Today we had the unexpected pleasure of the company, of two old friends:
Rob & Dave from the NewLandOwner Team in Derbyshire, with whom we did our original Practical Smallholder Course. Having completed said course what seems an age ago in Summer 2005, it was an excellent weekend during which we were given a thoroughly comprehensive overview in smallholding: covering fruit & vegetable growing; keeping poultry; grassland management, fencing & hedgeing; keeping cattle, pigs & sheep; & defra legislation. It proved the perfect foundation for starting a smallholding, & also gave us the confidence to work with livestock with which we were previously unfamiliar.
Since the course, we’ve kept in regular touch, having had a business advisory visit from them shortly after we moved here; & being used, by them, as a ‘Smallholder’ magazine case study; & we’ve met them on a regular basis at Builth Wells’ excellent Smallholder Show each year as well as giving a presentation at the Royal Show for them at Stoneleigh last July. And of course our two Brecon Buff geese – Dave & Roberta – were named after them when we purchased said poultry at the Smallholder Show, back in 2006!
Dave & Rob were visiting clients in Gors Goch & hoped to call in & see us for their first return visit, since they came to see us back in early 2006 for their assessment of the Ffarm. So it was interesting to see what they made of our progress so far: although I suppose we don’t really feel like we’ve made any sometimes, when we look back we realise just how far we’ve come. They were certainly full of praise for the way in which we’ve developed over the past year, which is a real relief: if the experts approve, we must be doing something right! On their previous visit, the weather had also been dreadful, with heavy rain & obscuring mist; however on this occasion, we were blessed with fairer, milder weather; albeit bitterly cold; but even with a little watery sunshine to welcome them at times.
After we’d had a good look round the Ffarm & discussed the goats & milking parlour in conjunction with our plans for the new Dairy Complex, we had a meal as dusk began to settle over the valley. I fed the chaps with a starter of venison paté & wholemeal toast; followed by our own pork chops with buttered Pembroke potatoes & savoy cabbage; then for dessert, a rhubarb crumble served with – of course – our own ice cream, which Dave hailed as “the best ice cream he’d ever tasted.” Sadly after that hearty repast nobody had any room for even a wafer-thin mint, let alone a cheeseboard; so we enjoyed a post-prandial coffee before bidding our friends farewell & hurrying onto the yard to complete the chores before it grew dark.
We spent a quiet evening by the fire; for me, particularly quiet as by now the dreaded ‘bug’ had truly got me in its’ vice-like grip; with an upset tum as well as the aching limbs. However, according to reports on the news, I’ve got off pretty lightly; apparently the NHS telephone helplines were inundated with 61% more calls than normally expected over the Christmas period owing to the virulent spread of this latest nasty bug, dubbed the ‘Norovirus’. I don’t seem to have suffered with quite the ferocity that others have, but it does seem to be hanging on & making me feel generally ‘below par’, which is frustrating. Thus it was a largely sleepless night; for both of us, as it turned out as Tony’s been just behind me in the Norovirus stakes, it seems. But not too close, I hope….!!