Thursday 16 May 2024

Cows Out At last!, Time Away in Mid-Wales, Ancient Welsh Churches

At last the cows have gone out! A month later than usual due to the atrocious weather last month and the fact that we had a significant amount of silage to be eaten before the pit was empty ready for the next cut of grass. The cows had to finish the silage before going out onto fresh grass otherwise they would not have wanted to eat the silage having had a taste of the real thing! So, today was the day and the girls were very happy to be heading in a rush up the lane to our top fields and to have space to run about before settling down to the serious job of ingesting lovely fresh green grass. The milk yield will go up almost immediately and the flavour of the milk will be wonderful. The Farmer and I have been away for few days. We went up to mid-Wales and stayed in a cottage in a remote valley with the most stunning view across the hills of Powys. The countryside of Breconshire and Radnorshire is quite breathtaking and at this time of year the ancient oak woodlands were carpeted in bluebells making great lakes of azure in the vast areas of many shades of green. The fresh verdant gold of the oak leaves and the rich lettuce green of the new beech leaves interspersed with the creamy blossom of the may-trees canopied by clear blue skies was heart-lifting after the endless greyness of the past few months. Everywhere were ewes and lambs grazing on new grass or dozing in the sunshine under wind-sculpted old hawthorns in fields edged by hedges full of red campions, bluebells, some late primroses and gleaming buttercups and dandelions.
The past few weeks have been busy with family occasions, several birthdays, and two wedding anniversaries (the Farmer & I have reached the unbelievable milestone of 40 years wedded bliss!) and so there were gatherings of the clan at various intervals. All lovely! One reason for our trip up into mid-Wales was for the Farmer to seek out a couple of very old churches he has been reading about. They were both renowned for the wood-carving of thier rood-screens and the intricate woodwork of the ceilings. Once we found them in their hidden corners of the Welsh hills it was well worth the journey. The first one at a remote place called Llananno, had a magnificent rood-screen with a row of 25 figures, Christ and 24 saints, all beautifully carved in the 16th century and still standing in their elaborate wooden niches above the main body of the church, despite the Reformation and the Civil War. Apparently there was school of woodcarving in mid-Wales during the 16th century which is why so many old Welsh churches have the most extraordinary and beautiful rood-screens. One of the finest is in the church where the Farmer & I were married, Llanfilo, near Brecon. It is a very pretty church and the carvings in it are exquisite. We are very fortunate as a family to be connected with such a beautiful building...we have had weddings, baptisms and funerals there and there is another family wedding to be held there in 2025. (Unfortunately I do not have any photographs of the church in my archive but it is easily found on the internet.)

Tuesday 23 April 2024

Dry Weather At Last, Neighbour's Farm Sale Preparations

At last the weather has improved and we have had enough dry days to enable us to start cutting silage. Elder Son was out yesterday mowing and this morning before breakfast, the rake and other kit are being prepared for a long day. The rolls of plastic sheet for the silage pit were delivered yesterday and although it is a greyer morning than we'd like it is dry so hopefully after breakfast and all final preparations are done it will be full steam ahead. We have yet to turn the cows out, the land is just too wet, but once the grass is off the fields they should be able to get the cows out...turnout has never been this late! Yesterday the Farmer was on a farm up the valley helping get things ready for a farm sale. Our neighbour, with whom the Farmer was at primary school, has taken the major decision to sell up. His children are not interested in continueing farming and have careers outside agriculture and so having been on the farm since 1936, the family are selling everything. The farm itself has been sold and happily is going to continue as a dairy farm which is very encouraging. The preparation for a farm sale is a massive undertaking involving moving every item, no matter how small, out of buildings and sheds where they may have been for the last 60 or more years. All sorts of forgotten things are brought to light, antiquated machinery and tools that have been superceded by modern technology but remain as fascinating artefacts. Everything, from tractors, machinery, sheep hurdles & gates to boxes of old nuts and bolts & miscallaneous bits of metalwork, is set out in rows in good flat field ready for the sale day where they will be perused by all and sundry. There will also be some livestock going under the hammer, for of course, everything is sold by auction which is very interesting thing to watch. Some bidding is very subtle and it can be quite a game to see who is bidding for what. As well as moving everything, it all has to be washed and cleaned up, so the Farmer was busy with a pressure-washer all day sprucing up long-stored machinery. The buildings are all being pressure-washed too which is huge is no joke spending days washing out cubicle sheds, calf pens and lambing sheds but everything must left spotlessly clean for the new family coming in to the farm. A farm sale is a great social day for the neighbourhood and a meeting-up of old aquaintances, though farm sales such as this will are increasingly less frequent than they were. We shall be there of course, and all one can hope for is the the weather is kind on the day.

