Monday 31 December 2018

Family Christmas Away

It is New Year's Eve and having been away for Christmas I must end the the old year with a 'tidying-up' post.
The Farmer & I instead of doing what has become a our usual Christmas escape, a run down to St. David's cathedral for choral matins on Christmas morning, this year went to join all my family in a remote and rambling farmhouse in the sheep-strewn hills of Radnorshire. Our Sons stayed home of course to attend to the cows and had Christmas with small children while the Farmer & I had a splendid time in a party of twelve including all the grown-up nephews & nieces some of whom we had not seen for nearly two years. It was lovely and on Boxing Day more family arrived to make a total of eighteen for the traditional lunch of left-over turkey.
We were staying in a very old farmhouse that suited our needs perfectly and the owners had provided a beautiful Christmas tree for us. We three days of much laughter, too much food and very good company.
On Christmas morning some of us went to the eucharist service in the lovely, small, ancient church of Llandeilo Graban where we sang carols most heartily and listened to a very heart-warming homily from the cheerful and enthusiastic vicar. His message was that even if one is not a church-goer the fact that on the special days days of the year such a Christmas a need is felt to mark the day by going to a place of spirituality is important.
We had reared turkeys again this year and so were able to supply the birds for lunch as well some home-cured hams from the television pigs (see previous posts) while the rest of the family brought Christmas puddings and many other good things. We had excellent coffee as one niece is a barista home briefly from the Antipodes and a variety of cocktails concocted by one of my nephews who has become expert in that field having been working at Hawksmoor in Spitalfields in London.

The weather has been very un-Christmassy, warm and damp with heavy grey skies and mud everywhere. I do hope that we get some good cold weather soon.

On our return after three days away the most important thing that needed to be done was the slaughter of the two pigs that that the Farmer had bought to replace the tv. pigs after they had been been turned into sausages, hams and joints. So this week has seen the cold store in use once more with the carcases hanging before being butchered into the necessary parts. We will take meat to a local butcher to be made into sausages though the Farmer will cure the hams himself. Home-cured ham is delicious, quite different to commercial ham. The last hams made here were cured using dark brown sugar and there was definite treacly hint to the ham which was very good.

Younger Son is hosting a New Year's party this evening to which he has friends coming from all over the place so, no doubt, the farm will be dotted about with hangover victims tomorrow. Unfortunately the barista cousin is on her way back to New Zealand so is not available to make sure of a goodly flow of coffee to clear the heads in the morning.

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda Happy New Year

Saturday 15 December 2018

Storm-tossed Gulls

As I sit here in the farm office I am looking out onto a sky full of gulls, hundreds of them wheeling about against a grey cold sky. They are pure white as they come closer to the house but those that are drifting higher are the colour of shadows as they toss and turn in the blustering winds that are buffeting the house and causing the trees to wave their leafless limbs in supplication against the storm. All night the tempest has roared causing the old house, which must have endured so many such batterings in its 400-plus year history, to shudder and tremble and now in the morning the winds have not abated and windows rattle, even upstairs floors shiver and doors swing as though the shades of past inhabitants are seeking corners to hide.
A chill rain has now started to fall from the darkened skies yet I can still hear the small hedgerow birds chirping to each other as they flutter through the hedges looking for food and shelter, blackbirds, thrushes, sparrows and finches to say nothing of the robins who all frequent the gardens and live in the thick ivy that grow smotheringly up the trees and along walls.

It is a day for the making of a hearty soup for lunch and then the baking of old-fashioned comfort food, scones & chocolate cake to be eaten with a cup of aromatic tea by a log fire. I have just put the marzipan on the Christams cakes and set them aside for a couple of days before dressing them up in their royal icing with the old family decorations.

Thursday 6 December 2018

The Secret Life of Farm Animals on BBC4, Polish family at Penyrallt

Tonight sees the broadcast of the television programme we spent much of the summer working on. The programme is called 'The Secret Life of Farm Animals' and is to be shown on BBC4 at 8.00pm tonight, Thursday 6th December. (I'm sure it will on BBC iPlayer soon after broadcast if you miss it.) It is the first of 3 episodes each an hour long. We have been told that the trailers for it have been lovely but as we don't have television (not for 30 years!)we have not seen them but we shall be going over to one of the Son's houses to watch. It will be very interesting to see how the long hours of filming with sometimes rather unco-operative livestock will have been edited and put together in what I've been promised will be a very beautiful programme. We were not the only farm that used as a location and we are curious to see the other farms featured.

It's been a while since my last post, things have been busy we seem to have been off the farm quite a bit lately. One of the outings was to the Royal Welsh Winter Fair at Builth Wells. It was good day out catching up with old friends and bumping into neighbours whom we rarely see though they may live only a couple of miles away. There was much of interest to see and the Farmer spend much time talking to reps. from a variety of agricultural and technology companies about the merits of alternative technologies, the latest designs in mowing machines or lighting for miklking parlours. I did some Christmas shopping or as the Farmer irritatingly refers to it 'retail therapy'!

The Jack Russell puppies are thriving, now six weeks old and very lively and jolly. We have homes for them both, one is going to live on sheep farm up near Lampeter and the other is going as a family pet down in South Wales. Both little dogs will have very happy homes

Another of our trips out was to meet a friend in the attractive samll town of Llandeilo being a reasonably central point for us all. We meet for a delicious lunch in the Cawdor Hotel and caught up with family news from both sides.
We first met Krystyna some 15 years ago when she called at the farm in search of her history. It turned out that she had been born in our farmhouse, the child of a Polish cavalry officer who with a fellow officer had bought the farm after the end of the Second World War. Her father had been from a very wealthy background in Poland but had lost the family estates due to the takeover of Poland by Germany. Somehow he survived the horrors of Katyn Forest and ended up in Britain and turned to farming to build a new life. What brought him to what, at the time, was a remote corner of west Wales I don't know, unless land was cheap here. However he and his fellow ex-cavalry officer worked Penyrallt for a few years and raised their families before moving on elsewhere. It is an amazing story but not unique as there similar tales of Polish soldiers settling in other parts of Carmarthenshire. Krystyna had traced the address of the farm and came to see us. She was so delighted to see the farm and of course we gave her a warm welcome and showed her round. It turned out that she had photographs of the farm back in the early 1950's but had never been able to work out their location but was now able to match the images with the reality. It had not changed so very much. We have since become friends and she and her Scottish husband and her family have visited us several times and we have been to her home in mid-Wales. She also lives in London and has an apartment in Cracow. Her Polish heritage is hugely important, she receives Polish television & radio in her house and has brought her family up in Polish traditions. She is an artist specialising in religious icons and exhibits in London.She is a delightful addition to our circle of friends though we don't meet up very often and her story is part of the fascinating and rich history of an old farm in west Wales.