“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
Since this is a family farm, I make no apologies for sharing with you some family news. Last Saturday Christopher’s mother Beryl sadly passed away. This was not expected, indeed an awful shock, and you can well imagine how sad we are all feeling. Ironically, but demonstrating the vagaries of life, on Sunday, Saturday’s overnight snowfall was an opportunity for both our children, and their children, to ease the feelings and thoughts by being able to have a marvellous time together outside, sledging, building a snowman and course throwing snowballs.
For obvious reasons there is not a great deal to share about this week on the farm. Winter feeding has continued, and all animals seem well. Before the thaw it was possible to cut hedges in two different fields. Interestingly, despite temperatures being well below zero, the ground was so waterlogged that though it was firm enough for the tractor to carry out hedge cutting in two fields, it certainly was not rock hard.
The situation changed radically after the thaw, and fieldwork became quite impossible, and there has been very significant flooding in the fields adjacent to the brook. Indeed, the bridle path is not for the fainthearted!
The movement of lambs and steers did not happen, largely because last week proved itself hard work in light of the family news, made worse by the consequences of Brexit meaning so much of Christopher’s time was taken up with paperwork and attempts to gain useful advice. Next week hopefully pressure may be slightly less.
There is a false assumption that the idea of organic farming can be used as a synonym for ‘traditional farming’. We watch programmes like the Victorian Country Farm and may imagine that is how organic farming operates. A little thought makes clear the difference.
Obviously, we don’t use oxen or horses any longer. Animal welfare standards are much, much, higher and animals are treated with respect. Labour costs rule out a host of historic practices. Our seeds are both more varied and varieties available are wider. We know infinitely more about soils and nutritional values of grasses. We also use modern technology in so far as it makes sense. The photos of the farm and its flooding come from the use of a drone. Data can now be better used because of computerisation. Farming has always been commercial, improvements over the centuries were essentially about increasing profit and viability – let us not be too rosy eyed about the past.
Three small pieces of news. I spent forty minutes on the telephone to the RPA, of which perhaps three involved actually talking to anybody. You will be happy to hear the music they entertain you with has not changed over the years – nor the results, politeness but no answers.
An email from Demeter confirmed that what they called an ‘unannounced’ inspection had revealed no non-compliance issues. Actually, it was to look at the three small fields we are renting, which all have splendid hedges and several ancient trees as well as a delightful small pond.
Finally, I am very happy to report that our local MP is replying to our emails asking her for help with the transport difficulties Ulula is experiencing.
I realise that my notes last week were perhaps ‘dense’ to use Anne’s words, so this week will try to exercise restraint.
I have never concealed my passion for cricket. These last days saw England play and win two very exciting test matches against Sri Lanka, both in the historic town of Galle – a place that in normal times must be regarded as an essential place to visit both for its architecture and history. Beryl’s mother was actually born in what was then called Ceylon, though Beryl herself was born in what was then Southern Rhodesia.
Thinking of the recent history of Sri Lanka reminded me of how much strife has been caused by the movement of peoples under previous regimes, often solely to meet labour needs. In Sri Lanka it was Tamils, in Malesia Chinese, in Myanmar, Bengalese, in Russia by the whole scale movement of ethnic groups – there are other examples of course including political decisions to settle large numbers of people in satellite states such as the Russians in the Baltic states and Crimea.
A further area of unanticipated future problems was the intermarriage of members of the ‘native’ population and ‘incomers’, and I am not thinking of rape. I guess the issue of Anglo-Indians is the obvious example. One example that came to our attention while in Canada was the issue of a stamp commemorating Louis Riel. Louis Riel was a Meti, who fought for the rights of his people, who were originally two groups. The word is of French origin and was first used to label the offspring of French trappers and ‘native’ tribes’ people.
But while this was happening in French Canada, in central and northern Canada, then the territory of the Hudson Bay Company, the same situation arose.
I was conscious after I wrote the above, how ‘Eurocentric’ we are. “Original Sin” which surely includes tribalism, racism, sexism, classism or all other ‘isms’ is not the prerogative of white people alone. They are a natural part of being human, whatever your origins, and just one of the many weaknesses all humans have to battle, and the kind of government adopted is critical to attempt to mitigate them.
Obviously, I have only itemised two examples of this, but it happened all over the world, and at the time was quite acceptable. But sadly, issues of colour and loyalty in due course led to the world we know today.
Thinking of recent polls suggesting the end of the United Kingdom, I wonder how many of us may have to decide to which part of the split kingdom we may belong…
Finally, as a family who spent happy years in Manchester, though in Regency times its rainfall was some 38” a year, this is no longer the case. In recent years, looking at a tabulation of average rainfall by town, it appears many places including Newquay and Exeter have more rain. It’s just as we used to say, Manchester’s issue was that it likes to distribute its relatively small rainfall over more days!
I end with a short quotation from Markus Aurelius and a very short poem.
Markus Aurelius first:
“These two rules, thou must always have in readiness. First do nothing at all, but what reason proceeding from that regal and supreme past, shall for the good and benefit of men suggest unto thee. And secondly, if any man that is present shall be able to rectify thee or turn thee from erroneous persuasion, that thou be always ready to change thy mind, and this change to proceed…but always from some probable ground of justice, or of some public good thereby to be furthered…”
‘Winter’ from James Thomson’s ‘The Seasons’ chosen because on Friday evening, as the family sat around a fire bowl, the younger members of the family including the birthday girl herself were getting excited about the snow forecast. Reality of course was rather different from the hopes.
Through the hushed air the whitening shower descends,
At first thin-wavering; till at last the flakes
Fall Broad and wide and fast dimming the day
With a continual flow. The cherished fields
Put on their winter-robe of purest White.
‘Tis brightness all; save where the new snow melts
Among the mazy current