Thursday 16 May 2024

Cows Out At last!, Time Away in Mid-Wales, Ancient Welsh Churches

At last the cows have gone out! A month later than usual due to the atrocious weather last month and the fact that we had a significant amount of silage to be eaten before the pit was empty ready for the next cut of grass. The cows had to finish the silage before going out onto fresh grass otherwise they would not have wanted to eat the silage having had a taste of the real thing! So, today was the day and the girls were very happy to be heading in a rush up the lane to our top fields and to have space to run about before settling down to the serious job of ingesting lovely fresh green grass. The milk yield will go up almost immediately and the flavour of the milk will be wonderful. The Farmer and I have been away for few days. We went up to mid-Wales and stayed in a cottage in a remote valley with the most stunning view across the hills of Powys. The countryside of Breconshire and Radnorshire is quite breathtaking and at this time of year the ancient oak woodlands were carpeted in bluebells making great lakes of azure in the vast areas of many shades of green. The fresh verdant gold of the oak leaves and the rich lettuce green of the new beech leaves interspersed with the creamy blossom of the may-trees canopied by clear blue skies was heart-lifting after the endless greyness of the past few months. Everywhere were ewes and lambs grazing on new grass or dozing in the sunshine under wind-sculpted old hawthorns in fields edged by hedges full of red campions, bluebells, some late primroses and gleaming buttercups and dandelions.
The past few weeks have been busy with family occasions, several birthdays, and two wedding anniversaries (the Farmer & I have reached the unbelievable milestone of 40 years wedded bliss!) and so there were gatherings of the clan at various intervals. All lovely! One reason for our trip up into mid-Wales was for the Farmer to seek out a couple of very old churches he has been reading about. They were both renowned for the wood-carving of thier rood-screens and the intricate woodwork of the ceilings. Once we found them in their hidden corners of the Welsh hills it was well worth the journey. The first one at a remote place called Llananno, had a magnificent rood-screen with a row of 25 figures, Christ and 24 saints, all beautifully carved in the 16th century and still standing in their elaborate wooden niches above the main body of the church, despite the Reformation and the Civil War. Apparently there was school of woodcarving in mid-Wales during the 16th century which is why so many old Welsh churches have the most extraordinary and beautiful rood-screens. One of the finest is in the church where the Farmer & I were married, Llanfilo, near Brecon. It is a very pretty church and the carvings in it are exquisite. We are very fortunate as a family to be connected with such a beautiful building...we have had weddings, baptisms and funerals there and there is another family wedding to be held there in 2025. (Unfortunately I do not have any photographs of the church in my archive but it is easily found on the internet.)

Tuesday 23 April 2024

Dry Weather At Last, Neighbour's Farm Sale Preparations

At last the weather has improved and we have had enough dry days to enable us to start cutting silage. Elder Son was out yesterday mowing and this morning before breakfast, the rake and other kit are being prepared for a long day. The rolls of plastic sheet for the silage pit were delivered yesterday and although it is a greyer morning than we'd like it is dry so hopefully after breakfast and all final preparations are done it will be full steam ahead. We have yet to turn the cows out, the land is just too wet, but once the grass is off the fields they should be able to get the cows out...turnout has never been this late! Yesterday the Farmer was on a farm up the valley helping get things ready for a farm sale. Our neighbour, with whom the Farmer was at primary school, has taken the major decision to sell up. His children are not interested in continueing farming and have careers outside agriculture and so having been on the farm since 1936, the family are selling everything. The farm itself has been sold and happily is going to continue as a dairy farm which is very encouraging. The preparation for a farm sale is a massive undertaking involving moving every item, no matter how small, out of buildings and sheds where they may have been for the last 60 or more years. All sorts of forgotten things are brought to light, antiquated machinery and tools that have been superceded by modern technology but remain as fascinating artefacts. Everything, from tractors, machinery, sheep hurdles & gates to boxes of old nuts and bolts & miscallaneous bits of metalwork, is set out in rows in good flat field ready for the sale day where they will be perused by all and sundry. There will also be some livestock going under the hammer, for of course, everything is sold by auction which is very interesting thing to watch. Some bidding is very subtle and it can be quite a game to see who is bidding for what. As well as moving everything, it all has to be washed and cleaned up, so the Farmer was busy with a pressure-washer all day sprucing up long-stored machinery. The buildings are all being pressure-washed too which is huge is no joke spending days washing out cubicle sheds, calf pens and lambing sheds but everything must left spotlessly clean for the new family coming in to the farm. A farm sale is a great social day for the neighbourhood and a meeting-up of old aquaintances, though farm sales such as this will are increasingly less frequent than they were. We shall be there of course, and all one can hope for is the the weather is kind on the day.

