Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Spring is Postponed, Lambing, Empty Mid-Wales, Sheep Stealing

Yesterday was a day of clear blue skies and almost warm sunshine which made us feel spring was really on its way. Today we have lowering grey skies, vicious showers of cold rain being hurled at us by a bullying, blustrous spring has gone into hiding once more and the weather forecast is predicting bitter cold and possibly more snow for the east over the next few days, so we are back to where we were ten days ago.

Despite the return of grim weather the brave & jaunty daffodils are forging ahead with their jubilant colour enlivening everyone's spirits alongside some of the best displays of snowdrops that we have had for several years.
Each morning we hear the plaintive calls of the Canada geese as they make their way down the valley to the river and sometimes they land on one of our ponds where they spend a couple of hours majestically treading water before setting of once more on their flight path west. Trios of mallard also visit and sit quietly until something alarms them and they rise up off the water in a clamorous flurry to be seen wheeling off to another pond in the valley.

We are still just getting going with lambing with the bulk of the ewes due to start next week. We have a couple of lambs that are being bottle-fed but they have got the hang of it and so it is easy. Although ideally we would not have 'molly' lambs as they are called it is quite satisfying when they feed well and can be seen to be thriving.

A few days ago the Farmer and I had a chance to go off for the day and so we took ourselves up into the empty hills above Tregaron and drove across a dramatic landscape still scattered with pockets of snow. On of the oddest sights up in hills is that of what must be one of the loneliest letter-boxes with its neighbouring derelict phone box in the country as seen below...
This part of the country is beautiful and even in the summer there are few people to be found up there. The only sounds to be heard are the bleating of the sheep, the mewing of the buzzards, the wind through the conifer plantations and the running water in the small streamm that feed into the Llyn Brianne reservoir.

A grim note on society; earlier this week Elder Son was out checking fences in some of our outlying fields and came across a grisly find...a sheep's head, spine and rib cage along with a stinking bag containing the rotting remains of the skin and fleece. It was not one our sheep being a different breed, so must have been stolen out of a field elsewhere, slaughtered and then the two back legs taken presumably to eat, with the remains of the carcase being dummped in our field which is on the side of a quiet country lane. A criminal, disgusting act and with no chance of the perpetrators being caught and held to account. I suspect that this is something goes on more often than we would think but it is a shock when it occurs on one's own land.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Thaw, Lambing

After days of intense, biting cold and only a thin layer of snow we had 'proper' snow over the wekend thanks to a slight rise in temperature. Whilst the snow is beautiful to look at it and the grand-children were thrilled to able to use their sledges, it caused more problems in what had already been a very difficult week due to the Arctic conditions. In addition to having to thaw out water pipes & cattle troughs which all takes time the drive had to be scraped and spread with gravel in the hope of getting the milk tanker in. If the tanker cannot get here we would have had to dump the milk...a decision that is never taken lightly. We have an excellent drivers and they do their utmost to get to us and we do all we can to assist them despite not being allowed to tow the lorry (another stupid regulation. The lorries are not even fitted with tow-loops any longer). We certainly have not had the quantities of snow that other parts of the country have had to cope with and many dairy farms have had to dump their milk as the tankers have not been able to get throught snowdrifts but all snow & ice causes all farmers difficulties. Now we have the thaw and steadily falling cold rain with the attendant problems caused by the melt waters as well as the rainwater...back to mud everywhere once again.

Lambing is going well with the adoption of two orphan lambs onto ewes with only single lambs.This is usually a successful procedure with perseverence and patience on the part of the Farmer. It is a joyful sound of spring when I hear the lambs bleating in the large polytunnel that we use as a lambing shed and the mellow low tones of the ewes talking back to their offspring.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Snow, Early Lambs

A snowy morning after several days of biting cold. At present the snow is not a problem as it just a dusting though it is falling quite steadily. If it continues and schools and roads may be closed farmers have to carry on whatever the weather throws at us and snow, while quite lovely to look at, casuses huge problems for farmers with livestock out in the fields and on the hills and for those of us with milk to be collected. As I have mentioned before we now have to take out insurance against non-collection as we are no longer allowed to use emergency milk tanks to take it out ourselves to meet up with the milk lorry on the main road if the lorry cannot get up our driveway.

Lambing has begun with two orphans who are being bottle-fed and hopefully they will not have too many companions as more ewes produce. Whilst bottle lambs are sweet and pathetic to start with they do become rather a nusiance and we always try to adopt them onto ewes who have only a single lamb and plenty of milk.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

February Snowdrops, Februdairy

February and the snowdrops have been appearing in hidden corners and along the drive for a couple of weeks now, a sure and welcome sign that spring will soon be on its way, though it is now very cold again and at regular intervals throughout the day we have been pelted with heavy showers of hailstones.
Late December & January were very busy with family events and now that things are getting back to normal I am catching up with myself.
This month has been renamed Februdairy! 28 days of social media posts devoted to promoting a positive understanding of the dairy industry in the face of the current campaigns by certain anti-farming & anti-dairy groups. @februdairy on Twitter is buzzing with farmers all over the country posting images and text telling the story of dairy farming in the hope of correcting the gross mis-information that has been put out by the vegan community amongst others. One thing can be certain, farmers will not stoop to the level of certain individuals in abusing and insulting those who farm this land as has been demonstrated on Twitter with posts containg aggressive and hateful language directed at the farming industry as a whole, not just dairy farmers. We will always inform and hopefully educate in a polite & courteous manner without pandering to the lowest common denominator.
Work on the farm is as always at this time of year hard & busy with feeding and bedding down the cattle every day. The sheep are now in too ahead of lambing which is due to start in late March though a couple of ewes ahev pre-empted us by producing a lamb each which was a surprise indeed. It would seem that a ram lamb missed the 'snip' & got in amongst the ladies at a critical time and so we have a couple of very early lambkins.
When not doing the routine work much time is being spent removing the standings from the old milking parlour with a samll digger in the building drilling away with a pecker at the concrete block upstands. The room is coming back to its original look and there is lot of discussion on what it will be used for. The Farmer wants to make it into his brew room with all his apple-pressing and cider-making equipment installed there as well a place for extracting honey and storing the bee-keeping equipment, while Elder Son is talking about making more calf-pens of which we can never have too many.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Christmas Past and New Year Anticipation

