Friday 19 September 2014

Scotland Says 'No', Autumn Harvest Continues, Jack Russell Puppies

Family farming provides days like this...three generations having a picnic in the harvest field in what is turning out be an Indian summer.

Well, Scotland has chosen to remain within the United Kingdom & I am very pleased. As a proud Scot(but without a vote) I was unsure at first about the 'No' campaign but as time went on I began to think that independence was a wonderful but romantic ideal. The Scots are a pragmatic & practical people and the idea of removing Scotland from the Union (which they brought about in the first place when James VI of Scotland inherited the throne of England from his mother's cousin Elizabeth I in 1603)has been shown to be a dream. Scotland & Scots people have such a strong sense of identity that they have never been an insignificant part of the UK & now they have shown themselves wanting to continue in the union.
It was a pity that the campaign turned into a referendum on the Coalition but it was probably almost inevitable that it would become a party political football. It is no surprise that the Labour stronghold of Glasgow voted 'Yes' while the remote & rural Highland region, the islands & most of the rest of the country voted 'No'.
A 'Yes' vote would have created a great deal of turmoil, not least here in Wales. If Scotland could be independent then Wales would want to go it alone too but with what? Wales does not have the resources or an already exisiting independent judiciary & education system with which to stand alone. As a friend in political circles (another Scot without a vote) emailed me, 'collaboration with the greater Uk has to make long term sense -as the world gets smaller we need to work together so much more.'

Back onto more domestic matters (& really far more important!) the Farmer has been busy with apple harvest. He has once again been processing vast quanitiies of apples into apple juice (with the help of Small Grand-daughter), some of which will be frozen to drunk over the winter while the rest he will make into cider. Last year's brew was excellent so let hope this year's batch will be as good.
As I've mentioned in previous posts the fruit harvest this year has been exratordinary, I'm still picking brambles, though according to tradition they should not be picked after 29th September as that's when the Devil mspits on them & cetrtainkly they are becoming increasingly squishy & fly-blown. The rose-hips are in great quantity but they are horrible to pick & unfortunately the birds have got the elderberries before me. The beech-mast (which is of course inedible) is scattered around in such amounts as I've rarely seen before & there are mutterings about signs of a hard winter to come.

Dottie & her puppies are doing well. The puppies at 3 weeks old have just been introduced to the delights of Weetabix and snuffle through it with great glee & then fall asleep in the dish while Dottie cleans the stickiness from their coats.

Monday 8 September 2014

Teifi Book, Milk Fever in Dogs, Local Agricultural Show

It is the end of the summer & the hydrangeas that have flowered so profusely and for so long are now beginning to fade into their delicate autumnal colours, so very subtle after the vibrant almost garish sky blue shades of earlier months.

We have had a couple of weeks of intense activity with many guests and events.
Last week I spent 3 days stewarding a photographic exhibition that I had been involved in organising. It was the result of a competition run by the Teifi Valley Tourism Association ( which people were asked to send in photos of any part of the Teifi Valley and we were pleasantly surprised to have about 140 entries. Most of the entries were so good we were able to mount an exhibition which was well attended and also produce a book of the best pictures. The photos in the book run in sequence from the mouth of the estuary of the Teif River to the source up in the wild hills of mid-Wales & illustrate what very beautiful & varied part of the world we live in. The book is companion to the dvd that was produced last year, 'Teifi From Sea to Source'
Copies can be obtained by contacting me at

After arriving home on the last day of the exhibition about at about 7pm within 10 minutes I was back in the car on a dash to the vets with my little terrier who had had puppies a week earlier. She had developed milk fever or eclampsia. We are accustomed to seeing milk fever in dairy cows and whilst it can be alarming in such a big animal we are able to administer calcium to the cow ourselves, rarely having to call a vet, however in a very small dog it is more than alarming. The illness which arises from a lack of calcium due to milk production and manifests itself very suddenly, causes a rapid rise in temperature, convulsions and hideous shaking. My poor little dog was in very bad way having been feeding 7 puppies for a week. If the litter hade been only the more usual 3-4 puppies she would probably not have had any problems. So, we had an emergency run to to the vet with little dog getting worse and worse in the car. On our arrival at the surgery the wonderful night duty vet gave three injections of calcium and a remarkable recovery was made. Within 20 minutes Dottie was back to is extraordinary how quickly a simple injection of calcium can work miracles. We came home with a bouncing dog and a supply of milk powder to supplement both puppies and the mother.
We are now feeding the tiny puppies with a syringe three times a day just to help Dottie out. They are all doing well.

