The photo above is of Urswick church; it was taken by a friend of mine, and gives some feel for the beauties of the area. Nowhere does spring half as well as Furness.

One or two people have commented about spring this year. Because we had a few warm days in February and it’s gone colder now, everybody is beginning to panic. Strangely for the last ten or so years, (I use that measure because it’s the length of time I’ve been involved in Lambing and so really noticed it) it has been common for February to be better lambing weather than March.

But at this time of year, the important plant is grass. I’ve spent a lot of my life tending grass, cosseting grass, making sure it’s happy and perfectly fed. Indeed grass is the core of any livestock farmer’s business.

Actually it’s the core of our environment as well. It’s been pointed out that grasslands store carbon, indeed there’s growing interesting in Carbon sequestration in grassland systems. One reason is that grass locks carbon up below ground in root systems. So scientists are beginning to realise that in some parts of the world, the USA is one of them, you’re better to have grassland to sequestrate carbon than forests. The forests sequestrate their carbon above ground. One forest fire releases the lot. But with grassland, not only does it not burn if grazed properly, but even if it does, only a very small amount of carbon is released.

There is also the major advantage that you get damn all food for people from forests, but grasslands are a source of really high quality protein.
We get all sorts of information suggesting how we might farm in a more environmentally friendly way. The problem is that nobody advising us seems to be interested in looking at the whole picture. So the latest environmentally conscious thing I saw was encouraging livestock farmers to intensify. This is because the animal was ready for the table younger, or produced more milk over less time. Thus the food produced per unit of Co2 released was less. But following that through what it means is that rather than dairy cows grazing, they’d want them housed inside and being fed high energy diets. So we’d plough up the grass (that is sequestrating carbon so beautifully) and plant a lot of maize. Somebody hasn’t thought it out. Indeed you begin to suspect that people are producing the figures to paint the picture they want, with very little regard to what is actually true. You hear a lot about food and greenhouse gasses, (because you’ve got all sorts of food and environmental campaigners with agendas to promote) but far less about planes.

Yet to quote from https://davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/air-travel-climate-change/

“Although aviation is a relatively small industry, it has a disproportionately large impact on the climate system. It accounts for four to nine per cent of the total climate change impact of human activity.”
Yet we were told that one of the perils of Brexit would be a massively reduced number of slots for UK airlines. Actually, looking at it from an environmental point of view, that’s one of the advantages! Something to think about that as you jet off to your next climate change conference!

The effects of the human diet can be seen all over the world. What about the Greenhouses of Almeria. About forty years ago I cycled through the area, or around the fringes of it. It was an arid desert; they used to shoot spaghetti westerns there because it was so dry and barren.

Since then they’ve brought in fully hydroponic systems, grow-bags, chemical fertilisers in the water supply to each plant, and of course, endless greenhouses. So instead of spaghetti westerns, it appeared in the opening scenes of “Blade Runner 2049”.


Apparently the temperatures inside the green-houses can reach 45 degrees Celsius and migrant workers are brought in from Africa and the Middle East because they can cope with the heat better than local Spanish labour. Workers rights are almost none existent,


Yet this place apparently produces more than half of the Europe’s demand for fresh fruits and vegetables. Some people have pointed out that this is the vegan future.

Me, I had to top up the feed hoppers in the parlour during milking. You cannot use an auger when the cows are there because it’s too noisy. So I walked down the exit passage with a couple of buckets of feed to pour them in by hand.
Loitering near the exit were two of the youngest milking heifers. They were obviously pondering whether to go and eat silage, or just to have another snooze. Anyway they watched me go by with interest. When I’d poured the feed into the hopper I turned round to find they’d both followed me down the passage to find out what I was doing. After all, somebody carrying dairy feed has to be a person of interest. One of the joys of working with cattle is their happy curiosity.


But then, don’t talk to the monkey, talk to the organ grinder, try
‘Sometimes I sits and thinks’

As a reviewer commented, “This is a delightful collection of gentle rants and witty reminiscences about life in a quiet corner of South Cumbria. Lots of sheep, cattle and collie dogs, but also wisdom, poetic insight, and humour. It was James Herriot who told us that ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet’ but Jim Webster beautifully demonstrates that it usually happened to the farmer too, but far less money changed hands.

I, for one, am hoping that this short collection of blogs finds a wide and generous audience – not least because I’m sure there’s more where this came from. And at 99p you can’t go wrong!”

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11 thoughts on “Spring?

  1. patriciaruthsusan March 4, 2019 at 11:31 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    Common sense about carbon storage and information about soil conditions and wrong thinking. Also, a book on offer from Jim Webster about South Cumbria and the sheep, cows, and collies.

  2. M T McGuire March 4, 2019 at 11:35 am Reply

    Have you ever read Freakonomics? It’s about pretty much that. It’s made me look at stats completely differently. For example, I heard on the radio recently that watching lots of day time TV is supposed to cause the brain degeneration of dementia patients to happen faster than those who don’t. But people with dementia degenerate at different rates, I mean, look at my Dad 14 years of Alzheimer’s and counting. So, actually, you could turn that on its head and say that rather than TV making these people’s brains degenerate, it might be that, actually, people whose brains are degenerating more quickly, tend to watch more TV. Likewise, watching too much TV isn’t necessarily responsible for people having an unhealthy lifestyle, it’s far more likely that people with unhealthy lifestyles tend to watch more TV because they sit around more?

    It’s all in the way it’s spun. I think Sir Humphrey talks about this somewhere in Yes Minister but I can’t for the life of me find the clip! 😉 Might be the British sausage one.



  3. M T McGuire March 4, 2019 at 11:36 am Reply

    And yes, there’s absolutely NO fucker anywhere who doesn’t have some kind of vested interest joining up the dots. Which might help.



    • jwebster2 March 4, 2019 at 12:45 pm Reply

      I haven’t read Freakonomics but I have read the much older ‘How to Lie with Statistics’
      To quote the old cliche, they’re using the data like a drunk uses a lamppost, for support rather than illumination

      • M T McGuire March 4, 2019 at 9:36 pm

        Mwahahahaaaaargh yeh. Great quote.

  4. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt March 4, 2019 at 6:06 pm Reply

    As someone whose food comes from grocery stores, I always learn something when I read your posts. But, yes, there’s a lot of self-interest in connecting the dots, and little in the way of system-wide connections.

    One of the things I liked about The Martian was precisely those systems, and how everything had to work – and the designers could do it properly, cost aside, because in a tiny system there can be no waste.

    • jwebster2 March 4, 2019 at 6:10 pm Reply

      I’ve not read the book but I can imagine that in that sort of closed system, it will have to be amazingly efficient

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt March 4, 2019 at 6:33 pm

        Add to that that the weight of every single component necessary had to be boosted from Earth – it’s a book with a lot of real science (some of which I am sad to confess I skipped the details of).

        The constraints of hard science are more evident in tiny systems; they should remind us that our own planet is also a closed system.

      • jwebster2 March 4, 2019 at 6:38 pm

        I remember some of the hard science fiction stories from the sixties and seventies which went into that sort of detail, and I think that’s one reason why space opera became so popular 🙂

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