“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
Last week, while waiting for Anne, rather than watching rooks, I found myself staring at high hedges which had little white flowers and, rather than the time passing slowly, I found myself, watching with some sympathy, a fly attempting to completely break free from a spider’s web. Around it, other flying insects got on with their business ignoring the minor drama playing out beside them. A part of me regrets not having the patience and knowledge needed to regard oneself as a naturalist. I observe, but make nothing of my observations, though I can share with you, in this part of England, most trees have not shed their leaves as yet, but have taken on, what seems to me, to be an entirely different range of greens, and when the sun shines who could wish to live elsewhere.
On Saturday I had my third ‘jab’ and Anne had hers this week. No doubt the younger, but other vulnerable members, will have theirs soon since the vaccination system seems well organised.
I try to avoid writing too much about the weather, but this week has certainly given us the changeability we know and even, perhaps, love. Midweek we had what passes as dramatic weather for us. Torrential rain, blustery winds and even thunder and lightning, but in between whiles, bright sunshine and relative warmth. All of which means there is little need to comment on the pastures – we had a great deal of rain! The ‘Arctic blast’, as the media described it, was no more than a few days of colder weather, and by the end of the week the winds had once again swung towards the south and west.
Sadly, at the start of the week we lost a rather scrawny lamb but otherwise the stock looks in good shape, despite a late outbreak of ‘orf’. Our hoggets’ on Tuesday, all twelve of them, had their toenails clipped and as necessary, treatment for foot rot.
As regards the fencing programme we are almost there. The fence along the drive has yet to be tackled, but otherwise the massive undertaking is all but complete as you can see from the photographs. Also obvious is how soft the ground is, and how easily it can be churned up. I always reassure myself by thinking of the title of that splendid read ‘The worm forgives the plough’ by John Stewart Collis and substituting the appropriate words. I hasten to confirm that our views on ploughing have not changed and also, I am aware if you cut a worm in half, you do not get two live worms.
In passing, since the photographs include pictures of Will and Jonathon, I want to acknowledge that one of the real features of our small world is the relationships one builds up with neighbouring like-minded farmers and contractors:
Contributors to the Pasture-Fed site recently have been extremely agitated by both an article in the Economist and a document from the Department of Business about the issue of cattle and climate change. The topic of both was of course the effects of cattle on increasing CO2. I refer to this in more detail later but am happy to share with you that the Department for Business very quickly withdrew its document promoting vegetarianism.
As for the article in the Economist, all there is really, is to remind ourselves that if cattle are a problem, then those ’farmers’ who see their activities as being comparable with, let us say making bicycles, and fill their beasts with soya and from antibiotics in order that slaughter weight is achieved as soon as can be; in order to ensure the quickest return on their capital as possible; and who operate on the same basic selling position as the now defunct Woolworths did, which was to rely on small margins but vast sales, should be the targets of climate activists.
The garden still has flowers
As an update, and perhaps correction, to previous comments on the garden, though the predominant colour is now green, a surprising number of plants are still in flower – even one or two hollyhocks. And of course, we have the bright orange and red colours of the pyracanthas – to match this, going along the farm track, prominent on each side are single crab apple trees, one covered in yellow fruit, the other with bright red ones.
It happens every week, but still comes as a shock to either stumble across something new, or realise that in one’s own lifetime, major events happened that at the time just had not registered. An example of the first was discovering that one Jewish sect believed Jewishness can only come from the father, admittedly the numbers are small, but I had never heard of the Karaites. This group also only follows the Tanack, seeing only the scriptures as the true voice of God.
Fairly easy to see comparisons here with what happened much later in the Christian world. Sectarianism seems to be an inevitable part of religion but at what terrible cost. The bombings in Afghanistan are clearly part of a power struggle, but bombing mosques while people are at prayer because they are of a different sect remains incomprehensible.
The second was to read about the massacres of Arabs in Paris in 1961 and 1962; to discover that it was not only in Algeria itself that the French authorities behaved disgustingly, but also that the Paris police chief leading this, was actually an individual who personally had been involved in the transportation of French Jews to the Gas Chambers but, even worse, to realise the depth of French hatred in the higher echelons of their society, of Semitic peoples, still prevailing even after the holocaust. This country may have failed the Windrush generation, but at least did not try to exterminate them.
When it comes to rewriting history, France is up there alongside the best. I assume you have heard that President Macron, in an effort to win votes in rural France, has authorised the netting and piking of some 100,000 plus songbirds a year, despite both the French Council of State and the European Court of Justice having declared this practice illegal.
