Sunday, 10 December 2017


SNOW! After too many years of snow-free winters it is a white world this morning and its still falling. Other parts of the country have had much greater snow-fall than us but we have enough to satisfy the small grand-children's desperate longing for snow, having never seen it. As I sit at the kitchen table (the unheated office is not conducive to sitting for any length of time!) writing this the falling snow has become thicker and with bigger flakes and is falling in a lovely feathery swirl from a full grey sky so dense that I cannot see across the valley. Our 4 year-old grand-son has already been out and landed a snowball on his dog-walking Granny, to his huge delight!

While we do enjoy the snow the daily farm work has to continue but fortunately the cows are all indoors and the only activity with machines in the snow is to fetch big bales of silage from our yard down the drive and to make sure that the milk tanker can reach us. At the moment that should not be problem but should the snow continue to build up we may have to re-open an old track that does not have a steep slope for the tanker to reach us. Our driveway is on a hill and in the past we have had to tow the tanker up in icy conditions. In the absolute worst-case scenario, which I doubt will occur this time round, we have to dump the milk and insurance has to taken out in case of this. Years ago we were allowed to take the milk out ourselves to the main road in an emergency mobile bulk tank, but this has been forbidden in the last few years due to food hygiene issues and the risk of contamination both of which were extremely unlikely as the emergency tank was as clean, safe and tamper-proof as the big tanks in the dairy on the farm. So, the powers that be would rather we let the milk go down the drain even though the main roads are clear enough for the milk tankers to reach the end of the drive. One of the advantages of living in an area with many dairy farms is that the main roads were always kept as clear as possible in times of severe snow, to allow the milk tankers to get to us all, even if only to entrances to the farms but where we could leave our emergency tanks. Now it is deemed better to waste the milk and rely on the insurance companies to compensate us for the loss of earnings.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Computerised Cattle Ear-tags & Hideous Weather

Walking the dogs one morning recently I found we were being closely watched by one of our neighbours handsome Charolais cattle peering through the leafless hedge at the antics of the dogs who were busy chasing imaginary rabbits along the hedge line.

Today the weather is vile, very blustery with persistent rain being hurled at us as we were working outside. I had to stand for about 15 minutes at the end of our lane to halt traffic as we were moving lambs down the main road with the aid of our trusty sheepdogs and got very cold and damp, not pleasant. After moving the sheep I was then called upon to be the scribe for taking down the ear-tag numbers on all the miking cows. They were given new tags that link to the computer system of the new milking parlour that will record how much milk each cow gives and how much cake she is to have. It is all very clever. All 71 of our milking cows were passed through a crush, tagged and then released into a holding area before returning to their nice dry, clean cattle-shed. With three of us working that was the morning gone.
While we were with the cattle a tree came down near the shed where the Farmer houses his saw-mill...rather conveniently really...but an indication of how very windy it is here today.

The puppies are now reduced in number as they go off to their new homes. Another one leaves us this evening. They are lovely and very jolly but unfortunately they are having to be kept in an indoor pen as they get so muddy after these days of rain. They would much rather be outside watching what is going on.

Saturday, 4 November 2017


Walking around the farm with the dogs each day the seasonal changes are a joy, especially at this time of year when the colours are glowing. Even the shades of green are made more distinctive with the fallen golden russet leaves veiling the mossy banks in our beautiful ancient sunken lane and caught on the spines of the deep green holly leaves that grow under the tall oaks.

Although it is November it is still relatively warm and there are are columns of midges floating in the sunshine. Most os the trees have lost their leaves and I spend much time sweeping away the drifts of golden brown beech leaves that accummulate outside the door to the house and take every opportunity to blow in whenever anyone walks through the door.

The puppies are now almost 8 weeks old and very jolly. I have got homes for them all and they will make a lot of people very happy.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

New Milking Parlour Up & Running

Here is the first cow in the new milking parlour, now fully installed and up and running with the first milking session in it taking place last night. After a very busy, long and stressful day the first cow made her way in and the others followed her lead with a little persuasion from the Farmer & Sons and enticing cake in the went very smoothly and once everyone, the cows and the men are all used to a completely new system it will mean that instead of milking taking 3 hours it will all be done in 1 hour. The new parlour can milk 16 cows at a time instead of only 6 as in the old parlour. It has taken about 7 months for this project to be completed which included the building of a new shed, digging drainage systems, plumbing in the washing systems and all the other mechanisms necessary for milking cows in a herring-bone parlour. I have nothing but admiration for my boys as they have worked hard and long on the project as well as doing all their usual farming activities.

While everyone was enjoying the sight of the cows in the new parlour our old parlour puss-cat was very confused...he was waiting in his usual place in the old parlour and nothing was happening. It will be interesting to see how long he takes to venture near the new parlour and find a place to watch as he always has done.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Storm Ophelia

We have survived Storm Ophelia with nothing more than one tree down across the lane, no electricity for most of the day & a general feeling of being battered. We did not get the full brunt of the storm but it was still uncomfortable. Without any power everyone was anxious about milking the cows but fortunately we do have a generator which is powered by a tractor so that was brought into play in the early afternoon and ran until about 6.30pm when it was learnt that the mains electricity was back on after a phone to a neighbour to find out the situation. Of course there was time when every farm ran a generator as matter of course before mains power was brought out to country areas. Electricity came to Penyrallt only in 1958. I can recall one of our older neighbours, now no longer with us, saying he remembered the sound of humming generators across the valley as each farm started milking every day before everyone was connected to the national grid. Thank goodness we still have to have a back-up power source for the rare occasions like today when the mains system goes down. We have friends who live off-grid and have their own systems of wind turbines and solar panels to run their homes and workshops but none of them have cows to milk. If it wasn't for the milking we may well be off-grid ourselves but the powere needed to run a milking parlour and the cooling of the milk in the bulk tank is too great to be reliant on alternative power generation.
There are reports of serious storm damage across west Wales and many trees came down to say nothing of tidal surges and flooding along the coast.
It is now a beautiful calm, clear morning with sunshine lighting the autumn colours against a blue sky and the rambler rose outside the farm office window is full of fat little sparrows chattering away without being buffeted about by the winds of yesterday.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Call Ducks, Puppies, New Milking Parlour

