The Life of a Farmer's Wife;
The reality of living on an organic dairy farm in west Wales
Friday, 25 February 2022
Spring is making her presence known with the rapidly emerging snowdrops and daffodils appearing in great numbers all around the farm and gardens. We have sunshine and blue sky to day and I've been able to hang out the laundry for the first time this year, always a heartening thing.
The Farmer & I have been away for couple of days with the Grandchildren. We took them to stay in a cottage in a tiny village on the coast of Pembrokeshire. The property was only 100 yards from the beach and so despite the strong winds we spent a lot of time walking along the blustery sands and along the spectacular coast path. Windy walks are a very good way of wearing out energetic children we find! And they are very happy to be blown about and watching the sea in its tumult as it crashes onto the rocks and cliffs. The cottage had no tv., dvd player or radio so evenings were spent playing games and reading and it cannot be but good for children to have time away from media entertainment. They didn't complain at all about it which is encouraging, it means they are capable of being entertained in the old-fashioned ways, games , books and conversation.
After the tremendous storms that battered the British Isles last weekend we are finding just how many trees came down around the farm and the Farmer is having to plan how to clear them up and get them to his sawmill to be planked. As well as cutting them up for timber there will be a vast amount of firewood, which will have to be processed, but we can never have too much firewood with six wood-burning stoves between the three households on the farm.
British dairy farmers are reeling from the negative impact of a television programme put out by the BBC earlier this week. It showed the appalling mal-treatment of dairy cows on a large farm just a few miles from us, in fact. The cows were being subjected to a level of abusive handling that left us all horrified. The farm employed a number of workers who clearly had no compassion for the animals in their 'care'. It has shocked the whole industry and we are all trying hard to show that the huge majority of dairy farm would never treat their cows in such a way. Instances of such cruelty are very few and far between, thank goodness. We as dairy farmers spend our lives ensuring that our cows are in the best of health, well-nourished, clean and comfortable. They are our livelihood and deserve the best of care and yes, we do love them. The farm concerned is under close scrutiny now and has lost its milk contract but the damage has been done. We as dairy farmers now have an uphill task to counteract the mis-information put out by the programme which played into the hands of the animal rights and vegan lobby. Please do not believe everything you see on television or read in social media...the majority of farmers care passionately about their animals and look after them to very highest standards with regular inspections, in fact British animal welfare standards are among the highest in the world. We have the Red Tractor assurance scheme (www.redtractor.org.uk)which covers 11,000 dairy farms producing 95% of all the milk in the UK. The Red Tractor logo ensures that whatever produce you are buying whether it be millk, meat or vegetables, has been produced to the very best standards of welfare and quality. We are an organic farm and so we have the double assurance that our milk is produced to both Red Tractor and Soil Association standards (www.soilassociation.org).
Today we are in the grip of Storm Eunice (I don't when they started naming storms or why!) with a rare Red Warning out for our area. We are certainly enduring incredibly strong winds and heavy rain. The advice is not to travel and to be aware of the risk of falling trees and flying debris. The ferries that leave from Welsh ports for Ireland are all cancelled and the bridges crossing the river Severn from England into Wales are closed as are a number of number of roads over high ground. How long the strom will last I don't know but hopefully it will blow itself out over the next twenty-four hours.
The Farmer has just this minute called me out to see a poplar tree that he saw fall in Younger Son's garden and he has just be cutting up an elder tree that had fallen across the driveway, so we are not escaping unscathed from Eunice.
A comical side the stormy weather is the sight of a hen coming out of the hen-house and having her feathers all blown forward and being propelled at speed across the paddock! Hens are not very aero-dynamically designed.
