Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Storm Callum hits the Teifi Valley

This is the scene near our village over the last weekend when we were battered by Storm Callum. The villages in the Teifi Valley have suffered badly with massive flooding and many houses and businesses have been badly damaged. We here on the farm came of lightly being half way up a hill but we had torrential amounts of water pouring down of the fields and through our yard and several trees came down. Our electricity supply was affected which was frustrating especially at milking times but it was all manageable. The Farmer and I remember the last time this happened 30 years ago. There are strange sights to be seen such as canoes stuck up in trees and silage bales in odd places having been washed down by the torrent. Many of the bridges across the river have been damaged and are closed to traffic which is going to make life difficult for many of us as most of our villages have to be accessed by crossing the river.
The Farmer was hero of the hour going to the aid of some friends of ours who live in an old mill right on the river. When the river water came into their basement the Farmer went down to rescue them and their 5 week old baby before they were completely trapped. As it was he had to piggy-back the new mum down from the first floor of the building as their steps were under water to almost waist height. Mum & baby spent the night with us, the dad having opted to stay put and do what he could to rescue things. Fortunately the water did not quite reach to ceiling of the basement so did not enter their their first floor living area but the resultant mess now that the waters have dropped is pretty awful.
Neighbours have also called upon the Farmer and Sons to go and cut trees that have fallen across their tracks.
The most tragic story from the weekend was of course the death in a landslide of a young man from our small market town. He was known to us slightly and his death has shaken the community far more than the material damage done to bricks and mortar.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Holiday Cottage with Hot Tub

The past couple of weeks have been spent installing a wood-fired hot tub for the use of our guests in the holiday cottage. It is a handsome piece of kit looking like a large barrel. It is made of larch with an internal fire-box and can take 4 adults comfortably. The Farmer has been busy cutting planking for the decking around it and it will eventually have some sort of fencing or trellis around two sides to give it a little more privacy while still having a view across the paddock and pond. My daughters-in-law have said there need to be solar-powered fairy lights and such prettinesses draped around it and no doubt it will be dressed up to look very attractive but we've got to get the basics finished first. It will be available to guests from the first week in November. A deadline is always a good spur to get on with a job!

Autumn is certainly upon us now with the days drawing in & leaves falling & colours changing across the landscape.Tthe hedgerows are full of berries and as I sit here now I can see blue tits and great tits foraging in the cotoneaster which is laden with rich fruit with blackbirds and sparrows trawling the field hedges for late blackberries and rose-hips. The hawthorns & rowans have been heavy with berries and the sloes are ripening which as soon as there is a frost we must gather for making sloe gin. Walking around the farm there are fungi everywhere of all kinds especially on fallen timber which is gently decaying into the woodland floor.

We have managed to get a third cut of silage in the recent good weather and the supply of winter fodder is looking plentiful, always a good thing.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Wildlife Conservation & Farming


Today is the Autumn equinox and very blowy and blustery it is too, just lovely. Blue skies with fluffy picture-book clouds scudding across in the face of a cheerful wind making the treetops dance and sending a sea-sound of sighs through the branches, a glorious afternoon for being blown with the dogs across the fields.
There has been much pontificating in social media & elsewhere lately about how the countryside is bereft of wildlife and how the wicked farming food-producers are to blame. Admittedly there are areas where intensive farming has reduced the amount of wildlife by farming practice which cannot be above critiscism but I am sad to think that the vocal conservation lobbyists are tarring all farmers and land-owners with the same brush. We here at Penyrallt have prided ourselves for many years on the huge diversity of species that can be found on our land. I made a rough list of what I have observed here over the years and it comes to well over a hundred different species of trees, wildflowers, butterflies, moths, hedgerow-plants, insects, mammals, birds, fungi etc. and those are only what I have actually seen for myself. There will be many more that live their lives unseen and unobserved. A single oak tree provides habitat for over 500 different species and we have many oak trees around the farm. There are corners of the farm that are left uncultivated & rarely visited, we have vigorous nettle patches and wild corners with bramble thickets, four ponds & squelchy patches of boggy land that are left for the insects, small mammals, grass-snakes & buterflies amongst others. We have owls and bats resident in our house and in the farm buildings, swallows and martins return each year to their ancestral breeding posts in the eaves of the house and barns. We are surrounded by multitudinous wildlife which live alongside the very animals that are kept to produce food for the nation and it is sad that we and so many other farmers who live similarly are verbally attacked by media personalities and their followers.
We are an 'open farm' and welcome anyone who wishes to come and see for themselves how a hard-working dairy farm is run and to learn that wildlife and modern farming practice can exist in conjunction and harmony.


