Friday 27 July 2012

Summertime & the Living is Very Busy!

At last summer has arrived. This past week has been absolutely manic here with the Sons & the Farmer all caught up with mowing, baling & wrapping many hundreds of bales all over the parish & further afield. The contracting business has never been so much in demand. There has been an element of getting as much done as possible while we have this good weather and so farmers have been on the phone at 8o'clock in the morning to ensure that they are on the list for the day. The Sons have been working incredibly long hours all week, often not home till after midnight, Today however, they are are having a quieter day as the baler had a major breakdown last night. The only spare part that could be found in the country is in Kent so we are waiting for a very speedy courier to deliver it, but it will not be here until tomorrow morning, so it gives everyone  a much needed breathing space. The weather is set to hold for some days yet so there should not be too much panic but once the baler is fixed they will be off again.

The latest news on the milk price front seems to be that government ministers met at the Royal Welsh Show on Monday for talks with farmers & dairy processors. It seems that code of practice for milk contacts is to be drawn up which will be freely negotiated, more transparent & fairer . But apparently this will not be in place to prevent the price drop in August.
An e-petition has been posted on the government website, 'Dairy farmers must be paid more for their milk', Please sign to show you support the farmers.
100.000 signatures will mean it will be considered for debate in House of Commons.

Of course today is the start of the Olympics Games. They honestly are not going to have that much impact here...we don't have tv.  I might get to see the opening ceremony this evening but as for the Games themselves...well, we just don't have time!!!

Saturday 21 July 2012

Dairy Farmers

An update on the dairy farmers protest; the Farmer's cynicism of yesterday (see yesterdays blog posting) may be proved misplaced as Morrisons & the Co-op have announced that they are increasing the price they pay to their suppliers. This is very good news & hopefully it will lead the way for other retailers to follow.
 The action taken by dairy farmers around the country has been peaceful & controlled though a few farmers still say they would dump their milk. I think that would be big mistake, apart from the waste it would not go down well with the public who would lose any sympathy for the farmers situation.
Farmers for Action is saying that the cuts in the milk price & the rising feed costs could force hundreds of dairy farms out of business which would result in the UK having to import much of its milk. Surely you would rather drink milk produced by British farmers?

Friday 20 July 2012

Dairy Farmers Meet with Politicians

Last night the Farmer & Elder Son attended the Emergency Meeting for Dairy Farmers at Llandeilo organised by our local politicians Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM & Jonathan Edwards MP. It was organised as response to the concerns & challenges that are facing milk producers over receiving a fair price for milk. Farmers were able to put their concerns directly to the Welsh Government's  Deputy Minister for agriculture, Alun Davies AM.
In the last 13 years the number of dairy farmers in Wales has halved & there will be more losses to come if the problems are not dealt with.
Carmarthenshire is the highest milk producing region in the country (Wales) and the dairy industry employs many people not just farmers.
There has been a call by politicians for a milk & supermarket ombudsman to help ensure dairy farmers get a fair price for their milk.
The Farmer writes;
I have attended many crisis meetings over the years, opinions get aired & 'the top table' gives all the right responses; then we all go home & nothing happens.
Not until those in power, either elected by us, AMs, MPs etc. or corporate directors have their salaries linked to performance (like the self-employed) will we see constructive changes.
On todays news we see blockades of milk depots around the country, I am reminded of Wapping, coal mines & milk quotas - where did any of those actions get anyone? The Luddite spirit lives on but corporate greed prevails.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Yurt Holiday

The Bentwood Yurt
This last week the Farmer & I had a night away staying in one the yurts owned by our good friends T. & F. who run Larkhill Tipis ( This was an experience we had been promising ourselves for a long time & at last we were able to arrange it at a mutually convenient time, for just one night.
The four of us went out for a meal at the Railway Inn, Llanpumsaint (, a local hostelry that runs n excellent restaurant. We had a superb meal ( the chocolate gateau was simply the best I've ever had!) and then returned to Larkhill & our yurt.
We were staying in the Bentwood yurt, pictured above, one of three different styles of yurt at Larkhill, (see the website for details) which is delightful. Yurts are lovely spaces to be in as are most round spaces, and with the rays of the wooden frame curving down to the trellis wall structure is very beautiful. It is set up on a small platform in a copse of trees and is quite private with stunning views through the trees over the Teifi Valley.
The other yurts & tipis on the site all have their own private areas though facilities are shared. There is shower block, a flush loo & a compost loo as well as a communal log cabin with cooking & washing-up facilities. Larkhill prides itself on being off-grid  and so the showers & log-cabin are all powered by wind turbines & solar panels. In the yurts light is provided by small battery powered lamps.
We had a lovely short, indeed positively miniscule break in lovely place that is to be recommended.

