Saturday, 8 December 2012

Who Needs a Chain-saw?, 'A Midummer Night's Dream'

Indeed, who does need a chain-saw when one has a clutch of willing boys with hand-saws? We had a most satisfying day again with the boys from Cardiff. These children with difficult 'issues' in their lives were brought by their wonderful teacher Mr. C. for another day of discovering life in the countryside.(  The Farmer had spent the previous evening sharpening a couple of very old two-handed saws, a small single man saw, some axes and a machetes. Was this wise you may well dangerous items like these to a bunch of disaffected 13-15 yr olds? It was great! The boys set to sawing up the old apple trees in the orchard with gusto, they really put energy & enthusiasm into the work and were thrilled when the trees were reduced to a pile of logs through their own efforts. They were greatly amused when the Farmer then produced his chain-saw and demonstrated that the whole job could have been done in 10 minutes! But the point was that they learned about the old ways of cutting wood, handled old implements and  appreciated that hard work can be fun and rewarding.  For boys who rarely expend energy in that way they did really well and apparently slept all the way home!

Last night the Farmer, KT our daughter-in-law, and I went to Cardigan to the excellent Theatr Mwldan ( to see a production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' put on by the brilliant Mappa Mundi company (  It was wonderful, we thoroughly enjoyed it and have not laughed so much in ages. The production was set during the Second World War and it really worked with Bottom being a busy-body air-raid warden, and all the main non-fairy characters as service men & women. There was a magical set of transparent curtains of trees and backdrops of starry skies and the lighting was very clever, the whole thing was beautiful. It was a lovely pre-Christmas treat.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Hereford Bull Sold, New Poultry & Apple Trees

Yesterday, a day of wonderful glittering frost, the Farmer & I delivered a Hereford bull that we have bred to his new owners. He is a very handsome gentleman and should join his new wives without any problem. We had to take him down to a farm in the south of the county in the Gwendraeth valley, a part of Carmarthenshire that we had not been to before and of course we got lost, but a friendly postman we encountered on a tiny lane put us in the right direction and eventually we found the farm down a long bumpy track.
Having unloaded the bull from the trailer the Farmer then bought 10 laying hens from the farmer and they were ensconced in a poultry crate in the trailer for the journey home. We bought 5 brown Warrens and 5 lovely grey speckledy hens. They were all ex-battery hens so are now going to have a lovely life of space and freedom in the orchard with our other hens.
We made our way home via an excellent apple tree nursery near Llandeilo and purchased 6 new apple trees, 2 eaters & 4 cider varieties to be planted in the old orchard where we have lost some very old trees during the storms of last week.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Doomed Trees & Wild Weather

After a dark & stormy night we have the added treat of a dark & stormy day! I have just walked the dogs through a tempest...I think the dampness seeping through my ankle-length, caped mackintosh obliterates any sense of exhilaration & of being at one with the elements.
The wild night has done for one of our 100+ year old apple-trees and it is now lying on its side in the old orchard looking very sad. The Farmer is now saying that he thinks we should fell the remaining three others before they too fall & possibly damage other newer trees in the vicinity.
The picture (taken on a better day!) shows one of our many, many ash trees which it seems are all doomed like the apples. The ash disease that has been in the news so much lately has apparently been found in a wood in Carmarthenshire so it is probably only a matter of time before the spores of the fungi that cause the damage are blown in our direction. The fungi known as chalara is wind borne so control is almost impossible. However, some trees are thought to have a genetic resistance. The disease was first found in Poland in the mid 1990's but is known to have been introduced here only in February 2012 with the importing of ash saplings from Holland. For more information go to

 1.30pm.  Elder Son has just come to say that the chicken house has been blown over,( & its a very heavy chicken house!)one of the poly-tunnels is threatening to lose its plastic & the roof on one of the sheds is beginning to flap. The Farmer has gone out now to attend to the poly-tunnel before it blows away! An ivy-clad tree outside the office window hads come down during the morning, fortunately falling onto the lawn not onto the house. Such winds we have not had for a long time!
Younger Son has been called out to help remove fallen trees from a main road near Aberaeron. All very dramatic! And the rain keeps on lashing , we have small rivers running down the yard and the drains are bubbling over and there is a very pretty waterfall down a set of steps from the field behind the house!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Another Visit by City Boys & how They Made a Bread-Board.

Yesterday we had a second visit by a group of children from a high school in Cardiff. A very happy & successful day.
On their arrival the Farmer took them across the fields & down into the woodlands that lie on the northern boundary of the farm. there they watched while he felled a tree and then helped him to attach chains to it from the winch & tractor which were already down there and then pull it out of the undergrowth and onto the track. On getting the tree up to the yard it was then loaded onto the big sawmill and planked.
The boys, & one girl, were then were able to go through the whole process of seeing a tree become useable planks and by the end of the day they had each made a bread-board to take home. They even burned their names onto the boards with a hot skewer. They were all so happy & proud of what they had was probably the first time they had experienced the pleasure of making something from scratch. (Unfortuately I have mislaid my camera, so no picture of grinning proud children & their day's work.)
Having seen how wood is harvested on their next visit they are going to be helping the Farmer plant trees which again will something totally new to them.
I think what we are giving these children is very important & their wonderful teacher has reported back to me that it was a superb day & may even have life-changing effects. I hope so, these boys need positive experiences so badly.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Disaster Response Team Goes to New Jersey.

 An update on the state of things in storm-wracked New Jersey. A friend from California wrote the following to me & I thought I would just pass it on as the effects of Sandy seem to have dropped out of our news reports and it was not only Manhatten Island that was so badly hit.

 'I just thought I would write to let you know that tomorrow I am being deployed to New Jersey with a Disaster Response strike team to help in the recovery efforts. I am the second team going in from our organization and will relieve the first team who have been there for about 10 days. Each team has a 7-10 day deployment, after which they have at least a couple of weeks off before going in again if necessary.

 Our base is in a town called Roselle which is slightly north west of Staten Island. We will work mostly on Staten Island which was badly affected by last week's storms, and still has had little rescue relief purely due to the fact that there is so much to do and so few responders. Staten Island has the highest storm-related death rate and many are still missing, presumed drowned. In actual fact thousands of responders have gone to help but there is just too much damage and progress is slow due to the high extent of damage to so many homes and flood waters are still hampering efforts to bring towns back to normal. Many people are in shelters or staying with their neighbors.

 Our base has no power but is running on a generator. It is freezing cold on the east coast at this time of year and another storm is heading their way which is predicted to hit tomorrow or Thursday. It will bring more rain and even snow this time but won't be as strong as the first storm. I have to make sure I fly in before the next storm front closes the airports again! I have all of my thermals and winter rescue gear so I will be warm enough and even though our team will be sleeping in sleeping bags on a cold hard floor - at least we will be dry and have a roof over our heads and homes to return to!!

