Following last evening's beautiful flamingo-tinted skies at sundown we have a lovely clear frosty morning which cheers everyone up after the seemingly endless miserable weather that we have had to endure for months. Daffodils are flowering everywhere and the snowdrops are beginning to show their cool-white streaked with green in patches around the farm & on the verges and hedgerow bottoms & birds are singing. However, we must not think that Spring has arrived, February & March can turn out to be harsh and cold. We shall just have to wait & see.
At the beginning of the week we were battered by Storm Imogen which resulted in the second polytunnel being badly damaged, though the plastic sheet did not fly off the frame but was ripped and pulled away from its anchorages. It will be a fiddly job to get it back and patched up which we must do otherwise we have nowhere to bring the sheep in for lambing at the the end of the month having lost the whole sheet on the other tunnel in previous storm. The Farmer is just waiting for a calm wind-less day to put the replacement sheet on. Unfortunately today though dry is not without a breeze.
As from the beginning of February we are now full members of OMSCo, (Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative)(www.omsco.co.uk). We ended a 56 yr contract with First Milk (formerly the MMB)along with 40 other organic milk producers across the country to become part of OMSCo who have been buying our milk through First Milk for anumber of years anyway. It just seems to make sense that we sell directly to them as full members rather than as associate members. They supply milk to Yeo Valley Yogurt amongst other organic dairy processors & are doing lots of good work in the USA with British manufactured organic cheese, Kingdom Cheese, which is proving popular.
Yesterday I spent a lovely long day at Cariad Glass (www.cariadglass.co.uk), a local stained glass studio, making a rather pretty, though I say it myself, coloured glass hanger. It is very intense, satisfying creative process from choosing glass from a huge library of incredible colour, variety & texture, to cutting out the shapes, and then leading them into place. It was my second time on a Cariad Glass course and so I was able to make a rather more complicated design than my first one.
A busy start to the day with the arrival of a load of straw. An artic. and drag lumbered its way up the drive and onto the yard with its vast load of straw bales, 24.3 tonnes brought from Stow-in-the-Wold. The bales, although very securely fastened with ratchet straps, always look to me as though they are are about to topple as they sway with the undulations of the roadway...quite unnerving. One of our big tractors has replaced the lorry tractor unit to take the loads to the sheds at the other side of the yards where the straw will be unloaded and stacked in a shed. There is enough bedding for the cattle for a couple of months and by the time it has all been used up it should be turn-out time.
The first of the snowdrops are beginning to appear along the drive although this year they were pipped to the post by daffodils which is ridiculous. I have even had a solitary tulip flowering in the garden. With this mild damp winter many plants are getting very confused and things are flowering months ahead of what is normal. The two days of frost last week were so lovely but we are now back to www...warm, wet & windy.
The Jack Russell puppies have now all gone to their new families...this was the last one to leave and he's gone to live down in south Wales as companion to another Jack Russell where he will have a lovely life.
Today, a grey cold day, the Farmer & I took our nearly 5yr old grand-daughter out to visit Llansteffan castle. It was great. The castle is set high on a hill above the estuary of the river Towy and in its hey-day must have been an imposing sight for travellers coming up or down the river. Small grand-daughter loved clambering over the ruins and venturing up the very narrow spiral staircase in one of the towers, but of course best of all was being shown the lavatories, or garde-robes, set deep into the walls!
On our way home driving along a narrow country lane in the middle of nowhere we had an exciting and unusual encounter.
A man was walking towards us with his arm outstretched carying something very large...it turned out to be a Golden Eagle! He took time talk to us as we had stopped the car so as not to disturb the bird and we were able to see the magnificent creature at such close quarters as we will probably never experience again. It was beautiful & threatening & wild although it had been bred in captivity in Scotland and was now being trained but I guess such birds can never been really tamed. The ferocity in its eye and the unmistakable strength in its grip on the double layers of gauntlet that it's keeper (no-one can 'own' such a bird) wore, were testimony to its power as a killing machine. It was fractious and kept flying into a bate although firm hold was kept on its jesses, it would suddenly launch itself into the air with great flapping of its huge wings and then come back to the man's arm where it would glare at us with its piercing eye. At only 18 months old it was still learning what was expected of it and it was hungry apparently. A really wonderful thing to have been privileged to see at such close quarters and wholly unlikely in the depths of west Wales.
Another wet afternoon so nothing better than taking the grandchildren for a walk in the rain & sploshing through the puddles and streams. Two year old grandson lost his wellies twice and 5 year old grand-daughter wailed at getting her pink tights splashed...so all normal & happy! Actually, they were great and splashing in puddles entertains them for ages as does poking around with sticks in muddy streams. They love watching the water purling and bubbling over the rough surface of our concrete drive as it runs down to the bridge where we play Pooh-sticks. The water then gushes through the drainage holes on the sides of the bridge walls to cascade down into the tumbling stream. On the whole a jolly afternoon despite the continuing vile weather.
Whilst out today I came across these fungi growing out of some bales of silage. They are called Schizophylum Communae and are edible and very popular in the far East where they are cultivated. Here they grow in through the holes pecked in the silage wrap by birds. There was a goodly crop on the bales I saw and I have picked them for our mushroom expert friend. I'm not overkeen on exotic mushrooms, they tend to be be quite strongly flavoured and rather rubbery in texture, I use shiitake a lot in cooking as they are very palatable but other types I have found to be less so.
