Wednesday 26 September 2012

Mud Men Series 3, School Visit, Growing Puppies

We have just had a busy day with a film crew from ITN making a programme for the Mud Men series for the History Channel.
A crew of eight turned up this morning including the two presenters of the programmes, Johnny Vaughan & Steve Brooker. The reason they were here on the farm was for the Farmer to show them the care of sheep for a programme about the medieval wool industry in England & Wales. They had already filmed at the National Wool Museum which is only 10 minutes down the road from us and came to the farm for some hands-on experience with real live sheep.
 It all went well & after lunch which I provided (soup, home-made bread & cheese & bara brith...very easy) they went on to film a sequence involving a sheep carcase (which in true Blue Peter style the Farmer had prepared earlier...or at least off camera!) and locating & removing the bladder to demonstrate how it was inflated for medieval football type fun & games for a seperate episode in the series about the history of sport. The bladder was inflated using compressed air and we were all quite impressed at how much a sheeps bladder would inflate, though not really big enough to play football. I think in medieval times the bladder would have been stuffed with hay & dried rather than blown up, I should check that out really.
Mud Men is a programme we had not heard of, but apparently is very good & has quite a following, hence the 3rd series being made. It is based around finds from the mud of the Thames by the mud men and then follows through the history of items and their uses and the wider stories of the industries & occupations for which they would have been made.

Tomorrow we have a visit by some pupils from a high school in Cardiff which should be interesting. We have had only primary school visits up till now and it will be good to have older children to talk to and show round the farm.

The puppies are growing apace at nearly 6 weeks old.and are now everywhere...terribly sweet & funny but bit of a nightmare out on the yard when they cluster around ones ankles making progress somewhat tricky without causing them to squeak as you try to avoid treading on their toes. Their long suffering mother will be very glad to see them leave for their new homes in a couple of weeks time. She really does not enjoy puppies unlike the old dog Poppy who just adopts them all and allows them great liberties with her kennel and her person.
Sometimes I sits & thinks & sometimes I just sits.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Kathryn Tickell;Northumbrian Voices, Thriving Puppies, Exmoor Holiday

Last evening the Farmer & I went to a wonderful gig at Theatr  Mwldan in Cardigan given by the acclaimed Northumbrian small pipe player Kathryn Tickell and her band. It was fabulous...wonderful music, great words & feeling. The show was called Northumbrian Voices and featured Mike Tickell, Kathryn's father speaking the words of the farmers & shepherds of the Northumbrian moorlands. It was a telling of stories & singing of songs celebrating traditions & a way of life that are under threat and are yet still living on in the lives of  farmers and the country people, particularly in the remoter parts of the British Isles...much that was spoken of resonated with those of us farming in the Welsh hills & how we are bedevilled by government environmentalists & the needs of modern people; how young women will no longer accept a life of isolation on a hill farm, how environmental scientists come along and disturb habitats & centuries old ways of living on the land with particular reference to hefted sheep (and although it was not mentioned, hefted people) and how removing them from their traditional lands the knowledge of how to live there dies and can never be brought back.
It was evening of joyous music-making and deep thought. If you get chance to see Kathryn Tickell in concert do go.

The puppies are now just over 5 weeks old and very jolly. They are thriving and I have got good homes for all but one sweet little black bitch & one sturdy chocolate dog. I have problems downloading pictures from my camera at present so you will just have to imagine how lovely they are and what fun.

The Farmer & I had four days away (!) last week down on Exmoor. We had a lovely quiet time walking & reading mainly & visiting the lovely antiquarian bookshop & several galleries in the pretty village of Dulverton.
 It was a much needed break after a very busy summer but as the Farmer said on our return on Friday evening he has 'hit the ground running' and has been kept fully occupied with various things from the moment we got home.
I had expected to get back to welcome guests to the holiday cottage from New Zealand but had a message to say they had cancelled their trip, so I have week empty which I should turn to my advantage and use to do some decorating in the cottage. It gets well worn over the summer season and paintwork needs touching up so I am now off armed with paint-brush and a tin of white gloss to paint window frames...what joy!

Saturday 1 September 2012

Growing Puppies, Missing Calf Turns Up, Autumnal Insects

The puppies are now two weeks old and have grown hugely. This morning was the first day when their eyes are properly open and they were so funny trying to lumber around their nest and discovering thier siblings. Up to now of course they have lived in a world of smells and warmth, needing to be in huddles for warmth and now with vision, albeit rather blurry, they can start to explore. This next week will see them rapidly change into jolly playful pups & hopefully if the sun is shining they will be able to play outside.

We have started calving and so far have had an excellent start with two sets of heifer twins which is very unusual. One pair of twins was real surprise to us as the cow had calved out in the field and when Elder Son & the Farmer brought her in they brought one calf with her, it being the only calf to be seen. The reasonable thought was that she just had the one  as twins are unusual as I've said.  However, 36 hours (!!!!) later our neighbour from the bottom of the farm appeared saying that he had found a very small calf on the woodland track between his place & ours, which surprised him & us not a little. On investigation this small creature was the twin to one brought in two nights before and must have been lying hidden in undergrowth and had then toppled down the steep wooded bank to the trackway. It was completely unharmed and perfectly fit & healthy. The Farmer  reckons it had fed very well before going to sleep in clump of bracken where it was so well concealed, which had seen it through its ordeal. It is extraodinary how well baby creatures can survive, though admittedly she probably would not have coped with another night out. Thank goodness our neighbour walks up the track every day excercising his dog in our lower fields.

We have entered the spider & daddy-longlegs season...they are everywhere. I am constantly having to clear them away from corners, unfortunately they are particularly fond of the holiday cottage & I have real battle keeping the place as free of them as I can. Old country cottages & farmhouses are much more organic than town houses, we have nature encroaching upon us at every opportunity, having had bats flying around in the farmhouse these last few evenings (though they soon find they way out through the open windows again) as well as the spiders, moths, daddy-longlegs & beautiful shiny black beetles than venture over the doorstep.