Traditional wild flower meadows planned

Last Sunday began on a high as the family descended on us en masse to celebrate our 54th wedding anniversary. How fortunate we have been both in each other and to have so long together. The only downside is having yet again to face up to our Chronological ages!

Organic hay is now as rare and expensive as gold dust

It seems inescapable that I write about the weather. Though we had no cloudburst, we did have good rain at the weekend, but given the ten-day forecast, we are uncertain as to how much it will do to rescue the situation.

We have bought in bedding straw at a daft price but knowing now is the cheapest it will be. Very reluctantly I applied for derogation to use non-organic hay since organic hay is as rare and expensive as gold dust and, credit to the system and the Soil Association in particular, it came through in three days. Unless we can get a late cut of grass we will go into the winter knowing that feed is going to be a real challenge.

Another bull calf

All that said, life has moved on. We have topped one big field, both to deal with thistles and in the hope that the grass will be encouraged to grow again. Animals have been shuffled around, and despite everything they look good, and indeed some lambs are now probably up to weight. Our holding of cattle continues to grow in size, and decisions on that cannot be put off much longer. This last week we had another bull calf.

Faris and Clement will be missed

Sadly, Faris and Clement leave us later this coming week, but one last major job they have carried out was on Friday when, starting at 5am, they sprayed the whole farm for a second time with prep. 501. They have both been a huge help, and we have thoroughly enjoyed their company; they will be missed – and not only because they leave us on the Friday evening before the summer fair! Still they will be a great help in the preparatory work.

Having woofers has in our experience been very worthwhile. It is not just the help you get, or the pleasure of having interesting and interested new people around who are from many parts of the world, but the education it provides if you are open to it oneself. Here in the UK, I would never feel that we are wholly insular and self-satisfied with our own world, but it could be argued that we do live rather in a cocoon.

You can holiday abroad and entirely speak English, and eat the food you are accustomed to, and learn very little. While English (in its widest sense) is routinely translated into most of the languages of the world, searching in any (of the few remaining) bookshops in our country, it is very hard to find ‘foreign’ authors in translation – unless they are so-called ‘classics’ or Scandinavian ‘noir’.

I exaggerate a little, but not so much. For me, one of the great bonuses of having woofers is having to address and learn from the fact that in all languages there are poets and novelists that are all but totally unknown here. It is not the same in music and science, and increasingly historians are translated into English, but otherwise…Yet the market for books and reading in the UK, thank goodness, expands each year; if only publishers were not entirely driven by market forces.

Traditional wild flower meadows planned

After a great deal of work by Chris, we appear to be closing in on an agreement for entry to the new Higher Tier Stewardship scheme. To get to this point at all, and so quickly, just emphases the critical support we have received from our Natural England Advisor, acting of course within the remit authorised.

The scheme will start in January 2019 and bind us into a pattern of farming for ten years, a corset which may have its moments of discomfort. Essentially, we are committing to turning the bulk of our pastures into traditional wild flower meadows, and the scheme is committed to financial support to make this possible, and with yearly payments, mitigate any downside consequences. As a bonus we shall receive financial support to essentially re-fence the farm and lay a number of hedges.

The conversion of the pastures has to be completed in year one and the capital work in years one and two. The capital work is relatively straightforward. The conversion of the pastures has both short and medium-term challenges to the stock profile we maintain on the farm. Decisions, decisions, decisions! But the scheme does fit into our value system, so we will cope.

The Proms are under way

The Proms are well under way now and having discovered how to record radio, I can listen at times that suit the family. Sadly, the number shown on television seems to have been much reduced.

Oddly, this week I found myself needing to acquaint myself with the philosophical writings of Schopenhauer. Apart from a few obvious exceptions, German philosophers of the 19th century were not required reading 55 years ago. My entree into that world was finding in a second-hand bookshop in a small village in Somerset a two-volume set of books concentrating solely on 19th century German philosophers and written by a Danish philosopher. It was a heavy, but interesting and illuminating read, not least because it revealed just how much infighting there was in that period. Kant has a great deal to answer for.

In a way that I don’t recognise in British cultural life – if indeed there was or is one, and many Europeans doubt that – intellectual, literary and musical life seems to be bound together. Wagner for example was apparently deeply influenced by philosophers including Schopenhauer.

I had not thought about Schopenhauer since that time – probably 25 years ago – until I came across an alleged quote about his views on morality. My muse suggested the quote was mistaken, and I suspect that was correct, but given how self-contradictory these philosophers views seem to be, and how uncertain one is left as to the meaning of words used, who knows! And, attempting to be fair, it may be down to those who have translated them.

In a week when ‘false news’ has dominated the media I warmed to the thought that we should abandon this term and return to using ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’ or if you prefer straight language ‘lies’ and being ‘economical with the truth’.

There is a test match this week which means that apart from the cricket, it is a forced opportunity to see examples of British advertising. They seem to be either for betting, for violent films or absurd cars – my, I could drop into rant mode so easily since the assumption seems to be that watchers have minimal levels of intelligence and social intelligence and the reading skills of a seven-year-old. Pathetic on all levels, and absolutely different from the cricket – which could not have been more gripping – and made England’s 1,000 test match a great advertisement for cricket all on its own. I am happy to share with those who were not watching that England won a desperately close engagement.

I am very amused to re-read the poem below when I think how many person hours are taken up pulling this noxious weed on the farm! Of course, when I think back, as a ‘townie’ why should I not have liked it.

Ragwort – by Frances Darwin Cornford

The thistles on the sandy flats
Are courtiers with crimson hats;

The ragworts, growing up so straight,

Are emperors who stand in state,

And march about, so proud and bold,

In crowns of fairy-story gold.

The people passing home at night
Rejoice to see the shining sight,

They quite forget the sands and sea

Which are as grey as grey can be,

Nor ever heed the gulls who cry

Like peevish children in the sky.

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