Well, the country went to the polls yesterday and today we have the result...to leave Europe. As a family our votes went to both sides of the ballot but are nonetheless surprised at the outcome. The whole business of the In/Out campaign was very ugly at times and there was a lot of scare-mongering from both sides, but it seems that the nation has sent a clear message to the government, they want change. What happens next is going to be interesting to say the least. Having spoken to a lot of farmers and others working in the agricultural sector in the last few weeks, the overwhelming view was for Brexit. That said the farmers vote is very small in the great scheme of things. Interestingly one of the most rural areas of Wales, Ceredigion, which is only 4 miles from where we are in Carmarthenshire, voted to Remain in Europe.It is going to be very interesting to see what comes from the farming unions and the politicians on how they are going to support British agriculture in this new scenario with no more CAP to pay farm subsidies. It is certainly going to concentrate a lot of minds in the farming industry.
Whatever everyone thinks of this outcome it is up to the politicians to make it work and for the people to make sure that the politicians make it work.
Though parts of England have been having such dreadful weather lately we have been lucky with dry days of warm sunshine enabling the Farmer & the Sons to continue with the endless summer job of silage-making. They have been out and about all over the neighbourhood till late at night with the silage kit making many hundreds of bales for several of the dairy farms in the parish. Political ructions don't affect the need to ensure our winter fodder is in good supply and stored well to continue the nation's milk supply.
The end of June is in sight and the roses are doing superbly hence the photo of roses cut to decorate my kitchen table.
Our event for Open Farm Sunday (www.farmsunday.org)went very well.
We had glorious weather for it and after a lot of hard work in the days running up to it the day itself ran very smoothly and happily for both us and our visitors. We had about 50 people which we were more than happy with. It is a good number for a farm that is not near near any large centre of population...of course it does not match up to the the thousands that visited some farms in England, but we would have had problems coping with a very large number of visitors. As it was we had a steady trickle throughout the day. The people who did come were a mixture of locals, friends, and holiday-makers and of all ages from 5yr olds to 85yr olds. Everyone seemed very pleased with what they saw and learned. The Farmer took groups on walks around the farm and showed them everything that we do and for many it was a real eye-opener...being shown a hen's ear, getting near enough a dairy cow to stroke her and to learn about what happens to our milk once it leaves the farm. It's all important stuff for non-farming people to have access to which is what Open Farm Sunday is all about.
Today the Farmer has taken the first of two batches of bull calves to our local livestock market. He left at about 6.45am and when he comes back I will accompany him with the second load. It is a relief to be able to sell these calves now that our TB restrictions have been lifted. We had to keep all calves born over the past year which is not what usually happens. Under normal conditions all our bull calves are sold at about a week old to be reared for beef elsewhere.
The gardens are beginning to look rather gorgeous. The roses are doing very well this year, particularly the ones around the holiday cottage which are giving the most magnificent display. The weeds too are benefiting from the generous doses of good muck that all the beds and borders were given back in early spring and so each day I try to clear a goodly amount of nettles, docks and buttercups from the most obvious areas. But even where the weeds get the better of me, they fill up gaps with greenery, some of quite sculptural and dramatic in the form of the hated giant hogweed. The foxgloves are beautiful and the little yellow Welsh poppies neither of which I really regard as weeds and tend to leave where they are. Creeping buttercup is a problem and goose-grass which swathes everything it touches in shawls of clinging strands of vibrant green.
I am up betimes on another beautiful early summer morning. We have been having glorious weather recently and things are as result very busy here. The Sons are out all around the parish cutting silage, the Farmer has been able to get the sheep sheared this week and we are preparing the farm for visitors on Open Farm Sunday,5th June...at least I hope we get some visitors, one never knows with such events how many people will turn up, if any. We will of course be ready with a tidy yard, a tea urn and lots of cake for whoever does come.
