Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

Christmas morning and I was still asleep although the Farmer & Elder Son were out doing the milking & feeding calves when suddenly I became aware of running feet, muffled shouting and doors opening & shutting noisily. No, it was not Father Christmas rushing to get his round finished before the sun rose, it was a bovine obstetric emergency. Our last cow had calved during the night but when the Farmer checked on her at about 6.30 this morning he found she had managed to have a complete prolapse of her uterus. An unpleasant sight to say the least but a situation that requires immediate attention. Younger Son & I both got up speedily and went out to the shed to find the Farmer & Elder Son waiting for the vet. The poor cow looked very uncomfortable and there was nothing any of us could do. In the event our wonderful vet arrived and gave the cow an epidural and then it took three men to shove the uterus back into the cow while another one held her head. Two hours later she is standing and looking to make a good recovery, thank goodness. Sadly, the calf was dead.
The uterus is a huge organ and if it is exposed for too long can lead to significant heat loss for the cow, indeed the steam coming of it as we stood was amazing, so it is important that it is replaced as quickly as possible. It is so large that it does take a team of people to push it back. A large plastic sheet is placed under the organ to enable it to be lifted and supported whilst being forced back in place. The prognosis after such an event is usually good and the cow can on to have subsequent calves without any increased risk of such a thing happening again

I, for the second year running am not having to cook Christmas dinner as we are going over to Elder Son's cottage with all the family. The two small grand-children are in the traditional state of hysterical over-excitement, tears before breakfast and the day is already too much for them. Why do we do this ? It's madness...too much hyped-up anticipation & too many presents(grumpy Granny moment again!) yet there will be lovely moments when you suddenly realise that Christmas is fun. Yesterday, Christmas Eve was fun...a continual stream of cheerful people calling and sitting in the kitchen over coffee and mince pies. I think I must have greeted over a dozen different lots of friends who came to say Merry Christmas and some of whom called to pick up their turkeys as well.
The Farmer & the Sons spent last weekend killing, plucking & dressing turkeys. We reared only 10 this year so it was not too onerous.
Now I am off to make bread sauce and trifles and to check on the Christmas pudding steaming away on the contributions to the meal.

Nadolig Llawen! Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Dairy Farmers meet with Politicians, Rural Postal Services

Last evening the Farmer & I attended a meeting in Narberth arranged by Simon Hart MP to discuss the state of the dairy industry with Stephen Crabb, the Minister of State for Wales, Neil Parrish MP, chairman of the all-party group on the dairy industry & Andy Richardson, chairman of the review into Wales's dairy industry. About a 100 dairy farmers from Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion & Pembrokeshire attended.

With the price of milk falling all the time it is felt that politicians, retailers, milk buyers and producers need to work out a system by which there is a fair price for all, but more particularly for the producers. Some dairy farms are selling milk for less than their production costs and this is often due to the contracts that they are tied into. The supermarkets are also greatly at fault when they use milk as a loss leader eg. Morrisons selling 2 litres (3.5 pints) for 84p. It is outrageous. Consumers have become used to being able to buy milk at a very low price and for many producers there is almost no option but to leave the industry if prices continue to drop, particularly for smaller family farms with little capital to invest in expansion.
We are a small family dairy farm; we farm just over 200 acres and milk 50 cows. As organic producers we get a slightly higher price than conventional farms for our milk but the organic sector is affected by price drops and current politics in the milk industry the same as all dairy farmers.

In England and Wales there are now just under 10,000 dairy farms(Farmers Guardian this week) which is a drop of 20,000 in 20 years. In Scotland there are only 900 dairy farms.
In Wales dairy is one of the largest farming sectors, about 34% of agricultural production by value, twice as high as the rest of the UK.

There was lot of comment during the meeting on how the supermarkets and the consumers have no respect for food. There is so little understanding of how food is produced and the hard work that goes into putting a pint of milk on the supermarket shelf. Education is the key, of course. Schools should be teaching food...bring back home economics and domestic science into the curriculum, teaching students what food is, how it is produced and how to cook well.

The politicians are aware of how the dairy industry is enduring this time of low prices and it will be interesting to see what they can do improve the situation.
With general election coming up in just over 5 months time will the present government have any time to make any real changes?

Another issue that I have become aware of lately is the threat to postal services for those of us in rural areas as has been expressed by the FUW , the Farmer's Union of Wales.
The FUW says that there are concerns that changes to the postal sector with adversely affect Wales' rural communities.
Wales has about 42,000 agricultural holdings of which 20,000 are said to be significant. As farmers we are subject ot strict legal requirements covering animal welfare, identification, movements, feed & food production and land management. Apparently the documentation relating to these legislative requirements results in approximately 3,000 pages of information a year that has to come to the farm. Much of the notifications require responses with strict deadlines and major financial penalties if these deadlines are not met. Paper correspondence is still important even though much of the paperchase has gone online (and has become more complicated and inefficient as a result) and many areas of Wales have limited broadband coverage. The maintenance of postal deliveries six days a week is vitally bring us our 3,000 pieces of paper telling us what we can and cannot do on the farm, or else!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Christmas is coming

Misty winter mornings are some of my favourite parts of the year & even more so when combined with frost. Today is such a morning. The mist has now lifted and we are enjoying blue skies and the silver glitter on the roofs is disappearing rapidly in the sunshine.

It is the beginning of December and the phrase 'Christmas is coming' has a somewhat threatening tone as the Christmas madness begins on the media and in the shops. As far as I'm concerned Christmas shouldn't really begin until the 24th (though the various small preparations in the week before are enjoyable) but my family see that as curmudgeonly and too Scrooge-like. It is at this time of year that I am more than usually glad we do not have television...the occasional glimpse of the hysterical madness especially on the children's tv is appalling...I sound like a grumpy Granny but what I mean is just keep the whole thing in perspective and don't indulge every wish of already over-indulged children. The small domestic, home-made aspects of Christmas are the most enjoyable not the brash, superficial tinsel of media driven excess. Gosh that sounds so priggish!! Actually, I love Christmas and every family has its own way of celebrating, so each to their own.

On the farming front we have had lot of calves born lately so there is a lot of milk being produced which is good, I think we are sending more milk than we have ever done. The milk tanker has just arrived and the driver has assured us that he will be coming on Christmas Day though maybe a little earlier than usual so that he can home for his Christmas lunch. Like we farmers many of the ancillary workers in the agricultural industry do not get a day off.
All the cattle are in and so the first half of each morning is spent feeding and bedding down. Once that is all done the Farmer & the Sons get on with good weather jobs such as hedge-trimming, and logging to get in the supply of firewood for the next couple years.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Cattle & Dogs

Most of the cattle are in for the winter though a few still graze in the somewhat soggy fields. Those that are in are fed silage each day and are bedded down with fresh straw. Feed barriers are the best way of feeding anumber of cattle at a time, each beast goes to a section and eats what it needs as as when it chooses. The smell of good silage and warm cattle is very evocative of winter on the farm

For some reason the Farmers's shadow, his working collie Mollie is being allowed into the kitchen these days and Dottie the terrier is somewhat miffed to find that Mollie can fit into her bed so is resigned to sharing though it is a tight fit.
Talking of dogs we lost our old labrador Poppy a couple of weeks ago. She was twelve and was suffering from liver failure. She had been a superb gun-dog and she & Younger Son whose dog she was, learnt everything together about beating and retrieving game. She was also a wonderful companion and the greediest dog imaginable which is quite something in the world of labradors!...her other name was Pig-dog! She was also Dottie the terrier's sofa, here they are in the summer both very comfortable in the sunshine.