Sunday 31 March 2024

Easter Eggs & Venison

Easter Sunday and it's a bright, sunny, though chilly morning. So lovely that it is NOT RAINING!!! The Farmer spent yesterday working out the trail for our annual Easter Egg Hunt around the farm for the grandchildren and some of their friends and this morning he now has to go round again placing chocolate eggs in the various nests of straw he has dotted around the fields and hedges. They are in all sorts of odd places, down rabbit holes, up in trees (with a ladder firmly tied in place) or on a large stone in the middle of a stream. It is all great fun and the children love it and it is also a good long walk for them (& the grown-ups!) before coming in for hearty tea...,for the grown-ups as the smalls so are full of chocolate by that stage that proper food is not required! For Easter lunch we are having roast venison. We have a herd of wild red deer roaming the valley and were spotted in our fields recently, so the menfolk had bit of sport and brought back some excellent wild, free meat. Whilst the deer are very beautiful to see, their numbers need controlling as they eat any trees that are planted and a lot of grass that is needed for our cattle. A herd of twenty or so deer can do a lot of damage and by next year the numbers will have increased. They also are known to carry TB which of much greater concern to us than any other aspect of their close proximity. As dairy farmers bovineTB is our greatest worry and if the deer and the cows come into contact it is a great risk to our business. The biggest irony though, is that when we need to move any cattle we have to have them TB tested by a vet (which we have to pay for), but a herd of deer can roam freely from farm to farm as they please, in our case they will have crossed at least three seperate farms before they reach our land and later they were seen entering the woods on a farm far distant across the valley.

Sunday 24 March 2024

Sul Blodau, Flower Sunday

Yesterday we called on some friends down in the village and were fascinated to hear that they had just returned from a journey around the local area visiting their family graves in various churchyards and chapel burying-grounds, putting flowers on the the memorials of their family members.This would account for us having observed over the past couple of days people visiting the graveyards of our local churches and chapels...not something one sees very often. It is an old custom that, as Easter approaches,flowers are taken to graves and today, Palm Sunday, is known in Welsh as Sul Blodau or Flower Sunday. Even if the family are not regular church- or chapel-goers this tradition continues to be important in the community. Of course this is a lovely time of year as the hedgerow flowers are begining to appear in abundance no matter how cold or wet the weather. We have primroses at the foot of the hedge banks and I have seen a very early violet flowering along the drive. Our daffodils and narcissi have been out for a good while but as we have many different varieties around the farm and in the gardens we have a display that carries on for many weeks. I also have several camellias which have put on a wonderful display this year and the magnolias are showing great promise and the cherry blossom is coming on well. The blackthorn blossom is beginning to appear in the hedges and that combined with the ever joyful birdsong is a sure sign that spring has come. After all, it was the Spring Equinox last Wednesday and the natural world just can't help but burgeon forth in all its glory and we look forward with great anticipation to the full majesty of the apple blossom, bluebells, foxgloves, the more discreet and hidden gems of the violets, wild strawberries, stitchworts and the sunshine-y magnificence ot the buttercups,dandelions and celandines.