Today we must go out with the big signs supplied by the organisers of Open Farm Sunday (www.farmsunday.org)and put them at the various road junctions near the farm and at the farm entrance.It is yet another form of publicity as well all the tweeting I have been doing and our local paper The Carmarthen Journal (www.carmarthenjournal.co.uk) has put a piece I sent them onto their website and on their Twitter & Facebook pages. I have been taking posters around the local villages and shops and everyone has been very helpful. So, we'll wait and see what happens on Sunday. Meanwhile much cleaning, sweeping and weeding is being done and setting up trestle tables for teas and working out displays of photographs, old implements, etc. and generally making everything look tidy & welcoming. Roll on Open Farm Sunday!
A field of mown grass may not be the most exciting photograph ever but it is a sight to lift the hearts of all dairy farmers as it means we have begun the hard work of ensuring that our cows will be fed throughout the winter. The Farmer & Sons started mowing today, the earliest we have ever cut and the crop is looking very good, not too wet despite the recent rain and with the lovely sunshine this afternoon it is drying nicely and seems to be good thick crop. The past few days have been spent preparing the machinery and tractors and now the Sons are in their element, driving huge tractors with impressive kit bringing in the humble but essential grass crop. This is of course only the first cut there will be at least two more before the end of the summer. Once our fields are done the Sons will be out mowing and carting on other farms as contractors and will be putting in very long hours and driving kit considerable distances. But they love it! The whole valley will be humming with the sounds of silage-making over the next few weeks and everyone will watching the weather forecasts like hawks. Speaking of which, the buzzards (a neat segue don't you think!) are already wheeling over the mown fields looking out for the poor little victims of the mowing machines which are to become their next meal of carrion...it was ever thus, even in the days before tractors and mowers. Horse-drawn machines and scything also unavoidably destroyed small mammals hidden in thick grass and corn and so the predators work alongside the farmers.
The hedgerows are beginning to teem with flowers. The bluebells are everywhere and now being followed by the stitchworts, red campions, the green spires & white flowers of Jack-by-the-hdge, Queen Anne's Lace or cow parsley to give it it's more mundane name. There are whiffs of garlic from the ramsons scenting the air and glints of gold where the lovely little yellow Welsh poppy has seeded itself. It appears in all sort of unexpected places as well in the garden. The gardens are coming on well and we are beginning to have a marvellous display of rhododendrons and azaleas.
With just three weeks to go before we open our gates to the general public for Open Farm Sunday on June 5th, I am beginning to think about how the farm looks and seeing what needs to be tidied up, particularly around the main yard. The Farmer will mow the lawns to within an inch of their lives,the edges will be strimmed and the general clutter will put away...it's just like tidying the house before visitors but on a slightly larger scale. We pride ourselves on having a fairly tidy yard most of the time anyway, but when one looks at with the eyes of a visitor one suddenly notices the unattractive heap of electric fence posts and the hanks of baler string that have been discarded in a busy moment and then forgotten. The place will still look like a working farm but maybe with neater edges.
This is the tenth year of Open Farm Sunday (www.farmsunday.org)though only the second time that we have taken part. I think there about 7 farms in Wales taking part though up to 300 all over the UK. It is an important initiative that encourages farmers to allow the public onto real working farms to see how food is produced. Our visitors will given a guided walk around the farm buildings and the fields with an opportunity to ask us about any aspect of food, farming and agriculture in general that interests them...I hope we will be able to give them good & informative answers! As well as having a farm walk our visitors will then be able to relax with a cup of tea and cake (all free of charge)and see the cows come in for milking. We just all pray for a day of fine weather.
As we are now thankfully, no longer under TB restrictions the Farmer & I took some young steers to the market in Carmarthen (www.bjpmarts.com) last week. We arrived there at 9.30 which was rather late as our lot numbers were in the 500's. Our animals didn't go through the ring until 3.00pm! So it was a long day. As it was the first time we had attended the mart for beef & sucklers we stayed the day, having breakfast & lunch in the mart cafe. It was actually a rather jolly day as we met up with various friends & acquaintances whom we had not seen for some time and it is fascinating watching the animals go through the ring and seeing the buyers & auctioneers at work. It was sale of suckler cows with calves at foot, steers, bullocks & bulls. The bulls were scary...they are so big and do exude a slight air of menace and even the drovers who a handle such beasts all the time are wary of them and do not spend any more time than they have to in the ring with them but take refuge behind strong narrow gates. They are put through the ring one at a time but bulls can be unpredictable especially in a strange & disturbing new environment, however they were all very well behaved that day and they were sold without incident.