Seen through the eyes of the mass of the British population, this is not something any civilised society should indulge in. To make it even worse, this comes just after Macron’s declaration at the Conservation Union’s World Congress in Marseille, that he was determined to raise the stakes of biodiversity protection.
I suppose it is because of the coming Climate Conference that the media, even the so-called serious section, has been peddling false science about the role of cattle in the heating of the climate, and the special benefits of increasing the tree coverage. I had believed the methane question had been accepted as bogus, but it is raising its head again.
Even more worryingly, the importance of carbon sequestration by pastures is being seriously undervalued.
Trees clearly sequester more carbon than concrete for example but are nothing like as effective as pasture is for that purpose.
Staying with concrete as a material, its construction, use and destruction all generate vast amounts of CO2.
For me a critical question is who to blame. Most scientists are more than willing to state, even in their areas of specialism, that they only know a small amount of what there is to learn. Even those whose funding comes from vested interest normally make that clear and attempt to be unbiased.
So, if not the scientists, who is left in the frame?
Clearly the media, whose main concern is making money, will inevitably go for the attention drawing headline. That this might be at a cost to society is clearly not their concern. The public also, faced with the choice of personal inconvenience or cost, invariably, like us all, want to have their cake and eat it.
Finally, the politicians. Two recent events show this. President Biden in a balanced senate has to take account of the views of a Democratic senator for fuel rich Virginia in attempting to move matters forward.
At home, leaks from Parliament show acute differences between the views of the Prime Minister and the Treasury ministers over the government’s proposed environmental programme. Of course, at the end of the day, getting re-elected, is the priority of the majority of politicians. One honourable exception I am happy to name was Frank Field.
Enough of this, but still in the area of popular opinion, Albert Ketelby, with a self-incorporated ‘acute’ accent over the second ‘e’ was probably the first millionaire composer. Though in recent years there has been some revival of interest in his work, his name was all but forgotten by the 1950’s. Change in taste or what …. currently I have been listening to Georg Benda on CD, and on Sunday evening watched a showing of a 2017 Prom which included a composition by David Popper. In their day these two composers were regarded as being among the most elite. Today only a company like Naxos might record their works.
On a lighter note, the Daily Star and Jeremy Clarkson seem to have reinvented themselves. I would be a hypocrite to say that in the past I took Clarkson seriously and knew nothing of the Daily Star other than it could be relied on to peddle sex and rubbish. But judging by what I pick up on the Press Reviews, new ownership and editors seem to have thrown all that out and decided on humour as a selling point.
Certainly, the image of our Prime Minister on holiday and the headline. “Yeti sighted” was both hilarious and sharply political. Clarkson, now declared joint Farmer of the Year by the National Farmers Union, has brought the harsh realities of farming to a vast audience. Farming is not a cosy affair but a challenge to all aspects of one’s life and hopefully the public, and through them the politicians might come to understand this.
Back to slightly heavier matters. Some months ago, I wrote about the point at which English philosophy diverged from that on the continent. I had been reading a book by the French philosopher Etienne Balibar which suggests the division had come through the untranslatability of words between French and English.
On the European side, conscience / consciousness was seen as a perception, for the English philosophers, as an effect or feeling. Balibar referenced Ralph Cudworth, a latitudinarianism, a member of the Cambridge Platonists and supporter of freedom of conscience. It is suggested that Cudworth’s idea of self- consciousness was integrated by John Locke into his own thinking and writing.
In a fit of desire to read for myself Cudworth’s seminal work ‘The True Intellectual System of the Universe’ I bought a facsimile of the original book published in 1742(?). Sadly, I had completely forgotten that scholars of the generation were as at home in Greek or Latin as English. Sadly, I have no Greek and my Latin, if I am to be generous, is rusty in the extreme. I retired defeated but astonished by the breadth of reading and comprehension displayed. Obviously, I disagreed with his conclusions, but my goodness me, I was left feeling sadly ill-educated and envious of a life given over to reading, musing, ability to read a large variety of languages and be part of a circle of like minded, if argumentative thinkers.
I conclude with a poem by Pope which I found so true when attempting to write poetry as opposed to prose – that is not to claim great things of my prose!
Sound and Sense
‘True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
‘Tis not enough no harshness gives offense,
The sound must seem an echo to the sense:
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar;
When Ajax strives some rock’s vast weight to throw,
The line too labors, and the words move slow;
Not so, when swift Camilla scours the plain,
Flies o’er the unbending corn, and skims along the main.
Hear how Timotheus’ varied lays surprise,
And bid alternate passions fall and rise! ‘