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.