For this week at least, all seems well in our little patch of England.
The world outside is green, with waterfalls of white from the blossom of the May trees. The ground has been firm enough for the tractor to be used, the animals seem well and contented, and mild progress continues to be made with bureaucracy.
Just to keep us on our toes and satisfy themselves, we are to have an inspection to see whether we did actually use our Natural England Capital Grant money as agreed. There should be no problems; as I have frequently remarked to the world in general, without that money we would not have been able to turn this abused and neglected patch of England back into this oasis of nature living happily and sustainably alongside a working farm.
Lambing is still not quite finished – four ewes have still to lamb, but otherwise some 140 ewes and their lambs are happily grazing in the three designated fields, all whom have now been sprayed with a homeopathic nosode against Orf. The next task is to vaccinate all the lambs against clostridial. For the moment our live lambing ratio is around one to one-seventy which is pretty good going.
For the ewes, the important thing we now have to watch out for is fly strike, and then think about shearing – it will, after all, be June very soon.
For the moment all seems well with the suckler herd, even with an impromptu visit to the island on the scrape by two of the younger members of the herd! One of our eldest animals is showing signs of a birth soon to come. We expect up to ten calves during the period June to September. A handful of calves need clostridial vaccination but otherwise, so long as we ignore thinking about our yearly TB test which will take place in early September, the path ahead looks peaceful – famous last words!
Worries about grass are, for the moment, not high on our agenda. Indeed 4 fields have already been topped with a view to improving growth. Obviously, we have earmarked certain fields for haylage, and this year we shall hope to take at least two cuts in order we do not have to buy in so much fodder in the winter. Thinking of this years’ experience with finding organic and bedding straw we aim to pre-order plenty for early delivery.
While it is getting late in the year to spread compost, some fields need it badly, and together with the enormous amount to come out of the barn we look as if we have enough for quite a while to come.
One event to record is that Andy the postman who after 34 years in the service and 17 years working our round has now retired. Always cheerful, helpful, tolerant of our dogs and grandchildren, he goes with our very best wishes. Steve is welcomed into our world as Andy’s replacement and the dogs, who with Andy’s training continue to enjoy a biscuit on the round each morning, are already clear that he will do well with us!
Two of our friends from last summer’s wwoofing, the French agricultural students Cherine and Soukaina, shared with us their excitement at being singled out because of their work with organic agriculture to meet the Prince of Wales when he visited their institute in Lyons – and to take photos on their phones so that we could enjoy the moment to!
With yet another week spent mainly on my back ‘trying’ to get better, aside from two excursions into Birmingham to see the chiropractor, there has been plenty of time to listen to music, ruminate and read while enjoying nature – largely vicariously.
It is rare in a novel to start with workman doing a task that still goes on today – the task of keeping the flow running in the great sewers under London – although in this novel they then come across a major blockage caused by the bodies of sixteen murdered men!
The setting is 1386 and the story teller is John Gower, fellow poet and friend of Geoffrey Chaucer. The book is called ‘The Invention of Fire’ and is the second in a series of which the first was ‘The Burnable Book’. The author is Bruce Holsinger one of those rare writers who possess both great academic knowledge and the skills of a good story teller. Don’t allow yourself to be put off by the start; the story is both gripping and instructive. Richard II was indeed badly misrepresented by Shakespeare.
It has been a great pleasure to learn that the grandchildren are finding Arthur Ransome and Eleanor Nesbit as exciting and thought provoking as I did so many years ago. It seems that the early adaptations for film and TV are excellent also. Arthur Ransome was of course not just the author of the sequence of books headed by ‘Swallows and Amazons, but also, his second wife was the former secretary to Trotsky, all of which still leaves Ransome a man with mysteries regarding his role, if any, vis a vis the Russian revolutionaries.
It has been, for me at least, a good week for music on the radio. A Mahler symphony which almost convince me that he was truly great, a Bruckner symphony which evoked no emotions whatsoever, and Hayden’s 3rd piano concerto which seemed to be the music of paradise. Before I bore on about Haydn let me also admit to listening to the ‘Best of the Beach Boys’ on my Walkman as well as authentic Fados from Portugal and, for some obscure reason, retuning as I do so often, to Canteloube’s ‘Songs of the Auvergne’.
But the highlight of the week is the complete set of Hayden’s piano sonatas played by Ekaterina Derzhavina – pieces that over the years I have so often attempted to master on the piano myself. In her notes, Ekaterina, unwittingly, provides an explanation of why Haydn is the composer you can turn to at all and any times. She regards him as being able to be all the things other composers may seem to be masters at and comparisons are made with Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.
The week began with that kind of idyllic weather we experience so rarely it can be truly appreciated. We have lived in countries where for weeks one woke to blue skies, warmth and balmy air – it’s just not the same as when you have a day like that in England. Then, before the heat has gone the smell of rain on hot dry earth or as our eldest grandchild pointed out, the experience of petrichor!
But before the week was out, the temperature had dropped 16 degrees, and yet this was just taken in our stride and life goes on. Happily, before the weather turned, it was Anne’s birthday and though I was not up to being present for all the festivities, the house was full of the love and good humour of a strong and caring family. How fortunate we have been – married in a few weeks’ time for 54 years and still as important to each other as we were in 1964…
That’s not my age; it’s just not true.
My heart is young; the time just flew.
I’m staring at this strange old face,
And someone else is in my place!
My body’s not in disrepair.
I’ve not much grey in my brown hair.
I sometimes feel a little tired
But go for jogs when I’m inspired.
This old age thing is not for me.
Concessions given, prescriptions free.
I’ll just pretend I’m in my prime.
To age too fast would be a crime.
I’m just not ancient in my head.
It’s still so long till I am dead,
So please don’t see me in that way.
I’m staying young, if that’s OK.