Wednesday 27 December 2023

Christmas weather, Boxing Day Hunt

I would have liked to show you a real frosty or even snowy wintery scene but alas our Christmas weather is hideous, wet, blowy and too warm, so here is a view of one the farm's ancient trackways in its winter leaflessness. Having had a lovely family Christmas complete with home-grown turkey,happy children, sweet babies and too much rich food the week is progressing towards the New Year in a bluster of winds and heavy rain and little light. Yesterday, Boxing Day,(not so wet or windy) the Farmer and I went off to our local village to support the hunt in its Boxing Day meet. There was large turnout of locals and a field of about twenty horses all gathered outside the biggest pub in the village along with the hounds and it was quite a sight as they moved off to do a circuit of the village and then head off to our own little valley for their day's activities. These gatherings are what rurual communities are all about (one could get very sentimental about the traditions and ways of life which do actually have validity), but they are under attack by animal-rights activists who have no understanding of what hunting is all about. The emotive talk of the cruelty of foxes being chased by hounds and then 'ripped to pieces' is designed to whip up a reaction whereas the reality is of control of a predator in the most efficient way possible with any fox caught despatched humanely before the hounds get it. Whilst we all admire the beauty and elegance of the fox if one has seen the devastation caused by a fox in a chicken run one's view is somewhat less than fluffy. What an irony it is that it is considered entertainment to watch a wildlife documentary on television where wolves bring down a deer or a lion stalk a gazelle where the prey is quite literally ripped to pieces, yet for foxes to be hunted is seen as cruel and against nature!
After the meet the Farmer and I headed for the hills with a picnic of turkey sandwiches and went up into the superb empty landscapes of the Berwyn mountains. We had a lovely day seeing very few other people and were thrilled to glimpse for the first time in forty years, a pair of roe deer who crossed the road in front of us having come up for the valley bottom heading for higher ground in the forestry. We also saw a pair of herons, usually solitary, so to see two of them flying across a river was wonderful with their long-legged stately flight.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

When Hollywood came to Penyrallt

Yesterday the Farmer and I travelled down to Pembrokeshire to attend the funeral of an old friend, the film director, Carol Byrne Jones. We first met Carol some thirty years ago when she chose to make her Welsh feature film 'Tan ar y Comin' here at Penyrallt. The film was based on a well-known Welsh children's book by the renowned children's author T. Llew Jones. It is the story of a gypsy boy and his horse and the filming of it was fascinating. The arrival of huge film crew opened up a whole new world to us here on the farm and gave us an insight to the complexities of film-making as well as being a lot of fun for us and our boys who were very young at the time. The production took over the farmhouse, yards and some buildings and so for many weeks we were actually living on a film set as they redecorated and turned the house back in time to the 1930's. Elder Son & the Farmer both became 'supporting artists' or extras for a couple of days in the sequence filmed in our local market town and castle where an old-fashioned fairground was created and involved many of the townspeople. Carol made the film in conjunction with an American production company which meant it was filmed 'back-to-back' in both Welsh and English and starred the English actor Edward Woodward and the American star James Coburn, with the English version being directed by the Hollywood actor and director David Hemmings...Hollywood came to Penyrallt which was not as overwhelming as one would think! Watching David Hemmings work was extraordinary and the efficiency with which the crew got on with it all was impressive though much of of it appeared to be like herding cats!! Carol was an academic and respected director and writer and poet and we were privileged to have known her. The book 'Tan ar y Comin' was translated into English by Carol and is known as 'Gypsy Fires' and the English version of the film is titled 'A Christmas Reunion'(1994). It is available on Youtube.

