Thursday 30 September 2010

Close Encounters of a Bovine Kind

This picture shows children from a local primary school having a close encounter with one of our cows which they found quite thrilling. This particular cow has been rather a pet of the Elder Son and so is quite happy to be near people. The children ( & the teachers) loved it, of course.
This school visit has been planned for weeks but had been cancelled at the last minute last week because of the weather. Today we were so lucky...the rain held off until children were leaving on the bus.

As well as entertaining 40 plus children today, there was the worry of a cow which had collapsed in the parlour today. She had a trapped nerve after calving and one leg just gave way during milking. She fell in a most inconvenient corner of the milking-parlour and it took 5 of us an hour to get her out and into a field. We had to use pulleys and straps and various contraptions to get her moved and all without injuring her in any way. Howver, after much pulling and shoving we managed to get the poor thing out of the parlour and she is now out in a field recovering and with her calf. She will be fine.

The Famer's Godson & girl-friend left on Monday after a jolly camping in the orchard. They seemed to have good time going to visit  the CAT at Machynlleth and various interesting people & places round about. It was lovely to have them here and I'm sure they will be back.
Younger Son & the Kiwi returned on Monday evening after their trip to North Wales which extended into a quick run up to Ayrshire! It was a varied trip around Britain, visiting York, Hadrian's Wall, Biggar and Cumbria...a very full six days!!! The Kiwi has certainly seen chunks of the UK that she did not know existed!

 I have been busy these last three days getting  my re-decoration of the holiday cottage finished, which as usual turned into a bigger job then originally planned, but it is all looking rather good. The sense of urgency is due to the fact that I have guests arriving on Sunday & the Farmer & I are going away for a week, leaving on Saturday. Yes, we are giving ourselves a well earned week away from the phone, the computer & the farm. But the cottage needed sprucing up after a very busy summer...its amazing how shabby it can get & a quick (!) coat of paint just brightens everything up.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Autumn Approaches, Bottling Fruit & Cider Making, New Home for Last Puppy,

Whilst the countryside is still looking green & leafy, autumn is definitely on its way. Drifts of crisp brown leaves are already beginning to gather along the drive falling from the beech trees, the squirrels have attacked the hazel nuts and left the shells lying empty with their green frilly ruffs beneath the hedges and the blackberries are glowing in the hedgerows. There is a definite chill in the evenings now & that subtle & indefinable scent of autumn on the air.
Whilst out with the dogs yesterday there was a fine equninoxal wind blustering around the treetops and a couple of rooks were floating around in the sky and being tossed about now & then by a surprise current of air making them look like flapping black hankerchiefs.

The Farmer gathered a great quantity of elderberries yesterday for wine making and I picked some blackberries for freezing. We've already had many meals with bramble & apple crumbles and so now I'm saving some for the winter. We have bottled apples, tomatoes and made tomato & basil sauce which, as an experiment we have also bottled in Kilner jars. I can't think of any reason why it should not be as good a way of preserving the sauce as any other.

After the great apple juicing sessions earlier in the week, there has now been a great cider pressing session with the Godson helping out most enthusiastically. He is very keen on home-made brews of various kinds so he & the Farmer are having a lovely time fiddling around with air-locks & demi-johns & discussing yeasts and pectins & percentage volumes of alchohol. It all gets a bit beyond me...& I don't drink any of the stuff anyway!

The last puppy went to its new home yesterday. Some very nice people from Monmouthshire came to collect her and of course she was adorable and made them think she was really, really pleased to see them and needed to go home with them as 9 week old puppies do, treacherous little dears that they are.
I am quite satisfied that all the puppies have gone to genuine homes where they will be loved and given a good dogs life...they all had such happy childhoods here. (Sorry to be anthropomorphic, but they did!)

Thursday 23 September 2010

New Look Website, Last Lab Puppy,

After a lot of work over the past few months, my new look website is now live, and I'm very pleased with it. My friend M. who is in clever enough to do the necessary techy stuff, has done a great job I think, and has made Penyrallt look an attractive proposition for a Welsh holiday, I hope.

We are now down to one lone black puppy. Yesterday evening a family drove down from Bolton (!) to take the other one back to be an adored companion.
I am continually amazed at how far people will travel to acquire a puppy.
This last little one we will not keep, though we were tempted, but we do have four dogs here already and really don't need another one the moment. A good home will turn up for her in due course, I know.

The Farmer went off this morning to buy some ewe lambs from a neighbour. They are fine organic lambs and from a very well managed flock, so they , hopefully, will do us well over the next few years.

