The year in summary

The year in summary

“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”

This is my last opportunity in this year to thank you for your continued interest in our farm, and to wish you all our very best wishes for Christmas and indeed the year to come.  

That said, let me share the news of the last seven days. 

Anne and I, both individually and for nearly sixty years together, have had the good fortune to have led eventful lives with more than enough drama.  

Over those, all but eighty years, I would say the Cuban crisis was the most dreadful. This year has in a different way managed to equal that. But it does at least allow me to give credit to Jeremy Corbyn. Without him the Brexit vote might well have been lost, without him we might have achieved a deal under Mrs May’s government, without him Johnson would not have a stonking majority in the House of Commons, without him the conservative party might have at least a few outstanding politicians, and of course without him Scotland might not have all but decided to leave the United Kingdom. Hail to the man of the 21st century! Without his valiant efforts we might not now be in this glorious position organised by Gove and Johnson whereby European transport companies are refusing to deliver goods to the United Kingdom and chaos will reign.  

You may feel that is a rant too far, but you then are not living the experience as so many of us are.  

Putting that to one side, overall, this has been an excellent year for the farm and Ulula, so I want to celebrate that rather than allow fears for 2021 to dominate all out thinking.  

Farm News – 2020 highlights

So, in no particular order, the positive changes and experiences: 

  • We have completed the re-seeding part of our Higher Tier Level contract which means that hopefully there should now be no need to spend money on cultivation for at least ten years. The new pastures will be much more attractive to wildlife and no extra cost to the farm except that yield might be less. The requirement that so many fields must be left ungraded for six weeks each year in the key growing season might have been a problem, but we have managed to lease three small adjacent fields giving us another 20 acres to make up this. 
  • Our intention to alter the balance between the numbers of sheep and cattle has been achieved.  
  • We managed, as was necessary, to replace our bull by exchanging our bull for one of similar age and performance.   
  • Additionally, we replaced two of our rams with much younger, and hopefully, more fruitful ones.   
  • Our animals have needed trace element support but otherwise have avoided TB which has allowed us to sell young cattle and stores, and so our income has been better this year.  
  • Despite earlier concerns about the market for lambs drying up we managed to get a similar price as to that of last year though having fewer to sell has had implications.  
  • Calving this year has been prolific and largely without human intervention. We were of course saddened by having two still born calves.   
  • Despite COVID-19 interfering with our normal lambing routine all went well.   
  • Under the Higher Tier level support, we have had 3000 metres of fencing replaced and the promise of support for another 8000 if we can raise our share of the cost. Money spent now, means no annual fence refurbishment.   
  • Support to small and medium sized businesses has also been a financial help, together with the availability of low-cost financing, also a spin off from coronavirus. As a consequence, we have acquired:  
    • a new tractor  
    • the equipment to set up electric fencing more rapidly than ever more 
    • a brand-new sheep race 
    • a new barn which increases our covered area by over a third, increases the space for stock, and provides cover for hay and straw.  
    • Moreover, additional concreting around the barn means less damage to the surrounding pasture. 
  • The bridle path up to the barn has been significantly improved.  
  • Milly eventually decided to co-operate and produced five splendid puppies, two of which remain in the family while the other three went to excellent homes.  
  • As we finish the last of our 2018 pressed apple juice, we can look forward to over 200 bottles of juice pressed this year.   
  • Despite the difficulties we experienced from coronavirus and its impact on our ability to have volunteers, we were fortunate to have help earlier in the year, plus the time Daniel spent woofing here. Though saddened by French undergraduates having to cancel, we happily already have replacements agreed for next year.  
  • Most importantly we have had all our certifications renewed – The Soil Association, Demeter, Pasture-Fed and Red Tractor. That these had largely to be carried without visits inevitably was more testing for inspectors and ourselves.  
  • Finally, against all the odds, we have retained our good humour, our sanity and our commitment to what we all believe is important in life, central to which, is of course family.  

Inspiration

Moving on, I want to again praise the man whose beliefs gave us great help and inspiration. Peter Proctor who died a few years ago still, so to speak in the saddle, visited us a number of times in our early years of becoming biodynamic farmers and whose book ‘Grasp the Nettle’ is required reading for all biodynamic farmers.  

After ‘retirement’ he devoted much time and effort supporting agricultural developments in India.  He would have been overjoyed to learn of recent farming developments in two Indian States which have determined to make all faming organic, together with special recognition given to the role of the cow. Sadly, he is no longer with us but his legacy lives on.  

His contribution to biodynamics in his own homeland no doubt had much to do with the strength of biodynamic farming there. His strength lay in convincing by action rather than by theorising. He believed that change was affected by demonstrating the value of changing practice and getting your hands dirty in the process.  

Typically, rather than this news, all we hear on the news is of the dispute between Indian farmers and the Indian government over changes in practice which would place hundreds of thousands of small farmers into ever deeper poverty.  

I am not fond of organ music, but when Radio 3 gave 45 minutes to two organ woks by Caesar Franck I was prepared to try to change my opinion. Though he may have been one if the greatest composers and players of the organ, my views were left unchanged. I suspect my negativity is to do with an association with funerals though I admit listening to organ music in one of our great cathedrals is emotive.  

In a week which sees low after low streaming across the Atlantic, and bearing in mind the ‘jet stream’ was unknown in the poet’s time I share this with you: 

Winter with the Gulf Stream by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The boughs, the boughs are bare enough 
But earth has never felt the snow.  

Frost-furred our ivies are and rough 
 
With bills of rime the brambles shew. 
The hoarse leaves crawl on hissing ground 
Because the sighing wind is low. 
 
But if the rain-blasts be unbound 
And from dank feathers wring the drops 
The clogged brook runs with choking sound 
 
Kneading the mounded mire that stops 
His channel under clammy coats 
Of foliage fallen in the copse. 
 
A simple passage of weak notes 
Is all the winter bird dare try. 
The bugle moon by daylight floats 
 
So glassy white about the sky, 
So like a berg of hyaline, 
And pencilled blue so daintily, 
 
I never saw her so divine. 
But through black branches, rarely drest 
In scarves of silky shot and shine, 
 
The webbed and the watery west 
Where yonder crimson fireball sits 
Looks laid for feasting and for rest. 
 
I see long reefs of violets 
In beryl-covered fens so dim, 
A gold-water Pactolus frets 
 
Its brindled wharves and yellow brim, 
The waxen colours weep and run, 
And slendering to his burning rim 
 
Into the flat blue mist the sun 
Drops out and all our day is done.  

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