Friday, 7 November 2014

First Milk Dairy Farmers Meeting

Hawthorn berries gleaming like rubies in the almost bare hedgerows.

Yesterday the Farmer & I attended a meeting of dairy farmers who sell their milk to First Milk ( First Milk is farmer's co-operative and about 150 members from Wales attended the meeting held at Nant y Ffin (,LLandissilio in Pembrokeshire.
Chairing the meeting was Sir Jim Paice MP, chairman of First Milk & former minister of food.
The state of the dairy industry is fairly dire at present, not just in the UK but globally. Many farmers are being paid less than the cost of production for their milk and there is a drop in demand which has not been helped by the Russian embargo on UK dairy products. 2/3 of Europe's dairy produce was exported to Russia and without that market there is a massive over supply of milk & milk products in Europe. The price paid to dairy farmers is not going to improve until production and supply drops and demand goes up.
To reduce production is not a simple matter; when a dairy cow is put in calf the decision has been made for what happens with the cow in 5 years time when she will be in full milk production. Many farms are planning to expand but while the current low in the industry will eventually change, we all have to weather this difficult time. We are very fortunate that as organic producers things are are a little better in the organic sector but nonetheless the situation affects everyone in the dairy industry one way or another.
A final thought - 50,000 farmers & farm workers are employed on dairy farms in the UK. Next time you buy a pint of milk think about the many people involved in producing that pint.
For information on all things dairy see

Monday, 3 November 2014

Autumn Fungi, Winter Preparations

This beautiful display of fungi was spotted on my walk with the dogs yesterday. I don't know what type of fungi they are but they are growing on the stump of a conifer and look just gorgeous, as lovely as any flowering plant in the garden.

Winter is definitely on its way... the Farmer & the Sons have spent the afternoon putting away the summer machinery. The mowers, tedders, balers & wrappers are now all neatly lined up in their shed for the winter, protected from the weather and out of the way of the farm activity over the next 6 months or so.

The Farmer has spent a lot of time lately processing firewood and we have a large shed now full of logs which is a most comforting & satisfying sight as the season gets cooler.
Today is the first really cold day we've had so far, the tweed coats were donned and gloves found to be necessary. There was a sharp-edged wind up in the top fields today which is very different to the too warm weather of last week which was all wrong for the end of October. The autumn is looking lovely with a number of trees retaining their russet golden leaves despite the strong winds of the last few days. We've also had heavy rain and the streams around the farm are now running well again after having almost dried up over the summer. As we are not on mains water it always good to see the streams running as it means that the underground springs that feed our water tanks are also running well. In a dry summer such as we have just had water does become a bit of an issue. We do have to be careful in our usage of water and the cows do have to take priority...they need about 10 gallons each a day, plus all the water required for washingthe milking parlour & dairy and the cooling of the milk. Wales is known for its rainfall but even here we have to be aware of how much or little we have at times.

Friday, 24 October 2014

OMSCo & First Milk promote Kingdom Cheese in US, Pheasant Shoot, Jack Russell Puppy to new home

The cottage has now had its redecoration all done and everything put back in its it is all looking very spruce & smart. The warm pink of the walls of the sitting-room works well giving an air of cosiness and with two sofas and the wood-burning stove is just the place for relaxing and enjoying a peacedful country holiday.
Plug over, now onto other stuff!

Yesterday the Farmer & I went to the delightful small town of Narberth in Pembrokeshire for a meeting held in the Plas Hyfryd Hotel by OMSCo ( the organic milk buyer who, with First Milk ( sells our milk to whoever needs it.
It was a good meeting with the usual group of attendees (& only 3 wives) in which the chaps from OMSCo explained the current market regarding the organic milk industry. OMSCo is the largest organic milk buyer in the country and supplies organic milk to many retailers and manufacturers of organic products. A very exciting developemnet for the co-operatve is the huge success of Kingdom Cheese in the States. This is an organic cheddar-type cheese that is produced solely for the American market & is proving very popular over the pond. It has just won three gold awards in the International Cheese Awards held in Nantwich, Cheshire recently which will give it even greater attraction to American cheese buyers. It seems the demand for organic cheese in the States outstrips supply hence OMSCo being able to promote a British made organic cheese there.
Although Kingdom Cheese is not available in the UK we have been given samples of it and it is very good.

Tomorrow sees the the first shoot of the season for the Farmer & Younger Son. They are busy sorting out guns, cartridge, thorn-proof clothing and making sure the dogs are in fine fettle for a good first day. The weahter should be quite kind to them though even it is raining stair-rods they still all seem to have a wonderful time.
I shall be spending the day, or the morning at least doing a changeover in the cottage. We have had a delightful Lancashire farmer & his wife staying for 3 nights having come down to collect their Jack Russell puppy from us. If prosepctive dog owners are prepared to travel so far then I am always confident that the puppy will be going to an excellent home.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Jack Russell Puppies, Cottage Redecoration

The Jack Russell puppies are now 7 weeks old and utterly delightful. We have homes for all but two dogs. They are such fun but very naughty and have learnt to make their way upto the house from their cosy nest in an out building. I have to take a very circuitous route up a set of steps to escape them when taking the big dogs for a walk otherwise they attempt to follow & while having trail of very tiny puppies when walking through the fields is terribly sweet it is also very trying as they can't keep up and get tired and I cannot possibly carry them all!

The past week has been taken up with the end of season sprucing up of the holiday cottage. This year I employed a friend to paint the main rooom & kitchen which involves high ladders and painting of beams...a job I have always hated so it was great to have someone else do it. I have also changed some of the furnishings, replacing pieces that had become rather shabby. The cottage works very hard as a building, constantly, though inadvertantly, battered by the ever changing inhabitants. I am always touching-up paintwork where it has been chipped by suitcases bashing against walls.
I've also replaced the china & the Farmer has fixed up new lights in the kitchen area over the cooker which were much needed. It is all looking very clean and fresh now, ready for out next guests who arrive next week.

We had some very dramatic weather last week, a whole day & night of thunder & lightening..the thunder was incredible, the whole of this solid old stone house shook at time and windows rattled in their frames fairly constantly. There was much damage reported locally to telephones, computer & internet connections. We came off quite lightly but Elder Son lost his phone and internet. Some of our neighbours have only had their phones reconnected today!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Autumn, Ancient Settlement, Seals Pupping

We are still picking sweetpeas from the poly-tunnel which on a grey damp day such as today is very cheering.
We have had a change in the weather...the Indian summer has come to an end though the Farmer is not too unhappy about it. He had reseeded a field last week in the sunshine aqnd the rain that we have had since has been perfect for the seeds, light & not too persistent.
Autumn has come, the leaves are falling & the swallows & martins left us some weeks ago, which is very early, they are usually around until the end of Septemebr.

This summer we acquired an extra few acres,acres that have been almost totally neglected for the past 20 years. So, there has been a concerted effort by the Farmer & the Sons to reclaim fields that have been taken over by aggressive brambles and bracken to say nothing of the self sown trees, mainly willow and blackthorn. This clearance work has involved chainsaws, tractors with mowers and even a digger at times. The fields are adjacent to our main holding but seperated by a lane and whilst one can walk there more quickly than driving they are a great opportunity for the farm which will enable us to milk a few more cows.
As well as these neglected & overgrown fields there is also a beautiful woodland of twisted mossy oaks & with a small river running through. In the spring this wood is a mass of bluebells.

