Tuesday 31 December 2013

Winter Storms, Happy Christmas, Christmas Lamb

New Year's Eve and we did have a frost a couple of days ago but mostly we've been dealing with the aftermath of strong winds and very heavy rain. The driveway had been washed away and we had mini-Niagaras down the steps again. The Farmer & the Sons have spent a lot of time replacing stone on the drive and filling in gullies that have been gouged out by the quantities of water rushing over the farm. At least we don't have floods coming into the house...living on the side of a hill does have its advantages.

Christmas was lovely...a good family Christmas with small children, excellent food and general happiness and good humour all round.

The Farmer & Younger Son have been to the local shoot in the past week and yesterday went they walked over the farm with neighbours, guns & dogs and came back with a couple of brace of pheasant. Game pie will be on the menu next week I guess.

We had guests in the holiday cottage for Christmas week and when they left on the 28th I had more people in for 2 nights and then a family arrived yesterday for 4 nights.
It has been a week of laundry - no joke when having to deal with full sets of bed-linen and towels every couple of days and nowhere to dry them other on an airer in the kitchen as the weather has been so awful. I now have several hours worth of ironing to do having been putting it off while dealing with all the other things that happen over the Christmas period.

Out walking with family members who were staying with us over the weekend on the one glorious frosty morning we we all very surprised to find that one of our ewes had lambed! We were in the field with the in-lamb ewes to move them and suddenly saw this tiny creature huddling in the midst of the ewes. It was probably about a day old and was real surprise as lambing is not due to start until March!
I seem to remember a similar thing happening last year...we must have had very efficient & keen ram lamb in the flock that had escaped the rubber ring and had performed his precocious duty before he was sold.

Cyfarchion Flwyddyn Newydd
A Happy New Year To All

Friday 20 December 2013

Christmas Turkeys, Christmas Lights, Christmas Cooking

Well, the turkeys have been taken to their final destination and we shall collect them as fine beautifully plucked & dressed oven-ready birds tomorrow. The Farmer usually dispatches them himself but this year we've decided to send them away for reasons I'm not quite sure of...but it does lessen the work load which as always over Christmas, seems to double.

We've just prepared the holiday cottage for Christmas guests who arrive this evening.We've put in the Christmas tree, lit the fire and generally have it looking festive. Next we start on our own house in preparation for a gathering of friends over the weekend.
I should not be writing this now but ought to be chained to my kitchen cooking vast quantities of party food, however the profiteroles and game terrines can wait ten minutes.

One of the perennial fiddly things is sorting out the Christmas lights. I guess every household goes through the same ridiculous performance every year; firstly trying to find the various sets of lights put away in 'a safe place', secondly untangling them from the mares nest of cabling, thirdly discovering that a set of lights that worked perfectly five minutes before they were stored away have now over a year of inactivity decided to die, presumably of boredom. The spare bulbs have all dispappeared from their safe places and one particular set of lights cannot be located at all...of course the longest and prettiest of them all.
We do not have outdoor lights, but the Farmer does like to have twinkling strands lighting the beams in the dining room & draped across chimney-pieces and looking-glasses & admittedly it does look very pretty and festive.

We had the most fiercesome storm two day ago.
The wind racketed & buffeted around the house blowing the rain with great force against the windows and the flow of water once again down the yard from the fields was of such volume & power as to gouge out new gullies in the bed-rock. Thes will all need to be filled again of course. Much time is spent filling in pot-holes on the drive and on tracks around the farm.
On higher ground there was a scatering of snow but the temperature has risen slightly now so everything is just wet & soggy.
Anyway, off to my kitchen now for a marathon cooking session...pheasant terrine, shiitake mushroom quiches, chocolate torte, profiteroles, ginger cakes and all good things.

Friday 13 December 2013

Christmas is Coming

We are now in the run up to Christmas of course. Its a time of year that I really enjoy...I love the winter landscape and although today we have a steady persistent rain it does not detract from the beauty of our leafless skeleton trees standing against the grey skies. The hedges are skeined with the crimson gleam of rose-hips sparkled with raindrops and the little hedgerow birds are flitting in & out of the undergrowth. There is still plenty of food about for them despite the hedges having been trimmed.

Christmas preparations are under way in that I am busy making batches of mince-pies having made the mince-meat a couple of months ago, so it is nicely matured. The Christmas cakes were made about the same time and the I still have puddings left over from last year, amazingly.

The Farmer & I made one of our rare visits to our local 'big' town yesterday. The stores were all full of Christmas 'stuff' of course but there were not many shoppers spending money...town seemed very quiet though I guess maybe next-week might be different story. I do hate the mass of horrid stuff that is wheeled out every year by the big stores But I particularly loathe the advertising targeted at children. I occasionally see some of the tlevision adverts and am horrified...grumpy granny moment I'm afraid! Do people still make presents themselves for the children in their families do you think, rather than buying yet more garish, plastic rubbish?
Elder Son & his wife took the grand-children to our local narrow gauge railway to see Father Christmas last night. They were very cross that they had were charged for the baby of only 4months...fair enough paying for themselves and the 3 yr old, but for a babe in arms? Sadly they came away feeling that the whole thing had been a huge con which is very sad but the 3yr old enjoyed herself which is I suppose the main thing.

We have the cottage booked out for Christmas week but New Year is still available.
Friends are coming to cottage for Christmas so we should have rather jolly time.

We are in the middle of calving and have had a good run of heifer calves which is always what are wanted.We have been sending a lot of milk lately and the milk price is excellent for us at present. There is an increased demand for organic milk it seems which is very good news.

Saturday 16 November 2013

A Farmer's Funeral

A country funeral, like a country wedding is an event drawing members of a community together.
This week the Farmer, the Sons and I attended the funeral of our good friend & neighbour who died so tragically after being attacked by the stag in his small herd of red deer.
The congregation numbered about 300 people, many of whom had to stand outside the small country church in our local village and will go down as one of largest funerals ever to have been seen in the parish.
It was a coming together of country people of all ages. Our friend had been part of the lives of so many and it was touching to see that there were farmers and others all involved in the countryside, young and old all coming to mourn the passing of a man who had in his quiet and cheerful way lived his life in the farming community and had given his friendship to so many.
I was very touched when our Elder Son was asked to be one of the bearers of the coffin to the graveside. He had known our friend since babyhood and had always had a great respect and fondness for him, so to be asked to take such a role was an honour and a privilege.
It was deeply sad occasion and the neighbourhood is still reeling from what was such a dramatic and ultimately tragic event.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Stormy Weather, Country Accidents, Labrador Puppies

This was the sight that greeted us last Saturday outside the house.
These steps lead up into the field above the house and had been transformed into a pretty spectacular waterfall which in turn fed into the river of chocolate brown that swept its way down the yard. It was an impressive sight to say the least.
The water & winds notwithstanding the local hunt was out on Saturday and came across our land...or at least the hounds did, the horses were keeping to the roads as the fields were so wet.