Monday 4 December 2023

Winter Weather

We've just had a few days of lovely frosty weather with glorious crisp mornings and glittering grass, but it did result in us having no water in the house and cattle sheds. An unexpected major problem as we had not anticipated it to be so cold that night. Usually we are better prepared and leave taps just running a thin thread of water which is sufficient to stop it freezing. We just had to have patience waiting for the sun to move round to where it will thaw frozen pipes. Now we are back to milder temperatures and rain and mud once more. Despite the inconveniences of freezing temperatures it is so lovely to have dry crisp weather. Apparently, however, more northern parts of the country are blanketed in snow...the north/south didvide is surely emphasised by the weather! The Farmer & I have both had heavy flu-like colds for the past week so have been spending much time in front of the fire with hot drinks and doing only the most essential chores but hopefully we are now on the home run & beginning to feel more like ourselves. On the farm things are busy with calves being born and constant supervision of the cows who are due to calve. Elder Son has equipped each cow with an electronic collar that records her every move including a rise in temperature that can indicate the start of labour or if she is not in calf can tell him where she is in her oestrus cycle so that she can be inseminated. It all very clever and has proved a valuable tool, though The Farmer says, in a typical grumpy-previous-generation way, that he managed to run the herd just as efficiently without the expensive technology! However, we move with the times and it is certainly interesting to see the new technologies being applied.
Over the weekend my painter-and-decorators turned up and they have made a good start on the refurbishment of the holiday cottage. The Farmer has been working hard over the past month building a new kitchen and I'm now waiting for the new tiles to arrive and once the painters have finished in the bedrooms they will start on the kitchen/sitting room. As I'm having all the wood-lined ceilings painted it not an easy job as the ceilings are sloping steeply and go to a very high apex but it will be worth the effort and will make the cottage much lighter.

Thursday 2 November 2023

TB Testing and Clear Result

This week has seen us doing our annual TB test for the cattle. On Monday the vet came during morning milking and injected all the cattle on the farm with TB virus and then today came again to see if we had any 'reactors' indicated by a swelling of the injection site. With great relief we found that none of the animals had reacted and so we have had another 'clear' test result, thank goodness. It is always a stressful time because of the anxiety roused by the possibility of a reactor in the herd. If we had had a reactor the implications for the farm are massive. It would mean we would have a complete block on moving cattle, selling calves and the general running of the herd. However, we are very lucky to have got through this test freely and the Farmer & Elder Son can heave asigh of relief and get on with the day-to-day farming. In my last post I said how wonderful it was to wake to a dry,sunny morning, today we are back to torrential rain and strong winds! It is school half-term week here in Wales and to have this horrible weather is depressing to say the least, as the children cannot play outside and arranging outings is bit of a challenge...though as the Farmer is always telling me there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing, so we do have to just get on with it! The constant rain does make farming difficult as we have mud everywhere and huge puddles and endless dripping from the roofs but the cattle are dry and snug in their sheds which is something. Long gone are the days when cattle were out-winterd in fields which quickly become quagmires , especially here in wet west Wales.

