Hill Farming, Sheep

Mother Nature’s Own Agenda!

“She’s got rid of those breeding ewes — we won’t have to look at any more pictures of slimy new lambs”

Not so! As with all things in the Garden of Eden — Mother Nature will have her way! The young lady who now uses our land to graze her virginal, adolescent ewes is learning just how fragile is ovine virginity!

Happy Accident 1 and 2, discovered on Wednesday:

They were left in peace in our top field and the others brought down to the fields around the house, I was out. The first thing I knew about what was going on was when I was eating my lunch in the sunshine and heard a strange baa — like a child imitating a sheep — I went to investigate and found a bewildered young ewe with tummy ache. But something was wrong — didn’t I say that anything that could go wrong would go wrong? It’s the 1st rule of rearing anything! She was agitated, as well she might be, and not progressing in her labour. I tried to catch her which only reminded me why I had decided to stop lambing in the first place. I phoned the shepherd, who phoned her dad, who borrowed her dog, who came and caught the ewe.

The dog drove the ewe into the pen and Dad and I extracted a very shocked large and strangely khaki lamb with a swollen head and enlarged tongue and initial disinclination to breath but with encouragement she did (Mother Nature was not about to be out-done at this stage!)

Happy Accident no 3 a few hours later –still a bit wobbly — mother much calmer.

After her day job, the shepherd arrived to check the rest — two more wayward adolescents were identified, to be collected tomorrow and taken to the main farm. But guess what?

What’s this? Happy Accident no 4!

Now I’m going out to check for No 5!

What a treat it is for me to have some lambs to fuss over! But what strikes me most is how big and healthy these lambs are without all the extra food and care that would normally have been lavished upon them.

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Humour, Thoughtful

First Ten Ages of Woman

from the Library of Congress photographed by Stuart Rankin(CC BY-NC 2.0) Flickr

Life has chapters but someone else is turning the pages — here’s a brief index!

1 – the bit you can’t remember but you’ve seen it in photographs.

2 – Idyllic childhood gradually eroded by the realization that all is not 100% even in your Garden of Eden. Adults not always all they are cracked up to be! Actually — the sooner you learn this the better.

3 – Teens — driven by so many peculiar drives and preoccupations: BOYS/ girls/ secretions and changes/ dandruff/ dancing/ BOYS/ men/ exams/ driving lessons/ BOYS/ getting drunk/ stoned(not me!)/ paranoid/ poetical/ no money/ weight gain/ weight loss. Generally not very mindful of the bigger picture but navigating that choppy sea with friends in the same boat.

Teenagers by Kamyar Adl (CC BY 2.0) Flickr

4 – (Optional) Suddenly serious about relationships, politics and career (not necessarily in that order). Get qualified/ get married/ read the papers/ vote etc.

5 – Motherhood and child rearing (Optional) — struggling to keep head above water, multitasking, juggling multiple balls in the air (marriage/ finances/ clean socks/ hair cuts/ children/ job/ MOT/ tax returns/ cleaning out the rabbit/ walking the dog/ visiting Granny) feeling guilty about whichever one is about to drop. “Mummy, the cat’s had kittens and they are in my bed! Why’s my bed wet?”

6 — Dropping a ball (inevitable) — Divorce/ Burn out/ Son sets fire to the house/ teenage daughter pregnant (not ours)/ serious illness in the family/ menopause (that was quite a relief actually). Pretty well anything that can go wrong will go wrong and not just for bad people!

7 – Decline — coasting towards retirement with 2nd husband (if you are lucky) — is the work more demanding or are you just getting older? Science, technology and systems generally are starting to evolve more quickly than you seem to adapt. Spend a lot of time shouting at computers, often scratch the car and find it’s always later than you think!

An angry woman: 16th C. misericord, the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame (Collégiale Notre-Dame), Le Puy-Notre-Dame, Anjou, France

8 — Retirement — Yippee! However did you find time to go to work. Do new things and find you are not as stupid as you thought.

9 — Grandparent and Health Service User — endless peer group discussions about eyesight/ teeth/ bowel screening/ breast screening (Ouch!)/ stents/ knee replacements/ erectile dysfunction/ prostate surgery and how you can’t do anything with your hair since your last chemo! All this is rather unwelcome but is punctuated by delightful visits from little kids that remind you of yourself (and sometimes of your X-husband) and of what a wonderful life it really is.

