Saturday, 24 June 2017

Glorious Hard-working Summer Days, Hay Making, Sheep-shearing & Roses

After an incredibly busy couple of weeks things have calmed down and with the change in the weather everyone is pleased to have got their silage in during the heatwave...thank goodness for air-conditioned tractor cabs! The hot weather even enabled some farmers to make hay, something we have not done for some years as the long periods of dry weather needed have become so rare. The Farmer was called upon by some neighbours to make small bales for their horses. Again, making small bales is not something that we have done for a long while but the old baler (it is probably nearly 50 years old) was brought out of mothballs and worked perfectly.

Shearing the sheep is a job that is best done in warm sumnny weather as the lanolin in the fleeces is soft and the shears glide through the wool easily. Although we have only about 50 ewes the Farmer decided to do them them in two batches partly because it is a hard job and made more tiring by the heat so spreading the exertion needed seemed sensible. The ewes and lambs went back out to the fields considerably cooler and more comfortable than they had been.

While the long hot days were glorious I must admit I retreated into my cool stone farmhouse as I am not lizard enough to enjoy being out in the sun any more than I have to, so any work in the gardens tened to be done first thing in the morning. It is proving to be very good year for the roses. From our farm office I look out onto a marvellous display of the rambler Kiftsgate alongside which is growing the very old Rosa Mundi, the lovely striped rose. In the other parts of the garden I have the erotically named Cuisse de Nymphes which opens its buds in a maidenly blush of pale pink which then becomes a rich cream colour. Tangled through the garden hedge is the very old small purple moss rose Willy Lobb which I imagine was planted here possibly back in the 19th century and is still going strong with its small, rich, royal purple flowers which fade to a soft grey before dropping its petals in a shadowy confetti.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Silage Time

And we're off! The silage harvest has started here at home. Yesterday afternoon the Sons cut 120 acres of grass and today with three wagons they are bringing it all in. The Farmer is on the pit pushing the grass in and at present is keeping up with it as the loads are coming from a couple of miles away so give him time between each drop to keep on top of it though it may get more diffucult once the trailers are hauling from the home fields. Last evening I took a picnic supper out to the field during mowing and they had a welcome break from sitting in a tractor cab. Today will be a day of sandwiches snatched at intervals between loads. Twice this morning I have been out to ask the drivers of the milk tanker and a cattle-cake delivery lorry to park their vehicles in a certain way to allow the tractors and trailers to get by as they are coming through the yard...it could cause great difficulties if the tractors and lorries are blocking each other's way! It is a good time with all this activity and as long as the weather holds everyone will be happy, though we are having a very fine drizzle passing over at present but things are brightening up as I write.
When I take food out to the fields the dogs love to come too and need no encouragement to leap into the back of the car. They adore rushing throught the cut grass catching smells and chasing but never catching, the swallows across the rows. Above the swathes of grass tens of red kites fill the air, so many nowadays after the years of scarcity; they and the buzzards are after carrion in the form of unfortunate small mammals that have been caught by the mowing machines, it is feast-time for them.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Bee Swarm, Birdsong & Spring Glory


'A swarm in May is worth a load of hay.'
At just afer 7'o'clock this morning I was woken (yes, shamefully,I was still in bed!) by a phone call from Younger Son to say the bees were swarming in the garden. I immediately donned wellies and a coat over my nightie and went to find the Farmer who, fortunately, was not too far away. He promptly changed into his bee-keepers overalls and went to place a collecting hive near the swarm. The swarm had not travelled more than a few yards from their original hive and so were easy enough to catch. The Farmer is very pleased as he is trying to build up our bee stocks especially since he discovered that one of our hives had been taken over by mice during the winter and had killed the colony. The photo shows the Farmer standing back to view the collecting box and to make sure the bees were going into it. He will keep an eye on it throughout the day and when they are settled he will move it to a more conveneint place and build up a new hive.