Tuesday 31 October 2023

A Morning without Rain, Halloween Traditions Old & New

On the last day of October we are definitely in autumnal landscapes and we have actually woken to a morning when it is not raining! Such a relief to have blue skies after days of horrendously heavy rain, making the whole farm soggy and surrounded by the sound of dripping from all the roofs. The birds are singing too so they must be happy the rain has ceased. Last week the Farmer, Elder Son and Elder Grandson took themselves off to the annual Welsh Dairy Event which is held in our county town of Carmarthen and they came back after a very good informative day but saying all everyone is talking about is the rain and the effect it is having on the farms. The weather of course is not the only subject of discussion though it looms large. Get dairy farmers together and there is much talk of milk prices, feed prices and the prospective increases, of each. Milk price increases are a Very Good Thing but the increased cost of bought-in feedstuffs is not. While everyone will have made plenty of silage during the summer there is still a quantity of supplementary feed required and as the ingredients are bought on the world market prices are volatile and ever changing and organic feed is always rather more expensive than conventionally grown.
Tonight is Halloween and the grandchildren have been busy making their pumpkin lanterns. When we were children we made 'howkit neeps' being good Scottish children, carving out swedes rather than pumpkins which had not seen in this country until very recently. They are an American import, along with the appalling 'trick or treat'. Halloween has been highjacked by excessive commercialism (I'm becoming a grumpy old granny!!) and I find it a pity. I am all for keeping things simple and as uncommercial as possible and certainly dislike turning a old tradition into a grasping, somewhat threatening activity which has very little to with its origins in the ancient pagan celebration of Samhain which means 'summer's end'. It was Christianised into All Saint's Day which commemorated the souls of the dead.Samhain also marked the time when cattle and sheep were led down from the summer pastures to their winter quarters. In Wales this day is known as Nos Calan Gaeaf, the First day of Winter. In South Wales there was tradition that boys and men went around houses wearing women's clothing singing a song about the 'White Lady'. They were know as the 'gwarchad' or hags and wore sheepskins, ragged clothes and mask. After doing the rounds of the houses in the village or hamlet they would gather at the farm and have a supper called 'the mash of nine sorts' which was stew made from a variety of vegetables mashed up with salt, pepper and milk. The sacred number nine made this a special feast for All Hallow's Night. Another aspect of my Scottish upbringing is the old game of 'dooking for apples'which originated as a hearthside game once the apple harvest was safely in and may be connected to the ancient story of a journey across water to obtain the magic apple from Emhain Ablach or the Otherworld Island of Apples. Halloween is also the night when the Wild Hunt rides through the skies led by Gwynn ap Nudd, the King of the Faeries, or Herne the Hunter as he is known in England, leading the pack of white hounds with red eyes and ears.

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Farm Dogs, Music-making in the Sticks,

This is Dottie, my faithful companion who spends her days either sleeping in her nest in the bottom of my kitchen dresser or following me around the farm and pottering in the garden. She is now 12 years old but still as bouncy and energetic as ever, always ready for a walk and a great favourite with visitors. She seems be under the impression that anyone who calls has come to see her and she is more than ready to be their best friend. Sometimes this can be bit much and she has to be restrained from making a nusiance of herself but retreats when instructed and then just sends adoring glances from her bed. At present she is one of the five dogs we have on the farm and although the smallest is definitely the one in charge, even of Judy our no.1 sheepdog (see picture below). As well as Judy we have a young trainee sheepdog, Meg, a shouty little dachshund, Winnie who lives with Elder Son and his family, and beautiful noble Gwen, Younger Son's black labrador. It's quite a pack whenever they and us are all out together on the farm. The dogs are very well behaved in each others company, so long as there is no food around then they all vie with each other and it can get quite in all scenarios with dogs never take their good behaviour for granted!
Yesterday The Farmer went out to play his violin at a funeral in the local church. Some years ago he had played for the birthday party of the deceased who so enjoyed the event that the request was made to have an Irish jig played at the funeral as the coffin was taken out of the church. The Farmer was very touched to be asked though playing such a jolly type of music at a sombre occasion can be difficult but it went well and the family were very appreciative. It was something different for the The Farmer as most of his music-making these days is classical as he plays in a string quartet and a chamber orchestra in Lampeter, our nearest university town. The chamber orchestra is giving a concert in November so there are regular rehearsals of the lovely programme of Mozart, Schubert, Haydn and Bach. Many years ago we had a ceilidh band with a group of friends and played a lot of folk music which was huge fun but very different to the classical repertoire which The Farmer so loves playing. We are so lucky out here in deepest west Wales to have an enthusiatic amateur orchestra of very good players, many of whom are ex-professional musicians, and who are prepared to travel considerable distances to attend rehearsals and put on concerts.

