Monday, 21 December 2015

The rain it raineth every day!

This is how it should be but is not!
The rain has gone beyond biblical in that we are now well over the forty days & forty nights endured by Noah and not an Ark in sight! Every day sees us donning waterproofs and setting out to do the chores sliding & squelching through the mud that has overrun every surface of the tracks and yards. At least we have enough housing for all the cattle so they are dry and comfortable. The tractors churn up the mud of course just making it worse and walking through the fields is wellnigh impossible as they are so saturated and soggy. Two days ago I had to go out to our local village in the car and drove past flooded fields where the river Teifi has overflowed its banks to an extent we have not seen for along time. Bridges in the area have been impassable with the flood water up to the top of the parapets. Torrents of water were running down our driveway and our little old stone bridge was a lake as its drainage holes could not cope with the quantity of water running down though water was gushing through them at a great rate. It seems there is to be no let up according to the Met Office and there is more heavy rain & winds due to arrive...we really are dreaming of a white Christmas!(See picture!)

Today is of course the winter solstice, the longest night which heralds the change when the sun begins to be seen for a little longer each day. Mid-winter was a time of celebration and feasting and has in our modern times become absorbed into the Christmas festivities. Decking the halls with holly & ivy are remnants of the ancient pagan rituals and lighting candles to banish the darkness and welcome back the light.

Nadolig Llawen a Penblwydd Newydd Hapus!

Friday, 4 December 2015

Jack Russell Puppies, Royal Welsh Winter Fair, Organic Distillery

Aren't they lovely? 15 days old and thriving. Their eyes opened this week and they will soon be rampaging around in their nest driving their ever anxious mother to distraction.She is convinced that the labradors will eat them though they are just being curious but she sees them off with much growling and terrier-swearing and they are suitably cowed and slink off pretending they have something much more interesting to attend to.

At last we have dry morning. The incessant rain lately has been hideous and depressing. The whole farm is soggy and the ground is saturated so walking across the fields is like walking on a sponge. Ghastly! As well as the downpours we have had very strong winds so there are fallen branches everywhere. There has been serious flooding locally with fire service having to rescue people from their cars apparently.
On Monday we went to the Royal Welsh Winter Fair at Builth Wells despite the weather. We had arranged to meet up with an old friend whom we had not seen for several years so we braved the rain and drove up into mid-Wales. It did not stop raining the whole day and yes, we got very damp but as most of the Fair was under cover it was not as bad as it could have been though those poor traders in little tents outside did suffer with the wind blowing and because of the rain people were not very willing to stop and peruse what was on offer but walked hurriedly on to the big pavilions where there were many trade stands of all kinds...the show is a big shopping opportunity, anything from a huge tractor to a mole-trap to an antique diamond ring! I spoke to a friend who was there with his wonderful award winning cheeses and organic spirits (excellent gin!)and he was not having a good day simply because of the weather. I bought a bottle of his seaweed gin made in the Da Mhile distillery in west Wales, just a few miles from the farm,, which is the first organic distillery in the UK.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Sheep Injured by Hit & Run Driver

A heart-warming incident has just occurred this morning...A young man, a complete stranger, arrived on the yard to ask if we had any sheep up near the main road as there was a sheep out that had been hit by a car.
As it happens we do have some sheep up in that vicinity, however after some further conversation we established that it was not our sheep but was one of the neighbours tack sheep, so the young chap went up to tell them. I was so impressed that this boy had bothered to interrupt his journey to work to try to find out the owners of the injured ewe. As he said, he couldn't just drive on and leave it as had the driver of the car that had hit it. I hope the hit-&-run driver feels badly about what he has done!
(Tack sheep are sheep that are on land that has been let for sheep over the winter, the flock owner pays the land-owner for the period that the sheep are grazing.)

It is another grey and damp morning with more miserable weather to follow I think. The fields are very squidgy and just walking the dogs one slips and slides on shallow slopes. The streams around the farm are running well with the water eddying and swirling over the stones carrying leaves and twigs down and depositing them in small barrages at intervals creating little pools that slow the flow of the water to the main drains.
The wind is very strong, buffeting & blustering through the trees around the farm and howling down the chimneypots. The doors and windows are rattling with ghostly whistles and moans from the wind as it beats about the house. A day for settling by the fire with good book and some knitting that needs to be done by Christmas.

We had our second part of the TB test at the end of last week and were very disappointed to find we had one cow test positive, so we are under restictions for another four months at least.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Cow Comfort & TB Testing

The past few months have been very busy with the erection of a new cattle shed and here are our cows all warm and snug in their new quarters. They lie in what are known as 'cow comfort' cubicles which are designed to give each cow as much space and ease for movement as she needs including enough 'lunge' distance for the forward movement of a cow as she prepares to stand up. There is also plenty of room for the cows to wander around and to have easy access to water troughs. The shed is protected from the weather by Yorkshire boarding which is the name given to the evenly spaced boards fixed above the block walls giving plenty of ventilation to avoid condensation in the shed.
Today the Farmer & the Sons had to have all the cows, beef animals and calves on the farm ready for TB testing. Since we went down with Tb back in March all the livestock is now tested every 60 days. The test is given today and then in three days time the vet comes back to see if any of the animals have reacted and if so they will have to go for slaughter. We all hope desperately that we will be clear but there is no way of knowing until the end of the week. If we can have two tests clear then we will regain our TB-free status.

We are enduring hideous weather at present, warm and wet with strong winds. It is much too mild for the time of year and with the persistent rain we are really fed-up with having to wear water-proofs which are very hot and sweaty to work in but essential because of the rain and the mud. Oh, for a good frost!!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Samhain, All Soul's Day Biscuits

The morning after Samhain the valley is swathed in a heavy mist and the ghostly hedges interspersed with spectral trees loomed out of the mist as I trudged across the fields with the dogs who dashed in and out of sight throught the mistiness. Visibility was only a few yards and the fields seemed very empty and isolated.
The autumn colours are superb and now they are just emerging from their thick blanket of mist with a pale sun lighting up the golden leaves.
This is one of the most beautiful times of the year on the farm as we are surrounded by trees and have views across a heavily wooded valley and so we have a gilded landscape as a background to the daily chores.

The pagan festival of Samhain took place last night but today and tomorrow, the 1st & 2nd of November are All Saint's Day & All Soul's Day, two Christian festivals that tried to blot out the ancient pagan beliefs. The yew tree as symbol of everlasting life grows in many churchyards and through recent research it has been found that some of them may be anything up to four thousand years old, pre-dating Christianity and so strengthening the belief that many churches were built on ancient pagan sacred sites. There is a marvellous old yew tree at the ruined Strata Florida abbey near Tregaron in mid-Wales and also at Nevern church in Pembrokeshire.

There was tradition in Wales & elsewhere of making Soul Cakes on 2nd November, All Soul's Day and I found this recipe in a fascinating book 'Kindling the Celtic Spirit' by Mara Freeman;

1/2 tspn mace
1/2 tspn cloves
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn baking soda
1/2 cup milk
1 ounce brandy
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup molasses
21/2 cups flour
11/2 tspn ginger
1 tspn nutmeg

Cream together the butter and sugar, add the eaggs, beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients. Blend in the brandy. Pour the thick batter into 2 greased 13"x9" baking tins and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Cool for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a foil-lined falt surface and using gingerbread man cutters cut out biscuits.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Autumn winds, Welsh Dairy Event

Autumn has settled in with sudden change in the weather overnight. Winds have littered the ground with a rich carpet of golden beech leaves and the the garden has a thick scatter of ash twigs & leaves over the lawns and caught in the branches and brackets of shrubs. After the balmy weather of recent days it is a reminder that we are heading towards winter.
The season's rounds are marked as always not just by the weather but by the work on the farm. Hedge-trimming , slurry-spreading are both being done while the weather is good. The ram has just been put in with his harem of ewes and lambing will start in 5 months time. The milking cows are already being housed at night. Our herd is autumn-calving and so there is a shed full of calves to be fed twice a day and the chorus of their demands for milk start and end the working day for us all.