As I walked the dog this beautiful clear frosty morning my route took us through the field where the sheep are currently being kept. It is known as the Mansion Triangle, not because of any mysterious big house disappearances but mundanely because it is triangular-shaped and it backs on to the mansion, which is not as grand as it sounds, where Younger Son and his family live. The Welsh word 'plas' meaning a large house is better than the grandiose 'mansion' but as the house is offically Penyrallt Mansion we are stuck with it. Anyway, I was walking down the gentle slope of the field and was joined by our small flock of ewes known as the ladies-in-waiting as they due to lamb next month. They followed me as they hoped I would have food for them, I didn't, but they have a good supply of lovely hay, the sweet smell of which conjures up long summer days and the satisfaction of hay-making.
The Farmer & I write a monthly column for our local county newspaper in which we talk about local and national farming issues as well what goes on here at Penyrallt. One subject that is coming much to fore is that of tree-planting to off-set carbon emmissions. Whilst this is admirable in principle things are going a little awry for Wales as big companies from England are buying up large tracts of good agricultural land with a view to obtaining Welsh government grants to plant new woodlands. This is causing many farmers in Wales great distress as the land is being sold at prices that make it unaffordable for local people and potentially much good land is being taken out of food production. Apart from the loss of productive farm land it is also bringing about the loss of family farms, and communities that have been established for generations. It is eco-colonialism to coin a phrase. Also the fact that Welsh tax-payers money is going to companies who have no regard for Wales but just see it as a place to salve their consciences by exploiting the landscape in order to continue with their unsustainable and polluting practices.
This is Judy our sheepdog who is the Farmer's constant companion around the farm. She is very much a one man dog as is is only right and proper for a working collie. If any of the rest of us try to give her any directions they are ignored but as soon as she hears her master's voice she springs into action and works round the sheep superbly. She is a good dog but not the best the Farmer has had over the years, she does not have what is called 'the eye' which in a good dog can be the make or break when it comes to trialling. At the end of last summer we gave ourselves a day out at some sheepdog trials held locally and had wonderful time. Dogs working well are always a great sight and the committment of the owners and the hours of training pays off when a dog, or a brace of dogs, can bring the sheep into the pen with such apparent ease. It must not be forgotten however, that these are not just 'show' dogs, they are fully working dogs on the farms where they are an essential part of the management team. Judy is not of trial standard but she is a very useful dog and saves the Famer lot of running around. In the past we have had some really good dogs, one in particular, Sam who was from a long line of champions. He certainly had the eye and could move sheep incredibly efficiently almost just by looking at them.
With spring teetering on the doorstep our thoughts turn to holidays and the summer months. Running a holiday cottage here on the farm has been interesting to say the least over the past two years. In 2020 with the national lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic no-one took holidays but once lockdown restrictions eased we were able to welcome guests back and though bookings were reduced it was lovely to see how people were so pleased to be able to get away once more and were appreciative of what we were able to provide for them in terms of a rural escape after months of being stuck in their urban fastnesses. This year I think it will be much the same, people who have been restricting their travel plans are choosing to holiday in UK and discovering the joys of 'staycations' (ghastly word!).
Full-time farmers-wife, cook, laundress, gardener, meeter-&-greeter, mobile gate, answerphone service & bibliophile.
Have lived for over 30 years on a 200 acre organic dairy farm in the Welsh hills, with fiddle-playing farmer husband and two sons.
We host farm walks for schools and any other interested parties and have farm open days and are passionate about educating people on where their food comes from and the importance of the countryside.
We also have a sweet holiday cottage with roses round the door available throughout the year for the perfect country retreat.
Contact for further details;
Telephone; 01559 370341
Logs, electricity, bedlinen & towels included in price Central heating available 1st October-1st May (included in price) Free WiFi Natural spring water Beautiful views Only 30 minutes from beaches We regret the cottage is not suitable for children under 5 years andwe do not accept dogs in the cottage.
Short Breaks available (min. 3 nights, out of peak seasons only)
To enquire about the cottage please email firstname.lastname@example.org
We also have a delightful shepherd's hut on the farm which is available for holidays from March to October. It sleeps 2 & has a seperate cabin with kitchen/sitting-room, shower-room & wood-burning stove.