Wednesday 18 October 2023

Autumn Begins. Arrival of Christmas Turkeys

We are now well and truly into the season of fallen leaves, sharp winds and the knowledge that summer has become just a memory. Although there are still many green leaves on the trees the litter of brown and gold is increasing daily. There are acorns lying everywhere as we have a good population of oak trees on the farm and the ducks take their promenades to where they know they will find rich pickings of acorns and beech mast. In the hedgerows there are the rich crimson of hawthorn berries and the lipstick red of rose hips gleaming through the tangles of ever more visible twigs and branches as the leaves fall from the hazel and bramble. An occasional faded rose-pink of a late blackberry flower can be seen and the vivid shocking-pink of the tiny wild geranium flowers brightens up the lower hedgebanks. Today is particularly windy and the trees are tossing their heads in petulance at yet another storm on its way to blow itself through the branches and throw the more fragile ones to the ground. Our resident rooks however seem to enjoy the wind and we watch them being thrown around the skies like shreds of black paper as they make their ways across the fields and up to the top of the beech trees in the garden where they have loud conversations with each other. The days are growing noticably shorter and I find I am lighting the fire earlier in the afternoons now and drawing the curtains by 7o'clock when the light has truly gone for the day. On the farm things are starting to have their winter routines established and Elder Son is busy out and about hedge-cutting. Today we collected 20 turkeys to be reared for Christmas for our regulars of friends and family who want free-range turkey for their festive dinners. The turkeys will spend happy days patrolling the yards and finding beetles and worms in the lawns and around the farm building and whilst not the most decorative of birds they do have a certain character that is quite entertaining. I suppose the arrival of the turkeys is a real sign of winter on its way.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Last Silage Cut, Changes in Farming

It is nearly the middle of October and we are having something of an 'Indian summer' these last few days which means there is a last ditch attempt to get in the final cut of silage while the weather is so glorious. The Farmer and the Sons are all out on tractors for long days and into the nights (Elder Son didn't finish till midnight last night)to get the grass in before the weather breaks and we begin the run into winter. The Farmer goes off about 10.30am armed with a flask and box of sandwiches and reappears at about 5.00pm in time for feeding the calves at milking time and then may have to go off again to finish up the day's silaging. There is a sense of urgency about it all as we are fully aware that after the wet days of recent weeks to have this window of dry sunshine is a bonus for the year. It is unseasonably warm at the moment and I'm still seeing butterflies in the garden but there is change coming in with drops in temperature promised, so 'carpe diem' is the motto at present. Life in the valley is jogging along with our neighbouring farmers all busy like us with last minute grass cutting, though the number of farmers in the valley is so reduced that the actual work of farming is being done by fewer 'real' farmers. When I came to live here nearly forty years ago there were twelve dairy farms in the valley now there are two, of which we are one. The farms have been bought by incomers who want their little piece of heaven and somewhere to keep a horse or two but do not want or need the acreage of land that comes with a ex-dairy farm so the house is sold with say ten acres and the remaining hundred or so is let or sold to farmers who do not actually live in the valley so farm the land remotely, so to speak. It is scenario that is played out all over the country and as result more land is being held by fewer farmers. Another side to this is that anyone wanting to get a foothold in farming has to have great deal of money with which to purchase a useful acreage unless they inherit or marry land. Land ownership becomes an almost impossible goal for many young people wishing to enter agriculture.

Sunday 24 September 2023

Holiday Cottage Refurbishment

With the summer now well and truly over, as is demonstrated by the blustering winds, frequent rain and tsunamis of leaves all around the farm, the time is drawing ever nearer to when I shall temporarily close the holiday cottage for a few weeks to do some much needed redecoration and renovation. As from the beginning of November I shall be 'project managing' the installation of a new kitchen, the painting of all rooms, new carpet in one bedroom, new beds and general sprucing up of a little house that has worked very hard over several busy seasons of happy holiday-makers. The Farmer, in his capacity of furniture-maker, is busy already with the new kitchen having sorted out wood from his amazing store of timber grown on the farm to construct the new cupboards and a beautiful oak work-top. He will also make new beds. We have decided to replace the standard double bed in the master bedroom with a king-size and the small single beds in the twin room with a small double. Whilst realising this may not make the cottage so appealing to families with two children it will still be able to sleep two couples and will ease the laundry burden on me! I am enjoying planning new colour schemes, sourcing new tiles for the splashback in the kitchen and bedroom curtains and possibly wallpaper for a completely new look. The cottage will still be fairly traditional in its decor and unpretentious in its overall look. By staying with a traditional look it does not get to look dated too quickly and after all, it is a small country cottage not a sophisticated new-build or urban apartment. We have had a lot of visitors this year and have enjoyed meeting many people who are very appreciative of what we offer here. Most guests leave the cottage in a very good state though there are the inevitable few who do does wonder what their own homes are like! I like to think that people wish to leave a place looking as though they had never been there apart from a bag of rubbish (as do the Farmer & I whenever we take a holiday let) but this sadly is not always the case. That said, most guests are considerate and thoughtful of the work involved in getting the cottage ready for other guests. It was wonderful to find the comment below in the Visitor's Book a week or so makes the all work and effort worth while when people write something like this.

