The cottage has now had its redecoration all done and everything put back in its place...so it is all looking very spruce & smart. The warm pink of the walls of the sitting-room works well giving an air of cosiness and with two sofas and the wood-burning stove is just the place for relaxing and enjoying a peacedful country holiday.
Plug over, now onto other stuff!
Yesterday the Farmer & I went to the delightful small town of Narberth in Pembrokeshire for a meeting held in the Plas Hyfryd Hotel by OMSCo (www.omsco.co.uk) the organic milk buyer who, with First Milk (www.firstmilk.co.uk) sells our milk to whoever needs it.
It was a good meeting with the usual group of attendees (& only 3 wives) in which the chaps from OMSCo explained the current market regarding the organic milk industry. OMSCo is the largest organic milk buyer in the country and supplies organic milk to many retailers and manufacturers of organic products. A very exciting developemnet for the co-operatve is the huge success of Kingdom Cheese in the States. This is an organic cheddar-type cheese that is produced solely for the American market & is proving very popular over the pond. It has just won three gold awards in the International Cheese Awards held in Nantwich, Cheshire recently which will give it even greater attraction to American cheese buyers. It seems the demand for organic cheese in the States outstrips supply hence OMSCo being able to promote a British made organic cheese there.
Although Kingdom Cheese is not available in the UK we have been given samples of it and it is very good.
Tomorrow sees the the first shoot of the season for the Farmer & Younger Son. They are busy sorting out guns, cartridge, thorn-proof clothing and making sure the dogs are in fine fettle for a good first day. The weahter should be quite kind to them though even it is raining stair-rods they still all seem to have a wonderful time.
I shall be spending the day, or the morning at least doing a changeover in the cottage. We have had a delightful Lancashire farmer & his wife staying for 3 nights having come down to collect their Jack Russell puppy from us. If prosepctive dog owners are prepared to travel so far then I am always confident that the puppy will be going to an excellent home.
The Jack Russell puppies are now 7 weeks old and utterly delightful. We have homes for all but two dogs. They are such fun but very naughty and have learnt to make their way upto the house from their cosy nest in an out building. I have to take a very circuitous route up a set of steps to escape them when taking the big dogs for a walk otherwise they attempt to follow & while having trail of very tiny puppies when walking through the fields is terribly sweet it is also very trying as they can't keep up and get tired and I cannot possibly carry them all!
The past week has been taken up with the end of season sprucing up of the holiday cottage. This year I employed a friend to paint the main rooom & kitchen which involves high ladders and painting of beams...a job I have always hated so it was great to have someone else do it. I have also changed some of the furnishings, replacing pieces that had become rather shabby. The cottage works very hard as a building, constantly, though inadvertantly, battered by the ever changing inhabitants. I am always touching-up paintwork where it has been chipped by suitcases bashing against walls.
I've also replaced the china & the Farmer has fixed up new lights in the kitchen area over the cooker which were much needed. It is all looking very clean and fresh now, ready for out next guests who arrive next week.
We had some very dramatic weather last week, a whole day & night of thunder & lightening..the thunder was incredible, the whole of this solid old stone house shook at time and windows rattled in their frames fairly constantly. There was much damage reported locally to telephones, computer & internet connections. We came off quite lightly but Elder Son lost his phone and internet. Some of our neighbours have only had their phones reconnected today!
We are still picking sweetpeas from the poly-tunnel which on a grey damp day such as today is very cheering.
We have had a change in the weather...the Indian summer has come to an end though the Farmer is not too unhappy about it. He had reseeded a field last week in the sunshine aqnd the rain that we have had since has been perfect for the seeds, light & not too persistent.
Autumn has come, the leaves are falling & the swallows & martins left us some weeks ago, which is very early, they are usually around until the end of Septemebr.
This summer we acquired an extra few acres,acres that have been almost totally neglected for the past 20 years. So, there has been a concerted effort by the Farmer & the Sons to reclaim fields that have been taken over by aggressive brambles and bracken to say nothing of the self sown trees, mainly willow and blackthorn. This clearance work has involved chainsaws, tractors with mowers and even a digger at times. The fields are adjacent to our main holding but seperated by a lane and whilst one can walk there more quickly than driving they are a great opportunity for the farm which will enable us to milk a few more cows.
As well as these neglected & overgrown fields there is also a beautiful woodland of twisted mossy oaks & with a small river running through. In the spring this wood is a mass of bluebells.
