Today was a day we always look forward to on the smallholding calendar:
the Smallholder & Garden Festival at the Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells. We managed to juggle our schedule so we could spend a full afternoon there; & it was well worth it, not just from the point of view of our continuing market research but also to catch up with old friends Rob & Dave from the NewlandOwner team. As ever we supported Dave when he gave his presentation on “Making Your Smallholding Profitable” & he used us as an example of people who have taken the plunge & are actually making a go of things. To reciprocate I got up to say a few words in support of NewLandOwner; but at that point the sound system packed up. As the area in Speakers’ Corner is very loud I decided to grab people’s attention with my ‘Brian Blessed’ impression – unfortunately not before I realised there was a TV camera pointing at me – oops! I can only hope that footage ended up on the cutting-room floor….
The Smallholder Show is always a mine of information & as ever, in spite of the relatively inclement weather was well attended. We caught up with Nicki Port, the organic tanner from Hereford & thanked her for the wonderful job she made of our last consignment of kidskins; & discussed further storage options with Tarrant Refrigeration, from whom we purchased our coldroom-cum-cheese cave, last year (we already anticipate running out of space!).
As ever the poultry auction was frenetic; however although we’d intended to, we opted not to increase our flock from stock at the show this year owing to the inflated prices – £10 for a Black Rock (hybrid) hen & £45 for a broody bantam with seven unsexed chicks; with even a box of half-a-dozen Maran hatching eggs on sale for £15! There were some lovely birds & it was good to see that the majority hadn’t been debeaked & were well feathered; but I think I’ll stick with our firm favourites, Fosters Poultry in Gloucestershire, if I cannot find another registered agent for Black Rocks any closer to home (caveat emptor – beware of imitiations!!). And as at least one of our hens goes broody at some stage during the season, we may have some chicks yet. And I’m tempted to pop a few of our Indian Runner duck eggs in the incubator…..well, we’ll see. But I must admit although they’re a hybrid my favourite hen has to be the Black Rock: hardy birds & excellent, consistent egg layers, they come in a range of really pretty colours & seem to have a real sense of humourous intelligence about them.
As ever it was good to see dairy goats represented & although the entries were on a modest scale there were some good quality animals there. I really wish we’d taken the plunge & shown a couple of our goatlings now as we have a couple of stunning young ladies we’re proud to have bred ourselves (that is to say, Merson & their Mums did all the hard work I suppose…!) whom I reckon would have provided some serious competition. There was also a display of Boer goats; but sadly, no showing classes available as yet – & as ever, the Pygmies & Angoras were out in force.
There was a great range & variety of excellent quality Welsh produce available in the Food Hall; it really was an opportunity to feast on the finest Wales has to offer. We caught up with fellow goat producer Lorraine from Kid-Me-Not, whose business continues to go from strength to strength & is now stocking cheeses & smoothies for Waitrose & Sainsbury throughout Wales; & Tony bought several bottles of his favourite Pen Lon Cottage Brewery ales after indulging in a few wee snifters. And I was amazed at the number of people who recognised me – whether through my articles for ‘Smallholder’ magazine or as a fledgeling food producer – & who kindly wished us luck or stopped us to ask for advice on starting out in smallholding.
So after a packed but thoroughly enjoyable afternoon out, we hurried back to the Ffarm & the reality of running a busy smallholding, bustling through the evening chores until the sun finally peeped in nervous apology from behind the clouds whilst Tony settled back with a well-deserved bottle of Pen Lon ale to admire another lovely sunset over our little Ffarm.