On returning from an outing on various errands a few days ago the Farmer announced that he had bought me present. Now I'm always slightly suspicious when such things are said as eager anticipation can be dashed by the arrival of a new garden fork or a handful of buckets. However this time my suspicion was mis-placed as what duly turned up were two pairs of call ducks. I've always wanted ducks on the pond and while we have wild mallard making brief re-fuellling stops they never stay stay more than a few hours at most, so to have some tame, hand-reared ducks to live on the pond is lovely. They have settled in very happily and already the mat of weed is receding as a result of their feeding habits. Their duck house is on a small floating island and so they have a good chance of not being caught by Charlie Fox which is usually the doom of poultry not surrounded an electric fence as are all our laying hens. The two drakes are handsome in black and white plumage while the ducks are dressed as usual in discreet shades of tawny & khaki.

The puppies continue to thrive and get jollier by the day. They now bark when I go in to them which is very grown-up and they startle themselves somewhat by it.

Work going well with the new milking parlour and we were discussing how the first 'training' session of the cows will be handled. They have to be shown the new parlour and walked through it a couple of times before theya re actually milked in it so that they can become accustomed to the new building and the new layout of a herring-bone system after the old abreast parlour as well as a different set of noises. Cows are creatures of habit and need to be handled gently and with care in any new scenario.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Puppies, Autumn Arriving

The puppies are now three and a half weeks old so the they are being introduced to solid food. Some are keener than others and have picked up the skill of lapping quite quickly. However,they all paddle through it and then spend the next ten minutes cleaning the food off each others coats. They are beginning to find their feet and lurch around their nest in a drunken fashion trying to locate each other to snuggle up in a warm huddle once again.

Autumn is arriving rapidly, the trees are changing colour and the wind is blowing tides of golden leaves into swathes around the yard. The swallows have not yet left us but no doubt will do so in a couple of weeks and just in time as the temperatures are beginning to drop and the wind has an edge to it. The time for getting out our warm winter coats and gloves is fast approaching.

We are in the middle of calving now and with four or five calves being born some nights the feeding of them takes a lot of the Farmer's time especially as the calves are distibuted through four different sheds. We have just invested in a new calf feeder which has ten compartments each with a teat so each calf gets the right of amount of milk. It is working very well.

After a long and busy summer with the holiday cottage we waved off our last visitors this morning. The cottage is empty for a while now and though I miss having the guests around it is nice to have a break from it. We have had lovely people staying from all walks of life and from all over the country. They discover west Wales with great enthusiasm as it little known...everyone has been to north Wales and Snowdonia or Pembrokeshire & the Gower but few know that the Teifi Valley exists so finding it is always a revelation.
Once the puppies are all off to their new homes in a month or so the Farmer & I are promising ourselves a few days away in someone else's holiday cottage. We have not had a proper break for nearly three years (the three day dash across England in August for a wedding does not really count as a restful break!) and so it will be something to look forward to.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Jack Russell Puppies, Rainstorms & Flooded Fields

Two days ago our little Jack Russell terrier produced six minute puppies. There is nothing quite like getting up in the morning and going out to check a very pregnant dog to find that that she has very efficiently just got with the job all on her own during the night and is proudly settled in her nest with the puppies all clean, fed and content.Dottie is an excellent mother, very protective of her puppies, seeing off the curious labradors with much growling and warning against them taking one more step towards her nursery.

We are in the throes of a torrential rainstorm which has gone almost all night and most of the morning.
I have found that the poor old farmhouse has sprung a leak and I have had to place bowls to catch drips. This happens only very rarely thank goodness! The water running down the yard has been torrential with cataracts pouring off the fields behind the house and down a set of steps giving the appearance of a raging miniature waterfall.
The cattle are miserable in this weather and this morning when after milking, Elder Son opened the gate to let them out to their field they sensibly refused to out prefering to stay in their shed!
We have just returned from our local town and have passed many fields under water where the river Teifi has risen so high as to flood the fields and saw farmers trying rescue sheep from an 'island' in a field and trying to prevent the panicked sheep running into the very fast-flowing swollen river that has covered the area all around them. What a nightmare! (Okay, I know none of what we are experiencing is comparable to what has happened in Florida, Texas and the Caribbean but nonetheless it is very damaging and makes the daily work more difficult and at times dangerous, for both men & livestock.)
Despite the inconvenience of rain on a biblical scale there are compensations such as the perfect and huge rainbow that spread its span across the farm this morning in one of the few moments when the rain ceased and a weak sunshine was able to gleam palely. As I look out now through the farm office window through the now fine smirr of rain the raindrops are hanging like diamonds on the branches of the leggy rambler rose only to slide of the leave with a shiver. With the easing of the rain the birds are starting to sing again and wood-pigeons resume their gentle purring in the trees around the yard. The skies are beginning to clear and there is a hint of sunshine and the raging torrent down the yard is slowing up.