Yesterday the Farmer & I attended the Welsh Dairy Event held near Carmarthen. It is a hightlight of the year for many dairy farmers who come long distances to attend. As a show case for the industry it covers everything the modern dairy farmer needs to know as well as being an opportunity for herds to exhibit their best milking cows. We watched the judging ot the Holsteins which was very interesting. Holsteins are huge cows standing over 5ft at the shoulder and were certainly impressive. Our little British Friesians look positively Lilliputian in comparison.
Interestingly the general mood amongst the traders and farmers was very upbeat considering how dairying has been in the doldrums recently. Things seem to be improving and this was reflected in the conversations we had. Of course the one bad thing that continues is the bovine TB problem. Everyone has tales of losing cows and hating sending them off to slaughter.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Autumn, Holiday Cottages

Autumn has set in with misty mornings and a chill in the air. Mist in the valley is usually a promise of a sunny day and with the fine weather the Farmer and Sons have been very busy out hedge-trimming, slurry spreading and logging. The land is still dry and firm so as much work with tractors needs to be done while they can get onto the fields without making a mess.

Th poly-tunnel is still very productive and we are getting a good crop of tomatoes & sweet-peas. The potatoes are doing well and the cabbages seem to have avoided the predations of the cabbage-white caterpillars and the occassional rabbit that has ventured in.

The bookings for the holiday cottage have eased off somewhat but that is to be expected at this time of year, though half-term is booked out and the week after which is good. It has been a difficult year for many holiday accommodation providers in the area...there are more properties available as more people move to the area and decide to convert outbuildings without researching just how much accommodation already exists here. This is not a 'honeypot' area and so we have to really plug away at promoting the Teifi Valley The numbers of visitors are not increasing so there are the same number of people to fill a greater number of cottages. A quick count comes up with well over a dozen different holiday accommmodations just within a couple of miles of us and there are several more in the pipeline that I have heard of. For many of us the bookings are down this year which is just something we will have to weather. Travel abroad is so cheap and sunshine guaranteed so west Wales has to really work hard to compete. That said the visitors who do come to the area love it and many return.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Hedgerow Berry Preserves

Yesterday evening and early this morning I was out picking brambles, hawrthorn berries, rose-hips and sloes. All of these except the sloes, are now simmering away to make juice for hedgerow jelly. The sloes of course are destined for immersion in gin!
We seem to be having something of an Indian summer which is glorious and it means that the brambles are now ripening. Up till now they have been slow in ripening and not very sweet, but now with a few days of warm sunshine they are making up for it.
My larder shelves are well-stocked with preserves and it is very satisfying seeing the rows of jars of jams, jellies, marmalade,chutneys and bottled fruits to say nothing of the good quantities of honey we have had this year. It is astonishing how much jam etc. we get through in a cakes, puddings and on toast.

The Farmer & I have spent a couple of days doing some much needed renovation work in the garden around the farmhouse.We have removed a border that had been completely swamped by that demon of the garden, ground elder, and the area will be lawned and I will plant bulbs to naturalise in the grass. We also took out a thick section of hedge that was making the garden dark and damp and have replaced it with a stone wall that will soon settle in and draw a cloak of ivy and small wall plants over itself.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Cider season,

The Farmer has been busy over the past couple of weeks making cider. We have a lot of apple tress here on the farm and we are given apples by people who have no need of them from their gardens so there is a goodly quantity to process. So far the Farmer reckons he has made abour 25 gallons of cider which is sitting in fermenting barrels in the kitchen bubbling away nicely. We also freeze the apple juice as juice which is delicious throughout the winter.
(Since writing this I have been taken to task over 'being unencumbered by research' therefore I apologise and must say that the Farmer has in fact made 35 gallons of cider!)

The farming industry has been full of comment lately regarding the appointment by Jeremy Corbyn, the new Labour leader, of a vegan Shadow Minister for the Environment, Kerry McCarthy. Her remark that meat eaters should be regarded in the same light as smokers is possibly a step too far and will certainly alienate the Labour party from many voters, rural or urban, and risks the Labour being seen as the party of cranks.
This appointment has caused a lot of discussion and but it should be remembered that it just the Shadow Cabinet and quite possibly Ms McCarthy (and Mr Corbyn) may never be in a position to implement these ideas.
That said it is a useful excercise to think seriously about what the implications of banning meat-eating could be.
Veganism & vegetarianism are personal lifestyle choices available to affluent Westerners. Meat & dairy-free diets are highly dependent on imported foodstuffs such as pulses, nuts etc. cannot be grown in this country thereby incresulting in many food-miles.(e.g. most soya (which cannot be guaranteed to be GM free!) comes from Brazil, US, Canada or China). How can this be sensible & ethical when we are all being encouraged to reduce food miles and 'eat local'? On the premise of eating local for 90% of our diet and at this latitude meat is an essential component of a healthy balanced diet. The joke would be if a population of 63 million people were to be dictated to by the 2% who are vegetarian or vegan? I am not anti-vegetarian/vegan, in fact I do a lot of meat-free cooking, and I do think we should eat less meat, but do not believe it should be removed from the diet by legislation...a scenario that is, of course, highly unlikely.
As food producers we are in the very fortunate and rare situation of being able to keep much of our diet very local and with very few food-miles...we use our own milk, meat, eggs and fruit & veg., though not exclusively.
Another question is how do we want our countryside to look? Here in west Wales the patchwork of fields and hedges is the result of livestock keeping because the crop that grows best here is grass and the only way for us to utilise grass is to turn it into meat. Take cattle & sheep away and a much-loved & productive landscape would have to be preserved by legislation or be lost.
(For more information on imported soya go to

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Autumn Harvest, Bovine TB,

We are in the season of fruitfulness, the polytunnel is providing us with a steady supply of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, carrots, beetroot and courgettes (which sometimes have become marrows). I have been busy making chutneys and freezing brambles as the hedgerows fruits are now beginning to ripen, albeit slowly compared to last year's bumper harvest. There is nowhere near as much available as last year probably due to the lack of sunshine and they are lacking sweetness but mixed with apple they will make good winter puddings. Oddly enough last year was not good for sloes but this year they seem to be much more in evidence so I shall be making sloe gin before too long.

After something over a month without a telephone and really bad broadband connection we are now back online. Am engineer arrived at 8 o'clock yesterday morning and spent the whole day until 5.30pm working on the problem and we now have an internet speed way beyond anything we have ever been led to believe was possible here. After almost two years of persistent difficulties with phones and internet it is amazing to have both working so efficiently and it is all down to the terrier-like determination of the engineer to get the whole thing fixed once and for all, thank you Saul!

We have had two more cattle identified as reactors to the TB test and they went off to slaughter last week. We will have another test in two months time and so the saga goes on. We will continue to be under restrictions until we get two clear tests, so this situation will run well into the new year. The restrictions mean we cannot sell any cattle meaning we will have to keep all our bull calves which normally were sold to be reared elswhere. Hopefully by the time we have reared them to a saleable size as beef animals we will be free of the restrictions.