Some of our work will be rescuing those that need it and feeding people that are homeless. Other work will be counseling the victims and other emergency responders that have been traumatized by the disaster. Many of the local emergency responders have been on duty non stop since the storm hit, purely because their routes home are still blocked and therefore their local replacements/shift mates' routes to get to work are also blocked. No one gets in and no one gets out of some places still. Many homes are badly damaged but the work is so plentiful that local handy men are struggling to keep up!
 One dear lady I know of still has huge tree that fell on to her roof, causing a big hole in the roof and lots of damage. She is huddled in one end of the house because she has no where to go but no one has been able to get to her yet to remove the tree because her situation just is not as urgent as others in her area. So there she is, with a new storm front coming in and a hole in her roof with no way to fix it in time to prevent new rains and snows from flooding her house. From what I gather she has no family close by and recently lost her husband!! Just one of hundreds of similar stories!  Anyway, that is what I will be doing and this is where I will be for the next 10 days or so.'

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Last Puppy goes to New Home, Samhain & Turnip Lanterns

The last one of our litter of lovely puppies went to her new home a couple of days ago. She has gone to live with some friends of Younger Son in Herefordshire & will have a very happy time with boys, dogs & horses.

It is of course Halloween tonight, or Samhain (meaning Summer's End) or as it is called here in Wales Nos Calan Gaeaf, the First Day of Winter. It is a very soggy Samhain though with the torrential rain we've had all day...but we can hardly complain when it is compared with what has occurred on the east coast of America! I guess there won't be much trick or treating in New York. The state of things there is hard to believe, despite the pictures. One cannot imagine how the clean-up can be done in as short a time as possible, it's horrendous.
Back to Halloween/Samhain; The custom of turnip lanterns which more recently has become one of pumpkin lanterns, originates in the Celtic lands where pumpkins did not grow. Like trick or treat (which I hate & fortunately as we live at the end of along drive we are not troubled by such activities as are people in town (I sound like a real grumpy old woman, which I'm not!!)) the pumpkin has been imported from the States & seems to have become firmly lodged here.
 Turnips, or swedes are shaped somewhat like a skull and give off an eerie yellow light when lit from within by a candle & is thought to be connected with the ancient Celtic veneration of the head which was the seat of the soul. I can remember very clearly the curious & distinctive smell of the turnip lanterns we had as children & the thrill of turning out the lights and having just the glow of the faces cut into the lanterns with just a thin layer of the turnip flesh left to provide the glow...(the proper way to do these things (GOW moment again!)

Tonight is the night of the Wild Hunt led by Herne the Hunter in England, with his pack of spirit hounds with their white bodies & red ears, or in Wales by Gwynn ao Nudd, King of the Faeries. The gates of Winter open tonight for the Hunt to sweep through the skies gathering the souls of the lost & wandering dead to lead them home.
 In some places the calling of wild geese was believed to be the song of the hounds following Herne across the skies riding westward on the wind to the Land of Youth, Tir na h-oige.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

First Frost, Organic Centre Wales, Traditional Lime Washing

A beautiful clear blue & gold autumn morning with the first frost...lovely!
The Farmer has gone off with the young labrador Hattie to the first shoot of the season. This is the first year that Younger Son is not particiapting as he is working in the far north of Scotland at present but he hopes to be home for a couple of shoots over the Christmas period.
Hattie has almost got her figure back after the puppies and jumped most enthusaiastically into the back of the 4x4 ready for a heavenly day rootling amongst brambles & bracken.

Yesterday we had visit from someone working for the Organic Centre Wales ( who was reviewing the progress of a project set up a few years ago, BOBL (Building Better Organic Links). At the time of the start of the project we were running a small farm shop but are no longer doing so so our connection with BOBL is rather tenuous now, but nonetheless it was an interesting afternoon of conversation about the current state of organic farming & food in general & of how there is so little (or even no) support for organics by the Welsh Assembly in particular. We do wonder what happened to the pledge made by the Assembly made to have 10% of Welsh farmland under organic management by 2020?

With the good weather over the past few days we, or rather the farmer, took the opportunity to lime-wash the house, a job that has been on the list for far too long. It is big job as it is big house. Lime-wash goes on well, if messily, but the whole of the front has been done which is the tricky part requiring scaffolding and very long ladders and the rest will be done in the next couple of days. I will try to tackle a retaining wall around the house today which is only 6' high at its highest point so does not require ladders which I hate.
Lime-wash is the traditional covering for old stone farmhouses in Wales  and gives a lovely soft look to a building. It is also very natural & breathes allowing moisture to escape from the walls. In addition to its environmental & aesthetic value it is also very cheap...we can paint the whole of the house for about £15!! We have added some pigment to the  lime so this time around the house is deep creamy colour & with its dark green woodwork really does look rather smart. In previous years it was deeper shade of ochre and in the far distant past it has been blue, green & pink.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

City Boys on Farm, Organic Milk Advertising Campaign,

Well, our visit by urban youth went very they are all kitted out in brand new wellies & waterproofs being introduced to our dairy herd.
For 15yr old boys who had never been on a farm before & had no idea about where their food comes from the whole day was a revelation which can be summed up when on being shown the different plants that grow in a grazing pasture one boy said 'But clover is like butter!'
It was a very good day for them & for us. For children like these who have been removed from mainstream schooling because of behavioural problems due to appalling social & domestic & health  problems, visits to places like Penyrallt are very important in giving them another view of the world and other peoples lives which might just light a small glimmer of hope for their futures. These boys are also incredibly fortunate in having a wonderful teacher who is willing, determined & able to give them time & energy in bringing them to us.

A week after the boys from Cardiff visited us we had two days when groups of 6-7yr olds from Gorseinon  near Swansea came to see the farm. The first day was very wet but the children carried on despite getting soaked and had wonderful time. They were fascinated by our Friesian bull who was respectfully observed from behind a strong gate and surprisingly interested when the Farmer demonstrated spinning wool with a drop spindle. The idea that from a heap of rather smelly wool straight of the sheep's back a yarn could be spun out to be knitted up into clothes really intrigued them, though of course none of them were wearing wool.

Last evening the Farmer & I attended a meeting with board members of OMSCo, the organic milk co-operative that buys our milk. It waas very interesting. Britain still lags behind the rest of the world (!) in its sales of organic milk but a big new advertising campaign has just been launched which hopefully will have an impact on public awareness of the value of  organic milk. ( The campaign involves huge posters on the underground, on hoardings alongside motorways, Twitter, Facebook and websites. It will be interesting in six months time to hear how effective it has been, meanwhile the Farmer & I along with our fellow organic dairy producers will continue to produce our lovely wholesome NATURAL milk.

The puppies are thriving, growing apace & very sweet & very naughty. As you see, they have already in true Labrador style found out how to open a bag of dog food!
Of the 8, 7  have lovely busy homes to go to, just one dear little chocolate dog puppy left to find a home for.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Mud Men Series 3, School Visit, Growing Puppies

We have just had a busy day with a film crew from ITN making a programme for the Mud Men series for the History Channel.
A crew of eight turned up this morning including the two presenters of the programmes, Johnny Vaughan & Steve Brooker. The reason they were here on the farm was for the Farmer to show them the care of sheep for a programme about the medieval wool industry in England & Wales. They had already filmed at the National Wool Museum which is only 10 minutes down the road from us and came to the farm for some hands-on experience with real live sheep.
 It all went well & after lunch which I provided (soup, home-made bread & cheese & bara brith...very easy) they went on to film a sequence involving a sheep carcase (which in true Blue Peter style the Farmer had prepared earlier...or at least off camera!) and locating & removing the bladder to demonstrate how it was inflated for medieval football type fun & games for a seperate episode in the series about the history of sport. The bladder was inflated using compressed air and we were all quite impressed at how much a sheeps bladder would inflate, though not really big enough to play football. I think in medieval times the bladder would have been stuffed with hay & dried rather than blown up, I should check that out really.
Mud Men is a programme we had not heard of, but apparently is very good & has quite a following, hence the 3rd series being made. It is based around finds from the mud of the Thames by the mud men and then follows through the history of items and their uses and the wider stories of the industries & occupations for which they would have been made.