The best thing for me about the land is the fact that there is an ancient historic site on the top field. It is large stone banked enclosure, possibly neolithic in origin though I have not been able to find much information on it, but I will keep digging in the internet. I do not think the site has been the subject of a an archaeological dig.
This area has a number of ancient 'fort' sites all within reasonable distance of each other. They may have formed a chain of settlements across the this hilly & wooded countryside. The name of the land is Gaerwen which translates as White Fort. The local geology provides plentiful quantities of white quartz which may have been used in the construction that made a gleaming white enclosure.
Arrow heads have been found nearby but a couple of thousand years of of farming will have obliterated much of whatever evidence there may have been of the previous inhabitants of the valley.

The change of the season means an end to our sea swimming days out. The sea is less enticing in the cooler weather and I am only a warm water swimmer. Another reason not to enter the sea at the moment is the presence of bull seals in our favourite cove.
When we went down there last week there was a lot of roaring & bellowing coming from one of the small caves that run into the cliffs and we learned that it was seal cow giving birth to her cub. Out in the shallow waters of the cove (just in the area where we swim) a large bull seal was patrolling up and down waiting for the cub to be born so that he could then go to mate with the mother as is the way with seals, post-partum copulation & insemination.
That particular beach is known for having seals pups on it and the local people set up a watch group to guard the babies from over-inquisitive onlookers (& their dogs!). The cubs can be viewed from the sea wall but no-one should venture onto the beach itself.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Scotland Says 'No', Autumn Harvest Continues, Jack Russell Puppies

Family farming provides days like this...three generations having a picnic in the harvest field in what is turning out be an Indian summer.

Well, Scotland has chosen to remain within the United Kingdom & I am very pleased. As a proud Scot(but without a vote) I was unsure at first about the 'No' campaign but as time went on I began to think that independence was a wonderful but romantic ideal. The Scots are a pragmatic & practical people and the idea of removing Scotland from the Union (which they brought about in the first place when James VI of Scotland inherited the throne of England from his mother's cousin Elizabeth I in 1603)has been shown to be a dream. Scotland & Scots people have such a strong sense of identity that they have never been an insignificant part of the UK & now they have shown themselves wanting to continue in the union.
It was a pity that the campaign turned into a referendum on the Coalition but it was probably almost inevitable that it would become a party political football. It is no surprise that the Labour stronghold of Glasgow voted 'Yes' while the remote & rural Highland region, the islands & most of the rest of the country voted 'No'.
A 'Yes' vote would have created a great deal of turmoil, not least here in Wales. If Scotland could be independent then Wales would want to go it alone too but with what? Wales does not have the resources or an already exisiting independent judiciary & education system with which to stand alone. As a friend in political circles (another Scot without a vote) emailed me, 'collaboration with the greater Uk has to make long term sense -as the world gets smaller we need to work together so much more.'

Back onto more domestic matters (& really far more important!) the Farmer has been busy with apple harvest. He has once again been processing vast quanitiies of apples into apple juice (with the help of Small Grand-daughter), some of which will be frozen to drunk over the winter while the rest he will make into cider. Last year's brew was excellent so let hope this year's batch will be as good.
As I've mentioned in previous posts the fruit harvest this year has been exratordinary, I'm still picking brambles, though according to tradition they should not be picked after 29th September as that's when the Devil mspits on them & cetrtainkly they are becoming increasingly squishy & fly-blown. The rose-hips are in great quantity but they are horrible to pick & unfortunately the birds have got the elderberries before me. The beech-mast (which is of course inedible) is scattered around in such amounts as I've rarely seen before & there are mutterings about signs of a hard winter to come.

Dottie & her puppies are doing well. The puppies at 3 weeks old have just been introduced to the delights of Weetabix and snuffle through it with great glee & then fall asleep in the dish while Dottie cleans the stickiness from their coats.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Teifi Book, Milk Fever in Dogs, Local Agricultural Show

It is the end of the summer & the hydrangeas that have flowered so profusely and for so long are now beginning to fade into their delicate autumnal colours, so very subtle after the vibrant almost garish sky blue shades of earlier months.

We have had a couple of weeks of intense activity with many guests and events.
Last week I spent 3 days stewarding a photographic exhibition that I had been involved in organising. It was the result of a competition run by the Teifi Valley Tourism Association ( which people were asked to send in photos of any part of the Teifi Valley and we were pleasantly surprised to have about 140 entries. Most of the entries were so good we were able to mount an exhibition which was well attended and also produce a book of the best pictures. The photos in the book run in sequence from the mouth of the estuary of the Teif River to the source up in the wild hills of mid-Wales & illustrate what very beautiful & varied part of the world we live in. The book is companion to the dvd that was produced last year, 'Teifi From Sea to Source'
Copies can be obtained by contacting me at

After arriving home on the last day of the exhibition about at about 7pm within 10 minutes I was back in the car on a dash to the vets with my little terrier who had had puppies a week earlier. She had developed milk fever or eclampsia. We are accustomed to seeing milk fever in dairy cows and whilst it can be alarming in such a big animal we are able to administer calcium to the cow ourselves, rarely having to call a vet, however in a very small dog it is more than alarming. The illness which arises from a lack of calcium due to milk production and manifests itself very suddenly, causes a rapid rise in temperature, convulsions and hideous shaking. My poor little dog was in very bad way having been feeding 7 puppies for a week. If the litter hade been only the more usual 3-4 puppies she would probably not have had any problems. So, we had an emergency run to to the vet with little dog getting worse and worse in the car. On our arrival at the surgery the wonderful night duty vet gave three injections of calcium and a remarkable recovery was made. Within 20 minutes Dottie was back to is extraordinary how quickly a simple injection of calcium can work miracles. We came home with a bouncing dog and a supply of milk powder to supplement both puppies and the mother.
We are now feeding the tiny puppies with a syringe three times a day just to help Dottie out. They are all doing well.

On Saturday we spent the day at our local agricultural show.
The Farmer had been asked to steward for the dairy cattle judge & we had also entered items in various domestic & handicraft classes, so we were up on the show field good & early. Fortunately it is only quarter of a mile away from us.
The Farmer, our daughter-in-law KT, grand-daughter L. & I had all got entries in a number of classes without any expectation of winning anything. We had just entered to support the show & so were very surprised & thrilled to find we had won things. The Farmer got 3rd for his woodturning, 2nd for a bird box made from recycled materials, 1st for a truss of organic hay (the only entry so it doesn't really count!) L.(aged 3 & a half) 2nd for a face made of sweeties, I got a 3rd for Bara Brith (a traditional Welsh fruit loaf)& most surprising of all a 2nd for photograph of flowers. A rather good showing by the family at its first efforts in the highly competitive arena of local agricultural shows. We are already planning for next year!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Family & Friends, Terrier Puppies, Wild Fruit Harvest

Well, here we are in September...August is always such a busy month that it is almost a relief to move on in the year.
Apart from the holiday-makers who are an everchanging & unknown troupe we have had a rush of other guests. Family members and old friends who come to stay for a couple of days of conversation, eating & sightseeing & it is wonderful to see them but when their visits coincide with Grandson's 1st birthday and party, cottage changeover, the birth of a litter of 7 terrier puppies, cows calving & the usual dashing here, there & everywhere by the Farmer & Sons it is fairly exhausting!
Family visits are always good as we are a somewhat scattered tribe & so visits are usually several months apart so there is always lots of catching up to do and one day is always taken up with the Farmer organising a trip involving much walking & a picnic. This time we went up to Tregaron, a tiny market town in the hills & then onto the lovely ruins of Strata Florida abbey which are set in bowl of green sheep strewn hills and then a switchback drive to the source of the river Teifi, a vast & lonely empty place at the top of the previously mentioned hills where we had our picnic accompanied by the call of the buzzards over the heather clad moors. On then into the Ystwyth valley to Hafod for a good long walk through the extraodinary remnants of a great 18th century estate. The house of Hafod has long gone but its romantic woods with the river and cascades & gorges are now run by the Forestry Commission and offer visitors some seriously dramatic & beautiful walks.
Other house-guests have included friends from childhood days who have not visited the farm for well over 20 years so it was a real catch-up of news & nostalgia but also a trip to the beach one evening for a very chilly & buffeting swim followed by fish & chips at another beach watching the evening draw in over the excellent evening as it turned out.

