spring has sprung 2019

Straight from winter into spring. Woolly hats one day, sun screen and shorts of next. The growing season is now well underway. 

We have had a very mild winter and no animals on the farm to look after, so we have had a productive time planting and building.

Work continued on the barn to give us 3 separate rooms. The packing area now has a floor and insulated walls to keep the summer heat out. Lots of white boards to keep track of jobs and orders and the space will double up as a classroom. The kitchen area should be finished in the next week or so.



Over winter we have planted a new perennial flower cutting garden, with lots of winter flowering shrubs to give us flowers January – March. We finished planting the scented garden. Now i have 3 beds of roses, totalling 45 plants, many colours and plenty of scent to go in the summer bouquets. We also extended the nuttery, with 40 new Sweet Chestnut trees. some of these will be left to get big for nuts, others will be coppiced for fence posts.

Dave has been busy with the machinery. Combining mower engines to give us one good working machine. He did some work in exchange for a beautiful big rotovater, that zooms through the compacted beds and saves hours of digging. Doesn’t quite fit in with the minimum dig system, but there is always land that needs some digging and this tool is the one for the job and will save our backs.



New season planting has begun and is now in full swing both on the nursery and in the field. I am rather nervous of the field veg this year as we lost all our winter crops during November to pheasants. There are still more than 40 in the field most days. My aim to cover up many of the crops until they are established and hope they grow faster than they get eaten.

Last year i grew 4 veg gardens in pots for a BBC back in time program. During the filming five families lived of the veg i had grown and carefully transplanted into their gardens. The program starts on 1st May. The 1900 island BBC one Wales.


This year i am growing a whole allotment site, beds, greenhouses, and alleyway for a film set. A Welsh production  Dream horse being filmed in May. Not much notice on this one, good job i already had lots growing in the nursery, but pressures on, delivery in less than 3 weeks… 

Same deadline as the Llanidloes Food festival that i am also organising. Should be bigger and better than last year, lots more stalls, cooking demos and talks. Events all week, finishing on the 19th May with our Open Garden.

programme front

programme reverse

October repairs

Major movement on our big shed need attention. We have been putting this off all summer, but now we have emptied the barn it looks much worse than we thought, and we are glad we are doing the work now before it gets any weight of snow on the roof.






The shed it leaning over by about 6 ” at the top and the block raisers are leaning out even more. There is an accumulation of events that have lead to this problem. Firstly the planners would not allow us to put in foundations or any stone to sit the shed on, instead we had to build it on skids as a movable temporary building. The first week the whole 40 ft building moved in a storm, so we then put massive ground spikes in to stop it blowing away in the wind. It was fine, but not quite so firm on level ground. This has been further compounded by rats tunnelling under the walls, dislodging the solid supports. None of this has been helped by us…we have been storing a lot of materials in the roof triangles; wood for construction, a sailing dingy, spare rolls of ground cover material among other bits and pieces. All this probably made the structure top heavy.

Well, we can’t put it off any more…we have emptied the barn (that was a major job in it’s self). Then we have attached winches to the far side of the barn and gradually pulled it upright.






Amazingly our plan is working, it hasn’t fallen down and it is looking much straight now. Next to secure it, so it it stays straight.  Watch this space…

Autumn Flowers

The first day of Autumn and the flowers know it. Beautiful burnt orange hues to add to the golden yellows. A small mixed bunch of Chinese lantern, Rudbeckia & Dahlia and a tall bouquet with Gladioli, Rudbeckia, hypericum berries and Dahlias.

Large gift bouquet ‘Pretty in Pink’; Gladioli, Acidanthra, Amaranthus, Dahlias, Lavandula, Sedum, Polygonum orientale, Eucalyptus and Helianthus.

Loads of cheery little posies to brighten up your week…






We are still doing the Llanidloes market each Saturday and the stall is now bursting with seasonal produce, along with jams, chutneys and pickles. Last of the Melons (YES, grown in Wales) and first of the cauliflowers this week.

