Wednesday, 29 May 2019
Younger Son's wedding went off without a hitch on a beautiful May afternoon in a lovely sunken garden,(a former slurry pit!) at a local 'wedding venue' only a couple of miles from home. It was a very pretty country wedding with lots of flowers decorating the wonderful oaken pavilion where the ceremony was held and along the walk up through a meadow to a garlanded arch leading to a vast triple tipi for the reception.The tipi had been beautifully decorated with flowers and bunting and was very pretty. Flowers were dispalyed in milk churns and old glass milk bottles and the wedding favours for guests were tiny jars of honey from our bees, which everyone thought was a lovely touch. The tipi held the 120 guests easily with plenty of space for the evening guests as well which brought the numbers up to about 200. It was a wonderful day, everyone very happy and a great mix of people from farmers (the groom) to pharmacists (the bride) and all professions in between. Guests had come from all over the country, Yorkshire, Herefordshire, Dorset, Cambridgeshire, Nottingham, London and even Ireland, which was wonderful as west Wales is a long way from almost everywhere! There was also a goodly number of local friends and everyone had great time. (www.welshgreenweddings.co.uk)
May has been a busy month for the Farmer and his bees. He has had five swarms and with collecting boxes out around the neighbourhood and beyond is hoping for more. The most difficult one lodged itself in between some silage bales and the past few days has seen the Farmer trying his best to encourage them into a hive but with little success so far. Honey has already been extracted and which is very early and it looks as though it is going to be good season.
'A swarm in May is worth a load of hay.
A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon,
But a swarm in July is not worth a fly.'
Silage was done the week after the wedding despite Younger Son having gone away on a short honeymoon. It was one of the earliest cuts we have ever taken and with the rain that we have had over the last few days there will be a good second crop before too long.
The countryside is looking wonderful as always at this time of year. The hedgerows are full of flowers and many of our hedges have tall elegant laburnum trees which are all their glory of hanging golden tresses. It has been a magnificent year for the May blossom, the trees thick with flowers like clotted cream and the bluebells have been astounding in their blue-ness. We recently drove past an ancient oak woodland spreading for a couple of miles and the whole way there was a thick ocean of intense madonna blue such as I have not seen before, a truly wondrous sight.
The birds are never quiet with the squabbling sparrows in the hedges & the chittering of the aerobatic swallows as they harvest the flying insects to feed their broods in the eaves of the house. Sadly this year the house martins have not returned after their first sojourn here in over 30 years last summer but the swifts are back. We have been fortunate to have nuthatches nest in a crevice in the stonework of one of our buildings and have been watching them returning to feed their young who bravely poke their heads out to watch for their meal arriving. In another building which has a row of pigeon holes, there is family of jackdaws have taken up residence and again there is always frantic noise from the hatchlings when they realise their parents have returned home.
It is very touching when we have visitors who came as children to the holiday cottage returning after many years with their own children. Their memories of childhood holidays spent here are so vivid and apparently important that they wish their offspring to experience what they had. We must be getting something right. Very often the fondest memories are of the dogs and watching the cows being milked. Of course when it has been a gap of over ten years the dogs will have changed but the new ones are just as friendly and endearing as those remembered and are quite happy to be petted and fussed over as much their predecessors to the delight of the children.
Happy children = happy parents = happy holidays = happy memories.
Thursday, 25 April 2019
With the fine weather of recent days we even made our first cut of silage, the earliest we have ever done it. A number of other farms in the area also took advantage of the sunshine and did the same. Next month will see the proper start to the silage season and we, and everybody else will be flat out mowing and baling, into the early hours very often, long days and long nights of hard work hoping the weather will hold good for us all.
In two weeks time Younger Son gets married and so we are sprucing things up in readiness for an invasion of friends and family for a long weekend of jollity. The wedding itself is being held not on the farm but a couple of miles up the road at the Ceridwen Centre which is run by friends of ours who specialise in 'green weddings' and do it superbly well (). In preparation for the influx of visitors over three or four days, we are busy mowing lawns to within an inch of their lives, tidying up herbaceous borders, planting up pots with colourful flowers, touching up paint-work and I'm even hoping that the shabbiest of our spare bedrooms will be re-decorated in time (not by me, thank goodness...I have a marvellous painter-and-decorator who is very patient with my somewhat last minute requests for his services!) I'm now off to buy paint!
Tuesday, 5 March 2019
We returned to the farm to find that lambing has begun. We didn't have a great start with some lambs not surviving and a dead ewe but things have now improved and last night we had a set of lovely strong triplets to add to the tally. We are lambing only about 30 ewes so every loss is significant but now things are looking up and hopefully we will not have too many difficulties from now on. Fortunatley the weather is reasonable despite the occasional rain shower so the ewes and lambs can go out once tha lambs are a couple of days old.