The swallows are still with us though I guess they wil be heading south before too long. There is a definite chill in the air now and the the leaves are beginning to show signs of golden hues. I saw two herons at one of the ponds this morning who were interupted in their frog fishing by the dogs and took off up into the air with their strange long-legged slow flight and drifted off towards the river where they would be undisturbed by lolloping labradors.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Rabbits, Bovine TB, BT phoneline

My delightful terrier Dottie, has a lovely time snuffling around in hedgerows and under fallen trees on our daily walks around the farm. She has proved herself a very adept rabbit-catcher lately. Rabbits are everywhere at the moment and though they are pretty they are also real pests particularly as they have discovered the poly-tunnel and so have midnight feasts on the lettuces, carrots and anything else they fancy. The Farmer takes on the role of Mr McGregor as often as he can but the bunnies always seem to be one step ahead. Sadly, we have now found that there is myxymytosis in the rabbit population which is awful for the rabbits but it means they are very slow in their reactions and so easy prey for the dog who dispatches them very quickly which is surely better than the the slow lingering death they would otherwise have to endure. This is one of the grim realities of country life and everyone who has their vegetable plots decimated by rabbits will understand the need to control them.

Today the Farmer & the Sons have all the cattle in for TB testing. Having had one reactor to the last routine TB test and have therefore been under restrictions as to selling cattle, we hope that this test will prove clear. We have always maintained a TB-free status until this summer when we had one in-calf heifer show a positive reaction to the test. It was real blow but we have been very lucky in being TB free for so long when it is rife. The reactor heifer was taken away for slaughter and we will be compensated for her but it is not a good situation. The irony of it all that we do not have badgers on the farm, but as we all know rabbits, bats, rats, otter, cats etc. can all be carriers of the TB virus and so control is almost impossible and we have no way of finding out where the disease came from in our one heifer. Sadly even organic farms can succumb.

We have been without a phone for almost a week, again. BT have promised it will be restored to us when they have managed to hire a set of traffic lights!!!
We do have a mobile but signal is not great here and because we rarely use it no-one has the number and so we really do rely on our landline. Oddly, despite having no phone the internet still works... I don't understand how it all works much to the exasperation of the Sons who just raise their eyes to heaven and mutter 'Oh mother, you're hopeless!'

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Holiday Cottage Guests, Organic Farming

I've just waved off another pair of happy holiday-makers who have been here in the cottage for a week. It is always lovely when people leave saying how relaxed and peaceful their stay has been and knowing that they have enjoyed what we have to offer. That sounds awfully is not meant to, but we do appreciate our guests appreciating us!
One of the selling points of the cottage is that it is on an organic farm. We think that is very important and it seems to matter to a number of our holiday-makers. Many book to stay here because it is an organic farm, and also because it is something of a picture-book farm...very traditional. They like the idea that our milk goes into Yeo Valley yoghourt (through OMSCo the organic milk co-operative) and that we produce milk and meat without the use of chemicals and anti-biotics. These basic tenets of organic farming seem to be what the public latches onto and the fact that our animals are out in fields eating grass as they should be. Visitors enjoy seeing the cows come in for milking and ask a lot of questions about dairy farming and organic farming. There is still a lot ignorance about what organic really means and we do our best to explain how and why we farm as we do. Awareness of organic food seems to have waned in the last couple of years and the organic movement has struggled with the perception of it being a niche market for the well-off middle classes. We, as milk producers, cannot market our product as individuals (though there are some very successful entrepreneurial dairy farmers out there e.g Daioni) so are reliant on organisations such as the Soil Association, Organic Farmers & Growers and OMSCo to promote the organic dairy industry on our behalf. Giving people access to organic farms is very important which is why we encourage our guests to see what we do here and host school visits and have open days. It is only when the public see for themselves how organic farming works and why it is beneficial to the land, the livestock and people that sales of organic food will increase.

Despite the weather being somewhat changeable this August there are still plenty of lovely days with dramatic cloud-strewn skies and light breezes waving through the trees. We have had large gatherings of seagulls in our newly mown silage fields. The glimmering of the sun glints on the silver wings of the adult birds as they wheel around the sky and the flecked tawny colouring of the the young birds contrasts with purity of the white and grey plumage of the adults. The young birds are very raucous though not as noisy as the young buzzards we have resident on the farm. They have been particularly vocal recently as they soar above the yard circling on the thermals. Their voices mingle with the persistent cheerful chatter of the swallows as they perform their amazing acrobatics.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Shed building, Canoeing, Lovely Wild Wales

The building work is going on apace with the new roof over what was the silage pit and is now become a cubicle house for the cattle. The Sons have spent many hours welding the uprights and roof beams which are now ready for the corrugated sheets of tin for the roof. Progress is interrupted on this today as the weather is good and so the next cut of silage is underway. The grass was mown yesterday and after a night to wilt ince the dew had dried it will be full steam ahead with the rake & baler filling the fields once more with the black bales thst will be stacked in the yards to wait for winter. It has been such a good growing season that we have a plentiful supply of silage should we have a very long hard winter.

The Farmer has treated himself to new canoe,'a beautiful pea-green boat'! We have used a large Canadian canoe for many years but it has always been difficult to lift onto the roof of the car, although it served its purpose very well over the years. We now have a very neat inflatable canoe which is proving to be a great success. Known as the Peapod for obvious reasons it inflates using a hand pump in about 5 minutes and when we have finished playing it deflates also by using the pump and is packed away into a neat bag which goes into the back of the car...all so much easier than having to heave the Canadian up above our heads onto a rack. The Farmer is a very experienced canoeist and is very pleased with it, both on the sea and on freshwater and the grandchildren will have lot of fun too. One evening we took it for trial run to our favourite beach and although the water was quite choppy (too much so for me...a I am a flat as a mill pond canoeist!) the Farmer took the canoe out and off around the small headland and had a lovely time being watched by a curious seal who appeared at regular intervals keeping an eye on the proceedings as the sun went down casting a gilded path across the water. It was beautiful evening and as the Farmer was out on the water I sat in the evening sunshine reading 'Jane Eyre' for the nth time and guarding the picnic.

Today has dawned with heavy mist in the valley which is a sign of a glorious day to come, perfect for our holiday-makers who are discovering west Wales. The coast is packed with families enjoying the sandy beaches and the dolphin-spotting boat trips whilst inland up in the empty hills there are usually very few people and the wild places can be experienced in peace and tranquility. We always reccomend to our guests that they go up into the Cambrian mountains and see a hidden part of Wales, a secret country of remote moorland, silver streams running through wooded valleys lined with birch, oak and rowan and the cry of the buzzard.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Days Off, Country Wedding, Weaning Lambs

The Farmer and I took a day off and had picnic at a lovely little cove on the north Pembrokeshire coast. The tide was out hence the green apron of weed covered stones that are treacherously slippery whether the tide be in or out. It is however a quiet spot and the day we went quite deserted. We sat and watched the gulls and a lone oystercatcher bathing in the little freshwater stream that runs across the edge of the beach. A perfect antidote to the hectic rush at the farm.

After the hectic pace of getting yet more silage in we are now in whirl of people and having to be sociable...not that we don't enjoy people, but they seem to come in a never-ending stream barely giving us time to catch our breath.
Last Saturday we had the usual cottage changeover and then had to get to a wedding at lunch time which made for a breathless morning. The wedding was down in the village at the farm of some dear friends upon whom the weather gods were smiling. It was a glorious warm sunny day of blue skies having been preceded by a very wet and miserable day and the day after was also vile. However, the wedding took place in the pretty flower-filled garden of the farmhouse with a string quartet playing and everyone smiling and happy. The food for the reception had been supplied almost in its entirety from the farm...beautiful succulent home-grown fillet of beef, with carrots, cabbage & new potatoes dug from the garden the day before followed by summer pudding made with blackcurrants and raspberries picked from the garden. Perfect! A very happy day.

We have had more family visiting which is always lovely and as we have been busy with farming they have gone off to do their own thing and come back here for supper which is always a good arrangement.

