £’s and struggles with a national debt of less than two trillion.
The British problem is not merely that. Here local government, and indeed all providers, have been instructed to do more as central funding is reduced. I saw this for myself when cuts in education finances began in the 1970’s while yet more and more was demanded by central government.
And why, apart from the country’s terrible record of low productivity, because we, the electorate are not prepared to put our hands in our pockets and make more money available.
How instructive it was to hear from Ed Balls an apology for not doing anything about the crisis in social services when he was a treasury minister.
Part of the problem at national and local government levels is that it is possible to be elected to either without wit, wisdom or intelligence.
Again, the fault lies with us the electorate.
As a calming measure as much for myself, especially after Wednesday’s cricket, and perhaps for you as well, I have turned to a favourite topic for poets – Odes to the West Wind. Since I am in the mood for romantic poetry, I have plumped for part of that by Percy Shelley.
Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!