I’ve been sitting in my office watching snow fall. Work outside came to a halt because I am my own boss and there’s no imperative to do any planting. According to the local forecast, the next planting window is early next week when local temperatures will have risen to just under ten Celsius.
Can’t do anything about my bees at present, I intend to leave the hives alone until the weather goes above fifteen Celsius. They don’t need feeding at present as there is plenty of Gorse, Heather and Ivy around the area whenever it gets warm enough for them to forage. The meadow is full of dandelions and daisies too, and I’m keeping a weather eye out on how the Yellow Rattle seeds I sowed in November are doing.
Then there are ten silver birch whips to go in, a ‘whip’ being a small tree between two and four feet tall sold as a bare root sapling. As trees go this is the cheapest way to buy them. We shelled out twenty five Euros for this batch, and like our new proto privet hedge, they will be planted by sticking a spade twelve inches vertically into the ground, levering forward, dropping the ‘whip’ in roots first before removing the spade, leaving the soil to close in around the roots. No need to dig holes, all you need do is drop a little soil on top and lightly stamp down before adding water. Watched our landscapers doing this for our new hedge, and they managed a twenty yard stretch at one whip per foot in less than five minutes.
New flower bed in the yard is almost ready for planting. Another two barrowfuls of soil and wood for the base, then cover with about six inches of topsoil and compost mix, and hey presto, we’re ready to transplant some Azaleas which will hide the gas tank. Picked up some bulbs corms and rhizomes yesterday to add a splash of Summer colour to that corner of the premises, so, weather permitting, we’re good to go.
Notwithstanding, all that is for when the weather warms up next week. Hopefully before the March winds start blowing. We were lucky to have a mild February, which allowed us to get ahead of the game in some aspects,
Regarding the ongoing saga of one of our drains, I’ve tracked down a problem and fixed it myself. During our building works last year, the builders went over one of our drainage inspection hatches with their machinery and crushed it, unfortunately their ‘fix’ blocked off a five inch soakaway drain. Something that didn’t become apparent until Winter and Mrs S nearly went arse over tip on a puddle of ice the overflowing drain had caused.
So after the snow stopped I poked and prodded and dug around the hatch, using my mini jackhammer to punch a six inch gap in the concreted in inspection well, thus opening up the drain mouth and restoring it’s proper function. Which means that’s that until the next daft Eejit decides to run heavy machinery across my drain inspection covers. Not that I’m going to let them. There’s an access from the field for any machinery of that type, so that is where they’ll have to get in. However for now, we have no more overflowing soakaway drain. No more long ice skids across the yard in the freezing weather.
All this outside activity means I’m not paying much attention to the news and media apart from a grim satisfaction at being proved right on several key issues. Although I have been watching season 2 of Clarkson’s farm on Amazon Prime, which brought back memories of my own families frustrations dealing with Byzantine planning rules in the UK.
There are, I am sad to say, too many people who live in the British countryside who don’t really belong there. And I’m not talking about Jeremy Clarkson. Rather my observations about the personal vendetta against him being waged using the planning regulations by, we are told, just one person.
Having grown up in the English countryside, I am sad to say that there are some people who have never quite moved on from their urban and suburban hyper competitive mindset. The few whose only interaction with their neighbours are arguments via lawyers over hedges and boundaries. The people I’m talking about are those who rarely frequent the village pubs because they felt the locals were too ‘common’. You know the types, the serial complainers. The NIMBY’s or more entertainingly titled and extreme BANANA’s (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). Those who like to think themselves a cut above ordinary folk and tend to look down their noses at their neighbours. Scorpions in human form. I’ve met a few. Unfortunately. They don’t socialise with their neighbours over the garden fence, they have ‘dinner parties’. Social climbers all, they will not pitch in for their neighbours unless there is something in it for them alone. Never happier than when they have done someone else down, they hide behind high Leylandii hedges and don’t care whose light they block. Sine Nobilitate the lot of them.
This is the kind of person who has it in for Clarkson and his attempts to diversify. But he’s just the most high profile of farmers suffering from the deeply personal ways some people use the planning rules and local politics to interfere and prevent any kind of rural development, thinking that any alteration to anything anywhere near them will devalue their property. They are wrong of course, because if the area becomes depressed because no one is allowed to make any money, then the communities that these people thought they were buying into will gradually die, and the value of their property will likewise suffer.
Clarkson I’ve always had a soft spot for, as he’s an entertaining buffoon who does try to do what he’s told is a good thing. Although I can’t say the same thing for the people trying to take him down. However, they may well succeed if local politics does lead to him selling up and moving out of the district, but theirs will be a Pyrrhic victory. Their loss. No farm shop with really fresh local produce, no good local restaurant where people can dine on locally produced food while enjoying a pleasing Cotswold view.
I’ve heard people argue that such enterprises ‘take trade’ from other local businesses. However, as someone who has watched the decline in rural life from the 1970’s onwards, my own observation is that small local businesses need other businesses to cross pollinate with. One successful business always generates passing trade for it’s neighbours. It’s a simple equation; Increased trade volume=new business=money=jobs=prosperity. Strangle trade and everyone loses eventually. Something the NIMBY’s don’t seem to understand.
Of course Oxfordshire Council are complaining that Clarkson’s Farm series 2 gives a misleading picture of their conduct. From first hand experience with the planners and NIMBY’s, I can tell you that how they are portrayed is not misleading, it’s bang on the money.
Maybe Clarkson made a rod for his own back by just bulling ahead with some schemes to make his farm profitable, but that doesn’t justify the response. UK and Irish Farmers are already under pressure to diversify, and they should be allowed to adapt to circumstances, seek new markets and provide goods and services. Not be hamstrung by rules meant to stop developers covering the countryside in concrete. Which is what will happen when the stewards are finally driven from the land.
Anyway. The mountains have been spectacular today when the snow cleared. I swear I could see the pyramidal peak of Croagh Patrick, the air has been so crystal.