Climate, Hill Farming, Meteorology

Grass Roots Meteorology

Not looking at the colour of the grass to determine the dryness of the summer but measuring things oneself to confirm ones suspicions — that’s Science!

We had not lived in Wales very long when we suspected that it was a rather wet climate — I bought a very primitive rainwater gauge and commenced my research (in the spirit of the age of enlightenment and gentlemen scientists (or gentlewomen).

I measured the weekly rainfall for two years until one frosty morning an iceberg formed from the previous days precipitation and split the gauge and terminated the experiment.  However the results were conclusive –approximately 2000 mm (2 metres) of water per year –somewhat less than on the slopes of Snowdon and less than we expected –on balance it felt wetter!

We did prove beyond doubt the proposition — it is a rather wet climate.

We have rain all the year round, more in winter and less (if only slightly) in the spring.

Weekly Summer Rainfall for 2015 and 2016 (in pencil) in mm

mm of weekly rainfall in usual summer

Please note in June 2016 a perching Magpie, attempting to drink, knocked over the whole apparatus.  Okay, it’s not very professional but absolutely authentic.

In contrast  this summer’s record flat-lined until a couple of weeks ago.  There was no rain at all — measured or otherwise.

The poor farmers were carting water to their flocks on the parched hillsides.  The waterfalls were silent and the brooks no longer babbled.  Neighbours were seen lifting their manhole covers and staring forlornly into their wells or struggling up from the dwindling river with buckets of water to flush the loo.

Rainfall is something we, in Wales, take for granted.  We found one of our young farming friends sinking a bore hole last week having come face to face with the real possibility of drought and the previously unthinkable situation — one where he is unable to water his stock.

Our stream did not run dry but our pond stopped overflowing and the level dropped considerably mirroring the huge reservoirs of this area that supply the big cities of Liverpool and Birmingham.  Demand outstripped supply and during the hot weather we are told that the demand in the cities actually increased.  None of us should take our water supply for granted.

SONY DSC

Rocky bottom of the Clywedog Reservoir

SONY DSC

Rare glimpse of remains of Gronwen where our friend Audrey lived before the valley was flooded by the dam 50 years ago.

Standard
Doggy, Hill Farming, Humour, Literature, Wales, Wendy Wigley

Iolo’s Revenge

Iolo-cover2

‘They’ll do!  They are the ones I want’, said the old farmhouse, probably in Welsh, and the couple (the ones the old place wanted) were drawn into the life of the place — inspired by its beauty, its creatures, its moods and its stories.

My book, Iolo’s Revenge, Sheep Farming by Happy Accident in Mid-Wales, is published later this week by Logaston Press.  It tells of the abduction of an orderly, retired couple from Northampton to the heart of Wales.

They accidentally buy a derelict farmhouse and almost immediately are adopted by Pedro, a wayward hound.  They had been winding down for a quiet life when suddenly they are climbing on the roof in the midst of a terrible storm, grappling with a homicidal, mechanical digger and wrestling with a huge pregnant ewe in a freezing stream in the middle of the night.

They had never had any inclination to move to Wales or practice extreme farming, nor try to learn Welsh –yet life just takes over and before they know it they have discovered a sense of belonging and community lost since childhood.

 

IMG_20180305_0002

Iolo’s Revenge is illustrated by Wendy Wigley, a local artist who shares our love of the Trannon Valley and it’s often incongruous images!

SONY DSC Iolo’s Revenge ISBN 978-1-910839-24-9 £7.99 Available from Fircone Books, The Holme, Church Rd, Eardisley,  HR3 6NJ, United Kingdom.   Tel:+44(0)1544 327182

Buy today on-line from:Logaston Press

 

 

Standard
Hill Farming, Wales

Deep and Crisp and Even!

“Mark my footsteps, good my page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shall find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

From the Christmas Carol –Good King Wenceslas

SONY DSC

Aby, our oxymoron, a ten year old orphan lamb — now retired, and her companion, Twts (Titch in Welsh) coming down off the hill to the safety of the yard.

SONY DSC

Pedro — impatiently leading the way — what’s holding you up?

 

 

Standard
adventure, Hill Farming, lifestyle

Diminished Responsibility!

 

 

Today we wanted an adventure so we set off to test the roads and our new off-road tyres.

SONY DSC

So far so good!

SONY DSC

Up the cwm and into town — the Co-op shelves were almost empty — their lorry was missing, presumed lost — come to think of it we saw a lorry stuck on the hill.  We got our pills and enough ginger wine to last until spring and sped homeward.

We thought we’d avoid our dangerously steep cwm with its sheer drop one side and all the inconveniently placed oak trees, unyielding in a slippery situation.