Monday 11 September 2023

Gardening, Another Local Show, Holiday Cottage

As usual I shall start off by talking about the weather! It is subject that dominates our lives as it is so unpredictable. We have had a spell of very hot days with clear blue skies and now we are high humididty and grey skies. After a very disappointing August the sunshine reappeared just as the children went back to school. There is still grass to be cut and baled which will probabaly be done in the next few days. Last week I had some help in the garden and despite the heat, S. the Gardener, did what needed to be done and things are looking much tidier. In the next while I hope to get narcissus bulbs into the ground around the trees and I've already put in another large patch of crocus corms on the lawn in hope of a lovely display next spring. I love lawns starred with crocus in early spring, brightening up the shaded areas under the trees scattered across the grassy area of the garden with the daffodils following on. Having just had coffee with the Farmer and a neighbour who dropped in, made a shepherd's pie for lunch, put some bread on to prove and sorted out the laundry I am now able to continue with this post, such as it is. At the weekend we went to another local show, this time put on by the Gardening Club in a village nearby. The Farmer had entered some chutneys, jams and honey as well as some woodwork in the various competitions and did well. His honey got a 1st and the chutney and a three-legged stool got a 1st, so he came home happy. As I've said before it is wonderful the support given to these small shows and the amount of time, effort, skill & enthusiasm that goes into the exhibits in all classes from patchwork, photography, woodturning, flower arranging, vegetable growing the making of preserves is truly inspiring. The holiday cottage has been very busy this summer and now the bookings are slowing up which means the pressure on in keeping up with the laundry is eased. We've had lots of lovely guests this year who are all very appreciative of the cottage and being in beautiful west Wales. We've had visitors from France, Australia and next month we will welcome a family from South Africa. Most of the guests come from all over England and for many they are hugely impressed by the wonderful landscapes of Wales, many of them have not been to Wales before and discover it to be well worth visiting...and it is just on their doorstep!

Sunday 3 September 2023

Local Agricultural Show

Yesterday we went to our local agricultural show. The Farmer went up there early on as he was involved with stewarding for the cattle judge and had to be on hand. As usual we, as a family, entered various of the competition classes in the domestic and handicrafts sections. This a photo of my Floral Arrangement in a Boot (borrowed from one of the smaller grandchildren) and below you will see my efforts at a Floral Arrangement in a Kitchen Utensil (a Mouli grater). I thought they were very pretty and the Boot got a second prize. The Grandchildren did well winning prizes in the Handwriting competition, various baking things and photography. I won 1st & 2nd with my Bara Brith, a traditional Welsh fruit loaf and the Farmer won 1st with his Item made from Recycled Material,see below. He manufactured from a 200 litre chemical drum a rather smart and reasonably comfortable garden chair! Apart form these small triumphs we had a very good day at the show, meeting lots of friends and neighbours, and we were so fortunate that the weather which has been atrocious for weeks suddenly improved and we had a day of glorious hot sun.
These country shows are so important for rural communities as they are an opportunity for friends and neighbours to meet up who although we may all live within just a couple of miles of each other maybe do not see each very often, everyone is busy and working long hours. It is also an opportunity for those of us who spend our days being domestically occupied,cooking, growing and making to show off our skills which in these digital & virtual times seem not be of value in many people's views of the world.