While all this social stuff was going on my little terrier produced a litter of 7 (!!!) puppies without any fuss or bother. she just got on with it one night all on her own & we came down in the morning to find her ensconced in her nest of hay in the dog shed very proud of her babies. They were tiny with a great variety of black & white marking...the Farmer says they look like good Frisians!...but have grown tremendously in 6 days. A litter of that size for a small farm terrier is I think quite unusual, but she is coping amazingly well with them.

One my daily walks with the dogs I go armed with a stout stick, secateurs, a basket for brambles & a cotton bag for hazelnuts. I must have put the best part of 40lbs of brambles in the freezer now & I have gathered nearly 3lbs of hazelnuts which are now in paper bags hanging from my kitchen ceiling ready for Christmas.This year is proving to be quite amazing for the quantities of wild fruits and nuts. The Farmer picked a large amount of bullace plums the other day as well as the Victorias in the orchard. The bullace are already turning into wine ina large bin sitting by the Rayburn in the kitchen bubbling away merrily. Sloes are showing their dull purple in the hedges and we must collect them before the birds strip the bushes. They are usually left until after the first frosts but one can cheat and pick them earlier and put them in the deep freeze. They need to be frosted before being put into gin or vodka...something to do with the release of sugars I think.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Summer lilies, Hedgerow Harvest, Dolphins in Cardigan Bay

Each year the lilies in my somewhat chaotic garden astonish me with their magnificence.
Although the gardens are looking very full & lush they need some work to be done to remove the dead heads of straggling ground cover plants and some general end of summer tidying up, however the lilies rise above the general tangle.

I was out at 7 o'clock this morning with the dogs and a basket for brambles. This is proving to be a wonderful season for the hedgerow harvest. I have already frozen 4 large boxes of brambles and they are masses more to come. I was pleased to find sloes hiding behind their thorny barricades...last year there were almost none. There will be a good crop of hazelnuts too this year if I can get to them before the squirrels, I have already found scatterings of shells in various wooded corners of the farm. A fine gathering of field mushrooms was had the other morning to add to my list of seasonal bounty, delicious fried with bacon for breakfast.
There is a definite breath of autumn in the air now and the there has been a change in the weather though the Sons are still busy on silage.

The Farmer & I went to the beach one evening last week and swam in warm-ish waters. It was lovely and even better when once again we saw a small number of dolphins swimming just a few hundred yards from us. We have never seen dolphins off that particular beach before so was very exciting. There have been a lot of sightings of the dolphins that patrol Cardigan Bay this summer and it is always special if we catch a glimpse of them on one of our infrequent visits to the coast.

The summer stream of holiday-makers in the cottage is keeping me busy...I am waiting to do my next change-over while I write this.
We have had a lot of delightful people staying really enjoying being here on the farm. It is always good when families just spend their days sitting outside & chatting reading and going for walks and generally watching the farm activities. It makes us feel that they really appreciate what the place is about & enjoy seeing how we live, which is on the whole so very different from urban lives. Most of our guests are town-dwellers and they love being in the real countryside for a week though some do say to us that they couldn't live a country life for long!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

St. Dogmael's Abbey & Shakespeare, Ethical Shopping

A lovely August morning after threats of bad weather that never really materialised apart form a heavy rainstorm two nights ago. The Sons are still busy working bringing in other people's silage though Younger Son has been driving for a straw haulier today & yesterday, leaving home at 3am with a lorry & drag to get to Oxfordshire to pick up a load to bring back to Wales. Wales does not grow much arable and so we need to import straw from the productive arable lands of England & the haulier's lorries can be seen ploughing up & down the motorways with their huge golden loads.

Near the small town of Cardigan is the village of St. Dogmael's or Llandudoch as it should rightfully be known. at the heart of the village are the wonderful ruins of St. Dogmael's abbey where each year a production of a Shakespeare play is put on in the abbey grounds by the Abbey Shakespeare Players (
This year it was 'The Merchant of Venice' and through a a last minute invitiation by a friend the Farmer & I were able to go. We had not been to this event for a number of years though we used to take the Sons when they were little quite regularly. As an outdoor event the weather has not been favourable for a number of summers recently, however this year it was perfect. The production was very good and as always the abbey ruins are used as the stage and with very simple sets, props & clever lighting a world is created. As the evening drew on and the light faded with bats coming out an flitting over the heads of the actors & audience and owls calling from the woods surrounding the abbey & with the moon appearing just at the right point for the 'On such a night...' speech, it was a lively & entertaining production, though the anti-semitic aspects of the play I always find somewhat disturbing.

Lately we have been having conversations with friends about ethical shopping.
The subject came up as we were talking about the merits of Rachel's Dairy yoghourts which I no longer buy. Many years ago our milk went to supply Rachel's Dairy at their small family run business in Aberystwyth. Since then the business has been sold to a string of companies and is now owned by a French firm Lactalis, a French dairy 'giant' which is a partner of the multi-national giant Nestle. Nestle is one the most boycotted companies in the world, a stance that started back in the 1970's with the aggressive promotion of baby milk formula. Nestle own a vast number of brands that are available in every store & supermarket. For details of their empire go to is a real eyeopener! I do not wish to buy products that are marketed by a vast impersonal organisation that is only interested in profit. Dairy products particulary seem more inappropriate in such a scenario than most, especially when so many good dairy products (not necessarily just organic ones) are produced locally all over the country.
Other products I do not buy are Green & Black's owned by Kraft & anything from Cadbury's which is also owned by Kraft.
There are many independent producers of all goods and surely it is better to buy everything as locally as possible.
As for yoghourt I buy Yeo Valley which is where our milk goes.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Summer Gardens, Bees, Monty Python Live (Mostly)

The gardens are looking lovely at present, with my pots of lilies trumpeting their colours. Hydrangeas do particularly well here and driving around the area one is overwhelmed by these massive displays of rich purple, blue & cerise flower heads leaning over garden walls and banked in borders. I have several vast hyrdrangeas that are looking spectacular as are the giant red montbretia that are sending up their vivid flowers and sharp spears of leaves creating sharp architectural backdrops to other smaller plants that fill in the front of the beds like blue cranesbill. It's all rather lovely with the Farmers bees very busy throughout the gardens and in the trees. We seem to have a strong colony & the Farmer is happy that they are working well. I have just had a phone call from a neighbour to say he has swarm of bees in his shed so the Farmer has gone off to collect them, hopefully. It is not the best time of year for swarms, being rather late but if he can capture a good good size cluster they should have chance of survival.
'A swarm in May is worth a load of hay.
A swarm in june is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm in July is not worth a fly.'
We shall see.
Well, a wasted trip...the bees were bumble bees, not honey bees. Our neighbour really should be able to tell the difference! Farmer now disgruntled!

