Wednesday 20 July 2016

Summer Work & Picnics

These past few days of heat & sunshine have meant a time of frantic busy-ness for the Farmer & the Sons. They have all been putting in very long hours making silage for ourselves and others. Apart from the hours in the fields there have also been treks across the county to other farms taking the machinery, wagons, balers, rakes to do their contracting work. The wonderful weather of course, as always, means that everyone wants their grass cutting at the same time so no sooner is work completed on one farm than they have to make their way to the next farm even if it is 11.00pm, sometimes to carry on working into the small hours or just to leave the kit ready for next morning. It is an exhausting time of year, but also very satisfying when another heap of bales is stacked on a yard or a clamp sheeted up. The Farmer has commented that it was rather a wonderful sight very late last night, after dark to see the lights of three other tractors criss-crossing faraway fields, all like him, working to get the grass in...the unacknowledged late night workers who so often are criticised for disturbing the peace of the countryside and holding up traffic, just doing their job of feeding the nation. Farmers cannot work 9-5 when so much of what we do is weather dependent & when hundreds of acres of grass need to be harvested.
I spend much time making piles of sandwiches which are grabbed by tractor drivers as they come & go between jobs. On Sunday however, I had a phone call to say would I take a cooked lunch, in the form of lasagne & boiled potatoes, out to the field where they were working. The original plan had been that they would come home for lunch but as usual the plan changed. The lasagne was just out of the oven so it was packed into a large basket along with the spuds, cake and ginger beer. The Grandchildren & all the dogs piled into the jeep & I drove across the valley to serve lunch to the hungry menfolk. So, how do you stop two 150 horse-powered tractors in their tracks? Unpack food & drink onto the bonnet of the 4x4!!

Th recent spell of very hot weather is glorious but I am always very grateful that I live in a stone-built, thick-walled, north-facing farmhouse into which I retreat when the temperatures soar. The poor dogs have been suffering, especially the very pregnant black labrador. She has found the excessive heat very trying and so trips to the pond for swimming sessions have been very popular. The puppies are due in the next few days and it will be fun to have summer puppies again.

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Wool Collection Day, Rose Petal Jam, Bees

Today was wool collection day. We took our wool sacks into our local town where the lorry from the Wool Producers of Wales ( depot at Brecon was waiting. We had to be there at 9.15am and we joined a short queue to unload our sacks and watch them being loaded onto the lorry. The Farmer had shorn our modest flock of about 50 ewes last month and the fleeces had been packed into the wool sacks to wait for collection day.
Some wool-ly facts;
Out of a world population of 1,148,300 sheep the UK has 33,989 sheep.
The UK produces 21,672 tonnes of clean raw wool.
The UK has more native breeds within its shores than any other country.

The organisation Campaign for Wool ( influenced an new international demand for wool and thereby has achieved a three-fold price increase for farmers for the wool they produce. At one time, not that many years ago, it was costing more to shear the sheep than we were getting for the fleeces. In fact the price was so bad we did not bother sending our wool but kept it for several years and used it for insulation in building projects.

Note at the bottom of the letter we received giving us our collection time;

'Category 3 Animal By-product Not For Human Consumption Sheep's Wool'...just so we know!

The roses have been superb this year and I was inspired to have a go at making rose-petal jam so collected 200grammes of petals from the garden. They smelt just heavenly during the process of jamification. After gently crushing the petals with some sugar and lemon juice the resulting 'paste' was added to a pan of boiling sugar and water and boiled until it set. I then strained the petals out to get a beautiful rosy-glowing jam. It is delicious on fresh scones & even better drizzled over vanilla ice-cream!

200gm rose petals
600gm sugar
600ml water
Juice of 1 lemon

We have just discovered a swarm of bees has taken up residence in the eaves of our farmhouse. Its not problem, just a bit noisy in the kitchen (though the bees are not in the kitchen but in the roof-space of the room above) and the bats aren't too happy but I'm sure they'll all sort themselves out. The Farmer, an experienced bee-keeper, says there's nothing he can do as the bees are inaccessible and so we'll just have to wait for them to move on. He will probably put a collecting box near the house and hope they will decide it is a better place to live.