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