The weather has been dry for the last two day and so once again the Farmer & Sons are busy snatching another crop of silage from small acreages that we manage for various friends & neighbours. It is however supposed to be wet again ny tomorrow...ah well, c'est la vie!

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Dairy Farmers Protest.

Today dairy farmers took to the streets of London to protest at the drop in milk price from the retailers to the producers. We have watched the days events unfold with interest.On the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 today the question was asked 'What is the price of a litre of milk?' The programme ran this question from the point of view of the consumer whereas it should have been asking who is making money on milk? The answer is the processor & the retailer, not the producer.
There is such a widening gap between farmers & the consumers that there is little understanding of what is involved in producing the 'daily pinta'. The costs of animal feed, bedding & keeping up with latest legislation are going up all the time when the price for the end product is dropping. It is insane.
The dire warnings of numbers of dairy farmers being forced out of business are very worrying. Once the expertise & skill of dairying is lost it will take a long time to come back & the capital cost of entering dairy production will be so high as to be prohibitive. To say that the loss of the British dairy industry will not matter because we can always import milk from the continent is facile and short-sighted, are we to go the way of the coalmining & engineering industries of this country?

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Local Food; The First Completely Welsh Organic Loaf of Bread

Yesterday to cheer us all up in this continuing depressing weather, our good friend
Rick the Bread  ( arrived brandishing a Very Important Loaf of Bread.
This loaf was one of the very first batch of entirely Welsh loaves baked using Welsh grown organic wheat. The wheat was grown in Ceredigion, milled in the water mill Felin Ganol in Llanrhystud (, then the wholewheat flour made into a dough using the sourdough method & baked in Rick's wonderful wood fired bread oven. This has never been done before, a truly Welsh loaf (or at least not for for many hundreds of years!).  Rick & the millers at Felin Ganol have been working towards this product for along while and can now say with confidence that bread wheat can be grown in Wales & that it produces a very good loaf.  It was delicious with a lovely texture and a beautiful nutty flavour...perfect with Welsh organic butter &  local cheese! A meal fit for a king or at least a Prince as the bread is to be offered to the Prince of Wales tomorrow when he visits Felin Ganol mill.
 As I said, this humble loaf is the culmination of several years work with the help of Aberystwyth University in finding the right strain of wheat & growing enough of it for  milling. I have been using Ceredigion flour in baking for a good while now, it makes excellent pastry. The flour is available from Felin Ganol & some wholefood & organic retailers in the area.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Rain, Rain & More Rain

A reminder of summers past when the sun shone & the garden did not just drip and lie flattened by rain!
The rain continues and we are beginning to work out the various types of rain that we are currently enduring...there is just damp air which becomes fine drizzle, then heavy drizzle, thick drizzle, dripping rain , real rain, stair-rods & torrential rain, all of it summed up as the rain that never ceases. I don't think we have had more than 10  minutes without wetness of some sort for what seems like weeks.
 Here on the farm it is just a squelch and a muddy slide to get from one place to another. Elder Son has manged to get some hedge-trimming done but only along road sides but the fields are too wet and soggy for any muck-spreading to be done. The Farmer & Younger Son have been doing indoor jobs such as rendering walls on a current big project and tinkering in the workshop on machinery or wood-working. Everyone is just so fed-up with this weather!!!!! We should be making hay now or at least silage & sitting in fields of mown grass eating tomato sandwiches & drinking lemonade, it's July for heaven's sake!
I do feel sorry for holiday makers when it rains so incessantly. People always joke about  'well, if you come to Wales you must expect rain'  but his year it is well past a joke. I just hope it clears up for the school holidays...on holiday with children when it rains every day must be misery...there are only so many museums and indoor attractions to visit here, after all beaches are the main reason visitors come to west Wales & beaches in the rain are really not such fun. Still it must be bonanza year for the umbrella manufacturers.
Despite the weather the holiday cottage is fully booked now well into September which is marvellous and means I will have a very busy summer & not least of the busy-ness will be getting bed-linen dry to keep up with the changeovers if the weather does not improve (everything comes back to the weather!). Draping damp laundry on an airer in  the kitchen is such a pain when it should be outside blowing on the washing line in a summer breeze.
This is all bit of  a moan but that what happens when the rain it raineth every day'