Sunday 31 March 2024

Easter Eggs & Venison

Easter Sunday and it's a bright, sunny, though chilly morning. So lovely that it is NOT RAINING!!! The Farmer spent yesterday working out the trail for our annual Easter Egg Hunt around the farm for the grandchildren and some of their friends and this morning he now has to go round again placing chocolate eggs in the various nests of straw he has dotted around the fields and hedges. They are in all sorts of odd places, down rabbit holes, up in trees (with a ladder firmly tied in place) or on a large stone in the middle of a stream. It is all great fun and the children love it and it is also a good long walk for them (& the grown-ups!) before coming in for hearty tea...,for the grown-ups as the smalls so are full of chocolate by that stage that proper food is not required! For Easter lunch we are having roast venison. We have a herd of wild red deer roaming the valley and were spotted in our fields recently, so the menfolk had bit of sport and brought back some excellent wild, free meat. Whilst the deer are very beautiful to see, their numbers need controlling as they eat any trees that are planted and a lot of grass that is needed for our cattle. A herd of twenty or so deer can do a lot of damage and by next year the numbers will have increased. They also are known to carry TB which of much greater concern to us than any other aspect of their close proximity. As dairy farmers bovineTB is our greatest worry and if the deer and the cows come into contact it is a great risk to our business. The biggest irony though, is that when we need to move any cattle we have to have them TB tested by a vet (which we have to pay for), but a herd of deer can roam freely from farm to farm as they please, in our case they will have crossed at least three seperate farms before they reach our land and later they were seen entering the woods on a farm far distant across the valley.

Sunday 24 March 2024

Sul Blodau, Flower Sunday

Yesterday we called on some friends down in the village and were fascinated to hear that they had just returned from a journey around the local area visiting their family graves in various churchyards and chapel burying-grounds, putting flowers on the the memorials of their family members.This would account for us having observed over the past couple of days people visiting the graveyards of our local churches and chapels...not something one sees very often. It is an old custom that, as Easter approaches,flowers are taken to graves and today, Palm Sunday, is known in Welsh as Sul Blodau or Flower Sunday. Even if the family are not regular church- or chapel-goers this tradition continues to be important in the community. Of course this is a lovely time of year as the hedgerow flowers are begining to appear in abundance no matter how cold or wet the weather. We have primroses at the foot of the hedge banks and I have seen a very early violet flowering along the drive. Our daffodils and narcissi have been out for a good while but as we have many different varieties around the farm and in the gardens we have a display that carries on for many weeks. I also have several camellias which have put on a wonderful display this year and the magnolias are showing great promise and the cherry blossom is coming on well. The blackthorn blossom is beginning to appear in the hedges and that combined with the ever joyful birdsong is a sure sign that spring has come. After all, it was the Spring Equinox last Wednesday and the natural world just can't help but burgeon forth in all its glory and we look forward with great anticipation to the full majesty of the apple blossom, bluebells, foxgloves, the more discreet and hidden gems of the violets, wild strawberries, stitchworts and the sunshine-y magnificence ot the buttercups,dandelions and celandines.