Tomorrow we have a visit by some pupils from a high school in Cardiff which should be interesting. We have had only primary school visits up till now and it will be good to have older children to talk to and show round the farm.

The puppies are growing apace at nearly 6 weeks old.and are now everywhere...terribly sweet & funny but bit of a nightmare out on the yard when they cluster around ones ankles making progress somewhat tricky without causing them to squeak as you try to avoid treading on their toes. Their long suffering mother will be very glad to see them leave for their new homes in a couple of weeks time. She really does not enjoy puppies unlike the old dog Poppy who just adopts them all and allows them great liberties with her kennel and her person.
Sometimes I sits & thinks & sometimes I just sits.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Kathryn Tickell;Northumbrian Voices, Thriving Puppies, Exmoor Holiday

Last evening the Farmer & I went to a wonderful gig at Theatr  Mwldan in Cardigan given by the acclaimed Northumbrian small pipe player Kathryn Tickell and her band. It was fabulous...wonderful music, great words & feeling. The show was called Northumbrian Voices and featured Mike Tickell, Kathryn's father speaking the words of the farmers & shepherds of the Northumbrian moorlands. It was a telling of stories & singing of songs celebrating traditions & a way of life that are under threat and are yet still living on in the lives of  farmers and the country people, particularly in the remoter parts of the British Isles...much that was spoken of resonated with those of us farming in the Welsh hills & how we are bedevilled by government environmentalists & the needs of modern people; how young women will no longer accept a life of isolation on a hill farm, how environmental scientists come along and disturb habitats & centuries old ways of living on the land with particular reference to hefted sheep (and although it was not mentioned, hefted people) and how removing them from their traditional lands the knowledge of how to live there dies and can never be brought back.
It was evening of joyous music-making and deep thought. If you get chance to see Kathryn Tickell in concert do go.

The puppies are now just over 5 weeks old and very jolly. They are thriving and I have got good homes for all but one sweet little black bitch & one sturdy chocolate dog. I have problems downloading pictures from my camera at present so you will just have to imagine how lovely they are and what fun.

The Farmer & I had four days away (!) last week down on Exmoor. We had a lovely quiet time walking & reading mainly & visiting the lovely antiquarian bookshop & several galleries in the pretty village of Dulverton.
 It was a much needed break after a very busy summer but as the Farmer said on our return on Friday evening he has 'hit the ground running' and has been kept fully occupied with various things from the moment we got home.
I had expected to get back to welcome guests to the holiday cottage from New Zealand but had a message to say they had cancelled their trip, so I have week empty which I should turn to my advantage and use to do some decorating in the cottage. It gets well worn over the summer season and paintwork needs touching up so I am now off armed with paint-brush and a tin of white gloss to paint window frames...what joy!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Growing Puppies, Missing Calf Turns Up, Autumnal Insects

The puppies are now two weeks old and have grown hugely. This morning was the first day when their eyes are properly open and they were so funny trying to lumber around their nest and discovering thier siblings. Up to now of course they have lived in a world of smells and warmth, needing to be in huddles for warmth and now with vision, albeit rather blurry, they can start to explore. This next week will see them rapidly change into jolly playful pups & hopefully if the sun is shining they will be able to play outside.

We have started calving and so far have had an excellent start with two sets of heifer twins which is very unusual. One pair of twins was real surprise to us as the cow had calved out in the field and when Elder Son & the Farmer brought her in they brought one calf with her, it being the only calf to be seen. The reasonable thought was that she just had the one  as twins are unusual as I've said.  However, 36 hours (!!!!) later our neighbour from the bottom of the farm appeared saying that he had found a very small calf on the woodland track between his place & ours, which surprised him & us not a little. On investigation this small creature was the twin to one brought in two nights before and must have been lying hidden in undergrowth and had then toppled down the steep wooded bank to the trackway. It was completely unharmed and perfectly fit & healthy. The Farmer  reckons it had fed very well before going to sleep in clump of bracken where it was so well concealed, which had seen it through its ordeal. It is extraodinary how well baby creatures can survive, though admittedly she probably would not have coped with another night out. Thank goodness our neighbour walks up the track every day excercising his dog in our lower fields.

We have entered the spider & daddy-longlegs season...they are everywhere. I am constantly having to clear them away from corners, unfortunately they are particularly fond of the holiday cottage & I have real battle keeping the place as free of them as I can. Old country cottages & farmhouses are much more organic than town houses, we have nature encroaching upon us at every opportunity, having had bats flying around in the farmhouse these last few evenings (though they soon find they way out through the open windows again) as well as the spiders, moths, daddy-longlegs & beautiful shiny black beetles than venture over the doorstep.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

New Litter of Labrador Puppies

Last night my black lab Hattie produced a litter of 8 beautiful puppies, 4 black , 4 chocolate, 5 females, 3 boys. Just perfect.
She had the first puppy without any trouble during the afternoon but by 9 o'clock in the evening no more had appeared so we had to make an out-of-hours emergency visit to the vet. It was found that the next puppy in the queue had arranged iteslf sideways across the birth canal with one front leg sticking out. After much manipulation & judicious use of forceps the puppy was turned around and brought into the world, fine & healthy. We then returned home and from then on the puppies arrived at regular intervals with the last one  being born about 1 o'clock am. I sat up until I was sure there were no more to come & then left Hattie who was none the worse for the early difficulty & settled down proudly with her new family.
Our old Lab Poppy has as usual come into milk and over the next few days we will gradually introduce the puppies to her to be fed which eases the demands on Hattie. Poppy is a brilliant surrogate mother and loves feeding puppies. Even though it is a couple of years between litters she drops into the role very happily each time.
This morning Hattie was contendedly curled up with the puppies who look like little moles and squeak incessantly until they are warm & well-fed when they drop into the deep slumbers of tiny babies with the occasional twitch of a minute paw as they dream their milky dreams.

After the incessant rain yesterday, I don't think it stopped at all, today started out wet but now in the middle of the afternoon we have blue skies and sunshine which hopefully will dry up the sodden lawns and the squelching yard.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Polish Connections

After a long gap of several years we had visit today from a friend who is of a Polish family but was born here at Penyrallt.
We first met Krystyna when she came to the farm looking for her birthplace. Her story, or rather that of her parents is extraordinary. Her father had been a Polish cavalry officer who fought in the last cavalry charge against Russian tanks during the 2nd World War. He was captured by the Russians and narrowly escaped being one of the victims of the massacre of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest where thousands were shot.
 Krystyna's mother had been captured by the Russians also and was sent to a camp in Siberia. She survived that terrible place. Somehow after the war they made their way to Britain and were married in Leicester & in turn somehow ended up buying a farm in Wales. They lived here for only two years but during that time Krystyna was born and although she was only  baby when they left she had been brought up with stories of the Welsh farm. When we went to visit her she showed us her family photographs and there were pictures of Penyrallt as it was in the late 1940's.
This Polish connection is another example of how varied & odd the history of the farm is & how many different people from all kinds of backgrounds  have been involved in its story. Certainly the idea of an aristocratic Polish cavalry officer living here is one of the most intriguing.
Krystyna now lives in Kracow & near Builth Wells where she runs a very good B&B in her lovely house in the Welsh hills (

Monday, 13 August 2012

End of the London Olympics & More Silage.

