Sun at long last! I needn’t go on about the rain as I am sure you’ve heard it all before. Needless to say we didn’t have a brilliant year for hay making and only managed to really make enough hay for our own needs, so wont have much to sell this winter; a bit of a blow, as it usually gives us a much needed bit of extra income during the winter months to help keep the animals fed when there’s nothing much else to sell. Our first foray into arable farming was a disaster too; because of the wet conditions, the barley went over and wasn’t combinable either, so was baled whole and wrapped as straw for bedding. Ian had installed a grain tower to receive the grain and extended a shed to fit the combine under cover. Still, there’s always next year; once the pigs move to their new field in the spring we will plant their current field to barley and try again. Surely not 3 years of summer wet in a row...?

Barn

Gem & her puppies at about 3 weeks

Well that’s the gloomy bit over… most notable this quarter has been the arrival of 7 little bundles of fluff. Gem had 7 puppies at the beginning of September and has been a fantastic mother. She had 5 bitches and 2 dogs, 4 of them were brown and white which was unexpected as dad was all black and white. They have been great time wasters and I will miss them terribly when they go off to new homes in the next week or two. We are keeping one ourselves, and have just about chosen which one; all but one of others are spoken for, but if you know anyone who has the space and energy to give a collie puppy a home, please do pass on our details.

Oops, we did it again… more sheep… two lots: the first is easiest to explain (ahem) - the addition of 3 new Balwen rams as we needed to change our existing 2 as we now have their daughters coming on in the flock. We went to the annual ram sale in Builth Wells in Wales with the intention of buying a few ewes to increase the bloodlines (as most of ours come from the same original flock) and 2 rams. The ram lamb I really wanted was the third lot from the end and I didn’t want to risk only coming back with one, so bought 2 nice ones, then the bidding came to him… quickly went over our budget and I resigned myself to the 2 we already had, but… we reasoned the Welsh are a wily lot and know what they are looking at, so once the bidding nearly came to an end I jumped in and got him too. After the initial financial shock, we are delighted with all 6 animals who are friendly and are a quality addition to the flock. There are 42 Balwen ewes going to the 3 rams this year.

Barn

Our 3 new Balwen rams. L-R: Geraint, James & William (named after the breeders we bought them from)

Barn

Our new Shropshire ewes and ram

So, to explain the second lot of new sheep… Shropshires… 4 ewes and a ram lamb… We hadn’t intended to run any more breeds but had read a fair bit recently about the use of Shropshire sheep in Christmas tree plantations and vineyards to keep the weeds down as they don’t seem interested in nibbling the branches. As we already have one block of Christmas trees and are planting another this winter we thought it would be an interesting experiment and could run them with the Kerry Hills and pop them in to the trees every now and then to keep the grass short. Our neighbours have also just planted a vineyard so maybe if it works they might be able to be shared about - organic weed control at its best! They are very tame and look like teddy bears with wool on their faces. So, another native rare breed to complete (yes I mean that) the set. Inevitably I am already thinking that only having 4 ewes is a waste for the ram (he’s definitely bored with them already having done his thing)  so perhaps breeding up to 25 might be a long term aim and perhaps reduce the Kerrys to 25 and stick with 50 Balwens… for now…!

We’ve had a busy few months with Ian’s parents visiting for 7 weeks, 3 courses run one weekend after the next and ongoing barn works. We at last have a few months with less in the diary but all the winter chores loom large, like fencing, tree planting, hedge laying, and of course endless cleaning out! The chicken have all but finished laying for the year and the incubator is running for just one last time for some late orders.

We saw our first Christmas advert on TV last week - eek - so thoughts are coming round to pork and lamb for Christmas - unfortunately the fox put paid to the idea of goose for sale this Christmas, so apologies for that. If you haven’t already reserved some gammon etc though do let us know what you will be wanting and we can let you know when it will be back from the butcher. The first of this year’s lambs went off to the butcher last week and are due for collection soon; we will be interested to see how the taste of the Kerry Hill lamb compares with the Balwen and welcome your feedback too. If you would like some lamb please let us know as we only kept back a limited number. Some will also be kept on for Hoggett and mutton for sale next year. We also sent off our wool to be processed into small balls for knitting etc and it should be back in time for Christmas if interested.

Well, this may sound premature, but I expect the next newsletter will be in January 2009, so we hope you have a lovely Christmas and look forward to seeing you in the New Year - who knows, maybe the barn will be finished next year and we will have an excuse for a big opening party…?

Available now:
Puppies! (not for eating obviously)
Christmas trees - in December, come and dig or cut your own
Black Balwen lamb skin rugs; raw Balwen fleeces for craft use
Pork joints / fillet / chops
Sausages (Farmhouse, Leek, and herb varieties)
Bacon - both smoked & unsmoked back and streaky
Gammon Steaks - smoked only at the moment
Gammon joints - smoked and unsmoked
Taking orders for Christmas pork and lamb and real trees

Coming soon: black &/or white natural spun wools for craft use 

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