Saturday 23 March 2024


There really isn't anything sweeter than a small lamb cuddled up against its great woolly mum! With an improvement in the weather i.e no rain for a couple of days, and it has got much colder the Farmer has been able to put the lambs out and they are happily running around in a field with their ever watchful mothers. Rain is the problem for lambs but they cope with cold without too much problem...a big thickly-fleeced mother certainly helps. This morning it is very much colder than it has been recently and although when I was out walking my little dog at about 7 o'clock it was clear and dry with glimmers of blue skies, now it grey and very gloomy and we have had hail & sleet showers. Who knows what the rest of the day will bring?! In Wales we have a new First Minister leading our Labour government as of this week, though whether this will signify a change in government policy especially regarding the agriculural sector we wait to see. With a cabinet reshuffle we now also have a new Minister for Rural Affairs and we are all waiting to see how he will deal the farmers objections to the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme that has caused us to protest so vocally in the past few weeks. Easter is coming up and so I am expecting several guests to the holiday cottage over the next couple of weeks. Booking are slow, but this seems to be general trend and people book holidays much more last minute. So long as I get 24 hours notice of an arrival it works well though keeping up with the laundry can be bit of a challenge. On the farm work picks up apace with the improvement in the weather and the land beginning to dry out. The cows are still in but we would not expect to put them out to grass until about 10th April, but muck spreading should be starting soon as soon as we can get tractors onto the fields without making too much mess. We had the vet come in this week to check the cows to see how many are in calf and it seems that only one is not, which is a very good result. Calving will not start until the end of the summer. While lambing is pretty easy nowadays as we have only 20 ewes, calving time is always busy with just under a hundred cows all due in the space of a few weeks, but that is a good while off yet.

Friday 15 March 2024

First Lambs

Spring is definitely here as our first lambs arrived last evening. A fine pair of twins and doing well. We are in a seemingly endless gloom of grey skies and rain so lambs and the wonderful dispaly of daffodils around the place are immensely cheering. Because of the very wet winter there has been almost no chance of getting onto the land though a couple of dry-ish days last week meant we were able to get muck out and lower the levels in the slurry pit. Once the sun comes back the benefits of this will quickly be seen in the grass growth and hopefully by the middle of next month we should be able to put the cows out after their long confinement in winter quarters... always a great day. After the political activity a couple of weeks ago things have gone quiet here in Wales after the great protest meeting in Cardiff. There maybe things going on the background with our farming leaders and the seemingly immovable politicians but if they are we are not aware of them. There is to be a new First Minister for Wales in the next few days but I don't think anyone is holding their breath in the hope that he will be any more sympathetic to the farmers than the previous one. As for the farmers themselves holding more meetings and protests, this is the worst time of year to rally troops as everyone is busy lambing and calving, working long, long hours with no time to spare for going out to political meetings. We still have to care for our livestock in order to feed the nation despite the politicians trying to shut us down. We have not gone away. No Farmers No Food. Bookings for the holiday cottage are beginning to trickle in. In fact I have a very last minute booking of people arriving tonight, at barely 24 hours notice. Fortunately I always keep the cottage ready with the beds made up straightaway after the last guests have left, so today I've just got to bake some chocolate brownies as a welcome gift, put a vase of daffodils picked from the garden on the table and flick a duster around the horizontal surfaces and lay the fire in the wood-burner to be lit an hour so before our guests are due to arrive. It gives a lovely sense of welcome to arrive after a long car journey, and walk into a room with a glowing fire. The Farmer will do his usual great job of refreshing the water in the hot tub and lighting the fire in it tonight as the new arrivals have asked that it be ready for use when they get here which won't be until about 11.30pm!

Thursday 29 February 2024

No Farmers No Food No Future, Welsh Farmers Protests

After well over a month of intensive campaigning by the farmers of Wales to persuade the Welsh governmnent that their proposals for the future of Welsh farming are unworkable and will result in thousands of job losses, to say nothing of the impact on all other businesses that rely on the rural economy, it culminated in a massive protest by farmers from all over Wales gathering yesterday in Cardiff to protest outside the Sennedd (the Welsh Assembly building). Unfortunately the Farmer & I were unable to attend but watched it all on live stream on Facebook. It was a very peaceful and well-behaved gathering with no incidents of any kind and there were a number of speakers who presented the points we were making in the hope that the Labour government would actually listen to us at last. There was support from the other political parties (though how much of that was political posturing for the upcoming election?) and a general feeling of optimism. However, just hours after the protest ended there was a debate in the Senedd on whether there should be review of the proposed document. The vote was split 50/50 and the Labour government had the casting vote therefore the government will not review the proposal. This is a massive blow to us in the farming industry who had hope that we might have persuaded the government to actually listen to what we've saying. They have not and it seems have no intention of doing so. After the hard work by many people all over Wales to bring the farmers together and to unite the rural community to present our thoughts and feelings on the important matters involved it is a slap in the face. Farming families and businesses will be affected hugely by this. But, we must continue in the fight to ensure that Welsh agriculture is strong and that NO FARMERS NO FOOD continues to make people aware of what will be lost. If more people can begin to shop locally at farmer's markets, farm shops and farm gates buying food that is home-grown, sustainable and produced to the high standards of British farming rather than from supermarkets with cheap imported food produced to standards that would not be permitted in this country then our message is being heard. On a more cheerful and uplifting note tomorrow, 1st March, is St. David's Day. In Wales the day of our national saint is marked by the wearing of daffodils, and even leeks, on lapels and with school-children all over the country wearing national costume. Here is picture of my lovely daffodil bed in front of the house and the snowdrops and daffodils in the garden of the holiday cottage, in their full springtime glory! Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus!

