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
The event was held by the Carmarthenshire Tourism Association ( 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 reraders 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( Ceredigion Tourist Association ( the common aim of encouraging visitors to the Teifi Valley. It is an area so rich in history and an extraordinary variety 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.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Spring flowers, Fifty Shades of...

Whilst the daffodils are really bginning to start their glorious parades around the farm and the snowdrops are gleaming like pale lanterns tipped with green in the grass of the orchards and along the drive in the garden there is more colour showing with the polyanthus opening thier parasols of plum and cerise. They give a lovely contrast of rich colour to the still dull beds although my Lenten roses are beginning to show thier colour too now.

We were all very amused this morning when the Farmer on opening the post gave a great shout of laughter on recieving an advertising flyer from a bull semen company (!!! You have no idea how very basic farming can become over the breakfast table!) The slogan on this leaflet was 'Fifty Shades of Black & White' with a cartoon drawing of a leering Friesian bull in grey striped necktie. Even the artificial imsemination industry has jumped on the ludicrous bandwagon of the book & film! Thanks for a clever joke!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Real Eggs, Cold Spring

With the days beginning to lengthen visibly the hens are starting to lay in reasonable quantities again. This morning whilst baking I was struck by the glorious richness of the yolks and saw that they made lovely picture of wholesomeness and of what a good egg should look like. None of the pale wishy-washy faded yellow of factory-farm eggs. These are eggs that have been produced by very happy hens scratching around in the orchard on a diet of beetles, worms and the occasional handful of corn.

While the days are getting longer and spring is cetainly on the way with daffodils beginning to flower in time for St David's Day, it not not getting any warmer. We are still wrapping up well to go out and do things on the farm. The occasional glimmer of sunshine fools us into believing that there is real improvement in the weather and then an hour later we are plunged into grey dampness with a brisk wind that is bitingly cold, especially up on the top fields.
We have not started lambing yet and I hope that the weather will have improved by the time we do. While lambs can cope with cold they really do not like wet and driving around the locality we have already seen some poor little things standing hump-backed in rain-blown fields while their thickly fleeced mothers graze unconcernedly.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Runaway Sheep, Carmarthen Journal & West Wales Farmer

It is said never work with children or animals, I will qualify that by saying never work with sheep!
We are due to start lambing the next few weeks and so the Farmer has begun bringing the ewes in at night. This resulted in a ridiculous drama two evenings ago. I was preparing supper when I was called outside with a sense of urgency. The sheep had taken the wrong turn coming out of the field and instead of heading down the drive to the yard they went up the drive towards the road. The main road is about 1/4 mile away and by the time the Farmer & I had failed to jump start the farm jeep (!!!), and then transferred ourselves and the collie into another vehicle the sheep were well on their way to the main road. When we caught up with them they had gone the best part of a mile up the main road. Fortunately there was very little traffic at that point and we were able to get round the flock in the car and turn their heads homewards. The next problem was that our junction is at a cross-roads...which way would the sheep go and would the Farmer be able to get to the cross-roads by a circular route around the block before the sheep got there? I, meanwhile had been left to follow the flock on foot back down the road and contend with the sudden stream of traffic that appeared from nowhere. The driver of a very large lorry had the wit to stop in the middle of the road to prevent cars overtaking him and running into the sheep (although there is always one idiot who thinks he can squeeze past lorries & sheep!)and I managed to keep the sheep moving past the cars that had stopped. There was also queue of traffic behind me & the drivers were incredibly patient. I was beginning to worry that there was no one to direct the sheep back onto our lane & that they would head on down into the village when the Farmer appeared at the last moment with his dog. The sheep turned right as required and everything was okay. A neighbour who was in the queue of vehicles behind me kindly gave me a lift back to the farm as the Farmer had sped off to make sure everything was as it should back on the yard. The sheep were none the worse for their adventure though being heavy in lamb they were puffing a bit, as I may say was I!

Yesterday the Farmer & I went to a buffet lunch at Gelli Aur, the home of Coleg Sir Gar, the county's agricultural college, for the launch of a new monthly farming supplement to our local paper the Carmarthen Journal.
I, or rather we, have been asked to contribute a monthly column to this new publication 'West Wales Farmer' much along the lines of this blog, which I am looking forward to doing.
The Carmarthen Journal is the oldest newspaper in Wales having been founded in 1810 and it circulation covers Carmarthenshire & parts of Ceredigion & Pembrokeshire. The editor, Emma Bryant, has seen that in this deeply rural area there is a need for a specialist supplement for farmers featuring industry news, local advertising of agricultural services,and articles about farming life in all it variety & we are very pleased to be part this new initiative.
The West Wales Farmer was given a good launch with a speech by Rebecca Evans AM Deputy Minister of Farming & Food. Jonathon Edwards MP was also present as were representatives from the local farming community, the FUW, NFU & Coleg Sir Gar.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Marmalade making, Firewood, Sheepdog puppy

It is marmalade time and the Farmer always takes it upon himself to make it. We picked up a quantity of lovely organic oranges when we were in Lampeter last week and they are now cut up and simmering away in the preserving pan filling the kitchen with a beautiful aromatic steam as soothing as any aromatherapy. The Farmer adores marmalade & the thicker & chunkier the better and while I make all the jams & chutneys he regards the marmalade making as his own, which is fine by me.

While the weather has been dry the Farmer has been been spending much time logging to replenish the firewood supplies for the next couple of years. We have an almost endless supply of firewood from the management of our woodlands which is wonderful, but it does take a lot of work to get from the woods to the house. It is always said that wood warms you three times, once in the felling, once in the logging and once in burning it. It is very true. As we live in a house without central-heating the wood supply is so important to us having two good sized wood-burners to run. Admittedly we do fire the two up only when the weather is very cold, mostly we are cosy enough with just the sitting-room fire and the oil-fired Rayburn in the kitchen. We are a hardy breed.

We have recently acquired a new collie puppy. Our wonderful Mollie is now 8 years old and so it is time to have a youngster to train over the next couple of years to follow on as Mollie will slow down. So, we now have this pretty red collie who is as yet nameless, though the Farmer wants to call her Henrietta and Henry for short in memory of one of our previous red dogs who was a real character and much loved. (Who says farmers aren't sentimental about their animals!) The family feels that having a female dog called Henry is eccentric to say the least and Henrietta is not a good name for bellowing across a field. However, whatever she ends being called as she is proving to be very bright and quick to learn and is great fun though bit of a torment to Dottie the terrier who is only just big enough to boss her about at the the moment. That will soon change!