I need to apologise in advance if these notes are slight. The simple truth is that I spent the first part of the week bed bound as a result of slightly overdoing it last week. All is well now, especially as I have abandoned a personal attempt to make sense of a particular philosophical conundrum. Time spent in bed means muscle tone being so easily lost at my age, and that may take a while to retrieve – hopefully.
My report on the farm is therefore even more dependent on shared information than usual! Clearly, as regards the stock, the main concern is the cow with an abscess on her foot. She has been in the barn receiving treatment for a while. The abscess is in a very difficult place, and so deep that no needle can reach it. Obviously, the vet is doing all they can, as are we. Rather a ‘downer’ after our Demeter inspection spoke so positively about our stock. To add to the concern, she is not far away from calving.
But on a very positive note, mid-week one of our cows provided us with female twins. Twins are not common from cows, so this is only the second time we have been able to celebrate this. All three seem well and that is something of a balance to morale.
The same can be said for our new ram who has served his quarantine and is now part of the team. Though we have selected our new registered pedigree Lleyn Ram that has not yet arrived.
The sheep and young stock are on new fields as part of our well-developed routine of not overgrazing any pasture. You may recall we were toying with the idea of reducing the frequency of ‘topping’. Comparing growth in adjacent fields, one of which had been topped and the other not, the difference was such as to ring alarm bells. Searching the science literature made clear that not topping within the active growth period was a bad idea. Perhaps we were rather naive not to realise that what works for the garden lawn – even if the grass is rather different – must also work for a pasture.
Perhaps it is the apparent arrival of autumn, but there has been much correspondence on how best to feed cattle overwintered outside. While not of particular use to us, the correspondence did help one see ways of reducing poaching and reducing the wastage of the hay or silage associated with usual practice. Very useful, potentially if the soils and weather allow, but the problem of poaching around water troughs would still remain. While sheep drink relatively small amounts of water, cattle need to drink a great deal every year.
Though we missed the worst of the rain, and the wind did little damage, the weather did mean the cattle were not brought in for vaccination or pregnancy testing, so that must be done next week. The winds were so extreme I feared we might lose all the apples on our trees and even possibly lose the odd tree. Fortunately, that was not the case nor were there any lightning strikes on the farm. Since during thunderstorms animals often gather underneath a tree, they become quite vulnerable.
Autumn does seem to be approaching. Our pyracantha is loaded with berries, the tomato pick was huge, the grandchildren restart school shortly, and overall, there is the feeling that the tide has turned.
The new tractor has not yet been overused as some parts are yet to come. The Zetor has had minor work done on it while fencing is paused for a period, and further work on the barn is some weeks away.
No sooner than I am negative about the BBC than I hear something of great interest. A point of view – the 15 minute slot on a Sunday morning is of variable interest partly because the BBC seems to over indulge in the number of times it gives space to that wreck of a human individual, Will Self – perhaps because his voice has a certain quality.
This last Sunday my attention was caught by comments from the philosopher John Gray about Hubert Marcuse suggesting that he should bear significant responsibility for the growth of today’s illiberal liberalism, and belief that tolerance should only be extended to those whose notion of right and wrong match those of yourself – and if that sounds familiar think of religious groups, Belarus, Russia or China, or perhaps the attempts in our so-called liberal democracy to make illegal anything said or written that offends some poor soul.
I wholeheartedly support Gray’s words, and as was speaking in the context of a bill to go before the Scottish Parliament restricting freedom of speech, the importance is clear.
Our continued reporting of excessive embarrassment over our past, without adequate attempts to hold fully formed discussions, and allow more than one truth to coexist does frustrate – I remind you of the dairy farmer who felt the need to apologise for offending Hinduism over his talk of cow yoga, and the BBC reporting of whether the Last Night of the Proms should not allow the words of Land of Hope and Glory or Rule Britannia. Whether there is an element of fake news in these reports, I know not, or to whose ambitions it serves to create such stories.
Are we not edging towards illiberal liberalism in this country? Is there no difference between inciting violence and causing some individual distress or offence? Who should determine the hymn sheet we are duty bound to sing from – should there even be such a hymn sheet?
The reference to Marcuse may mean nothing to you because his influence was far greater in America than in this country. I think if I give you the title of his most famous essay of the 1950’s ‘Repressive Toleration’ and his most famous last work ‘Eros and Civilisation’ you will correctly infer that he was a committed Marxist who believed the promised land could not be reached until toleration was only allowed within state rules, and that his thinking was affected by a post Freudian approach. He seemed to see people as nonentities needing to be guided to the promised land, and that this would be achieved by attacking the core values of a modern liberal state. Much of the uproar in the 1960’s and 1970’s in American universities has to be credited to his thinking.
Two final thoughts. The human brain is, as we understand it, programmed to attempt to make sense of the world by what is commonly called labelling. You are a man or a woman, black or white, clever or less so. This may help survival, but needs to be viewed with caution. The latest labelling is BAME, it is hard to think of anything more insulting or more divisive, just how many sub-groups are ignored in that collective label.
The second thought arose out of an article in Tortoise in which a journalist called Colin Grant attempted a rewrite of British colonial history from the point of view of the victims; the result – a history as inaccurate as the one it replaced. History written by the winners, or perceived winners, should always be treated with caution. We must remember history written by the losers or victims needs to be treated similarly.
Moreover, from which ever approach we view history, never lose sight of the wider context. Brutality, indifference to suffering, living in a world where death could strike at any moment, whether through human hand or disease, is beyond our understanding, and that needs to be recognised.
Ideas such as those promoted by Rousseau were nonsense, and the writer’s personal life belied all his writings. Aggression, inter-tribal conflict, insecure leadership or dictatorship based on sheer power, tied or not to religion, were the norm. Life was short, uncertain and hard. In so many ways we have totally lost sight of how much ‘better’ life is for the many now.
Since the weather reporters made so much of it I thought this poem by Emily Dickensen might fit the bill:
A Thunder-Storm by Emily DickensenA Thunder-Storm
The wind begun to rock the grass
With threatening tunes and low, —
He flung a menace at the earth,
A menace at the sky.
The leaves unhooked themselves from trees
And started all abroad;
The dust did scoop itself like hands
And throw away the road.
The wagons quickened on the streets,
The thunder hurried slow;
The lightning showed a yellow beak,
And then a livid claw.
The birds put up the bars to nests,
The cattle fled to barns;
There came one drop of giant rain,
And then, as if the hands
That held the dams had parted hold,
The waters wrecked the sky,
But overlooked my father’s house,
Just quartering a tree.