Thursday 28 April 2016

Horse & Pony Sale

This morning I accompanied the Lady Artist, who is nearly at the end of her month's working holiday in the cottage, to the horse sales held in the local village of Llanybydder each month ( As always it was an interesting day...people watching as well as horse watching. I will confess to being not very knowledgeable about equine matters, but the Lady Artist is an expert and so with her fund of knowledge it was a very enjoyable couple of hours. There were horse & ponies of all kinds; coloured ponies & horses of all types, an enormous 17 hand chestnut stallion, tiny Shetland ponies no higher than a coffee table, flighty, frightened young ponies brought down off the hill, a couple of woolly donkeys and some very smart hunters. The tiny Shetlands we thought we should tuck into our coat pockets and bring home and the Lady Artist was quite tempted by some of the other horses but managed to resist the temptation to take them back to Suffolk.
As with all livestock auctions there is a great atmosphere of anticipation by both buyers and sellers. Will the buyers be able to get the bargain bomb-proof pony they need for the children and will the sellers get the price they know or hope their animal is worth? Some sellers were visibly disappointed especially if their beautifully groomed and well-presented animal did not reach its reserve and others just accepting whatever sum the the auctioneer's hammer goes down on. It is a noisy, clattering business and for some of the animals there quite terrifying while for others who are used to crowds of people at shows, hunt meets and point-to-points they are ridden or walked around the ring quite calmly before being loaded into boxes to go back home or to to a new stable.

It was very cold in Llanybydder and seems to have got colder still this evening, though that may be wind has got very blowy. Yesterday we had constant hammerings of pea-sized hail, interspersed with flurries of snow which was then quickly melted by lovely sunshine before the next pelting of hailstones. The fruit trees are just about to burst into flower and it will be a great shame if the blossom is damaged by the severe weather causing a poor harvest later on. The oak trees are coming into leaf well ahead of the ash so we may be in for a dry summer...but what we are all waiting for is an increase in temperature so the grass will start to grow. The smiling yellow primroses and Quink-coloured bluebells are everywhere and the birds are singing madly so spring is here despite the weather's oddness.

Photos courtesy of M. K. (The Lady Artist)

Friday 22 April 2016

Bovine TB Test Clear, Golden Eagle in Cambrian Mountains

A happy morning for us as we've just had the all clear from our vet on the bovine TB. We have had two clear tests, 60 days apart, which means that we can take big sigh of relief that we are no longer under restrictions and can now sell some calves and relieve the pressure in the sheds as we have had to keep every calf born this winter. So some bull calves will be going to the mart before too long.

Yesterday the Farmer & I had to go up to Lampeter and then went on to Tregaron up in the Cambrian Mountains. It was beautiful up there as always and we had the thrill of seeing what was almost certainly the only golden eagle living in the wild in Wales. We had been told about it by a chap I know slightly who we met in Tregaron who gives guided walks in the Cambrian Mountains( . He told us where it was most likely to be seen in area we know and there it was soaring on the thermals above the hills. A wonderful sight. How popular it will be with sheep farmers who have lambs out on the hill at present is a question though!

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Turnout Day for Cows, Pembrokeshire Coast Path Picnic

Yesterday the cows went out for the first time onto pasture, always a significant day in the farming calendar. Once the cows realise that they are not going back to their cubicle shed but are being pushed out of the yards and up the lane they bellow with joy and anticipation and once they reach the field they dance in pure happiness. It is sight to be seen. Once the initial euphoria has worn off they settle to serious grazing of the lush fresh grass which must be such a delight after the winter diet of silage. It is such a slow spring this year that we are about ten days late with turnout but that is just the way of things.

The swallows have arrived and their are several pairs swooping around the buildings often with nest-building material in their beaks. They dive into the buildings and up into the rafters where they build their nests that look like little mud-cups attached to the beams.

At the weekend the Farmer, our grand-daughter & I took a picnic to the coast and walked a section of the All Wales Coast Path ( near Moylegrove in north Pembrokeshire ( It was glorious clear sunny day and the views were spectacular. The sea was calm and a most beautiful jade-green colour broken up by the dark patches of the cloud shadows. We saw small groups of oyster-catchers flitting across the water, the ubiquitous gulls floating over the water & rock doves in a shadowy rock 'cauldron' created eons ago by the sea cutting away an arch to form a tiny cove that is inaccessible other than by swimming through the arch,(as the Farmer has done in warmer weather) when the tide is high.