All was going well until the Master came off his horse on the drive and knocked himself out. As luck would have it the Farmer, Younger Son & I along with a couple of followers were only yards away so were able to help. YS called an ambulance while the Farmer did the necessary first aid. I was left to hold one of the horses, a huge 17 hand hunter  who thankfully was very calm and easy ( I'm not very experienced with horses) while the huntsman helped ease the Master. It was all very tense and we none of us were really sure how badly injured he was. Fortunately it turned out to be only a few cracked ribs and bruising...he was very very lucky.

It has been week of accidents. One of our nearest & dearest neighbours in in very serious condition in hospital having been mauled by the antlered stag in his small commercial flock of deer. His injuries are appalling and he was flown to hospital by air ambulance...a journey of 40 miles achieved in 8 minutes!! Deer are beautiful shy creatures but a stag in the rutting season is a very dangerous animal even one that is 'farmed'. What happened was a pure accident, no foolish risks had been taken but as with all male animals at certain times their tempers & instincts take over. Such an event could just have easily happened with a ram or a bull (and does). We are all praying that our friend makes a good recovery.

On a more cheerful note, the puppies have all gone now. The last one left us last weekend to go to live in the West Midlands where she will be the adored pet of some lovely people who will give it a perfect home. They have promised me they will not let her get fat! All the puppies have gone to great people & will have have happy lives giving their new families lots of fun. The puppy we have kept is a sweetie called Jess and Younger Son has already started training her. She is very quick to learn and will come on well.

Autumn is turning out to be wet & blustery though we are seeing rainbows and the trees are adopting their autumnal hues across the valley. if it stops raining long eneough I would like to be out in the gardens planting daffodil & tulip bulbs but at present we are getting sharp heavy showers every ten minutes so I shall just have to stay in my nice warm kitchen and get on with the ironing.

Friday 27 September 2013

Keep Britain Farming; Country Living magazine campaign

After a very long time since my last posting I have grabbed a few minutes to catch-up.
The past month has been incredibly busy with the arrival of grand-child no. 2...a beautiful little boy who arrived at the end of August, the puppies, holiday-makers, house-guests and all general stuff of living here.

The puppies are now nearly 9 weeks old and I still have 4 here on the farm. The other 6 have all gone to their new families in the last week and another goes tomorrow, one next week & we are keeping one until the end of October for its new owners and we are keeping one for ourselves. As in previous times I am amazed how far people will travel to buy a puppy, we have had buyers from Surrey, Stafford, West Midlands & South Wales although I am pleased that a couple are staying locally, indeed one is only a mile down the road in the village.

In the past few months Country Living magazine has been running a campaign called Keep Britain Farming and readers were invited to nominate farms, whether their own or someone else's, for the chance to wina beautiful enamel farm sign. Well, in an idle moment I filled the form in. I had to say why I thought it was important ot keep Britian farming and to give a short description of why I thought Penyrallt was worthy of a sign. I wrote about how we were a small traditional family-run mixed farm of a type that is increasingly rare nowadays, and that we now had the 4th generation growing up here, that we farmed organically & with a hope for sustainable future in farming.
Britain needs farmers for food production (though there is a school of thought that disputes that!), maintenance of the countryside, employment, the preservation of skills & crafts and a host of other factors not least the general sense of well-being brought about by a 'green and pleasant land'.
Anyway, I completely forgot about having submitted the form to Copuntry Living until I recieved an email informing me that I had bee awarded one of the 100 signs that were available.
(I forgot to mention that the campaign had only 100 signs to give out. They were made by Charnwood, the wood-burning stove manufacturers.)

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Labrador Puppies Again

The puppies are thriving and having wolfed down their food & milk promptly fall asleep in the dishes! They are now 4 weeks old and becoming great fun. I have got good homes secured for 5 of them already which leaves me with 4 black dogs & 1 black bitch still to be adopted.

It has been a very busy time this past week with friends & family. Farming has also kept us buzzing about as calving has just started. Last night we had a set of twins born; the bull calf was dead sadly but the heifer (which will be a freemartin) is doing well though very tiny.

There is breath of autumn in the air now. Blackberries are ripening in the hedges & it looks as though we will have good crop this year . . . to make up for the abysmal past couple of years.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Labrador Puppies, Soil Association Farm Walk

The puppies are now just over 2 weeks old and while they stillspend most of their days sound asleep with full tummies their eyes are opening and they atre beginning to stopmp around thier nest of hay in determined manner...another few days & thye will start playing and beoming very jolly little creatures. I have already got home for the two little chocolate females & two of the black ones which is great.
Hattie their mother is doing a splendid job of rearing them and both she & they have good glossy coats and are looking very healthy & strong.
I have submitted a list of 22 names to the Kennel Club and hope that the Welsh names incorporating names of our local small river tributaries are accepted.

On Thursday evening last week we hosted aFarm Walk sponsored by the Soil Association. We were very pleased and somewhat surprised that 28 people turned up...I had really only expected half-a-dozen or so. It was avery interesting group who gathered on our front lawn for tea & cakes. Almost everyone was involved in organic farming & there was small group from a bio-dynamic college near Crymych.
The Farmer was on top form and marched everyone round the farm showing them how a small family farm survives & continues to be viable . I think peple were very interested in what we showed them and in what we had to say whcih resulted in some very good discussion and debate on a wide range of issues including inheritance, land management, organic farming (naturally!!), GM crops, the price of food and the attitudes of the general public to farmers & farming. They enjoyed the cake too!

Monday 29 July 2013

New Labrador Puppies, Lightening Strike

Yesterday saw the arrival of 11 beautiful labrador puppies.
My lovely dog Hattie is now the proud mum of 7 black & 3 chocolate squirming, glossy-coated little creatures.
We were not expecting them until the middle of this coming week but Hattie had different ideas and so caught us rather on the hop but all is fine and they are lovely strong puppies who all seem to be of good size and thriving. Her last litter was only 8 puppies so 11 is going to be hard work for her but we will do what we can to supplement them and maybe our old lab Poppy will foster them as she has done in the past once they are a few days old. She has come into milk as usual which is a huge asset & helps ease the burden on Hattie.
As they will be registered with the Kennel Club I now have the unenviable task of coming up with 22 names to be submitted to the KC. Each puppy has to have the option of  two names of which the KC will choose one to register. I rather fancy going for roses as a theme this time, or maybe Welsh rivers & tributaries. One can have quite a lot of fun working out the 'posh' names for puppies & I do not go in for the ridiculous over-blown monicas that many dogs seem to have. After all these will be sensible working dogs on the whole I hope or just family pets.