Yesterday the Farmer had to attend the funeral of one of the postmen who delivered to the farm many years ago and always came in for a cup of tea (another country custom that has disappeared, the posties don't have time nowadays & are probably not allowed to linger & gossip). The Farmer & his brother went to the funeral as they had fond memories of the postman who used to come after work to help their father with hay-making and used to give the two boys lifts to end of the lane in the post van, to meet the school bus...another thing that would not be allowed now.
As the Farmer was away most of the day the Sons got on with weaning the lambs. The sheep were all brought in, the ewes separated and then taken to land we have across the valley while the lambs were put in fields nearer home. It is noisy but necessary job.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Summer Work, Bees Swarming, Beach Picnics

With the wonderful weather at the end of June things have been so very busy especially with the Met Office forecasting heavy rains so the Sons were out working in silage fields for almost 10 different farms in the locality at the end of last week. One day they left here at 8.30am and did not return until 5.30 the following morning having been cutting grass, baling and wrapping all that time to beat the weather front. Summer is the time of very hard work in preparation for the coming winter.

The fine weather also made the bees think about swarming. The Farmer's hives have been very busy with the two strong colonies working well but we have had two swarms in a week. The first one decided to take up residence in Elder Son's cottage roof which gave them access to the roof space. It was impossible to get them out en masse so they had to smoked out which took a long time. The second swarm was almost text book in its pattern of behaviour...there was an empty collector hive just a few yards from the main hives and the swarm moved into it without any messing about. The Farmer was delighted. They have settled into the new hive now and are working busily in the gardens which are full of pollen-rich trees and flowers at the moment.

We had some cousins come to stay last week, camping on the lawn. They spent their days at the beach with a small inflatable boat with an outboard motor or our Canadian canoe exploring the coast line and fishing. One evening we all went to join them for a picnic on Cwmtydu beach. The Farmer and S. went fishing with hand-lines and caught 9 mackerel & pollack which we then cooked over a fire on the beach. The small grand-children had a lovely time paddling in the shallows, getting drenched, messing about with buckets and spades and watching the menfolk playing ducks and drakes competing to see who could get the most bounces from flat stones skimmed across the water, and generally doing what little children should on a beach.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Pembrokeshire break, Holiday Cottage letting

The Farmer & I have just managed to grab 3 days away from the farm and spent our time, when not lying prone on sofas getting through a backlog of books, experiencing the delights of Pembrokeshire in June. The wild flowers were wonderful with the hedgerows full or overflowing with foxgloves, red campion, honeysuckle and the glorious cream slabs of elderflowers. We stayed near Solva and had lovely walks through dense lush woods filled withe the songs of thrushes, blackbirds,and wood pigeons, down to the sea. One evening we sat above the cliffs and watched the gulls floating on the thermals created by the cliffs, they soared in the silver light of the evening sun reflecting on the calm sea. A small yacht lay anchored in a sheltered cove looking just like something out of a romantic chapter of a Daphne du Maurier novel.

On the farm things are on stop today as it is raining and so silage work cannot continue. The Sons & the Farmer use days like this to catch-up on maintenance of equipment and paperwork. The working out of bills & invoices for the farms where they have been working in the fine weather takes a lot of time checking hours and acres.

The holiday cottage is pretty full though it has been a very slow season and there are still a couple of weeks in July vacant. It seems that it is a general trend throughout the country for holidays lettings to be slower than in previous years. No-one can quite pinpoint the reasons for this... some thoughts are that is so very cheap to go abroad,people are taking more short breaks and booking much more last minute. Another aspect is that there are so many more holiday lets available in an area such as this but without the increase in tourist numbers to fill them all. I think too many pepole move to an area with the intention of setting up a holiday cottage or b&b without researching how much provision is already available and not realising that the market is very well supplied for the numbers of visitors. Having been running our cottage for well over 20 years we have seen changes in the flow of visitors to this area but the numbers have not increased enough to keep pace with the amount of accommodation available.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Gardening & Gardeners, Gwili Steam Railway

This is my large garden in former days when it was still under control...this year thanks to the broken leg it is no longer quite so tidy, so I have treated myself by employing a gardener & he's wonderful. The luxuriant rampaging brambles have disappeared, bare earth is now visible though it will soon be hidden by some new plantings and shrubs are able to breathe again. I'm thrilled. The beginning of April was just about the worst time to injure myself as the gardens were full of the joys of spring and everything was growing like mad and needed to be kept in check, especially bramble, docks creeping buttercup and the dreaded couch grass. I still can't get out there to work so a gardener was the only answer. As well as dealing with the big stuff F. is also prepared to do fiddly weeding and also discuss changes and planting ideas which I'm pleased about as the garden neeeds to be taken onto its next stage of development for which I need as much advice as I can get. Do we go all out for giant rhododendrons in dark corners or other less dramatic shrubs that just fill a space and do we take out a couple of trees that are struggling? Also digging up enormous clumps of irises and splitting them and planting the smaller clumps in new places creating a more varied palette of colour in the established beds. When the Farmer has time we shall go our local excellent nurseries and have bit of a spree. I particularly want to get more Japanese anemones which are so lovely for late summer and lots more irises and roses but also smaller low growing plants such as anemone blanda to plant at the foot of the box hedging. Also fuschias which do well here and then some more hydrangeas, the thugs of the garden but well worth their bullying tendencies. I have some interesting hellebores waiting to go in and some lavenders, so all in all it is quite exciting.

The Sons are still busy with silage-making around the neighbourhood and as we got ours done last week the pressure is off a little. When they are not driving silage kit around they are spreading slurry on the newly mown fields to encourage good growth for the second cut.

The summer weather has arrived and our holiday makers are enjoying sitting out of an evening after spending the day entertaining their small grand-son at various attractions in the area. The favourite seems to be the Gwili Steam Railway near Carmarthen(), real steam trains puffing their way through a lovely wooded valley alongside a small river, all very attractive. The Gwili Railway is run by a team of railway enthusaiasts and is one of the very good attractions in the area.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Cottage with Roses round the Door, Silage Time Again

A glorious sunny morning and this is when I think the holiday cottage is so lovely with the rose Maigold gleaming with its butter-yellow flowers so beautifully scented at the front door and with the sun streaming into the kitchen/sitting room and lighting up the warm rose-pink walls with a cheerful relaxing and with the birds singing in their summer joyfulness it's just perfect. There are still a few dates available for the summer so book now and come to enjoy a peaceful break in the lovely Welsh countryside.
In the farmhouse we have a different light but just as cheering as it pours into the kitchen and lights up my pots of scarlet geraniums on the window sills which with the smell of fresh coffee and toast is a great start to the day.

Nine weeks on from breaking my leg and things are improving all the time...I no longer use the crutches but still walk very slowly & carefully and with a considerable degree of pain but apparently that is quite normal so I was told by the excellent physiotherapist I saw a couple of days ago. So, I still can't take the dogs for their walks or go very far at all but potter gently around the house. Standing ironing bed-linen proved a bit of a challenge as standing for any length time is very uncomfortable and painful. However, it is all getting better as the days pass.

On the farm the Farmer & the Sons are very busy as with the advent of the lovely weather so comes the silge harvest and with the long hours and keeping a constant eye on the weather. The boys are out contracting much of the time but should be doing our own silage any day now. This is always such a busy time of year (but then when isn't?!) and with the very long days running into the late nights everyone gets tired though because they enjoy it all so much they do stay cheerful apart from when machines break down which hopefully won't happen, or if it does it is something simple that can be fixed quickly. This year we have anew front-mounted mower which together with the back -mounted one makes the job even quicker. To think that when the Famer & I were first married silage took about four days now it is all done in one!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Leg Cast Removed, Spring Abounding

My visit to our local hospital for my appointment at the fracture clinic this morning has resulted in the cast being removed from my leg (hurrah!) and I don't have to go back. It is wonderful not having the weight of the cast to carry around though I still have to use crutches for the next couple of weeks. I can put weight on the injured leg without pain though the foot is still rather swollen and bruised and I do need the crutches so I'm still not able to do much that is useful, except washing-up! I prop myself up by the sink, though standing for longer than about 5 minutes is quite uncomfortable, still things are improving. Considering it five weeks to the day tomorrow since I broke the leg I reckon I'm doing rather well!

