Saturday 30 April 2011

The Royal Wedding, Orchards Full of Blossom & Late Lambs

The first of my lily-of-the-valley to flower in the garden this year & very timely for the Royal Wedding where the bride's posy was made up of the sweet flowers.
 We don't have television, but I was able to watch The Wedding not too far away. And it was lovely & it didn't rain! It was a superb spectacle & despite the pomp & pagaentry managed to remain a simple service involving two families, albeit with millions of on-lookers.
I thought the trees in the Abbey looked superb and the bride's small posy of lily-of-the-valley was beautiful and so much better than the huge overblown & tortured bouquets that so many brides seem to feel is necessary.
As for the Dress it was stunning, just so elegant and simple. For those of us living out in the sticks with very little opportunity to see or wear beautiful clothes but have an interest in such things, an occasion like a royal wedding is a marvellous window onto a scene of elegant shoes, amazing hats and beautifully made outfits by wonderful designers. A far cry from the world of wellies & jeans!
The music for the wedding was wonderful; there can never be too much Parry and the specially commissioned anthem by John Rutter was beautiful. English choral music at its best.

With the very dry weather we have had lately the Farmer is beginning to pray for rain to come soon. He & the Sons have doing a lot of field work and now we need some rain to dampen the soil and start things growing.

We are still having lambs arrive intermittently though most of them are now out in the fields with their mothers. The very new ones are in one of the orchards and look very decorative under the tres which are thick with blossom at present. The blossom has been superb this year and as long as we don't get a late frost the fruit crop should be good.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Celebratory Tea-Party (Not for the Royal Wedding!)

Yesterday, Easter Monday, we held a tea-party to celebrate the birth of our beautiful grand-daughter. She is now just over 3 months old and a good age to be presented to her extended family.
So, invitations to a gathering of the tribes were sent out and enough food to make any self-respecting tea-table groan was baked.
We are fortunate in having access to a marvellous canopy (not shown to best effect in the picture) which was erected over the main yard along with a small marquee to provide shade or shelter, depending on the weather. We were blessed with a glorious hot sunny day and the sun-shade was greatly appreciated.
We played host to about 80 people, mostly family members, several of whom had travelled considerable distances to be with us. The age-range was huge, from baby Lili aged 3 months to her paternal great-grandfather aged 82. We had gangs of small children playing merrily on a slide all afternoon, glamorous langorous teenagers with their dead-straight curtains of hair & airs of sophistication and their parents & grandparents all milling around in a lovely melange of generations.
I had spent days baking and as always I was quite convinced there would not be enough food so made more(!) but of course all that was presented got eaten. There were sandwiches containing cucumber, egg, tomato, home-grown beef, great numbers of meringues made with our own eggs filled with our own cream, profiteroles, iced Easter biscuits, iced buns, chocolate cake, coffee cake, Victoria sandwich,
Welsh cakes, Bakewell tarts, muffins, bread-&-butter-with-hundreds-&-thousands (something remembered from childhood parties) and a beautiful two-tiered confection of a cake to honour the baby which was made & decorated by her mother.
I dug out old bone china tea sets and ancient lace & embroidered table-clothes and with the immeasurable help of my brother & sister-in-law, did a rather good bit of set-dressing for a proper tea-party. It all looked lovely with home-made bunting and festoons of pretty paper flowers. We put tiny posies of spring flowers on all the small tables each with its beatiful cloth, which were dotted around on the grass with chairs and benches placed strategically.
The Farmer had spent the week mowing all the lawns to within an inch of their lives & when I was not baking I was tidying the gardens & potting up scarlet geraniums to be placed in odd corners and along window sills to prettify the yard. And though I say it myself it  did all look very good on the day!!...well worth the effort and hard work.
The baby behaved beautifully all day and all her vast family thought she was wonderful and we have some marvellous photographs of the entire party with Lili in the centre. Although she will have no memory of the day I think everyone else will be able to talk of Lili's Party as very happy family get-together.
The day ended with just a small group of family & friends sitting round a fire in the farmhouse garden eating chilli con carne & drinking the Farmer's home brewed beer until after dark. All very pleasant.
And today we are dismantling canopies & gazebos, packing away china, washing fragile linen and generally getting back-to normal after an incredibly busy week as of course, all the preparation had go hand-in-hand with the usual farm work.

