Going outside after the mid-week rain took me straight back to Africa and the marvellous smell from the earth as the dry season ended and the first rains fell. A joy, though of course we could have done with more!
Last week was a busy week on many fronts. For a start, the haylage bales had to be moved from the fields and placed behind the barn. A slow process for several reasons, with only one tractor, the trailer had to be disconnected while the tractor loaded it. Secondly the trailer can only carry 6 bales at a time and finally, all bales had to be checked for bird damage/poor baling and patches applied as necessary. The bales lose all value if not airtight.
The cut had not produced as many bales as we need so we are casting about to decide on which field to be left to grow for a cut in the late summer.
We were anxious to quickly spray all the cut fields both in northern planting time and on a leaf day. All this was achieved by Chris working a long evening after Anne had put the necessary mixture into the filled flow form and the mixture had run through the flowform for an hour. This time round comfrey and nettle ‘teas’ were added to the 500+.
Then, on Monday and Tuesday we welcomed the new WWOOFers who will be with us for seven weeks. Anne-Celine, Soukaïna, Cherine, and Oceane are two pairs of friends; all have woofed before, one pair in Devon and the other in Savoie. They come from three different parts of France, are all engineering students – which covers a far wider range of topics than the word in English – and come from two different ‘ecoles’. All four are here to satisfy course requirements and all will have to write up their experiences at the end of their visit, and have already made themselves very useful indeed…
On Friday, they all had the pleasure of working for the first time with sheep, but not just any sheep of course! All our 500+ sheep were in the barn – the ewes for shearing and the lambs for their second and final vaccination. In true Rush Farm Woofer spirit, all four took the chance to actually have a go at shearing in between their main task was for filling the ‘sheets’ with the cut fleeces. They handled the challenge quite splendidly, coping not just the task but the incredible noise and smell! All this on top of starting their day at 7 am to shed the sheep into their respect groups.
The business park was not neglected last week. The girls did a great job weeding, litter picking and tidying.
Despite the low rainfall the soft fruit this year are/have been excellent. With four picking, Anne quickly found herself faced with bowls of blackcurrants, raspberries, gooseberries and loganberries all needing appropriate action. This meaning, of course, feasting on fresh fruit, juice and jam making. Lunch times as you can imagine, involving a minimum of 8 people to be fed, are another challenge Anne meets every weekday.
Finally, at least as far as the farm is concerned, there have been a number of stock movements in accord with our new policy. There will be more next week and then compost spreading on at least two of the cut fields while more topping is needed on some fields where some thistles survived the first topping.
I have shared with you that I had been listening to Hilary Mantel’s Reith lectures. Her third was largely about a Polish woman who became so involved in her writing she abandoned the world and died of consumption and malnourishment. It was a most haunting story. In the questions that followed the author showed her totally negative feelings about Brexit and had a significant rant against the historical ignorance of British voters.
‘In our time’ concentrated on the 12 volumes which made the book called The Republic written by Plato. Having had Greek philosophers rammed down my throat as an undergraduate and then again when taking my PGCE, or teaching qualification, from a lecturer who hero worshipped Plato, all my prejudices sprang back into life! Of course, the Greek philosophers were important but it always seemed to me that Plato was, to use a modern expression, the godfather of Totalitarianism but then Karl Popper was much more to my taste. The sterility of so much so called philosophical thinking could easily trigger a rant so will say no more.
This week has seen the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Canadian Dominion or Confederation which in the first instance involved three provinces and brought back memories of visiting Alberta and Saskatchewan when they were celebrating the 75th anniversary of joining the Dominion.
As part of this celebration, the BBC has been entertaining the Canadian artillery brass quintet, which reminded me that though there were a number of Canadian authors I had great respect for and soloists and singers, I struggled to think of any Canadian composers of anything other than light music such as Robert Farnon and Percy Faith. A new field to explore!
In truth, I have not listened to much music this week largely because of mood not suiting the choice of music available on the radio. I did enjoy music by Karlowitz who was new to me until recommended by Dennis; on the lighter side, I have still to play Erroll Garner’s Concert by the Sea. I am sure I am not alone in fitting what I listen to with my mood.
In passing I was encouraged by reports that some leading artists including Stephen Hough take the view that classical music should stop obsessing about getting younger listeners and concentrate instead on what these artists see as the ‘natural’ audience for classical music. Interestingly, this thought has been recently echoed by Monty Don in relation to gardening and “young people between the ages of 10-20”. Perhaps having had some exposure to these elements before they were 10, people will re-find these ‘interests’ of their own accord, when they are ready and old enough to find them anew for themselves, and in the meantime, those who are already interested can be ‘catered to’ without the potential ‘emotional correctness’ which seems to bring with it the ever-present guilt and/or rebuke.