The best thing for me about the land is the fact that there is an ancient historic site on the top field. It is large stone banked enclosure, possibly neolithic in origin though I have not been able to find much information on it, but I will keep digging in the internet. I do not think the site has been the subject of a an archaeological dig.
This area has a number of ancient 'fort' sites all within reasonable distance of each other. They may have formed a chain of settlements across the this hilly & wooded countryside. The name of the land is Gaerwen which translates as White Fort. The local geology provides plentiful quantities of white quartz which may have been used in the construction that made a gleaming white enclosure.
Arrow heads have been found nearby but a couple of thousand years of of farming will have obliterated much of whatever evidence there may have been of the previous inhabitants of the valley.
The change of the season means an end to our sea swimming days out. The sea is less enticing in the cooler weather and I am only a warm water swimmer. Another reason not to enter the sea at the moment is the presence of bull seals in our favourite cove.
When we went down there last week there was a lot of roaring & bellowing coming from one of the small caves that run into the cliffs and we learned that it was seal cow giving birth to her cub. Out in the shallow waters of the cove (just in the area where we swim) a large bull seal was patrolling up and down waiting for the cub to be born so that he could then go to mate with the mother as is the way with seals, post-partum copulation & insemination.
That particular beach is known for having seals pups on it and the local people set up a watch group to guard the babies from over-inquisitive onlookers (& their dogs!). The cubs can be viewed from the sea wall but no-one should venture onto the beach itself.
Family farming provides days like this...three generations having a picnic in the harvest field in what is turning out be an Indian summer.
Well, Scotland has chosen to remain within the United Kingdom & I am very pleased. As a proud Scot(but without a vote) I was unsure at first about the 'No' campaign but as time went on I began to think that independence was a wonderful but romantic ideal. The Scots are a pragmatic & practical people and the idea of removing Scotland from the Union (which they brought about in the first place when James VI of Scotland inherited the throne of England from his mother's cousin Elizabeth I in 1603)has been shown to be a dream. Scotland & Scots people have such a strong sense of identity that they have never been an insignificant part of the UK & now they have shown themselves wanting to continue in the union.
It was a pity that the campaign turned into a referendum on the Coalition but it was probably almost inevitable that it would become a party political football. It is no surprise that the Labour stronghold of Glasgow voted 'Yes' while the remote & rural Highland region, the islands & most of the rest of the country voted 'No'.
A 'Yes' vote would have created a great deal of turmoil, not least here in Wales. If Scotland could be independent then Wales would want to go it alone too but with what? Wales does not have the resources or an already exisiting independent judiciary & education system with which to stand alone. As a friend in political circles (another Scot without a vote) emailed me, 'collaboration with the greater Uk has to make long term sense -as the world gets smaller we need to work together so much more.'
Back onto more domestic matters (& really far more important!) the Farmer has been busy with apple harvest. He has once again been processing vast quanitiies of apples into apple juice (with the help of Small Grand-daughter), some of which will be frozen to drunk over the winter while the rest he will make into cider. Last year's brew was excellent so let hope this year's batch will be as good.
As I've mentioned in previous posts the fruit harvest this year has been exratordinary, I'm still picking brambles, though according to tradition they should not be picked after 29th September as that's when the Devil mspits on them & cetrtainkly they are becoming increasingly squishy & fly-blown. The rose-hips are in great quantity but they are horrible to pick & unfortunately the birds have got the elderberries before me. The beech-mast (which is of course inedible) is scattered around in such amounts as I've rarely seen before & there are mutterings about signs of a hard winter to come.
Dottie & her puppies are doing well. The puppies at 3 weeks old have just been introduced to the delights of Weetabix and snuffle through it with great glee & then fall asleep in the dish while Dottie cleans the stickiness from their coats.
It is the end of the summer & the hydrangeas that have flowered so profusely and for so long are now beginning to fade into their delicate autumnal colours, so very subtle after the vibrant almost garish sky blue shades of earlier months.
We have had a couple of weeks of intense activity with many guests and events.
