Time for hedge cutting

What an unusual start to the week! A Bank Holiday coinciding with good weather after a scorching weekend. Thank goodness the two fields that had been ripped had not been seeded.

A short and largely uneventful week took place as the team having been to the Feastival coped on their return with both tiredness and the inevitable adrenaline dump, and then the catching up on all that had had been left undone. Fortunately, Tim and Theo were unaffected, and Tim spent most of the four days on the tractor while Theo split his time between with Tim, checking the stock, looking after the vegetable gardens and starting to take down a further stretch of fence.

The sheep are doing an excellent job grazing down one of the fields to be reseeded. Next week however will be far less peaceful for them. They will be driven into the barn and put through the race for, in the case of the ewes, condition scoring, and in the case of the lambs for weighing and hopefully their first and only drench of the year against worms. Leaving the race all will go through a foot bath since some are showing signs of lameness.  The drench we use as approved by both Demeter and the Soil Association is Zolvix.

The five rams have been spoilt by having a seven-acre field all to themselves. They now need to be moved to graze down the two small fields close to the house. They still have another nearly three months to go before action is required of them when they need to be in good condition.

The eye infection which had been troubling the young cattle is now possibly now over. The field they are in alongside the brook  is reasonably windswept which must help. The sucker herd continue to graze down the field by the drive which is one of those due for a light reseeding. A couple of the animals are a little lame so we are attempting to get a date for when the hoof trimmer will come and make walking easier for them. This of course will require that the cattle are brought into the barn.

Looking at the calves over the last few days led us into a discussion as to whether any needed to be moved out before the bull began to take an interest. The conclusion was that there was no need for urgency but there was agreement that a number of the cows with older calves might well be pregnant. As for the young stock there are probably four or five which are ready to be sold so the market is being explored.

Much of Tim’s work this week has been concentrated on improving the pastures. Two fields have been composted and then harrowed, using the grass harrow meant a significant amount of dead material was taken off to go on the compost heaps. The topper remains out of action but will be needed once mended. Pulling ragwort remains a daily occupation for both Tim and Theo as the new growth starts coming into flower.

Although this work is part of the farm’s normal routine, this year there is a need to prepare fields in the right order so we can meet the requirements of the Stewardship scheme we are part of. Before however any further fields are ‘ripped’, the fields already prepared need to be drilled and rolled. Hopefully this might be done next week.

Although all the farm has been sprayed with the biodynamic preparations at least once, we shall hope to carry out another two spraying in the two months to come. Various things have held us back, not least the weather, but we cannot delay further. Anne will advise on the best days to do the work.

Now that we have a half-share in a hedge cutter, and that hedge cutting is permitted from the 1st of September, work can start. Blackthorn like most of the prunus family given half a chance spreads into the fields, and a sizeable chunk of land can be lost unless some control is exerted. We are not about to ruin one of the most attractive features of the farm – our hedges, but some control is long overdue.

This links to the replacement of old fences since many of them are now buried in the hedges they were meant to hold back. We have not given up hedge laying in some places but unless you restrict new top growth on layer hedges there will be no new growth lower down.

We continue to have fresh vegetables from the garden. We have fantastic beetroot and hot peppers but sadly not everyone likes them as much as the man who sowed them and has now gone! We and the chili peppers miss you Jack!

We and the chili peppers miss you Jack!

For the moment we have tomatoes, spring onions, sweet peppers, courgettes, squash, runner beans, leeks, beetroot and cucumbers ready in sufficient numbers to meet all our needs. Gardening was not I feel a matter of great interest to Theo before he came but now, he looks after everything assiduously. 

Thoughts while resting

Escaping from the noise of four very excitable grandchildren to one of the older upstairs rooms in the house I listened through my headphones to music new to me. Not being in the least sleepy, my mind rambled on as usual. The first thought was that though we are generally aware of how London has acted as a magnet for dissidents whether they be anarchists or would be over-throwers of regimes, I am not sure how far with recognise the magnetic pull of London to musicians and composers from the continent in the 18th and 19th centuries. I guess this movement was in part because of the growth of the English middle class and their willingness to pay to attend concerts and to pay for tutelage, but also I assume because the liberal world these immigrants found suited them well since many stayed and raised families in this rather different world.

At the same time, looking at the wooden beams above my head one part of my brain – the left presumably – was aware how challenging it is to deconstruct an old building which has been added to any number of times over the 500 years of its existence. One thing that is clear is that earlier generations had no concern with preservation except in that nothing was thrown away that might be reused. 

