Hill Farming

Where do you start?

We have been heeding the Welsh Assembly Government’s injunction to farmers to renovate traditional farm buildings.

Traditionally a hill farmer with twelve children and as many useful acres built with what was available: stone from the river bed, oak and hazel from the woods and rushes or bracken to thatch, all lashed down with honeysuckle twine or tiled with flat pieces of the local flat stone (almost slate).  In the last 100 years the philosophy hasn’t changed but available materials have.  Here is our traditional barn.

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Welsh nouns have gender and she, the barn, is made of scavenged telegraph poles, tree trunks, branches, corrugated iron, galvanized sheets, draining boards, old doors (wooden,fridge and car), fencing panels and bits of garden shed (or the old privy), tarpaulins, a First World War great coat and carpet (not on the floor, of course, but stapled into the walls) with sacks made of plastic, hessian and paper and all held together with wire and baler twine of plastic and hemp.

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It is a basic timber frame construction, clad inside and out with the aforementioned materials and the cavity filled with balls of twine, sheep’s wool, oily rags, empty jam-jars, fag packets (that’s cigarettes if you are American) and a mummified rat.

The whole thing is reinforced by forty years of incorporated tree growth and drained by various burrows.

At the rear is a concrete plinth presumably for the generator that produced the electricity before 1964 and was protected by a steel door with a rusty padlock still hanging open in the hasp and, believe it or not, a brass key, hanging nearby on a nail and still operating the smooth action of the lock without so much as a squirt of penetrating oil; the brand new padlock we put on the field gate last year had seized by November.

SONY DSCWe discovered all this as we lovingly unpicked it and sorted what we found – into metal scrap (£!!!), firewood for next winter and burn now!  Even  though latterly it had been a health and safety nightmare, demolishing it was a sacrilege – an insult to those who built this monument to ingenuity, inspired in poverty and an antidote to materialism.

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