While the rest of the nation was watching the end of the Olympics here in the countryside the need to cut yet more grass for winter fodder was upon us as we had few dry hot days again...the Farmer & Sons have spent the last three long days on silage again & now it is pouring with rain once more.
As I don't get involved with tractors driving, thank goodness, I was able to view some of the last Olympic events including the Men's Marathon...such a triumph for the Ugandan winner!
We did watch the Closing Ceremony which was great fun, even the Farmer watched it to the end despite his grumpiness about it starting so late. The party atmosphere was wonderful and the whole thing, while still having a very surreal quality about it as did the Opening Ceremony, seemed to work. Timothy Spall as Churchill declaiming Shakespeare was definitely bizarre (& when is Mr Spall going to become Sir Timothy?) & Ray Davies performing 'Waterloo Sunset' was great. Once again it was all just quite mad & Britishly (?) eccentric & huge fun.
I hope the athletes can all go home feeling that London had given them a massive 'thank you' concert.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Olympic Athletes Drink Organic Milk

We have another few days relief from the rain and as usual there is mad rush to get grass cut and baled before the next bout of low pressure sweeps in across us as is due tomorrow night. The Farmer & Sons are rushing about in tractors with complicated bits of machinery hitched on the back  keeping ahead of the weather which really ought to become an Olympic sport!

Talking of the Olympics, which I had vowed to avoid at all costs, I find I have been inexorably sucked into the vortex of national pride & enthusiasm for our athletes, and of course for all those from other nations. Although we do not have tv I have been able to watch elsewhere & the BBC live coverage of the games has been fantastic ( the computer generated picture of London that has been used for the live broadcasts is stunningly beautiful). Yes, we did see Usain Bolt become the greatest athlete in the world.
The number of medals that Team GB has won is amazing, though I do have problem with women's boxing, or any kind of boxing actually. I really do believe it should be banned. I also found the women's wrestling quite hard to watch for more than a couple of minutes.
What has struck me is how incredibly efficiently the whole thing has been run & must have been the most complicated timetable plan imaginable.
On a great note for us organic dairy farmers apparently the athletes have consumed 75.000 litres of ORGANIC milk which can only be good thing for sales of all organic food in this country, one hopes.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Dairy Farming, Olympics Viewing Depsite Resolve to Avoid It All!

Go to for a very good piece on informing the public about the dairy industry.
With the Olympics dominating the news the dairy farmers have been short of air time so I was very pleased to see this article on the BBC website.

Well, despite my moaning about the Olympics, the expense, the media frenzy, the general pointlessness of all that physical energy being expended without an end product like a trailer full of hay bales all hefted up on a pitchfork or a 100 sheep having been shorn & having no tv,  I will confess to having given in.
I watched some of the opening ceremony (bizarre, wierd, messy & endearing) and to seeing the equestrian events & the men's gymnastics on BBC Live on the computer. Wow! Both events were gripping & I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, but that's me done now...I don't feel the need to see much more of it.  I had said to the family all along that if I was to watch any of the Games it would be the horse events and the gymnastics though they are accusing me of gross hypocrisy in having watched any of it at all, but then that's families for you!

We are back with torrential rainstorms again & strong winds which are wrecking the gardens unfortunately but the change in the weather does mean the menfolk are having a more restfull week after the frantic activity during the recent good weather.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Summertime & the Living is Very Busy!

At last summer has arrived. This past week has been absolutely manic here with the Sons & the Farmer all caught up with mowing, baling & wrapping many hundreds of bales all over the parish & further afield. The contracting business has never been so much in demand. There has been an element of getting as much done as possible while we have this good weather and so farmers have been on the phone at 8o'clock in the morning to ensure that they are on the list for the day. The Sons have been working incredibly long hours all week, often not home till after midnight, Today however, they are are having a quieter day as the baler had a major breakdown last night. The only spare part that could be found in the country is in Kent so we are waiting for a very speedy courier to deliver it, but it will not be here until tomorrow morning, so it gives everyone  a much needed breathing space. The weather is set to hold for some days yet so there should not be too much panic but once the baler is fixed they will be off again.

The latest news on the milk price front seems to be that government ministers met at the Royal Welsh Show on Monday for talks with farmers & dairy processors. It seems that code of practice for milk contacts is to be drawn up which will be freely negotiated, more transparent & fairer . But apparently this will not be in place to prevent the price drop in August.
An e-petition has been posted on the government website, 'Dairy farmers must be paid more for their milk', Please sign to show you support the farmers.
100.000 signatures will mean it will be considered for debate in House of Commons.

Of course today is the start of the Olympics Games. They honestly are not going to have that much impact here...we don't have tv.  I might get to see the opening ceremony this evening but as for the Games themselves...well, we just don't have time!!!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Dairy Farmers

An update on the dairy farmers protest; the Farmer's cynicism of yesterday (see yesterdays blog posting) may be proved misplaced as Morrisons & the Co-op have announced that they are increasing the price they pay to their suppliers. This is very good news & hopefully it will lead the way for other retailers to follow.
 The action taken by dairy farmers around the country has been peaceful & controlled though a few farmers still say they would dump their milk. I think that would be big mistake, apart from the waste it would not go down well with the public who would lose any sympathy for the farmers situation.
Farmers for Action is saying that the cuts in the milk price & the rising feed costs could force hundreds of dairy farms out of business which would result in the UK having to import much of its milk. Surely you would rather drink milk produced by British farmers?

Friday, 20 July 2012

Dairy Farmers Meet with Politicians

Last night the Farmer & Elder Son attended the Emergency Meeting for Dairy Farmers at Llandeilo organised by our local politicians Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM & Jonathan Edwards MP. It was organised as response to the concerns & challenges that are facing milk producers over receiving a fair price for milk. Farmers were able to put their concerns directly to the Welsh Government's  Deputy Minister for agriculture, Alun Davies AM.
In the last 13 years the number of dairy farmers in Wales has halved & there will be more losses to come if the problems are not dealt with.
Carmarthenshire is the highest milk producing region in the country (Wales) and the dairy industry employs many people not just farmers.
There has been a call by politicians for a milk & supermarket ombudsman to help ensure dairy farmers get a fair price for their milk.
The Farmer writes;
I have attended many crisis meetings over the years, opinions get aired & 'the top table' gives all the right responses; then we all go home & nothing happens.
Not until those in power, either elected by us, AMs, MPs etc. or corporate directors have their salaries linked to performance (like the self-employed) will we see constructive changes.
On todays news we see blockades of milk depots around the country, I am reminded of Wapping, coal mines & milk quotas - where did any of those actions get anyone? The Luddite spirit lives on but corporate greed prevails.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Yurt Holiday