Autumn bounty

How quick the busy summer passes into Autumn. The night times are cooling and colours are changing. The harvest bounty is in full flow. With gluts of tomatoes, beans, cucumber, melons, squash, plums and apples; so many busy evenings in the kitchen making preserves. We are yet to start with the apple pressing, but the apple buckets are filling with wind falls. It is a bumper year for fruit this year. Our plum tree is full for the first time in 3 years. We have had a good crop of cob nuts again this year, beating the squirrels to the harvest. The sweet honey due melons in the tunnel have cropped well for the third year and so tasty. We tried water melon for the first time this year and they were great, fast to crop and large tasty fruit. Thanks Jo Moss for the seed.

Our elderflower cordial has been selling well all summer, with bottles going to France for sale in Les Herbiers, Newtowns twin town.

One of the big projects for the field this summer has been the growing of 4 fully grown gardens in pots for the BBC. 12 weeks from beginning to end isn’t really long enough for fully grown harvest-able veg, but it is amazing what can be ready in that time scale; potatoes, kale, baby carrots, beetroot and turnip, courgettes, little leeks, peas and runner beans. Along with lots of herbs and autumn flowering plants. 4 gardens all planted on site now ready for filming.






The big construction project for this year has been the shower room. We started in spring and it is still on going. All made for recycled and salvaged materials. We now have a building with double walls and insulated, so it will be draft free. The shower tray now has drainage plumbed in, so it feels like we are progressing at last.



Mid Summer 2018

I can’t believe it is nearly mid summer. Such a cold late start to spring and then straight into a glorious baking sun in late spring, we now found ourselves in mid June and the normal Welsh cloudy drizzle. But hey, it’s warm and everything is growing well. We had the first mass harvest last week, with lots of crops coming ready now. We have peas, broad beans, salad, spinach, chard, beetroot, rhubarb, strawberries and lots of herbs. The first courgettes are ready now too. We have green tomatoes that just need some sun to ripen them, and flowers on the peppers. I love this time of year, pay back for all the hard work. The flower garden is cropping well too. The season moves on fast Irises and Alliums have come and gone, but quick to replace them are Scabious and Sweet Williams. Cornflowers in the polytunnel are still doing well, but the ones outside have not come to anything (I think it was too hot and dry when i sowed them), must sow some more soon.

Elderflower season is here and we are making large quantities of Elderflower cordial this year.

Bottle will be sold on the Llanidloes Saturday market and in Great Oak Foods, also @ Cultivate shop Newtown.

Next is Strawberry Jam making.


The weather is looking to turn hot and sunny again for Mid Summers longest day this Friday and to continue for at least a week. So it could be the time to cut our hay.

We have been busy this month finishing off planting all the summer crops in the field and building a shower wash room for all the summer volunteers. It is progressing slowly, but it has begun (photos to follow).


We took a lovely walk over the other side of the valley to small the Laburnum that grows there and we got a lovely view back over our plot.


May Open Day

Open day this Sunday 20th May.

As part of the vegetarian week celebrations we are opening the land for The Big Farm Picnic (on a small farm).

The event is a chance for people to see where and how crops are grown or just enjoy sitting around soaking up the sun and countryside.

It is bring and share picnic lunch and we will have drinks and cake for sale.










Roll on Spring ’18

Wow, what a winter. Will it ever end. Stop, start spring, inter-laced with thick snow and the harshest of winds. Can we cope with any more, and can the plants and wildlife.

Today has been beautiful…blue skies, sunshine, warmth, and bird song. All the motivation to get out in the garden. But we are forecast more snow to come.

It has been a hard winter and we are very grateful we no longer have large livestock to care for. The poultry are not too much hassle, with automatic doors and feeders we only need a once a day inspection. Unfortunately the prolonged winter has done it for our bees, that is very sad; I had only checked them a couple of weeks before and they had plenty of food. This is the third time now that we have lost our bees in march. I am now doubting our bee keeping abilities.

Despite the weather the flowers are still opening up their throats to sing in the spring. I was asked to make a spring bouquet for a 70th birthday gift. A little early i thought, but it is amazing what is growing when you start to look. I bought in some roses and carnations, but everything else was in season Welsh and plenty of scent. A very happy customer got their wow factor.