Last week I spent 3 days stewarding a photographic exhibition that I had been involved in organising. It was the result of a competition run by the Teifi Valley Tourism Association (www.teifivalleyholidays.co.uk)in which people were asked to send in photos of any part of the Teifi Valley and we were pleasantly surprised to have about 140 entries. Most of the entries were so good we were able to mount an exhibition which was well attended and also produce a book of the best pictures. The photos in the book run in sequence from the mouth of the estuary of the Teif River to the source up in the wild hills of mid-Wales & illustrate what very beautiful & varied part of the world we live in. The book is companion to the dvd that was produced last year, 'Teifi From Sea to Source'
Copies can be obtained by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org
After arriving home on the last day of the exhibition about at about 7pm within 10 minutes I was back in the car on a dash to the vets with my little terrier who had had puppies a week earlier. She had developed milk fever or eclampsia. We are accustomed to seeing milk fever in dairy cows and whilst it can be alarming in such a big animal we are able to administer calcium to the cow ourselves, rarely having to call a vet, however in a very small dog it is more than alarming. The illness which arises from a lack of calcium due to milk production and manifests itself very suddenly, causes a rapid rise in temperature, convulsions and hideous shaking. My poor little dog was in very bad way having been feeding 7 puppies for a week. If the litter hade been only the more usual 3-4 puppies she would probably not have had any problems. So, we had an emergency run to to the vet with little dog getting worse and worse in the car. On our arrival at the surgery the wonderful night duty vet gave three injections of calcium and a remarkable recovery was made. Within 20 minutes Dottie was back to normal...it is extraordinary how quickly a simple injection of calcium can work miracles. We came home with a bouncing dog and a supply of milk powder to supplement both puppies and the mother.
We are now feeding the tiny puppies with a syringe three times a day just to help Dottie out. They are all doing well.
On Saturday we spent the day at our local agricultural show.
The Farmer had been asked to steward for the dairy cattle judge & we had also entered items in various domestic & handicraft classes, so we were up on the show field good & early. Fortunately it is only quarter of a mile away from us.
The Farmer, our daughter-in-law KT, grand-daughter L. & I had all got entries in a number of classes without any expectation of winning anything. We had just entered to support the show & so were very surprised & thrilled to find we had won things. The Farmer got 3rd for his woodturning, 2nd for a bird box made from recycled materials, 1st for a truss of organic hay (the only entry so it doesn't really count!) L.(aged 3 & a half) 2nd for a face made of sweeties, I got a 3rd for Bara Brith (a traditional Welsh fruit loaf)& most surprising of all a 2nd for photograph of flowers. A rather good showing by the family at its first efforts in the highly competitive arena of local agricultural shows. We are already planning for next year!
Well, here we are in September...August is always such a busy month that it is almost a relief to move on in the year.
Apart from the holiday-makers who are an everchanging & unknown troupe we have had a rush of other guests. Family members and old friends who come to stay for a couple of days of conversation, eating & sightseeing & it is wonderful to see them but when their visits coincide with Grandson's 1st birthday and party, cottage changeover, the birth of a litter of 7 terrier puppies, cows calving & the usual dashing here, there & everywhere by the Farmer & Sons it is fairly exhausting!
Family visits are always good as we are a somewhat scattered tribe & so visits are usually several months apart so there is always lots of catching up to do and one day is always taken up with the Farmer organising a trip involving much walking & a picnic. This time we went up to Tregaron, a tiny market town in the hills & then onto the lovely ruins of Strata Florida abbey which are set in bowl of green sheep strewn hills and then a switchback drive to the source of the river Teifi, a vast & lonely empty place at the top of the previously mentioned hills where we had our picnic accompanied by the call of the buzzards over the heather clad moors. On then into the Ystwyth valley to Hafod for a good long walk through the extraodinary remnants of a great 18th century estate. The house of Hafod has long gone but its romantic woods with the river and cascades & gorges are now run by the Forestry Commission and offer visitors some seriously dramatic & beautiful walks.
Other house-guests have included friends from childhood days who have not visited the farm for well over 20 years so it was a real catch-up of news & nostalgia but also a trip to the beach one evening for a very chilly & buffeting swim followed by fish & chips at another beach watching the evening draw in over the water...an excellent evening as it turned out.
While all this social stuff was going on my little terrier produced a litter of 7 (!!!) puppies without any fuss or bother. she just got on with it one night all on her own & we came down in the morning to find her ensconced in her nest of hay in the dog shed very proud of her babies. They were tiny with a great variety of black & white marking...the Farmer says they look like good Frisians!...but have grown tremendously in 6 days. A litter of that size for a small farm terrier is I think quite unusual, but she is coping amazingly well with them.
