Sunday 26 June 2011

Brightening up of the Weather, Major Gardening Works, Cottage Refurbishment

After several days of damp grey gloom there is at last blue sky appearing this morning for which much rejoicing.

There has been great activity here over the last few days with major works going on around Elder Son's cottage. The great thing about having boys who own diggers & other useful machinery is that when landscaping work has to be done we can just get on with it.
 Elder Son & KT have decided to remove a somewhat tangled shrubbery and make a larger lawn for their baby daughter to have a safe play area so I spent most of Thursday replanting large shrubs and other plants in a cleared raised bed and fortunately they do all seem to be surviving the transplants well. I guess the damp cool weather has helped. Once everything is finished it is going to look very good and should be easier for KT to maintain.

I have been busy also with refurbishing elements of the holiday cottage ( while  it has been empty for a couple of weeks before the mass of summer visitors start to arrive this week.
I have had a new carpet laid in the bedrooms, a new sofa, rugs, lampshades and have made new curtains for one bedroom & the bathroom. It is all looking very good and comfortable. The new carpet is lovely...I just hope I don't regret my decision to allow dogs in the cottage once more! I do ask people not to let their dogs in the bedrooms but short of putting a gate across the small passage to the bedrooms it is difficult, though most of our visitors are very good about the small house-rules.
As well as putting new furnishings in the cottage it does also act as my overflow book storage, hence the over-filled bookcases and books attractively placed in the bedrooms in lieu of any other decorative items (I don't really 'do' ornaments) and after all 'books do furnish a room'.This use of the cottage is justified however when on occasion I have guests arrive who walking into the sitting room say thing like, 'Oh, how lovely, lots of books!' or 'I needn't have brought a bag of books with me!'  I make an effort to put in really good childrens books and we have had requests from children (& grown-ups) on the day of departure to take a book home with them to finish. Also books are left behind, including some written in Dutch, which is useful as we get at least one  family from Holland  each year.

Sunday 19 June 2011

Newport Pembrokeshire, Coetan Arthur, Nevern Castle, Welsh Game Fair with Mud,

The Famer & I have given ourselves two days off, as it is raining (!) and spent the first day pottering around Newport (Pembs). It is a tiny place but with a wealth of excellent galleries (, a lovely jumbled junk/antique/curio/book shop where we picked up some wonderful history & travel books from the early part of the 20th century (they don't write books like that any more!) and several good coffee shops. A perfect  place for pottering in the rain.
Just on the ouskirts of Newport there is Coetan Arthur, a impressive cromlech which is approached rather bizarrely by a footpath through a small cul-de-sac of smart modern bungalows with neatly manicured lawns & perjink (a good descriptive Scottish word) gardens. Indeed, the last bungalow has the chamber just yards away from its kitchen window. Although the stones themselves are impressive, the cap stone balanced on only two points, it does lack the atmosphere of Pentre-Ifan because of its close proximity to 21st century suburbia.
After calling on some friends not seen for long time to admire their very beautiful newly renovated house, we then went to Nevern castle which has had some recent archaeological digs.done. It was always a lovely place, just a large mound in a wood with magnificent beech trees, but no real castle remains visible. Now, after careful tree-felling and excavation of stone work and some clearing of the moat it is still a wonderful place but more clearly the remains of a castle, though the remains are not extensive. It has fascinating history the details of which can be found at

Yesterday we went to the Welsh Game Fair held near Llandeilo, in the rain and the mud was incroyable!! Nonetheless we had a very enjoyable time though progress around the showground was very slippery and our boots were rapidly caked in thick sticky mud, yuch! which made walking around quite difficult. I think the people with push-chairs & very small children probably suffered the most.
We were very entertained to see on our arrival at the Countryside Alliance stand that a photograph of the Farmer has been used on one of their large display boards. It is superb picture of him introducing a group of school children to our dairy cows. The picture was one of many taken by Charles Sainsbury-Plaice during a visit to Penyrallt by a school from a Carmarthen that was arranged by the Countryside Alliance Foundation,

Thursday 16 June 2011

Silage Crop In, Orphan Pheasant Chick

The silage is all in and the pit is very full, a superb crop this year and everyone is very pleased. It was glorious sunny day but rain was forecast for the evening.
Younger Son had been mowing until very late on Monday night, then on Tuesday the Farmer spent all day from 10.00am until 1.30pm (!!!) rowing up while the Sons carted the grass to the pit where our good friend S. was buck-raking & levelling the grass. They were all working until 1.30 in the morning but the rain was on its way and so they just had to carry on until the end  and they got it done in time.