Saturday 23 March 2024


There really isn't anything sweeter than a small lamb cuddled up against its great woolly mum! With an improvement in the weather i.e no rain for a couple of days, and it has got much colder the Farmer has been able to put the lambs out and they are happily running around in a field with their ever watchful mothers. Rain is the problem for lambs but they cope with cold without too much problem...a big thickly-fleeced mother certainly helps. This morning it is very much colder than it has been recently and although when I was out walking my little dog at about 7 o'clock it was clear and dry with glimmers of blue skies, now it grey and very gloomy and we have had hail & sleet showers. Who knows what the rest of the day will bring?! In Wales we have a new First Minister leading our Labour government as of this week, though whether this will signify a change in government policy especially regarding the agriculural sector we wait to see. With a cabinet reshuffle we now also have a new Minister for Rural Affairs and we are all waiting to see how he will deal the farmers objections to the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme that has caused us to protest so vocally in the past few weeks. Easter is coming up and so I am expecting several guests to the holiday cottage over the next couple of weeks. Booking are slow, but this seems to be general trend and people book holidays much more last minute. So long as I get 24 hours notice of an arrival it works well though keeping up with the laundry can be bit of a challenge. On the farm work picks up apace with the improvement in the weather and the land beginning to dry out. The cows are still in but we would not expect to put them out to grass until about 10th April, but muck spreading should be starting soon as soon as we can get tractors onto the fields without making too much mess. We had the vet come in this week to check the cows to see how many are in calf and it seems that only one is not, which is a very good result. Calving will not start until the end of the summer. While lambing is pretty easy nowadays as we have only 20 ewes, calving time is always busy with just under a hundred cows all due in the space of a few weeks, but that is a good while off yet.

Friday 15 March 2024

First Lambs

Spring is definitely here as our first lambs arrived last evening. A fine pair of twins and doing well. We are in a seemingly endless gloom of grey skies and rain so lambs and the wonderful dispaly of daffodils around the place are immensely cheering. Because of the very wet winter there has been almost no chance of getting onto the land though a couple of dry-ish days last week meant we were able to get muck out and lower the levels in the slurry pit. Once the sun comes back the benefits of this will quickly be seen in the grass growth and hopefully by the middle of next month we should be able to put the cows out after their long confinement in winter quarters... always a great day. After the political activity a couple of weeks ago things have gone quiet here in Wales after the great protest meeting in Cardiff. There maybe things going on the background with our farming leaders and the seemingly immovable politicians but if they are we are not aware of them. There is to be a new First Minister for Wales in the next few days but I don't think anyone is holding their breath in the hope that he will be any more sympathetic to the farmers than the previous one. As for the farmers themselves holding more meetings and protests, this is the worst time of year to rally troops as everyone is busy lambing and calving, working long, long hours with no time to spare for going out to political meetings. We still have to care for our livestock in order to feed the nation despite the politicians trying to shut us down. We have not gone away. No Farmers No Food. Bookings for the holiday cottage are beginning to trickle in. In fact I have a very last minute booking of people arriving tonight, at barely 24 hours notice. Fortunately I always keep the cottage ready with the beds made up straightaway after the last guests have left, so today I've just got to bake some chocolate brownies as a welcome gift, put a vase of daffodils picked from the garden on the table and flick a duster around the horizontal surfaces and lay the fire in the wood-burner to be lit an hour so before our guests are due to arrive. It gives a lovely sense of welcome to arrive after a long car journey, and walk into a room with a glowing fire. The Farmer will do his usual great job of refreshing the water in the hot tub and lighting the fire in it tonight as the new arrivals have asked that it be ready for use when they get here which won't be until about 11.30pm!