One my daily walks with the dogs I go armed with a stout stick, secateurs, a basket for brambles & a cotton bag for hazelnuts. I must have put the best part of 40lbs of brambles in the freezer now & I have gathered nearly 3lbs of hazelnuts which are now in paper bags hanging from my kitchen ceiling ready for Christmas.This year is proving to be quite amazing for the quantities of wild fruits and nuts. The Farmer picked a large amount of bullace plums the other day as well as the Victorias in the orchard. The bullace are already turning into wine ina large bin sitting by the Rayburn in the kitchen bubbling away merrily. Sloes are showing their dull purple in the hedges and we must collect them before the birds strip the bushes. They are usually left until after the first frosts but one can cheat and pick them earlier and put them in the deep freeze. They need to be frosted before being put into gin or vodka...something to do with the release of sugars I think.
Each year the lilies in my somewhat chaotic garden astonish me with their magnificence.
Although the gardens are looking very full & lush they need some work to be done to remove the dead heads of straggling ground cover plants and some general end of summer tidying up, however the lilies rise above the general tangle.
I was out at 7 o'clock this morning with the dogs and a basket for brambles. This is proving to be a wonderful season for the hedgerow harvest. I have already frozen 4 large boxes of brambles and they are masses more to come. I was pleased to find sloes hiding behind their thorny barricades...last year there were almost none. There will be a good crop of hazelnuts too this year if I can get to them before the squirrels, I have already found scatterings of shells in various wooded corners of the farm. A fine gathering of field mushrooms was had the other morning to add to my list of seasonal bounty, delicious fried with bacon for breakfast.
There is a definite breath of autumn in the air now and the there has been a change in the weather though the Sons are still busy on silage.
The Farmer & I went to the beach one evening last week and swam in warm-ish waters. It was lovely and even better when once again we saw a small number of dolphins swimming just a few hundred yards from us. We have never seen dolphins off that particular beach before so was very exciting. There have been a lot of sightings of the dolphins that patrol Cardigan Bay this summer and it is always special if we catch a glimpse of them on one of our infrequent visits to the coast.
The summer stream of holiday-makers in the cottage is keeping me busy...I am waiting to do my next change-over while I write this.
We have had a lot of delightful people staying really enjoying being here on the farm. It is always good when families just spend their days sitting outside & chatting reading and going for walks and generally watching the farm activities. It makes us feel that they really appreciate what the place is about & enjoy seeing how we live, which is on the whole so very different from urban lives. Most of our guests are town-dwellers and they love being in the real countryside for a week though some do say to us that they couldn't live a country life for long!
Full-time farmers-wife, cook, laundress, gardener, meeter-&-greeter, mobile gate, answerphone service & bibliophile.
Have lived for over 25 years on a 140 acre organic dairy farm in the Welsh hills, with fiddle-playing farmer husband and two sons.
We host farm walks for schools and any other interested parties and have farm open days and are passionate about educating people on where their food comes from and the importance of the countryside.
We also have a sweet holiday cottage with roses round the door available throughout the year for the perfect country retreat.
Contact for further details;
Telephone; 01559 370341
Sleeps 4 Wood-burning stove Welcome basketof goodies Logs, electricity, bedlinen & towels included in price Internet access Natural spring water Beautiful views Only 30 minutes from beaches One well behaved dog welcome (£20 per week) Short Breaks available- 3 nights £170
A delightful gypsy wagon on an organic farm in West Wales.
Cabin with kitchen, shower-room & wood-burning stove.
Camping with a difference. http://www.oldoakgypsywagon.co.uk/
As Seen on TV
Penyrallt has been used as a film location on a number occasions for feature films & television productions. 1993Tan ar y Comin / A Christmas ReunionStarring James Coburn & Edward Woodward Directed by David Hemmings & Carol Byrne-Jones. Saban / Y Wennol (Wales) 1996-1999Yr Palmant Aur A Welsh language period drama. Opus TV / S4C (Wales)
1999A Two Way JourneySolo Spot Produciones. (Spain) 2007Y Ty Cymraeg A Welsh language programme about Welsh architecture presented by Dr Greg Stevenson. S4C Cwpwrdd DilladA Welsh language programme about Welsh fashion design. The designs of Adam Marc James were photographed at Penyrallt. S4C
2011Rhod Gilbert's Work Experience; Series 2 - FarmerStand-up comedian Rhod Gilbert trys his hand at farming. BBC One Wales/Presentable TV BBC Two. 2012 Mud MenSeries 3Episode; Blackwall Johnnie Vaughan& Steve Brooker