Charity Walk Success

On 6 April we had beeeeeautiful weather for our charity walk. We cycled 3 miles to the start (Melinka trying out her new seat for the first time) and then we walked a 10.3 mile circuit. As you may remember, we thought it would be 2 miles to the start and an 8 mile circuit, so this was a bit more than we had expected. I carried Melinka for most of the walk before she finally got fed up with being on my back and so Jules carried her for the last bit. We knew it had been a bit of a slog when Dusk (our normally indefatigable border collie) struggled to keep up on the cycle home. It took us a few days to recover from the blisters, muscle ache and (incredibly) sun-burn!! It was brilliant fun and we are very proud to have raised £775 for the pre-school, which will keep it open until June. I will keep my donation page open until 6 May 2013 for anyone who still wants to donate (the goal being to ensure it is open until the summer when hopefully the pre-school will get more children enrolled for the new year). Here is the LINK again.

THANK YOU to all of you who sponsored me, it really does mean a lot to me and the community.

We didn’t take any photos on the actual walk, but here is a picture of all of us at the starting point and then one taken of Melinka and I at the finish.

young australorp chickens

Spring 2013 Update

Brrrr. Is it really spring….? The grass hasn’t started growing yet and the snow drops are still out but it is April!! We have run out of seasoned, dry wood so we have no central heating at the mo but we’re enjoying the beautiful dry sunny days, while they last.

With Jules doing a two month contract in Cardiff, we have to squeeze a LOT into the days (so I’ve included a photo of him looking all smart for a change). This, together with sleepless nights due to teething and the fact that we have upped the ante on the DIY front (having ripped our the bathroom and about to do the same to the kitchen pretty soon) means that things are pretty full-on right now – no change there!

News on the smallholding is that our Jersey cow, Dimple, is pregnant! Woo hooooo. She is due to calve in June. We have just ordered some milk churns, milking buckets, butter making equipment, etc. Hopefully our new barn will be finished soon so that we can start getting Dimple used to coming in at milking time, which will be once a day (rather than the usual twice daily) for the first year. This will give us about 40% less milk but should be more manageable with everything that we have going on. So in June we will be learning to milk by hand, which will develop some new hand and arm muscles! Next thing will be to learn to make cheese… but we will probably wait until we have a kitchen for this.

Pregnant Jersey Cow








We hatched some chicks a couple of months ago so, until about a week ago, we had them in a box in the kitchen. Now they are out free-ranging but they are still not integrated with the rest of the motley crew of chickens. We have had to try and restrict the others temporarily as we had a daily egg hunt that we just didn’t have time for. Also, they were likely to start tucking into Jules’ seedlings….

australorp young australorp chickens








Our poor gander (Jerry) – having lost his mate (Margot) back in November who we have failed to replace despite all our best efforts – has been acting very strangely. At first we kept finding him at the Brecon Buff Ganderkitchen window posturing at his reflection and now he has taken up residence during the day in one of our chicken houses (much to the consternation of the chickens). We assume this must be part of his nesting instinct, but it is very odd that he insists on getting into a house that is far too small for him and which requires some very inelegant clambering over perches to squeeze himself into.

Our sow, Barbara, has not been showing very obvious signs of being on heat, which has made things a little difficult, but we are hoping that she is currently pregnant as a result of the AI we performed. Fingers crossed! This would mean piglets in July.

Oxford Sandy and Black SowOxford Sandy & Black Sow








Other that than, Jules has been rotavating, sowing, planting, watering all the veg at every opportunity he gets. Our pond is maturing well and is currently full of frogspawn. Sometimes there are wild ducks on the pond in the morning and the little ecosystem seems to be developing well.

The birds are tweeting, we have a glut of eggs and the days are lovely and long again, so spring is definitely here but now we just need a little warmth so that everything can grow!

P.s. Thanks to those who have sponsored me so far, your support is REALLY appreciated. I am doing my sponsored walk this Saturday to raise money for our local pre-school. I am still collecting donations – click HERE to donate.

