Samhain, into the darkness we go

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I am sitting at our dining room table, the fire lit in the woodburner behind me warming my back and the sweet scent from the orange and clove candle flowing through the room. It's just before 5 pm and I have just come in from shutting the hens in their coop, having taken themselves to bed already. It's dark, cold and damp outside and I am glad of the warm and welcoming, cosy room where I can settle down to write my thoughts and reflections about Samhain, the ancient festival on the Wheel of the Year that falls today.

Samhain ...

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And just like that, Autumn has arrived!

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Oh dear, once again, I notice the date on our last blog post is three months ago!! How time flies!

Autumn is well and truly here on the smallholding now and we begin to look to Winter, putting some things to bed and giving in to homely and cosy vibes of scented candles and warming fires.

The harvest is largely in now with apples and tomatoes in crates ready to be processed. Apples will keep for a bit longer, cooking with them as we need. I have been making jams and chutneys with the green tomatoes whilst the red ones ...

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Summer fun and frolics

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Last week, under blue skies and record-beating temperatures, we hosted a band from Toulouse in France, on tour in Mid-Wales. Four extremely talented musicians, one of whom is Maryline's goddaughter Marie-Emilie, filled our home by day with fun, laughter and creativity and by night delighted audiences in five different venues and settings with their vibrant tones especially arranged by them for the three flutes and one guitar quartett.

Over the last nine months, Maryline had been dipping her toes into the world of music and concerts to set up some gigs for El Deseo Quartett in Mid-Wales and Shropshire on ...

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Summer Solstice sunrise on a Welsh hill

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Before moving to Wales, we lived in Salisbury for 15 years and never once did we go to the Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge a few miles away. We probably missed out... Stonehenge at the Solstice is a big event. There were things like family life and work commitments that meant we never joined in the all-night / early morning festivities. In any case, crowds are not really our cup of tea.

Last night, tempted by the invitation over on Facebook by some Montgomery friends to gather at the Town Hill County Memorial Monument to see the sun rise on the ...

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From Africa to Wales

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Since moving here, I have learnt a lot about wildlife, especially the wild birds that visit our place. I can now identify many and recognise their songs and calls. I spend time birdwatching, which is a great way to familiarise myself with their world, record their numbers, observe their behaviours and generally get a sense of their comings and goings. Some are here all year round but some only visit during the Summer and it is always very exciting when they arrive.

One particular bird that has sparked my interest is the redstart and every Spring, I eagerly await their ...

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Making time to stand and stare

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It's an incredibly busy time on the smallholding at the moment. I have had several blog posts on my mind since the last one but very little to write them! Please bear with me and forgive my silence as the land requires all my physical and mental energy at the moment.

Since the Spring Equinox, hours of daylight are increasing before they culminate at the Summer Solstice. We have now passed Beltane, the half-way point between the two and in response to the lengthening days, nature is very busy. Plants are growing fast and for the tender ones, it is ...

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We're setting up a veg bag scheme!

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Growing food is a huge aspect of our smallholding life and we have been growing a large part of all the fruit and vegetables we eat. This year, with the large polytunnel, we will be able to expand the growing season up in the Welsh hills and also gain extra space to grow commercially too.

When, last Summer, I heard of the Pathways to Farming programme, I jumped at the chance of taking part. The project works on increasing the number of horticultural food producers in North Powys and creating new markets for local produce. I am passionate about the ...

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Ready, Steady, Grow!

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Our new polytunnel is now up and ready! By the end of January, we had added several trailer loads of sheep and cow manure to the soil and mid-February, we spotted a window of opportunity to put the cover on when the weather forecast showed a good few days of sun, warm temperatures and no wind. We gathered a few helpers on Valentine's Day (how romantic!!!) and by the end of the day, the polythene cover was secured on the frame and the doors were fitted. Peter has done a great job with an additional trench and a pond to ...

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Off to pastures new...

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You may remember, dear readers, that we decided last Summer to no longer keep sheep, after a tough lambing season forced us to re-evaluate our priorities. Whilst it was a difficult decision to make, one over which we agonised for several weeks, we felt ready to take the smallholding in a different direction. Last Sunday, after eight months of trying to sell them, our three Shetland ewes went off to pastures new.

Eight months seemed like forever and at times, we felt the odds were stacked against us! First, Summer 2018 was very dry and people were not buying extra ...

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New year, new plans, new polytunnel!

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The week before Christmas, after several failed attempts due to bad weather, work began on the siting of our new polytunnel, which First Tunnels had delivered a month previously. We want to be able to extend our growing season and have more space to grow the foods we eat a lot of. We have been "practising" with our small polytunnel and tomato greenhouse and now we are ready for a much larger growing space. We are also going to use the space to grow fruit and vegetables commercially as some local growers and I are setting up a veg box ...

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