Wednesday 30 August 2023

Hound Puppies, Wild Plums

This past weekend the Farmer and I donned some reasonably tidy clothes and took our grandson Arthur aged two and a half, to his first encounter with our local fox hounds. We went to the annual Puppy Show at the hunt kennels where the the now grown puppies are judged by experts from hunts in other parts of the country. The hounds are wonderful, very beautiful and full of life, they are always a cheerful sight. Many years ago when our boys were little I 'walked' puppies for the kennels. This means we take the puppies when they are about 8 weeks old and take care of them until they are ready to return to the kennels. It is a good system as it means that small puppies are socialised and excercised for 3 or 4 months easing the work load on the kennel staff. The kennels provide the food and we have the fun of puppies and then when they have become a bit too big and boisterous we take them back to the kennels so they can join the pack. There was litter of very small puppies at the show, about 6 weeks old, which all the children were allowed to play with. Arthur was entranced, he'd never seen such little dogs before, a good size for him unlike the labradors and sheepdogs he is growing up with. After the judging there was splendid tea laid on, which Arthur also enjoyed to the full! Although we don't ride to hounds we do support the hunt and attend the opening meet and the Boxing Day meet when we can. The hunt is surviving but talking to many people in the hunting community they all say they can't see it continuing for many more years.This is sad in terms of another centuries-old rural tradition disappearing.
The Farmer has gone this morning to the field just up the road from us where the local agricultural show is to be held on Saturday. After the heavy rain again last night and some more this morning it is going to be quagmire up there as the team prepare for the show with lorries bringing in marquees and tractors milling about. He went off with full waterproofs in case of further downpours & no doubt will come back very damp and muddy. Despite the disappointing weather this summer (yes, I'm back on the ever popular subject of British weather!) the Farmer has been aout and about the farm and has managed a good harvest of wild plums, or bullace as they are also known. They make very good jam or jelly and also cook well for puddings. While the plums, both wild and domestic, have done very well the blackberries have not, just not enough sunshine. That said my garden has been lovely and full of colour...see below!

Saturday 26 August 2023

Summer Rains, Autumn Calving, Old Farm

In recent days we have had some of the wildest nights I can remember for very long time though we have come off quite lightly. As far as I know no treees have actually come down, thogh some large branches dropped, they've just shed a vast confetti of leaves and twigs everywhere. The wind blustered around in the trees which surround the house and the rain poured in torrents but this morning the wind has died down and the rain is reduced to just occasional light drizzle. My garden is looking rather battered, with flowers drooping their heads looking rather sorry for themselves.however, as I write there is even a faint glimmer of sunshine appearing in a small break in the cloud, so there is hope that things may improve as the day goes on. we have had a summer of showers and sunshine for the most part which is frustrating in many ways, especially with the children off school for six weeks when we would have hoped to have trips to the beach in the evenings to cook supper and mess about in kayaks but most evenings the weather has been rather off-putting. Apart from pleasure trips being curtailed the more serious effect is on the silage crop when finding a window of good weather to get grass cut and turned then baled has been difficult. Elder Son was out yesterday mowing the fields of a neighbour where the local agricultural show is to be held next week. The grass was cut but last night we had torrential rain once again so whether they will be able to gather it off the fields today is doubtful. It will have be done by Wednesday as that is when the preparations for the show begin with the erection of the marquees and and roping off of the various paddocks for the horse show, the main ring and the sheep and cattle exhibition areas.The Farmer will be up there to help and we can all hope that things will have dried out a bit otherwise it will be a sea of mud!
Although we are still in the summer holiday period we have technically started our autumn calving season and these are the first two calves very snug in their beds of straw. They are coming slowly at present which is good, in few weeks time their will be many more and the feeding regime will be taking longer each morning and evening just as the light is going, so that by the height of the calving period it will all be done in dark mornings and with the dark evenings starting about 4.o'clock in the afternoon.
For a couple of years the Farmer has been growing a grape vine on a sunny wall in the yard and this year we are actually going to have small harvest of grapes from it. They are beginning to change colour now and hopefull we will get enough sunshine to bring out the sweetness. All conversations come back to the very British!! Penyrallt Home Farm is very old, we know that there has been a farm here for well over 400 years and while our buildings date from the mid-19th century parts of the main farmhouse are much older. In our handsome Victorian buildings there are still traces of their original features including this iron trough placed in the corner of a archway where presumably horses were led through to paddocks or out to work in the fields. There is still limewash on the walls in a delicate shade of pink. What is pleasing is that these old parts of the farm are still in use alongside the array of new modern building that been put up in recent years. It is all process of evolution.

