The Grub Kitchen-

We don’t normally go out for Sunday lunch. I’m a bit of a tight wad, and can’t bear the idea of spending money on something I feel I can do perfectly well myself. Roast chicken, gravy and stuffing from scratch…not a bother. Even C is getting the hang of making mashed potatoes (under supervision!), its really not that tricky. So when we do occasionally venture out to eat I want something special, a little bit different and out of the ordinary.

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Award winning restaurant located in St Davids, Pembrokeshire. Image from Grub Kitchen.

Recently I spotted an offer from the Grub Kitchen that I couldn’t resist- Sunday lunch cooked by Andy Holcroft, with a free bug handling session after. Amazing! Two of my favourite things in the whole world- good food and getting up close and personal with weird and wonderful creatures. Count me in!

Slight issue- I had to convince F. ‘Do I have to eat bugs?’ Came the inevitable question. ‘ No dear, you can be quite boring…I mean safe, there are lots of none entomological options on the menu.’ C was quite excited at the chance to go back to the ‘bug zoo’, mainly so as she could run free in the play barn.

I wasn’t lying to F (for a change)-Andy’s Sunday lunch menu is full of ‘traditional’ favourites such as roast leg of lamb or roast beef. The main focus of the restaurant is  entomophagy (eating insects) so there are insect based options, such as ‘bug wellington’ if you are feeling more adventurous.

When we got to the bug farm we were greeted by the two Sarah’s- Dr Beynon herself, and her assistant Sarah. Not confusing at all! Bug handling would be at two so we had plenty of time to stuff ourselves with good food!

First up- drinks. I’m not picky about many things, I like to think I’m fairly easy going, but for goodness sake please don’t mess with my coffee! Grub Kitchen coffee is divine. Beautifully presented, delicious and aromatic. Perfection!

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The restaurant itself is situated within a converted 18th century calf shed. This makes for an interesting dining experience- the tables are arranged alongside the original stone trough. Once upon a time the kitchen was actually a pig sty, the pantry was a water tank. Innovative and environmentally friendly, it provides a perfect backdrop for a relaxed sunday lunch.

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Check out the grub!Also my fantastic parenting skills- tablet at the dinner table to prevent food related tantrums.

Whilst waiting for our food to arrive we had time for a quick run around in the play barn, which makes the eating here exceptionally family friendly. Screaming toddler meltdown on the horizon?? No problem, pop through the door at the end of the restaurant and you’re in a large undercover play area, complete with insect related play materials. Quick game of football or a trip along the balance beams and back in time to eat!

The waitress brought out the mini farmers food first- another tick in my book as I find it easier if the kids can start eating as soon as possible! Yummy handmade bangers and chips, which the girls hovered up! I couldn’t help sneaking a chip for myself-they were really something, full of flavour and crunch.

Then came our plates- pan roasted Towy valley venison for me and very locally sourced beef for F. img_1890

‘I’ll just get the veg’ said the waitress

Within seconds the table was full of an array of stunning side dishes-root veg mash, dauphinois potatoes, red cabbage and kalettes. These were a new veg for me- a cross between curly kale and sprouts. Everything was delicious, with melt in your mouth meat and the vegetables cooked to perfection. The flavours of the accompanying sauces and subtle seasoning matched each dish and brought out the best of the ingredients. The meal really did showcase some of Pembrokeshire’s best produce.

Round Two- pudding. F had been eyeing up a ginormous duck egg Victoria sponge, whilst I took my first tentative (and slightly cowardly) steps into the world of entomophagy. Cricket cookie.

Looks like a regular cookie.

I sniffed it.

Smells like a regular cookie.

Ok…here goes.

Yum! Tastes like peanut butter cookie. No hardship in eating this. If all bugs taste this good, bring it on! Even C had a little bit to try, although I didn’t tell her what was in it. She just saw me chowing down and thought it was therefore fair game for her!

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C and Jo Jo had ice cream with a twist! No bugs, just a pretty teacup and lots of chocolate sprinkles!