Friday 9 February 2024

Digon yw Digon, Enough is Enough

A week on from the farmer's protest meeting that we attended in Welshpool in mid-Wales at which over 1,100 farmers turned up, last night we went to the second meeting held nearer home in Carmarthen, only half an hour away instead of three hours. There was a huge turnout, quite overwhelming for the organisers as somewhere in the region of 3-4000 farmers arrived at Carmarthen mart, many in tractors, including Elder Son accomapnied by our eldest grandson. We drove in with Younger Son and joined the massive crowd in the cattle layerage area of the mart to hear what various speakers had to say. We had Welsh Assembly members who are sympathetic to the farmers' situation address us, as well representaives from the farming unions, the Young Farmer's Club (YFC), a vet and farmers. A coffin was carried in to the mart bearing a plaque saying 'In Memory of Welsh Farming' as that is how this whole business is being viewed... a drive to end agriculture in Wales. As at the previous meeting there was a lot of strong feeling expressed about the future of farming, very well expressed by the speaker from the YFC and in particular by one of our near neighbours who had his young son with him and spoke of his determination that the child should have a future in farming. It all got quite emotive but it is how we all feel, our children must be able to continue in the industry, after all as is being constantly reiterated No Farmers, No Food and farming is very long-term business. The campaigning and support for the farmers is widely shown on social media (do check it out on Facebook and X(Twitter) and on Youtube. Look particularly for Gareth Wyn Jones.) With such a massive response to the calls for action a mandate has been given for the organisers to make representation to the Welsh Assembly and try to make them see the potential damage that will be done by imposing the Sustainable Farming Scheme on Welsh farmers which would in effect, reduce productive land by 20% and all that that would bring with it...loss of over 5,000 jobs, reduction of livestock units and the knock-on effect to the other industries and businesses that are tied into farming, the vets, the abattoirs, the feed merchants, machinery suppliers etc. One of the other issues facing us is the Bovine TB problem (bTB). It is rife in Wales as there has been a refusal by Welsh government to sanction a badger cull in the Principality despite strong scientific evidence from England that a cull does work. No-one is saying we must get rid of all badgers but the numbers must be controlled in order to bring bTB in the national herd to an end. The distress and emotional strain put on farmers by the bTB is massive. On a more cheerful note, spring is beginning to appear and we have daffodils appearing everywhere and despite the endless rain they do brighten everything up.

Monday 5 February 2024

Diolch yn fawr, Mary!