It has been another misty morning which again promises a hot day. Walking across the shrouded fields I was treated to the lovely sight of thistles with their mauve flowers, draped in dew-bejewelled cobwebs glinting in the emerging sunshine. This is perfect time of year for shimmering cobwebs adorning plants and laced between the bars of gates dripping with dewdrops.

The Farmer & the Sons are once again busy working on the silage crop after a few days respite. Younger Son went up to the CLA Game Fair at Blenheim at the weekend where it was unpleasantly hot & humid. Here that day it was grey, cool-ish and we were swathed in mist all was so miserable I even lit the fire (!) just to air the house.

Last night the Farmer & I went to our wonderful local theatre in Cardigan ( to see Monty Python Live broadcast from the O2 arena. The theatre was packed and with a palpable sense of anticipation. The show was great. I haven't laughed so much for a long time, with all the old favourite sketches being wheeled out interspersed with terrific dance numbers to the hilarious songs. The Pythons were on top form and seemed to be enjoying themselves. There was certain poignancy to the event which served to add a depth to the more cynical & ironic lines being delivered by five elderly gentlemen who had first made their surreal world available to us all 40 years ago.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Nursery School Sports Day, Octogenarian Film Show, Carmarthenshire Tourism

A misty morning promising a fine day of sunshine. Going out to walk the dogs before the mist has lifted is lovely with trees & cattle emerging through the grey veil that billows gently across the fields. The dogs race through the grass disappearing & re-emerging through the mist like ghost hounds. As we walked through apart of the farm where there is a derelict building two barn owls suddenly swooped out of the mist and floated across my path to disappear into the mists, a beautiful sight.

Yesterday was a day of the ages of man.
The morning was spent on our local little village sports field watching the pre-school tots have their sports day. So sweet & very funny! All these tiny children running races with absolutely no idea what it is all about and some very competitive parents, especially when it came to the Father's race! Our small grand-daughter (aged three & a half)) nonchalantly ran her ten metres race & then sauntered throught the egg & spoon race with the specially bought plastic spoons & plastic eggs (what happened to a metal spoon & a hard-boiled egg like in the olden days, pre health & safety idiocy?)in a very unconcerned manner. She was more interested in playing on the bouncy castle. Every child was presented with minute silvery cup, gold medal & a certificate even if they had refused to take part.

In the afternoon I went with a friend to our local market town to give showing of the film 'Teifi, From Sea to Source' that I produced last year (see the side panel to this blog for details), to the town's Friendship Group. About forty very old people came along, average age probably 80, and they were wonderful, one of the most appreciative & interested audiences we have had. Many of them were locals who had lived in the Teifi Valley all their lives and they very sweetly told us after the showing that they had learned a lot from the film & had so enjoyed seeing the countryside that they knew so well, from the air.
We sold a good number of copies of the film too which was very gratifying.

To round off a very busy day the Farmer & I attended a presentation by the Carmarthenshire Tourism Association
which was to tell us all about the success of a project that has been running for the last couple of years to inmprove tourism in the county. Many of us in local tourism have been involved in the consultations & this has resulted in our area, the north west of Carmarthenshire, in a new (albeit discreetly tucked away) visitor information centre in Newcastle Emlyn and a website, With some help from volunteers & general tweaking both projects should be reasonably successful.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

R is for Rain, Rest & Relaxing after Harvest

It is raining! 4.15pm on Thursday 26th June after what seems like endless weeks of sunshine the weather has broken and we can all take a deep sigh and relax having had an incredibly busy time literally making hay while the sun shines.
The Farmer & the Sons seem to have taken up full-time residence in their tractor cabs as they have been doing many hundreds of hours & acres getting in the silage crops around the neighbourhood as well as our own. After the mild spring the grass crop is superb for everyone and we have even been able to make hay as the weather has been so good for days on end.

On one of the few days when the Farmer was not required to drive a tractor he brought the sheep in for shearing.He did our small flock of about 50 ewes in one day on his own. It seems there an increased demand for organic wool this year which is very good news. We shall take our wool up the collection centre in Brecon before too long & hopefully will get a reasonable price for it.

Despite the pressure of silage making the Farmer & I were able (or should I say allowed!) to go away for two days last weekend to attend the wedding of the Farmer's god-son, in Devon. We had lovely time catching up with old friends. The wedding was great fun, very simple and informal. Someone described it as being like a mini festival, with really great live music playing and fire-jugglers, stilt walkers and a fire to sit round in the gloaming of the longest day in a field on the edge of Dartmoor. A very happy & enjoyable occasion.

On our return it was back into the fray with the Farmer immediately being summoned to drive again and take over the milking as required. Today he has been painting the tin of our curved-roof barn...he is up there quite safely I hasten to add... with a knapsack sprayer transforming what was a very shabby roof into a bright red-oxide coloured curve of corrugated tin which will last another ten years or so.

The soft rain which is now falling is much needed. The fields will now recover well and there will be a lovely growth of aftermath for the cows. The gardens were beginning to show signs of dehydration so they will perk up now and the dust will wash away from the borders and be well damped on the driveway and yard. While the sunshine is wonderful it does mean such hard work for farmers and so a few damp days now will mean they can have rest and catch-up on all the other tasks that get neglected while making the most of good weather.

Monday, 9 June 2014

A Welsh Country Wedding

The first week of June and the foxgloves are coming out in their cathedral spire-like glory.
After the blaze of cerulean blue from the bluebells in the bottom of the hedges we are now lifting our eyes up to these gorgeous puce pinnacles as they fill up every corner of wild banks. They are particularly welcome on areas of disturbed ground such as the new bank behind the holiday cottage where they are giving an amazing display. Being primary colonisers they just appear in their masses with no effort on my part to create such a wonderful planting scheme!

At the weekend the Farmer & I attended the wedding of some friends which took place at the Ceridwen Centre (, a lovely wedding venue just ten minutes drive from the farm.
Our friends G. & R. had a perfect day (despite dire weather forecasts which fortunately proved to be very wrong)with sun shining and all their guest able to relax out of doors gazing at the stunning views across the valley.
The Ceridwen Centre has a very pretty little walled garden with a beautiful wooden structure, rather hobbit-y in appearance, for marriage ceremonies to take place in, however the registrar who it seems has the power to make such decsions said that because of the risk of rain the ceremony had to take place indoors. So we all trooped into what had been the old dairy in the days when the centre was working farm. It had of course been decorated in case of such an eventuality and was fine.
The bride came in with her father to Jimmy Durante singing 'Make Someone Happy' and then bride & groom exited to The Carpenters singing 'Top of the World'...all rather good fun & certainly original.
The bride is an expert on renovating old buildings (she is know as G...the Lime due to her encyclopaedic knowledge of the uses of lime mortar, putty, plaster etc.) and during the service the poem 'Scaffolding' by Seamus Heaney wholly apporiately, was read out. (Look it up.) The service ended with reading of a Welsh poem 'Dau berson ydych heddiw, Ag un bywyd yn eich blaen' (roughly translated as 'Two people here today At the start of their lives together'.
It was all very simple & unfussy and happy.
The wedding feast was held in the magnificent double tipi with beautiful flowers decorating each table and very good organic food & wines served.
The Farmer as well as being a wedding-guest was also part of the Entertainment with the band he plays in providing the music for some Welsh folk-dancing. The caller, who knows all there is to know about Welsh traditional dances and much else besides in the field of Welsh folk culture, has years of experience in getting people up to dance and they did so with great gusto. After an hour & a half (!) of Welsh dancing the band retired to great applause to make way for the disco...the dancers not being a whit worn out by their previous exertions continued to bop away the night to 70's disco classics.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Silage Time, Roadmenders, Goslings & Geese, Random South Korean Visitor