Yesterday the Farmer's godson arrived from Devon with his girlfriend, to camp in the orchard for a few days.  As he arrived, Younger Son & the Kiwi went off to North Wales for a few days, so I've exchanged one giant 22yr old for another and the consumption of cake has nearly got me beat. It is rare that my tins are completely empty, but it happened this week. What is it with men & cake?!!!

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Home-Pressed Apple Juice, Llanerchaeron, Ethical Trading, Last 2 Lab. Puppies

The Farmer has been harvesting our apple crop in the last few days. The ancient trees in our old orchard have produced as well as ever, though the apples of this particular tree are not good keepers, so the Farmer has contrived an apple press and is juicing them all, bottling the juice and then freezing it. We then have fresh apple juice all throught winter and delicious it is too.

At the weekend the Farmer & I attended a open day event at Llanerchaeron, the National Trust house near Aberaeron, where we had been asked to man a stand on behalf of FACE, the organisation for Farming & Countryside Education. We were there to talk to the public about visiting farms with school groups and how accessible many farms are now to the public and to encourage people to make the connections between food & farming. That all sounds a bit earnest but its just a matter of engaging people in conversation, at which the Farmer is very good.
We had our stand in a rather draughty pole barn along side a man making horn-handled walking sticks, a pen of Angora goats and some Llanwenog sheep.
There were displays of bee-keeping & saddlery, a wonderful plant stall where I purchased some very healthy looking box plants and the most inspirational walled gardens to wander around, with very old espaliered apple trees, box-edged vegetable and herb plots and fish ponds, all to be found through faded creaking doors in high walls that just ask to be opened and the horticultural treasures to be revealed.

Yesterday we attended a meeting with representatives of the Soil Association, OMScO & Yeo Valley Organics to discuss  Ethical Trading. An interesting debate ensued as ethical trading is as much a part of organic production as the non-use of pesticides (there is a Soil Association Ethical Trading standard) and needs to made as visible to the consumer as Fairtrade has become. Like Fairtrade, ethical trading reaches right along the production line from the farmer/grower to the retailer. Everyone, from the farmer to the consumer should benefit from ethical trading whether they farm or shop organically and it is further reassurance to the consumer that their food has been produced sustainably.

We are now down to just 2 puppies...2 dear little black bitches who are so naughty and so endearing.
Their siblings have all gone off without a backward glance to their new homes with their adoring new families and I'm sure are giving them huge fun.
Homes will turn up for these remaining two I'm sure, in the next few days, though the Farmer has been heard to say that if they don't it's okay, we'll just keep them on and train them, though I must admit the prospect of 4 Labradors around the place is fairly daunting!

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Llangeler Parish History; 'The Way It Was In A Rural Community' by Winston Jones, Shiba Inu Rescued

Last evening the Farmer & I went up to one of our local pubs, The Lamb, having been invited to the book launch of our local historian's latest volume, 'The Way It Was in a Rural Community'.
Winston Jones is a neighbour of ours and has connections with Penyrallt as it was where his grand-parents had met whilst working here as servants in the 19th century. He is a fund of local knowledge and is very highly regarded in the locality. The pub was packed with people from all over the parish & beyond who came to wish him well with the new book and to buy their copies.
What is so lovely about Winston's books is that they are constructed around his memories of how life was in the countryside over the past 70 years and more, as he is able to draw on the deep well of stories that he was told by his parents & grandparents of a time even further back.
His first book, 'An Illustrated Chronicle of My Family Covering 200 Years' is an account of the lives of his ancestors in what had been a very remote rural community and he describes how the gradual changes in country life came about with the advent of the internal combustion engine and how the English language came into the community. He describes in the second book his first hearing of English as a boy.
It is often forgotten that English is a new language to this part of Wales and that for so many people it is their second language. Many of our friends & neighbours conduct their whole lives in the Welsh language.
Winston's books are written with clarity and a knowledge of a way of life that has largely disappeared, but they are not sentimental or rose-tinted though there is regret that so many people who now live in the countryside have so little knowledge of their community history and the world of the fields and hedgerows that surround them.
Although these books are about a tiny rural parish in deepest West Wales their stories and memories can be echoed all over the British Isles and make for fascinating reading.

The Shiba Inu has now been taken in to the care of  the Shiba rescue people in England. He went off quite happily and will now be well looked after by people who understand the breed. He was a lovely dog but definitely not suitable for life on a busy farm, not that we intended to keep him anyway... we were just doing our'good Samaritan' bit. Where he came from we have no idea and no-one has come forward to claim him, so in due course he will be re-homed with people who can give him the right environment and care.

