“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”

Anne periodically calls me an ‘agnostic non-conformist’. I let it pass because in at least one respect it cannot be denied. Although I have lived off my brain all these years, I have always felt the need to be physically active at the same time. Currently my mobility and will to act has all but deserted me, and I struggle not to feel immensely guilty about this. I feel now I am like something out of the Steve Martin film, The Man with Two Brains, in which, as I remember it, a disembodied brain in a glass bowl was the villain – though I reject the role of villain! So, self-pity out of the way, I think a short rant is necessary before moving on to life… 

How could a reasonably developed democratic country like our own have voted to elect a man as Prime Minister who, putting to one side his lack of any moral sense, be so incompetent as to foul up every enterprise he engages in, and surrounds himself with the brain dead, the yes men and woman, and the fascists. There comes a point when you realise that, deliberately or accidentally, this crew are wrecking the country and that this needs to be shouted from the roof tops.  I am, in general, not a fan of children’s television, finding it lacking in any aesthetic sense, but it does at least, in the longstanding tradition of children’s programmes and stories, have a clearly understood sense of the acceptable. Peppa Pig, now owned by an American company, just would not allow into their world this deeply flawed individual but as his ramble this week demonstrated, he just is a shell of a human being – even if possibly a clever one.  

The farm 

Rant temporarily paused, and turning to here, this week in 2021, though it started rather like the same week in 2010, when temperatures plunged to minus 10 degrees Celsius, which had temperatures during many days below freezing, and quite an amount of snow, tailed off into a rather typical week of unsettled weather, warm mid-week and then chilly, including night-time frosts thereafter. The weather this week in 2010 persisted into the following week. Highlights of that week included selling 10 lambs, lighting the fire in the potting shed, and water troughs needing to have thick ice broken! 

This week obviously has been less dramatic, though three calves have been born, two when the wind was very biting. You may wonder why we have left the barn sides open. This is not though oversight or financial constraints, but because we came to the conclusion that restricting ventilation might lead to ill health among the cattle who, after all, are only in shelter because of the need to protect the ground, both to avoid poaching and to ensure grass for the sheep. 

We do have positive news about our two beehives. All is very well, and they have now been put to bed for the winter. The hives are looked after by friends and neighbours from Stock Green not far up the road from us.  

School holidays, climate & woodland

We lived for some twenty years in the Manchester western suburb of Hale. From our home there, it was about 3 and a half hours’ drive to Aberdaron, where Anne’s mother owned a small bungalow at the top of the hill down into the village. To avoid clashing with others wanting to use the bungalow, we went, subject to asthma, each Easter and autumn weeks. Our children’s childhood memories include being dressed in their red cagoules sitting around a bonfire eating their lunch as the snowflakes fell. Still, that is irrelevant to the point of this digression. We always, snow or no snow, drove cross country over the Berwyn’s down into the then, slate town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.  

Crossing the mountains stood out not just because of their bleak character, but because of the nonstop operation of the Forestry Commission – planting trees, felling trees and draining the land to enable more planting. Visits to moorland Scotland saw more of this activity.  

How the pendulum has swung. Exploring the Climate Council Reports has been very interesting – not solely for their condemnation of Australia. But on that site, the table below sits in a photograph.  

This bar graph shows two things in particular – the value of wetlands in carbon storage and the limited value of forests in this regard. 

What is not highlighted is that trees have a limited life, especially the type of tree once beloved of the Forestry Commission, which at the end of their lives release back into the air all the stored carbon dioxide.  

What is truly amazing is the way in which politicians are so slow to adjust their thinking and policies to well established facts. So, at PMQ, on Wednesday, our leader was still banging on about the value of, and need for, reforestation.  

Should he in fact have been arguing this in the interest of the flora and fauna that is part of a diverse woodland, I for one would have cheered him on.  

The reverse was true of course, ignorant of the life cycle of trees, of individual species and the years it would take for them to make any impact on the reduction of carbon dioxide.  