The hedgerows and gardens are looking just wonderful at present.Walking throught the fields the hedges are full of flowers, lovely Queen Ann's Lace, vibrant Red Campion and gleaming varnished buttercups and of course the Granny's Bonnets. This abundance of low growing flowers is crowned with magnificent tresses of the laburnum trees which are in full glory along with the lovely white blossom of the may trees.
These fields were thick with high waving seas of grass until last evening when the Farmer and Sons set forth with tractors and mowing machine to cut the grass for the first crop of silage. And a superb crop it is too. Elder Son made the decision to spread a lot of slurry during the winter & it has certainly paid off...we have one of our best crops for many years and it is all done organically without any input of artificial fertilisers, just muck & slurry from our cows.
Today the grass is being turned or tedded, and will be brought in before the weather breaks tomorrow. Elder Son reckons we have until midnight before the rain starts. So it is going to be a long day and very late night for the tractor drivers. With the fields spread with swathes of cut grass the local red kites & buzzards are busy wheeling in the skies overhead searching for carrion, the sad victims of high speed mowers.

This morning I went out to do some much needed shopping accompanied by Small Grand-daughter. We got to the end of our drive to find council workmen resurfacing the stretch of public road that joins us to the outside world. They have been at it for two days now and my goodness but they do work exceeding slow and with very frequent tea-breaks. Everyone who has come up to the farm in the last two days has said they passed the roadmen sitting in their vans no matter what time of day it is. The road is being patched and we hope it will be completely resurfaced

I took Small-Grand-daughter to visit some friends who had a new baby 10 days ago. She was not very impressed by the dear little baby but was enchanted by a troupe of fluffy goslings that had hatched this week. Gosling are lovely but they do grow into geese which are not my most favourite creatures. We had geese many years ago and my view of them was tainted by the gander, known as Hissing Sid who was very protective of his two sweet and mild wives. So much so that I had to make major detours around the back of building to avoid him or else go out armed with a broom with which to make him think I was fiercer than he was. It was quite relief when Charley Fox took him off one day when we were out. Sadly the fox also got his wives some time later.
On the subject of geese some wild Canada geese hatched a brood of goslings on one of our ponds & it appears that this year they have managed to rear them without the depredations of the local corvids who have a taste for little fluffy things.

As a fine example of never knowing who will turn up here next, I have just had conversation with a boy from South Korea(!) who appeared at the back door asking directions to a neighbouring farm where he has been staying for the last month. He had got of the bus in our nearest village and walked down our lane knowing that there was a route through the farm to his hosts farm but did not actually know the way. I was of course able to direct him and then had a interesting conversation about his travels. He says Britain is much more beautiful than South Korea, but I have no way of verifying that. He found it very odd that I do not have a mobile phone. I asked him how he funded his travels which involve staying on farm and working for his bed & board and he told me he had sold his car. He had arranged his places to stay through an organisation called Helpx ( places travellers willing to work on organic farms and smallholdings, similar to Wwoofing.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Lovely Maytime Gardens, New Silage Pit, International Holiday-makers

May is just glorious especially as this week has seen an inprovemnet in the weather. The gardens are looking wonderful with the rhododenrons & azaleas bursting into the most amazing colours all clashing with each other with exuberant vibrancy.
Last evening I went round some gardens in the loacality that are open to the public, Norwood Gardens at Llanllwni, on the way to Lampeter . Norwood is series of 'garden rooms' with sculptures and interesting plantings creating a marvellous tapestry of colour & interest. There is also a good tearoom!

The menfolk here on the farm have been very busy laying concrete for a new silage pit. This is an area about the size of half a tennis court, which is lot of concrete. The ready-mix lorries have been turning up and depositing their loads for the Farmer & Sons to spread and level. Fortunately they have borrowed a marvellous motorised tamping machine which makes the job much easier thought it still very heavy hot work. However, the new pit is much needed and will be well worth the effort involved.

This month sees the start of very busy season for the holiday cottage. The bookings are looking good and we are having an interesting international mix of visitors again this year. Next week I have a couple from Canada coming for 2 nights & then during the summer we expect guests from Holland & France. We have already had a family from Saudi Arabia which was very interesting. They were keen for their children to see 'rivers, mountains & lakes' and had been recommended to come to Wales which provded a huge success and they saw plenty of 'landscape' to satisfy their curiosity.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Yorkshire Dales Holiday, Bowes Museum, Silver Swan,

After almost a month since my last posting I felt it was time to bring things up to date.
I now write this using a laptop which is vast improvemnt on my old very slow pc however I am still learning my way with it & it seems it does not like to download photos onto this blog...I shall have to S.O.S my computer friend to sort me out, yet again.

The Farmer & I have had a much needed holiday this last week. After enduring heavy colds,various challenging situations on the farm and a long wet winter we made the decision to take off to somewhere with no internet, no phone and nothing to do but read, sleep & gaze at a different landscape. So we found ourselves a tiny cottage in Cumbria & near the Yorkshire Dales and it was heavenly. Having not had a break for about 2 years it was much needed and greatly appreciated (
The Yorkshire Dales were just wonderful and we were near enough the Lake District to venture into that land of hearty hikers in brightly coloured waterproofs all wielding their pairs of walking sticks as they tramp. Oddly we didn't see many of them actually walking in the hills, but they certainly populate the little towns & villages. Also hundreds of cyclists with their lycra-clad bodies sweeping gracefully around the bends in the roads, to say nothing of swarms of motorcyclists buzzing past past us on lonely mountain roads like angry bees.

We took time to visit the Bowes Museum( Barnard Castle which was marvellous. A huge collection of paintings and porcelain & costume on display in vast Victorian palace which was purpose built to house the collection of John Bowes & his wife that they built up over a period of only 15 years. It is extraordinary & full of the most beautiful objects including the fabulous Silver Swan, an automaton dating from the mid-18th century. Once a day at 2 o'clock this glorious creature is set in motion for the 34 seconds that it takes for the swan to turn its head over its back and then turn round again to lower its bill into what appears to be rippling water and catch a small golden fish. It is stunningly beautiful.

We are now home again and back in the swing of our usual busy-ness. The silage season will be upon us before we can turn round & the holiday cottage is pretty well full from now on for the summer. Since we've been away the blossom has come out in the orchards and the hedgerows are full of bluebells & stitchworts & the countryside is just at its lovely May-time best.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Dog's Best Friend, Wood Chip & Shiitake, Bio-diesel, Route 66

Of our pack of dogs these two are the youngest & the oldest. Dottie the 18 month old terrier is a great character loved by all who meet her despite her really annoying habit of jumping up at people's knees. She endears herself through her enthusiasm at the prospect of a new best friend and probably because she is very small. Her real best friend is Poppy our venerable old lady, who at 11 yrs of age is still game for a day's shooting and she never fails to come on walks though very much at her own pace...a lot of time is spent holding gates open as she ambles along in the wake of the other dogs. She can no longer jump or climb gates with the others. Dottie feels the cold and so spends as much time as she can being a couch potato on a labrador. When the sun is shining she & Poppy can be found out on the yard in a sunny corner sound asleep with Dot slumped across Poppie's broad back. Even in the house in front of the Rayburn she will avail herself of this extemely comfortable doggy divan.

