Wednesday 29 February 2012

Gypsy Wagon Holidays

At long last a project that we have been working on for about 2 years is coming to fruition. Elder Son & KT purchased this gypsy wagon which was in a fairly deplorable state back in 2010 & despite the arrival of a baby in the interim have managed to renovate it and a delightful cabin with a verandah has been built to provide kitchen & bathroom facilites for guests staying in the wagon.
KT has just launched her website for the wagon and the wagon will available for holidays from the end of March.
The wagon has been situated in a paddock from which there is a superb view of our valley and the field in front has a magnificent ancient oak tree (hence the name of the website). The site is not overlooked though it is still near enough the farm to feel part of the whole place & on summer mornings guests will be able to sit on the steps of the wagon or on the verandah of the cabin and watch the day unfold. It really is a beautiful view.
Evenings can be spent sitting around the fire-pit watching the bats giving their aeronautical displays.
In the cabin there is also a small wood-burner & a sofa if the weather is not conducive to sitting outside.

As soon as I have more photos of the interior of the wagon & cabin I will post them here on the blog.
The trees around the caravan are all bare-twigged at present but once the leaves start emerging
the whole landscape will fill out and hedges will green up beautifully and the magnificent oak tree that the site overlooks will be in all its glory.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Fairtrade Fortnight, Love Zimbabwe

Blue skies, sun shining, birds singing...a lovely morning enhanced by the floods of snowdrops that have appeared and the increasing numbers of daffodils that are flowering each day. Small skeins of Canada geese are beginning to appear in the valley. We hear them before we see them, their haunting cry redolent of wild open northern spaces so different to the softer enclosed land of our valley with the river winding its way to estuary where they will spend the summer.

Yesterday the Farmer & I went to Newcastle Emlyn, our small town about 6 miles away, to a Fairtrade Launch Celebration as part of Fairtrade Fortnight which runs from February 27th - 11th March. This had been organised by our friend J. ( who has worked hard to bring Fairtrade to this area and now thanks to her efforts Newcastle Emlyn (NCE) is well on its way to becoming a Fairtrade Town.
A couple of short & very moving talks were given by by Zimbabwean Martha Musonza Holman & her son Taurai Sinaro on how important Fairtrade is to her country & her people. She said that so much aid has been given to Africa over many years but because it goes through governments & politicians it rarely gets to help those people at whom it is directed, but with Fairtrade money goes straight to the farmers & producers & not through government agencies. Fairtrade is enabling women to earn enough money to send their children to school & to provide fresh water supplies to villages.
Martha has set up Love Zimbabwe ( which developes links between Zimbabwe & Wales. She lives in Abergavenny from where she travels all over Wales & eleswhere, encouraging local authorities, schools & retailers to use Fairtrade products of which there are over a thousand, anything from chocolate, coffee, bananas to hand-printed batik fabrics, jewellery & ceramics. The money from the sale of the items that Martha supplies goes directly to the members of women's co-operatives in Zimbabwe. She designs the batiks and the members of her womens groups in Zimbabwe make them. I bought a length of lovely fabric printed in blue & white with a pattern of guinea fowl on it. Fairtrade goods can be found in many shops and even if one buys just the occasional Fairtrade bar of chocolate or some coffee beans it all helps.
Many towns throughout Wales have Fairtrade status (

Friday 24 February 2012

Bottle Fed Lambs, Veg Growing in Polytunnels, Teifi Valley

Yesterday was just like spring! A gorgeous day of warmth & sunshine which made everyone smile. Shopping in our local small town yesterday there was air of relaxation and delight in the sun...we even ate our lunch outside the little restaurant overlooking the river.
Today we are back to grey skies and dampness!

We have started lambing now and we have had a pair of twins whose mother does not have much milk, so until another ewe lambs who has plenty & onto whom we can adopt one of the twins we are supplementing the lambs with a bottle. I go out in the middle of the day and feed them...healthy lambs feed with such zest & vigour that the bottle is empty in seconds. They then curl up quietly next to their woolly mountain of a mother and go to sleep. All very sweet.

