Sunday 22 May 2016

First Cut Silage, Spring Flowers

A field of mown grass may not be the most exciting photograph ever but it is a sight to lift the hearts of all dairy farmers as it means we have begun the hard work of ensuring that our cows will be fed throughout the winter. The Farmer & Sons started mowing today, the earliest we have ever cut and the crop is looking very good, not too wet despite the recent rain and with the lovely sunshine this afternoon it is drying nicely and seems to be good thick crop. The past few days have been spent preparing the machinery and tractors and now the Sons are in their element, driving huge tractors with impressive kit bringing in the humble but essential grass crop. This is of course only the first cut there will be at least two more before the end of the summer. Once our fields are done the Sons will be out mowing and carting on other farms as contractors and will be putting in very long hours and driving kit considerable distances. But they love it! The whole valley will be humming with the sounds of silage-making over the next few weeks and everyone will watching the weather forecasts like hawks. Speaking of which, the buzzards (a neat segue don't you think!) are already wheeling over the mown fields looking out for the poor little victims of the mowing machines which are to become their next meal of was ever thus, even in the days before tractors and mowers. Horse-drawn machines and scything also unavoidably destroyed small mammals hidden in thick grass and corn and so the predators work alongside the farmers.

The hedgerows are beginning to teem with flowers. The bluebells are everywhere and now being followed by the stitchworts, red campions, the green spires & white flowers of Jack-by-the-hdge, Queen Anne's Lace or cow parsley to give it it's more mundane name. There are whiffs of garlic from the ramsons scenting the air and glints of gold where the lovely little yellow Welsh poppy has seeded itself. It appears in all sort of unexpected places as well in the garden. The gardens are coming on well and we are beginning to have a marvellous display of rhododendrons and azaleas.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Open Farm Sunday, Livestock Market

With just three weeks to go before we open our gates to the general public for Open Farm Sunday on June 5th, I am beginning to think about how the farm looks and seeing what needs to be tidied up, particularly around the main yard. The Farmer will mow the lawns to within an inch of their lives,the edges will be strimmed and the general clutter will put's just like tidying the house before visitors but on a slightly larger scale. We pride ourselves on having a fairly tidy yard most of the time anyway, but when one looks at with the eyes of a visitor one suddenly notices the unattractive heap of electric fence posts and the hanks of baler string that have been discarded in a busy moment and then forgotten. The place will still look like a working farm but maybe with neater edges.

This is the tenth year of Open Farm Sunday ( only the second time that we have taken part. I think there about 7 farms in Wales taking part though up to 300 all over the UK. It is an important initiative that encourages farmers to allow the public onto real working farms to see how food is produced. Our visitors will given a guided walk around the farm buildings and the fields with an opportunity to ask us about any aspect of food, farming and agriculture in general that interests them...I hope we will be able to give them good & informative answers! As well as having a farm walk our visitors will then be able to relax with a cup of tea and cake (all free of charge)and see the cows come in for milking. We just all pray for a day of fine weather.

As we are now thankfully, no longer under TB restrictions the Farmer & I took some young steers to the market in Carmarthen ( last week. We arrived there at 9.30 which was rather late as our lot numbers were in the 500's. Our animals didn't go through the ring until 3.00pm! So it was a long day. As it was the first time we had attended the mart for beef & sucklers we stayed the day, having breakfast & lunch in the mart cafe. It was actually a rather jolly day as we met up with various friends & acquaintances whom we had not seen for some time and it is fascinating watching the animals go through the ring and seeing the buyers & auctioneers at work. It was sale of suckler cows with calves at foot, steers, bullocks & bulls. The bulls were scary...they are so big and do exude a slight air of menace and even the drovers who a handle such beasts all the time are wary of them and do not spend any more time than they have to in the ring with them but take refuge behind strong narrow gates. They are put through the ring one at a time but bulls can be unpredictable especially in a strange & disturbing new environment, however they were all very well behaved that day and they were sold without incident.