The Bentwood Yurt
This last week the Farmer & I had a night away staying in one the yurts owned by our good friends T. & F. who run Larkhill Tipis ( This was an experience we had been promising ourselves for a long time & at last we were able to arrange it at a mutually convenient time, for just one night.
The four of us went out for a meal at the Railway Inn, Llanpumsaint (, a local hostelry that runs n excellent restaurant. We had a superb meal ( the chocolate gateau was simply the best I've ever had!) and then returned to Larkhill & our yurt.
We were staying in the Bentwood yurt, pictured above, one of three different styles of yurt at Larkhill, (see the website for details) which is delightful. Yurts are lovely spaces to be in as are most round spaces, and with the rays of the wooden frame curving down to the trellis wall structure is very beautiful. It is set up on a small platform in a copse of trees and is quite private with stunning views through the trees over the Teifi Valley.
The other yurts & tipis on the site all have their own private areas though facilities are shared. There is shower block, a flush loo & a compost loo as well as a communal log cabin with cooking & washing-up facilities. Larkhill prides itself on being off-grid  and so the showers & log-cabin are all powered by wind turbines & solar panels. In the yurts light is provided by small battery powered lamps.
We had a lovely short, indeed positively miniscule break in lovely place that is to be recommended.

The weather has been dry for the last two day and so once again the Farmer & Sons are busy snatching another crop of silage from small acreages that we manage for various friends & neighbours. It is however supposed to be wet again ny tomorrow...ah well, c'est la vie!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Dairy Farmers Protest.

Today dairy farmers took to the streets of London to protest at the drop in milk price from the retailers to the producers. We have watched the days events unfold with interest.On the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 today the question was asked 'What is the price of a litre of milk?' The programme ran this question from the point of view of the consumer whereas it should have been asking who is making money on milk? The answer is the processor & the retailer, not the producer.
There is such a widening gap between farmers & the consumers that there is little understanding of what is involved in producing the 'daily pinta'. The costs of animal feed, bedding & keeping up with latest legislation are going up all the time when the price for the end product is dropping. It is insane.
The dire warnings of numbers of dairy farmers being forced out of business are very worrying. Once the expertise & skill of dairying is lost it will take a long time to come back & the capital cost of entering dairy production will be so high as to be prohibitive. To say that the loss of the British dairy industry will not matter because we can always import milk from the continent is facile and short-sighted, are we to go the way of the coalmining & engineering industries of this country?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Local Food; The First Completely Welsh Organic Loaf of Bread

Yesterday to cheer us all up in this continuing depressing weather, our good friend
Rick the Bread  ( arrived brandishing a Very Important Loaf of Bread.
This loaf was one of the very first batch of entirely Welsh loaves baked using Welsh grown organic wheat. The wheat was grown in Ceredigion, milled in the water mill Felin Ganol in Llanrhystud (, then the wholewheat flour made into a dough using the sourdough method & baked in Rick's wonderful wood fired bread oven. This has never been done before, a truly Welsh loaf (or at least not for for many hundreds of years!).  Rick & the millers at Felin Ganol have been working towards this product for along while and can now say with confidence that bread wheat can be grown in Wales & that it produces a very good loaf.  It was delicious with a lovely texture and a beautiful nutty flavour...perfect with Welsh organic butter &  local cheese! A meal fit for a king or at least a Prince as the bread is to be offered to the Prince of Wales tomorrow when he visits Felin Ganol mill.
 As I said, this humble loaf is the culmination of several years work with the help of Aberystwyth University in finding the right strain of wheat & growing enough of it for  milling. I have been using Ceredigion flour in baking for a good while now, it makes excellent pastry. The flour is available from Felin Ganol & some wholefood & organic retailers in the area.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Rain, Rain & More Rain

A reminder of summers past when the sun shone & the garden did not just drip and lie flattened by rain!
The rain continues and we are beginning to work out the various types of rain that we are currently enduring...there is just damp air which becomes fine drizzle, then heavy drizzle, thick drizzle, dripping rain , real rain, stair-rods & torrential rain, all of it summed up as the rain that never ceases. I don't think we have had more than 10  minutes without wetness of some sort for what seems like weeks.
 Here on the farm it is just a squelch and a muddy slide to get from one place to another. Elder Son has manged to get some hedge-trimming done but only along road sides but the fields are too wet and soggy for any muck-spreading to be done. The Farmer & Younger Son have been doing indoor jobs such as rendering walls on a current big project and tinkering in the workshop on machinery or wood-working. Everyone is just so fed-up with this weather!!!!! We should be making hay now or at least silage & sitting in fields of mown grass eating tomato sandwiches & drinking lemonade, it's July for heaven's sake!
I do feel sorry for holiday makers when it rains so incessantly. People always joke about  'well, if you come to Wales you must expect rain'  but his year it is well past a joke. I just hope it clears up for the school holidays...on holiday with children when it rains every day must be misery...there are only so many museums and indoor attractions to visit here, after all beaches are the main reason visitors come to west Wales & beaches in the rain are really not such fun. Still it must be bonanza year for the umbrella manufacturers.
Despite the weather the holiday cottage is fully booked now well into September which is marvellous and means I will have a very busy summer & not least of the busy-ness will be getting bed-linen dry to keep up with the changeovers if the weather does not improve (everything comes back to the weather!). Draping damp laundry on an airer in  the kitchen is such a pain when it should be outside blowing on the washing line in a summer breeze.
This is all bit of  a moan but that what happens when the rain it raineth every day'

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Inflatable Stonehenge for a Wet Solstice, Huge Bracket Fungi, Silage In & More Rain

In keeping with tradition today being the Summer Solstice the Farmer & I paid a visit to Stonehenge...however this was Stonehenge as we had never seen it before. It was an inflatable bouncy castle full scale replica of the great stones complete with trilithons and sarsen stones and, quite the maddest, most bonkers thing I have seen a long time!
This extraordinary object was having its first & only appearance in Wales today at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales near Carmarthen at the start of its tour around Britain before reaching London for the Olympics.
When we arrived at the Botanic Gardens there were several coach loads of schoolchildren brought to see the amazing sight and to bounce merrily but the unfortunately the rain had also arrived and so the bouncing was brought to an end which must have very disappointing for the children. We viewed the very realistic rubber titans through a veil of heavy rain and it really was very surreal with the great glass dome of  the  Botanic Gardens in the background.