Saturday 16 April 2011

Lime-spreading, Returning Holiday makers, Red Cow-Slips,Harvest Trust

It has been a very busy week here for the Farmer & the Sons. Two days were taken up with lime spreading on several fields which has not been done for a few years. A large lorry delivered several loads of ground limestone onto the yard which was then loaded into a lime-spreader and distributed over the fields. Work started on Tuesday but a wind got up and the Farmer had to call off the work as the lime was blowing away. Fortunately the following day was calm and still so the spreading was able to continue.

When not dealing with the lime Younger Son & the Farmer were kept occupied with re-locating YS's workshop. He does all the machinery maintenance and servicing of the tractors and implements on the farm and has an extensive and well equipped workshop but, as is always the way, had outgrown the space he has had for several years, so it was decided to allocate him another shed. This involved putting in a loft & moving his 'lock-up' as well as putting in a window, so the job, like Topsy just grew into a bigger project than originally intended.

I am waiting for my next holiday makers to arrive. The family who left this morning after their 8th consectutive year here (!)  had a lovely week with very reasonable weather and were as usual very loath to go, but have promised themselves to return next year. It is great when families return to us and we see their children growing up and they feel that the farm is an important  part of their lives...rather like the swallows returning each year!

The daffodils are almost over now, though we are very lucky in having a range of varieties that flower in succession so I should still have some for Easter. Primroses and primulas are appearing everywhere and its always lovely to find self-seeded plants appearing in unexpected corners that were empty last year. I have a small but steadfast colony of cow-slips in the farmhouse garden, but in the past few years some of the them have been producing flowers with dark crimson edges which must be the result of cross-pollination with red primulas that are also in the garden. they are very pretty and there are still plenty of the proper yellow
cow-slips coming up through the grass.
During the week the Farmer & I met with some people who work for a charitable trust which gives children with low self-confidence and are socially withdrawn  a holiday in the countryside. Harvest Trust ( was set up about 20 years ago on a small farm near here and has welcomed hundreds of children through its doors. The trust has had amazing results in enabling children who have difficulties in the class-room and in social situations to become more confident and even to speak and join in activities. We hope we may be able to host visits from Harvest Trust to the farm in the future.

Thursday 7 April 2011

A Fine Spring Morning, First Swallows, Ploughing Under Way, Buy British!

Another lovely sunny morning. Having had several days of much needed rain, we are now enjoying good spring weather with the birds singing and trees & flowers bursting forth. The hedge-banks & verges around the farm are starred with constellations of golden celandines and clusters of violets are to be found on sunny banks.
The whitethorn is opening into its lovely froth and catkins are dancing in the hedges.
Yesterday evening the Farmer & I were out on the yard and saw the first swallows arrive. They are early this year by a few days. Everything seems to be coming early this year; bumble bees have been lumbering through the gardens for several weeks now and of course the daffodils were in flower in the middle of February.
During the afternoon I also saw the first butterfly, a Tortoiseshell, flittering across the sun-warmed stone wall of one of our old courtyard buildings.

The Farmer & I have have been struggling through rich bubbling head-colds this last week though they are now in retreat, thank goodness, though the chesty coughs are lingering in a most annoying manner.

 Elder Son has been able to start on some of the spring field work and was ploughing yesterday ready for re-seeding a pasture. There is anaother field waiting to go under the plough and then the tasks of harrowing, seeding & rolling will have to be done. I hope the weather holds fine until the job is finished.

The Farmer attended a meeting with OMSCO ( last night for an update on how the organic milk market is doing. It seems that sadly, the market in the UK for organic milk is still dropping, though the sales on the continent are growing rapidly. This means that our good Welsh organic milk is being exported rather than consumed here in the UK and travelling great numbers of food miles. Apparently once the milk has crossed the channel it is en route for another 18 hours! Meanwhile, continental yoghourt is being transported to the supermarket shelves in the UK. So much for 'buying local' which has been the slogan for the past couple of years. Its all down to the British, buy Local !