Wednesday, 27 January 2010


Day 1, 8:05 a.m. - The housemates have spent their first night together in the Kotetsi. Hestia lost most of her tail feathers. Aphrodite, Athena & Hera have all nominated Hestia for eviction. No eggs.

Day 2, 3:40 p.m. - Hestia has a dirty bottom. So does Athena. Hera struts around showing off her clean frilly feather knickers. Aphrodite grabs all the corn. No eggs.

Day 3, 11:15 a.m. - It's raining. All of the housemates are under the house. No eggs.

Day 4, 14:24 p.m. - Aphrodite is under the hen house, the rest of the housemates are at the feeder complaining about Aphrodite's "I'm the queen of the roost" attitude. No eggs.

Day 5, 8:16 a.m. - The housemates unite in their disgust at the hot mash served for breakfast. Athena is under the house. Aphrodite squats in the door way of the house. Hera and Hestia are left out in the rain. No eggs.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Chick, chick, chick, chick, chicken….

… lay a little egg for me.

Yes, dear readers, the chickens have landed! As I write, our four feathered friends are roosting in their new home in the garden of Banceithin.

The poultry adventure began with a journey to Happy Hens poultry farm in the aptly named village of Ffarmers. This was where we met Brenda, who patiently answered all of our naive poultry keeping questions and introduced Dave to her chicken slaughtering stunner, funnel and tree (head) lopping shears. I tried not to stare at the feather and blood gummed blades and put on my best “I’m not fazed by the concept of killing my own food” face. I think she was fooled. We handed over £50 smackers and Brenda bid farewell to us and a blanket covered cage containing four point of lay pullets. Suddenly we were responsible for four new lives and Brenda hadn’t given us the instruction manual. 

Please welcome to the blog, Aphrodite and Athena,  a pair of feisty Rhode Island Reds, and Hera and Hestia, the beautiful Welsummers. It’s only fitting that chickens living in a Kotetsi built by Greek labour (see blog entry 3 November 2009) should be named after the Greek goddesses of love, wisdom, marriage and the home.


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As soon as the girls were installed in their run the fox-proofing was put to the test by the endlessly curious Stevie and Nessa. Stevie patrolled the perimeter and having failed to find a way in wandered off to investigate the inside of an empty feed bag instead, returning later to do a poo by the fence. Nessa’s attempt at chicken intimidation was no more successful than Stevie’s and although crying at the kitchen door usually has an “open sesame” effect, no one was falling for the crying at the chicken run gate trick. As for Charlie, he couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed.

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The first test of our poultry keeping skills came as dusk fell. According to the books, chickens instinctively head for home as the sky darkens. According to reality, they do no such thing. Was it the home made ramp putting them off? Or the smell of fresh wood shavings? Perhaps the hen house architecture wasn’t to their liking and the girls wouldn’t be seen dead in an orange chalet propped up on brieze blocks. Knowing we have a fox in the area we couldn’t wait any longer as by now the sun was sinking fast. Herding them towards the house didn’t work, chasing them round the trees didn’t work, clapping and clucking didn’t work. It was going to have to get physical. My limp wristed girly attempt at chicken capture was laughable. Dave’s manly lunge produced much wing flapping but he successfully bundled Athena into the house and slammed the door shut on her feathered behind. One down, three to go. Thankfully the gods (Greek or otherwise) were smiling on us and we were all saved from further indignity. The clucking of one hen from inside the house acted like a signal to the others and suddenly Aphrodite, Hera and Hestia were forming an orderly queue up the ramp. As the last tail feather disappeared into the pop hole, the door was dropped and all were safely inside for their first night at Banceithin. Anyone fancy an egg for breakfast?

Monday, 18 January 2010

Fire in the hold

Well it’s nice to get back to doing some proper work, rather than snuggling in front of the fire, watching DVD box sets and drinking far too much red wine!

The builders also arrived back on site and continued with the indoor sports arena (otherwise known as the old garage), pouring a concrete path around the outside and installing the window frames.

The first part of the day involved the removal from the loft in the barn of the hot water tank. As the system wasn’t working during the cold snap, and we forgot to drain it, ice inside the tank had burst the heating coils…..It was a bit of a disaster, as a new one costs over £1500. But speaking to the manufacturer, they can fix it for £100…..Hurrah!

We popped round to the new neighbours to scrounge some nice horse manure to dig over the beds in the polytunnel. Hopefully that will mean we’ll get a bumper crop this year.

I finished the installation of the wood burning stove in the barn and the test firing went smoothly. We’ll now be able to work in either properties, even if it is –16 Deg.