We had a few dry days last week...wasn't it lovely?... and the Farmer took advantage of the fine weather to tidy up the brash left from relaying a hedge. Out friend G. the shiitake mushroom grower (, hired a wood chipper and he & the Farmer spent a long day pushing branches of ash, oak & elm through a violent & powerful machine which reduced the wood to vast quantiities of small chip. This is a perfect medium for growing shiitake mushrooms once it has been formed into blocks and impregnated with the shiitake spores.

We have been running our 4x4 on bio-diesel for some years now & last week the Farmer made one of his regular trips to our local chip shop & a neighbouring pub to collect their old chip oil. It is quite disgusting & really puts one off eating chips but it does convert into a fuel that will run our vehicle very efficiently. The process required to convert vile chip oil into a usable & clean product takes several hours but the equipment that we have installed is relatively simple and so long as a careful eye is kept on it thoughout the process it works very well. We & a few friends (including G. the mushroom grower) joined together to buy the equipment and whenever anyone in the group needs to make another batch of fuel they come to the farm for the day.
The process involves drying the oil by heating & bubbling air through it, then titrate to establish how much potassium hydroxide is needed. This with methanol is mixed with the oil for about 1/2 an hour then allowed to settle. The resulting by-product glycerol, is removed. The mixture is then re-heated & the methanol recovered and what is left is bio-diesel.

Man power on the farm is depleted at present as Younger Son went of to America last week. He & his girl-friend are driving across the States on Route 66 ( for the next three weeks. They flew out to Chicago, picked up a hire-car and set off to drive the 2,000+ miles to California. It should be an amazing trip. The route passes through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico & Arizona, ending in Santa Monica, California. It was the major way west for the migrants during the Dust Bowl of the 1930's & of course gained fame through Chuck Berry's great song.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Spring Flowers, Lambing Finished, Dairy Industry

The first primroses are flowering in the hidden corners of the garden and hedge banks. They look so modest and retiring compared to the flamboyancy of the daffodils which are trumpeting their presence everywhere. After a night of strong winds & heavy rain many of the daffs are looked a bit worse for wear this morning...quite literally hung over as the rain has knocked many of them to the ground unable to lift their heads to the sunshine. Those that have have actaully bent or snapped their stems I bring into the house and they look so cheerful in a blue vase on the kitchen table.

Lambing is over now and the Farmer is happy with the result. Inevitably there were a few losses but the vast majority of births resulted in good strong lambs with mothers producing plenty of milk. They are now all out roaming in the fields enjoying the freedom & the sunshine. I came across a group of about 10 lambs all lying stretched out on a sunny bank looking for all the world as though they were on a tropical beach somewhere, all that was lacking were the sunglasses!

With the spring weather the cows are milking well although our cows are not out yet. We called on friend yesterday who with his son has just gone back into milk after a break of several years. They have invested in a new parlour and a herd of Jersey x British Friesian cows and are very optimistic about the future of dairy farming in Britain. At the moment there is huge demand for dairy product from China, India & Brazil which is keeping the dairy industry here bouyant.
I was very pleased to read this week that organic sales in the UK are on the rise at long last. It has been a hard couple of years for the organic sector but things are beginning to look up.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Livestock Market, Nikolai Demidenko, Lambing

The first guests in the gypsy wagon have been here for the weekend and its been gorgeous weather for them. We have had several days of lovely sunshine that is reasonably warm and it has cheered everyone up.

Last week we met up with the boys from the high school in Cardiff who visit the farm on a fairly regular basis in Carmarthen. The Farmer had a calf to sell & the mart day coincided with the boy's visit so as something different for them we suggested they come to the mart. They were fascinated by the whole thing...the atmosphere,the noise, the speed of the auctioneers selling patter & the calves & dairy cows being unloaded from trailers inot pens before going into the seling rings. It is unlike anything else they would have seen and gave another insight into what farming & food production involves.

On Friday evening the Farmer & I had a real treat. We went to Rhosygilwen, a country house in Pembrokeshire that hosts world class music making of all kinds in a beautiful purpose built concert hall (
We went to see the acclaimed Russian painist Nikolai Demidenko ( play a programme of Russian music including Glinka, Rachmaninov & ending with a dazzling performance of Mussorsky's 'Pictures in an Exhibition'. It was wonderful evening in the lovely Oak Hall with an audience who were so appreciative of having such a renowned musician come to west Wales. We were given the added bonus of three encores. It is a very intimate venue and the audience was probably less that 100 people but was truly special evening. There really is nothing like live music.

After that cultural interlude the routine of lambing continues going well. We are only lambing about 40 ewes this year and are now about 2/3 through them. With the sunny weather rrecently it has been great to put the ewes & their babies out in large field knowing that they will be content lying in the susnshine without risk of miserable rain

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Lambing Has Begun

Our first lambs arrived this morning so spring has definitely sprung. I also found masses of frog spawn in one of the ponds & I'm sure the other ponds will be similarly occupied by mating frogs. With the improvement in the weather the daffodils are suddenly appearing everywhere, the birds are singing merrily and everyone has cheered up.
We still have mud everywhere of course & the fields are still sodden and inaccessible but there is hope of better things to come despite mutterings from old farmers of snow... 'of course in 1947 the snow didn't come until March and stayed until June' is the last Cassandra-like murmur that I heard this week.
We will see.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Local Film Festival

Saturday was St. David's Day & we had daffodils in flower which is a good sign that spring is certainly on its way. The blackbirds are singing and we are due to start lambing any moment.

We went to our local market town Newcastle Emlyn, yesterday to a new film festival ( that was launched at the weekend. Apart from the opportunity to see some short films made by local film makers, the film that I produced last year about the Teifi Valley was also being shown
(go to for details).
We saw some very good & interesting films on a varied range of subjects from goats to motherhood and home to the Dragon Festival that used to be held in Newcastle Emlyn and a series of music videos made by a talented young musician from the area, Rye Millican ( It was pleasant way to spend a wet Sunday afternoon, in the company of friends supporting our tiny little local theatre.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Family Farms Under Threat in Poland (& elsewhere)

I recieved this message from a Polish friend yesterday & I think it hightlights many of the problems that face family farms throughout the world, not just in Europe thanks to government & corporate greed.
If anyone can be in London tomorrow to support it then please do.

Dear Friends/Drodzy Przyjaciele

Here is the Press Release (in English and Polish) which accompanies our Polish Embassy protest at 2:30 on 20th February. Please circulate! Get your banners together! We hope to see as many of you as possible on the 20th this is an important event not just for Poland but for all family farms of Europe and beyond!
See you.
Poniżej znajdziecie notę prasową (po anglielsku i po polsku) w związku z planowanym protestem pod Polską Ambasadą w Londynie. Prosimy o nagłośnienie i przybycie z odpowiednimi banerami 20 lutego o godz. 14:30. Sprawa jest ważna nie tylko dla Polski lecz dla całej Europy i dalej! Do zobaczenia...
Julian and Jadwiga


Polish Family Farms Criminalised for Local Food Sales
The International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside and local supporters of Polish family farms are staging a protest outside the Polish Embassy in London 47 Portland Place, London W1B 1JH at 14.30 on 20th February 2014, to highlight the excessively harsh hygiene and sanitary regulations imposed upon small Polish farmers wishing to direct-sell their traditional farmhouse foods.