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Eating bugs- tick.

Bellies full it was time to go handle some ‘bugs’.  C took a front row seat, ready for whatever Dr Beynon had to offer. First up, a cockroach. A giant hissing cockroach to be precise. I think he was called Dave, but then my memory is crap and I tend to call all creatures Dave anyway. This little dude was awesome.

bug-1C enjoyed counting his legs (6) and informing us that he felt ‘smooth and hard’.  The bug handling session was great- no pressure to hold anything you weren’t comfortable with, lots of interesting insect related facts and genuinely good fun. It was lovely to watch C and JoJo interacting with Sarah and her ‘bugs’, and learning that insects, although they might be creepy and crawly, certainly don’t have to be scary or icky or yucky or any of the other preconceived notions that are passed on to us as children from the adults around us.

If you are looking for somewhere for Sunday lunch, or a unique weekday dining treat then definitely head over to sample some of the dishes at  Grub Kitchen.You can enjoy a wonderful meal, in atmospheric surroundings, cooked and served by lovely and talented people. Best of all the food is local, ethically sourced and sustainable, so not only are you eating well but also doing something good for the environment too.

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A stick insect….not for eating!

 

 

In search of Choughs

This morning I had a whole hour to myself, in between nursery drop offs. I was at a loss as to what to do, which is usually what happens when I find myself alone without my mini sidekicks. The day seemed nice enough, and on a whim I decided to dash to Marloes. I figured I had just enough time to get there and have a quick scout about for Choughs before returning to pick up JoJo.

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I follow the road that leads west out from town , past the supermarket, along through the housing estates until the bungalows began to give way to countryside again. Eventually the road narrowed, as most Pembrokeshire coastal roads do, until it became a single track. As the fields whizzed past and the horizon became more sky and sea than land it began to feel a bit like I was driving to the ‘edge of the world’

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I paused by a gateway to let a tractor pass. Looking through I could see that only a few feet of arable land lay between me, the edge of the cliff tops and ultimately the sea crashing below.

The car park was already filling up, and being poor and on the dregs of maternity pay I couldn’t afford it anyway. I slipped past and continued down to the Fisherman’s cottage, tucking the car neatly behind a row of other penny pinchers.

A small party were waiting on the jetty for the boat to Skomer, and several tankers filled the bay. This is usually a sign of bad weather out to sea, and sure enough there were several black clouds hanging ominously far on the horizon.

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From the Fishermans cottage the coastal path crosses a small stream, and follows a gentle slope up hill. As a reward for this short climb, you are greeted by this view (and, on days like today, the full force of any wind blowing in land).

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Standing a few feet from the cliff edge you can watch the waves crashing against the  pebble beaches below. These little coves often serve as refuge for seals, and it is not unusual to spot a pup,  white fur gleaming against the grey rock, waiting for its mum to return from feeding. Today was not the day to lean over the precipice to take a closer look.The wind threatened to knock me clean off my feet, and the edges of the path look a lot more eroded than I remember them to be.

 

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Is there a pup in this photo??!

To me the Pembrokeshire coast line is quite a magical place. Here you can see the full power of Nature at her best and worst. The full force of the wind, unimpeded by land for thousands of miles, blows away any everyday worries. Everything mundane suddenly pales and shrinks against the backdrop of this great, unpredictable swirling body of water.

 

Turning right I headed back inland, hoping against hope to spy the glossy black feathers and unmistakeable bright red beak of the Chough. Today is not my day. The wind is fierce, and nothing much is flying, appart from some gulls riding the thermals.

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Trying not to feel too disappointed I focused my attention on the ground beneath my feet. The headland is covered in spongy grass and moss, which cushions my steps. Here and there prickles of gorse add height to the flora, whilst splashes of Purple heather add colour.

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I knelt to get a better look, and notice a small black ground beetle scurrying and scrambling amongst the grass stems.

