Sunday 30 August 2020

Thank You Farmers

Shockingly it has been about four months since I last updated this blog. One could use Coronavirus as the excuse as it seems to be the excuse for everything else going on in our lives but that would not be completely honest. Since our house move life has had it's usual busy-ness here on the farm with the normal routine required by dairy cows. The milk tanker has continued to come throughout lockdown, we have continued to do the seasonal work of lambing our small flock of sheep, silage-making and generally carried on feeding the nation as was acknowledged by this sign appearing at the top of main road near the farm. For those of you who do not read Welsh it says 'Thank You Farmers' and is much appreciated by we Ffermwyr. The main difference to our lives has been the absence of holiday-makers in the cottage though they returned from the middle of July. With the exception of social distancing and the extra cleaning protocols required between each group of guests life has pretty much returned to a near normal. Coronavirus has affected everyone and even though the farming community has carried on much as usual (and we did have exemptions for travelling more than 5 miles (in Wales)) the lockdown has changed the way we live in small and subtle ways. Friends are now allowed to call but we find that we, and others, prefer to meet outside and fortunately the weather has on the whole enabled us to drink coffee and chat in gardens. We no longer go to our local market town for a leisurely shopping trip calling in various shops but we stop at the green-grocer and the whole-food shop only, with just one person allowed in the shops at a time (they are very small)and then head for home. No longer is there the inclination to tarry and converse. The one person at a time rule does not encourage one to linger when there are people waiting outside the shop. It is now the very tail-end of August and we have a glorious day of sunshine, blue skies and fluffy clouds scudding overhead but there is strong hint of autumn in the air. After some very dramatic weather in tha last few weeks,thunder and lightening, terrific winds and lashing rain causing flooding and general misery we can only rejoice when days like today come along. The menfolk are making the most of it and getting in another cut of silage. We have been rearing some pigs over the summer who have been benefitting from the Farmer making use of the wind-fall apples (thanks to the violent winds of recent weeks) by being given the pomace to eat. Pomace is the sludge left after the apples are pressed for juice. The juice is delicious and while some is frozen to see us through the winter, much of it is made into cider. Why waste the windfalls when both we and the pig-wigs can enjoy them. There will of course be more juicing taking place in few weeks when the apples remaining on the trees are picked and processed.
For the agricultural community one of the sad fatalities of the pandemic has been the local agricultural show. The Farmer is on the committee for our local show and their last meeting was cancelled back in February with the decision to cancel the show taken a few weeks later. This story will be repeated all over the country and it will leave a big hole in the farming community social calendar. The shows are struggling to survive anyway and one can only hope that having missed the 2020 show season due to external forces, the committees and their supporters will work with renewed vigour to make sure 2021 can be a year of great agricultural shows...pandemics permitting, of course.

Sunday 19 April 2020

New Home, Shop Local, Butter-making and Milk Sales

Well, we have now been in our new home for two weeks and all is well. Most of the hundreds of boxes are now unpacked though there are still a number of boxes of books waiting for shelves despite the Farmer having made what seems like miles of shelving already. This is a very quirky little house and surprisingly spacious after all the work we have done on it and now beautifully decorated throughout so is looking very spruce. We were able to bring only some of our furniture with us, the favourite pieces on the whole, and they look as though they were meant to to fit into this house so it really is home now.

Our great move coincided with the Great Lockdown which in many ways was a good thing as it kept us very busy and distracted from the sadness in the outside world. As farmers we are used to a life of isolation and in so are not really finding life very different except we do not have friends and neighbours coming in to drink coffee in the kitchen and of course we are not able to welcome friends and family to our new house. As soon as life returns to neormal we shall have to have grand house-warming party.
The move meant we did not have any internet connection for several weeks, having to rely on taking my mobile phone for walks around the farm to get any kind of signal, so our communication with the outside world was rather limited. In these days of lockdown when everything seems to be happening via the internet one realises how fragile that dependence can be. Long gone are the days when we were content with just a landline telephone and the the Royal Mail.
We have adapted to limited access to shops and use our small but well-stocked village shop rather than going in to our local market town. This is very good for the village shop which has seen increased trade and as they now offer a delivery service have probably extended their customer base considerably. Many of the outlying farms are occupied by older and retired farmers who are understandably nervous about going out during these strange times so to have their groceries delivered is a great boon.