I am writing this to express my thanks to Mary of Windy Meadows Farm ( who so kindly reads my efforts and sends me lovely responses to which, due to a technological ineptitude on my part I am unable to reply (also I think Blogspot has something to do with it!). Mary, thank you for taking the time to comment on my posts, it means a lot. I guess our lives, while so many miles apart on different continents and in different cultures, are similar in lots of ways in that we both love family life on the farm and enjoying the seasonal round of the countryside. Farmers all over the world share so many common experiences and it is always fascinatiing to hear about the trials and tribulations, and of course the joys, familiar to us all. Diolch yn fawr! As you may realise I live in 'Welsh Wales', in this part of Wales particularly, Welsh is the first language and though I am not Welsh-speaking myself (despite having lived in Wales all my life and being taught the language at school!)I can get the gist of what is being said in a conversation though cannot join in, which is a great flaw in myself. The Farmer is fluent and both the Sons speak Welsh as & when they need to. The grandchildren go to 'Category A' schools which means they are taught through the medium of Welsh with English being a second language. If children are taught languages from an early age they master them effortlessly and so many children in Wales are bi-lingual from the start. Welsh is an ancient language possibly dating back about 4.000 years with its current form appearing between 400 and 700AD with the earliest written poetry in Welsh. It is one of the oldest languages in Europe and survives here in the far west, but only just. Just under 30% of the population speak the language and it survives in the agricultural heartlands though I know more Welsh is spoken in Cardiff now than when I was growing up there. In fact as a child I never heard Welsh spoken other than in my Welsh langauge classes in school. It was quite a surprise to me when I came to live in west Wales to realise that many people here conduct their whole lives speaking Welsh, using English but rarely. They are getting rarer now with the passage of time but there are still a few very old people who can remember being reprimanded for speaking Welsh in school as children. There was a move to eradicate the language starting hundreds of years ago. In 1536 Henry V111 pased an Act of Union prohibiting the use of Welsh in public administration and the legal system. However, the language managed to survive due in large part to the 1588 translation of the bible by one Rev.William Morgan until 19th century but during that era there were heavy-handed efforts to wipe it out including the 1870 Compulsory English Education Act in primary education. The continued anti-Welsh language onslaught went on in many forms until 1992 when the Welsh Language Bill gave equal status to Welsh with English in all spheres of life in Wales. There is a drive now get a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Friday 2 February 2024

No Farmers, No Food! , Welsh Farmers Protest

NO FARMERS, NO FOOD! Wales is a country of proud farmers and over the past years our government has been steadily working towards our elimination. This situation has now come to a head with the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme which although is is still in'consultation' mode is being presented to us as a near fait accompli. However, the farmers of Wales have now had enough and we are making a stand against the bullying tactics of the Senedd (the Welsh Government). Two days this week the Farmer I have attended meetings at which the anger and sorrow of the farming community has been made very clear. The first meeting, held locally, was a 'consultation' (that word again) in which we were given a presentation by three civil servants up from Cardiff explaining the new proposals. This is a very complicated issue and I am only able to give a very simplistic account of what is being felt and said.The meeting became very heated and there was lot of anger expressed. One topic that upsets everyone is the proposal that every farm in Wales has to have 10% tree cover. For us at Penyrallt that is not too much of a problem as we have many acres of woodland but for those farmers on the mountains or along the coast it almost impossible to grow trees to the required 3metres in height. The proposals seem to have been drawn up with 'one size fits all' attitude and just underlines how removed from the reality of the agriculture industry the government is. No account seems to have taken of the topography of Wales which ranges from lush fertile lowlands to steep harsh mountain & moorland to windswept coastline. The idea that every single farm in the country has to grow trees while taking 10% of the land out of food production is lunatic. I spoke to one farmer from Pembrokeshire who farms right on the coast and he was deeply worried about this as it is impossible for him to grow trees on his land and the effect of this inability would seriously impact his livlihood. The feeling in the room became increasingly angry and the frustration was palpable when it was clear that the civil servants were not actually listening to us though they assured us that they would report our views back to the minister in Cardiff. No notes were taken by them throughout the meeting. A number of attendees walked out in disgust. It seems this same scenario has been played out all over Wales at other 'consultation' meetings. As result a meeting was held last night up in mid-Wales by farmers to discuss what action we need to take to make the government listen. The Farmer & I made the near 3 hour drive up to Welshpool yesterday afternoon and joined the 1,100+ strong crowd to hear what had to be said. It was an amazing evening with so many farmers and non-farmer supporters gathered together. It was emotional at times as farmers expressed their fears that there will be no future for their families on the land (in many cases, as with us, it is many generations of farming expertise and knowledge under threat) and it was encouraging that there were so many young people at the meeting, many in their twenties & thirties who are passionate about their roles in agriculture. There was also much anger that our elected representatives have become so dictatorial and out of touch with the people who put them in a position of trust and repsonsibility under the illusion that they were concerned for the agricultural communities of Wales. There is to be another meeting in few days time nearer home which we shall go to and hopefully the Sons will accomapany us. An action plan is being drawn up and we shall do whatever is required. Much is said about how food can be imported therefore the need to have farmers in Wales is can supposedly sensible, intelligent people even think that this is a realistic approach to feeding a nation? Buy Local is mantra that needs to be emphasised everywhere and as a leading Welsh farmer, Gareth Wyn Jones says 'You need a farmer three times a day!' >Dim Ffermwyr, Dim Bwyd! No Farmers, No Food!

