“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
The last days of the week were very different from the first part of the week. We saw clear skies and sunshine. Even better was the sight of our first white snowdrops on short stems at this stage.
Somehow, we escaped the worst of the recent storm, and despite high winds and driving rain had little flooding locally. We did wonder whether Evesham would be affected and make getting our first vaccinations impossible, but the Warwickshire Avon, though very high had largely stayed within its banks in the town itself. The ring road around the town was clearly carefully planted, and at this time of year the hazel catkins were a show in their own right.
Though we had little flooding on the farm, the ground is now so soft that all activity such as hedging was clearly out of the question. With so much rain already this month and more predicted for next week, no wonder claims are being made the this will be the wettest January on record.
Perspective is always important, not least in farming. Looking briefly though Ian Mortimer’s Guide to Regency Britain I was delighted to find a section on the weather in those four decades (pages 150-152).
We complain about our current weather, but during that period, the rainfall was far worse than anything we have experienced. As for the summers only, a handful recorded temperatures above 16 degrees centigrade, and although in one year a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded, that was exceptional. The years 1814 and 1816 still stand out in folk memory. The Thames froze so solid in 1814 that it could hold the weight of an elephant, and thick enough to allow an ox to be roasted while on it.
1816, by contrast was the year when for Northern Europe the sun never shone, probably because of the ash in the stratosphere, given out by a vast volcanic eruption in Indonesia in 1815.
So, we complain, quite rightly, but let us not make too much of our situation, and I am well aware that here we are not as vulnerable as our neighbours to the east and west, as we are not either in the Severn or Avon water basins.
Otherwise on the farm it has been the winter routine of feeding, ensuring water is available, and checking animal health.
The one break in the routine came mid-week when the remaining lambs were brought in for a final drench. Next week, a further 30 and two steers go north to Ford Hall Farm. After that the next significant date is likely to be that for scanning which has now been agreed will be in the second week in February. Should the ground eventually dry out, obviously there is still work to be done to expose fencing for it to be replaced.
There was a sprinkling of snow on Friday night which froze solid overnight making the scene outside rather like something resembling a Disney World scene. But the real excitement centred on the movement of our replacement caravan for woofers. The existing mobile home was second-hand 13 years ago when we bought it. Over the years it slowly became less and less up to its task. Very fortunately a pair using a mobile home while they carried out renovating an old house nearby reached the point of moving into their renovated property.
Given the distance from us it was decided to simply tow it onto the farm. I say simply but with only one axle and hence an overhang of some 18 feet, fore and aft just getting it up to the area of the electric gate was a challenge. But it was at this point the exercise became even more tricky since the vehicle was 4” wider than the gap. With all the family in play and a friendly neighbour, the impossible was achieved. No praise can be too high for the skill and calm achieved by Chris since it was he who drove the tractor.
The vehicle is very similar to the one it may replace, but is at least twenty years newer and in splendid condition.
All very exciting, especially for the pair of us who after having our first vaccination jabs on Friday morning were feeling a little overexcited anyway.
You will understand why the future of Ulula is important to us both on a personal and farm level. Sadly, the Trump era in America may have ended but aspects of it remain here. So, while politicians may talk about minor and temporary glitches for companies both importing and exporting to Europe, the reality is brutally different.
It is literally taking most of Christopher’s working time first to work his way through unthought through paperwork, and then to find transport. Transport companies are more and more reluctant to take in work which involves bringing loads into this country. Typically, a major problem lies in satisfying the UK Customs officers that the paperwork is in order. I am not surprised, most of our most complaints about EU paperwork historically could simply be traced back to our gold-plated approach to rules and regulations …aghhhhhhhh!
I try to be even handed as regards politics and politicians, but sometimes it is very hard. I have decided that I shall no longer bother to tune in to Prime Ministers Questions. It has become a total waste of time.
The Prime Minister never answers a question, whether through ignorance or design, and his expression while listening to a question from the Leader of the Opposition is one that cartoonists must relish.
His backbencher’s oose sycophanticy. As with the Republican politicians, they seem to ignore the proposition that they are there to represent all in their constituencies. Lindsey Hoyle seems a decent man but, and it rather appals me to say this, how we could do with Bercow back in the speaker’s chair.
I have never concealed my lack of enthusiasm for the National Union of Farmers, and so normally pay little attention to our regional Farmer and Growers magazine. This week I did in fact read it from cover to cover. A key article makes clear how great continues to be the uncertainty over the government’s “25-year plan”, but what really caught my eye was an article about meat production in the United States. Two things stuck out for me. The use of grain in addition to hormones as the main feed, and the scale of the operation. The bulk of the meat comes from feed lots holding over 30,000 animals and ‘lucky us’, for Ms Truss wants to open up our markets to food produced in this inhumane and revolting way.