After a night of rainstorms we had a early morning call of great resounding rumbling thunder-claps & vivid streaks of lightening at about 6.30 which succeeded in demolishing my broadband router. So, after an intensely frustrating day of phone conversations with sweet people in Calcutta who could do absolutely nothing about it, the Farmer (who is the least computer savvy person in the world!!) sorted it out by replacing the router with an old one that was hidden in a cupboard. It took us all day to work out that it was such a domestic problem not an internet one...still we've got the computer working again but no wireless which will frustrate Younger Son hugely.

The rain has been quite welcome as the gardens and the fields were in dire need of wetting and it has laid the dust on the yard. The growth spurt that will now take place will be considerable and great for the silage fields but not so great for me having to try to keep ahead of the weeds in the gardens. It is a losing battle but as we are hosting a Farm Walk next week for the Soil Association I do need to get the place looking tidy.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Royal Baby & Others

Alongside the national rejoicing at the birth of Baby Cambridge we have had a flurry of babies locally. Two sets of friends & neighbours have produced thier babies in the last fortnight and we have our second grandchild due at the end of August plus other friends & neighbours are expecting at various times during the autumn. Babies everywhere!
We had a visit from one of the babes last evening. Tiny week old Theodore called in with his delighted parents to be introduced to us. He was beautiful, of course but one does forget how very small new babies are.

The weather of course is a continual topic of conversation and the intense heat lately has been very trying for our expectant mum (& our pregnant labrador!) and for the babies that have already arrived. Todya it is cooler and overcast though we have not had the thunderstorms that hve occurred elsewhere.
The Sons went off early this morning to the Royal Welsh Show at Builth Wells and they are fortunate that it has cooled off rather as a day at the show in searing heat is not pleasant. Now that the madness of the hay & silage harvest has ended the boys have taken a day off to go & gloat over shiny new farm machinery and talk techy stuff with reps. ...I doubt they will see much else other than a visit to the cattle sheds & possibly the beer tent! No flower shows or craft exhibitions for them!

Sunday 21 July 2013

'It's Too Darn' Hot!'

After nearly three weeks of scorching hot weather I am very appreciative of my large cold stone house. I do not enjoy very hot weather and so have been able to retreat most gratefully into my cool north facing domain. From this oasis of cool & shadow I have been supplying mountains of sandwiches & the inevitable cake for the Farmer & Sons who have been slogging away in their air-conditioned tractors everyday since this fine weather started.
The work of silage-  & hay-making for neighbours and ourselves has completely dominated these past weeks. Many hundreds of bales , indeed possibly a couple of thousand by now, have been made and everyone is so happy that we are having a 'proper' summer when winter feed can be made at a more traditional pace than in the last few years. To be able to actually make hay over several days is something we haven't done for so long.

We are beginning to watch our water supply carefully. One of the streams that flows down the farm has almost stopped running. There is slight trickle barely visible except for a slight glint of light on the thin run of water over the stones and if rain does not come before too long we may have to start rationing water in the house. The cows have to take priority in such times. Each dairy cow needs 10 gallons of water a day to drink plus all the water required for washing the milking equipment, parlour & dairy.
About 25 years ago when the Sons were little, we had long dry summers and I had to take the boys to friend's houses for baths and other friends were kind enough to do my laundry for me as we just did not have enough water here on the farm. I hope it will not get as bad as that this year.

Despite the intense busy-ness we have been able to take a couple of trips to the coast in the cool of the evening and last weekend we had a family outing taking the canoe and a picnic to Cwmtydu once again.
I even ventured into the water for brief swim...cool but exhilarating...and I never usually swim in the sea until September when the water has had a good long time to warm up. But this season seems to be making up for the lost summers of the past few years.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Summer at last!

Well, summer has arrived with a vengeance...although many things in the garden are very late the elderflowers are in their full creamy glory and in such a profusion. I must gather some for cordial and wine making in the next day or so.
I have been busy making jam over the last couple of weeks. I managed to get a large quantity of strawberries last week and made a a good batch of jam and yesterday it was the turn of apricots. I also bottled apricots, they are one of the best fruits for such a metheod of preservation.

With the arrival of the sunshine the Farmer & Sons are madly busy cutting , baling & wrapping silage all over the parish for their contracting customers.  It means many long hours sitting in tractor cabs and hoping there will be no break-downs.

Last evening we all took time to go to the beach for a picnic...the tractor driving had finished early for the day (for once) and so we had a family outing which does not happen very often. Our favourite beach is Cwmtydu, a very small beach within a tiny cove where we almost always see seals. There is often a large bull seal patrolling the waters keeping an eye on his beach.
 It is a fairly stony beach especially if the tide is in, but none the less a lovely place to spend an evening with small grand-daughter building sand-castles and eating gritty sandwiches.

Thursday 13 June 2013


It is always a good moment when a project comes to fruition & last night saw the culmination of what has been a long and fascinating experience in film-making.

The Farmer & I belong to an independent tourism group, the Teifi Valley Tourism Association (TVTA) which was set up 4 years ago to promote the beautiful part of west Wales in which we live. Four years ago the membership stood at 9 businesses, now it has over 70 small local businesses listed, mainly holiday accommodation providers, artists & craftspeople.

As an independent organisation we have without any grant funding or outside sponsorship, produced a film showing the wonderful and varied landscape of the the Teifi Valley from the air.

I was the producer & scriptwriter and our good friend G. of Maesyffin Mushrooms who had in a previous life worked in film, directed & edited the film. Another friend who owns a small light aircraft was drafted in to fly the entire 75 mile length of the River Teifi with a small but incredibly clever camera attached to one of the wing struts of the plane. This all sounds very Heath Robinson but in fact with the state-of-the-art technology of the camera it was anything but.
The resulting footage was superb. What was a 2 hour flight following the course of the river from the estuary in Cardigan Bay to the source in the hills of mid-Wales has now become a beautiful 35 minute journey through a dramatic and ever-changing landscape.