Not been getting a lot done on the land, and very behind with the planting now. The hot box has been made in the polytunnel and has a few seedlings coming. Unfortunately the day i moved seedlings from the heated propagators at the house to the field hot box the temperature dropped to -5C. So I lost nearly all the cucumbers and lots of tomatoes. Normally i would be getting stressed by my lack of seedlings and worrying about plant sales and lateness of my summer cropping, but this year i am just letting it go (i am sure it will hit me later, when i have a lack of crops).

I have a dream of a greenhouse at the field, it will regulate the heat much better than a polytunnel. I found a bargain secondhand large glasshouse, but the same week the clutch on Dave van went, and my car got ill again. Can i really justify the expense on such a luxury? No i can’t, not on a grow your own income, not this month. I have now found a much smaller one, and i will always slightly regret not going for the giant. I can still have all the propagation in one place, but will still be fighting with enough space. Hurrah, No need to transport early seedlings around from house to polytunnel. We have also got the second polytunnel still waiting to go up, but i am a lot more realistic these days about how much energy we have to get these jobs done. I am not holding my breath on it coming together anytime soon.

Over winter, we have managed to get our house sorted; de-cluttered (removal of kids stuff from years past, and dead electronics). We can now up grade the b’n'b, and long term guest moved in last week. So we can now concentrate our energy back on the land.

Roll on long evenings and more sun


Farm update for winter 17-18.

Well, where to start… I haven’t been very good at keeping the blog posts updated over the last year or so. But I do post pictures on Facebook quite regularly, so follow us there. So what of winter 2017 into 2018…Mud, muck, wood, stone, pigs, pork, fat, snow and more mud.

The latest news is the vegetarian pig farmers have called it a day. It was lovely to have livestock on the farm, and as animal lovers it was great to spend time with such intelligent animals. But, we are firstly horticulturalist and we never set out to keep livestock. As accidental pork producers we found after a few years of practice we became quite good at keeping happy pigs. We developed a good outdoor breed and systems of rotating them onto fresh land each week.

We have about 70 customers, many of whom were vegetarian families that appreciated eating only the occasional meal of healthy happy meat. But for us it was a lot of work that tied us to visiting the land morning and evening every day, whatever the weather (we don’t live on site). So, 7 pigs went in December and the last 8 went in January. We immediately grabbed the opportunity to escape for a couple of weeks holiday before the pork was ready to collect from the butchers.

We have spent the last 2 days sorting and delivering the orders and fitting the rest of the pork into our freezers. Today i have been rendering the fat to making lard. This is something i couldn’t have done a few years back, but i have learnt to detach myself from them as animals and deal with the product as food. I have learnt a lot about healthy fats and dismissed much of what we were bought up to believe. In actual fact lard is not bad for you or more fattening.

Lard is a great fat to cook with as it heats to a much higher temperature and is more stable (unlike fashionable olive oil). Meat and fat from pasture fed, free ranging animals is is so different than from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). It is higher in conjugated lineolic acid (CLA) which is good for you in so many ways  (it may be one of our most potent defences against cancer). Pasture fed fat is lower in the bad saturated fat, it has 2-4 time more omega 3 fatty acids,  more concentrated with antioxidants such as vitamins E, C and beta-carotene, along with increased levels of other disease-fighting substances.

At the end of the day you are what you eat – and the same goes for the animals whose meat, milk and eggs you put in your mouth. We should not only be concerned about what we eat, but what our food eats as well.

Rendering fat to make lard… There are different ways to render the fat, i find the simplest is just to put it in a deep tray in the oven at a low heat 140C. Great if you have a Rayburn that is ticking away. If you cut the fat into small pieces the fat turns to liquid quicker and gives you small bits of crackling. This photo shows the different stages, from slabs of fat, cut into small pieces, slowly heated in the oven, giving liquid fat and bits of crackling.

