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.