The filming was only the start of a very long process involving many months of editing, script-writing & hours sitting at the kitchen table researching the history & stories of the valley & continuous emailing over small points of editorial and details in the script.

In addition to the narrative script we recorded music of the valley, some of which was played by the Farmer on fiddle. We were incredibly fortunate to be given permission by Ceri Rhys Matthews, of the acclaimed Welsh folk band Fernhill, who lives in a small village near by, to use some of his recordings and also a talented harpist Harriet Earis arranged some traditional tunes from the Teifi Valley and recorded them for us. As result the sound track for the film is as beautiful & haunting as the landscape it portrays.

Our script was read for us by the actor Richard Mitchley who lives in the valley & we were given permission to use a poem about the River Teifi written by a noted Welsh bard 'Cynan'. The voice-over is a lovely mix of English interspersed with romantic rolling Welsh poetry.

The cover illustration was supplied by the local artist Diane Mathias. She allowed us to use one of her lovely paintings of one of the many handsome bridges that span the Teifi.

As you can see the emphasis was very much on keeping the whole project as local to the valley as possible.

Last evening we had the premiere of the film at a delightful venue, Waunifor Centre near the village of Maesycrugiau, in the heart of the Teifi Valley. As well as showing the film for the first time to the members of the TVTA we had invited lots of friends. local press & community councillors from the length of the valley. After a welcoming buffet of  biscuits & local cheeses washed down with a glass of wine the film was played to what turned out to be very appreciative audience.

As a project run on minimal funding and many hundreds of voluntary hours the end result was well worth the effort and goes to show that all that is required is enthusiasm, energy, imagination & a commitment to producing a good a piece of work using the skills of a network of people who believe in the project & have an understanding of a sense of place.

Croeso i DyffrynTeifi.

DVD copies of the film are available from me @ £6.20 incl. postage (UK)

Please email fadog@tiscali.co.uk to order a copy.

Diolch yn fawr.

The film can also be viewed on http://vimeo.com/teififromseatosource

Saturday 8 June 2013

Holiday Cottage Spruce-up, Silage Making

The last three days have been spent doing some much needed renovation & maintainence work on the holiday cottage.
This work is usually done in February when we have very few booking but this year of course the weather was so atrocious that it was impossible to do anything. So, this week with lovely dry weather & a gap in the bookings  we got on with the replacement of rotted window frames & the threshold of the front door.
Of course the whole job just growed like Topsy as it always does until I found that I completely re-painted all the windows front & back and the front door several times over... primer on the sections of new wood, undercoat, top coats x 2 on everything and various little touching-up patches around the whole building.
I was out at 6.30 in the mornings wielding my paint brushes like a woman possessed in order to get the requisite number of coats on and dry before the arrival of our next guests today. Considering the work started on Thursday evening I've done jolly well, though I say it myself.

With the wonderful weather the Farmer & the Sons are frantically busy making silage. They mowed last night & this morning and now just after lunch they are out picking up with the forage wagon. It seems there is good crop despite the gloomy forecasts after the desperately slow late, cold spring.
The Sons have been off doing other peoples silage since the beginning of the week and as soon as our own crop is in the clamp & sheeted up they will setting forth again to various neighbouring farms.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Really Wild Festival, Rhod 2013

We are back with cold wet weather after what was a stunningly gorgeous weekend.
The Farmer & I went down to St. David's on Sunday to the Really Wild Festival (www.reallywildfestival.co.uk) which was being held in the beautiful ruins of the Bishop's Palace adjacent to the cathedral. A more perfect setting would be hard to find. The small medieval-style  pavilions set up by the Meibion y Ddraig Archers looked amazing in the walled enclosure overlooked by grinning gargoyles and ancient stonework. As well as archery demonstrations there were falconry displays, gun-dog displays (by our friend Meurig Rees of BASC, see last post) and most fascinating of all a shoe maker who specialises in making historic shoes for museums, theatre and re-enactment groups. Ana Deissler (www.anaperiodshoes.co.uk) makes shoes from earliest stone age foot-coverings to Tudor style shoes...they are beautiful and she is so knowledgeable on the history of footwear and the  technique of making period shoes, the Farmer & I were talking to her for ages.
We also spent along time talking to someone from Coppicewood College (www.coppicewoodcollege.co.uk) which is not far from where we live. The college offers courses in a wooodland near Cardigan using traditional tools and covers all aspects of coppice practice and craft., from spoon carving to natural dyeing & charcoal making.
It is extraodinary how small circles of acquaintanceship reveal themselves...we had a number of mutual friends with N. from Coppicewood College and he had in turn heard of us. Wednesdays are open days at the woodland centre and we  must go over sometime to catch-up again and continue the debate over power tools (the Farmer) and traditional non-powered tools (Coppicewood College). I must admit to being more on the side of pole-lathes & hand carved spoons than chain-saws and power lathes...I find them much too noisy & scary to use whereas a pole-lathe is quiet and rather soothing in its action.

On Sunday evening on our return fromSt. David's we went just couple of miles up the road from the farm to art exhibition to which we had been invited.
A couple of weeks ago we had a visit from an Italian artist Rebecca Maria Bellestra who was the artist -in-residence at the Rhod project in Glonc Mill,  Drefelin (www.therhod.wordpress.com). She spent the day talking to us about sustainability, ecological matters, organic farming, the future of farming, all the things that we spent so much time discussing with many of those who end up sitting around our kitchen table. The difference on this occasion was that this conversation was filmed for her project which has taken her all around the world.
Part of her project was shown at the exhibition but most of the work on display was by the Rhod group of artists .
 The theme was Future Nature Culture & to quote from the programme notes,
 'Rhod is a place for encounters between art, nature and people...the artworks...have been made in response to the site of the mill and its grounds...The artists have eschewed grand gestures and definitive statements in favour of sensitive interventions in which the work is completed by nature.
Future Nature Culture is arejection of the pastoral which idealises and aestheicises nature as something separate and other from human beings. We are animals too.'
There were some beautiful and strange and interes
ting pieces of work including a piece wood cut from the middle of a fallen branch, that had been french-polished, and looked wonderful, but was then put back in its original place in the wood by the stream where of course the french-polish would very quickly deteriorate in the damp and so the wood would  eventually rot away like the rest of the unpolished branch as though man had had no part in its existence.
It was a thought-provoking evening with lots of good conversation.