The silage season has started with the Sons working bringing in silage for farms in the district through their contracting work. Our own silage harvest will take place in few days time I think. The grass is growing well & is as high as a labrador's eye especially since we had those several days of rain last week. The view over the valley is a real patchwork of colours once fields are mown varying in shades of green, yellow where the grass has been cut and rich brown where ploughing has already taken place.
The hedges are thicker in outline now that they are in full leaf and are full of flowers and busy with the little birds nesting and darting in and out of the tangle of twigs feeding their young. There is constant squabbling chatter from the sparrows and frequent placid cooing of the wood pigeons, then a raucous clatter from the jackdaws who are nesting in the eaves of one of the barns & the swallows keep up their chittering as they swoop in & out of the farm buildings. It is all wonderful. The oak trees are very beautiful at the moment with their fresh golden green young leaves and the may blossom is out all around the farm and there are hints of bright gold appearing in the laburnum hedges that surround our top fields.



Thursday, 11 May 2017

Spring Field Work & Gulls

While spring is upon us in all its glory the ash trees are still stark against the sky. There is the merest hint of fresh leaves begining to blur the skeletal outlines but it will be quite a while yet until the trees are in in their full plumage. A neighbour who called in the other day was making doom-laden mutterings about ash die-back but there are the faint signs of life that hopefully makes that scenario unlikely.

Of the two ewes left to lamb one produced a set of twins yesterday so just the last one left and she surely cannot go on much longer. The ewes and lambs of the main flock are now out in the fields enjoying what have been days of wonderful golden weather though today it has become grey and cold after a lovely start when I was out with the dogs at 7 o'clock this morning.

On the farm tractors have been busy ploughing and harrowing in preparation for the seed to be sown today. The birdsong has had a bass rumble of tractors across the fields and flocks of gulls have arrived from the coast about 15 miles away, to glean from the turned earth meals of worms and grubs making a change from their usual diet of seafood. It is extraordinary how the gulls know when ploughing is taking place, they arrive within a very short time of the the first furrows being turned and spend the day following the tractors in a noisy flurry of white.


The view across the valley has transformed in the past week into a patchwork of green and pale yellow where the fields of some of our neighbours have already had their first cut of silage taken off. The cut fields stand out in stark contrast to the lush green of those fields still growing though in week or so the mown pastures will start to have a green haze over them as the new regrowth emerges.



Monday, 1 May 2017

May Day


May Day morning has dawned cold grey and damp here in west Wales. I had hoped to get a picture of may blossom but our may trees are still covered in tight little buds as you can see, however our apple trees have beautiful blossom, so I do have some May Day blossom.
May Day was a significant day in the old country calendar. It was the day when fairies & witches were said to be active so twigs of hazel & rowan were brought into the house to protect it from evil spirits. In Wales on May Eve the country people used to go out into the woods to fell a birch tree which, at dawn, was then set up as the Maypole and decorated with ribbons and flowers for the 'dawns y fedwen', the 'dance of the birch'. The day was then given over to games and merriment with the festal enjoyment kept up with metheglin, a spiced honey wine. I met a Finnish friend last night who told me that in Finland May Eve is still celebrated with a big party.

May is the month when we usually shear the sheep but not until the weather warms up. We still have two ewes left to lamb, they must have been the very last to have been tupped, and they must surely 'pop' before many more days have gone!

Silage has already started to be cut in the area and the Sons will be out later this week cutting for one of our neighbours. Despite the cold we are pleased to see the rain it has been so very dry for weeks now and we need the grass to start growing. Once the temperatures rise it will romp away and we should have a good first cut silage crop.
Our dairy heifers were put out to grass this morning and their joyous bellowing could be heard ringing around the valley and in the field one can hear the satisfying crunch of the eager consumption of fresh grass after a long winter of of a diet of silage and hay.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Sheep & Sheepdogs, Litter in the Countryside

This morning we brought the sheep in to inspect the lambs and dag the ewes. Dagging is the technical term for the cleaning up of sheep's dirty bottoms by removing the heavy clumps of mucky wool that occur! Moving ewes and lambs is always somewhat fraught even with the help of two very good collies. The lambs don't understand what going on, the ewes are anxious to keep their lambs with them and not allow the dogs too close and all in all it can get very chaotic. However, once the dogs, the people and the sheep all decide they have the same agenda it suddenly becomes straightforward and the sheep are funnelled into the yard through a series of gates and all is well.