This morning I accompanied the Lady Artist, who is nearly at the end of her month's working holiday in the cottage, to the horse sales held in the local village of Llanybydder each month (www.evansbros.co.uk). As always it was an interesting day...people watching as well as horse watching. I will confess to being not very knowledgeable about equine matters, but the Lady Artist is an expert and so with her fund of knowledge it was a very enjoyable couple of hours. There were horse & ponies of all kinds; coloured ponies & horses of all types, an enormous 17 hand chestnut stallion, tiny Shetland ponies no higher than a coffee table, flighty, frightened young ponies brought down off the hill, a couple of woolly donkeys and some very smart hunters. The tiny Shetlands we thought we should tuck into our coat pockets and bring home and the Lady Artist was quite tempted by some of the other horses but managed to resist the temptation to take them back to Suffolk.
As with all livestock auctions there is a great atmosphere of anticipation by both buyers and sellers. Will the buyers be able to get the bargain bomb-proof pony they need for the children and will the sellers get the price they know or hope their animal is worth? Some sellers were visibly disappointed especially if their beautifully groomed and well-presented animal did not reach its reserve and others just accepting whatever sum the the auctioneer's hammer goes down on. It is a noisy, clattering business and for some of the animals there quite terrifying while for others who are used to crowds of people at shows, hunt meets and point-to-points they are ridden or walked around the ring quite calmly before being loaded into boxes to go back home or to to a new stable.
It was very cold in Llanybydder and seems to have got colder still this evening, though that may be wind chill..it has got very blowy. Yesterday we had constant hammerings of pea-sized hail, interspersed with flurries of snow which was then quickly melted by lovely sunshine before the next pelting of hailstones. The fruit trees are just about to burst into flower and it will be a great shame if the blossom is damaged by the severe weather causing a poor harvest later on. The oak trees are coming into leaf well ahead of the ash so we may be in for a dry summer...but what we are all waiting for is an increase in temperature so the grass will start to grow. The smiling yellow primroses and Quink-coloured bluebells are everywhere and the birds are singing madly so spring is here despite the weather's oddness.
A happy morning for us as we've just had the all clear from our vet on the bovine TB. We have had two clear tests, 60 days apart, which means that we can take big sigh of relief that we are no longer under restrictions and can now sell some calves and relieve the pressure in the sheds as we have had to keep every calf born this winter. So some bull calves will be going to the mart before too long.
Yesterday the Farmer & I had to go up to Lampeter and then went on to Tregaron up in the Cambrian Mountains. It was beautiful up there as always and we had the thrill of seeing what was almost certainly the only golden eagle living in the wild in Wales. We had been told about it by a chap I know slightly who we met in Tregaron who gives guided walks in the Cambrian Mountains(www.twmstreks.com) . He told us where it was most likely to be seen in area we know and there it was soaring on the thermals above the hills. A wonderful sight. How popular it will be with sheep farmers who have lambs out on the hill at present is a question though!
Full-time farmers-wife, cook, laundress, gardener, meeter-&-greeter, mobile gate, answerphone service & bibliophile.
Have lived for over 30 years on a 200 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 Logs, electricity, bedlinen & towels included in price Free WiFi Natural spring water Beautiful views Only 30 minutes from beaches One well behaved dog welcome (£15) Short Breaks available (out of school holidays only)- 2 nights £120, 3 nights £180
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
Film of River Teifi, West Wales
Teifi; From Sea to Source
A beautiful 35 minute film following the River Teifi from the air with a sound track of Welsh folk music, poetry & narrative made by the Teifi Valley Tourism Association. To order a copy go to www.teifivalleyholidays.co.uk