Thursday 16 May 2013

BASC, British Association for Shooting & Conservation

It is always  rewarding when we are able to introduce any of our visitors to country sports. Today for the benefit of the children from a high school in Cardiff who come regularly to the farm I had arranged for Meurig Rees the Director of the British Association for Shooting & Conservation in Wales (BASC),(www.basc.org.uk) to come to talk about shooting and to demonstrate his lovely gun-dogs.
Meurig spoke of the importance of gun safety and the law regarding possession and misuse of firearms and then the children were shown how to use an air-gun and were allowed to fire at target papers. They loved it of course and asked
sensible questions and responded well to the experience.
After the talk of guns we moved onto the training and use of dogs in shooting. Meurig gave a wonderful demonstration with his beautiful dogs Ceri & Sky, a mother & daughter team. The children were involved in the demonstration when they were required to throw dummies and walk the dogs around...of course they all thought it was great and were very impressed, as were the Farmer & I at the level of discipline of the dogs. We think our own dogs are pretty good in terms of obedience and working ability but compared with Ceri & Sky we have barely started!
As well emphasising the rules of handling guns Meurig also explained how shooting and conservation go hand-in-hand, how shooting ensures that there is a healthy wildlife population including quarry species and well managed habitats which  results in the well-being of the countryside. No political axe was ground and the children were given facts and information on an aspect of country life that they in all likelihood would not experience any other way.
At the end of their visit the teacher in charge, the wonderful Mr. C. said that it had been a brilliant day, which is all we can ask.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

May Day, Beltane

'Welcome, with your lovely greenwood choir,
summery month of May for which I long.'
From a 14th century Welsh poem

May Day! A glorious golden 1st of May but this photograph shows what was happening last year in May & it certainly won't be this year. The season is so slow that it is reckoned to be 20 days later than last year which is going to have severe knock-on effect on the harvest. Many farmers will struggle to get third cut silage and that will have a serious impact on the fodder supply for next winter.
It may seem a bit mad to be thinking in these terms on such a beautiful day but this is our livelihood and having just gone through a very long winter the prospect of a short summer is worrying.

Here in west Wales the trees are only just beginning to show signs of life and whether it will be the oak or the ash first is anyone's guess at present.

May Day is of course the ancient festival of Beltane when fires are lit to bring the power of the sun to the Earth and was regarded as a blessing from the gods to purify & sanctify the community.
Beltane fires were kindled using nine sacred woods, their names preserved in an old Scottish rhyme, but the ninth will always remain a mystery;

Choose the willow of the stream,
Choose the hazel of the rocks,
Choose the alder of the marshes,
Choose the birch of the waterfalls.
Choose the ash of the shade,
Choose the yew of resilience,
Choose the elm of the brae,
Choose the oak of the sun.

Monday 22 April 2013

Hedgerow Violets, Dinas Head, Harvesting Wild Food

I found the first violets yesterday and the hedgebanks are begiining to look more spring-like each day. The hedges themselves are slower in that the quickthorn, blackthorn & hawthorn are only just beginning to show glimpses of green. We had one glorious warm shining day on Saturday when we were all out working in the various gardens on the place, though the Farmer was up on a roof fixing tiles most of the time which he said afforded him a splendid view of the toiling gardeners below.

Over the weekend when the weather was so lovely I had a group of Americans staying in the cottage. They were from Colorado where snow had been falling for three days just before they left last week, so Wales in the sunshine was great for them. They went down to Pembrokeshire to walk Dinas Head & could not have seen it  under better conditions.
 Dinas Head is a small promontory between Newport & Fishguard and makes a wonderful circular walk of about 2 hours along the cliff path. The walk passes through the tiny hamlet of Cwm yr Eglwys where the remains of a 12th century church can be seen. The church  was washed away in huge storm in 1859 as well  as a large number of fishing boats. Apparently a storm of almost equal severity hit that coast in the mid-1970's. We have only ever seen it on beautiful clear calm days and it is hard to imagine just how fierce & frightening the storms must have been.

I have been harvesting the first 'wild foods' , wild garlic leaves, ground elder & chickweed, all of which make delicious additons to salads as well as being very nutritious, full of vitamins. Having had a long season of winter salads of cabbage, kale & leeks from the poy-tunnel it is lovely to have fresh outdorr green stuff, though the produce from the poly-tunnel has been wonderful to have through the winter.
The wild garlic or ramsons grow vigourously and have lovely heads of white starry flowers but the leaves add a fine gentle flavour to green salad. Ground elder is an invasive weed of positively Napoleonic ambition and almost impossible to eradicate so we've just learned to live with it and eating does at least make it useful & the flowers are quite attractive though I do spend a lot of time in the summer removing them in the vain hope that by not going to seed the plant will weaken...it doesn't but it makes me feel better! Chickweed is odd little low-growing herb with insignificant flowers but a very delicate & interesting flavour that makes it a good addition to salad dishes.
So, lunch today is a quiche made with organic shiitake mushrooms (www.maesymush.co.uk) & home grown leeks accompanied by foraged green salad with a hemp oil dressing & organic sourdough bread from our friends at Mair's Bakehouse (www.mairsbakehouse.co.uk). I can't wait...but I'd better go & make the quiche!!

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Swallows Arrival, Cottage Springtime Repairs, Cows & Lambs Out

Hip, hip hooray, calloo callay, the swallows have arrived at last! They are a week or so later than usual but then the weather has been so cold that one can hardly blame them for not rushing back. The Farmer & I saw our first swallow yesterday evening at Mwnt beach near Cardigan, and then this morning the Farmer reported that he had seen a couple winging around the yard, so spring has definitely arrived.

With a few days without people staying in the cottage I have been attending to the running repairs necessary after three weeks occupation by families with young children. The paint work suffers dreadfully so I have been rubbing down with sand-paper and touching up the patches of flaked & chipped paint work in the bathroom  & entrance hall. Yesterday the weather was perfect for painting and leaving the doors open to allow warm spring air to circulate. Today it is a very different picture, cold, windy & wet & certainly not conducive to spring-cleaning of any kind.

The garden has suffered badly in the last few weeks with the bitter cold. I have found that two large extremely vigourous rosemary bushes have been blasted by the east wind and are now brown crisp ghosts of  their former selves and the big strong hydrangeas have had their new buds killed off. I think the hydrangeas will recover but I'm not so sure about the rosemarys. The daffodils are flowering well though for many days they looked as though they were hunching their shoulders against the cold and they are now taking a battering by the rain & wind.

On the farm the cows have gone out to grass but are still needing to be fed silage and so they are still coming in at night. The lambs are all doing well and can be seen gambolling around the fields or when the sun shines lying stretched out sound asleep beside their vast woolly mothers.