On Saturday we spent the day at our local agricultural show.
The Farmer had been asked to steward for the dairy cattle judge & we had also entered items in various domestic & handicraft classes, so we were up on the show field good & early. Fortunately it is only quarter of a mile away from us.
The Farmer, our daughter-in-law KT, grand-daughter L. & I had all got entries in a number of classes without any expectation of winning anything. We had just entered to support the show & so were very surprised & thrilled to find we had won things. The Farmer got 3rd for his woodturning, 2nd for a bird box made from recycled materials, 1st for a truss of organic hay (the only entry so it doesn't really count!) L.(aged 3 & a half) 2nd for a face made of sweeties, I got a 3rd for Bara Brith (a traditional Welsh fruit loaf)& most surprising of all a 2nd for photograph of flowers. A rather good showing by the family at its first efforts in the highly competitive arena of local agricultural shows. We are already planning for next year!

Monday 1 September 2014

Family & Friends, Terrier Puppies, Wild Fruit Harvest

Well, here we are in September...August is always such a busy month that it is almost a relief to move on in the year.
Apart from the holiday-makers who are an everchanging & unknown troupe we have had a rush of other guests. Family members and old friends who come to stay for a couple of days of conversation, eating & sightseeing & it is wonderful to see them but when their visits coincide with Grandson's 1st birthday and party, cottage changeover, the birth of a litter of 7 terrier puppies, cows calving & the usual dashing here, there & everywhere by the Farmer & Sons it is fairly exhausting!
Family visits are always good as we are a somewhat scattered tribe & so visits are usually several months apart so there is always lots of catching up to do and one day is always taken up with the Farmer organising a trip involving much walking & a picnic. This time we went up to Tregaron, a tiny market town in the hills & then onto the lovely ruins of Strata Florida abbey which are set in bowl of green sheep strewn hills and then a switchback drive to the source of the river Teifi, a vast & lonely empty place at the top of the previously mentioned hills where we had our picnic accompanied by the call of the buzzards over the heather clad moors. On then into the Ystwyth valley to Hafod for a good long walk through the extraodinary remnants of a great 18th century estate. The house of Hafod has long gone but its romantic woods with the river and cascades & gorges are now run by the Forestry Commission and offer visitors some seriously dramatic & beautiful walks.
Other house-guests have included friends from childhood days who have not visited the farm for well over 20 years so it was a real catch-up of news & nostalgia but also a trip to the beach one evening for a very chilly & buffeting swim followed by fish & chips at another beach watching the evening draw in over the excellent evening as it turned out.

While all this social stuff was going on my little terrier produced a litter of 7 (!!!) puppies without any fuss or bother. she just got on with it one night all on her own & we came down in the morning to find her ensconced in her nest of hay in the dog shed very proud of her babies. They were tiny with a great variety of black & white marking...the Farmer says they look like good Frisians!...but have grown tremendously in 6 days. A litter of that size for a small farm terrier is I think quite unusual, but she is coping amazingly well with them.

One my daily walks with the dogs I go armed with a stout stick, secateurs, a basket for brambles & a cotton bag for hazelnuts. I must have put the best part of 40lbs of brambles in the freezer now & I have gathered nearly 3lbs of hazelnuts which are now in paper bags hanging from my kitchen ceiling ready for Christmas.This year is proving to be quite amazing for the quantities of wild fruits and nuts. The Farmer picked a large amount of bullace plums the other day as well as the Victorias in the orchard. The bullace are already turning into wine ina large bin sitting by the Rayburn in the kitchen bubbling away merrily. Sloes are showing their dull purple in the hedges and we must collect them before the birds strip the bushes. They are usually left until after the first frosts but one can cheat and pick them earlier and put them in the deep freeze. They need to be frosted before being put into gin or vodka...something to do with the release of sugars I think.