Monday 13 September 2010

Weekend Basket-making Course

We have just held our weekend basket-making course here at the farm and I think it it went extrememly well.
On Thursday the lovely Tibetan shelter was erected on the yard by J. & B. on a beautiful evening, however by Friday morning it was pouring with rain & continued to do so all day, to our chagrin. However things had dried up on Saturday and apart from a very brief shower it was lovely and the shelter was ideal for the class.
                                                        I spent the entire weekend preparing vegetarian meals and when not cooking was welcoming four families who had come to collect their puppies.
                                                         It all got got a bit hectic and exhausting but the Kiwi was a huge          help and carried trays of refreshments out and laid tables for lunch and washed-up. We also had cottage changeovers to do for Friday &  Sunday so there was laundry & ironing to fit in as well!
The four novice basket-makers were great; good company & very enthusiastic. Their tutor J. was very impressed at how quickly they picked up the necessary techniques and their finished articles were beautiful and they were justifiably quite proud of themselves.

We are now down to 8 puppies having waved goodbye to several over the weekend. Their new owners are all lovely and they will be given such adoring homes. If people are prepared to travel from Milton Keynes & Tamworth then they are going look aftere the new dog properly. The puppies are of an age now when they will happily attach themsleves to anyone and so they go off in they new people's car without a backward glance. I have already received photos of them in their new homes and they look very cosy.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Chunky Chocolate Lab

In response to a request from L.H. who is the new owner of one of the puppies, to post some photos of his puppy on the blog, here they are. Apparently the puppy is to be called Buddy which I think rather suits him...he is large & chunky and is going to grow to be a rather handsome dog. He will be going to his new home in the next 10 days or so and I'm sure he will thrive and bring L. H. & Mrs L. H. much pleasure, though I am also sure that he will drive them to distraction as is the way of all young labradors! The first 2 years are the worst!!

We still have the Japanese Shiba Inu here and there is nobody claiming him despite postings on the internet on lost dog sites, the breed rescue sites & the Carmarthenshire Dog Pound page of the Council's website. In the next day or so I'm hoping he will be collect by the Shiba Inu Rescue people who understand the breed and will hopefully be able to trace his owners or find him a good new home.

Monday 6 September 2010

Fire Labyrinth, Really Wild Food Festival & Sheepskin Boots

A few evenings ago the Farmer, Younger Son & the Kiwi went up to see some friends who were lighting their Fire Labyrinth. This a a spectacular sight...a ancient maze pattern burnt into a large lawned area which burns with intense heat and huge dramatic effect. The bolder members of the party (including the Farmer) run round the pattern as the flames die down and the heat is much less (plenty of fire extinguishers are on hand) to reach the magnificent totem pole that stands in the middle. It is something of a ritual and a connection with the ancients and is always a exciting spectacle.

Yesterday the Farmer & I went down to St. David's to the Really Wild Food Festival. We have been going for the past few years and it always has something interesting to see or do. This year an acquaintance was there with her beautiful handmade sheepskin boots ( They are made in a wonderful rainbow of colours and she makes all sizes from tiny soft bootees for babies to boots & slippers for adults, also some marvellous hats, which will be perfect if we get another 'real' winter.

It is pouring with rain today...we had hoped to pick brambles but that is no fun when they are soaked and the hedges are dripping.

Saturday 4 September 2010

Stray Japanese Shiba Inu, Labrador Puppies, Evening Beach Picnic with Dolphins.

Although this looks like a fox it is in fact a Japanese Shiba Inu. We are giving it temporary home after finding it straying on our lane.
We had all been out with the labs & the sheepdog moving some young beasts down the main road and back to fields nearer home when this beautiful golden dog appeared on the track to the farm.. It was clearly very nervous of all our dogs and of us. We did however manage to catch it and bring it back to,the farm. It has obviously been out fending for itself for a while as it is very thin, though in reasonably good condition. Where it can have come from we have no idea, and it is certainly not a common breed of dog.  He has no collar, though may be microchipped. If his owner is not found over the weekend we shall have to call the Dog Warden who will take it to the pound. I doubt we'll be able to keep him and so I do hope his owners turn up...someone must be missing him.

On the subject of dogs, (which does seem to be a constant these days) the puppies are now 6 weeks old and just everywhere. We have had to barricade the yard so they have a huge grassy area to play in which is wonderful for them. They have such freedom and are enomous fun. They get many adoring visits from several teenage girls who sit and play with them for ages.

Last week as a good end to the holidays we had various family members come to stay for a couple of days and so we took the opportunity to go the beach  at Cwmtydu with the canoe and have a evening playing and cooking supper on the Farmer's ancient Primus. A huge fry-up with the family,watching the sun settting is a great way to end the summer.
The Farmer took the Kiwi out in the canoe and she was thrilled, as was he, to see a pair of dolphins come quite near them and leap up from the water. It is always fantastic when these things happen as they do so so rarely and can never be planned.