I have just had a visitation by Elder Son and his children from across the yard. The children are very excited by having been making butter. They have of course been home from school for weeks now and so finding little projects to keep them busy and entertained is quite a challenge. Butter making seems an excellent idea especially as we have some milk to spare as the milk price has dropped so dramatically. With the closure of the main coffee shop chains and MacDonalds etc. the milk market has been badly hit for those who were sole suppliers to these businesses. If you are dairy farmer whose milk buyer is contracted to provide all the milk to Costa or Nero then things are very serious indeed. The milk could be sold on what is called the 'spot price' but this is now down to 0p per litre some days. Disaster if your price of production at minimum is about 27ppl.

The beautiful warm sunny days over these past weeks has been wonderful though we do need some rain but nonetheless the orchards are full of blossom now and our lambs are frolicking in the sunshine while their mothers watch on benignly.

Monday 2 March 2020

Moving House

It is already March and only now am I getting around to my first post in 2020. Life here on the farm has been very busy since Christmas as the Farmer and I have moved out of our big old rambling farmhouse and are temporarily living in the holiday cottage while Elder Son and his family work in the farmhouse preparatory to them leaving their house for us todo work in their house before we move in. Basically we're doing a house swap. It is all rather complicated and schedules have had to become rather more flexible that we had all anticipated. Our move out of the farmhouse took place a week ago after two months of packing boxes, sorting out a lifetime's accumulation of 'stuff' and storing all said boxes in four different locations around the farm. Our many hundreds of books and the various pieces of fine furniture had to go into a dry, insulated container while other boxes containing less vulnerable items have gone into one of the farm buildings and yet other things have been stored in spare rooms in Younger Son's house. Remembering what is where is something of a challenge and when it come to moving it all into our 'new' home will be a very interesting exercise.
Moving out of the house where the Famer has lived all his life has proved an perfect opportunity to have a good clear out of things that had accummulated and been forgotten in the backs of cupboards for years. Our local charity shop has done very well out of us over the past weeks. Friends and family have also been willing to give homes to a miscellany of household items as we are moving into a two bedroom cottage from a five bedroom farmhouse...quite literally 'downsizing' One friend who runs tipis and yurts as holiday accommodation( took a carload of blankets for use in the yurts, another friend took a lot of surplus bedlinen, cushions and pictures for her holiday cottages and family members have been happy to have certain pieces of art & ceramics.
Although we are moving into a smaller property it is certainly larger than the holiday cottage which we are in at present. I love my holiday cottage and it is very cosy and and comfortable but after a big spacious kitchen (I really miss my Rayburn!) and large living rooms and bedrooms it is quite an adjustment to living even for just few weeks in a much smaller space. One has to be very tidy!!

Of course over the last weeks the weather has been atrocious for almost everyone around the country I think. We have had terrific winds and torretnaial rainstorms but fortuantely no major damage. However the fields are sodden and water is lying in hollows everywhere creating large puddles. The streams around the farm are raging torrents and there has been flooding in the valley below us. Today however there was mist in the valley first thing this morning which means abright day and we do have sunshine and blue skies which cheers everyone up. The daffodils have been in flower for couple of weeks now so plenty for St. David's Day yesterday. Snowdrops are everywhere and primroses are glinting in hedgebanks, catkins are hanging on the hazels and many trees and shruobs are beginning to show tiny leaves ready to burst forth. Occasional blackthorns are in flower with much more to come and the birds are beginning to sing their spring tiome serenades. I saw the first pair of Canada geese fly over this morning, always a thrilling sight.