Paradigms come and go. One of those that particularly irritates me is the one about sleep.
The current belief that unless we sleep for seven to nine hours a night, ill health is inevitable, and as a consequence a worried population ensures the consumption of sleeping pills to run into the millions.
There surely can be no doubt that this determination to regard all in the same light often just leads to anxiety and then real sleeping problems. Personally, I have, as an adult to live with a routine in which most of my nights are split into two or three segments.
Actually, these often provide useful thinking times. Nowadays I don’t bother to get up as I would once – indeed to be honest now I often have an afternoon nap.
The irony for me is that the medical profession forgets that ‘long unbroken periods of sleep are a modern habit (except of course in the marine world). I think that the past practice of broken nights was called supplementary sleeping and indeed was still recognised as late as 1920.
Induced fear of not sleeping is I suspect welcomed by pharmaceutical companies.
My attention at the weekend was caught by a headline suggested that the history of the Debenham stores went back 212 years. This on the face of it directly contradicted the views in an article in the Oldie magazine by Mary Kenny. She wrote that the first department store opened in Paris in the 1850’s and that its primary purpose was to provide shopping experiences would not be spoilt by marauding men. Le bonne marche was the 1888’s by two other well-known Parisian stores.
Indeed, by the early 1900’s every capital city (in Europe) had at least one. Debenhams was founded in 1812 as a draper’s store and he was joined in 1818 by a Mr Clark. But it was not until 1905 that the business was described as a Department store.
In succeeding years these stores proliferated and were great earners for many years.
A short poem from T S Elliot:The lady of the porcelain department
Smiles at the world through a set of false teeth.
She is business-like and keeps a pencil in her hair
But behind her sharpened eyes take flight
The summer evenings in the park
And heated nights in second story dance halls.
Man’s life is powerless and brief and dark
It is not possible for me to make her happy.
Anne is currently reading Danubia the last of a trilogy of books offering a personal insight into parts of Europe less well known to most of us.
Hungary is very much part of the story of Danubia. As you may recall our first long term real volunteer came from Hungary and her visit went so well, we ended up getting involved in woofing.
When Monika joined us, we still saw ourselves as being in the prime of life and utterly failed to capitalise on the opportunity to explore the history, culture and customs of her country with her. We knew only a little of the history of Hungary and something of the history of Central Europe, but it is only recently, that the reality of how limited that knowledge was and in fact remains, has dawned on us.
Mind you, sources are not that easy to track down. In this country the historian Norman Davies seems to have been the first to attempt a history of Europe which recognises that London is in fact not the centre of that world. His work may have been ground-breaking, but his approach, which takes up over a thousand pages, requires constant reference to the index rather than providing any coherent history of a particular country.
I admit that, for a part of the world whose early inhabitants changed often, and in an area whose boundaries changed frequently depending on power politics, that may not be surprising. What I think anyone who as a child collected stamps will remember are the stamps depicting the Crown of St Stephen.
But in a way this opens up the question of the role of historians and enables me to illustrate the dilemma arising from the events in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898 which are generally glossed over and not just by American historians.
Wilmington was a town in which racial issues were relaxed enough for the mayor and other elected representatives to be Black people.
This so outraged White extremists elsewhere that, together with the KKK, in due course they stormed the town, overturned the administration and killed as many blacks as they could.
Geoffrey Elton, a man of interest in his own right, almost inevitably it seems, a German by birth, who became a great specialist in the Tudor period, wrote in the middle sixties a work entitled “The Practice of History”. As I see it, any historian worth attention has to be one who has thought deeply about the position he or she is coming from and makes that clear in their writing.
Amnesia, whether self or politically imposed, is an issue faced by many historians. Wilmington is an example of that; total transparency faces the opposite predicament in leading to a failure to set events in a wider perspective. We see that at the moment in this country it is important to illuminate the bad things done. But there is a danger not just in judging the past through our moral values, but also encouraging and endorsing exceptionalism.
Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
And Babylon, so many times destroyed.
Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima’s houses,
That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?
In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome
Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Byzantium lives in song.
Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend
The night the seas rushed in,
The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.
Young Alexander conquered India.
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Was there not even a cook in his army?
Phillip of Spain wept as his fleet
was sunk and destroyed. Were there no other tears?
Frederick the Great triumphed in the Seven Years War.
Who triumphed with him?
Each page a victory
At whose expense the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man,
Who paid the piper?
So many particulars.
So many questions.
This is written by Bertholt Brecht, a man who lived through two world wars, and gave us The Threepenny Opera (an adaptation of the Beggars Opera written by John Gay about two hundred years earlier).
Never it seems a communist, he was certainly of a socialist inclination and violently anti-fascist, whether it came from the left or right extremes.