Monday 11 April 2016

Slow Spring, Livestock Markets give Vital Social Contact

This lovely picture of some of our ewes & lambs was taken by the Lady Artist who is staying in the cottage. Although we are almost halfway through April it is proving to be very slow spring, probably because it is still very cold. We had flurries of snow, sleet & hail a couple of days last week and very strong winds last night. Despite the cold the daffodils are amazing this yeear. We had noted last year that they did not put on they usual flamboyant display and clearly they were having a rest and are making up for it this year.

During the Easter holiday we took our small grand-daughter to the livestock mart in Carmarthen. She had never been before and she was fascinated to see so many calves in one place and to hear the auctioneer rattle at top-speed his selling patter. After seeing the calves we went and had lunch in the mart cafe...always a good meal, fresh, well-cooked food for hungry farmers. We then went to see the dairy cows going through the ring. It wwas quite shock to see how low prices are, clearly reflecting the current difficulties with the milk price. The calf trade, however was very good.
We realised that having been under movement restrictions due to TB and therefore unable to sell any of our stock in the marts we had not been for over a year and this is an aspect of the TB crisis that is not ever mentioned. For many farmers the weekly visit to the mart is a chance to meet up with friends and catch-up with local goings-on and with so many farms being under restriction this important social contact is lost. Farmers live isolated lives as it is and without the regular meeting up at the mart they can become even more isolated and lonely.

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Incomers & the Welsh Language

This is one of the most beautiful times of year with birds singing, hedges greening up and the wild flowers beginning to weave their tapestry through the fields,woods and secret corners of the farm. Today the weather is lovely and the daffodils & narcissus are still coming into flower and lighting up the gardens and the drive with their golden battalions. I've found the first violets peering shyly on hedgebanks which are also starred with glorious gleaming celandines and tiny creamy wild strawberry flowers. They look like the exquisite paintings found in the borders of medieval manuscripts.

We have a Lady Artist from Suffolk staying in the cottage at the moment. She has come to Wales for a working holiday for a few weeks & is enjoying the sharp contrast of the landscape here to that of flat Suffolk. I hope the weather stays reasonable for her

Why do people come to Wales? It is a big and complex question.
When asked many holiday-makers say they come for the wonderful scenery and the quieter pace of life, but many have admitted to me that it is fine for a week but they couldn't live here. For those who think the opposite and do take the plunge and decide to re-locate to a part of Wales they have visited as tourists a few times, it can be a major adjustment not just geographically but culturally. Wales quite simply is not like England and for many incomers this is hard to understand. Many don't really try and feel the need to Anglicise their new environment. There are far too many old Welsh farmsteads that have had their centuries-old names 'translated' into English. I was told by one person who did this that they couldn't expect their visitors from England coming to stay in their converted barns to be able to find them if the name was in Welsh! Excuse me! Would they think this way if they had moved to France? I doubt it & it probably wouldn't occur to them do even give their French abode an English name. But in Wales it seems the language can be ignored as an inconvenience.
To the indigenous people, the locals, this arrogance and lack of appreciation of an ancient language & culture is deeply offensive...something that has been expressed to me many times by our Welsh-speaking friends. It is remarkable that the Welsh language, one of the oldest in Europe, should still survive here on the edge of the western world after so many centuries of aggressive attempts to eradicate it. The continuing energy within the Welsh-speaking community is a testament to how much it matters that minority cultures need to be kept alive, not by artificial means but by people living their lives. Welsh is the language of poets & I was fascinated to learn recently that the sale of books of poetry written in Welsh is proportionately greater than any other book in Wales. That must be reflection on how valued a language is by its speakers.

Whilst tourism is a major & vital part of the Welsh economy (and I am part of it, though not as an incomer nor as Welsh speaker but part of Welsh-speaking family) the risk is that Wales becomes a theme park and its language & culture quaint curiosities. The fact that life for many people, particularly in this part of Wales, is conducted almost entirely in Welsh, English only spoken when absolutely necessary, seems to be an irrelevance. If incomers could tap into the vibrant cultural life of their Welsh neighbours they would find a full range of activities carrying on very well without a word of English being used. However, this is sometimes seen as being exclusive and is not, it is simply the local people getting on with their lives using their own language. For our guests coming to real Welsh Wales here in Carmarthenshire, it is a revelation to many of them that Welsh is a language in daily use & that Wales is more than just mountainous, green damp countryside & comic stereotypes. Of course, for most people the joy of coming to Wales is the diverse landscapes and to be somewhere different from home & the cultural issues don't impinge on visitors who are here for only a week or two & why should they? However, for those who choose to come and live here then a little more sensitivity, research & consideration for the native people of the foreign country that they have come to would not go amiss.