Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Pigs learn new tricks

Well the girls are coming on at a terrific rate. It already smarts a bit when they happen to tread on your wellies with their dainty trotters. They have learnt a variety of new skills, the main one being gardening. They love rooting about and have turned their pen into a piggy paradise. It took them a while to get to grips with this skill, mainly as the ground was so hard. But after some rain and nearly doubling in size in 5 weeks, they have managed to turn the entire pen in under a week!

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They are having a whale of a time, and I spotted them yesterday chasing a dumb pheasant hen who was trying to steal their food, she just kept running around the pen hotly pursued by the girls, barking like dogs along with the ubiquitous squealing!

The next skill is circus tricks. They love clambering up on a fellow pig and run around like this across the pen, it’s not quite Cirque du Soleil, a bit more like Benny Hill…..but funnier!


The last skill, and perhaps the most impressive, is the difficult art of ‘synchronized scoffing’. After fighting my way to the trough to feed them, they quickly find the best way that each of them can get their piggy little trotters, into the piggy trough, to scoff as many of the piggy nuts into their piggy faces. This amusingly manifests itself as an orderly line, but looks can be deceiving!




From left to right, Alice, Harriet, Ali and Davina (I think….)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Gone Fishing

Well I seem to have caught the fishing bug again, last week my folks were up staying in Cwt Mochyn with their friends Richard and Cath from Ashford Golf Club. The boys were itching to get a days fishing in, so I took them to a nearby coarse fishery called Teglan. It appeared to be crammed full of fish and we spent a cracking day catching a bag full of good sized fish including Tench, Bream, Roach and Carp. I even bagged myself a Golden Tench which is a first for me.



The main problem was that there was rain forecast and we only had my one brolly between the three of us. Being a good son, I decided to keep the brolly for myself, Richard managed to borrow one from the lake owner, which left Dad out to face the elements.


As the fishing was so good, when the first shower came over Dad stayed put and sheltered under the peak of his cap. The rain came down thick and fast and in the end Squaddie Dad had to take shelter in the car whilst we continued to outwit the beasties under the surface.


At this point I was starting to feel slightly guilty, so a quick call to Ms Nightingale (aka Philippa), and she came rushing down with an emergency spare brolly, a dry chair and some crisps and chocolate!


This week Philippa is away and so I’m in charge of two change-over's, but I definitely will be having another days fishing before she returns :-)

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Beast Within

Readers who were with us last season will be familiar with my feelings on the subject of slugs. I thought my hatred of slugs had reached its peak with the decimation of last year’s savoy cabbages. However, the well of hatred has not run dry, and may in fact be bottomless. Yesterday I discovered my inner beast, the place inside where my murderous urges reside. It was raining lightly, I’d watered the polytunnel and was already quietly seething as an overnight visitor had nibbled the leaves and buds on two pepper plants. Despite the rain I thought I’d harvest a legume selection for our guests in Hen Ffermdy cottage. That’s when I saw them. Hundreds of the little *******. Big black ones, fat brown ones, even baby ones, sliming up the stalks, squatting on the leaves, squelchily gnawing at the pods. Below are “before” pictures of my peas and broad beans. There’s no “after” pictures as I fear the images would be too distressing.


One broad bean plant was stripped entirely of pods, and its few remaining leaves drooped sadly under the weight of engorged slugs. I ripped the plant from the ground and fed it to the pigs. Handful after handful of slugs were catapulted over the fence. In the end I decided this was too kind and took to dashing their slimy bodies to the ground, stamping and mashing them into the stones, cursing like a woman possessed.

I am partly to blame for the demise of the legumes. As the cabbages and sprouts were so badly damaged last year by the twin menaces of slug and caterpillar, the brassica bed has been the focus of my slug defences. Baked, crushed egg shells, plus slug pellets, plus slug beer trap and constant netting, all of which has left this year’s brassica bed in tip top condition. The sprouts are doing so well that Dave had to raise the height of their net structure to cope with the burgeoning plants. I’m particularly proud of my drumhead red cabbages, with their vast leaves that flap in the breeze like purple elephant ears.


We lifted the garlic and shallots last week, so the winter crop of leeks could go in. Last years leeks were a bit stumpy, so this time Dave pushed the big dibber in nice and deep to give the leeks plenty of growing space. The down side is that the cats think the holes are mouse houses. I caught Stevie with his paw down a hole and a baby leek in his mouth. Bad cat. So now the leeks have to be netted too. Pests come in all shapes and sizes, big and furry, small and slimy.



Sunday, 18 July 2010


I used to buy hand bags. I didn’t need handbags, but I wanted handbags. And shoes. I was a late developer, only discovering the world of designer bags and shoes as I tiptoed towards 30. I could blame my evil twin, but it was my money to spend, and spend it I did. It didn’t matter that I could hardly walk in some of the shoes, they looked pretty and nothing else mattered. Where are they now, these bags and shoes? Someone, somewhere is toting my bag and admiring their feet in my shoes. Sigh. Well I had to be honest with myself and admit that a smallholding in Wales is no place for heels. The folk at Clynderwen & Cardiganshire Farmers agri store wouldn’t appreciate the beauty of my Kurt Geiger mules, the grease smeared men of Gwili Jones tractors wouldn’t take me seriously if I tottered though the door in pink suede LK Bennett kitten heels, and there’s no way I’d get a 25Kg bag of layers pellets into my Furla handbag.