10 — Widowhood — sudden, though always half-expected because no-one can expect to be happy forever and you did know he was ill although he pretended not to be. Now your children (who are suddenly definitely grown-up) worry (and probably moan) about you at least as much as you do about them. You keep wondering why people are being so nice to you, then you remember. Suddenly you can do whatever you want although you don’t really want but you do it anyway — yesterday I climbed a mountain with a group to look at historical sites, one of those Welsh mountains that are really a huge hill. I was interested in the archeology, the others seemed to be serious, serial walkers — there was talk of Kilimanjaro! It was very cold and steep and I got extremely short of breath (probably not the altitude) and hobbled a good deal on the way down but I walked 8 miles and didn’t die. I’ll tell you about it another day.

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Hill Farming, seasons, Wales

Flaming February

Last autumn it was too dry to burn the brushwood from our extensive hedging operations.

Now, when most years we have snow, I’ve been farming in my shorts! We’ve had the hottest February days since records began (here anyway). There are wildfires on Saddleworth Moor but here the ground is still a bit soggy so Alan announces that the conditions are right for a bonfire!

As we had a spot of bother with our last big fire ( see Uncall the Fire Brigade) our friend David takes it upon himself to supervise us, bringing his grab on the big tractor — always exciting for us!

There was a shower over night so it is slow to start.

But, after a bit of encouragement:

We have a spark to work with — piling on the brushwood on an industrial scale!



Until we have a decent bonfire!

Satisfying to watch!

It burns all night and no hedgehogs are injured in the making of this fire!

By next day it is manageable by a retired lady with a pitchfork.

Now we are ready for the spring and, you guessed, it’s raining!

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Doggy

RIP Pedro

It’s been a difficult winter as several of our good friends have crested the distribution curve for life expectancy and done what we will all do eventually — because of this it hasn’t seemed right to talk about the passing of our dog.


However Pedro was such a special individual he deserves his canine eulogy

Much of his early life is documented in my book Iolo’s Revenge where he looks out from the fly leaf to engage the potential reader just as, in life, he engaged everyone he met –he had extraordinary social skills with eloquently persuasive non-verbal powers — and verbal understanding.

“Not in front of the dog!” my husband would say as we discussed the possibilities of an outing , ” We don’t want to disappoint him.”

It was probably his idea anyway.

He had a way of fixing you with his stare and then glancing at the object of his desire (whole systems of psychoanalysis have been based in this method of communication). His glance would lead you to the path to the woods; his ball on the shelf; my crook when he wanted to look at the lambs; Wellies when he wanted to go to the stream or the beach (he loved the beach) — he knew exactly how to introduce the thought that he wanted into my head: feed the sheep; collect the eggs; walk the dog and don’t forget we are taking next-door’s dog today; it’s six o’clock (I know it is, I’ll feed you in a minute!)

Come on — time to set off!

The thing about dogs is that they communicate on an emotional level, with irresistible sadness when they don’t get their own way and uncontainable joy when they do — and joy is catching. A walk in the woods or a romp in the snow with a happy dog can elevate the meanest mood!

Retrieving a stolen ball on the Gower

Pedro was a family dog:

New Granddog

Good with sheep:

And lambs (he loved baby creatures — he’d bring them in and ask if he could keep them):

Not so good with cats

Protecting Boss from pesky cat (demonstrating sophisticated emotion) Jealous dog — they do PhDs in that.

Athlete:

Intrepid explorer:

Guard-dog:

Farm Manager:

Photo by Peter Jenkins — all rights reserved

Old Friend:

RIP Pedro 2005-2019

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Humour, Local History, Wales

Under Fire!

The first of February was the last day of the season for shooting pheasants in the United Kingdom and presumably the last day for taking pot-shots at innocent little ladies walking in the woods which is what my friend and I were doing that day.

Hoods up against the sharp wind, we leaned on our stout sticks and felt our way through the frozen puddles along the bridal track from Bwlch y Ffridd to Gregynog Hall — so muffled were we that we could have passed for the ghosts of Margaret and Gwendoline Davies, the great patrons of modern art, who will have passed this way a century ago.

“That’s where von Ribbentrop used to stay in the thirties,” said my friend pointing out a building on the far side of the wide valley. I pricked up my ears but before I could question her further we became aware of several large four-wheel-drive vehicles crunching through the snow in the valley below and stopping one after the other to disgorge men with guns who seemed to be scrambling to take up positions along the valley, parallel with our route along the track. “Are they hunting today? Is it a shoot?”

