Monday 30 August 2010

Calving Time, Puppies New Homes

We have started calving and though this cow needed a bit of help it is not something that we have to do very often. The calf was big & strong and unfortunately a bull calf. We really want heifers and although we had used sexed semen it is only about 80% accurate so the occasional bull calf is inevitable. As a Friesian bull we will  rear him for beef. Calving will go on now for the next couple of months and hopefully we will gat a good number of heifer calves who will be reared as followers into the dairy herd. With calving now underway, the milk in the tank will increase which will be good if only because it means I will be able to reach the milk to fill the jugs for the house. Just lately because most of the cows are dry prior to calving we have had very little milk at the bottom of what is a very deep tank and my arms are just not long enough to reach it!                                                                                                         

The puppies are doing well...this one has discovered the comfort of carpet in Molly the sheepdog's kennel, though she was not very impressed at having a lodger!
They are now all sold and are all going to good homes. Most of the new owners have come down to see the puppies and I always feel that if people are prepared to travel several hundred miles then they are serious about the puppy and will provide excellent loving homes. We have had people come from as far away Derbyshire & Milton Keynes & some puppies are going up to Sheffield & to the Midlands. Others in the litter are staying in Wales though scattered from north to south. They are now just over 5 weeks old and very sweet & naughty. They spend most of their time outside now on the grass of our yard in the lovely sunshine that has now come with the school holidays being over.
Most of the summer our holiday makers have had to resign themselves to damp days on the beach & now that the schools are due to go back the sun comes out!

Tuesday 24 August 2010

OCW, BOBL, Organic Shiitake Mushrooms.

This is the Farmers hedge of sweet-peas that he is growing in the poly-tunnel. They do very well in there and the season is extended so much that I have been known to cut sweet-peas in December!

Yesterday we had a visit by our local field officer from Organic Centre Wales ( OCW is conducting a survey of organic producers for  the BOBL project...Better Organic Business Links which aims to enable the organic community to 'deliver profitablity,sustainability and exemplary environmental performance'.
Whilst helping to complete a questionnnaire we had very good conversation about a wide range of issues affecting organic food production & farming. One of the biggest issues seems to be the confusion & lack of understanding by the general public over what 'organic' actually means. So much of our & OCW's time is spent 'preaching to the converted'.
Another big issue is public procurement. Even if food for schools & hospitals is not organic it should at the very least be local. We have had self-congratulatory headlines in the Welsh farming press about how school-children in Italy & China are going to be eating Welsh lamb thanks to some trade agreement, but what about the children in Welsh schools?

This morning we had a visit from an organic shiitake mushroom grower ( He was looking for oak wood chips for his mushrooms and had heard that the Farmer has a saw-mill and may process quantities of oak, which indeed he does. I think we shall be seeing some more of the Mushroom Grower, especially as by some amazing co-incidence he had been at college with the Farmer in Bedfordshire some 30 years ago!

Saturday 21 August 2010

Puppy Fest

We have been getting sweet photo opportunities with the is a little blond boy curled up with adoptive mum by the Rayburn; quite how it managed to be in the kitchen I'm not sure...I suspect Kiwi S. who is besotted with them.

On the whole the puppies are quite difficult to photograph, if they're asleep they look dead and if they're awake they keep moving around so getting a good shot is almost impossible, but here is a selection of puppy moments.

I have had them advertised for week now on the internet and the interest in them has been considerable and I'm almost certain I have got homes for all 13.  People have travelled quite large distances to view them and put their name on particular puppies and I feel that if people are prepared to come all the way to West Wales just to look and then make the journey again in a month or so's time they will certainly give the a good & happy home.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Last Invasion of Britain 1797 or How Welsh Women Vanquished Napoleon

We've had busy few days (when haven't we!!) with more silage making and more visitors.
The Sons have been off making silage for the Farmer's brother on his farm about 15 miles away which has involved a lot of to-ing & fro-ing of tractors and various pieces of kit buthe weather was ideal and the crop is safely in which is the main thing.

The puppies are doing very well...when I went out to feed them this morning they were all 13 of them deeply asleep in a multi-cloured huddle, many of them lying on their backs with their tiny paws twitching in milky dreams with a musical accompaniment of squeaks & sighs. It was a pity to disturb them so they will be fed a little later when they wake up and can go outside in the sunshine.

We have had a college friend of the Farmer's, and one of his sons staying for a few days. We had not seen them for a few years and so it was lovely to catch up again.
On Friday we went down to Newport Pembs. to visit the Eco-house that has been established  to give information on alternative technologies of various kinds. The Farmer was hoping to find some useful info. on wood boilers. Whilst the place was reasonably interesting it was not very helpful in the way that we had hoped.
After the Eco-house, we went down to Fishguard and whilst eating fish & chips at Goodwick (the small port below Fishguard where the Irish ferry comes in) we had some extraordinary entertainment in the form of a re-enactment of the Last Invasion of Britain. This great historic moment is little known beyond West Wales, but in 1797 a French  invading force landed at Fishguard with the hope of persuading the Welsh to join forces with them and rise up against the English. They were routed by a group of angry Welsh women who in their red cloaks and tall black hats were an intimidating sight. The English militia were called and the French signed the surrender in the Royal Oak pub in the centre of Fishguard.
As we were sitting on the sea wall at Goodwick we saw a small group of men in full 18th century military garb making their way to the cliffs at on side of the beach. The next thing we know this small horde, about 8 in total, bearing muskets and complete with drummer, is charging across the sands yelling incoherently and clambering over the several groynes, towards an even smaller group (about 6) of dastardly Frenchies at the other end of the beach. The valiant English soldiery ran into the fearsome roar of one minute cannon that was firing tennis balls, whereupon the French surrendered immediately and a cry of 'God bless King George the Third ' went up with cheers from the handful of bemused spectators.
It was just like something out of Monty Python!  and then they did it all over again!!!!!

