We’re expecting!

The urge to rant is very strong at the moment, triggered probably by watching a couple of programmes in the television series presented by Simon Reeves about travelling south through North America. Humankind’s determination to ruin our world through greed and short-sightedness is so great. Of all these activities, perhaps the most alarming are the draining of aquifers all round the world, and the contamination of both salt and fresh water, the expansion of human numbers resulting in populations spreading onto territories unfit for human habitation, and the almost total dependence on electricity for survival.

The first part of the week was cold but sunny, a welcome change from past days and possibly coming weeks. It has provided a period for lying water to at least partially drain. It was also an opportunity to appreciate the degree to which the scrape we excavated, to follow the original line of the river, protected areas of the farm which flooded in the past. 

As planned, our vet came out on Friday to check the stage of pregnancy our cattle had reached. Very positively all but one of the cows who might have been in calf were. Sadly, one of our two remaining older animals, who had difficulties earlier in the year, has terminal problems. Most of the calving will take place while the stock are in the barn, so we must find a way of setting aside space for these mothers to be and their offspring. So, a good result even if we have to solve a new problem!

The main herd, bar one, which is being kept in the barn as it is expected to calve very soon, are back on fields due to be re-seeded in the spring. Feeding has already started for them. So, all cattle are now being fed.

Two steers left us on Tuesday and we hopefully have reached agreement on a swap of bulls. There are issues related to TB, but I am confident they can be sorted and a replacement bull with us at the end of the month. Baachus has done us proud, siring 55 calves to date plus the 20 more as yet to arrive.

As far as the sheep are concerned there is little to report. No more have been sold for which without doubt we can thank Brexit. They have had to be moved around and the feeding time looms ever closer – mind you we don’t want the ewes too fat for tupping.

The work done on the bridle path is all but completed and then Sebastian will be doing all the groundwork for our new sewage system on the Business Park. On Friday all units were visited to check that currently there are no problems with the heating system.

More rain means more fields are even more saturated. Field 5k with its scrape is doing its appointed job:

While field six is flooded where in the past gravel was quarried:

Very excitingly our tractor was returned on Saturday morning. For feeding we have had to borrow a neighbour’s tractor but that could not have been anything other than a very short-term solution. Winter, for the tractor, is when it is worked really hard feeding stock indoors and outdoors. That is not to say it sits idle for the rest of the year – far from it!

This weekend Ryan is visiting a friend in London while we will dog sit Tomato. Conversations over lunch this week obviously involving Ryan, have been lengthy, lively and stimulating. As Clement joins us next week and is coming particularly to improve his English, lunches will change in character and I shall have to think about how I may help him over and above the advantages he will get from sharing the mobile home with an ‘english’ speaker.

The vegetable garden was badly hit by this week’s frosts. Leeks, parsnips and, for the moment, beetroot are untouched of course. In the two protected areas the tomatoes and peppers will ripen no further. The squash have been harvested and are being enjoyed. I am not sure what to say about the kale – the caterpillars of the cabbage fly have left only skeletal remains. As for the runner beans!!

Relations with the RPA remain difficult. Some understanding and some recognition that matters need to be settled swiftly would help since there is enough uncertainty in our lives. Thank goodness they have at least left a remnant of Natural England in play. We need all the critical but knowledgeable support we can get.

A taste of science

There can be no doubt that our debt to science is immeasurable. There can be no doubt also that misinterpretations, ideological imperatives, and a scientific culture dominated by the need to constantly produce research papers, in order to hold onto one’s academic post, results in papers of varying levels of value. Add onto this the contributions of the media, and what to trust becomes very difficult to decide.

One only has to think how dietary and medical advice has varied in recent decades. As regards climate change, we see the same phenomena as pieces of research, with absolute conviction, point to one activity after another held to be responsible. Last week I commented on the emissions from IT servers causing more damage than all aeroplane emissions in the whole world. This week all we asthma sufferers learn that use of asthma inhalers does more damage to the climate than all the animals in the world. And, as we learn in the political world from Trump and Johnson and their followers, asking questions of them merely leads to abuse. 

This weeks must read

Incidentally a book called ‘Paradigms Lost’ by John Casti is a ‘must read book’ on the frailties of science. It was so well received that a second book appeared called, as I remember it, ‘Paradigms Lost Revisited‘. I say, as I remember it, because I couldn’t find my copy. Given the books philosophical approach I can’t possibly not recommend Karl Popper’s thought on science – slightly contentious but worth exploring. Mind you, his work ‘The open societies and its enemies’ is much more approachable, and the topic is perhaps even more relevant today than it was in 1942.

When is a forest a forest?

We have often been asked by woofers why we claim to have forests when in fact compared to Canada, America or Central Europe we have, at best, only woods. Though the forestry commission does, in fact, maintain in certain parts of Wales and Scotland huge plantations, it is true that in England, our woods are relatively small. Part of the problem is simply the word Forest does not actually mean a very, very large densely covered wooded area, but simply refers to former royal hunting areas. The truth appears to be that some 3000 years ago our forests had already all been largely cleared. A process which continued over the centuries and culminated in the period after the Second World War when it is claimed half the area of existing woodland was cleared.

There are advantages to this. If you have read Bill Bryson’s book about a walk in the Appalachians, you will know large forests are actually rather daunting. Seeing the leaf colours of the East Coast in the fall can actually be too much of a good thing. How much more enchanting to see the solitary tree in our neighbourhood showing exactly the same striking colours. Now is very much a time to enjoy the varied colours of leaves in the autumn, and Warwickshire and Worcestershire are especially favoured places in this regard.

No wonder the Lonely Planet Organisation rated England as the second-best country in the world for tourists!

Watching our pair of resident buzzards soaring above the field next to the house led me to a poem from the author’s first book of poetry entitled “Buzzards and other poems” published in 1921. Here is a shortened version of:

The Buzzards by Martin Armstrong

When evening came and the warm glow grew deeper
And every tree that bordered the green meadows
And in the yellow cornfields every reaper
And every corn-shock stood above their shadows
Flung eastward from their feet in longer measure,
Serenely far there swam in the sunny height
A buzzard and his mate who took their pleasure
Swirling and poising idly in golden light.
On great pied motionless moth-wings borne along,
So effortless and so strong,
Cutting each other’s paths, together they glided,
Then wheeled asunder till they soared divided
Two valleys’ width (as though it were delight
To part like this, being sure they could unite
So swiftly in their empty, free dominion),
Curved headlong downward, towered up the sunny steep,
Then, with a sudden lift of the one great pinion,
Swung proudly to a curve and from its height
Took half a mile of sunlight in one long sweep.

’And still those buzzards wheeled, while light withdrew
Out of the vales and to surging slopes ascended,
Till the loftiest-flaming summit died to blue.

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