At the same time the other side of the brain was aware of the generations that have lived and experienced all aspects of living over that period of time. Were the three 6d coins of the first Queen Elizabeth found by metal detectors in any way related to the then inhabitants – who knows. What is clear is that over time the dwellers in the house experienced periods of poverty and relative wealth. Fruitful material for consideration as is knowing our family history, which only takes us back to the early 1600’s and no building survives to help the imagination. Sufficient perhaps to know that their experiences were likely much the same. One thing my senses assure me is that this has been a real family home.

Armstrong, Campbell and Barton

I continue to read Karen Armstrong but constantly get distracted by ideas she raises which send my mind off in other directions. For example, an early point she makes about the changing meaning of myth from being folk memory to just a fable made it impossible not to think of Joseph Campbell, who indeed is referenced in her bibliography. (But no mention of the writings in which his ideas were challenged by Robert Ellwood). For those who have never come across Joseph Campbell, his writings and interviews on tape show him as a great communicator and inspirational individual, even if his notion that there was one original myth from which all were derived may be incorrect.

Armstrong spends a considerable time scene setting out the history of the Middle East from the 9th BC, its beliefs, its economic systems and its tribal basis. She similarly approaches the Aryan movement into the Punjab and the development of Sanskrit. Fascinating reading in its own right and clearly based on current best thinking. This overarching view may not lead her to the same conclusions as Campbell but is a very similar approach.

Where Armstrong and Barton speak as one is in seeing that scripture does not fall directly from heaven but is a human artefact and that in all cultures, scripture is/was essentially a work in progress that changed and changes to meet new conditions.

The notion of learning by rote, not just family histories, but in particular key aspects of scripture, is common not just to Judaism, Hinduism and Islam as also is the emphasis on ritual. In fact, it appears that writing, certainly in the Punjab was regarded as inimical to belief and seen to be unclean and corrupting. However, it seems this was not the case in Confucianism. In all of these faiths however there was a belief in bodily movements playing a part in achieving oneness with the unknowable.

In our secular world these approaches seem neither relevant nor meaningful though my feeling is that perhaps we are the worse off for this loss. We need speech to manage reality but  need to understand the limits of speech.

Armstrong sees all these ‘civilisations’ having in common, fear, which lead to efforts to make sense of the dangers, uncertainties and attacks by other groups on their very existence. Tribal conflict and warfare were a key feature of life, indeed perhaps a reason for existence.

I think I am going to write no more on this book, but I do feel it ought to be prescribed reading for all undergraduates and anyone interested in the deeper questions of life.

Jazz, ‘women’s’ magazines and marmite!

Re-reading the paragraphs above I am reminded how awful it was in my youth and middle years to be thought clever, or even worse an intellectual. Perhaps views have changed, but suddenly I am filled with the need to find some way of disabusing anybody who sees me that way. And then comes the key question, exactly how can I do that. Does admitting the importance jazz once had in my life, or perhaps by admitting I read all the romantic short stories in my mother’s ‘women’s’ magazines help in any way? Or that I like marmite and once enjoyed Camp coffee? I will say definitively that to balance my serious reading, I am as happy reading and discussing humour in literature and regency romance as the ins and outs of constitutional history.

With my mind somewhat in a turmoil, I naturally turned to music. A daunting choice but in the end I turned to Borodin – emotional, but not too much so, and not over familiar. In fact, both on the proms and on my CD player Russian music has seemed the order of the day so going to Borodin made sense.

After all that serious stuff, two humorous poems in mangled German by the American German poet Kurt Stein – and I don’t mind sharing the pain of predictive text when trying to use unusual words and the impossibility of putting dots over a ‘u’! Franglais is well established, but not sure what the term is for the poems below:

Morning Song by Kurt Stein

Horch, horch, die Bell am Backdoor ring!
Get up! Es is das ice.
Ich Hoff der Crook von Iceman brings
A Piece von decent size.
Denn dass gibt schure a Scorcher heut,
Ich fuhl alreddy heis.
Und schlam die Shcreen-thur gut und tight,
Das Haus wird voll mit Flies.
Arise! Arise!
Eh’s. melten tut, arise!

Vor a Gaugin Picture zu Singen

Tahiti, Tahiti,
Sich die Cocoa Cuties, mitaus noddings an.
Hier a Leaf, da a Leaf,
Hinten a Coral Reef.
Dass is doch kein Climate fur a mittelaged Mann

Not sure how politically correct this last one is either, in its laughing at Gaugin, or in its sexual allusions to women or middle-aged men!

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