To commemmorate the Last Invasion a superb tapestry was embroidered by 70 women from the Fishguard area which is on display in Fishguard library. The design was based on the Bayeaux Tapestry and tells the story of  the attempted invasion and its failure in great detail and is well worth seeing.

Monday 9 August 2010

Visitors Pictures, Cottage Advertising

Yesterday I recieved some pictures of our rarebreed cattle from some of our Dutch visitors who were with us a few weeks ago. The cattle had been brought into the yard before being moved onto clean pasture.
It is always so good when visitors get in touch with us after their stay here and send us such great pictures.
Over the years we have been given such masses of lovely pictures drawn and coloured by the many children that have stayed in the cottage. It does show that we are getting something right, I think, that they show their appreciation to us in such a way...and its a good way for parents to keep them occupied on wet days, 'Draw some pictures of the farm until the rain stops!'

As I've mentioned recently I've been reviewing my advertising for the holiday cottage which involves much time on the internet going through all the listing sites I use. I have to whittle out those that do not come up in the statistics and are therefore not 'working' for me. In the process one invariably come across sites not seen before and some of which have a good presence on the internet. One is also approached by websites themselves sending out emails asking for my custom. One the whole I tend to ignore them, however, one came up the other day that I just loved the look of, It is very new site but has such charm and beautiful pictures. I hope it does well both for me & the owners.

Sunday 8 August 2010

Twins Depart, Birds of Prey, Puppies, Home-grown Sunday Lunch

Our household is back to its normal proportions today after the departure yesterday of the Twin Nephews. Their parents came to fetch them and we had a pleasant family day, though I had to do my cottage changeover as per every Saturday through the summer.
The Twins had a busy week helping their cousins with the major works going on in the milking parlour and doing various jobs around the farm, including mowing the lawns and helping the Farmer plane many miles of floorboards for a building project we have on the go. They were quite useful in the way of 14 year old boys and I think had good week with us.

A neighbour has just called here to discuss getting his fields mown by Elder Son, but over the kitchen table the talk veered onto birds of prey.The neighbour rears many hundreds of pheasants for his shoot and has trouble with goshawks taking the pheasants. It is real problem keeping them away from his rearing pens. The Farmer has found we have a sparrow-hawk nesting in a small conifer plantation in a corner of the farm. The sparrow-hawk wreaks havoc in the garden and hedges with the small hedgrow birds (hence its name) and we cannot do anything about it as these birds are all protected. They are beautiful birds, superb killing-machines and as much a pest as foxes.

The puppies are continuing to do well. Their eyes are open now and they are just beginning to lurch around their nest with a sense of direction. Hattie still just does her duty by them, while Poppy revels in having them mountaineer all over her. They are very sweet.

We are enjoying the fruits of the Farmer's labours in the polytunnel with some superb courgettes, cabbage and glorious sweet-peas. The tomatoes are being rather slow to ripen and I suspect this is because of the quality of light coming through the plastic sheet of the is time the sheet was replaced which is big job. It will wait now until next year and meanwhile we will have a late crop of toms. The sweet corn is  doing well and the variety that has been grown this year has the most lovely deep red tassles of corn silk.
We have already had some new potatoes and there are many more to come, both inside the tunel and several rows outside that should keep us going for a good parrt of the winter. I am tempted to try storing the cabbages in a clamp which is the old-fashioned method of keeping vegetables after harvesting and is very successful with root crops and some brassicas.
Lunch today is being cooked by the Farmer and is virtually entirely homegrown; the beef, the veg. the eggs & milk for the Yorkshire puddings & custard. Very satisfying.

Monday 2 August 2010

Happy puppies, Health Benefits of Traditional Beef.

Well, the puppies are growing apace, thanks to their two mothers. The picture shows them with their adoptive mama, who has almost taken them on full-time. Hattie their real mum, is not a natural mother it seems, and we have to shut her in with the pups to make sure she feeds them which she does with weary air of duty. Poppy, however, seems to enjoy them and thank goodness she does, otherwise we would be kept very busy having to feed them ourselves.

We had a Traditional Hereford calf born recently which is out with its mum in a field and looks very pretty, but I daren't risk trying to get close enough for a decent picture. The Herefords are very protective mothers and don't like onlookers getting too near.
There was very interesting article in the Farmer's Weekly recently about  research trials done by Bristol University in which it was found that the traditional breeds of cattle reared on unimproved pasture produced beef of a 'high nutritional value'. In a 'blind ' tasting trial  17 families showed a preference for the beef  from tradtional breeds that had been reared on biodiverse pasture compared to the beef produced by intensivley reared continental crosses.
It seems that tradtional breeds including Tradtional Herefords like ours, put down fat deposits high in polyunsaturates which are good for human health and that the beef from these animals contained the highest levels of vitamin E compared with intensively reared beasts.
It was also found that the post-slaughter processing  contributed greatly to the flavour and texture of the meat.
Beef that is hung on the bone for 20-28 days (as is ours) achieved higher scores for tendernss, juiciness & flavour than beef that is matured for just 10 days in vacuum bags. No surprises there, methinks.
Hopefully research findings such as these will encourage producers & consumers to capitalise on the the rearing of the old breeds.

I have a houseful at present with arrival of my twin nephews aged 14, yesterday who consider it a vital part of their summer to spend sometime here o nthe farm. The Farmer & Sons will keep them busy while I just have to keep them fed. Shepherds Pie & Rice Pudding today I think.