Thursday, 7 January 2010

Water, water everywhere…

… and not a drop to drink.


This morning I woke up, tripped over the three amigos snoozing on the rug outside the bedroom door and stumbled into the bathroom. I turned on the tap. Gurgling. No water. The upside of living off mains is access to fresh, pure spring water. The downside of living off mains during “the big freeze” is just that, a big freeze. No water for washing. No water for coffee. Yikes. Option 1: take the truck out through the snow, head for Lampeter & buy bottled water. Option 2: trudge through the snow, sneak in the back door of the Ty Nant bottling plant and steal bottled water.

Being on a tight budget, we chose option 2 and headed off….


Only joking. We left Stevie & Nessa to their cabin fever play time, slipped the truck into 4 wheel drive and braved the lanes.

IMG_4179 We only got as far as the end of the drive when we were confronted by the first obstacle - a frozen gate latch. Doh! Out in the lanes, driving through deep snow, with the sun glinting on field after field of snow stretching out from the Cambrians and a cloudless blue sky above, we could have been at an alpine ski resort where the skiers have been swapped for sheep. 

On our return, the outside tap had defrosted so thankfully the toilet could be flushed with a bucket of water. Sighs of relief all round. I headed off to extract some brussel sprouts and leeks from under their snowy blanket, while Dave boiled the first of many kettles of water and began the task of identifying the frozen link in the maze of piping from spring to house. There were scary moments – the pump that runs the whole system inexplicably died and I paled at the prospect of weeks of no water. There were funny moments – the pressure tank squirted water into Dave’s face, Nessa fell into a bucket of water. Eventually there was success as Dave extracted lengths of frozen water from the pipes.


The spring water was flowing again. And if there’s one thing Charlie loves more than a muddy puddle of rain water, it’s ice cold running water!


Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Jobs indoors…

Well we had some more snow so it’s another ‘stay inside and stoke the boiler’ day. We’re not however revelling in day time television (even though the darts is on at the moment), and have put our creative hats on. Philippa is in charge of redesigning our logo. Thanks for all the feedback for version one, version two has taken on board some of the points by making the font clearer, and redrawing the bird to look more like a Red Kite and not a Swallow which many people thought.


My job is to start drawing a detailed map for guests to follow when first arriving. For those of you who have ventured here, things can get a bit tricky if you don’t have an OS map, as the postcode only gets you roughly in the right area if you are using Sat Nav.

Any comments on the new logo will be greatly received…...

Now what about that darts event!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

New Year, New Snow!

The first full year of Banceithin Life has come to an end. Work on site made way for celebrating and partying with friends and family, so there’s been little progress over the last two weeks, but looking back at the blog is a reminder of just how far the place has come in a year and all those lovely people who’ve helped us along the way. Living in and around the building work means you tend to forget the big changes that have taken place, all you can see are the myriad of smaller jobs still to do that seem to take forever, but the cottage has gone from this…


to this ….   IMG_4125

… and the barn from this…

IMG_2690 … to this…


We’re only 2 days in to 2010 and already there’s been much excitement – it started with a classic conga dance around the kitchen island and some serious booty shaking until the early hours, and for those party-goers who managed to get out of bed the next day (while others slept off the sloe gin, snowball, elderberry wine and prosecco cocktail), there was a spot of bird watching at the new year’s day red kite feeding frenzy.


And then the snow began to fall.

By morning we had a good few inches and Banceithin was a winter wonderland, which was fun for Stevie but not so fun for our new year guests in their city cars who had to get back to civilisation and real jobs that pay real money.

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The convoy of intrepid travellers led by Dave in the truck successfully negotiated the snowy drive, but events took a turn for the worse as we wended our way up the lane. Car one made it half-way up the hill, car two got stuck behind car one and car three was teetering on the edge of the ditch doing some impressive wheel spinning. After one and half hours, a bag of dishwasher salt, two shovels, a failed truck tow, a dented front, a successful tractor tow and a huge collective sigh of relief, all three cars made it out to the main road. Getting stuck in the snow is a great way to meet the neighbours though – we now know that Terry lives in Talwrn Lodge up the road and has a new borehole, that Nigel thinks this is the worst winter we’ve had for years and that the farmer with the indecipherable Welsh name and his identikit son have a big Massey Ferguson that can pull cars out of ditches. I also now know that Welsh men prefer to stand in a huddle with arms folded and discuss the relative merits of tractors versus trucks whilst the womenfolk shovel snow and tie tow ropes to cars.