The apple blossom is in in full glory in the orchards and looking just gorgeous. With the beech tress just bursting into thier vibrant spring greenness the farm is looking marvellous. Our guests in the holiday cottage are enjoying their trips around west Wales seeing at its loveliest and when they are not out and about they are enjoying the tranquility of the countryside listening to the chorus of birdsong from the blackbirds & thrushes and seeing the woods and fields transform themselves in preparation for the summer.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Farewell Morris 1000 Traveller

Yesterday saw the end of an era when we waved farewell to our old Morris 1000 Traveller which we have had for 30 years. For many of those years it was our only car and it did sterling service until a time came when we needed to tow cattle trailers so poor old Moggie was relegated to a shed and left to a quiet retirement. However, a time had come when it was taking up valuable space and someone offered to buy it at a very reasonable price so it just seemed sensible that it should be re-homed and diddled up and used again. I hope its new owners have as much fun with it as we did.

I am still on crutches, hobbling around and still unable to do anything useful. Its been 5 weeks now so the end is in sight, I hope. I am missing my daily walks around the farm as this is a most wonderful time of year with visible changes everyday as the bluebells come into flower and the trees burst into leaf. The birds are chorusing madly though I have not heard a cuckoo this year. Last year they were very vocal across the valley. The swallows are swooping in and out of the buildings around the yard and every now and then they come chattering into the house as the door stand open most of the day. They flit in panic around the house and then find their way out through an open window. If need be when they get themselves against a closed window and are frantically flapping against it, someone captures them gently in cupped hands and takes them outside to be released with a swift upward throw and off they go to continue their aerobatic hunts for insects.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Coping with Crutches, The Delights of Spring

The spring flowers are coming into their glory now, though I am not able to get out to view them unfortunately thanks to my hobbled state. Crutches are not the ideal means of locomotion around the farm. I'm now in the second week of using them and have found that any uneven or loose surface is very frightening which limits my range considerably as our yard is very uneven and on a slight slope. My one or two forays beyond the house and garden have been difficult so I'm tending to stay put. Just getting around the house has its own problems as there are little steps all over the place and our one bathroom is up a staircase with a tight turn in it. Still, I'm coping and there are only 5 more weeks (!) to go before the cast should come off...and believe me I'm counting the days!
Moan over, now praise for the Farmer. He is being marvellous and has taken over all the cooking (I can't stand or walk without the crutches so cooking or anything else is impossible) and he is a good cook. Our super daughter-in-law is great, coming in every day to do house-work-y stuff for me. Friends and neighbours have been so kind bringing flowers, books and dvds as well as conversation and so on the whole I'm being thoroughly spoilt.

Today there is gentle rain from heaven which the Farmer is very pleased about as he and the Sons ahve been so busy all week sowing grass seeds and doing a lot of field work in the lovely weather that we had. This soft rain is perfect for the seeds and we should see a fine haze of green across the fields before too long.

The first swallows arrived last week, somewhat later than usual but they are now settled in and can be seen swooping in and out of the farm buildings building the nests for their first brood.
Many of trees are still quite bare though the oaks are coming into leaf and well before the ash so will we have dry summer as predicted by the old saying
'Oak before Ash we're in for a splash.
Ash before Oak we're in for a soak.'
The blackthorns are now in flower with their lacy white blossoms contrasting beautifully agains the still dark grey and purple of the otherwise leafless tres and bushes in the hedgerows.
Bumblebees are busy everywhere in the garden and early butterflies have been seen out in the sunshine. I've seen tortoiseshells, orange-tips and a couple of peacocks flittering about.
Most of the daffodils and narcissus are over now and the bluebells are coming into flower now with their amazing splashes of vivid blue lighting up dark corners of shade under trees and hedges and of course the primroses and cowslips are appearing and not just at the edges of fields and in the hidden corners of the farm but in my garden too. The wild garlic is also emerging and we are gathering it for a lovely addition to salads. Cheese and wild garlic sandwiches are delicious.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Spring Milk & Eggs, Farmer's Wife Breaks Leg, Praise for Local Hospital

The cows are out and enjoying the sunshine. The milk takes on a lovely enriched flavour at this time of year once the cows are eating fresh grass instead of silage.It is another indication that Spring has sprung.

I have been impeded by a badly sprained ankle these last few days. I was carrying a basket of laundry when I mis-stepped a shallow step in the house (this is a house full of steps!)and found myself on the floor with my head in the laundry basket while my ankle shrieked pain. Unbelievable pain! However 4 days on, with the ankle strapped up, the swelling & the pain are reducing while I recline like a lady of leisure (or as much as is possible in this household), on the sofa. All a great nusiance & inconvenience to me and the men-folk who are not known for their sympathy & patience after about 2 days! That said the Farmer has been doing the cooking and has offered to make the beds & get things ready in the holiday cottage for our next lot of guests who arrive tomorrow, so I can't really complain!

With spring in the air and the longer hours of daylight the hens are laying 'like trains' as an old friend used to say. We are getting about a dozen eggs a day and even with the amount of baking I do it is difficult to not get a huge backlog. Everyone who calls has eggs thrust upon them! We eat eggs in every cooked form imaginable though I have drawn the line at egg-y meals twice a day!

Post Script
Next day.
I have not sprained my ankle, I have broken my leg, as a visit to our local A&E proved this morning.
The pain was so bad this morning that I thought I should have it looked at...and yes, the fibula is broken and I've been walking on it(or attempting to) for 6 days. The hospital staff were very impressed, especially when I said I had not been taking any pain-killers! I am very stoical! So now I am plastered up to my knee with a pretty scarlet cast and equipped with a pair of killer crutches and instructions to keep my foot 'elevated' for several days. I have to endure this now for 6 weeks just as we are getting into the really busy time of year. Oh, well!
I have to praise the staff at our local general hospital, they were wonderfully kind and patient and we waited only abut 30 minutes before being seen and then it was a very efficient progress through x-rays, plastering, further x-rays and crutches & home. In all about 3 hours. Well done & thank you West Wales General Hospital, Carmarthen.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Lambing Nearly Over, Return Visitors

Lambing is almost over and we have such perfect weather at the moment for turnign them out into the fields. The ewes sit in the sunshine while the lambs gamboll and play running races across the field or gathering in little groups to investigate the hedgrows.
One ewe produced triplets which are all doing well but we are supplementing them with a bottle twice a day as the ewe has not got just quite enough milk for three.

Our guests in the cottage for Easter have had a lovely week and have been so lucky with the weather. They are here returning after 20 years...or rather D. the mother has brought her children back as she had such happy memories of her childhood holidays here. I was so pleased when D. contacted me to say she wanted to bring her family here. We remember her & her sister as they came to stay several times all the way from Hull with their parents back in the early '90's. The cottage has changed a lot since then but the general ambience is much the same and D. and her husband & children seem very relaxed and happy. We must have got something right that people want to come back even after, or especially, after so long a time. The children are thrilled to have dogs & cats to play with and the dogs & cats in turn seem more than happy to have so much attention!

Easter was quite quiet here though I did of course make the traditional Simnel Cake and we all ate too much chocolate, but the work carried on with the Farmer & the Sons being kept very busy with muck spreading and ploughing.

