Monday 25 January 2016

Straw Delivery, Early Spring

A busy start to the day with the arrival of a load of straw. An artic. and drag lumbered its way up the drive and onto the yard with its vast load of straw bales, 24.3 tonnes brought from Stow-in-the-Wold. The bales, although very securely fastened with ratchet straps, always look to me as though they are are about to topple as they sway with the undulations of the roadway...quite unnerving. One of our big tractors has replaced the lorry tractor unit to take the loads to the sheds at the other side of the yards where the straw will be unloaded and stacked in a shed. There is enough bedding for the cattle for a couple of months and by the time it has all been used up it should be turn-out time.

The first of the snowdrops are beginning to appear along the drive although this year they were pipped to the post by daffodils which is ridiculous. I have even had a solitary tulip flowering in the garden. With this mild damp winter many plants are getting very confused and things are flowering months ahead of what is normal. The two days of frost last week were so lovely but we are now back to www...warm, wet & windy.

Sunday 17 January 2016

Castles, Encounter with a Golden Eagle

The Jack Russell puppies have now all gone to their new families...this was the last one to leave and he's gone to live down in south Wales as companion to another Jack Russell where he will have a lovely life.

Today, a grey cold day, the Farmer & I took our nearly 5yr old grand-daughter out to visit Llansteffan castle. It was great. The castle is set high on a hill above the estuary of the river Towy and in its hey-day must have been an imposing sight for travellers coming up or down the river. Small grand-daughter loved clambering over the ruins and venturing up the very narrow spiral staircase in one of the towers, but of course best of all was being shown the lavatories, or garde-robes, set deep into the walls!

On our way home driving along a narrow country lane in the middle of nowhere we had an exciting and unusual encounter.
A man was walking towards us with his arm outstretched carying something very turned out to be a Golden Eagle! He took time talk to us as we had stopped the car so as not to disturb the bird and we were able to see the magnificent creature at such close quarters as we will probably never experience again. It was beautiful & threatening & wild although it had been bred in captivity in Scotland and was now being trained but I guess such birds can never been really tamed. The ferocity in its eye and the unmistakable strength in its grip on the double layers of gauntlet that it's keeper (no-one can 'own' such a bird) wore, were testimony to its power as a killing machine. It was fractious and kept flying into a bate although firm hold was kept on its jesses, it would suddenly launch itself into the air with great flapping of its huge wings and then come back to the man's arm where it would glare at us with its piercing eye. At only 18 months old it was still learning what was expected of it and it was hungry apparently. A really wonderful thing to have been privileged to see at such close quarters and wholly unlikely in the depths of west Wales.

Saturday 9 January 2016

Children & Puddles, Silage Fungi, Marmalade Making

Another wet afternoon so nothing better than taking the grandchildren for a walk in the rain & sploshing through the puddles and streams. Two year old grandson lost his wellies twice and 5 year old grand-daughter wailed at getting her pink tights all normal & happy! Actually, they were great and splashing in puddles entertains them for ages as does poking around with sticks in muddy streams. They love watching the water purling and bubbling over the rough surface of our concrete drive as it runs down to the bridge where we play Pooh-sticks. The water then gushes through the drainage holes on the sides of the bridge walls to cascade down into the tumbling stream. On the whole a jolly afternoon despite the continuing vile weather.

Whilst out today I came across these fungi growing out of some bales of silage. They are called Schizophylum Communae and are edible and very popular in the far East where they are cultivated. Here they grow in through the holes pecked in the silage wrap by birds. There was a goodly crop on the bales I saw and I have picked them for our mushroom expert friend. I'm not overkeen on exotic mushrooms, they tend to be be quite strongly flavoured and rather rubbery in texture, I use shiitake a lot in cooking as they are very palatable but other types I have found to be less so.

It's marmalade time again and the Farmer has been busy. He loves marmalade and is very happy to be in charge of making it. We bought some lovely organic Seville oranges from the excellent organic shop in Lampeter andd the kitchen was then filled with the delicious aroma of boiling oranges. The Farmer made about 16lbs and most of it went into the jars...there was however a citrus stickiness all over the kitchen, every drawer handle, door knob, work surface & table top seemed to have at least one or two gloopy dollops of marmalade on them, even the tea-towels were gummy, ugh! Paddington Bear would have been in ecstasies at the amount of marmalade freely available, he & the Farmer have quite lot in common!

Friday 1 January 2016

Happy New Year, St. David's Cathedral Christmas, Stray Dog

Penblwydd Newydd Hapus! Happy New Year!

Well, 2016 has dawned with a dry cold morning, perfect for walking the dogs and such a relief not having to don waterproofs. There is more rain forecast but for the moment we are relishing this brief respite from lashing rain and buffeting winds. We are so lucky to have been spared the horrors that the north of England and parts od Scotland are suffering as result of Storm Frank, though is a lot of flooding in the Teifi Valley but it is mostly just fields that are under water and some roads & bridges have been impassable. We have had torrents of water rushing down the yard and cutting channels in the surface but so far there has not been the damage done as in previous years.
The winds on Wednesday night were hideous, so much so they removed the entire covering of one of our poly-tunnels which now stands in skeletal glory, its grey metal ribs exposed for the first time in about 10 years (the plastic has done us very well!) There is no question of attempting to replace the plastic until the weather is more settled and so it will have to stand in its nakedness until the spring. Unfortunately it is the tunnel that we use as a lambing shed, so the veg. growing tunnel may have to become a a home for the sheep in March.

Whilst having friends calling and we were in turn calling on others as usual over the Christmas weekend, the holiday was very different for us. Instead of spending Christmas Day in the bosom of our family (for perfectly amiable reasons) we went down to St. David's cathedral in Pembrokeshire for Choral Mattins. It was wonderful. The choir of St. David's is superb and the choice of hymns, carols & anthems really demonstrated their skills & it was marvellous to sit in that beautiful ancient building and feel it reverberate with the power of the organ and the sweetness of the choir as it has done for so many centuries.
After such an uplifting experience we then drove a short distance to the lovely Whitesands Bay for a good walk along the beach. It was surprisingly busy there considering it was Christmas morning, many people obviously taking an opportunity to walk their children & dogs before returning home to the turkey. There were even some brave souls swimming in the rather billowy sea, some in wetsuits, others not!

Yesterday I drove into our local town along a road that gave superb view of the flooded acres by the river Teifi. As I approached the outskirts of the town I saw a car had stopped on the opposite side of the road and a woman flagged down the few cars to stop while she crossed the road to where a sheepdog was crouching in the hedgerow. It was clearly very disressed and had obviously been out in the weather for a while. The woman approached the dog slowly with her hand out to it and it allowed her to catch hold of it and take it to her car. I guess it must have been a stray from a nearby farm that had got lost in the stormy weather. I hope it has been re-united with its owners, I'm sure the person who rescued it will do all she can to find out where it came from. It really has not been a Christmas for man or beast to be lost out in the wind & rain.