It's marmalade time again and the Farmer has been busy. He loves marmalade and is very happy to be in charge of making it. We bought some lovely organic Seville oranges from the excellent organic shop in Lampeter andd the kitchen was then filled with the delicious aroma of boiling oranges. The Farmer made about 16lbs and most of it went into the jars...there was however a citrus stickiness all over the kitchen, every drawer handle, door knob, work surface & table top seemed to have at least one or two gloopy dollops of marmalade on them, even the tea-towels were gummy, ugh! Paddington Bear would have been in ecstasies at the amount of marmalade freely available, he & the Farmer have quite lot in common!
Well, 2016 has dawned with a dry cold morning, perfect for walking the dogs and such a relief not having to don waterproofs. There is more rain forecast but for the moment we are relishing this brief respite from lashing rain and buffeting winds. We are so lucky to have been spared the horrors that the north of England and parts od Scotland are suffering as result of Storm Frank, though is a lot of flooding in the Teifi Valley but it is mostly just fields that are under water and some roads & bridges have been impassable. We have had torrents of water rushing down the yard and cutting channels in the surface but so far there has not been the damage done as in previous years.
The winds on Wednesday night were hideous, so much so they removed the entire covering of one of our poly-tunnels which now stands in skeletal glory, its grey metal ribs exposed for the first time in about 10 years (the plastic has done us very well!) There is no question of attempting to replace the plastic until the weather is more settled and so it will have to stand in its nakedness until the spring. Unfortunately it is the tunnel that we use as a lambing shed, so the veg. growing tunnel may have to become a a home for the sheep in March.
Whilst having friends calling and we were in turn calling on others as usual over the Christmas weekend, the holiday was very different for us. Instead of spending Christmas Day in the bosom of our family (for perfectly amiable reasons) we went down to St. David's cathedral in Pembrokeshire for Choral Mattins. It was wonderful. The choir of St. David's is superb and the choice of hymns, carols & anthems really demonstrated their skills & it was marvellous to sit in that beautiful ancient building and feel it reverberate with the power of the organ and the sweetness of the choir as it has done for so many centuries.
After such an uplifting experience we then drove a short distance to the lovely Whitesands Bay for a good walk along the beach. It was surprisingly busy there considering it was Christmas morning, many people obviously taking an opportunity to walk their children & dogs before returning home to the turkey. There were even some brave souls swimming in the rather billowy sea, some in wetsuits, others not!
Yesterday I drove into our local town along a road that gave superb view of the flooded acres by the river Teifi. As I approached the outskirts of the town I saw a car had stopped on the opposite side of the road and a woman flagged down the few cars to stop while she crossed the road to where a sheepdog was crouching in the hedgerow. It was clearly very disressed and had obviously been out in the weather for a while. The woman approached the dog slowly with her hand out to it and it allowed her to catch hold of it and take it to her car. I guess it must have been a stray from a nearby farm that had got lost in the stormy weather. I hope it has been re-united with its owners, I'm sure the person who rescued it will do all she can to find out where it came from. It really has not been a Christmas for man or beast to be lost out in the wind & rain.
This is how it should be but is not!
The rain has gone beyond biblical in that we are now well over the forty days & forty nights endured by Noah and not an Ark in sight! Every day sees us donning waterproofs and setting out to do the chores sliding & squelching through the mud that has overrun every surface of the tracks and yards. At least we have enough housing for all the cattle so they are dry and comfortable. The tractors churn up the mud of course just making it worse and walking through the fields is wellnigh impossible as they are so saturated and soggy. Two days ago I had to go out to our local village in the car and drove past flooded fields where the river Teifi has overflowed its banks to an extent we have not seen for along time. Bridges in the area have been impassable with the flood water up to the top of the parapets. Torrents of water were running down our driveway and our little old stone bridge was a lake as its drainage holes could not cope with the quantity of water running down though water was gushing through them at a great rate. It seems there is to be no let up according to the Met Office and there is more heavy rain & winds due to arrive...we really are dreaming of a white Christmas!(See picture!)
Today is of course the winter solstice, the longest night which heralds the change when the sun begins to be seen for a little longer each day. Mid-winter was a time of celebration and feasting and has in our modern times become absorbed into the Christmas festivities. Decking the halls with holly & ivy are remnants of the ancient pagan rituals and lighting candles to banish the darkness and welcome back the light.
Aren't they lovely? 15 days old and thriving. Their eyes opened this week and they will soon be rampaging around in their nest driving their ever anxious mother to distraction.She is convinced that the labradors will eat them though they are just being curious but she sees them off with much growling and terrier-swearing and they are suitably cowed and slink off pretending they have something much more interesting to attend to.
At last we have dry morning. The incessant rain lately has been hideous and depressing. The whole farm is soggy and the ground is saturated so walking across the fields is like walking on a sponge. Ghastly! As well as the downpours we have had very strong winds so there are fallen branches everywhere. There has been serious flooding locally with fire service having to rescue people from their cars apparently.
On Monday we went to the Royal Welsh Winter Fair at Builth Wells despite the weather. We had arranged to meet up with an old friend whom we had not seen for several years so we braved the rain and drove up into mid-Wales. It did not stop raining the whole day and yes, we got very damp but as most of the Fair was under cover it was not as bad as it could have been though those poor traders in little tents outside did suffer with the wind blowing and because of the rain people were not very willing to stop and peruse what was on offer but walked hurriedly on to the big pavilions where there were many trade stands of all kinds...the show is a big shopping opportunity, anything from a huge tractor to a mole-trap to an antique diamond ring! I spoke to a friend who was there with his wonderful award winning cheeses and organic spirits (excellent gin!)and he was not having a good day simply because of the weather. www.teificheese.co.uk. I bought a bottle of his seaweed gin made in the Da Mhile distillery in west Wales, just a few miles from the farm,www.damhile.co.uk, which is the first organic distillery in the UK.
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 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 £100, 3 nights £150
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