Save our village pre-school

Here, where we are in Wales, most schools teach in Welsh. Coming from a bilingual household (Spanish/English) and having done my schooling in two languages (English/French), I know that children can easily pick up several languages and speak them all well. The only problem is that we don’t speak Welsh (although we plan to learn!). So we joined Ti a Fi (Me and You in Welsh), which is a baby/toddler group where the wee ones can socialise, pick up Welsh while mummies (or daddies) have a cuppa and a biscuit in the pre-school classroom of our lovely village school in Llangyndeyrn. It is perfect – all the parents and children are lovely (we even met some like minded self-sufficientish type of folk) and the school is teensy weensy, with small classes and super friendly staff.

So all seemed hunky dory and I was no longer scared about traumatising my daughter by throwing her into a Welsh pre-school (or Meithrin as they are known in Welsh) as now she would already be familiar with the classroom and children as well as already know a bit of Welsh. I thought I should get involved with the local community and school and attend a Meithrin committee meeting. Everyone was welcoming and friendly, but I was devastated to find out that the Meitrhin is in trouble as they haven’t got enough children!

I am sure that we could easily get more children enrolled if we get the good word out about this beautiful school with better teacher/child ratios than most private schools, but in the short term, the school needs funds or the Meithrin will be shut in April or May!

We are trying to avert this disaster by fund raising, so if anyone has any suggestions on anything we could do, please leave your comments. Would anyone sponsor us to do anything?!? I have started a Donation Page as a starting point and any donations would be very gladly received. This is a fairly deprived area (ranked 18th in the County of Carmarthenshire, household income is 20% lower than average for the county) so we would really love to get some outside support.

Details of the charity can be found on the Open Charities website and on the Charity Commission website (amongst others).

If anyone is interested in coming along to the Ti a Fi or visiting the Meithrin, please call me (Veronica) on 01267 275 822.



‘Green’ eggs and ham?

So the Swedes have done something that us Penybanc’ers have long been talking about… putting a ‘climate label’ on produce in the supermarket.

We already have the traffic light labels to tell us what danger we’re in from that high percentage of fat in our butter and “how useful that is!” I hear you cry. Perhaps it is useful sometimes – I can’t say I’ve ever found it so. Now what is more difficult to know about your food and what I hope at least some people care about is the environmental impact of the produce that you are buying… we resort to looking at the country of origin, try to buy seasonally, buy locally etc. but this is not always the best approach. For example tomatoes grown in this country may have demanded significantly more energy through being grown in a heated and artificially lit greenhouse or stored in inert gas chambers for months rather than being flown over from southern Europe.

So the Swedes are trying out a labelling method which aims to clarify this a little. The idea, as I understand it, is that each foodstuff (eg. Tomatoes) has a reference (I guess the average?) climate impact and a particular product’s position relative to that average is calculated. So if you are a tomato that has been grown in a significantly (25%) more environmentally friendly manner than the reference product then you will get a gold star (or whatever). This, theoretically, takes into account everything that it took to get the food to the market – cultivation, harvesting, transportation and packaging. Of course no climate labelling scheme can be exhaustive or 100% accurate, but this seems like a pretty good effort (Tell me more)

I, for one, will be interested to see how it goes and perhaps one day we might do something similar over here.

Ed: Incidentally the Swedes also did, in my opinion, a better method of the ‘health rating’ labelling using a keyhole symbol. Read more here.

From Pig to Pork

Chanchita (a Gloucester Old Spot) was with us for almost exactly a year. Being the runt of the litter, she grew very slowly and was quite shoulder heavy, which is not really ideal. Nevertheless, we were very happy that we gave her a good life which she would otherwise never have had and, it is not as if our pig rearing would be commercially viable anyway! Probably because she was bottle fed from just a few days old, she always was a slightly odd character. Slaughter is always bitter sweet and is quite a big occasion on our little smallholding and it is important that we make good use of every last bit of meat.

Jules did the butchery himself, which was a seriously long day for him. He has made absolutely scrumptious pâté, meaty delicious sausages (all using a hand cranked mincer – phew!), lots of ham and bacon that has yet to be sampled, mouth watering faggots (which has become our tradition the day after slaughter) and left us with a freezer full of pork to eat over the next six months or so.

Anyway, I am off to eat a Sunday pork roast so I’ll leave you with a couple of snowy photos.

snowy valley Brecon Bugg Gander in the snow