The greatest asset to anyone keeping sheep, or cattle for that matter, is a good sheepdog and we are very fortunate to have our old lady Molly and her trainee Judy. Molly, a black & white collie is 11 years old and knows the ropes but Judy, a lovely red & white collie, is only 2 and still learning. She is keen and sharp and devoted to the Farmer and is coming on well but needs to learn a bit more yet before Molly can retire into graceful old age sleeping in the sun all day, after all she does run the farm!

Recently there has been some coverage in the press about litter and fly-tipping in the countryside. On the farm we are fortunate in that we don't suffer from fly-tipping as we are not on a road-side but we do get a lot of litter along our drive and on the main road. Every time I walk up the drive I pick up empty crisp packets, sweet wrappings, plastic bottle & those horrible triangular sandwich boxes. I know that none of us from the farm or our neighbours who share the drive would dream of chucking rubbish out of the car windows so I can only conclude that it is delivery van drivers who have a wanton disregard for the countryside. Each year before the main holiday season starts I ring Carmarthenshire County Council to ask that they send litter pickers out to our area as the litter on the verges is like a tidal wave of plastic and gives a very bad impression to visitors to the county. The Council is very good and the litter is picked up within a couple of days of my phone call, but the point is they shouldn't be having to do it. The Keep Britain Tidy campaign is so well established that there is no excuse for not taking one's rubbish home and disposing of it properly.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Woods in Spring, Preparations for Summer Work

A walk in the woods is always uplifting but at the present time spring is making it even better. The trees are bursting their leaves forth, the bluebells are justing coming into flower and the birds are singing their hearts out. Our woods were stripped out during the war and so everything we see now is re-growth over the past seventy years, a mixture of oak, sycamore, hornbeam and ash mainly. In addition to these the Farmer has planted many douglas fir, larch and scot pine taking the long view of timber for future generations. As with so many things in farming the long view is the only one that ensures continuity on family farms.

This is the time of year when the farm is preparing for the busy-ness of the approaching silage season. Tractors are being checked over and the silage machinery is being brought out of winter hibernation to be serviced and put into good order ready for the long hours in the fields. Rolls of netting and bale wrap are being delivered and stacked up ready for the baler. Although we have suddenly had very cold weather including snow, sleet & hail in the last 24 hrs and the grass growth will be slow the start of the silage season will be on us before we know it at the beginning of May.

It is lovely to see the cows out in the fields and of course the sheep after lambing. There are only three ewes left to lamb after what has been a very good lambing season. The weather has been ideal for lambs out at foot with their dams as we have had no rain for about three weeks, the fground is very dry. We do need some rain to encourage the grass to grow as well as the sunshine.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Dinas Head, Pembrokeshire

Views looking north from Dinas Head yesterday while walking the coast path with on a day of unexpectedly perfect weather...west Wales at its absolute best. We are so lucky to have this on our doorstep.
The ruined church is at Pwll y Gwaelod at the foot of Dinas Head where a series of storms in the 1850's destroyed much of the church.

This excursion down to Pembrokeshire followed on from a week of intense busy-ness and a spur-of-the-moment visit from cousins from Herefordshire over the weekend, so the whole family, 10 of us plus a lolloping labrador and tiny feisty dachshund, trooped down to Dinas and after a picnic lunch set off on the two hour circular walk around Dinas Head. It was a walk of stupendous views, north and south, beautiful sunshine, wonderful birdsong and calm seas with the occassional small fishing boat chugging across the briny checking lobster pots & happy children running, with equally happy grown-ups taking it all a little more steadily. A walk worth walking and rounded off to everyone's satisfaction with ice-creams by a lovely peaceful beach.