One year later and my retail therapy has taken on a different form. Beauty has given way to practicality. My most recent purchase was a giant ironing board. I love my new ironing board. She’s tall, wide, long, purple and perfect. No really, I got quite excited the day she arrived. You’d understand my joy if you too had spent hours trying to iron 4 duvet covers, 4 sheets and 16 pillow cases on a Barbie-sized ironing board, with one hand on the iron and the other trying to stop folds of linen from cascading onto the floor and into the cat zone. The size of my board had never been a problem before as I’d perfected the art of buying crease-free, non-iron office worker clothes, employed a cleaner armed with a can of spray starch to tackle Dave’s work shirts, and slept between creased sheets. In my new life I spend a lot of quality time with my ironing board. And if I miss my bags and shoes, I can always kick off the muddy wellies, slip on the red suede killer heels stashed at the back of the wardrobe and collect the eggs in the Lulu Guinness clutch bag hidden under the bed.

Oh, and by the way, “smwddio”, pronounced “smoothio”, is not a fruit based drink but is in fact Welsh for ironing. What’s not to love about a language like that.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Arnie arrives at Banceithin


Well the bore hole team arrived on Tuesday to start the drilling. The machine came trundling up the drive looking like something from the Terminator movies. The boys started drilling but it is taking a bit longer than anticipated, as the bedrock here is pretty tough and they are only managing about 3 metres every hour, and as they are going down to 50 metres, it will take some time.

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In the mean time, I have been manually filling the water storage tank by hand from another spring down the road. This was taking forever as I was only getting 25 litres every 10 minutes, and as the tank holds 1400 litres this was taking all day, so I needed to come up with a better solution. In stepped our fantastic neighbours! Rod from down the road directed me to a dairy farmer up the hill called Jim. He was fantastic and rigged up a water pipe for me but I still only had three 25 litre containers. He sent me to to the farm next door, where Mark lent my a 1000 litre water tank that fitted perfectly into the back of the truck. So now I only have to fill our tank every other day, and it only takes an hour!


The only obstacle left was how to get the water from the tank on the truck, into our storage tank not having a pump. Luckily there is a small bank near to the track, and through the power of gravity we can actually syphon the water down to the main tank, RESULT!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Who pulled the plug?


So we went for a little walk the other day around Llyn Brianne. This was the site Simon King visited for Spring Watch last year. The water levels were amazingly low, highlighting the problems we’re experiencing this year. Our current guests would probably say ‘what drought?’, as we have had some rain this week, but it will take a lot more rain to get the water table to rise. The drill team arrive at Banceithin on Tuesday to drill the bore hole. Then a different team come to install the pumps etc, so as long as the water pumps clear, we should have a new alternative source of water in a couple of weeks. Until then our spring is hanging on in there!

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Gwenffrwd-Dinas RSPB reserve near LLyn Brianne

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Pesky teenagers!

Well our resident barn owl family are itching to get out into the big wide world, unfortunately two of the three chicks tried to follow their sibling who flew to the ladder and back to the box, but they weren’t as strong and ended up on the floor of the barn. With our cat population we were a bit worried about what to do, the traditional thought was to leave them be, but I contacted the Barn Owl Centre and they actually informed me to return them to the box.

So I put on my big gloves and went back out to the shed. The first fella was a bit feisty, gripping my hand with his talons, and as soon as I put him on the platform outside the box, he hopped obediently back inside. The other one was not looking too good, and didn’t put up any resistance, and putting it back on the platform, it just sat there, and if he wasn’t standing you would have sworn he was dead. Putting in my second call to the experts, I was told not to worry, and that Barn owls were very good at ‘playing dead’! I was informed that I would probably have to do this a lot until they fully fledge, as they are like naughty school kids at the moment who just want to go out to play!

It was pretty amazing holding these fantastic creatures, who are no bigger than a small pigeon.

Interesting fact about Barn owls, apparently they can hear a mouse's heartbeat in a 30 Sqft room!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Off on a frolic

Last week we had a “research day”, being a day off for a frolic disguised as research into the various tourist attractions that Ceredigion has to offer. As research days go it was quite a successful one, with 2 out of the 4 attractions scoring highly on my excitement scale. Sculpture Heaven and the Rhydlewis trout farm & smokery will not be making into the must have tourism bible that is the Banceithin Guest Information Book, but Moriath Glass and the unpromising sounding but surprisingly enjoyable National Wool Museum both received glowing reports.

I knew from the sparkly coloured glass objects featured on the web site for Moriath Glass that the trip to this artist’s studio and gallery, tucked away up a lane behind some trees round the back of a cottage, was going to be a good find but a potential disaster for the bank account. As it happens, I managed to restrain the urge to buy a stash of pretty things for me and only came away with a dream sword to hang in the window of Cwt Mochyn. Although I have to confess that it hasn’t yet made its way into said window. I’m still contemplating where it would look best…

On to the National Wool Museum.


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Free admission always means that you start your visit with an open mind and a good mood. Even so, the story of fleece to fabric was much more fun than I’d anticipated. Maybe it helped that we’d not been “off site” for a few days. Or maybe the museum really is that exciting. Prince Charles had been there just two days earlier, so that could have accounted for the air of spick and span and general shiny-ness of the place. But I like to think it’s always like that. It was most educational too. Did you know that the first machines used actual teasels wedged in a frame to tease the fleece into softness? The job of “teasel man” was to roam the country going from mill to mill replacing teasels. Did you know that the origin of the phrase “to be on tenterhooks” comes from the suspending, drying and stretching of new wool fabrics on the hooks of tenter frames?

Best of all was the textile gallery. Piles and piles of lovely Welsh wool blankets. Kid in a candy store. Except for Dave, who’s allergic to wool and so thinks of a night under a wool blanket as his own personal hell. Now you all know what to get him for Christmas.