Welsh culture

Avoiding the Digital Black Hole

Avoiding the Digital Black Hole is like hunting the Snark –you are not sure what it is but it’s horribly dangerous and if you accidentally step in it you will ‘softly and silently vanish away’.

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Henry Holiday’s original illustration of the Hunting of the Snark (that’s me in the middle) by Lewis Carroll.

(CC BY-NC 2.0)

So (as everyone says nowadays) I was particularly gratified when the National Library of Wales informed me that I had been chosen and they would like my permission to provide public access to copies of this website held within the UK Web Archive.  This, I am reliably informed, will protect me against the ravages of the digital black hole!

Thank you, National Library of Wales.        Diolch i Lyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru!

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animal psychology, Babies, Humour, Lambing, Sheep, Welsh culture

When is a sheep not a sheep?

Years ago, long before we knew anything about sheep, fate presented us with an orphan lamb.

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Here she is, still nameless and rather thin, at the foot of her ailing mother.  Our subsequent experience “bringing up Aby” (that is her name) forms the basis for some of my recent book, Iolo’s Revenge.

I don’t want to spoil the book for you but can tell you that it was a very steep learning curve and taught us a great deal that we had not previously realized about bonding, despite having five children!

And it’s not just humans that are suckers for baby things!  Here is Pedro our tough and, then, sometimes wilful, dog (who would kill an adult rat or rabbit in a trice) cleaning up Aby with puppy love.

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Here she is a few weeks later and a lot more confident.

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Queen of her domain.

She has had ten lambs of her own now, always helped into the world by yours truly, (though they never really needed it).  She would always lie as close as she could to the kitchen door and call for her private midwife.  She would make a terrible fuss if I went in for a cup of coffee or a call of nature and when the lamb was almost out I would gently help and present it to Aby.  It reminded me of a cat we used to have who would not have her kittens unless my dad was standing by with sterilized nail scissors.

I’ll save you the slippery, slimy pictures.  All cleaned up next day –note the number one –that’s Mum’s number — she was, after all, our first.

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Last October we sold our breeding flock and Aby has retired.  She runs with the new flock that graze our land.

Last week they were to be moved to the farthest field, beyond the woodland.  Now when sheep are faced with a scary predator their instinct is to flock together.  Aby took one look at the enthusiastic sheep dog, a Huntaway bitch, that had come to do the job and she peeled off from the flock and hurtled (she doesn’t hurtle often) towards the sound of Alan’s voice.  She hid with him in the orchard until the job was done and when shepherd and dog came back to the house Aby was standing with Alan in the garden still absolutely confident that when people say “sheep”, they don’t mean her.

She stayed in the garden all night, eating forsythia to which she is rather partial and which had only just recovered from its last assault, and I walked her up to join the other sheep in the morning which she did quite happily but in her own time.

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Birds, Ecology, Gardening, Wales

Protecting the Innocent

Baby barn owls and Jan

Here they are:  last years baby barn owls safe in the arms of local owl whisperer, Jan, from the Species Habitat Protection Group that monitor the owl box on our land.  I couldn’t show you these last year as their location was better kept under wraps — there are evidently still people out there who will abduct baby barn owls to rear as pets and for sport.

We hear barn owls every night but this year Mum and Dad have not used our box again.  It should be a better year as the dry weather allows the parents to hunt every night.

Two days ago Alan and I went to inspect the osprey nest over the hill.  This year there are three chicks, two male and one female, just about ready to fly, jostling for space in the untidy nest.  The location is well known now so their custodians have made a car-park with a hide which provides many volunteer watchers (and doubtless electronic surveillance).

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One fuzzy ‘fish-hawk’

Here are pictures from a previous year from the Osprey Centre webcam in the Dovey Estuary courtesy of the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust Creative Commons License .

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The mother was sitting on the cross-bar above the chicks, when we visited, waiting for the male to return with a big fish.  Below, the reservoir was shrinking fast in our only dry summer for years!

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Whoops — I spoke too soon — with a crash of thunder the drought appears to have ended!

We are reminded that, despite the drought, our habitat is Temporate Rainforest and that our garden, tended only by the Almighty is, this year, very fashionable!

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It would merit a gold medal at any of the horticultural shows — Chelsea, Hampton Court or Tatton Park!

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Art, Books, Entertaining, Literature, Wales, Welsh culture, Wendy Wigley

Champagne and Canapes

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Well…  Prosecco and nibbles — wonderful artichoke dip, goat’s cheese and black olives, smoked salmon sandwiches and little cheese scones topped with prosciutto followed by bite sized strawberry meringues.

That, according to my daughters, is how you do a book launch — but that seems to be what they would recommend in any number of situations (where did I go wrong!)

Anyway — it seemed to work. We launched Iolo’s Revenge locally on Saturday.

It was carnival day and the streets were decked with flags and the numerous pubs overflowed with revellers in fancy dress.  Having an artistic director of our own helped — Wendy, the artist who illustrated the book, and who goes to lots of private viewings of exhibitions, colluded with bunting, flowers and colourful napkins.  She also exhibited some of her original artworks that head every chapter.

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The previous night I had fallen from the kitchen work surface while retrieving a jug from a top shelf — the jug was smashed but I survived, stiffly, despite the numerous tellings-off.  Alan’s son, Daniel, saved the day, by putting out the chairs and remembering all the things I forgot in my percussed and anxious state — including the TV for the silent film show that had taken me weeks to prepare.

Takking to guests

There was a good turn out on the night — about 100! There I am, above, talking to some of them.  The readers: Libby, Alan and Gay did us proud.    The guests all laughed in the right places!

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Books at launch

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Wendy posing with Su and Richard Wheeler,  of Logaston Press, taking a break from selling books, while I catch up with the signing!

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Copies of Iolo’s Revenge are obtainable from Logaston Press

 

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

Iolo’s Revenge

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‘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.

 

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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

 

 

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seasons, Thoughtful, Wales

It’s all starting again!

Whatever is happening in your personal life the world goes on turning.

The clouds roll over the hills and sometimes they part and the sun comes out.

 

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After a long winter it is all happening again — everything is moving!  Even the lazy oak trees are greening.  The cuckoo is calling, the cock pheasant strutting and glinting in the sunlight with a double squawk and a percussive thrill of wings.  The woodpecker answers with his own drumming from up on the hill.  There are bumble bees over head and the first orange tip butterfly flutters over the carpet of white flowering shamrocks on the shallow water of the unfinished pond.

There is a scuffle of illicit nesting beneath the soffits of our roof.  Two squirrels, normally too busy to play, are cavorting amorously in the lane as, all around them, life springs anew.

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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

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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.

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

 

 

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