I had spent the day cutting piles of sandwiches and making up cold drinks for them all though it was eaten on the hoof as there was no time to stop for more than 5 minutes as the process of raking & carting was finely tuned to keep the chap on clamp from getting overloaded, but also to prevent him waiting for the next load. It is quite a business making silage!
Yesterday morning was then spent rolling the clamp to get the air out and covering it with the plastic sheets and tyres. So that is it now until the next cut later in the summer.

This morning the Farmer has brought a new lodger into the kitchen. He was out early with the dogs and they disturbed a hen pheasant who had survived the last shooting season and had made a nest in one of our bottom fields. The foolish bird flew off and the dogs found her nest but the Farmer rescued a tiny pheasant chick which is now cheeping gently in a box by the Rayburn. It probably  hatched only yesterday . It is tiny but very pretty with its dark striped fluff. They hand -rear quite well so hopefully we''ll succeed with this one.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Wild Cattle, Silage underway

A glorious sunny morning for the Farmer's birthday and high jinks with a neighbours escaped cattle!
After a peaceful birthday breakfast with a visit from the lovely 5 month old, smiley grand-daughter all hell let loose when it was found that large number of cattle from a neighbours rented fields had broken down the fences & got into our freshly mown silage fields & into another field containing some of our young animals.! The Sons managed to round them all up and try bring them down to the yard. However, on their way they managed to inflict some damage toYounger Son's car by barging past it parked in a gateway. They then got into my garden smashing two fences in the process, trampled a precious tree peony & a rhododendron, broke branches off trees and then made their way into the field of dairy cows! It was mayhem! They also got into the cottage garden and churned up the lawn.
When we eventually got them into the yard, along with the dairy cows, they then had to be sorted out ; the dairy cows bemusedly being returned to their grazing and the visiting beasts separated from our own.
The owners of the rampaging bovines arrived & they were then walked back down our drive and into a, hopefully, more secure field. Most of them were Limousins which are notoriously flighty and mad and once they get it into their heads to run they just go & it can be difficult (& on occasion dangerous) to get them calmed down enough to move them quietly to where you want them to be.
Elder Son has just come in to say that he has found two more of the invaders still in one of our fields..they must have been hiding when the others were rounded up. They are very wild it seems and it is going to be interesting to see how we get them moved when their owners return later today.

After all that excitement the silage harvest is under way. The Sons mowed lots of grass last night and this morning the Famer is tedding it before the machines go into pick it up later. It is going to be a very long day as rain is threatened for tonight so they want to get it all in today. There is a very good crop which is great.

Sunday 12 June 2011

Flaming June Where Are You?, What is a Farmer?

Just to prove it really is June and that that the roses are out and dogs lie around in the sunshine, or a least did two days ago! Today one would think it is the middle of winter...cold and so wet! I shall be lighting the fire later!
No hope of getting on with the silage today, though the forecast is not so bad for tomorrow & Tuesday. The Farmer & Sons are keeping their fingers crossed that things will improve after today...surely Summer will return soon. One good thing about the rain is that it will help bulk up the grass which always a good thing...clouds & silver linings comes to mind!