We went the other way — we were trying to be responsible.

It was odd that there were no tyre marks into our turning — just beautiful virgin snow (powder, if you are a skier) about a foot deep.  We chose this route as it has steep banks (quite a lot of roads here are narrow tarmac strips suspended between precipice and ditch) — we could see which way the road went.  As we drove higher we could see the drifting — ridges of white dunes crossed our path from bank to bank — deeper and deeper as we got higher and higher.  Now we remembered seeing the drifting starting two days ago, before the 20cm of last night’s dump.  There are no houses up here and no lights — just white drifting snow and wind.

‘Shall we go back?’

‘Not yet!’

The technique was — drive as hard as you can until the drift stops you, then reverse and do it again.  Each time we got a little further using our makeshift bulldozer — back and forth — higher and higher — deeper and deeper!

Amazingly we reached the crest and it became slightly easier as we descended into the dip — into the unknown.  We turned at the bottom and could see the tracks where a quad bike, coming the other way, had given up, and turned for home.  That cheered me up.  I was being very quiet and brave! We followed in it’s tracks.

Now we had about half a mile of a straight, steep rise which Alan took at speed (relatively) drifting and sliding, sometimes almost travelling sideways but keeping going, then suddenly we had crested the hill and could feel the road, solid again , under our wheels.

Downhill for a couple of miles, and we could see where our young neighbour had come out of his track and headed down our way –‘hope to God we don’t meet him coming back!’  We did not.

It’s going to be minus 15’C tonight and maybe snow some more — where shall we go tomorrow?

Standard
Climate, Hill Farming, Sheep farming

White Wales

SONY DSC

No longer wet and green, where we live is suddenly white and crisp.

Today we went to inspect the moors above our home on the untreated roads.

SONY DSC

There is an amber alert for heavy snow overnight and cautious farmers were driving their sheep to land nearer home.

SONY DSC

Like us they were slithering a bit but seemed pleased to be heading home.

SONY DSC

Standard
Doggy, Hill Farming, Humour

Pedro’s Summer (do)Glog!

 

The sheep are sheared and drenched, the lambs are all injected and sprayed for blow fly and lice, and Maa’s been done for horse fly and midgy (she tastes most peculiar) and she’s finished the paperwork (boring), so we’re off out — it must be Summer.

SONY DSC

Keeping Cool!SONY DSC

Posing in the sunshine!

SONY DSC

Walks now limited by bovine population explosion.

SONY DSC

So we’re going to dig another pond with Alan’s new little helper…

SONY DSC

 

Who is quieter and less temperamental than the old one who had to be taken away.  Driven onto the lorry with much slipping, sliding, huffing and puffing of blue smoke — Alan was sad.

SONY DSC

But the topper has broken so, while Alan mends it, Maa and I have got to cut all the thistles by hand — that’s why I’ve got to do the blog — Maa’s too stiff!.

Cheers all!

043Ped closeup

Standard
Hill Farming, Humour, Lambing, Rugby, Welsh culture

Catch a flying sheep!

SONY DSC

Have you ever wondered why the Welsh and the New Zealanders are so good at rugby football – its because they both keep lots of sheep. Sheep-keeping and Rugby have a great deal in common. To do either successfully you must be fearless and have absolutely no hesitation. You must be strong, agile and fast. Also you must enjoy physical contact (have I said too much?).

Sheep keeping is athletic and heroic – no more so than at lambing time which is why lady shepherds attend their daughters’ weddings with black eyes and are frequently seen rolling down hillsides in the tight embrace of a frightened ewe while extracting a lamb with a pop (like little Jack Horner, pulling the plum out of the pie) – oh, what a good boy am I!

another try

Thanks to Phil_Heck for the picture CC/BY/2.0

Last week I rugby tackled a lamb. I did more than that – I proceeded to score a dramatic try with it! I resisted the temptation to throw it triumphantly into the air (sheep don’t right themselves like cats). I didn’t even bounce it on the field and I certainly didn’t try to convert it! I did what I always do and held on tight! I felt heroic and athletic as I sprayed its cord and wrote its number on its side – you can be number 10 like your mum – you can be fly-half!

Then in the glow of pride at my own agility (you know I have a bad back), I noticed it – the finger – the one that types the “P”s, the dashes and the punctuation, the one that wears the ring on my right hand – it was strangely deformed.

SONY DSC

Mallet Finger!  If you are American: Baseball Finger (how silly). I have an athlete’s injury (the orthopaedic website says so – so there!) – I have ruptured a little but very important typing tendon and Alan has splinted it (are there no limits to his talent?)  Slight blueness is due to sheep marker — not insipient gangrene! I have Rugby Finger!

Standard