“Shootings over for this year… I think” said my friend.

Young men with dogs and sticks appeared above us in the wood lashing at the tree trunks and clapping.

“Beaters?”

“I think we had better turn back and quickly.”

Bang!

“They are bloody shooting!” In a state of extreme arousal we slid and stumbled our way past the gunmen, along a fusillade that rained lead shot down through the trees like unearthly hail. They weren’t firing at us and probably were 30 feet away but it really was quite exciting!

I bet von Ribbentrop came here for the shooting or perhaps to meet Mrs Simpson (lovers evidently) as they both wooed the future king — it’s a small world.

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Cornwall

Helicopter

At home I spend many a happy hour musing on possible sites to land a helicopter –specifically an air ambulance — basically there is nowhere within two miles that is flat or not festooned with power lines or patrolled by ferocious cattle.  The only flat place on the farm is where Alan has built an enormous bonfire which was too dangerous to light all summer and is now too wet!

Anyway, as everyone knows, no one ever gets around to being sure that they are ill enough to call an ambulance in the morning.  We have our lunch at 3pm and it’s dark by 4 — the Welsh Air Ambulance doesn’t fly after dark which is as well with all the mountains and the above hazards.

We’ve been in Lostwithiel in Cornwall — on the Fowey River.  There was a colossal roar the other day — so tantalizingly loud that Pedro and I had to go and investigate!

50 yards from the house we found the source of the row — a Cornwall Air Ambulance –come to pick someone up from the adjacent medical centre.

Here they are being loaded:

See –it’s already dusk, but note how wonderfully flat it is.

Then it started to roar again and the rotor blades which were drooping started to rotate faster and faster and got flatter and flatter and louder and louder until one thought it couldn’t try any harder — but it did  and, as Pedro sank to the ground and covered his ears, it lifted lightly up and turned to face us.  

It flew directly at us (must have seen the camera) then rose up in an aerial pirouette —

— and set off towards Plymouth.  Good Luck!

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Cornwall, Wales, Welsh History

Madrun

When you meet someone for the first time, it seems to me, that you can nearly always find something that you have in common — places you have lived, people you have known, views, tastes, maybe you have the same sense of humour — we humans like to do this, to forge bonds with new people.

I have just met Madrun and she is a remarkable woman.  She’s been dead 1500 years. 

Whatever you call her, Madrun or Materiana, this woman must have learned a thing or two from the turbulent power struggles that raged around her in her early life.  She was born a princess, eldest daughter of Gwerthefyr Fendigaid (Vortimer the Blessed), the 5th century warrior king of Gwent who opposed the Saxon invaders from Germany who were allied with his father.  He temporarily overthrew his father and took power but eventually is said to have been poisoned by his Saxon stepmother (that’s a recurrent theme!)  On his father’s death, his daughter, Madrun, succeeded from her grandfather and rulled with her husband Ynyr (descended from Roman emperor Magnus Maximus). (Thankyou, David Nash Ford for this information from Early British Kingdoms)

The details of her life are obscure but we know she was Christian and that, like many of her contemporaries she travelled to Ynes Enlli (Bardsey Island — at the tip of the Llyn peninsula in North Wales) as a pilgrim. 

Looking towards Bardsey Island,  Ynys Gwylan in the foreground

On the way she and her servant Annun stayed a night at Trawsfynydd.  I have visited this area — infact I blogged about the visit and the spooky nature of the place.(Off the Straight and Narrow) 

Madrun found it spooky too.  She and Annun both dreamed a dream of  founding a nunnery there, which they did –the church there still bears Madrun’s name.

Circle of hills around Trawsfynydd –slate wall in foreground

Yesterday we were at Tintagel, Cornwall, in a magnificent gale, shouting greetings to fellow walkers with excited wind-tousled dogs.  We watched the huge swell and the breakers hitting the offshore islands and sending spray 60 feet into the air.

The Sisters, Tintagel.

As we drove away we caught sight of a small church on the cliff and we were drawn to look.  Here it is — St Materiana’s (that’s the same Madrun — she ended her days in Cornwall)

Saint Materiana’s Church, Tintagel, Cornwall

Relatively modern –rebuilt in 12th century!  But there’s been a church here since the 6th century — I bet you Madrun’s buried here — look at the view.

Someone is keeping an eye on it anyway!

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