July – September '09

This summer will go down in our records as the summer of plums. Two trees saw their main branches break because of the weight of the fruits!
We have picked, and passed on buckets of plums, and received jars of plum jam in exchange; a very satisfactory arrangement. As well as fruit, the vegetable harvest has been good, with a huge crop of parsnips, courgettes, pumpkins and beetroot.

The sheep ‘flock’ is hardly a flock; a couple of old ewes which are more or less pets, three yearlings and our funny-looking Manx Lochtan x Hedridean ram called Bingo. Their gang of a dozen lambs, though, are enough to need marketing, so in early August we graded them and sent the best seven off.
Having committed the error of naming one of the lambs Alis (Alice), we could not send her off, even though she graded well. We took her and the other ewes down the road to our holding at Ty’n Coed, and kept the ram and two ram lambs back at the farm where we could keep an eye on them.

Three of the cows calved in September, adding Olwen, Mabon and Wynne to the herd, which now numbers fifteen. We have decided to switch to Spring calving, so we will not be bringing in a bull this winter, but waiting until early summer to get the cows into calf.

Our herd of Welsh Black Cattle
Our herd of Welsh Black Cattle

Haymaking has been as difficult this year as in the previous two; we cut two small fields in July and made small-bale hay, but the grass was not very dry, and we ended up with 700 bales of indifferent quality. We had to work like mad, and late into the night, to get the bales in, and it was such an ordeal that we may not make small bale hay again. The wet weather continued, with a short break which allowed us to make wrapped haylage.
Then in September the sun came out, the ground dried up, and we were able to cut another field and make unwrapped haylage. So we have ended up more than enough food for the cattle, and the main challenge has been finding storage space under cover for the unwrapped crop.

The main task as Autumn draws in is to harvest what we have left in the garden – onions, potatoes, pumpkins – before the wet weather ruins the crops. Large quantities of the vegetables have been transported off with the children who are returning back to university and work this time of the year. It’s always a great way to offload lots of the veg!