Thursday 4 April 2013

Spring Lambs, Mid-Wales Bed-and-Breakfast

We have finished lambing, the sun is shining & the lambs are skipping aboutjust as they should be. The weather is lovely though still very cold and there is a firece little wind most of the time but with sunshine and blue skies who's complaining? Though from a farming pouint of view we do rather desperately need some rain now to get the grass growing...warm rain for a couple of days and tthe grass will get going. Fodder is becoming a serious problem for many farmers at the moment, they are running short and it is expensive to buy in.
Our cows went out the other day but it really was too cold and they were queuing up to come back in by lunch-time, however they are getting taste of what little grass we have at the moment which is already making a difference to the taste of the milk. From now on willl just get better & better, spring milk is always lovely.

Today the Farmer & I returned from  our second trip to mid-Wales this week to collect the digger tracks we had taken for repair at the weekend. This time we made a 'mini-break' of it and after stopping off in Machynlleth to visit a particular bookshop, spent last night in a delightful B & B about 3 miles out of Machynlleth.
 www.dolgelynenfarmhouse.co.uk.  Dolgelynen was a lovely old slate-built farmhouse at the end of a mile-long track that ran alongside the river Dyfi. The views across  the river & of the ring of snow covered mountains behind the little town of Machynlleth were superb.
 As we made our way along the drive we came across a white pony standing in the middle of the track. At first it refused to move but then decided to lead us on our way at a steady trot weaving to & fro across the track so we were unable to pass it. It lead us all way to the farmhouse where we learned that it was 35 years old, a family pet who was allowed to roam at will  around the farm. It was a comical introduction to an excellent place to stay.
The farmhouse was beautiful with low beamed ceilings and deep inglenook fireplaces. It was furnished with fine old traditional Welsh oak furniture, dressers with rows of pewter chargers, lustre jugs & highly polished copper ewers & kettles. We had such a warm welcome & would certainly recommend it to anyone visiting that area of mid-Wales.
We collected the digger tracks and once again drove through countryside still in the grips of much snow. There was a little less than we had seen on Saturday but still a lot blanketing the mountains and piled along the roadsides.

Sunday 31 March 2013

Mid-Wales Snow Trip

After hearing about the massive snow fall that had stuck mid & north Wales last week the Farmer & I saw for ourselves yesterday just how much snow there was when we had to make a trip up in to hills of mid-Wales above Newtown. We were on a mission to deliver the huge caterpillar tracks of Younger Son's digger to a yard where they can be mended. As you can see from the picture the roads were clear but the banks of snow on either side were the height of our vehicle where the snow-plough had just cut through.
Driving up towards Aberystwyth before heading inland to Machynlleth & beyond we could see the mountains of mid-Wales covered in shrouds of white against the blue skies looking almost alpine in their glory.  We drove on into the hillls with wonderful vistas as we went higher and the country becomes more empty & lonely but for the hardy mountain sheep all with lambs afoot. The farms are fewer and one realises how a severe winter can isolate these steadings so completely even though in real terms they may be only 5 or 6 miles from the nearest village. A spectacular view may not compensate for the struggle to get feed to one's livestock and to digging heavily pregnant ewes out of snow-drifts.

The boys from Cardiff came up to see us again a little while ago and the Farmer introduced them to the delights of lambing. They of course loved the lambs and wanted to hold them and were fascinated by seeing the Farmer milk a ewe to
stomach- tube a weak lamb. They were also able to help put tail rings on the lambs before they went out into the field.
The Farmer also took them out walking around the farm to set mole-traps. This was something totally new to them all and fortunately a mole had been caught so they were able to see what a tiny creature it is that does so much earth-moving.

Monday 25 March 2013

No Snow in West Wales, Trapping Moles

Unlike the rest of the country we have no snow but it is bitterly cold with a vicious east wind blowing through the farm. I walked the dogs this morning up into our top fields and the wind was biting, but the sun was shining and the countryside looked lovely in its chilliness.
I would rather love to have some serious snow though...I know it causes a lot of difficulties but without seeming to appear smug, here on the farm we can just settle down to being stuck here without too much problem; we have enough fodder for the livestock and a well stocked larder & a massive supply of firewood so can be snowed in for a good while if need be. If the electricity supply goes off we have a generator so can still milk the cows. If we cannot get the milk lorry in we will make masses of butter & cream and feed the skim milk to the calves. It all works out rather well really.

Younger Son came home last Friday night having driven from the far north coast of Scotland where he has been working for the last six months. His journey south was certainly made challenging with the weather he encountered in the Cairngorms resulting in a 100 mile detour to get through the snow and again in the north of England & the Midlands. Fortunately he was not alone and was driving a big 4x4 pickup.

We have almost finished lambing with about three ewes left to pop. After a pretty awful start to lambing things improved and we've had lots of good healthy sets of twins which are all doing well.

The Farmer has been waging war on the mole population lately. When we had a visit last week by the boys from a school in Cardiff the Farmer took them round the farm setting mole-traps which was cetainly a novel experience for them. Moles are just everywhere, so twenty or so traps are set around the farm and there has been reasonable success in catching the little horrors. On my daily walks I make a point of spreading out any molehills I come across as if they are left they cause great problems when it comes to cutting grass for silage. The soil contaminates the silage whereas if the mounds have been spread the grass can just grow through as normal.

Monday 11 March 2013

Lambing time, Cardiff School Visit Anticipated,

We are in the throes of lambing and though there have been some losses on the whole it is going reasonably well. Some of the lambs are very big and the Farmer has had to intervene to help the ewe produce her enormous child but with a good outcome each time. For one ewe that had lost her lamb we managed to find orphans from elsewhere to adopt onto the ewe  and they have taken very successfully to their new mother.
Today I found a ewe out in the field with a pair of new born twins sheltering under a hedge, all quite happy and healthy despite the bitter cold. It has been just so cold today with flurries of snow but lambs can cope with cold,  its wet that is the killer so this dry cold weather is fine for the sheep. Newly lambed ewes are brought in for a couple of days anyway just to make sure that they are mothering their lambs properly and then they go out into the chilly sunshine.

With the lovely dry weather of recent days the Farmer & Elder Son have been able to get on with field work, slurry spreading, muck-spreading (there is difference between the two!) and then chain harrowing to distribute the muck more evenly over the leys.