With March of course come the daffodils and we have so many all around the farm, of many different varieties from tiny little tete-a-tete and my favourite Tenby daffodils the little 'wild' ones to the rather vulgar flamboyant golden trumpets that herald in the spring. With strong winds we have had over the last couple of days a number of the daffies don't d=survive th buffetting so I go round each morning gathering the fallen flowers and so so I have jugs of glorious golden bouquets all through the house.
Wednesday, 13 February 2019
Today we have our Soil Association inspection. This means that our organic integrity is examined with a fine-toothed comb and every minute detail of our farming practice is scrutinised and logged. The Farmer has to produce a paper trail of everything that occurs on the farm from the monthly milk cheque to rodent control. It is right that there should be rigorous checking of all that happens here and on every other farm in the country but every now and then one feels that the nit-picking detail goes a bit far but if it means we have our organic licence renewed for another year then we will co-operate down to the last No Smoking sign and invoice for cattle feed. It is not only the Soil Association certification that is being checked but also our Red Tractor assurance (www.redtractor.org.uk)which is the farm and food assurance scheme that promotes and regulates food quality in the UK...'Traceable, Safe & Farmed with Care'.
Monday, 4 February 2019
A recent addition to the amenities we offer with the holiday cottage has been a wood-fired hot tub (see previous posts)and it has proved very popular with our guests since it went in in at the end of last summer. Until now guests have treated it with respect and have used it with practical common sense. However, in the last week we had some less considerate guests who when very drunk abused the facility by burning coal in the stove despite the plentiful supply of logs that we provide, and getting it so hot that the metal fire box has distorted and scorched the wooden panel that separates the fire-box from the sitting area. They also burned any wooden item they could find including the stirrer paddle. Things at some point must have got scarily out of hand and the fire extinguisher & fire blanket provided seem to have been added to the conflagration...all that remains of them are the blackened burnt-out canister of the extinguisher! All this went on at night long after the Farmer & I had gone to bed so we were unaware of this awful activity until the following day. On discovering what had been going on I was speechless! When the perpetrators were confronted with the results of their activities they were very contrite and apologetic and have since replaced the fire extinguisher, the fire blanket and the paddle (with the promise of a replacement fire-box, but on that we will wait and see). Fortunately the fire-box was not as badly damaged as we first thought and is still usable. In the twenty-five or so years that we have been letting the cottage we have never had such a bad scenario (including the state of the cottage itself)...young men away from home with too much drink, a very bad combination.
Last week the one remaining bank in our local, bustling small market town closed it's doors for ever leaving us and many hundreds of other rural people with a 30+ mile round trip to the nearest bank of any kind. The local community is furious, frustrated and helpless in the face of bureaucratic decisions being made by faceless people in London who have no understanding of how rural communities work and a total disregard for the distances now having to be travelled in order to do our basic banking. No thought has been given to people reliant on limited public transport, older peole who not have the use of a computer for online banking and for all of us who have used the banks on a weekly basis for so many years...apparently one of the reasons given for closure was insufficient footfall. Well, I have rarely been in the bank without having to wait in a queue no matter what day of the week, not just on market day. The town will suffer badly. A butcher acquaintance of ours found that his takings dropped by 40% when all the banks in his village had closed. People will go elswhere to do their banking and by default, their shopping.
Monday, 21 January 2019
With the grandchildren having gone bcack to school the farm has settled back into its usual routine and everyone is busy each morning with the chores of feeding and bedding down the cattle before getting on with much needed jobs such as fencing and keeping up with the supply of firewood. In addition to these essential jobs the Farmer is finding time to build a shepherd's hut for our daughter-in-law who has has decided to replace her canvas-covered gypsy wagon for something that will give a longer letting season. The shepherd's hut will be delightful and alongside the cabin which contains a small kitchen/sitting-room and bathroom gives opportunity for a truly rustic retreat overlooking our beautiful valley(www.oldoakgypsywagon.co.uk).
Out in the wider world we have to endure the shambles that is Brexit. The majority of Britain's farmers voted to leave the EU and now we are going to face some of the biggest challenges to food production in this country since the second world war. Some politicians say that a no-deal Brexit will be a disaster for farming but appparently opinion is divided amongst those MPs with agricutural constituencies. Whatever the outcome of it all we farmers will just keep our heads down and carry on doing what we do best which is producing food in times of uncertainty, in other words carrying on as normal. After all we farmers are very adaptable to circumstances, whether it be being held hostage by the weather or squabbling politicians.