While the Famer was mowing grass for silage on some fields we rent about a mile away he spyed these amazing fungi growing on a tree. They are  huge fan shaped bracket fungi which were identified as Dryad's Saddle, a rather wonderful name. They are certainly some of the biggest and most impressive fungi that I have ever seen, they must have measured a good 12-14 " across at their widest point.
With the heavy & persisitent rain back with us we are congratulating ourselves on having been able to get our first cut silage crop in & sheeted up before the low pressure arrived yesterday evening. The Farmer & the Sons have worked long hours this week, with the Sons working away from home getting in other peoples silage as well as our own often not finishing until well after dark.
The three days of good weather were just lovely and now we are back to wind & rain & squelching across our shaven fields and rushing waters in our streams again.
I think solstice fires may well struggle tonight.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Tan ar y Comin, Dry Weather at Last, Welsh Game Fair

Last evening on S4C (the Welsh tv channel) the film 'Tan ar y Comin' was shown again . This was the film about a gypsy boy & his horses starring Edward Woodward & directed by David Hemmings, that was made here at Penyrallt nearly 20 years ago. Watching it again was great fun as it brought back lots of memories of a very hectic summer.
A daily invasion of about 60 people and all the film equipment plus wardrobe buses,  props vans, caterers & all and sundry needed to make a film would turn up usually about 7 o'clock to get everything ready to start shooting at 9-ish. We were involved too, not just as the owners of the location but as extras, props suppliers, animal handlers & general farm advisers. I have clear memories of David Hemmings turning up very early one morning ahead of the rest of the crew and sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee with me while waiting for his assistant directors to appear. For some reason the conversation was about breeding poodles!! Very odd as neither of us had poodles.
 It was fascinating watching DH direct his cast and how he prepared every shot and worked through exactly what he wanted with the actors and the camera-man.
 Both the Farmer & Elder Son had several opportunities to be in the film and can be seen briefly appearing in the scenes shot in Newcastle Emlyn at the fair. Elder Son is the naughty little boy who gets scolded for throwing mud at the gypsy boy, the hero of the story.
The farm has changed very little since the film was made, though the house is now yellow not white, thanks to another film project that took place some years later.
'Tan ar y Comin' was shown ahead of a new series being shown on S4C starting next week about the gypsies in Wales,
 'Y Sipswn' in one episode of which Carol Byrne-Jones the director of the Welsh version of the film, is interviewed here on the farm.

After days & days of torrential rain, we have had a day of sunshine which has meant that the men are flat out cutting silage for ourselves and others. It is going to be a very long night for them I suspect. The crop is very heavy  and thick which is good but makes for long hours of tractor driving.

Yesterday the Farmer & I went to the Welsh Game Fair which was held for the first time at the Three Counties Showground near Carmarthen. It opened on Saturday which was so very wet but yesterday the weather improved and we had only a couple of showers. We had a lovely time watching terrieres & lurchers & talking to various people we had not seen for a while. I dearly wanted to bring home some Muscovy ducks but this was not encouraged...the reason given being that they would just be expensive fox food! It is true of course but we had Muscovies years ago who survived many years and were such fun to see around the yard and flying up onto the roof ridges to survey activities. They are real characters & very good mothers unlike many other ducks. Maybe when the Farmer gets himself a new pea-hen I shall mention the Muscovy duck question again.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Roses, Swarm of Bees, Redecorating Holiday Cottage

At last we have some sunshine & rather more seasonal weather than we have seen recently. Because it has been such a cold, slow spring & early summer the roses are only now beginning to show some colour and this one Maigold outside the holiday cottage door is in full flower a month later than usual. The scent as one walks past is glorious.
Our local village shop has an amazing array of plants for sale and I indulged myself last week (to cheer myself up in the rain!) buying ten floribunda roses  to add to the garden. Many years ago we had a commercial rose grower renting a field from us in which he grew 20,000 roses and I was fortunate enough to be allowed to cut flowers whenever I wanted, so each summer I was able to fill the house with bowls of roses which was just wonderful. To walk down to the rose field on a summer's evening was a most wonderful experience with the swallows swooping through the perfumed air & the sea of colour at our feet.

Yesterday we had the good fortune to capture a swarm of bees. I was walking across our larger garden and was aware of a deep thrumming sound and realised that the swarm was gathering itself together, so I rushed off to find the Farmer who found the swarm collecting on a fence post (not the most convenient place for capture). He shook water over them to make them think it was raining which makes them settle in one place and then left them for a short while before persuading them into a collection box and delivering them into a hive that was made ready for them.
We have not had a swarm for several years and this one was not from our existing colony. There are a few bee-keepers locally so we cannot be sure where it came from. Lets hope they like being here & that they will stay and survive the winter.

I have no guests in the cottage ( this week and so have taken the opportunity (my last chance before the autumn) to do spot of decorating, the small twin room was looking rather shabby so yesterday I set to with my brushes & pots of paint. It is small room but quite complicated to paint as the beds are fixed in with a 'proscenium arch'  which looks marvellous but does make painting the room awkward. Also the room being in an old former piggery is not square and one side is higher than the other whcih makes my reach on step ladder or on a board across the bed-base rather fact I'm going to have to call the Famer in to do the very tops for me.
Having filled in time waiting for a cake to come out of the oven by writing this I shall now head off back to my painting & try get the room finished before lunch.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

June & Jubilee

June has arrived & our wonderful rhododendrons are coming into flower as is much else in the garden. After last week's scorching weather and the rain of two days ago all growing things are romping away now. This is good news for the Farmer & Sons as our silage crop will bulk up well now

Last weekend the Farmer & I were down in the New Forest for a family gathering and the heat was intense. Driving down the motorway in our Daihatsu Fourtrak which does not have air-con was not a comfortable experience! But the countryside was looking superb in its shimmer of heat haze, with glorious chestnut trees in full candle-power, England at its best!

It is Diamond Jubilee Weekend of course & though we are not having any party or picnic here on the farm the local pub is all bedecked with bunting & a barbecue is planned, whilst elsewhere in the area there are 'fayres', frolics & fireworks. We may even go to see some of them! I shall certainly find a tv to sit in front of tomorrow for the River Pageant which will surely be the most fantastic spectacle.
Driving through England there was much more evidence of Jubilee enthusiasm than is visible here in Welsh Wales. Many of the little villages we passed through in Hampshire & Dorset had miles of bunting draped along school railings & village halls & many private houses had union jacks & pictures of the Queen on display. There were posters for tea-parties & picnics & open gardens. It all seems much more low key here, in fact in our local town on Thursday there was no sign of any Jubilee celebration at all; maybe they were saving themselves for the weekend.


Thursday, 17 May 2012

King Stropharia Mushrooms, The Countryside Alliance Goes to Cardiff,

Just lately we have been experimenting with our friend G. The Mushroom Grower ( the cultivation of King Stropharia mushrooms. G. supplied the spore  which was 'sown' into a heap of straw and we waited to see what happened. We were all pleasantly surprised when a superb crop emerged. The picking of them is critical as once the caps have begun to flatten out they atre well past their best so a close eye has to be kept on them as they can change from ready to passed it in just a few hours. The cropping seemed to coincide with the full moon and we harvested about 6-7 kilos of mushrooms over three days which is remarkable. We are now waiting to see if thre will another crop with the next full moon. King Stropharia's taste very good with a flavour rather like hazelnuts, delicious fried in butter until going brown around the edges.

