Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.
Navigation
Tuesday
Jul252017

25 JULY 2017

So follow me follow,

Down to the hollow,

And there we will wallow,

In glorious mud.

This big girl has just had her breakfast and is now attending to her beauty treatment. Just because she is due to farrow in about a week’s time, does not mean she allows herself any slipping of standards. When she emerges from her bath she looks like a primeval beast auditioning for a part in Game of Thrones. Her two sisters are in the paddocks beside her and have between them we now think 18 piglets. It’s difficult to tell because the piglets are small enough to melt through the stock fencing that is supposed to separate them. Besides which the grass in their paddocks is extremely long and until they emerge near the lane you can only hear them but not see them. 

There was an item on the news last week which caught my attention. Apparently the relentless increase of longevity in the UK seems to have stalled. My immediate reaction to this was ‘thank god for that.’ On the Today program however some hapless spokesperson was berated by the interviewer as if civilization itself was threatened by the news. It reminded me of the eruption of the Icelandic volcano bringing aviation to a halt, and a BBC journalist demanding of the geology professor ‘What’s to be done?’ The professor, for an instant non-plussed by the crassness of the question, then replied ‘It’s a volcano.’

The underlying premise of both journalists was that nature is something to be brought under control, dominated, brought to heel. This is not a view I subscribe to. I’m all for medical interventions if a quality of life can be maintained, but just as no pleasure in life is worth giving up for an extra two years in a nursing home, so if all greater longevity means is more suffering, what is the point? Can any agricultural production method be justified that permanently denies the livestock the right to exhibit natural behaviour. See above picture. (And don’t even think of telling me that we are morally obliged to produce more and more food to produce an infinitely large population.)

See you soon

Tom

Tuesday
Jul112017

10 July 2017

The calves in the picture arrived today from another organic farm, and are part of a long term experiment in cooperation with another producer whereby he will sell us surplus calves and we will finish them for sale in the butchery. These ones are twelve weeks old and should be ready in a couple of years.

The Hadza, or Hadzabe, are an indigenous ethnic group in north-central Tanzania, living around Lake Eyasi in the central Rift Valley and in the neighboring Serengeti Plateau. The Hadza number just under 1,000. They are one of the very few hunter gatherer peoples still in existence. This very existence is threatened by encroaching land clearance for farming, tourism and the lure of ‘civilization.’ They featured in Dan Saladino’s Food Programme over the last couple of weeks. Described as always hungry but never starving, scientists are becoming entranced by the sheer number of bugs that live in their guts. There is evidence that seems to suggest a connection between the huge variety of foods the Hadza eat and the complete absence of many western diseases that keep the NHS so busy. The obvious rejoinder to this is that the Hadza die so young from other things that they don’t have time to succumb to the diseases of Western excess. It was an interesting programme and asked more questions than it answered. Nevertheless, so many diseases seem to result to some extent from bad diet that I wished them well in their research – anything that leads to a realistic prospect of spending less money on the NHS has got to be a good thing. (Don’t forget that when the NHS was started, they forecast that the cost of it would diminish as the nation’s health improved.) I also wish the Hadza well – they seemed nice people.

Which brings me seamlessly onto the humble blackcurrant, of which we grow quite a few, but sell hardly any. Blackcurrants contain eight times the anti-oxidants contained in that bland American import the blueberry. They also make the most wonderful jam and are exquisite in blackcurrant crumble. Both of these delights contain sugar, which as such is unknown to the Hadza.  Sweetness however is something they crave and an important part of their diet is honey when they can get a hold of it. Apparently they will absolutely stuff themselves with up to 15000 calories at a sitting! They are certainly in no position to criticize me for eating jam or crumble. We also are harvesting gooseberries, and raspberries and possible red currants later in the week. It’s a short season – make the most of it.

Finally, in yet another incredible demonstration of synchronized birthing, two of the sows on the farm walk have produced piglets. It’ll probably be a week or two before they come close enough to the lane for you to actually see them, but in the meantime, Hein has posted a video on Facebook.

See you soon.

Tom

Tuesday
Jul042017

04 July 2017

Thanks to the customer who sent me this picture of the ducklings on the dam – I’ve no idea how he marshalled them into such a disciplined line. I rarely see more than one at a time. He took several more photos while out on the farm walk – all of which demonstrate that even on mizzly July afternoon, there’s a lot of interesting things to see.
 
On a recent visit to London Patricia and I visited the Whole Food Store, an American owned outlet which (amongst other things) sells a lot of organic product. We were seriously impressed – the variety and volume of lines was amazing. It turns out that we weren’t the only ones to be impressed – Amazon have just announced their intention of buying out the Wholefoods chain (460 stores for £10.8 billion). A few years ago Amazon sold only books, and those at a loss. Now you can scarcely buy anything anywhere without the feeling that Amazon have been involved somewhere in the transaction. The Grocer magazine recently featured our farm shop describing us as one of the very few truly independent shops left in the country. It was a flattering article – but it’s a bit like being the last of the Mohicans.  Sometimes you feel the tide of history is against you.
 
That said, we constantly try to evolve – hardly a week goes by without some new product gracing our shelves or appearing on our menu. And the changing seasons bring constant change to the farm walk. We hope it makes a visit to Ballylagan a unique experience.

See you soon.

Tom.

Tuesday
Jul042017

26 June 2017

Not separating the sheep from the goats, but weaning the lambs from their mothers.
 
I don’t know at what time Jennifer and Hein got up on Sunday morning, but by the time I was fully conscious and stepped outside the door, I was already getting the sounds of cross (that is ‘displeased’ not ‘cross bred’) sheep in glorious stereo. For the first 24 hours after lambs are separated from their mothers, both parent and child are inevitably agitated, and to try and limit the possibility of their breaking out of their respective fields we put them as far apart as the farm allows – roughly 100 metres from our house in either direction. They can probably scarcely hear each other, but we in the middle can hear both. At the time of writing this, more than a day later, both parents and children are calming down and once again concentrating on what sheep do best – eating grass.

See you soon.

Tom.