I start with slabs of clean pork fat, i have to request this back from the butcher, otherwise they trim it off and throw it away. I usually bag this up and freeze it to feed to the chickens and wild birds through the winter. This time there is no room in our freezers, so i have had to process it to keep it. Once rendered and made into lard it should keep for a year in the fridge or longer if frozen.  I take the trays of fat out of the oven every hour or so and strain off the fat, then put it back in for longer.

As the fat becomes more brown so does the liquid, so the first batch looks cleaner and will have less pork taste (better for using in cake and pastries). The liquid fat is yellow like a vegetable oil and as it cools it turns white and hard. You can see in this picture the cold bottom layer of fat is already hardened to white and the fresh on top still yellow. Now i have quite a mass of lard, i would like to use some of this to make soap. Our good friends Phil and Lauren gave us some soap they had made from animal fat, for Christmas and it is lovely to use, very moisturising and bubbly.

Who would have thought all of this from a pair of strict vegetarians of 30 years. Well these days, for me, it is more about self sufficiency and minimal impact on the planet.

So what else have we been up to. In Autumn we took the delivery of a new caravan for woofers, this time we built a roof over it straight away to protect it from the weather and give a nice dry entrance. I am sure it will develop over time to become a dry cloakroom entrance space, perhaps some sides and a seat or two. This roof space will also gather, much needed, rain water for the nursery plants. Have just added another IBC, giving another 1000lts of water collection potential.

The mud at the field this last Autumn has been unbearable. We did a lot of tractor work during the year, which compresses and churns up the ground and there has been so much rain. We did an acre of potatoes which were harvested in October and had to be moved to the entrance by tractor. But the ground was so wet by then we were left with sloppy mud all over the site. We couldn’t get in and out of the field without putting on full overalls and wellies, something had to be done. So we got a mini digger to scrape all the mud from the entrance and re-dress it with local stone from a neighbouring farm. We then gave the old entrance shelter new cladding so it is now weather proof. We got some lovely wavy edged local larch and it is looking fantastic. We can now stay clean from our car to the shed to change into work clothes out of the rain and mud. So much more civilised and enjoyable.

The field of potatoes was not so much fun and we probably will not do it again. This was our second attempt at an acre and both times we have ended up digging most of them by hand. This is why we originally got pigs five years ago, to clear the ground after the potato crop. Probably a great crop to grow in a drier climate, but here in Wales the Autumn rains come too early. Yet again the harvester couldn’t cope with the wet ground. After harvesting a third of the crop it rained all night and on and off till now, so the tractor couldn’t get the harvester through the crop.

Thankfully we had the help of two very keen woofers and the four of us spent three hours a day digging potatoes for the best part of October. At the end of all that work we had 18 dumpy bags of very muddy rather scabby potatoes, they were eventually collected and once dry only weighed in at 4 tons. These spuds were grown as seed potatoes and unfortunately only 1.5 ton passed inspection. So much for feeding the world….

We have had lots of snow this winter, and i hear there is more to come. We live a couple of miles from the land, not far really, until we have to battle through foot deep snow to feed and water animals and scrape the snow off the polytunnel. It is seriously hard going, but also extremely beautiful. My son Joe accompanied me one day, and we had fun snow boarding and making a snow man to welcome visitors to the farm.

So what for the coming spring….

We have just had delivered 18 ton of muck, i have collected 3/4 ton of organic potting compost. I have just had this years seed order delivered, including 25kg of onion sets, and lots of different squash and pumpkin seed. So we are going to be busy over the next six weeks. Firstly getting the hot bed going in the polytunnel ready for propagating seedlings for sale and planting. Then planting out our acre field where the potatoes were last year with bulk crops of onions, peas, beans and leeks (squash to go in later). The raised veg beds need mucking and preparing for the high maintenance crops. Only 25kg of potatoes going in this year, mainly to be planted and dug up early, a reliable waxy variety ’Charlotte’. A new polytunnel to go up and the barn needs some major repair work. Not to mention a whole heap of machine repairs and maintenance that i will leave to Dave to think about. Roll on the longer days and some dry weather.

Thanks to Ohara and Helen for this lovely bit of artwork for the field.

