Another day over, at Ffarm Fach;
……& another year’s haymaking finally over for the local community; as I’m glad – & relieved, to report that our last 155 bales were carted off Parc Cam & into the barn, this afternoon. As ever, the day began at dawn for me, taking Nanuk for her first walk; then I caught up on some paperwork & snatched a bite of breakfast before hauling an unwilling Tony out of bed (he’s a ‘night’ person & I’m a ‘day’ person so as farmers we rub along quite well – in shift terms at least!). He opted to do the milking whilst I completed the remaining chores, cleaned the house & started getting everything ready for the evening’s impending post-haymaking festivities. We kept an ever-watchful eye on the sky however; as heavy clouds were hanging over the ffarm with the worrying threat of rain – which would ruin all the hard effort which has gone into making the hay.
Later that morning Lloyd came over cast his expert eye over the crop & to ‘row up’; literally, setting the hay out in rows, ready for the baler to do its’ stuff. Together we examined the crop – & it appears we’ve been lucky again; as despite the bad weather a couple of days ago, it has dried well & smells tantalisingly sweet. By midday the last few green patches in the odd row, had all but disappeared; so Lloyd opted to bale later in the afternoon in the hope that the promised sunshine would appear together with a light breeze, in order to collect in the crop whilst warm (giving the drying process within each bale, a ‘kick’ start). So I carried on in the kitchen, whilst Tony worked on the farmyard before he & Lloyd got on with the baling – although alas, despite local radio’s unfailing enthusing that the clouds would imminently disperse & the sun come bursting through, the sky remained a stubbornly gloomy grey.
Meanwhile, having finished draining the excess whey from the Bordeaux Chevre cheeses I’d made a couple of days ago, I took them out of their moulds & studiously salted them. I was pleased to see that they’ve acquired a good, firm consistency & they smell lovely: evocative of lemon & thyme. For me however, the affinage is the most delicate part & where it can go all-too-wrong; so I was far from complacent as I carefully placed them on a cheese mat to dry.
I spent the remainder of the afternoon in our long, narrow galley kitchen, cooking & baking; until the throaty roar of the tractor engine & crunch of heavy tyres on gravel heralded the first trailer-load of hay, trundling down the hill at 5pm. I clambered up onto the stack & helped with the heavy work of filling the barn – although this time we had an elevator to mechanically pull the bales up onto the top of the stack so it was much easier than our last ‘haul’ on 2nd August (see earlier Diary for details!). Our neighbours (John & John!) both pitched in to help – for which we were very grateful, as ever.
By the time the second & final trailer had been unloaded, everyone was ready for a beer; so whilst the chaps relaxed with their drinks I put the food on the table: barbequed chicken; pork ribs marinated in hoisin sauce; a huge pork pie; our delicious pork & leek sausages; boiled eggs from our hens (not that they lay them that way of course!); robust cheeses accompanied by various tempting pickles; vegetables from the garden; & freshly-dug potatoes, lightly boiled & finished by tossing in a hot pan with a little salted butter. For dessert I provided a homemade carrot cake, enticingly spiced with nutmeg & cinammon; & a large, creamy trifle (always a big hit with Lloyd!) served with a hearty jug of fresh cream & some of my Black Mountain Blaeberry ice cream. As ever, it was an enjoyable meal peppered with lively conversation; over all too soon though, as inevitably in the farming world the day does not end at supper time: whilst there was still some daylight, & now that the wind had dropped, Lloyd had to hurry over to Franco’s farm at the other side of Tanglwst village to reseed some pasture for him. We said our goodbyes; then Tony trudged down the yard to do the evening milking, whilst I cleared up the remnants of our meal – a trio of begging cats in tow – & then finished the peripheral farm chores before taking the dog for a last quick run before bedtime.
So – another day to breathe a huge sigh of relief: with particularly good reason, as today’s Hay Tea was truly a celebratory feast, in every sense. Not only had the last bale of the hay in the neighbourhood been finally stacked in the barn in preparation for Winter’s hardships; today was of course the day – when the clock struck noon – that we were at last able to unlock the gate, remove the disinfectant mats & sprays, & take down the ‘No Entry’ sign which had been in place ever since the tragic outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease in Surrey on 3rd August. Thus, as we tucked into plates piled high with food our appetites for this often hard, often stressful, but equally often wonderful way of life, were well & truly satisfied.