Tuesday, 4 September 2018

September. Local Agricultural Show

September has arrived bringing with it some glorious weather, this photo is of the mist rising off one of our recently ploughed fields this morning with the promise of a beautiful day of clear blue skies and sunshine. A neighbour arrived shortly after this picture wa taken to start power-harrowing the field in preparation for the new grass seed going in later today.

The past weekend was busy with us attending the local agricultural show. The Farmer is on the committeea and so was bsuy a couple of days beforehand helping organise the setting-up & on the day itself he was stewarding for the beef cattle judge which means he was in charge of the rosettes and in making sure all the entrants were in the right place at the right. With several classes to oversee it was a long day. We as a family did our usual thing of entering the baking and craft sections. The grandchildren entered various classes involving decorating weetabix (I kid you not!)and faces made of sweeties on a paper plate. My entries were a lttle more mature and conventional and I was very pleased though somewhat surprised to receive a first prize for my 'Colour Photograph suitable for a Birthday card'(see the photo below) with some very stiff competition and a third for my 'Floral Arrangement in a Cup & Saucer' (flower arranging is not really one of my primary skills!)along with a handful of placings for various bits of baking. So,an enjoyable if tiring day as we spend the whole day up on the show field which is great opportunity for meeting up friends and neighbours whom we don't see very often.

As well as cattle and sheep being shown, and a dog show and the Domestic and Handicraft, Floral and Horticultural competitions there are displays of vintage tractors and the local hunt, The Vale of Clettwr, come into the ring with the hounds which run in their usual joyous rabble and all the children are invited to come into the ring to meet the hounds face-to-face which is always hugely popular.

Monday, 27 August 2018

A Change in the Weather, Home-grown & Foraged Food

The lazy hazy days of summer seemed to have gone and in their wake we have had a lot of rain and gusty winds. We are not complaining though...the rain has transformed the countryside back to its more normal green lushness after the weeks of a dry parched landscape. It is lovely to see the rapid grass growth and the cows are very happy though we, and they, know that the new growth does not have the high sugar content of the spring growth and is not as palatable but it's better they have that that making further inroads into the silage which is needed for the winter.

While as farmers we rejoice in the change of weather it is not so great for our holiday-makers who had hoped for long days on sunny beaches but nonetheless there are many wonderful places to visit instead and a beach on blowy day can be exhilarating and joyous.

The pigs have been slaughtered and we do quite miss them, in fact the Farmer has ordered another two weaners which will arrive in a couple of weeks time. We have a neighbour who makes bacon and ham and so some parts of the pigs have been taken to her and we will collect some delicious home-made hams and packets of bacon from her in the next few days. Meanwhile we are enjoying roast pork with crackling served with our own new potatoes & carrots freshly dug from the garden followed by blackberry and apple crumble, made with blackberries from our hedgerows, apples from the orchard & custard made using our own milk...the perfect meal and all home-grown!
It has also been a very good season for field mushrooms and fried up with bacon and eggs(from our hens!)make a perfect start to the day.