Summer Open Day 30th July

The last couple of months we have been busy tidying up the site ready for our first open day. We have been on the site for 5 years now and structures and systems are coming together. We have had some fantastic weather and great wwoofers to help us, but also many weeks to enjoy working on the land on our own. Join us on Sunday 30th July for a tour of the site and to taste some of our produce.


and now:

Mid summer has come and gone, and it has been glorious. Baking hot days perfect for seaside holidays, ice-cream and beer, but no chance of that with a market garden to keep on top of. All that said, during the heat wave we did convert to a continental time table of working outside early and knocking off at lunchtime for bathing in the river Severn, returning to the land to do a few hours in the evening.

It really has been lovely, but we were nearly out of water at the beginning of May,  by the end of May all the water butts were dry and plants were starting to suffer from the lack of water. So our 10,000 litres of water is not enough.

Brian our keen local volunteer has been on the case working out water collection solutions. We now have another 1,500 litre water butt collecting from the static and have extended the roof on the toilet shed to gain more area to collect from. The pig holding pen has been lined with an old pond liner to make a temporary water tank, this is surprisingly big and if we ever get some substantial rain it will make a good reserve. We have been working on doubling the size of the wood shed, both for storage area and more surface area to collect rain.

The solar shower bags have been much more effective in the hot weather and it has got me thinking of a how install a proper working solar shower. Might even put it in it’s own building with privacy. A job for later in the year, when the growing season slows down.

The glut season has arrived. With the sunny weather in June ripening the Strawberries early. Whilst it was sunny we were harvesting 3kg a day, but with the rain there has been much less. The strawberry season was short this year, but we have eaten our fill. I have made 6kg jam and de-hydrated about 10kg. We sell in Great Oak foods Llanidloes and Cultivate in Newtown, but have been encouraging people to come and pick their own.  We have now moved onto raspberries and current season.

It is full on harvest season now,  harvesting a wide variety of produce. To add to all the green leafy stuff we have all year, we now have broad beans, French beans, mangetout, peas, new potatoes and the first of the courgettes, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Flower season is in full bounty. During June and July i have been attending Llanidloes Charter Market each Saturday. I am not making enough money to warrant being there, but it is good to be out talking to people and advertising what we are doing. I am going to continue going each week for the summer and see how it goes. To go with the fresh flowers i have been drying petals for confetti and culinary herbs for sale, the house smells amazing. I have been busy making elderflower cordial and jams and these are available on the stall each week.

We are growing an acre of potatoes this year, not for eating, but to sell as seed to other growers. It is Axona, a fantastic blight resistant variety that has been bred in Wales for Organic low input growing, which we are keen to promote. We got the ground prepared in the good weather, ploughed and disc harrowed then planted, they have been ridged up twice to give a weed free plot. As these are to be sold as seed they have to be inspected by the plant health authorities for disease. Last week, we passed with excellent, which was a relief. This is mainly due to the excellent growing qualities of the potato, rather that anything we have done.

We have had some wonderful wwoofers already this year, but during June we were  without volunteers. It has been lovely to enjoy our land on our own, but the days have been long. With all the regular jobs of animals (1 hour morning and night), harvesting veg, fruit and flowers (every other day), deliveries and watering (as needed) it is hard to find time to get any other jobs done like weeding, planting and site development. Although it has been good to have the time and head space to plan what needs to be done and spend some time on the computer promoting our goods.

We had Lauren and Philip wwoofing with us for 3 weeks during May,  they were a great help, fitting in like they had always been with us. They are travelling Wales for the summer looking for land and a place to settle and set up a One Planet Development project. They are film makers and permaculturalist who i am sure we will continue to see more of in the world of sustainable growing.






During July we had two German 15 year olds, Kalle and David, who came on work experience and an Italian women, Cristina here wwoofing. We tidied the veg beds and cutting garden, planted some flowering shrubs in the forest garden, pulled docks and did some construction. Generally having a good tidy up before our open garden day on 30th July.