We are waiting for the arrival of the first swallows, they usually put in an appearance about 10th April so any time jnow we should sudenly realise that they are swooping above the yard and chattering as they start nest-building.All the little hedgerow birds are very noisy and busy at the moment and I watch the sparrows squabbling in the hedges and the blackbirds vying with each other over territory. We have nuthatches nesting in a hole in one of the barn walls and bluetits in nest boxes. I've seen wrens flittering in the hedges and the thrushes are very vocal. It is all so lovely.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Internet restored, Lambing, Cow Signs

After almost two weeks without phone and therefore without internet connection I am at last back in communication with the outside world! It is shocking how reliant we have all become on the internet...I would be unable to run the holiday cottage without it nowadays and the Farmer is now obliged to do all the VAT and much of our DEFRA 'paperwork' online. When the phone line is out of action we are completely stuck and have have to rely on the kindness of friends & family allowing us to use their wifi to enable us to catch-up with emails and general business demands. It was a deeply frustrating couple of weeks. Anyways it is all fixed now and we are back to what passes for normal.

Lambing is now well underway and going well. The weather has on the whole been very good, though these last couple of days we have had strong winds and it is cold. The wind is great actually as it dries out the land very quickly which is always a good thing. Today we have glorious sunshine which is perfect for lambs.

A couple of days ago the Farmer & I attended an OMSCo ( meeting at which we listened to a talk called 'Cow Signs' given by vet on how cattle indicate that they are unhappy. It was simply fascinating. Farmers always keep a close eye on their cattle, and dairy farmers even more so but we learned a great deal from this talk. Housing in very important and the good layout of cattle sheds is vital. All the cows should be able get to water troughs without being blocked by the 'big mama boss cow' meaning that there should be no dead-ends in a shed but free access all the way round, whilst seeming obvious it is not always the case. Also cows like to drink from smaller troughs rather than large ones. Another interesting part of the talk was the section on cubicles. Many dairy cows have beds, with mattresses very often, in rows like a dormitory, each bed being divided from its neighbour by a metal barrier. This is a cubicle shed. It seems that the shape of the barriers plays a part in how content a cow is by giving her sufficient room to move easily as she gets up from lying down. A full grown cow needs a space of about 8feet in length in order to be able lunge forward to stand up. If the cubicle is too short or the dividing barrier is a bad shape she had real problems which can over time result in her damaging herself with the further result that her milk production is affected as she is an unhappy cow. Many of these things can be corrected very easily, fortunately with out great expense.
Much of what was said was very obvious but as with so many things when you are dealing with them on a daily basis some aspects of the work can be overlooked or taken for granted until they are pointed out by an outside voice.

We have had friends staying for the last couple of days and this morning we all went to Cwmtydu beach to walk the cliff path. It was superb. Though there was a cool wind the sun was shining, there were clear blue skies and Cardigan Bay was looking its best with the headland at Cardigan to the south and the curve of the bay to the north visible through a pearly haze. Perfect Easter weather.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Carmarthenhsire Tourism,

Yesterday I travelled down to Llanelli with some friends to attend the 7th Carmarthenshire Tourism Summit at the Parc y Scarlets Stadium. (The Llanelli Scarlets are one of the major rugby teams in Wales
The event was held by the Carmarthenshire Tourism Association ( of which I am a member. Tourism is of huge importance to the county, as it is to the whole of Wales, and it is estimated that it is worth somewhere in the region of £350million to the county alone. The summit is a chance for those of us involved in the 'visitor economy' to meet other businesses and to listen to their experiences in running tourism-based businesses of all kinds and sizes. There were exhibitors promoting a vast range of good and services that are useful to tourism businesses, artisan food producer, visitor attractions, artists & craftspeople who run courses, accountants, energy suppliers and much else.
Great emphasis was laid on the use of social media in marketing and though we can all quote how many hundreds of followers on Twitter (@PenyralltFach) or likes on Facebook we have, what really matters is how many bookings we get and I am not aware from the bookings I get that many of them have found my cottage through either Twitter or Facebook. I have yet to be convinced that social media is little more than a chattering post. (And yes, I admit I do tweet about the cottage and the Teifi Valley despite my cynicism!)

We had a thick milky mist shrouding the farm this morning and as it has lifted the valley has become bathed in sunshine with blue skies and a glorious day has appeared. Our guests in the holiday cottage have gone up into the hills to find the source of the river Teifi. It will be beautiful up there in the wilderness of the empty moors with only the bleat of the sheep and mewing of the buzzards to break the peace.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

West Wales Farmer, Teifi Valley

I have just submitted our first column to the West Wales Farmer for publication next week in the Carmarthen Journal. It has been fun learning how many people have seen the introductory piece in the first issue of West Wales Farmer and how encouraging they are about the column though it does put a certain pressure on us to make the column consistently interesting especially when so many of the readers are farmers like ourselves and who experience the same situations as we do.

Last night I attended the first meeting of the Visit Teif Valley group ( which I am a founder member. We have set up this organisation to promote this beautiful part Wales that is so little known. We have a Twitter account @VisitTeifi and a Facebook page. Please follow and/or like us on these sites.
Our membership is growing and we have an interesting range of people getting involved including accommodation providers, artists, craftspeople and artisan food producers. The variety of talent in the valley is amazing and many studios, galleries and workshops are open to the public.
Places to stay are also incredibly varied, from sweet cosy farm cottages like ours ( yurts, tipis & 'glamping' in all its forms. We also have members who run residential courses covering all sorts of subjects & skills. (www.visit Carmarthenshire
Visit Teifi Valley is an independent organisation but we are working collaboratively with Carmarthenshire Tourism Association ( Ceredigion Tourist Association ( the common aim of encouraging visitors to the Teifi Valley. It is an area so rich in history and an extraordinary diversity of landscape from the source of the river high up in the Cambrian Mountains down through the fertile river valley to the estuary in Cardigan Bay.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Back British Farming

There is a campaign running at the moment by the NFU called Back British Farming ()and some very interesting statistics are given;
Britain is 60% self-sufficient in food which means that there is enough food to last for 219 days
In 1991 there was 75% self-suffiency
86% of consumers want to buy more traceable food produced on British farms
The NFU is encouraging consumers, the food industry, politicians & retailers to Back British Farming. The NFU president, Meurig Raymond has said 'What we need now is for farming to be at the heart of decision-making across the wider food industry and government...'.
Of course as farmers we are at the mercy of the weather and we have been experiencing extremes of weather in the past few years, 2012 was the second wettest year in a century & 2013 had the coldest March for 50 years. The weather highlights the vulnerability of farming and the natural resources of the land that we farm have to be protected and cared for within the political & environmental frameworks that are put in place while we still produce food.
The campaign highlights the many reasons for supporting British farming which contributes to the economy, the environment,animal welfare, renewable energy and many other issues.
To understand the meaning of self-suffiency it must be said that it does not mean eating food that is only produced in Britain. It is actually used as a measure of how competitive the country is in food production and how much we produce. £12.8 billion worth of food is exported. The amount of food & drink exported by the UK has doubled since 2005.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Spring flowers, Fifty Shades of...

Whilst the daffodils are really bginning to start their glorious parades around the farm and the snowdrops are gleaming like pale lanterns tipped with green in the grass of the orchards and along the drive in the garden there is more colour showing with the polyanthus opening thier parasols of plum and cerise. They give a lovely contrast of rich colour to the still dull beds although my Lenten roses are beginning to show thier colour too now.

We were all very amused this morning when the Farmer on opening the post gave a great shout of laughter on recieving an advertising flyer from a bull semen company (!!! You have no idea how very basic farming can become over the breakfast table!) The slogan on this leaflet was 'Fifty Shades of Black & White' with a cartoon drawing of a leering Friesian bull in grey striped necktie. Even the artificial imsemination industry has jumped on the ludicrous bandwagon of the book & film! Thanks for a clever joke!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Real Eggs, Cold Spring

With the days beginning to lengthen visibly the hens are starting to lay in reasonable quantities again. This morning whilst baking I was struck by the glorious richness of the yolks and saw that they made lovely picture of wholesomeness and of what a good egg should look like. None of the pale wishy-washy faded yellow of factory-farm eggs. These are eggs that have been produced by very happy hens scratching around in the orchard on a diet of beetles, worms and the occasional handful of corn.

