The only thing I was going to try a little differently this year was to cover one of my raised beds with a black permeable membrane. The main idea being that it will help suppress weeds. So less work for me hopefully. It should have the added benefit of reducing evaporation and help keep the soil moist.
I suspect however, that the membrane will provide a great retreat for slugs. They’ll use it to hide from birds and the midday sun following their night time raids on my vegetables. The thought of them, gorged and satisfied under their blanket, as I survey my machine gunned cabbages is upsetting me already.
There are 14 peaks in Wales over 3000 feet, or so I thought until recently. Apparently Tryfan’s credentials are under suspicion. Despite being one of the most handsome mountains in the Snowdonia National Park it’s height of 3002 feet has always meant that it only ever just scraped over the pass mark.
Three men, John Barnard, Graham Jackson and Myrddyn Phillips are out to put the issue to rest once and for all however. They’ve already got form in this area having recently highlighting that Sgurr nan Ceannaichean did not qualify as a Munro Mountain. The Munro’s being the Scottish equivalent of the over 3000 feet club.
I for one really hope that one of my favorite mountains passes the grade. You can keep a track of the survey work by visiting the GandJSurvey channel on YouTube.
If you fancy having a go at climbing all 14 peaks the Snowdonia Society have put a great website together at www.14peaks.com . The record of 4hrs 19minutes has stood since 1988. Good luck with that!
We escaped from the farm last week to go to the ‘Small Holders Fair’ which is held every year in Builth Wells on the Royal Welsh Show ground. We don’t get a chance to go to the Royal welsh itself as it’s held in late July. A busy time for us. So the Small Holders Fair provides a welcome alternative.
It’s a great fair and I can highly recommend it. We loved looking at all the pedigree sheep cows and pigs, but our favorites this year were the Alpacas. Very cuddly. I was also tempted into the poultry auction which was being held on the day we were there. 30 minutes and a couple of nods of the head later I was the proud owner of 5 Quail hens. I wasn’t entirely sure how much I paid when the hammer went down. So I was relieved to find that my winning bid was £5 each. Bargin! We managed the journey home with the help of a cardboard box. But at 11pm I was still putting the finishing touches on a hastily constructed coup.
I think the design worked quite well and would probably also suit two or three hens. So I’ve made a note of the steps I took as well as the rough sketches in case anyone would like to copy them. I’m sure the design can be improved on, but it might help as a starting point for people.
Chicken Coup Build Instructions >>
We have two new arrivals at the farm. A pair of Welsh Harlequin Ducks. I let the children choose their names. Hoping they might come up with something traditional and welsh sounding. Rhiannon and Llywelyn perhaps. They quickly settled for Troy and Gabriella of course. Never mind. According to Wickipedia, the breed was first established back in the 1940’s by a farmer from Criccieth which is nice as Criccieth is only 20 miles up the road from us.
Anyway, they seem to have settled in well. Trotting quite happily to the stream every morning and returning promptly to their coup at dusk. The female however, is only laying occasional at this stage. I’ll keep you informed.
We’re very proud that ‘Upland Escapes’ have selected us as one of their accommodation providers for their packaged walking holidays. Upland Escapes, founded in 2005, offer flexible and guided walking holidays for their clients. With established destinations in places such as the Austrian Alps the French Pyrenees and Grand Canaria they were keen to establish another base in Snowdonia.
It’s particularly pleasing that such experienced walking experts considered the mountains at our back door would offer the best walking experience to their clients. In turn, we’re very impressed by the package they offer. Thoroughly researched guided walks combined with gourmet picnics and our accommodation of course. Best of all they’ve asked Sheena and Gary, a local couple, to act as their guides or ‘upland managers’. You couldn’t hope to meet two nicer people.
Mountain landscapes and miles of sandy of beach are a rare combination destined to make the soul sing. The Rhinog Mountains are a secret wilderness of rock, heather and grassland, cut by streams and dotted with lakes. Upland Escapes
Dell, our border collie continues to be a favorite of many of our guests. If I’m digging in the garden however, she has a slightly annoying habit of carefully placing a stick exactly at the the point where I’m about to sink my spade. I usually throw it to one side slightly annoyed. But this is exactly what she wants naturally. She tears off to fetch it before carefully placing it at the nose of my spade once again.
This great sketch was drawn by James Nash, one of our guests over the Easter holidays.
I’ve been busy putting some seeds down again this year. Nothing too exiting at the moment. I’m hoping that it’ll be ok to use some of the seed that I have left over from last year as well as a couple of new verities I’ve bought online. We’ll soon find out I guess. Unfortunately I never organized a proper diary to record what I did last spring. I did scribble notes on various pieces of paper but never really gathered them all together. So one of the new toys I bought over the winter was a proper label printer. I bought the Brother GL-200 Garden Label Printer, £24.95, which can automatically print the date on each label. I’m very pleased with it. Every time I do something in the garden I make one label for the marker in the ground and stick a second label on a plank which I’ve screwed to the greenhouse door. The plan being that the plank will give me a diary that I can ponder over next year.
I’ve also invested in an automatic watering system. The tomatoes grown in the greenhouse were a big success last summer. Popular with our children and the B&B guests. So I’ve added a second bed to the greenhouse so we can grow some more along side the peppers and aubergines. The automatic watering will hopefully make life a little easier during our busy summer months. One of the disappointments of last year was some of the longer root vegetables. Parsnips and carrots. I think it was a combination of starting the seedlings in guttering and the fact that there are just too many stones in the soil in our raised beds. In hindsight I should have put better or sieved soil in the beds, but it seems like to much effort to do much about it now. I’m intending however to start the seedling off in some old toilet roll tubes filled with compost. I’ll transplant them, tube an all, into the ground when ready. Again, we’ll wait and see if this helps.
I’m also trying to be more realistic about what we as a family will actually end up eating. The artichokes that I grew last year ended up being left in the fridge. We didn’t really know what to do with them. The beetroot was another crop that grew well but wasn’t so popular on the dinner table. I know we should work on new recopies etc, but concentrating on veg that we know how to cook makes sense for now.
A pair of Red Kites seem to be regulatr visitors to the farm these days. We see them most freequently in the morning hovering over the fields next to the house. They’re easily distinguished from our resident Buzzards by their forked tails, giving them their welsh name “Boda Wennol” or Swallow Hawk. The UK Red Kite population was, at one stage, reduced to 10 breeding pairs in remote locations in Mid Wales. Their reappearance at Byrdir is testament to the success of the conservation efforts of many local people there.