The weather has been kind

For hay fever suffers, this has been a very difficult week, but with hay making taking place both here and on neighbouring farms, together with cooler weather forecast, perhaps life will become easier. If that sounds forlorn it expresses reality!

Aelis and Florian have been thrown in at the deep end in this their first week, their activities have included moving cattle between fields, helping get cattle though the crush, moving sheep, and helping pack the wool after shearing, clearing access for big machinery, and coping with very animated lunchtimes. They have done very well and been supported very much by Jack.

For myself, when asked which I want first, the good news or the bad there is no indecision, so I shall share the bad news first. The outcome of the TB retesting was that another animal was deemed to have the disease and so is condemned, and we shall have to undergo another test in 60 days. Sadly, we have also lost a lamb, and are battling hard to save a ewe with mastitis.

That shared, there is much to feel positive about, both about the animals and the pastures. Perhaps the best news of all is that our fears about having a lack of feed this winter are reduced. The combination of sufficient rain and sunshine at the right time means our yields per acre have been the very best ever. Added to that, should we have rain in the near future, there could well be a second cut. Allied to that is the fact that all the uncut fields have plenty of grass on them.

It is in weather such as we had on Saturday that our policy of not reducing our hedges to all but nothing shows its merit. Both herds of cattle and our sheep grouped themselves in the shade given by trees or hedges. On first sight, only a handful of sheep could be seen because the vast majority had retired into a dry ditch between two hedges. So one concern, that of overheating we could erase from the list.

But what a contrast with the start of the week when the cattle had their initial TB injection. They had to be brought into the barn and then put through the crush before being turned out. All of this in driving rain. 

Thank goodness the weather did change abruptly, as on Thursday the sheep shearers came and, we now have seven ‘sheets’ of wool that I need to arrange a dropping off day for. The task required, included in addition to the two shearers, three moving the sheep through the race, and two packing the fleeces into the bags, all in all, very much as it must have been in times gone past.

The cattle also had their annual clostridial vaccination, and the young stock a mineral drench during the testing, while the condemned cow now lingers on her own in the barn making her displeasure clear by bellowing loudly. We also have two new male calves. They, the cattle that is, have little more to face than changing pastures in due course. In an effort to reduce the fly problem fly traps have been put out in the fields they are on.

The sheep have still to go through a footbath to deal with some ‘scald’ observed, and the lambs their second clostridial vaccination. We shall have soon to start the fortnightly weighing programme. Now the ewes are shorn, some look little bigger than their lambs which is always an amusing sight. Watching out for fly strike now begins in earnest. The poorly ewe with mastitis has also been hit by the flies and is in the barn, not simply to make treating her easier, but in particular to, hopeful, shield her from the crows.

Speaking of crows reminds me that our buzzard family have produced another youngster, and we have swallows once again nesting in the eaves. Walking the dogs, one night last week, gives me the excuse to use that lovely word cacophony – in this case it was the noise of the guinea fowl settling on their roost. It seems a while since I have seen a hare, but we still seem to have a small group of deer.

In an idle moment I came to the conclusion that some effort was needed to analyse more closely field productivity related to use by stock. A waste of time really since there are so many variables and we have so little influence on the most important – the weather!

I enjoyed a further conversation with the RPA, and afterwards fired off a list of issues to the appropriate Select Committee of Parliament. Also, given that we still have 5 fields to reseed, financial discussions are never off the table!

Left or right brained?

Reading Karen Armstrong’s book led me to explore again the thoughts of Ian McGilcrest on the notion of the two hemispheres in the brain having different but equally important functions, though in modern times overemphasis is placed on the importance of the left hemisphere. His views were nicely expressed by former Chief Rabbi Johnathan Sacks who said, “Christianity was a right brain creation translated by left brain-oriented individuals.” I think we can assume he was thinking of the Greeks! Without doubt it is a rather nice concept and provides some explanations for the state of the modern world. Sadly, it is not a view endorsed by most scientists working in this area who see it as an oversimplification.

Changing tack slightly, and possibly ruffling a few feathers, it is hard not to notice that in reading and thinking about the actions of the British Army in occupying areas such as India, later Egypt and more recently North west Germany, two constants. The first is of course the inflexibility of the army as an occupying force given their training was about suppression rather than compromise and diplomacy. The second is the entirely disruptive influence of wives in terms of igniting racial problems. The examples are too obvious to exhaustively list, but India provides a classic example. Before the 1830’s intermarriage was encouraged for the male staff of John Company. Boatloads of single husband-hunting women changed the dynamics of all that. The atrocities of the Indian uprising were certainly exacerbated by the killing of women and children in the uprising, and subsequently the women’s bloodthirsty desire for revenge and separation from the ‘natives.’  Of course, missionaries played their part as well which was not the case in Egypt or Germany 1945 -1948.

Too much cricket!!

Finally, I think I should confess I am struggling to hang on to my original intention of watching all the World Cricket matches. It seems, even for cricket, you can have too much of a good thing. Despite that comment, I did watch the match on Sunday – my excuse can only be that hay fever kept me indoors for much of the day.

Middle English

My only experience with Middle English was the inevitable exposure at secondary school to Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ but since we had a crib you will realise my expertise is very limited and also ancient, but I have chosen the  poem below because it fits the week’s activities and my mood, sounds melodious, and is rather less sentimental and dated  than the poems about hay making created by such as John Clare – all of which reflect a ‘golden’ age’ both long gone and in any case grossly over romanticised.

Lydgate was a poet in the shadow of Chaucer, and from what I can gather, very, very prolific, and one whose reputation has varied over the succeeding centuries. In the 1970 edition of the concise Cambridge History of English Literature, Lydgate is compared to the Scottish Chaucerians as “a blundering imitator,” and describes him as “a lamentably prolific writer,” but these were mild words compared to those written in 1802..”a voluminous, prosaic and drivelling monk.” Reputations come and go, it seems today he is not scorned quite so severely.

Poem by John Lydgate – early 15th century.

Ensample in medowes thow mayst se 
That nowe is heye some tyme was grase. 

Go forth anon, thou short dite, 
Bydde folke not trust this worlde at all, 
Bydde theme remembre on e cite 
Which is a-bove celestiall; 
Of precious stones bylt is the wall, 
Who clymbeth theder gothe nevar base, 
Out of that place may be no fall, 
Ther is no heye but all fresh grase.

I thought of offering an attempt at a translation and did rummage through my OED but actually decided “Lenvoye” was the only problematic word – I think it means something like ‘greetings’, so abandoned the exercise! The language is Middle English so bear in mind it is an amalgam of the two languages – Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman and the rough meaning is easily grasped.

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