While the days are getting longer and spring is cetainly on the way with daffodils beginning to flower in time for St David's Day, it not not getting any warmer. We are still wrapping up well to go out and do things on the farm. The occasional glimmer of sunshine fools us into believing that there is real improvement in the weather and then an hour later we are plunged into grey dampness with a brisk wind that is bitingly cold, especially up on the top fields.
We have not started lambing yet and I hope that the weather will have improved by the time we do. While lambs can cope with cold they really do not like wet and driving around the locality we have already seen some poor little things standing hump-backed in rain-blown fields while their thickly fleeced mothers graze unconcernedly.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Runaway Sheep, Carmarthen Journal & West Wales Farmer

It is said never work with children or animals, I will qualify that by saying never work with sheep!
We are due to start lambing the next few weeks and so the Farmer has begun bringing the ewes in at night. This resulted in a ridiculous drama two evenings ago. I was preparing supper when I was called outside with a sense of urgency. The sheep had taken the wrong turn coming out of the field and instead of heading down the drive to the yard they went up the drive towards the road. The main road is about 1/4 mile away and by the time the Farmer & I had failed to jump start the farm jeep (!!!), and then transferred ourselves and the collie into another vehicle the sheep were well on their way to the main road. When we caught up with them they had gone the best part of a mile up the main road. Fortunately there was very little traffic at that point and we were able to get round the flock in the car and turn their heads homewards. The next problem was that our junction is at a cross-roads...which way would the sheep go and would the Farmer be able to get to the cross-roads by a circular route around the block before the sheep got there? I, meanwhile had been left to follow the flock on foot back down the road and contend with the sudden stream of traffic that appeared from nowhere. The driver of a very large lorry had the wit to stop in the middle of the road to prevent cars overtaking him and running into the sheep (although there is always one idiot who thinks he can squeeze past lorries & sheep!)and I managed to keep the sheep moving past the cars that had stopped. There was also queue of traffic behind me & the drivers were incredibly patient. I was beginning to worry that there was no one to direct the sheep back onto our lane & that they would head on down into the village when the Farmer appeared at the last moment with his dog. The sheep turned right as required and everything was okay. A neighbour who was in the queue of vehicles behind me kindly gave me a lift back to the farm as the Farmer had sped off to make sure everything was as it should back on the yard. The sheep were none the worse for their adventure though being heavy in lamb they were puffing a bit, as I may say was I!

Yesterday the Farmer & I went to a buffet lunch at Gelli Aur, the home of Coleg Sir Gar, the county's agricultural college, for the launch of a new monthly farming supplement to our local paper the Carmarthen Journal.
I, or rather we, have been asked to contribute a monthly column to this new publication 'West Wales Farmer' much along the lines of this blog, which I am looking forward to doing.
The Carmarthen Journal is the oldest newspaper in Wales having been founded in 1810 and it circulation covers Carmarthenshire & parts of Ceredigion & Pembrokeshire. The editor, Emma Bryant, has seen that in this deeply rural area there is a need for a specialist supplement for farmers featuring industry news, local advertising of agricultural services,and articles about farming life in all it variety & we are very pleased to be part this new initiative.
The West Wales Farmer was given a good launch with a speech by Rebecca Evans AM Deputy Minister of Farming & Food. Jonathon Edwards MP was also present as were representatives from the local farming community, the FUW, NFU & Coleg Sir Gar.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Marmalade making, Firewood, Sheepdog puppy

It is marmalade time and the Farmer always takes it upon himself to make it. We picked up a quantity of lovely organic oranges when we were in Lampeter last week and they are now cut up and simmering away in the preserving pan filling the kitchen with a beautiful aromatic steam as soothing as any aromatherapy. The Farmer adores marmalade & the thicker & chunkier the better and while I make all the jams & chutneys he regards the marmalade making as his own, which is fine by me.

While the weather has been dry the Farmer has been been spending much time logging to replenish the firewood supplies for the next couple of years. We have an almost endless supply of firewood from the management of our woodlands which is wonderful, but it does take a lot of work to get from the woods to the house. It is always said that wood warms you three times, once in the felling, once in the logging and once in burning it. It is very true. As we live in a house without central-heating the wood supply is so important to us having two good sized wood-burners to run. Admittedly we do fire the two up only when the weather is very cold, mostly we are cosy enough with just the sitting-room fire and the oil-fired Rayburn in the kitchen. We are a hardy breed.

We have recently acquired a new collie puppy. Our wonderful Mollie is now 8 years old and so it is time to have a youngster to train over the next couple of years to follow on as Mollie will slow down. So, we now have this pretty red collie who is as yet nameless, though the Farmer wants to call her Henrietta and Henry for short in memory of one of our previous red dogs who was a real character and much loved. (Who says farmers aren't sentimental about their animals!) The family feels that having a female dog called Henry is eccentric to say the least and Henrietta is not a good name for bellowing across a field. However, whatever she ends being called as she is proving to be very bright and quick to learn and is great fun though bit of a torment to Dottie the terrier who is only just big enough to boss her about at the the moment. That will soon change!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Spring is just around the corner, Teifi Valley

Despite the chill dampness and general gloominess with which we are swathed at present there are signs that spring will arrived in due course. I found the first primroses a few weeks ago and the snowdrops are coming out all along the drive and in hidden corners of the orchards & gardens. The daffodils are spearing upwards at a great pace and many of them are showing swelling buds and before we know it we shall be having golden skeins and pools around the farm. Something glorious to look forward to.

Today I attended a Tourism Business Support Roadshow event held in Newcastle Emlyn. It was put on by Carmarthenshire Tourism Association to enable tourism businesses and associated organisations to network, to use the jargon.
I am tending to refer to local tourism rather a lot a present as I am involved with setting up a new organisation to promote the Teifi Valley, the part of north Carmarthenshire where I live. Visit Teifi Valley (VTV) is being set up and run by a group of volunteers like myself who with the support Carmarthenshire & Ceredigion Tourist Associations and visit Wales will work to promote the valley of the river Teifi which forms the county boundary between the two counties and a small corner of north Pembrokeshire. It is an area rich in history, stunning & varied landscapes, superb castles and delightful market towns & small villages, remnants of a former flourishing wool industry which at one time produced great wealth for the area. It is a region that is little known yet when discoverd by visitors enchants & delights with its multi-faceted character.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Dinefwr Park, Carmarthenshire

Yesterday courtesy of Carmarthen Tourism & the National Trust the Farmer I went on a 'familiarisation' tour of Dinefwr Park, near Llandeilo. We have been there many times before but this was a day organised for accommodation providers in the area to enable them to encourage holiday-makers to visit some of the most interesting places in the county.
Dinefwr certainly offers a marvellous & varied place to visit.
The dramatic ruined 12th century Dinefwr castle is wonderful, perched broodingly on a hill looking down over the beautiful Towy Valley in the sweeping 18th century landscaped parkland. In the park there is herd of the very rare White Park cattle who have been at Dinefwr for 1,000 years.
The park surrounds the extraordinary Newtown House with its four turrets and great portico. All this is in addition to the 120 acre medieval deer-park in which roams a herd of about 160 fallow deer. There are lovely walks through the park and woods and a great feature of the park is the vast number of 'veteran' trees. These are trees that are many hundreds of years old of which there are said to be some dating back 700 years and it is thought to be the largest collection of veteran trees in the country.
We were taken round the park in a purpose-built people trailer towed by a tractor. I have never been so cold despite tweed coat, pashmina shawl & sheepskin gloves! It was a fine day though not sunny and intensely cold so sitting in an open-sided trailer for an hour was not ideal. We were in a party of about 15 people & we were all absolutely frozen and as soon as we got back to Newtown House we all rushed in to find the nearest radiators to huddle up to! Once we had thawed out we were taken on a tour of the 'hidden house' which included going up into the roof space and then out onto the leads where the views were spectacular in all directions. The vistas were just as they had been designed by 'Capability' Brown in the 18th century and there are trees planted at that time looking superb in the landscape including a wonderful Cedar of Lebanon. The fallow deer were grazing near the house and we had the lovely sight of them all from the stags with their strange dished antlers to the does and last year's fawns in their natural setting.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Winter Landscapes, Winter Farming

My 300th posting! and as so often the weather will feature! It is soooo cold, but dry and today it was sunny so really a lovely day. There is still ice around and tiny pockets of snow with the top fields looking as though someone has gone over them with sugar sifter.