Since January 2014, over 200 farmers using tractor convoys have been protesting in Northern Polish towns in order to highlight their demands for a change to laws undermining their traditional way of life. Their major demands are: to end foreign corporate buy-outs of prime Polish farmland; to enforce the ban of GM crop planting and to end the criminalisation of farmhouse food sales which they claim to be the most repressive in the European Union.

At a recent farmers blockade a table was laid out with a wide range of Illegal Foods representing virtually all Poland s most popular and renowned farm products. These included smoked hams, sour cabbage, raw milk, bread, pickles and cheeses; all foods that do not comply with the current Polish government demand for farmers to carry out processing operations in specially constructed premises that are not affordable to any but the largest farms supplying the supermarket trade.

The International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside is supporting the farmers protest. Sir Julian Rose, President of ICPPC said,
There are 1.5 million family farms in Poland. They are the trustees of the Polish countryside and food chain, yet their lives are under threat. The future of these farmers can only be secured by a government that recognises and responds to their urgent calls. "It's all about destroying the competition - which in this case is the small and medium sized independent family farms that produce the best foods!" - said Jadwiga Lopata, founder of ICPPC; she also has a small farm in Malopolska near Krakow.

Contact Sir Julian Rose and Jadwiga Lopata at: email telephone 0118 9842955

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Fallen Tree, Continuing Storms

The weather gods permitted us one day off from the tempests & Friday was sunny and cheerful until late afternoon when the storms returned, but goodness didn't that little respite cheer everyone up!

The picture shows one of the casualties of the storms. This very large conifer tree came down last week. It was in field hedge and so has done no damage, but the fields are so wet that the Farmer is unable to get into the field to clear the tree away. When he does it will provide a goodly amount of timber for planking and firewood.

While parts of south west England are being battered half to death & Somerset of course having the most terrible floods, we here in west Wales are also struggling with high waters and rivers bursting their banks. Our local river the Teifi has flooded many fields and it is going to take days of dry weather before any work can be done on the land.
Farmers are desperate to get their muck out from the cattle sheds. It is accumulating rapidly and everyones capacity for storing it is being stretched to the limits. Normally at this time of year the fields are dry and firm so tractors do as little damge as possible but this year we can't, or daren't take the tractors and their heavy loads onto the land. There is going to be so much clearing up to be done when the weather does improve and the backlog of field work will be immense. The forecast is not seems that that the storms are set to continue for the next week or so. It has gone on so long that it feels almost normal to be blown about and soaked every time one ventures outside.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

2014 International Year of Family Farming

We have risen to a morning without rain! Admittedly it rained heavily during the night but at the moment I am looking out onto glimmering watery sunshine and palely washed blue skies & the birds are singing...if you can call the eternal squabbling of hedge-sparrows singing but it is a cheerful sound accompanying the trills of blackbirds.

2014 has been designated the International Year of Family Farming by the United Nations. We only learned this when we recived the latest issue of The Land magazine (, it is not something that has been heralded in the mainstream farming press as far as I am aware.
According to UN figures there are an estimated 500 million family farms in the developed & developing world.These farms feed 'billions of people' and are being recognised by the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation as 'leading figures in responding to the double urgency the world faces today: improving food security and preserving the natural resources.'
In Britain events to celebrate the International Year of Family Farming are being organised by The Landworkers Alliance and the Family Farmers Association,

Here on our very own family farm work on the new dairy continues apace with the floor screed laid yesterday& there is much discussion on positioning of doors and windows. The window placement is particularly critical as we don't want direct sunlight coming in warming the room up, after all by definition dairies are cool dim places.
Here in the farmhouse I have what was the original dairy from the days of hand-milking by dairy-maids and the vast slate slabs where the bowls of milk were set to cool are still in place. The room has two windows which are not glazed but filled with a zinc mesh to allow cold air to flow in. I now use it as a larder and in very cold weather I turn off the fridge as there is no need for it.
The dairy also had some enormous slate salting troughs for curing hams etc. They are beautifully made, carved out of a dark blue slate but they are now used outside as plant troughs.

Despite the weather the cows are milking well and the are very content in their winter housing. They are being fed fodder-beet as well as silage and the milk is noticably richer and with a good flavour. The Farmer & Sons spend the first half of every morning feeding all the stock and cleaning passages with the tractor mounted scraper & then putting out clean straw for bedding. As I write I can hear the constant hum of the tractors in the far sheds with a backing chorus of the calves waiting for their breakfasts.
The milk price at the present time is very good and so we are making the most of it. The market price fluctuates so much that when demand is high & the price is good we all rejoice. I think at the moment we are getting about 40 pence per litre and as a result we are receiving some our biggest milk cheques ever but we know this won't last hence the investment in the new dairy while we can afford it.

Monday, 3 February 2014

First Snowdrops, Winter walks, New Dairy

The first snowdrops have appeared in the hedgebanks and are a very welcome sight cheering up the perpetual gloom of this sodden February. The continual grey skies and saturated fields are making for a difficult working environment for the Farmer & the Sons who have to be out in the weather whatever the weather maybe. Even walking the dogs is a slippy gooey endurance test through the muddy fields and water damaged lanes & tracks.
However it is not all grey & dismal...yesterday we went down to Newport beach and had a lovely blowy walk with no rain (!!!) along the full length of what is a a superb long open beach bordered on its southern side by the attractive village of Newport overlooked by the brooding mass of Carn Ingli(Angel Mountain) and the other mounds of the Preselis.

The Farmer and the boys are busy constructing a new purpose-built dairy and work progresses well despite the weather.The present dairy is many years old and getting tired & shabby. It is housed in an old Victorian building so to have a smart new room specially built for the purpose will be a of great benefit to the whole process of milk production.
A new milk bulk tank is ready & waiting to be installed once the building work is finished. There will also be a seperate washing room as required by law as no washing facilities are allowed to be in with the bulk tank, it will sit in solitary state in a white cell that can be hosed down. The present system that we have in place whilst acceptable and perfectly clean and hygienic is just out of date, so investment in a new set-up is going to be very worth while.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Barafundle Bay, Shooting Weekend, Cattle Inspection

Having been trying to add a picture to this posting I have given up as the technology is against me it seems. Instead I shall have to rely on words to illustrate a beautiful day out that the Farmer & I had this week.
Despite, or maybe because of, the seemingly ceaseless rain of the past month or more we decided to take a day off and go down to Pembrokeshire to discover a part of it that we did not know, Barafundle Bay. After driving down through indifferent weather we found the bay and parked the car.
To reach Barafundle itself one walks for about 20 minutes along the coast path and suddenly one is confronted by a high stone wall built of silvery white rock with a gateway in it. Through the arched entrance is revealed a most beautiful expanse of sand on what is, apparently, said to be the 4th most wonderful beach in the world (according to National Geographic)!
It is certainly a lovely beach and we saw it on a January day that was of clear blue skies and golden sunshine masquerading as high was warm, windless and deserted, just heavenly. A real treat for farmers weary of grey skies, incessant rain & mud and permanently damp so-called waterproofs! We even saw the first daffodils in flower on our run home.

Back on our soggy farm we are having weekend of guests. Younger Son has invited some shooting friends to stay so we are about to be invaded by tweeds & labradors...all great fun! and I have been busy preparing game pie for supper, appropriately enough.
I hope the rain eases off for them tomorrow on the shoot.

We have had a cattle inspection this morning. Someone from the Rural Inspectorate Wales came to check that the paperwork for all cattle on the farm was in order and that all ear-tags were correct. Fortunately all was as it should be; all births, deaths & movements are meticulously recorded as required by law.
The penalty for having errors would be a percentage deduction from the Single Farm Payment.