Yesterday the Farmer & I travelled to Cardiff to take part in an exhibition put on by the Countryside Alliance ( at the Senedd, the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff Bay. We had been invited as representatives of the Countryside Alliance Foundation to showcase the importance of Outdoor Education through our work with schools coming to see the farm. We spoke to a number of interesting & interested people (no Assembly Members though !) & it is encouraging that even though the politicians do not seem particularly interested in getting children out of the classroom & into the countryside many other people are.
The Countryside Alliance Director Sir Barney White-Spunner was there & the various aspects of country life were well represented by hounds from the Glamorgan pack with their huntsman & kennelman, falconers, fishermen, game shooting & general country activities. The atmosphere during the day was very good and there were no anti-hunting noises heard and the general public & the people at the Assembly were taking a keen interest in the subjects & issues raised by our presence in the building.
The day had been organised by the wonderful Rachel Evans who is the Countryside Alliance Director for Wales. She worked incredibly hard to get the whole event up & running and it all went extremely well.
We had a very enjoyable day despite having to cope with city traffic which we are no used to at all...we are such country mice!!!!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Sunshine & Swallows At Last, Allen Raine Celebration Society, Green Weddings, School Visit

After a week of appalling weather we have had a day of sunshine & its so lovely to see blue skies and the sunlight gleaming on fresh oak leaves in the trees around the house. Spring is so late, the gardens are very slow in getting going though the fruit trees have blossomed, but it may have been too cold for the pollinating insects to have gone about thier work, certainly our bees have not been out very much lately.
After my worries few weeks ago that the swallows had not returned on time I was greatly relieved when about a week ago they were suddenly here in numbers and are now wheeeling and cavorting around the buildings. Did they know it was too cold here and that there would,be no insects for them to feed on so just bided their time?
The cows are now out properly and the Sons have been busy muck-spreading again despite the rain & fortuantely have not made too much mess in the fields.

The Farmer & I attended a 'literary lunch' today in Newcastle Emlyn. We had been invited by an old friend to go to an annual lunch given by the Allen Raine Celebration Society. Adeliza Evans was, or is again, a celebrated 19th century authoress who was born in Newcastle Emlyn in 1836 & wrote under the name of Allen Raine. She produced a number of 'romances' which were hugely popular and sold over 2 million copies in Great Britain & the Empire, to say nothing of the sales in the USA. They were so popular that three of them were made in into silent movies in 1915 & 1920. She wrote her tales in English but used many Welsh phrases & expressions and her upbringing in Newcastle Emlyn & the surrounding area forms the background to the stories.
As well the annual lunch (which was excellent) the Society runs a short story competition. See for details & more information.

Last weekend we visited a local  'green wedding' venue, Ceridwen Centre that is run by some friends of ours. They have erected a superb twin tipi as the wedding venue which is quite beautiful and surprisingly can hold 120 guests and is a lovely setting for weddings with a difference.

As I write this the Farmer is playing music with some friends who have come over. I have a violin, cello & piano playing Mozart in the background, my own private recital, how lucky am I!

During the week we had a visit by a local primary school. A group of 25 4-7 year olds came over on a damp day last week but fortunately the real rain held off until they left so they were able to be walked across the fields though lunch had to be eaten in one of the barns (in the company of the peacock who was a little alarmed at his place being invaded by chattering samll people). After lunch the rain stopped long enough for us  we to spread a tarpaulin out on the yard and get the children to sit and draw anything they had seen on their visit. Many of them drew the farmhouse and Molly the sheepdog who is always a great favourite on these occasions.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

May Day, Cold Spring, Soil Association Inspection, Organic Food Sales

May Day and we are blustering into the month with tempest, wind & rain. It is proving to be a very slow cold spring though the birds are singing cheerfully & certain plants are flowering though the hedges are not fully green yet & trees are still skeletal in outline. The oak trees are beginning to show glimmers of greeny-gold leaves but the black ash buds are still tightly closed...'Oak before ash in for a splash...' are we going to have a dry summer?
 Our fruit trees are coming into blossom and so far the blossom has managed to stay on the boughs despite the battering winds that have been howling around us.

It is such a cold spring and for the first time for many years the dairy cows are still coming in at night at this time of year and we are struggling to make the silage last. Once the weather warms up after the rain of recent days the grass will romp away, though the forecast is not very optimistic about an improvement in the weather very soon.

In spite of the unseasonal weather our guests in the cottage &  the gypsy wagon continue to arrive and spend happy times discovering the area. To come back to a roaring log fire after bracing walks on the beaches is always good.

Tomorrow we have our annual Soil Association inspection so the Farmer is spending time sorting out the paperwork and getting everything ready. The paperchase as usual is hideous involving purchase receipts, lists of ingredients in any bought-in animal feeds, as well numbers of livestock of all kinds, how much farmyard manure is applied, how much muck our pit holds, how much silage we make or buy in & proof of its organic origin...the traceability of everything is paramount & rightly so
We attended a meeting last week with representatives from OMScO ( for our bi-annual update on the state of the organic market. It was very shocking to learn that the UK is the only country world-wide where the sales of organic food are dropping. In Europe, the USA, Australia, New Zealand & elsewhere production is struggling to keep up with demand. Much of our milk is still being exported. Why do Britons not want organic food? The excuse given is price, but in actual fact organic food is no more expenbnsive than conventional & sometimes cheaper. The market is controlled by the four main supermarkets & unless they are prepared to be interested in organic food, which they are not, the consumer will not even think about buying organic.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Spring Blossom, The Swallows are Late!, Baby Robins, Cows Out on Spring Grass

A lovely, though chilly spring morning & the blossom is just beginning to come out on various ornamental cherry trees & the fruit trees around the farm. The blackthorn in the hedges has been in flower for a week or two now casting their veil of lace over the still quite stark hedgerows.

We are still waiting for our swallows to arrive...they are very late as they are normally here on the 10th or 11th of April but here we are on 15th & still no sign of them. They have turned up at the neighbours but for some reason they seem to be avoiding us. We miss them & do hope that they will eventually turn up.

 The holiday-maker season has started and we were very busy with families staying over the Easter period. With three changeovers in a week (which is very unusual, most bookings are for full weeks not two or three days) it was fairly time consuming keeping up with the laundering & ironing of bed-linen. Unfortunately the weather was truly horrible over the Easter weekend but it did not seem to deter our guests from going the beach & exploring the area & we had lots of children happily running around the place in water-proofs & wellies.
As well as guests in the cottage we have had people staying in our daughter-in-law's gypsy wagon ( It was great to see them sitting around the fire & cooking outside and having a thoroughly good time.
In the bank beside the wagon there is a robins nest & we were worried lest the activity should disturb the birds but two day ago I very carefully had a look at the nest and found two fledgling robins waiting for their next feed, so clearly the parent birds were not too bothered by having close neighbours. The babies were tiny grey bundles of fluff with the usual enormous yellow-rimmed beaks gaping wide ready for the next morsel of insect that would be brought to them by their ever busy parents.

The dairy cows are now out in the fields during the day and enjoying the sunshine, though they still spend the nights inside eating silage as there is not enough bulk in the grass at present for milk production. The Farmer always maintains that the grass does not really start to grow until the daffodils have finished flowering & as we have a huge number of daffs here of many different varieties making an extended flowering season it will be a couple of weeks yet before the grass get going & it is still cold, we had a light frost this morning.
 The cows frisk around when first going out after milking and then settle down in the sunshine lokking very placid & contented.
We have now finished lambing  and the couple of adopted lambs are alll doing well with their new mothers and again, like the cows are all out in sunshine.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Spring Flowers & Birdsong,, Replacement Lambs

Glorious weather & the spring flowers are in abundance. Primroses in the hedgebanks, polyanthus & narcissus in the garden along the drive & I have just found the first bluebells in flower in a sheltered corner of the yard. The birds are singing joyfully from the crack of dawn and walking the dogs first thing in the mornings I hear  blackbirds, thrushes & wood pigeons, with woodpeckers hammering away up the wooded valley & canada geese coming in with their refrain of the wilderness.