We recieved an email from an old friend today who grew up here on the farm & is now warden of the RSPB bird reserve on the Dyfi estuary in Ceredigion & he sent a beautiful description of winter on the estuary & his memories of Penyrallt in winter;

'It is a spectacularly beautiful, brilliantly sunlit day. Frost is suspended in slow moving curtains across the valley, creating an icy haze. Frost crystals suspended on wind bleached strands of sedge and molinia tall grasses, shiver to create the most exquisite delicate musical notes. Deep frost covers all saltings; Sheet ice covers all tidal scrapes and pools and ice begins to form up on all river shallows,and gravel bed fringes at lowest tidal ebb.
We have lost our earlier overwintering 400+ Barnacle geese; they have moved on but our Goldeneye, Teal, fewer Pintail, Little Grebes and Egrets, three pairs of Kites, Wigeon and Greylags provide daily company.

On beautiful, hazy frosty days such as this, my mind often drifts southward only to settle and relive again those magnificent landscapes across fields and wooded slopes and secret track-way from Penrallt Home Farm, leading down to the Siedi. The bouquet of your oak woods in November and the magical "silence" of your land when under deep snow. The utterly spellbinding discovery of "Roding" male Woodcock in airborne courtship display at dusk, in spring and early summer, over your woods in that shallow valley between you and neighbouring Mountain Farm, are all deeply embedded with permanence.'

After that lovely lyricism back to bald agricultural realities; The last couple of days have seen proper winter farming activity with the spreading of slurry on the fields. Big tractors take long pipes out to the fields. This pipe system is know as the umbilical cord and the pipes are filled by a tractor-mounted pump standing by the slurry lagoon. The slurry then is sprayed onto the fields which in this dry weather means it can seep into the ground distributing the invaluable nutrients to enrich the soil & encourage good grass growth which is so important to our organic system. Nutrient rich soil is the key to a healthy organic system which in its turn is the key to nutritionally rich food.

Monday, 2 February 2015


We awoke this morning to find it had snowed overnight (a complete contradiction to what the weather forecast had told us yesterday!) and now I am sitting in my warm kitchen while it snows very heavily, so much so that the view beyond the yard is quite obscured. I love it! I have a very well stocked larder and deep freeze and so being snowed in does not present too many problems other than making sure the milk is able to be collected. in bad weatherIf things look serious the Farmer & sons will go out and scrape the drive open up a more level access that should ensure the tanker can get in & out without being towed. The slope on our yard sometimes makes this necessary if there is ice on the ground.

We have guests in the cottage and I'm sure they will be enjoying the dramatic turn in the weather during their holiday and will cosy-up by the wood-burning stove very contentedly. An unexpected snowfall always makes for a memorable holiday.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

First Snowdrops ,The Common Agricultural Policy

The 1st of February & I found the first snowdrops this morning, always a cheerful sight especially with the current bitter weather we've been having. We seem to have had days of sleet & hail but no actual snow unlike other parts of the country, although neighbours 2-3 miles away but few feet higher than us have reported a sprinkling of snow on their roads & fields.

The Farmer & I attended a meeting of the local branch of the Farmer's Union of Wales
( a couple of evenings ago. The meeting was to bring us an update on the Common Agricultural Policy for 2015. And what a complicated, long-winded and at times incomprehensible set of documents it is!
As farmers we have always been supported (& that is a whole other point for discussion), but the way in how this support is delivered is changing this year, bringing in a raft of new rules & definitions. For example the new rules on trees & hedges...if there are 3 trees in a straight line then they could constitute a hedge or 'a landscape feature' but if they are growing together and create a canopy then the land underneath them will be deducted from any area payment made, even if that land is grazed or harvested. There is also a document on the definition of a tree!
The new system of payments is moving from historic to area-based payments though no-one seems very clear on exactly what is going be brought in. It seems the Welsh Assembly itself is not sure what is going on either and the FUW ( and other farming bodies)is left in state of frustration at not being able to give clarity on a number of issues raised by farmers.
The only thing that is certain is that the subsidy payments are going to be less than in previous years.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Farming & Farmers

The crisis in the dairy industry has taken the BBC news headline today and it may encourage people to really start thinking about where their food comes, not just milk, and how vulnerable we are as farmers to market forces. What other industry finds itself selling a product for less than it costs to produce and be able to stay in business.
In December the number of dairy farmers in Britain dropped to below 10,000, a 50%(!!!) fall since 2001.
There are always people out there who have a perception that farmers are miserable,complaining curmudgeons, well maybe they too would complain if they felt that they were working for nothing and were unable to do anything about it.
The general public's view of farming & farmers is confused I think.
On the one hand there is the bucolic rose-tinted idea of the merry peasant tilling his ground and tending his animals and on the other there is the greedy, factory farmer keeping livestock in huge sheds & despoiling the land. Both views are extreme nonsense.
The reality is that farming covers a wide spectrum of methods, lifestyles and aspirations. We all work hard in often very difficult and challenging conditions & using methods that are often misunderstood by the consumer but at the end of the day we are all producing that most basic of human requirements, food.
Without farmers and educators (those who pass on knowledge, not just peddlers of information)there is nothing.

Monday, 19 January 2015

First Milk Meeting, Weekend Shooting

A cold sparkling silver morning with the blackbirds and robins trilling away merrily in th hedgerows. The dogs love this weather, as do I, and whilst I do not leap and prance around with the frost in my toes like them, I do enjoy the briskness it brings to our daily walks.

Further to my last post, we attended the First Milk meeting and listened to Sir Jim Paice explaining the current dire situation regarding the milk price.
In simple terms there is simply too much milk on the world market and this affects the whole system from the farmers onwards. It is a very complicated business and I can't begin to try to explain it as I barely understand it myself but it has meant that the price to farmers has dropped dramatically. First Milk has deferred its payments to the farmers by two weeks and this deferrment is to continue until August. Some farms are going to really struggle...some 60 farms left the industry in December alone.
I take back my comment in the last post about the chairman & board not having their salaries deferred as Sir Jim did tell us that they had in fact deferred them at some point last year (though possiblynot with the same impact on their lives as it is having with the people who actually milk cows).
The whole thing will rumble on for some considerable time yet, but the general atmosphere at the meeting which was attended by anything up to 200 farmers, was reasonably amiable though many are very worried. We were presented with facts & figures and there was no trying to hide behind statistics & jargon.

We have had a very busy weekend with some of Younger Son's friends, their labradors & girlfriends arriving on Friday for a weekend's shooting. All very jolly. The two visiting dogs are the offspring of my lab Hattie and siblings of Younger Son's lab Jess. It was interesting to see family likenesses so strongly apparent. They are all very good-looking dogs and very well trained and therefore much admired when out in the field.