Yesterday afternoon the Farmer & I spent a lot of time clearing out one of our large polytunnels ready for planting with this years vegetables. The tunnel in question has not been used for growing for a couple of years and was full of brambles & bracken & even some willow saplings as well as bits of junk. After a couple of hours hard work with a chain-saw, secateurs & rakes there is now a sizeable mound of stuff for a bonfire and a lovely cleared & empty poytunnel ready for the tractor & cultivator to be taken in to prepare the seed beds. The Farmer plans to get a number of different varieties of potaotes in as soon as possible. Spuds do well in tunnels we have found. He is also talking of put a smaller polytunnel inside the main one to create an even more effective growing environment for propogation. Lets just hope we don't have the same trouble as last year with rabbits getting in...just one rabbit can cause havoc & trying to shoot them (they don't come singly!) in a plastic bubble is not a good idea!

A couple of nights ago I attended ameeting with other people from the locality involved in tourism to discuss how we can better promote our lovely Teifi Valley. Despite much effort it is not recognised as a specific area like Snowdonia or the Gower or even the Towey Valley, yet is is a most beautiful & interesting part of Wales with wonderful history and spectacular scenery. The Teifi Valley runs for about 72 miles from the hills above the tiny market town of Tregaron to the estuary of the river at Cardigan & Poppit Sands. It is a little known part of Wales. I think most of the holiday makers come to the area because it is near the coast and staying inland is probably cheaper than coastal accommodation. Of course many people when they get here discover that there is a great deal more to west Wales than the beaches. It is marvellous area for castles & historic sites and many artists & craftspeople have their studios & workshops here. They find huge inspiration from the landscapes, legends & mythology of the area. For visitors who know little about Wales other than the industrial south or the mountains of Snowdonia the Teifi Valley provides a remarkable insight to real Wales where Welsh is still a living language and where small communities are still very tight-knit with a life of their own.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Ethical Trade Standards - OMSCo & Yeo Valley

About  year ago the Farmer & I were invited to a meeting with OMSCo ( & Yeo Valley Organics ( to discusss the possibility of securing the Soil Association Ethical Trade Standard on the milk supply.
We had a letter this week telling us that the application for the standard had been accepted and that from the 1st of March Yeo Valley products will carry the ethical trade mark on their packaging.
OMSCo is now the only major dairy supplier to have the Ethical Trade Standard & Yeo Valley has been awarded 'Ethical Trade' Accreditation by the Soil Association.
With consumers becoming more & more interested in where their food comes from & the methods of production it is important that a standard of ethics be available. It encompasses all aspects of food production from animal welfare to the working conditions of the employees on farms & in the factories.

Saturday 4 February 2012

Marmalade Made, Snow-Bound Baker

Its the time of year when I've been making marmalade and replenishing & sorting out my larder shelves of preserves. I found a number of unlabelled jars of what has turned out to be apple jelly in perfect condition so am using them up making puddings. Sponge with apple jelly underneath & served with the ubiquitous custard seems to have been a success with the Farmer & Younger Son.
I made 15 jars of marmalade jelly which should keep the Farmer going at breakfast for a while to come.

Today it is very cold but raining...other parts of the country are getting snow. We have just vile cold rain, not even sleet! I guess this means the return of the Mud!

The Farmer had to go out at 5.30 o'clock this morning to help our good friend R. the Bread-maker ( get his bread out to his vehicle as his track of almost a mile was impassable  witthout 4 wheel-drive as result of snow & ice. R.'s place is much higher than ours and he has serious snow for the past week. His van was left at the top of his track but he had no way of getting the bread from the bakery to the van so sos'd us to ask for help. The Farmer did 5 trips up & down the track, 200+ loaves (!) destined for two farmers markets & household deliveries. R. had been baking all night as per usual on a Friday and while his family went off to sell the bread he retired to bed for well-earned sleep.
Although it is raining here with us it might well be snowing at the bakery so we'll wait & see whether R. will need any more help in the next few days.

Friday 3 February 2012

Roundwood Timber Building

Lovely hard frosts at last! No more mud and everything sparkling, its just great, this weather.
We have no snow but it is still lying thickly acouple of miles up the road and our view south across the valley is of snow-covered fields.The picture is of our view north where theer is no snow lying.

Last night we had a gathering of friends & neighbours who belong to the Teifi Energy Group ( come to the farm to watch a film about the building of a roundwood timber framed building in West Sussex. Abut ten of us settled down to watch this fascinating film made by Ben Law ( is the guru of roundwood timber framed building techniques. These building are very beautiful and are made using completely sustainable & local materials. European Larch trees that have been coppiced provide the long poles that are needed for the structure's frame which is then in-filled with straw bales. The bales are then plastered over with three layes of lime-plaster producing a wonderful undulating and tactile surface. The roof of the building was tiled with shingles made from Western Red Cedar. The finished building was quite beautiful & an inspiration.