Tuesday 31 January 2012

Snow, Off Grid Energy Generation

The night before last we had a fall of snow...the roofs of the farm buildings were white and there was a shimmer on the fields but by yesterday morning only the high ground across the valley had snow. However this was deep enough for our neighbours to get their van stuck and sos us to take our 4x4 up to tow them out!. Just a mile up the road the snow was about 6" deep while we had nothing! Very disappointing as I love snow and looking out across a changed landscape.
It is very cold this morning with a skim of ice on puddles and hollows of water. Whether there is more snow due we willl just have to wait & see.

On Sunday (during the vile weather of the snow & sleet) the Farmer went on another 'eco-tour' with the Mid Teifi Housing & Energy Group (http://www.teifitransition.org.co.uk/) to see a domestic scale wind turbine installation at our friends who run Larkhill Tipis (http://www.larkhilltipis.co.uk/). This lovely place is entirely off-grid and with a combination of wind turbine & solar panels they meet all their electrical requirements. If we weren't milking cows and therefore having huge electrical needs we would seriously consider going off-grid but with 7 motors running during milking it is just not possible.

Looking out from the office window onto leaden skies and winter hedgerows I have been watching a pair of robins sparring with each other over territory. They flutter in & out of the hedge being very aggressive and shrilling abuse at each other. A lot of the small birds are singing as though it is spring & have been all through this mild winter.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Home Alone, Early Spring-Cleaning, Burns Night

Hammamelis mollis flowers are so lovely to see in a winter garden where everything else is rather soggy & looking a mess. Snowdrops are appearing in the verges along the drive now and daffodils are shooting up everywhere.

I am in the very unusual position of being on my own for a couple of days. The Farmer & Younger Son have gone to Austria!They have taken the opportunity to join a group of farmers on a trip to the Pottinger factory at Grieskirchen, near Linz. Pottinger are agricultural machinery manufacturers which is why I felt they could go without me! I'm sure the visit to the factory will be fascinating but may not be able to hold my complete interest for a whole day & they will enjoy a blokey trip centred on big farming kit much more without me...and someone has to be here to walk the dogs!
Tomorrow they will be visiting a dairy farm near Salzburg and then will be returning home very late tomorrow night.

I shall take this chance of a couple of days without having to produce meals at regular intervals to tackle some long awaited house-work...an early spring-cleaning I suppose, going where I have not gone before in many months I ashamed to say. Into dark corners where lurk spiders & a film of dust, polishing silver, sorting out clothes for jumble (or charity shops nowadays. What has happened to good old-fashioned jumble sales? I suppose they've been superceded by car boot sales & the charity shops.) and generally doing stuff that gets put off all the time.

This evening I have been invited out to a Burns Supper with some friends who have recently moved down here from Scotland. I love haggis but have not made it for a very long time...we have not killed any sheep recently! If I have time during my busy day of house-work I shall maybe make some shortbread to take with me. A perfect meal, haggis with mashed tatties & neeps followed by rich buttery shortbread and a dram together with readings of poetry and telling of tales.

Saturday 14 January 2012

A Good Frost, Winter Farming

At last, a proper cold & frosty winter's morning! Walking the dogs first thing was lovely with the sun glimmering through skeleton trees onto frost-silvered fields.

With the better weather the Sons are busy getting on with the last of the hedge-trimming & muck-spreading so we have a constant background hum of tractors. More unpleasantly there is the pervading odour of disturbed muck (though this soon dissipates) coming up from the slurry pit as Younger Son makes his trips back & forth filling the huge slurry tanker that he then takes up to the top fields to spread the ever important muck to encourage a good crop of grass for the summer. Farming jobs throughout the winter are made so much easier when the weather is fine.

I have my first holiday-makers of 2012 in the cottage this weekend & they are fortunate in having such a glorious morning to wake up to.

Saturday 7 January 2012

First Lamb, National Botanic Garden of Wales, Hunting & Shooting

Two days ago we were all very surprised to find a lamb had been born to one of our ewes as we are not due to start lambing until March! What we think has happened is that a ram lamb somehow escaped being castrated and has gone about his fell deeds amongst the flock. How many more lambs will appear before March is anyone's guess!


Yesterday the Farmer & I visited the National Botanic Gardens near Carmarthen. We have not been for several years and had been promising ourselves a trip there while there is an exhibition on of fungi that has been brought down from the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.
The exhibition was very good with marvellous huge models of mushrooms & toadstools and very good videos of time-lapse photography showing the growth of fungi and their importance on every aspect of the natural world.
The gardens themselves and the plants growing in the great glass dome were looking very different from when we last saw them. The plants in the dome were well established now and look extraodinary though I did find it a very surreal experience and rather discomforting...it is very odd to walking round a 'garden' under a roof, it is completely artificial environment with a constant hum of the heating system in the background. There were a couple of sparrows flying around & they must have have a very strange  & unnatural life. It is not like seeing plants growing in a greenhouse somehow. There is a very attractive greenhouse with collection of bromeliads which was amazing.
The gardens proper outside were lovely, even in January & there were daffodils in flower, also primroses, pulmonaria and beautiful red hammamelis. It was interesting to see the place after a long time  and would receommend a visit.
Entry to the gardens is free throughout January.

During the week a local foot pack of hounds worked their way through the valley and caught 2 foxes, though there are many more living in the woods. Today one of our local mounted hunts is out and will be working this end of the valley as there is a pheasant shoot going on at the other end. With some of our neighbours already busy lambing  the foxes will have to be kept under control.... we lost our peahen to one recently and of course we will be lambing too in the next couple of months.
The Farmer & Younger Son have gone beating for the shoot with the labs who were very excited as usual at the prospect of a day spent rootling through briars and thick undergrowth.

Sunday 1 January 2012

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!
This is a reminder of what the weather was like this time in 2011...very different to the warm , very wet & muddy conditions we have to start off 2012. Things can only get better one hopes!
Yesterday I found snowdrops in flower and have seen daffodils flowering in a hedgrow in the neighbourhood!