We’re in The Sunday Times!

Earlier in the week I felt that I would sadly have to start these notes with the oh so familiar issue of this year – rain, or rather lack of it. And as of Friday it was reasonable to say that what fell was not nearly as much as our pastures need. On Wednesday the big scrape at the back of the farm was like a dried-out reservoir and this is October. No doubt we will continue to discuss the issue of irrigation, but the Bow Brook seems an unlikely solution even if we invested in pumping equipment. However, I am very happy to report that over the weekend we have had some real rain. We still need more but the situation is far better than it was. The pastures should spring to life for a while now.

Not only had we not had enough rain, but we had cold enough nights to end the season for the runner beans and winds strong enough to bring down almost all the fruit. Talking of which we had to resort to watering the six-year-old fruit trees planted in the wettest field on the farm.

Another 18 lambs are sold

Having got that off my chest, I can report some very positive news. Nine of the fields have had a third spraying of preparation 500, five compost heaps have had preparations 502-508 inserted, and the weather forecast for next week suggests not only that all the farm can have a third spraying of preparation 501, but that we will be able to complete the spraying of the 500.

The news on the state of the sheep is slightly mixed. Faecal samples show that the lambs will need to be drenched as well as a small number of ewes. Egg levels are high enough to slow growth in the lambs, and the scouring in some ewes needs ending. Since all the sheep have to be put through the race we will add a foot bath to help treat the half a dozen animals that are showing lameness.

As for the cattle, following our visit from a Government Veterinary Surgeon we have been attempting to process the new thoughts we have had shared with us. In the meantime, we await news of when the next TB test will be carried out.

This coming week will see the sale of another 18 lambs, and the week after two cows will also go. In passing, what this means is that I can finally complete the paperwork for the Demeter inspection on the 18th of October.

Visit from The Sunday Times

An unexpected activity took place mid-week when a journalist and photographer came primarily to interview Anne about her interest in and involvement in the creation of both the Stockwood Community Benefit Society and Rush Farm. I was spared this part, but after that Anne, Sebastian and I had to undergo having our photos taken in a series of uncomfortable poses! The last of these saw us balancing on one knee a few feet in front of the suckler herd. Bacchus, his ladies and their calves behaved in an exemplary manner, preferring to chew the cud rather than get too curious about the strange activities in front of them.

This week’s learning

For some reason I seem to have found little time for other activities. Of course, I have listened to some music, read a couple of novels, had my curiosity wetted by items on the radio, and spent some time attempting to find answers to perennial questions, and started trying to grasp the complex history of Romania.

For many centuries, education of the memory was a central feature of schooling. There are, and have been, many theories as to how best to develop and improve one’s memory and hence learning. None of these have ever been of personal use and I still have little real idea of how my memory does or does not work. Even with the backstop provided by Wikipedia etc, it is still a major irritation and source of envy when I come across individuals who have complete poems in their memories or can remember quotes and even jokes! Yet in some respects, my memory has, and still does, serve me well; but why do I not have more understanding of how it operates or how to control it Perhaps the rather unwelcome truth is that memory is a factor of one’s DNA!

A recent illustration, for me, of this irritation, was coming across the struggles between Denmark and Germany over which country in the 19th century owned Schleswig – Holstein. At once I knew there was a famous and humorous quote of Lord Palmerston on the matter, but was unable to pull it, in its entirety, out of my memory. A biography of Lord Palmerston provided the answer:

“The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated, only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad – and I who have forgotten all about it!”

We now know rather more! But I confess it was news to me that the two countries had gone to war over the territories not once but twice. Both were Duchies that for centuries had owed fealty to the Danes but that did not suit the Prussians.

Not, I hasten to say, as evidence of boredom, I have also read recently Lars Swenson’s “Philosophy of Boredom”. The actual trigger was a ‘Thought for the day’ piece on the radio which not only appeared to challenge the Head of the Anglican Church, but more interestingly promoted the value of boredom as an antidote to the constant external stimulation inherent in modern day living. As WH Davies wrote:

‘What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare’.

Or in the words of ‘Winnie the Pooh’, aka AA Milne:

“Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering”.

A discussion about Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the radio not only threw light on the man and his religious and political views, but also provided a ‘potted’ history of religion in Germany post Bismarck and in particular in the Nazi years that followed later. To use a word often thrown at me, in the interests of triangulation, I turned to my only owned serious history of this period in Germany.

Germany 1866-1945 by Gordon Craig for the Oxford History of Modern Europe which was published in 1978 and runs to nearly 800 pages has only one mention of Barth, one paragraph about Bonhoeffer and only six pages on religion prior to the nineteen thirties. The obvious question is why? Since it appears that a key part of Hitler’s success was in getting the bulk of churchgoers ‘on side’ how is it in chapter XVI we read so little about this crucial issue? Is it adequate that one has to turn to Diarmaid MacCulloch to get better coverage?

However, I digress from what I see as the really important point. That is that, historians are no more capable than ordinary mortals of managing their own prejudices on how they see the world they are describing, even when ‘hard’ evidence emerges of the recent past, as it invariably does over time, or in many societies, the setting out of unwanted views. However interesting and good histories and biographies strike one as being, never be too trusting!

Theodor Fontaine

I have in mind to share soon a poem I enjoyed greatly when first hearing it, though I find quite hard to describe, because it is both comic and serious. Its author was a man called Theodor Fontaine who, like most of us, had a friend. In this case his name was Theodor Mommsen. Given the oddity of that name I was unable to resist following through on the matter. The Mommsen family deserves, and no doubt will get, further comment from me, but in the meantime the poem below seems appropriate.

A song in Autumn by Theodore Mommsen

Clouds gather, treetops toss and sway;
But pour us wine, an old one!
That we may turn this dreary day
To golden; yes, to golden!

What if the storm outside destroy
Alike Christian and heathen?
Nature must sweep the old away
To bring on a new season.

What if some aching dread we feel?
Lift glasses, all, and ring them!
True hearts, we know, will never quail
Whatever fortune brings them!

Clouds gather, treetops toss and sway;
But pour us wine, an old one!
That we may turn this dreary day
To golden, yes, to golden!

Autumn has come, but never fear,
Wait but a little while yet,
Spring will be here, the skies will clear,
And fields stand deep in violets.

The heavenly blue of fresh new days
Oh, friend, you must employ them
Before they pass away. Be brave!
Enjoy them; oh, enjoy.

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