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As I made my way back to the car something caught my ear. A shrill insistent ‘seep seep’ cuts across the sound of waves and wind, and a small flock of songbirds burst from  cover and rise above me, a flash of gold, red and green zipping through the air, before coming to land on a furze bush. Goldfinch? But they are too fast and too far away for me to tell for sure.

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I reached the kissing gate and made my way past another group getting ready for the trip out to sea. They are kitted out in t shirts and thin field trousers, with backpacks full to burst with necessities for an island stay. I smiled, slightly pleased to not be the only one still clinging on to a summer wardrobe. The Chough hunt will have to recommence another day, as I had precisely 10 minutes to make the 20 minute return journey to nursery!

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Blackberry and Apple Crumble

As the nights are drawing in and the days  begin to become a bit chillier its time to bring  the comfort food recipes back out of hibernation.

Crumble has to be one of my top 5 ultimate easy peasy comfort puddings. Here on the farm, ‘traditional’ fayre is still order of the day, and there is nowt wrong with a good old fashioned crumble.

Apple crumble on its own is pretty tasty, but combine it with the early autumn tang of ripe blackberries and it reaches another level of yumminess!

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Brambles or blackberries are pretty easy to find. Most people will have some bramble bushes nearby, even in towns. I can remember doing it as a child around the mean streets of west London, and I often see people brambling along grass verges in town or around carparks.  Just make sure to pick those that are a little higher up to avoid picking up an extra ingredient -dog wee! In addition, if you take your little ones Blackberry picking they can tick off number 21 on the National trusts list of things to do before 11 and 3/4’s .

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We lucky enough to have a small apple orchard on the farm, full of 100 year old trees that still bear fruit yearly. Granted their offerings aren’t the sweetest but pour enough sugar on and they are perfectly edible! Eating apples are fine to use, as are cooking apples.

For this recipe I used

  • 6 apples (approx. 1kg in weight)
  • approx. 200 g of brambles.
  • 200g plain flour
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 150g caster sugar.

You can vary the quantities of apples, brambles and sugar to suit your needs and tastes.

First step: gather your ingredients, remove the butter from the fridge and allow it to soften. Preheat the oven to 180 (I’m using a fan assisted oven, so you might need to adjust cooking temp/time to suit your oven. As Mary Berry says, they are all different!)

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To make the filling

  • Wash, peel and core your apples, then roughly chop.
  • Place them in a saucepan and cover with a small amount of water. A couple of tablespoons should be adequate.
  • Add one or two tablespoons of sugar and leave to stew on a medium heat for 10-15 min, stirring occasionally to prevent them sticking to the pan.
  • Whilst these are cooking wash and pick over the brambles, removing any stems or leaves (or bugs!!).
  • When the apples have softened remove from the heat and add in the brambles.
  • Pour into a ovenproof dish ready for baking.

Creating the crunchy, crumbly topping.

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  • Cube the butter and then using your fingers rub it into the flour. This is a good time for little helpers to get involved!
  • You want the mixture to resemble coarse breadcrumbs.
  •  Do not be tempted to overwork the mix! You will end up with a stodgy, sticky thick layer that won’t cook well and will taste doughy. As soon as you have something that looks right, step away from the crumble!

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  • Top tip: Pour the crumble on top of the filling and don’t pat it down, leave it heaped.
  • Cook at 180C for 35-40 minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown.

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Serve with custard or ice cream (or if your feeling gluttonous, both!).

 

 

To ‘the Point’

“Where are we going Mummy?”  piped up C from the back seat of the car.

“On an adventure, is that Ok?”I ask.

“Yes, that is Ok” she said, nodding

JoJo giggled in agreement.

It is 6pm and far too warm to contemplate starting the bedtime routine. Instead we can fit in one quick outing before the sun sets. Down along the country lanes we go, passing the imposing gateway to Picton Castle, after which the road narrows considerably to almost become a single track lane. The trees arch overhead, forming a canopy of green as we reach our final destination.

