Wednesday 31 October 2012

Last Puppy goes to New Home, Samhain & Turnip Lanterns

The last one of our litter of lovely puppies went to her new home a couple of days ago. She has gone to live with some friends of Younger Son in Herefordshire & will have a very happy time with boys, dogs & horses.

It is of course Halloween tonight, or Samhain (meaning Summer's End) or as it is called here in Wales Nos Calan Gaeaf, the First Day of Winter. It is a very soggy Samhain though with the torrential rain we've had all day...but we can hardly complain when it is compared with what has occurred on the east coast of America! I guess there won't be much trick or treating in New York. The state of things there is hard to believe, despite the pictures. One cannot imagine how the clean-up can be done in as short a time as possible, it's horrendous.
Back to Halloween/Samhain; The custom of turnip lanterns which more recently has become one of pumpkin lanterns, originates in the Celtic lands where pumpkins did not grow. Like trick or treat (which I hate & fortunately as we live at the end of along drive we are not troubled by such activities as are people in town (I sound like a real grumpy old woman, which I'm not!!)) the pumpkin has been imported from the States & seems to have become firmly lodged here.
 Turnips, or swedes are shaped somewhat like a skull and give off an eerie yellow light when lit from within by a candle & is thought to be connected with the ancient Celtic veneration of the head which was the seat of the soul. I can remember very clearly the curious & distinctive smell of the turnip lanterns we had as children & the thrill of turning out the lights and having just the glow of the faces cut into the lanterns with just a thin layer of the turnip flesh left to provide the glow...(the proper way to do these things (GOW moment again!)

Tonight is the night of the Wild Hunt led by Herne the Hunter in England, with his pack of spirit hounds with their white bodies & red ears, or in Wales by Gwynn ao Nudd, King of the Faeries. The gates of Winter open tonight for the Hunt to sweep through the skies gathering the souls of the lost & wandering dead to lead them home.
 In some places the calling of wild geese was believed to be the song of the hounds following Herne across the skies riding westward on the wind to the Land of Youth, Tir na h-oige.

Saturday 27 October 2012

First Frost, Organic Centre Wales, Traditional Lime Washing

A beautiful clear blue & gold autumn morning with the first frost...lovely!
The Farmer has gone off with the young labrador Hattie to the first shoot of the season. This is the first year that Younger Son is not particiapting as he is working in the far north of Scotland at present but he hopes to be home for a couple of shoots over the Christmas period.
Hattie has almost got her figure back after the puppies and jumped most enthusaiastically into the back of the 4x4 ready for a heavenly day rootling amongst brambles & bracken.

Yesterday we had visit from someone working for the Organic Centre Wales ( who was reviewing the progress of a project set up a few years ago, BOBL (Building Better Organic Links). At the time of the start of the project we were running a small farm shop but are no longer doing so so our connection with BOBL is rather tenuous now, but nonetheless it was an interesting afternoon of conversation about the current state of organic farming & food in general & of how there is so little (or even no) support for organics by the Welsh Assembly in particular. We do wonder what happened to the pledge made by the Assembly made to have 10% of Welsh farmland under organic management by 2020?

With the good weather over the past few days we, or rather the farmer, took the opportunity to lime-wash the house, a job that has been on the list for far too long. It is big job as it is big house. Lime-wash goes on well, if messily, but the whole of the front has been done which is the tricky part requiring scaffolding and very long ladders and the rest will be done in the next couple of days. I will try to tackle a retaining wall around the house today which is only 6' high at its highest point so does not require ladders which I hate.
Lime-wash is the traditional covering for old stone farmhouses in Wales  and gives a lovely soft look to a building. It is also very natural & breathes allowing moisture to escape from the walls. In addition to its environmental & aesthetic value it is also very cheap...we can paint the whole of the house for about £15!! We have added some pigment to the  lime so this time around the house is deep creamy colour & with its dark green woodwork really does look rather smart. In previous years it was deeper shade of ochre and in the far distant past it has been blue, green & pink.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

City Boys on Farm, Organic Milk Advertising Campaign,

Well, our visit by urban youth went very they are all kitted out in brand new wellies & waterproofs being introduced to our dairy herd.
For 15yr old boys who had never been on a farm before & had no idea about where their food comes from the whole day was a revelation which can be summed up when on being shown the different plants that grow in a grazing pasture one boy said 'But clover is like butter!'
It was a very good day for them & for us. For children like these who have been removed from mainstream schooling because of behavioural problems due to appalling social & domestic & health  problems, visits to places like Penyrallt are very important in giving them another view of the world and other peoples lives which might just light a small glimmer of hope for their futures. These boys are also incredibly fortunate in having a wonderful teacher who is willing, determined & able to give them time & energy in bringing them to us.

A week after the boys from Cardiff visited us we had two days when groups of 6-7yr olds from Gorseinon  near Swansea came to see the farm. The first day was very wet but the children carried on despite getting soaked and had wonderful time. They were fascinated by our Friesian bull who was respectfully observed from behind a strong gate and surprisingly interested when the Farmer demonstrated spinning wool with a drop spindle. The idea that from a heap of rather smelly wool straight of the sheep's back a yarn could be spun out to be knitted up into clothes really intrigued them, though of course none of them were wearing wool.

Last evening the Farmer & I attended a meeting with board members of OMSCo, the organic milk co-operative that buys our milk. It waas very interesting. Britain still lags behind the rest of the world (!) in its sales of organic milk but a big new advertising campaign has just been launched which hopefully will have an impact on public awareness of the value of  organic milk. ( The campaign involves huge posters on the underground, on hoardings alongside motorways, Twitter, Facebook and websites. It will be interesting in six months time to hear how effective it has been, meanwhile the Farmer & I along with our fellow organic dairy producers will continue to produce our lovely wholesome NATURAL milk.

The puppies are thriving, growing apace & very sweet & very naughty. As you see, they have already in true Labrador style found out how to open a bag of dog food!
Of the 8, 7  have lovely busy homes to go to, just one dear little chocolate dog puppy left to find a home for.