Nearly a month since my last post and we have seen Christmas come and go and the dawning of the New Year.
Christmas was very family-orientated and quiet despite two very excited small you not remember that all-consuming sense of anticipation and the longing to see Father Christmas and know that he really does exist? My grand-daughter has assured me thst she met the real Father Christmas last year at Castell Coch and I believe her! She has a photograph to prove it!
Yesterday being the Twelfth Day of Christmas we took down the decorations and removed the tree from the dining-room leaving the usual confetti of pine needles which despite thorough sweeping and vacuuming will continue to appear throughtout the year, they are ineradicable.
The daily routine of the farm continued as usual over the festive period in horrible weather a lot of the time. The rain has been incessant and it is impossible to get tractors onto the fields to start hedge-trimming. Even walking across the fields has been miserable, squelchy and slippery. This morning however we have a good frost and everything is crisp and silvered with a pale sun gleaming over the valley.
The Farmer and I managed to take a couple of days away last week joining my sister and her husband in a cottage they had taken in the Forest of Dean. It was lovely much-needed break and a good start to the New Year in a beautful place. We walked the dogs through the Forest to Symond's Yat to the high viewing point above the dramatic meanders of the River Wye. At this time of year there were very few people there but I know that later on it is a very busy tourist centre so we saw it almost empty of people and in its winter bleakness.
Now it is back to the normal routines and ongoing projects with no doubt new ones to be started in 2018.
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Sunday, 10 December 2017


SNOW! After too many years of snow-free winters it is a white world this morning and its still falling. Other parts of the country have had much greater snow-fall than us but we have enough to satisfy the small grand-children's desperate longing for snow, having never seen it. As I sit at the kitchen table (the unheated office is not conducive to sitting for any length of time!) writing this the falling snow has become thicker and with bigger flakes and is falling in a lovely feathery swirl from a full grey sky so dense that I cannot see across the valley. Our 4 year-old grand-son has already been out and landed a snowball on his dog-walking Granny, to his huge delight!

While we do enjoy the snow the daily farm work has to continue but fortunately the cows are all indoors and the only activity with machines in the snow is to fetch big bales of silage from our yard down the drive and to make sure that the milk tanker can reach us. At the moment that should not be problem but should the snow continue to build up we may have to re-open an old track that does not have a steep slope for the tanker to reach us. Our driveway is on a hill and in the past we have had to tow the tanker up in icy conditions. In the absolute worst-case scenario, which I doubt will occur this time round, we have to dump the milk and insurance has to taken out in case of this. Years ago we were allowed to take the milk out ourselves to the main road in an emergency mobile bulk tank, but this has been forbidden in the last few years due to food hygiene issues and the risk of contamination both of which were extremely unlikely as the emergency tank was as clean, safe and tamper-proof as the big tanks in the dairy on the farm. So, the powers that be would rather we let the milk go down the drain even though the main roads are clear enough for the milk tankers to reach the end of the drive. One of the advantages of living in an area with many dairy farms is that the main roads were always kept as clear as possible in times of severe snow, to allow the milk tankers to get to us all, even if only to entrances to the farms but where we could leave our emergency tanks. Now it is deemed better to waste the milk and rely on the insurance companies to compensate us for the loss of earnings.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Computerised Cattle Ear-tags & Hideous Weather

Walking the dogs one morning recently I found we were being closely watched by one of our neighbours handsome Charolais cattle peering through the leafless hedge at the antics of the dogs who were busy chasing imaginary rabbits along the hedge line.

Today the weather is vile, very blustery with persistent rain being hurled at us as we were working outside. I had to stand for about 15 minutes at the end of our lane to halt traffic as we were moving lambs down the main road with the aid of our trusty sheepdogs and got very cold and damp, not pleasant. After moving the sheep I was then called upon to be the scribe for taking down the ear-tag numbers on all the miking cows. They were given new tags that link to the computer system of the new milking parlour that will record how much milk each cow gives and how much cake she is to have. It is all very clever. All 71 of our milking cows were passed through a crush, tagged and then released into a holding area before returning to their nice dry, clean cattle-shed. With three of us working that was the morning gone.
While we were with the cattle a tree came down near the shed where the Farmer houses his saw-mill...rather conveniently really...but an indication of how very windy it is here today.

The puppies are now reduced in number as they go off to their new homes. Another one leaves us this evening. They are lovely and very jolly but unfortunately they are having to be kept in an indoor pen as they get so muddy after these days of rain. They would much rather be outside watching what is going on.

Saturday, 4 November 2017


Walking around the farm with the dogs each day the seasonal changes are a joy, especially at this time of year when the colours are glowing. Even the shades of green are made more distinctive with the fallen golden russet leaves veiling the mossy banks in our beautiful ancient sunken lane and caught on the spines of the deep green holly leaves that grow under the tall oaks.

Although it is November it is still relatively warm and there are are columns of midges floating in the sunshine. Most os the trees have lost their leaves and I spend much time sweeping away the drifts of golden brown beech leaves that accummulate outside the door to the house and take every opportunity to blow in whenever anyone walks through the door.

The puppies are now almost 8 weeks old and very jolly. I have got homes for them all and they will make a lot of people very happy.