Monday 14 August 2023

Waterlilies and Ducklings, Tomatoes and Limericks

About ten years ago our daughter-in-law planted a water-lily in one of our ponds and now it has really come into its own with a beautiful display of rich pink flowers spreading over a considerable area of the water. Apart from providing a glorious burst of colour they are also a playground for this year's brigade of mallard ducklings who, when not being marched around the farm by their sergeant-major of a mother, spend time hiding in the groves of bulrushes and ploughing their way through the lily pads to reach open water.
As I mentioned in the last post we are in a time of glut regarding fruits and vegetables and while continueing to prepare plums for freezing I am now also roasting tomatoes which will also go into the freezer ready for winter soups and casseroles. We are already eating our own potatoes and of course the endless supply of the ever-prolific courgettes which must never be allowed to get too big or turn into marrows which nobody really likes. Small courgettes are very versatile. I grate them raw into salads or lightly cook them in olive oil with lots of garlic and black pepper to be served with whatever else we happen to be having for lunch.
I was asked recently by my sister to provide a limerick for a competition being held in her local village. Having not written such a thing since I was in school, a very long time ago(!) I gave it a go. The word 'King' had to be incorporated in the verse so after much thought and mental strain I came up with the following; (apologies for the rather odd format, the technology has got the better of me, Blogger won't let me make proper paragraphs or breaks in text)
Not too bad, methinks! I was brought up on the limericks of Edward Lear which are just so brilliant and I do not pretend to be anywhere near his capabilities, also limericks are actually quite difficult as they have to tell a story in just five lines with the AABBA structure of rhyming, so it was a challenge. I think my sister has got the rest of the family having a go too. It will be interesting to see what they all come up with. After the efforts of literary composition I must now get back to my domestic chores, including the plums & tomatoes.