The ongoing destruction of the Amazon rain forests represents a triumph of greed over all else, and the agreement reached on ceasing deforestation is laughably weak but let’s make the argument for the real evils of the activity.  

Ruskin

A goodly number of years ago I bought some books on drawing for one of the girls. At the same time, I acquired a three-volume book by Ruskin entitled the ‘Stones of Venice’. Never fully read to be honest, but I did – and this was before the internet as a source of general information existed (to me in any case) attempt to discover more about a man who was obviously a force in late Victorian society.  

Inevitably, even in those days, his attitude towards women, was remarked upon.  

These memories came back to help me when attempting to answer the question raised last week about the cultural shift between the 18th and 19th centuries as regards women.  

Despite the anthologies, women in even greater numbers wrote poetry in the 19th century, but it had become rather different. It was now much more sentimental.  

Casting about for possible reasons for that, I came across a university paper which came up with a suggested answer that I ought to have thought of myself.  Allowing myself to get side-tracked so easily by the vast number of issues that dominated that century, I had ignored the obvious.   

Leaving aside the notion of the family set by Victoria and Albert, the century saw the explosion of the middle class, the ‘my home is my castle’ – the possibility of privacy – an idea which was very much British, there was a significant shift in the relationship and roles between men and women of this class. Increasingly the wife became the ‘little woman at home’. It was the period when bowdlerising of Shakespeare took place. Sadly, it appears a myth that piano legs had to be clothed since leg was a word to be avoided! 

In previous centuries women had often been regarded as lacking attributes only found in men. Indeed, the churches supported this notion wholeheartedly. Ruskin however came up with a new approach. Men were basically immoral, and it was the role of women to uphold morality.  

These sentiments are expressed in the ‘poem’ that is attached as a photograph for those strong of stomach. It sits in the appendix as issued on blue card. The identity of MCMR is unknown even to the British Library which holds the card.  

And now confirmation of what we all assumed: Amazon are quoted as saying that when more than 75% of workers are meeting their target, targets are increased. So, if workers work too slowly, they face losing their job – but if they work too quickly, they face being made to work even faster.   

And this approach is replicated in relations with suppliers – the more you meet targets, the more demanding the targets get. How is it we, as a species still think we can have it all, at no cost to suffering elsewhere? 

Sadly, I discovered an almost unbearable quote. I cannot imagine that there is anybody who is unaware that American government policy was for a period one of genocide – the going rate for an Indian scalp was of the order of 75 cents or 1 dollar for a number of years. But by the 1890’s I had believed matters were slightly better, but the ‘Wounded Knee’ massacre of that year refutes that notion. I quote in full:  

“We had better, in order to protect our civilization…wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the earth,” wrote South Dakota newspaperman L. Frank Baum, the future author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in response. And while all this went on, the world looked the other way, as it did with the activities of Stalin and Hitler.  

There can be no doubt why Republican’s resist attempts to change the history curriculum to throw some light on their past. And this is not throwing stones from inside a greenhouse, the many awful aspects of our past are routinely thrust in front of us, as evidenced by Prince Charles in Barbados on Tuesday. 

But of course, not all Americans thought in that very Trump like way, and alongside these horrors, there coexisted writers and poets of the highest order. I quote one such poet below.    As so often, I can only print a part of a poem that I greatly enjoyed. I hope you may want to track it down to read the complete poem of four parts.

A canto from ‘Wild Peaches’ by Elinor Wylie  


The autumn frosts will lie upon the grass  
Like bloom on grapes of purple-brown and gold.  
The misted early mornings will be cold;  
The little puddles will be roofed with glass.  
The sun, which burns from copper into brass,  
Melts these at noon, and makes the boys unfold  
Their knitted mufflers; full as they can hold  
Fat pockets dribble chestnuts as they pass.  
  
Peaches grow wild, and pigs can live in clover;  
A barrel of salted herrings lasts a year;  
The spring begins before the winter’s over.  
By February you may find the skins  
Of garter snakes and water moccasins  
Dwindled and harsh, dead-white and cloudy-clear. 

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