Wildlife adjusts to the season

Perhaps the most interesting events of this week relate to discussions on the Pasture Fed site. Clause 41 of the Agricultural Bill is generating considerable concern not least in term of what measurements can meaningfully be used to judge the success of agro-enviromental measures – such as the new stewardship schemes. Incidentally, we have had no updates on our application. A second line of discussion is about what grazing practices are best suited to reduce parasite problems on pastures. Finally, a last discussion on how to overwinter cattle outdoors.

Hopes that we would have rain towards the end of the week have not so far been realised. This has assisted the movement of a significant weight of farmyard compost into the farmhouse gardens. It has also meant the field mulched last week has now been thoroughly harrowed. Nights have been clear, if chilly, and since light pollution is low, the night sky has been a sight to be enjoyed. An odd feature of this week has been the colours of both the moon and sun – orange-red for the moon and blood-red for the sun at both rise and setting.

Tupping in 3 weeks

Tupping will start in 3 weeks, and with the ewes separated into two flocks, a choice has to be made as to which of our six rams to use. Once tupping starts, we are going to need four pastures and that is likely to be a challenge unless we bring the cattle in after their TB re-test on the 24th of November.

Two new calves arrive

Concerns about our bull have eased. He seems to have recovered from his shoulder injury but the other concerns I shared last week remain. This week has brought us two new calves, one female and one male. This means we still have potentially another 7 calves to come. All this has implications for housing. Subject of course to TB results, we have now reached our target number of 30 for cows and will for the first time have heifers for sale. At present we have 71 of our pedigree traditional Hereford cattle.

Wildlife adjusts to the season

Wildlife on the farm is clearly adjusting to the season. The moorhens are back on the lawn pecking windfalls, there are increasing signs of rats moving out of the ditches, spiders are coming into the house and jackdaws have sadly returned to the garden bird feeder. The sight of hedgehogs is particularly good news because their main predator is the badger and we definitely don’t want them on site. Little evidence of foxes for the moment but then there is plenty of food available to them. Unlike many of our neighbour’s, wasps have not been a problem, but I think we have hornets back on the farm. Despite their size, hornets are not nearly as aggressive as their smaller relatives. Sadly, though there are mallard ducks on the brook, the large scrape has still too little water in it that there has been no sign of geese returning.

We are still eating raspberries, and of course apples, but I am told the tomatoes are all but finished both in taste and number. Though our strawberries did well last year we are replacing them next spring with different varieties.  While other gardens may see the planting of broad beans and garlic, being in a frost pocket rules that out for us.

In the house, our large wood burner is back in action which means at least two rooms are warm(ish) – the kitchen with the AGA and the ‘snug’ that features in the publicity photos of the Archers. Upstairs is a very different story!

Enjoying Chopin

Hearing on the radio some Chopin ‘nocturnes’ I felt driven to finding my copies of various pianists playing his work. After a couple of hours I gave up, exhausted by the effort of scrabbling around on hands and knees and constantly having to change glasses, but then of course in plain view I found the box set of all his works played by Garrick Ohlsson – I did find some pieces played by Eileen Joyce.

I never really ‘bought into’ Chopin until I heard his music played by a would-be piano virtuoso on a cruise ship. He made great play of the step change Chopin introduced to piano composition. Foolishly I asked him to elaborate but, he, on discovering I had never got beyond grade 5, brushed me off as being incapable of understanding!  No wiser, but now easily able to recognise anything by Chopin, and particularly enjoying his solo piano works, I wonder why I never responded enthusiastically to the vinyl versions of the Polonaises’ I bought in 1968 by Peter Frankl on the Turnabout label(Vox).

I attempt to manage my prejudices, but I have to admit that a recent review I read of the latest biography by Sue Prideaux of Nietzsche titled ‘I am dynamite’ gave me much pleasure. It apparently is damming in the extreme of the man, his personality and his attempts to be an original philosopher. The author does let him off one hook. It seems it was his Jew hating sister who provided the ammunition for the Nazi Party to exploit.

The balance between nature and nurture

‘Blueprint’ is a work that has almost the same effect on readers as Marmite. It’s either dreadful and dangerous rubbish or facing up to the reality that hard data has revealed more about the relative balance between nature and nurture in determining what we are. Probably of all the statements that upsets readers, the most upsetting is that environmental factors or ‘nurture’ are themselves largely determined by one’s genes.  The book has been strongly criticised by people on both the right and left of politics and this is understandable given the history of the subject of genetics. After all, in the nineteen thirties both the far left and the far right adopted sickening views that nothing could justify. Indeed, the author Plomin whose credentials are impressive, admits cowardice had held him back from going into print for many years.

At a trivial and personal level, I was delighted to read that linguistic ability is genetic (see last week), like Brussels sprouts! (Plomin page 22 of Blueprint). But be warned, though I think it merits reading, the book is a heavy, if short, read and in parts relies on assertions and statistical computations which are certainly open to dispute.

The Odes of Horace

Finding an ancient copy of the Odes of Horace, not read for many many years, I enjoyed the reunion – I hasten to say in translation – since what Latin I had, has not been used since 1957 – but also because it was Virgil that my examiners required to be studied, rather than Horace. Of all the odes the one I felt not only best fitted what’s happening today, but also was least demanding as far as I was concerned in terms of the allusions within it, I set out below

Carminum liber primus……..better known perhaps as Carpe diem

I have used a modern, rather loose translation which is not very close to the 1747 translation of Dr Philip Francis used in the book I have, which was printed in 1902 under the imprint of The Unit Library’. His son was a notable English Whig politician and probably better remembered than his father. No doubt Latin scholars still argue over how the words might best be translated since even at the time of the Francis translations there was dispute as to whose was best.

“Leuconoë, don’t ask, we never know, what fate the gods grant us,
whether your fate or mine, don’t waste your time on Babylonian,
futile, calculations. How much better to suffer what happens,
whether Jupiter gives us more winters or this is the last one,
one debilitating the Tyrrhenian Sea on opposing cliffs.
Be wise, and mix the wine, since time is short: limit that far-reaching hope.
The envious moment is flying now, now, while we’re speaking:
Seize the day, place in the hours that come as little faith as you can.”

It appears in Book 1 Ode XI

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