The Farmer has been busy taking off the honey crop and thank goodness he did it before the weather got cooler and damp. It has been a perfect year for the bees with all that sunshine & we have a very good honey harvest. When the weather improves there should be more again.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Early Blackberries, Drought-Affected Farming

One of the surprising results of the hot weather of recent weeks has been the very early ripening of blackberries. I have never before picked them in July as I did last week and now at the very beginning of August I have been out again with my basket along the hedgerows and have had a goodly quantity. I think it is going to be very good season for the blackberries as there are trusses hanging heavy just waiting for the sunshine to return after these few days of overcast skies and intermittent rainfall.
We have certainly been grateful for the rain and the fields are begiinig to recover their green hues though with more hot weather forecast they may well go back to the scorched look of recnt weeks. The hot weather has had a real impact on farming and we've had to start feeding some of our winter store of silage to the cows, as have many other farmers across the country. What the long term effects will be are giving cause for concern with feed being in short supply and costs rising once winter comes. As always in farming we have to take the long view but at present the main worries are of supply and demand both for feeding livestock and the food supply chain to the shops. We, with a very heavy heart, along with many other livestock farmers, have had to sell some cattle in order to reduce the mouths to be fed as the shortage of grass becomes more of a problem. Many sheep farmers are selling lambs early and of lighter weight than they would like for the same reason. The relatively small amount of rain we have had will not, I fear make a great deal of difference though if we can get a third cut of silage in few weeks time we will be very happy but with a further heatwave predicted who knows what will happen. We have been fortunate that our water supply is holding out...our supply comes from springs and a bore hole, we have no mains water and so far both sources are continuing to run.

With the change in the weather we also had strong winds which unfortunately caused a lot of apples to be blown of the trees in the orchard, however they will not be wasted as the Farmer gathered them all up and gave to the pigs who just loved them.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

A Brief Change in the Weather, Filming with BBC

We have had rain! Not much admittedly, but enough to damp the dust. It was only fine drizzle really and of short duration and certainly will not make any real difference to our parched fields. We are now under grey skies with an oppressive humid atmosphere which is certainly a change from the clear blue skies and bright sunshine of the past weeksbut not so pleasant.
I saw this gorgeous Magpie butterfly while walking the dogs in the dampness. It was struggling through the wet grass so I carefully picked it up and placed back in the blackthorn hedge which is its proper habitat.

This past week saw another visit from the BBC film crew continuing their work on the project that has kept them & us busy since since March. The filming is now drawing to close and once the editing has been done, the voice-over and music recorded and everything finished to the BBC's satisfaction the programme should be due to be broadcast later in the year. I have seen some of the rough-cut footage and it is lovely, we were told it would be a very beautiful film and so it will be. The title is till being kept under wraps.
The ducks and pigs that we had to bring in have all grown well. Indeed the pigs are now ready for slaughter but until we have permission from the film company we have to keep them on, getting fatter whcih is not so good as they will getting past being porkers and turning into big sows. The ducks which arrived here as cute fluffy ducklings are now handsome full grown ducks and lead a happy life going to the pond each morning and then bringing themselves back to their pen in the late afternoon.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Summer Fruits, German Guests, Music for Penyrallt, Slow Holiday Season.

It is the season for soft fruit and the Farmer has brought in blackcurrants which I shall make into jam later. Despite the lack of rain over the past weeks the blackcurrants have done well though our raspberry crop is almost non existent, sadly, as they are quite my favourite of the summer fruits.

We have had a lovely German family from Frankurt staying in the holiday cottage for the past two weeks. It turns out that Herr M. is a very talented musician and specialises in rennaissance music but is skilled in other musical disciplines as well, so much so that after hearing the Farmer playing some traditional Welsh dance tunes he set to and has composed a piece of music for us, entitled Penyrallt Rondo, which is quite lovely. It is based around typical Welsh tunes but with an interesting variation. A really lovely gift for us and one by which we will certainly remember these guests.

Our German guests leave today and disappointingly we have no more holiday-makers arriving for the next two weeks. It is proving to be a very difficult year for the holiday accommodation business here. Not just us but all our friends and acquaintances who run holiday cottages, glamping sites and B&B's are saying the same thing. I certainly have never had empty weeks in July & August before and one just hopes that last minute bookings will come in. No-one can come up with a good reason why bookings are down this year. (It can't be the Trump effect!) Admittedly there is an over-supply of holiday accommodation but even so one would hope that the glorious weather might encourage more 'staycationers' to come and discover lovely west Wales.
(For all availability in Penyrallt Fach Cottage please go to www.penyrallt.co.uk)