This morning the Farmer & I had to go to Lampeter and on our way back went through the very entertaining excercise of trying to find a molly lamb to adopt onto one of our ewes who had lost her own lamb. Our good shepherd efforts meant driving along and me saying at intervals ' Look, there's a farm with lots of sheep & little lambs. Where's the farm entrance?' The Farmer then swinging the car down the next farm track and we arrive in an deserted yard with a farmhouse that delightfully, has not been renovated to a standard pattern of modernity, to be greeted by a welcoming committee of rangy sheepdogs & snapping terriers. A shadowy face peers out of a kitchen window and then disappears. The Farmer goes to the kitchen door and calls in, 'Bore da! Anyone home?'.  After a while a very little old Welsh lady in a proper old-fashioned floral pinny appears & the Farmer in his best Welsh explains what we looking for. She smiles and becomes very chatty, wanting to know where we lived and who we were. Once her natural curiosity is satisfied she returns to the request for a lamb. 'Nah, sori. We have rented out the farm now and they are not our sheep. Sori. Bore da.' And so we leave the yard escorted by the snapping terriers. We drive on for a few more miles until I spot another field of lambs jumping about in the sunshine and we wend our way up another twisting lane to a modern bungalow with lots of sheds where once again the Farmer approaches the back door. This time we are in luck and the owner of the dancing lambs just happens to have a couple of orphans and is more than happy to sell us one for a very modest sum. So we leave with a beautiful strong ram lamb in the foot-well of the passenger seat where I earnestly hope it won't relieve itself before we get home. (It doesn't!).
The reason for this somewhat random way of finding a replacement lamb is that our neighbours had none for us. Years ago there used to be what was called the Lamb Bank & one could call a certain phone number (possibly it was the NFU that organised it) and be told where lambs were available or log that you had some to spare. Somehow this arrangement has unfortunately ceased, more's the pity. It was very effective & useful.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Gypsy Caravan Ready for Easter Holidays.

At last I am able to show some photos of the interior of the delightful gypsy wagon & cabin that are now available for holidays here on the farm.
It has beeen a long project but now the caravan/wagon  is finished & so is the cabin that is adjacent to it where guests will find a very comfortable sitting-room with wood-burning stove, fully equipped kitchen & shower-room.

The wagon iteslf which is a traditional bow-top has a double bed and plenty of storage space and is all tricked out with lovely floral chintz linings and ticking stripe cushions.
The cabin is in tasteful neutral shades again with chintz & ticking fabrics to echo the look in the caravan. The sofa & the wood-burning stove ensure a comfortable place to sit once it is too chilly to sit out the veranda gazing at the stunning views & there is a well stocked set of bookshelves including a selection of dvds.
All in all it is a lovely place to try a bit of posh camping.
 Go to   for further details, availabilty & booking.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Optimistic Labradors, Men & Machines, Bottle-Fed Lambs

Our two black labs, Poppy & Hattie were caught sitting hopefully in the back of the car longing for trip with men & guns...they do not understand that the season is over  and that a car door left open is not an invitiation to them for a jolly day out. They took a lot of persuading to get out!

We have a had a couple of days of large lorries coming & going. Yesterday we were given a vast quantity of soil from a an excavation site in a local village. The lorries were coming onto the yard about every 3/4s of an hour until 6pm.
The soil will be very useful to us as back-fill on a large new pond that was dug last year and is still needing to be finished off. Once the soil is in place & carefully landscaped we will undertake a tree-planting session around the pond.
Today Younger Son returned after a very successful day at Cheltenham for the Gold Cup yesterday to go. On his return he went to get a big lorry with low-loader to transport his 13ton  digger to a job some miles away. The farm has been echoing to the squeal & hiss of air-brakes & the revving of very powerful engines of a horse-power that is frightening. Fortunately these things only happen very occasionally but the menfolk do love it!

I had a lamb in the kitchen yesterday, the first time for ages. It was healty creature but was twin with a much stronger brother who monopolised the milk bar, so the little scrap need some help. However, fortunately another ewed lambed and we have been able to adopt the one onto her with very little trouble. I don't mind feeding lambs but I really don't like having them in the kitchen for any length of time, mainly because they piddle copiously & if they are well but hungry they are difficult to keep contained & trot about the place bleating for company & the sooner we can find a surrogate mother the better.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Water Cheaper Than Milk... An Outrage!, The Countryside Restoration Trust

A friend has just sent me the following;
 Sheila Dillon of the Food Programme tweeted this yesterday: "...dairy farmers in the UK v hard pressed by processors in collusion with big retailers--and us! Milk cheaper than bottled water. Crazy".

Why do people buy water? Bottled water is the biggest con ever & that it is cheaper than milk produced by people like us after long hours of hard work in frequently appalling weather (it is not just the milking of the cows, you know, but the feeding & cleaning & bedding down & harvesting of feed for the long wet winters!) is offensive & outrageous.
Do not buy water...but do buy lovely healthful milk, especially organic milk!!!
Rant over!...well almost.

In this month's copy of The Field ( there is a marvellous piece by that champion of the countryside Robin Page. He is saying rightly that farmers & farm workers are now an endangered species and that the 'armlock' of the supermarkets must be broken in order that farming incomes can be improved to encourage young Britons to work on the land. Why are growers of fine British produce paying duty on fuel when imported & inferior food stuffs are coming into the country on tax-free fuel? Also there should be policy of local food  procurement for the Civil Service, hospitals, schools, prisons & the military.
Another very valid point he makes is that those entering a career as 'conservationists' (or even tv countyrside presenters) should work for six months on an upland farm & six months assisting a gamekeeper.
The title of the this piece is 'If I ruled the World...'  a regular feature in the magazine & this one by Robin Page is one the best we've read. So  much sense spoken by the man who is the founder & chairman of The Countryside Restoration Trust

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Lambing, Eco Fair & Seed Swap, Grafting Apple Trees

A beautiful , smiling sunny morning with a light haze over the valley & blue skies...perfect weather for lambs. We are in the middle of lambing & are having a goodly number healthy of twins  & good strong singles. If this fine weather continues they will be out either in the orchard when they are just a day or so old or in the fields once they are several days old.

Yesterday the Farmer & I went over the National Wool Museum ( which is in Drefach Velindre, about 5 minutes away from us, to an Eco-fair. Many of our friends from the local Energy & Housing Group & the Teifi Food Circle ( were there and it was good to catch-up with so many of them. The socialising aside, the event was very good with a  Seed Swap stand where people brought along saved seed of fruit & vegetables & swapped them for other types & varieties. If you did not have seeds to swap you could put whatever seeeds you desired in the small envelopes provided and put a donation in a jar. It was very popular. We came away with seeds for tomatoes, a black radish, which appparently  has to be planted after the summer solstice and crops in the autumn & is used like swede or turnip & cucumbers & beans.

Last weekend we had some friends come over to demonstrate how to graft aple trees. We have some very old apples trees in one of the orchards. They are a good 150 yearsold and whilest they are still good croppers and healthy trees we thought it would be good idea to graft them onto some new rootstock. M. & her husband are setting up a forest garden about 10 miles away ( and were keen to do some grafting from trees in an established orchard. The rootstock have now been planted in a safe place and we will wait to see how the grafts take & how the new trees do.