Thursday 25 January 2024

Cottage refubishment finished!

After the excitment of two days of real hard frost, ice and snow we are now back to the normality of rain and more rain, bu the birds are singing so it not all gloom. The work on the holiday cottage is nearing completion, just fiddly little details to be done and then we are ready for the guests of 2024. At the moment the the first booking is at the end of March but one can hope that someone somewhere may like an early spring break before then. Whatever, the cottage is pristine and ready for whoever may turn up. The Farmer has worked very hard making the new kitchen and installing lights and a dishwasher and building new beds and generally doing A Great Job. The photos below do not really do it justice. The whole thing has been a bit like moving house with having had to pack up every single thing and put them into storage for two months and then of course everything has to be washed before being put back in place, so it has been a lot of work all round.

Thursday 18 January 2024

Winter Weather but Spring is on the Way

We have snow! It has been only a light fall but enough to excite the children and to send them off to the slopiest field with their toboggans. It has been three years since the last snow show so the delight when everyone woke up this morning to a gleaming white world was immense. A sprinkling like this is does not disrupt the running of the farm other than a few frozen water pipes which soon thaw out once the sun moves round. In fact as I write the tap in my kitchen is starting to drip as the pipes to the house start to thaw so I will be able to wash up the breakfast dishes before too long! We have had cold weather for the past few days which is a blessed relief after the persistent rain of the last months but not cold enough to freeze pipes until now. Work on the holiday cottage is going well with the end in sight. My painter/decorator finished last week and I'm steadily getting the place sorted out and back to a livable space. It is looking lovely with its newly painted ceilings and fresh colour schemes. As soon as I have photographs I will post them up here. The whole process has been just like moving house again as of course everything had to be packed away, all the china, glass etc. and having new carpet laid, new beds and a new kitchen (courtesy of the Farmer!) but it is well worth the effort. Despite the wintry weather there are clear signs that spring is not too far away. Yesterday I found the first snowdrops in flower and daffodils are sending their sage-green shoots up everywhere and the crosuses on the lawns are promising a great display later on. On a jaunt down to Pembrokeshire at the beginning of the week we saw many daffodils already in flower - it is a much milder climate down there and things are usually well ahead of us here. The birds are starting to sing and I have already seen some of our summer-visiting mallards returning to one of the ponds from their winter quarters down on the river.
The Farmer is keeping busy processing firewood to build up the supply for next yearand even the year after. We have a lot of trees down with ash-dieback and when the trees are brought up to the timber yard they are processed into wood fit for planking to be made into furniture at a later date or what is fit only for firewood. Whether the wood is destined for carpentry or firewood it all needs to be well seasoned so we have sheds full of stacked planks well-sticked for even drying and other sheds full of mountains of logs alsoseasoning for the wood stoves. Burning green wood is a complete no-no so it is left for at least two years to ensure we get the most efficiently made heat from the logs.

Monday 1 January 2024

Happy New Year

Blwyddyn Newydd Hapus i Pawb. A Happy New Year to All. The first day of 2024 and it is Not Raining! Yes, once agin I am talking about the weather but after months of rain to be able to say we start the new year with a dry morning is cause for celebration. It is a relief to just be able to fetch logs from the shed across our yard without having to put on a coat, though I do still need to don wellies, but not to have a curtain of rain to dash through is wonderful! Christmas week has gone by with family gatherings and visits to & from friends & neighbours which has been lovely and shows that we do live in community that enjoys each others company although we do not meet up very often. On the farm the daily routines continue no matter what day is showing on the calendar and calves are being born increasing the feeding times as the numbers increase. We have had a cow develop milk fever, which does not happen too often, thank goodness, but a quick dose of calcium soon puts things right and the cow recovers well in just few hours. Having passed the Shortest Day or Winter Solstice just a week or so ago, amazingly the hens are starting to lay again...the smallest increase in daylight makes all the difference and it is good to have our own eggs again. As well a being New Year's Day it is also one of our younger grandchildren's birthday...Arthur is 3 today and we will go celebrate with all the family at tea-time this afternoon with cake and jollity and hopefully not too many upsets by over-excited small people!