Later this week we are expecting another visit by the Boys from Cardiff through our connection with the Countryside Alliance Foundation (www.countryside-alliance.org/ca/campaigns.education) This will be their fourth visit to us and it will great to see how they respond to lambing. With any luck they will see a lamb being born. It is always interesting to see how these children from a harsh innner city environment who have severe social & educational problems react to what we can show them, be it sampling milk straight from the cow to cutting down trees for firewood and tasting roast pheasant. We certainly try to give them a variety of experiences and they repay us by being open to almost everything we show them and by asking questions and genuinely enjoying their days on the farm. It is such a worthwhile project  to be involved in and we love the days when we have school parties of all kinds come to visit us.
I suspect this coming visit will include discussion about horse-meat and it will be very interesting to see what the boys feel about the issue. We shall of course explain the harsh reality of why we rear lambs, that they are all destined for the dinner plate.

With this very cold weather the Farmer needs to be well fed (not that he is ever not!!) but he does enjoy thick hearty soups and dark chocolate cakes or bara brith (the traditional Welsh fruit loaf) so I'm cooking & baking in a lovely warm kitchen which is probably the best place to be as our house is morgue-like in its chilliness at present. With no central heating we have 'hot spots' in the house, the kitchen with its oil-fired Rayburn and the far sitting-room where I light the wood-burner during the morning to get it to a comfortable temperature by mid-afternoon. Fortunately as I've said I spend most of my time in the kitchen except when working on the computer in our un-heated office where I don a cashmere shawl
& Ugg boots! I'm seriously tempted to get a laptop or tablet so that I can work on the blog or the holiday cottage 'stuff' in  degree of comfort in my lovely warm kitchen.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Spring, Schmallenberg Virus, Teifi Valley

With the glorious weather we've had for the past few days it really feels like spring despite the sharp frosts each morning. The daffodils were out for St. David's Day and snowdrops are gleaming in all the hedgebanks and in great swathes in the the gardens and hidden corners of the farm. The first celandines are appearing and pussy willow and catkins are showing in the hedges. Birdsong is echoing around and our communities of hedge and house sparrows are beginning their territorial squabbles.

On the farming front with the advent of dry weather everyone in the valley is out muck-spreading while they can get onto the fields and as a result we have had a large number of red-kites wheeling around the skies looking for carrion. I watched a pair of kites fighting on the wing one afternoon while a buzzard floated around them keeping out of the way but clearly curious as to what was going on.

Our daughter-in-law has had clutch of hen eggs incubating over the last 3 weeks and two days ago 7 dear little fluffy black chicks emerged from their shells to the delight & wonderment of small grand-daughter.

Another clear sign of spring in the air, as is lambing which is due to start properly next week.
However, lambing this year is going to be interesting as there is a new disease around, Schmallenbergs which is an insect-borne  virus and seems to be affecting many flocks in the country. The signs of it are dead or malformed lambs though apparently once the ewe has lambed this year she is immune to the disease and will pass that immunity onto her next seasons lambs. There is an additional worry that it may also affect cattle.
We just have to keep our fingers crossed that our flock is not affected though the disease has now been found in Wales.

Over the past few months I have been researching the Teifi Valley where we live for a film project (of which there will be news in a few weeks time). During the the research I have come across marvellous stories and fascinating history of the area. The Teifi Valley is a part of Wales that is not well-known despite its beauty and importance in the history of Wales.
It is full of castles, old drovers towns where cattle, sheep & poultry were gathered  to begin their walk to London and other cities for the markets as well having a grear diversity of landscape running as the river does from the wild empty hills of Ceredigion to the soft lowlands near its estuary at Cardigan.
The Teifi Valley is also a place that draws artists of all kinds with its stunning scenery and beautiful light.
One these artists who lives near us is Diane Mathias who produces beautiful paintings of west Wales landscapes,
www.dianemathias.com. Her work is full of light and a joy in the natural world. I love her pictures.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Horsemeat Debacle Continues

With the horse-meat scandal becoming exposed in many more countries each day and the British government's attitude being somewhat woolly I was interested to read the following blog link that was sent to me today;http://www.howlatthemoon.org.uk/index.php?p=1_67 .
I think it sums up the situation very well.
As farmers we have been aware that the  Red Tractor scheme had flaws but when some years ago the Farmer spoke to the NFU about what the Red Tractor did not do he was told not to make a fuss , that they were trying their best & it was better than nothing. In other words they were keeping their heads down to avoid having to make the scheme actually do what they wanted the consumers to believe it did.
Once again it all comes down to buying locally from your high street butcher who should be able to tell you from which farm he buys his carcases and not to put any trust in the supermarkets who are only after profits by any means and definitely to avoid any processed 'ready' meals.
Buy Local! Buy Organic!

Also see

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Portents of Spring, Horse-meat & Red Tractor Assurance

Mid-February and we have a good showing of snowdrops in the hedge banks and even a few primroses peering out from undergrowth. Spring is on its way though apparently snow is forecast for the weekend. Not just the small hedgerow flowers are beginning to appear but tiny green leaf buds are emerging on many plants and there are catkins on the willows. My witchhazel is rich with glorious acid-yellow tassles and the hellebores are coming to flower with their exotic plum-purple flowers as well the beautiful whites. Daffodils are shooting up everywhere and the buds are filling out with the promise of the golden glories to come.
Blackbirds are beginning to sing and robins are everywhere with their cheerful spring song and their curiosity brings them to investigate any activity around the gardens.

Over the past couple of weeks the farmimg community has been rocked by the scandal of horse-meat being passed off as beef by a number of manufacturers of ready-meals. As farmers amd meat producers we have been under very strict regulation for many years as to how we rear our livestock  and revelations of this scandal undermine much that has been done to build consumer confidence in the food supply chain. The Red Tractor logo scheme (though not without its imperfections)  is a set of standards that British farmers work to and with any luck this whole business will be an opportunity to promote British standards of production and should help promote organic farming to a wider consumer group.
The whole issue is not about farming or the production of beef in this country but about supermarket greed.  The supermarkets drive down prices and thereby there is drop in quality. While I do not have a problem with eating horse-meat per se the problem is that horses can be injected with any number of drugs for what ever reason that do not have a withdrawal period as the animals are not intended to enter the food chain. Therefore the meat may well contain residues of these drugs; in fact a number of samples have been found to contain bute (phenylbutazone) which can be harmful to humans.
 One good thing that should come out of it all is that the high street butchers will see an increase in business as people try to find good quality meat from a known source. Any good butcher should be able to tell his customers where his meat has been reared and slaughtered.
This is going to rumble on for along time yet as there are now suggestions that pork & chicken products may be investigated.
Go to your local butcher! Eat organic!