The piglets are growing and are now becoming a hoard of noisy teenagers. Always hungry and constantly pushing and shoving. We have two little runts that are very cute and friendly, still smaller enough to pick up for a cuddle. We would love them to go to someone as pets, get in touch if you can home them…. We are gradually weaning the piglets from the mum, to give her a break.


We have a field open day booked for Sunday 30th July, 11am – 4pm. There will be tours of the growing areas and a chance to pet the animals. We will  be barbecuing some of our pork sausages, offering elerflower champagne and fruit salad. It coincides with the scarecrow festival up the valley which is always entertaining, so a good day to take a visit to Old Hall.

open day flier

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Summer is here

Is summer here? Well it certainly feels like it during the day, but still we have freezing temperatures at night. But this is Wales, where is the rain, it seems more normal now for us to have a month or so of drought in spring, at least that has been the way for at least 5 or 6 years now. We have no mains water on site, relying on rain water harvest. We have the ability to collect over 10,000 litres of rain water, but we are almost dry already. Being a sun lover, i would never wish for anything else, but the plants are getting minimal watering now while we wait for the rain to come.

But i mustn’t complain, all this dry weather has warmed the soil nicely and given us plenty of opportunity to get the ground prepared for the new season crops. We have had some fantastic wwoofers this spring. Polo has been with us for 7 weeks and left on Sunday. His English was just as good as my french (which is rubbish), so challenging at times. Thank goodness Dave speaks fluent French.


Polo worked hard and completed many varied jobs: starting with spring cleaning and painting the caravans; tidying and weeding the flower cutting area; planting the box hedge and the veg garden hedge; making a welly boot stand; digging and preparing veg beds; sowing seeds; tidying the nursery stock ready for sale; looking after the animals; packing eggs; harvesting veg, sorting, weighing, bagging and labeling; helping install the Rayburn burner in the barn. What a busy time, thanks Polo for all your help.

We also had French couple, Pierre and Alice for 2 weeks who cooked great meals, tidied the strawberries, prepared the veg beds and propagated lot of plants in the nursery as well as looking after the animals and packing eggs.

Shortly after from Belgium came Senne, for 10 days, he was great company for me. A trained and enthusiastic horticulturalist, so we could share many conversations about land management, plants and world pioneers and experts who are leading the way. Senna needed no managing, and fitted into the farm as if he had always been there, he saw what needed to be done and thought about solutions to our problem areas. He worked with Polo preparing beds and helped me prepare the new scented flower garden.

Things are changing fast at this time of year, everything is growing so fast and as always in spring, lots of jobs needed to be done yesterday or even last week. Although this year the field is looking good and we feel on top of tasks. The potato field is due to be planted this weekend 1.5 tonnes of Sarpo Axona blight resistant seed potatoes are arriving Friday and will be grown as seed to sell back to Sarpo potato research trust. Contractor Griff came and ploughed the field and spread the muck and then David disc harrowed it every 10 days to break it down and break the weed cycle, with our new harrow. We then got another delivery of muck for the rest of the site, it is a bit fresh so will need staking and covering for a few months.

Lots of new flowers coming ready every week now, which is lovely after the months and months of only daffs. We have alliums, cornflowers, aqualigeia, lilac and many more nearly ready. The new scented flower cutting garden is almost prepared and i hope to be planting that next week with Roses, Rosemary and Lavender with plants that i have taken from cuttings. A lot of the veg beds will be planted with their summer crops over the next week or so. With the hope that by the time they germinate and show above the ground we will be frost free. I am using the Biodinamic planting calendar and will be planting roots, leafs, flowers and fruit  on the appropriate days.

The new arrival on the land this week are the piglets, well done Mrs pig. We went down to the pen on a cold and snowy 25th April to find no sign of her coming for food, but instead cuddled up in her warm pen with 15 piglets of varying colours looking like dalmatians. Grandpa pig had been chucked out of the pen looking sorry for himself in the snow, he now has been moved to a different field. Unfortunately 2 piglets didn’t make it, so she now has 12, which is a more normal number for her to have, as she only has 14 teats. It is very easy for the small babies to get squashed and suffocated, especially with so many.

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