I zipped up the thick, fleece-lined collar of my Norwegian shirt, as high as it would go. The valley was inhospitably cold this morning, as we briskly hurried our way through the chores.
Despite the chill, the ducks had again laid two eggs: they’re proving impressively consistent & regularly produce two each day (a 100% success rate – unlike the lazy hens, who are presently working at only 50% although as their Ark is in the barn, they have less daylight overall which won’t help). Plus, the ducks only give themselves one day off, a week: so I wouldn’t mind a few more of these industrious, quacking little fowl!
And I’ve finally got around to naming them. For some reason they’ve been the only members of the community, not to have names; which as they’re now proving so productive, seems a bit of a shame. So, owing to the the formidable way the two girls are torpedoing out eggs, they’re named after battleships – Bismarck & Tirpitz; & the drake, after a light cruiser which was part of the same battlegroup – Leipzig (he doesn’t do much more than sail around the peripheries, after all).
During the final weeks of Initial Officer Training in the RAF, the students live in the magnificent setting of College Hall; & hanging on the wall of the main staircase is a stunningly dramatic painting entitled ‘The Bombing of the Tirpitz’. Eighteen years ago, as a young trainee Officer, whilst making my way down to breakfast each morning I would pause on the stairs to contemplate this picture: it made me understand the purpose & importance of the career path I had chosen to follow – & that it wouldn’t be easy….
So there we go; warships, & memories. And now eggs.
We had an early appointment with Mark, a technologist from Food Centre Wales at Horeb, to discuss using their facilities to do some trials work as clearly we’re not going to be online for our launch, anywhere near as soon as we’d hoped. Wales is so very lucky to have this resource as it enables aspiring producers to perfect their products without the cripplingly expensive risk of setting up their own facilities; it also runs excellent courses & helps with wider aspects of small business development.
As we left the Ffarm it had just started to snow; which didn’t bode well for the journey home. And on arrival at Horeb we looked behind us to the distant hills, which were almost completely engulfed by vast, seething grey snow clouds, blocking out the sun & whirling down the wind in frozen frenzy. Our host’s cheerfulness was relentlessly warm despite the cold outside. After a discussion about our requirements he showed us around the Dairy Production Unit, housed in an impressive new extension to the original processing area. He proudly showed us their beautiful new Asta Eismann cheese vat, which I had seen in production whilst visiting cheesemakers in Germany last year, during a fascinating excursion to the manufacturer’s premises. Remembering the visit, & seeing the vat actually complete, in place & in use, really has got me itching to get in production – although as the basic Dairy Complex still isn’t complete, the day when I can start cutting the curd in my own lovely vat, still seems an all-too-long way off. I was further frustratingly enticed at the sight of the beautiful wheels of cheese Mark had made using the vat: beautiful, butter-yellow moons, they are sitting quietly on the shelf of their cave, maturing into doublessly delectable cheddar-like cheeses.
Returning to the Ffarm, the mountains were again laced with obscuring curtains of snow; the sky, black with pendulous, angry cloud. As we carefully negotiated the tiny, winding lanes along the ice-encrusted river valleys towards our home we were frequently assailed by heavy showers of snow, sleet & hail; & at the top of the drive the wind was positively glacial.
We were surprised to find on our return, that the construction team had arrived early for a Monday; & were beavering away on the slate-grey roof, which they’d already almost finished. I quickly prepared the guys a hot drink along with egg-&-bacon butties as the wind was so bitter that working on the roof certainly cannot have been pleasant. Then I got in touch with our Environmental Health Officer, to arrange a meeting – time to put the next piece of the jigsaw into place…..!
Meanwhile we kept our beady eyes on the sheep in their field – placidly grazing, & not even ‘bagging up’, yet; but especially on the Kidding Shed convinced by our calculations that today, surely, someone must give birth; the girls are literally groaning with the weight of their unborn offspring. However, we remained disappointed 2008 SINKYs (Single Income No Kids Yet) as the goats snuggled deeper into the warm straw & kept themselves corked up in defiance against the arctic chill outside; which deteriorated during the early evening to envelop us in whirling clouds of wet snow as we struggled through the freezing storm with the girls’ supper.
Thank goodness for a crackling log fire & a hearty bowl of hot soup to warm our frost-bitten bones, as night blanketed the Ffarm in snowy darkness….maybe, tomorrow…?