Friday 11 August 2023

Plums, Medieval Saints & Bumblebees

We are well and truly into the season of mellow fruitfulness and we are having a bumper crop of plums this year. The Farmer is bringing in large quantities daily and whilst we can eat so many it gets to a point where I have to preserve them in some so I have just spent an hour or so stoning them and bagging them up to go into the deep freeze. Come the winter they will be made into plum crumbles and used in various other puddings and pies. The Farmer has been harvesting the onions grown in the polytunnel and he has spent time plaiting them into strings to be hung in the shed again ensuring a good supply for the coming months. In the next few days I shall be out and about on the farm picking brambles from the hedgerows and they shall be turned into jelly or jam and also put in the freezer. The apples will be ready before too long as well and those that are not juiced or made into cider will be stored in trays to see us through the winter. I love this time of year and the preparations for winter. It is very satisfying having rows of jars of preserves and the various crops of fruit and vegetables safely stored in whatever way.
This past week we have had house-guests,good friends from the wide world beyond the farm. They live in London and lead lives so very,very different from life here in deepest west Wales. They are involved in the arts and politics and lead a totally urban existence so a visit to us is a real contrast. It is great for us too as they bring conversation of a different kind and of different perspectives which is very good for us. While they were with us we took them on a trip to south Pembrokeshire to a wonderful place called St. Govan's chapel which is is a tiny medieval stone chapel built into the side of a cliff. It is tucked into a cleft in the rock approached by some very steep stone steps. At the front of the building is a small grassy area which looks straight out to the Irish sea and one realises what a very hard, harsh existence the 6th century holy man, St. Govan must have led. Those medieval saints were extraordinary in the privations they imposed upon themselves for their beliefs. The photograph below shows the Farmer and our friend on the rocks at the foot of the chapel. Some scenes fromm the wonderful tv. adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials third series were filmed here. It must have a nightmare getting a film crew down there!
Yesterday we had a second visit from the person we refer to as the Bumble-bee Lady. She is a field officer for the Bumble-bee Conservation Trust which is working on a project in conjunction with our milk-buying company, Calon Wen, to improve 'pollinatoor friendly grassland farming'. As organic farmers of over 30 years standing our farm is happily home to at least 7 different species of bumble-bees we have learned, plus of course many other pollinating insects. We have the Buff-tailed, Common Carder, White-tailed, Early, Tree, Garden and Red-tailed bumblebees and Ive seen many of them all summer busily going about their business in the gardens and hedges of the farm. It seems that west Wales is a hot spot for bumble-bees which is good news for us. The region is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Shrill Carder Bee. More than half the UK's bumble-bee species have declined during the 20th century with two species having become extinct nationally in the time. If you are interested in finding out more about bumblebees and what is being fodne to protect them then go to

Monday 24 July 2023

After a gap of nine months or so since my last post I have at last managed to get my techy incompetence sorted out (with the help of someone who knows what he is doing) and can now pick up the blog once more. It was very gratifying to see that in my absence people have still been reading the blog and responding to it. Thank you. Well, to get back into the account of our life here in west Wales I can report that so far we are having good summer...and of course I will talk about the weather! We had glorious weather during May and some of June which was very good for the bees and the Farmer has already taken off the first crop of honey of the year with a lot more to come. The Farmer is managing about ten hives now which with careful management should yield a good crop as the season continues. Although we now have had a lot of rain, which was very welcome, we have managed to get a lot of silage in and even made some hay for neighbours. The growing season was good and we are now reaping the benefits of it. Although we are now well into July it is cooler and we are having frequent showers yet the Farmer and the Sons are still able to carry on with silage for ourselves and neighbours. Grass and weather are the two subjects that dominate our lives so much from April through to October but they are the two things that are vital to our continueing to be able to produce milk and beef throught out the year. We had a good lambing season back in March and April. Although the Farmer is running only about 30 ewes these day he still needs to be on hand throughout the lambing period and thanks to his vigilance we had a good lambing percentage. Eldest Grandson (aged 9) is taking an interest in the sheep now which is lovely and has reared half a dozen bottle-fed lambs and is planning to enter our local agricultural show with the best one which he is starting to halter train. Our Grand-daughter (aged 12) has acquired a pair of miniature goats which are quite entertaining though I will confess to not having ever liked goats. I dread them escaping their paddock and getting into my garden as they will eat everything in the manner of goats the world over. However, these two, a mother and son (castrated, thank goodness!) known as Bessie & Norman are quite biddable and enjoy company and start bleating for attention as soon as they see anyone walking past their paddock or pen. This is the devilish Norman peering into my kitchen!
Whilst talking of new additions to the farm and family I must mention that back at the beginning of December we were presented with a beautiful new grandson, Osian Lloyd, a brother for Arthur now 2 and a half. At 8 months now Osian is delightful and provides great entertainment for his big cousins. I have been kept busy with the holiday cottage and for the first time in a number of years we have had guests from abroad, families from Australia and France who have been discovering the wonders of west Wales. As well as foreign guests we have had people from all over the UK, many of whom are coming to this area for the first time. We love encouraging them to go exploring the amazing castles and historic sites that abound here and the spectacular coastline where there is the All Wales Coastal Footpath which enables visitors to walk long or short distances right on the sea edge and experience the beautiful Welsh coast.