Monday, 10 November 2014

Cattle & Dogs

Most of the cattle are in for the winter though a few still graze in the somewhat soggy fields. Those that are in are fed silage each day and are bedded down with fresh straw. Feed barriers are the best way of feeding anumber of cattle at a time, each beast goes to a section and eats what it needs as as when it chooses. The smell of good silage and warm cattle is very evocative of winter on the farm

For some reason the Farmers's shadow, his working collie Mollie is being allowed into the kitchen these days and Dottie the terrier is somewhat miffed to find that Mollie can fit into her bed so is resigned to sharing though it is a tight fit.
Talking of dogs we lost our old labrador Poppy a couple of weeks ago. She was twelve and was suffering from liver failure. She had been a superb gun-dog and she & Younger Son whose dog she was, learnt everything together about beating and retrieving game. She was also a wonderful companion and the greediest dog imaginable which is quite something in the world of labradors!...her other name was Pig-dog! She was also Dottie the terrier's sofa, here they are in the summer both very comfortable in the sunshine.

Friday, 7 November 2014

First Milk Dairy Farmers Meeting

Hawthorn berries gleaming like rubies in the almost bare hedgerows.

Yesterday the Farmer & I attended a meeting of dairy farmers who sell their milk to First Milk (www.firstmilk.co.uk). First Milk is farmer's co-operative and about 150 members from Wales attended the meeting held at Nant y Ffin (www.nantyffin.co.uk),LLandissilio in Pembrokeshire.
Chairing the meeting was Sir Jim Paice MP, chairman of First Milk & former minister of food.
The state of the dairy industry is fairly dire at present, not just in the UK but globally. Many farmers are being paid less than the cost of production for their milk and there is a drop in demand which has not been helped by the Russian embargo on UK dairy products. 2/3 of Europe's dairy produce was exported to Russia and without that market there is a massive over supply of milk & milk products in Europe. The price paid to dairy farmers is not going to improve until production and supply drops and demand goes up.
To reduce production is not a simple matter; when a dairy cow is put in calf the decision has been made for what happens with the cow in 5 years time when she will be in full milk production. Many farms are planning to expand but while the current low in the industry will eventually change, we all have to weather this difficult time. We are very fortunate that as organic producers things are are a little better in the organic sector but nonetheless the situation affects everyone in the dairy industry one way or another.
A final thought - 50,000 farmers & farm workers are employed on dairy farms in the UK. Next time you buy a pint of milk think about the many people involved in producing that pint.
For information on all things dairy see www.thisisdairyfarming.com.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Autumn Fungi, Winter Preparations

This beautiful display of fungi was spotted on my walk with the dogs yesterday. I don't know what type of fungi they are but they are growing on the stump of a conifer and look just gorgeous, as lovely as any flowering plant in the garden.

Winter is definitely on its way... the Farmer & the Sons have spent the afternoon putting away the summer machinery. The mowers, tedders, balers & wrappers are now all neatly lined up in their shed for the winter, protected from the weather and out of the way of the farm activity over the next 6 months or so.

The Farmer has spent a lot of time lately processing firewood and we have a large shed now full of logs which is a most comforting & satisfying sight as the season gets cooler.
Today is the first really cold day we've had so far, the tweed coats were donned and gloves found to be necessary. There was a sharp-edged wind up in the top fields today which is very different to the too warm weather of last week which was all wrong for the end of October. The autumn is looking lovely with a number of trees retaining their russet golden leaves despite the strong winds of the last few days. We've also had heavy rain and the streams around the farm are now running well again after having almost dried up over the summer. As we are not on mains water it always good to see the streams running as it means that the underground springs that feed our water tanks are also running well. In a dry summer such as we have just had water does become a bit of an issue. We do have to be careful in our usage of water and the cows do have to take priority...they need about 10 gallons each a day, plus all the water required for washingthe milking parlour & dairy and the cooling of the milk. Wales is known for its rainfall but even here we have to be aware of how much or little we have at times.





Friday, 24 October 2014

OMSCo & First Milk promote Kingdom Cheese in US, Pheasant Shoot, Jack Russell Puppy to new home

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.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Jack Russell Puppies, Cottage Redecoration

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!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Autumn, Ancient Settlement, Seals Pupping


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.


Friday, 19 September 2014

Scotland Says 'No', Autumn Harvest Continues, Jack Russell Puppies

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.