Monday 21 January 2013

Snow Cat in Preseli Mountains,Pembrokeshire

Yesterday the Farmer & I found this beautiful Snow Cat sitting on the slopes of Carn Ingli overlooking the snowlessness of Newport in Pembrokeshire. We had gone for a day out to walk along the vast & empty shore and while the coastal strip was clear of snow the Preseli Hills were spectacularly beautiful with a heavy covering just couple of miles inland from the beach. The main roads were all clear and our run down was fine but our attempt to head back north through the Gwaun Valley was thwarted by very heavy snow  which had been packed hard and then had a skim of ice on top on the roads & with drifts up the top of the fence posts. Even with our 4x4 it would have been foolish to try and make our way on these roads that we know very well and have steep hills and very tight bends. We turned back and made our way to the main coast road which was boringly snow free and drove through green countryside that had not seen any snow at all. But the Cat was wonderful!
In the last post I reported that the Farmer had gone out to deliver wood to a neighbour driving one of our biggest tractors. Well that expedition turned into an adventure...having gone up clear snow free roads when he reached the neighbours drive which is very long he became horribly stuck! Even with the horse-power of  a large tractor he could not get through the drifts and had to phone home for Elder Son to go with another big tractor to rescue him! It seems that the falls of heavy drifting snow are very localised, within just a couple of miles neighbours are having real problems. We had a lot of snow but it did not blow into huge impassable drifts. Needless to say the neighbour did not get his delivery of wood.

Friday 18 January 2013

Snow, Snow, Snow

For some very boring technical reason that I cannot fathom out I am unable to download any pictures onto the blog so I will just have to rely on words to convey how lovely it is have snow and also how difficult it makes life for us farmers.

As I write it is still snowing albeit very gently and I am looking out onto a hedgerow that has every branch & twig highlighted in purest white, broken only by the rich evergreen gleam of ivy entwining itself through the hedge. The hedge is silhouetted against a background of chill grey skies and and the only movement is that of the steadily falling snowflakes. All the little hedgerow birds are hiding away though the occasional corvid dashes blackly across the sky on some mysterious wintery mission.

For the Farmer & Elder Son the daily routine of feeding & bedding down all the cattle that are in sheds is made difficult by the snow, not only because it is very cold to be out  for any length of time but also the snow churned up into mud becomes a disgusting slurry of brown slush that is very slippery and deeply unpleasant to walk & drive through. The cold is somehow intensified by the messiness and  both the Farmer & Elder Son rejoice in their enormous thermal wellies which are essential if one is out on the farm for any length of time. Cold feet have always been one of the banes of country life but are now a thing of the past thanks to these wonderful very deeply soled and well designed boot which are made using thermal insulating modern materials.

We still have some cattle who are out wintered. These are our rare breed Traditional Herefords and they are not in the slightest way inconvenienced by the harsh weather with their thick coats and ability to forage for grass through the snow. If the weather should get any worse or continue for any length of time then we shall take some silage out to field for them as a supplement. The same applies to the sheep.

Here on the farm when we have weather like this it feels as though we are very cut off from the world as looking acrosss the valley we just see a beautiful monochrome landscape where nothing moves but we have only to go to end of our track and the world is carrying on as usual. The main road is clear of snow and traffic is moving along  freely. The Farmer has gone out on a tractor to deliver some wood to neighbours but the postman did not come this morning and we will have no callers today I'm quite sure. The steeper part of the track is very slippery in snow and we shall have to grit it for the milk tanker tomorrow.

Despite the extra work involved I do love it when it snows, the views are spectacular and as I always have a good well-stocked store-cupboard so we just settle ourselves down and get on with things...and it may only last a couple of days anyway, so we must make the most of it!

Sunday 6 January 2013

January Lambs & Daffodils

Twelfth Night & the Christmas tree has been taken down, the decorations carefully packed away for another year and the pine-needles have been swept up though I will no doubt as usual, be finding them in odd corners for months to come!

The Farmer came in this morning with the surprising news of a our first lamb appearing. Its mum, clearly a precocious young thing of loose morals, had produced a fine healthy lamb fathered way ahead of the rest of the flock. Still, a lovely cheerful sight on a grey damp January morning.

Another bright sight was that of a single daffodil in flower standing in solitary splendour at the side of the road near the farm today.

Dotty the terrier puppy is thriving and proving to be a great entertainment to all comers until the needle-teeth attack fingers & toes then her charms are less endearing but nontheless her winning ways soon permit her liberties again.

The Farmer & I have been enduring stinking head colds for the past week but they are on the retreat now thank goodness & we are beginning to feel we can venture out to be sociable once more.

I have had the first guests for 2013 in the cottage over the weekend, a very last minute booking but a good start to the year. With few weeks without guests I will getting on with the necessary running repairs to the paintwork in the cottage and maybe making new curtains & cushion covers if I can find some suitable fabrics, just to freshen the place up a bit.

Younger Son went back up to the north of Scotland today for the next stint on the big forestry job he's involved with after a couple of days of good shooting here and in England. His poor old dog is now recovering. At 10 years old she still works hard & well on the shoots but needs several days to get over her enthusiasm.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Sun shines for 2013, Happy New Year!

Blwyddyn Newydd Hapus! Happy New Year!

This dear little creature is the latest addition to our collection of canine companions. She is a seven week old Jack Russell terrier and as you can see is very tiny!  For all her diminutive size she is a feisty little character and has shown no fear of the labradors or anyone else for that matter. She is called Dotty for as someone said she is such a little dot of a dog! We got her from a farm about 10 miles away where she was reared in a family with her two siblings & had a lot of play and attention and so is very well socialised and has, of course over Christmas had a great deal of handling with the constant stream of family and visitors. She is of proper farm terrier stock and the hope is that she will be as good a ratter as her mother.

Christmas has been and gone and good fun it was too, if exhausting. Lots of people, lots of food, lots of conversation and lovely books...what more could one want?

One of the most charming sights over the past week has been that of the Farmer teaching the finer points of sheep-dog trialing to his small grand-daughter aged not quite 2, with her collection of toy sheep and lambs and the toy sheepdog on the dining-room table. He was moving the dog around the cluster of sheep while using all the correct whistles and corralled them into a pen of small plastic straw-bales. Small grand-daughter was enchanted...as was I.

A good start to the New Year in that it is not raining!!!! Having had what has seemed like constant rain for weeks it is marvellous to look out and see blue skies and glimmering pale sunshine brightening up the soggy countryside.