Thursday 29 February 2024

No Farmers No Food No Future, Welsh Farmers Protests

After well over a month of intensive campaigning by the farmers of Wales to persuade the Welsh governmnent that their proposals for the future of Welsh farming are unworkable and will result in thousands of job losses, to say nothing of the impact on all other businesses that rely on the rural economy, it culminated in a massive protest by farmers from all over Wales gathering yesterday in Cardiff to protest outside the Sennedd (the Welsh Assembly building). Unfortunately the Farmer & I were unable to attend but watched it all on live stream on Facebook. It was a very peaceful and well-behaved gathering with no incidents of any kind and there were a number of speakers who presented the points we were making in the hope that the Labour government would actually listen to us at last. There was support from the other political parties (though how much of that was political posturing for the upcoming election?) and a general feeling of optimism. However, just hours after the protest ended there was a debate in the Senedd on whether there should be review of the proposed document. The vote was split 50/50 and the Labour government had the casting vote therefore the government will not review the proposal. This is a massive blow to us in the farming industry who had hope that we might have persuaded the government to actually listen to what we've saying. They have not and it seems have no intention of doing so. After the hard work by many people all over Wales to bring the farmers together and to unite the rural community to present our thoughts and feelings on the important matters involved it is a slap in the face. Farming families and businesses will be affected hugely by this. But, we must continue in the fight to ensure that Welsh agriculture is strong and that NO FARMERS NO FOOD continues to make people aware of what will be lost. If more people can begin to shop locally at farmer's markets, farm shops and farm gates buying food that is home-grown, sustainable and produced to the high standards of British farming rather than from supermarkets with cheap imported food produced to standards that would not be permitted in this country then our message is being heard. On a more cheerful and uplifting note tomorrow, 1st March, is St. David's Day. In Wales the day of our national saint is marked by the wearing of daffodils, and even leeks, on lapels and with school-children all over the country wearing national costume. Here is picture of my lovely daffodil bed in front of the house and the snowdrops and daffodils in the garden of the holiday cottage, in their full springtime glory! Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus!

Friday 9 February 2024

Digon yw Digon, Enough is Enough

A week on from the farmer's protest meeting that we attended in Welshpool in mid-Wales at which over 1,100 farmers turned up, last night we went to the second meeting held nearer home in Carmarthen, only half an hour away instead of three hours. There was a huge turnout, quite overwhelming for the organisers as somewhere in the region of 3-4000 farmers arrived at Carmarthen mart, many in tractors, including Elder Son accomapnied by our eldest grandson. We drove in with Younger Son and joined the massive crowd in the cattle layerage area of the mart to hear what various speakers had to say. We had Welsh Assembly members who are sympathetic to the farmers' situation address us, as well representaives from the farming unions, the Young Farmer's Club (YFC), a vet and farmers. A coffin was carried in to the mart bearing a plaque saying 'In Memory of Welsh Farming' as that is how this whole business is being viewed... a drive to end agriculture in Wales. As at the previous meeting there was a lot of strong feeling expressed about the future of farming, very well expressed by the speaker from the YFC and in particular by one of our near neighbours who had his young son with him and spoke of his determination that the child should have a future in farming. It all got quite emotive but it is how we all feel, our children must be able to continue in the industry, after all as is being constantly reiterated No Farmers, No Food and farming is very long-term business. The campaigning and support for the farmers is widely shown on social media (do check it out on Facebook and X(Twitter) and on Youtube. Look particularly for Gareth Wyn Jones.) With such a massive response to the calls for action a mandate has been given for the organisers to make representation to the Welsh Assembly and try to make them see the potential damage that will be done by imposing the Sustainable Farming Scheme on Welsh farmers which would in effect, reduce productive land by 20% and all that that would bring with it...loss of over 5,000 jobs, reduction of livestock units and the knock-on effect to the other industries and businesses that are tied into farming, the vets, the abattoirs, the feed merchants, machinery suppliers etc. One of the other issues facing us is the Bovine TB problem (bTB). It is rife in Wales as there has been a refusal by Welsh government to sanction a badger cull in the Principality despite strong scientific evidence from England that a cull does work. No-one is saying we must get rid of all badgers but the numbers must be controlled in order to bring bTB in the national herd to an end. The distress and emotional strain put on farmers by the bTB is massive. On a more cheerful note, spring is beginning to appear and we have daffodils appearing everywhere and despite the endless rain they do brighten everything up.