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 (www.omsco.co.uk) 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 www.parcyscarlets.co.uk)
The event was held by the Carmarthenshire Tourism Association (www.carmarthenshiretourism.co.uk/visitcarmarthenshire.co.uk 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 (www.visitteifivalley.co.uk)of 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 (www.penyrallt.co.uk)to 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 (www.visitcarmarthenshire.co.uk)and Ceredigion Tourist Association (www.discoverceredigion.co.uk)with 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.
BACK BRITISH FARMING