In the last issue of the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) magazine Land, there was interesting article on how the European Commission is defining Farming.
Apparently the definition of an 'active farmer' is being tightened up for those who claim the Single Farm Payment (SFP).
 When the SFP was first introduced in 2004 the definition was a person or group who 'excercises an agricultural activity' and agricultural activity was defined as 'the production, rearing or growing of agricultural products including harvesting, milking, breeding animals and keeping animals for farming purposes, or maintaining the land in good agricultural & environmental condition'.
The Commission is concerned that payments are being made to people who are not genuine farmers and so is trying to find a way of whittling out those claimants. This means non-farming beneficiaries such as companies, investors, authorities & nature conservation organisations.
The most intereresting point in the article is that the 2004 CAP reforms decoupled support payments from agricultural production and introduced the Rural Development Regulation. This meant that there was active recognition of farming being a multi-functional activity which encouraged farmers to diversify into more varied land-based activities. Much of this diversification was encouraged to incorporate the voluntary agri-environmental schemes. It now looks as though the new proposal is going to make it compulsory for all European farmers through the Mandatory Greening notion of direct payments, to deliver basic environmental public goods, but as the CLA article says, there are many business forms in UK agriculture involved in land management activities, not just 'active farmers'. The issue is going to become very complicated but the main concern should be that payments are made and that all payments are appropriate and that all conditions of payment are met rather than worrying about who does what on the land.
As 'active farmers' we should have no worries about this legislation but may it just become another layer of paperwork that we have to wade through, to prove that we are actively farming &  and managing the land effectively.

Saturday 11 June 2011

Shearing Time & Time Past,

On one of the warmest days this week the Farmer got the shearing done for which the sheep were duly thankful I should think. We have only about 50 ewes at the moment and though it was along stint for the Famer he got them all done, with some help from Elder Son who did some of the catching and handling.
As with so much farm work nowadays things have lost the social aspect. Now we shear our own small flock whereas in past we used to get shearing contractors in and it would be a day of very hard work but much jollity & team effort with copious quantities of tea & sandwiches being consumed at intervals. It is the same with the silage making. When we had contractors doing it over two or three days it was an occasion for lots of chat over meals either in the kitchen or picnics out in the fields and very late nights. Now with the kit that the Sons use it is all over in a matter of hours. Something very important has been lost, sadly.
The weather is holding us to ransom at the moment...with the threat of heavy showers over the next week or so The Farmer reckons we are going to have to 'snatch' the silage whenever we can.

Thursday 2 June 2011

Silage Time, Replacement Peacock, Hay Festival

Well, the silage season has started...this is Younger Son working on a neighbour's farm yesterday. Both he & Elder Son were out till late last night and are off again today to finish on theat farm and then move onto the next. The Farmer is off today to turn grass on yet another neighbours fields, so it all busy, busy, busy.
You may wonder why they are all doing other people's silage and not our own, well the simple reason is that ours is not quite ready yet. We don't usually do it until the middle of June. Farming organically we do not use artificial fertilisers which means that our crop is slower to bulk out, though we get as good a crop as conventional farmers, just a trifle later.

It is grey start to June though the sun did come out yesterday afternoon and hoefully the cloud will clear later today, but it is cool and overcast. However the roses are coming into flower and the gardens are looking very pretty despite the battering they received last week from the strong winds that we endured.

Since the death of our peahen, Hettie, the Farmer has bought (!) a replacement female and Charlie is now calling again. The single egg that Hettie managed to lay before she departed this life is now safely lodged in an incubator for 29 days and so we may have a baby peacock to hand rear, which will be be an interesting experience to say the least. Fortunately the Farmer has great patience with small creatures and no doubt it will become part of the cavalcade of young birdlife that has been resident in cardboard boxes in the kitchen over the years! The worst were the baby pigeons which were revolting and very smelly!

On Bank Holiday Monday the Farmer & I went to visit family in Brecon and and some us went over the Hay Festival. We had not booked to hear any of the speakers but it was interesting just wandering around the Festival field and browsing in the surprisingly few, bookstalls. We really ought to book tickets for some of the events next year (as I say every year!) and 'do' the festival properly. It must be fascinating to hear certain writers & actors talking on their particular subjects and giving another perspective on their work as well as the lectures by historians & journalists. Maybe next year.