Samhain, gateway to Winter

Celebrated by the Celts, Samhain is the festival that marks the end of the harvest and the beginning of the darkening months of the year. At mid-point between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice, we are now entering darker times as we journey through the last quadrant on the Wheel of the Year before the Winter Solstice when the light returns. The clocks went back at the weekend and I have noticed how the energy of the sun is now much weakened, like it is getting tired and ready for its last breath.

While I was out gardening yesterday ...

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A (not so gentle) introduction to hen keeping

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Two weeks ago, we purchased four hens and their coop. Their keeper, from just over the hill from us, was moving away into rented accommodation and could not take them with them. We collected the coop first and got it ready for the hens. Betty, a Splash Maran, and her brood (a Light Sussex, a Speckledy and a Blubell) arrived in cardboard boxes at night time and we transferred them into their own coop but at their new location at ours. They made a little fuss but quickly settled in for the night.

The next morning, I let them out ...

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Reflection and contemplation at the Autumn Equinox

The area where we live is rich in ancient woodlands and, at this time of year, it is a delight to witness our hillside change colours: the lush greens of Summer are now being replaced by the golden and rusty tones of Autumn. It is a beautiful scene that not only takes my breath away but also offers a wisdom to me.

This show of yellows, oranges and reds is an indication that trees are responding to the weakening power of the sun, the shorter days and the dropping air temperature. In preparation for Winter when there is not enough ...

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A milestone in our smallholding life

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This week sees us reach an important milestone in our smallholding life, an event that we have seen coming and been preparing for for the last five months. On Monday, we took the concept of "homegrown" to a new level by taking two of our lambs to the abattoir.

It was very hard and, if I am honest with myself, I am not completely at peace with doing it. I feel conflicted as I wrestle with the ethics of it... is it right for an animal to be born and then slaughtered for meat a few months later? It feels ...

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Autumn gatherings

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This time of year always reminds me of the Brambly Hedge stories by Jill Barklem that I used to read to our children when they were little. Particularly, Autumn Story with its evocative descriptions of harvest time and the beautiful illustrations of delightful mice gathering berries, seeds and roots to be stored away for Winter.

In that story, old Mrs Eyebright says: “Bad weather’s on its way, I can feel it in my bones. We must finish our harvesting before the rain begins”. Right now, it feels just like that at Upper Cefn-y-Pwll… we are preparing ourselves for Winter ...

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The garden as my mentor

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At this point in late Summer, the garden is looking full: still productive but with an untidy, crowded appearance. Plants, flowers and vegetables are now showing signs of having passed their best and beginning their decline towards decay. This is consistent with the time of year as the Autumn Equinox is only about three weeks away. However, there is something else that contributes to the unkempt appearance – something that has more to do with me than the time of year: weeds!

I am acutely aware that I have let weeds take over in places: massive thistles in the strawberry patch ...

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Open Afternoon at the shepherd's hut

A couple of Sundays ago, we held an Open Shepherd's Hut afternoon with friends and neighbours, as a way to launch our new venture and to show what we have created. It was a lovely gathering, a real celebration of what we have achieved, almost a year to the day since we first set eyes on our shepherd's hut.

It was an almost sunny afternoon (given the cold and wet weather we've been having this August, that was a good thing!) and people came and went as they pleased. Our local Welsh Assembly Member even responded to ...

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Two years on... some reflections.

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On this day two years ago, we completed the sale of our house in Salisbury and the purchase of our smallholding in Mid-Wales. Two years already that we are living the smallholding dream!! I can't quite believe it because the time has gone so incredibly fast! And yet, if feels as if we have lived here forever!

This morning, as I walked down the lane to go and check on our sheep, with fresh air filling my lungs, the warm sun on my face and stunning views across the rolling hills, still in love with our little piece of ...

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Summer Solstice, celebration of the light

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Today is the Summer Solstice, marking the longest day of the year with maximum hours of daylight as the Sun reaches its peak in its ascending - or waxing – phase. Since the Winter Solstice six months ago, the light has steadily increased throughout two seasons and it reaches culmination point now at Summer Solstice. Now is the time to celebrate the strong energy of the Sun and the long days of Summer that will bring us a bountiful harvest to feed us during the dark, cold and leaner days of Winter.

Mirroring Nature and the Wheel of The Year, now is ...

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Predators and prey... and not just in the animal world!

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This morning, our cat Lola brought in two dead baby birds. Both fledglings and therefore slower to fly off, she had managed to catch them. She may have even played with them for a bit before she brought them in the house as gifts for me. I very much dislike it when she kills a bird. Yet, I know about the prey and predator dynamics and that’s what cats do. At the moment, there are many fledglings leaving their nests and they are vulnerable to our cats. With their wings not yet strong enough to fly, they spend a ...

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