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Picton Point is the where the eastern and western Cleddau (pronounced cleth-aye) rivers meet. These rivers are quite special, and stretches of both have been afforded SSI status.  Apparently they are one of the best rivers in the UK for Otters. They also provide sanctuary for various species of Lamprey,  as well as the European Bullhead. Along the length of these two water courses, some 74km in total, exist several Special areas of conservation, with habitat for Marsh Fritillaries and Southern Damselflies.

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We started our exploration from under the boughs of an ancient sessile oak, stooped so low the bottom branch has been propped up.

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There is a waymarked walk along the banks of the Cleddau , left heads back inland , but C chooses to turn right along the path to the rope swing.DSC_0332 (Medium)

 

The tide was out. On the water, two kayakers quietly paddle along the estuary. Other than that our only company is wild.  I can here an oystercatcher in the distance, and jackdaws overhead. Seaweed crackles and pops underfoot as we make our way along the shore.

Gnarly tree roots protrude from the bank and dangle above us, reminding me of when Frodo hides from the Ring Wraiths.

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We trip trap over the boardwalk, a deep muddy tributary to the estuary beneath our feet. On all sides reeds rustle, and dragonflies flutter past their wings whirring mechanically. I think I saw a red darter, I can’t be sure as the light was dim and my camera too slow.

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Finally we reach the swing. I settle JoJo on the floor, where she amuses herself  with the shale. The rope dangles from the branches of an oak, thick and strong.C wanted a go, but at the same time was just a little bit afraid. She soon conquered her fear, she may be small but she is fierce!

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I stood and admired the view, out across the millpond calm water to Landshipping. Boats clinked, bobbing on the incoming tide. A small black bird, probably a Shag, flew low and straight over  the water.

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A gaggle of Canada geese flew past in V formation, honking loudly as they go.

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By now the light was beginning to fade so we retraced our steps, stopping to marvel at the piece of seahorse shaped deadwood.

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Picton point is a real hidden gem in Pembrokeshire’s crown of natural beauty. I find it is somewhere to go when the world becomes a little too fast. Here you can metaphorically press the pause for just an hour or so, and watch the comings and goings of riparian life.

 

 

 

Tangled – A Pembrokeshire hedgerow

Sunny days in a Pembrokeshire summer are as rare as Hen’s teeth. This July seems to have been a particularly grey and soggy one, with the humans on the farm spending a good deal of time huddled indoors. Some days our wildlife spotting has been limited to the content of David Attenborough repeats and watching real life bedraggled blue tits and sodden sparrows fight over the bird feeder in front of the living room window.

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The ‘tangle’ before.

When the sun actually deigns to shine down on us, we tend to make the most of it. This particular afternoon we were just commencing our third walk of the day when my ears picked up a distant distinctive mechanical whine travelling along the road towards us. Living in the countryside, where traffic passes infrequently, you get used to the sounds that different vehicles make. I knew this could only be one thing- a ‘Hedge topper’.  A little black car shot past us, driving far too fast for country lanes, only to have to slam the brakes on as the tractor and hedge trimmer crested the brow of the hill.

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My heart sank. Just minutes before we had marvelled at the number of snails living all along the roadside. There were hundreds of them, wedged into the crooks of the dried cowslip, or balanced precariously on thin grass stalks.

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On first glance, or when whizzing past in a car, the hedgerows appear as a blur of green. Nothing stands out, until you slow down, stop and look. Along our roadside stretch, hawthorn, sycamore and ash trees make up the spine of the hedge. Rambling Bramble weaves itself around these, with various grasses, dog rose, bracken and ferns adding to the chaos. Bees (I counted 3 species in 5 minutes) bumble about the pale pink blossoms, the flowery sentinels of a bountiful Autumn Blackberry harvest.

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At ground level, speedwell and vetch poke out , the occasional Birds foot trefoil too.

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Clumps of Ragwort add more gold to the green.

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As we walked along a sickly sweet perfume wafted down from the peach blushed, cream and golden honeysuckle blossoms that crown the hedge, one of my favourite summer scents.  DSC_1066__1469082839_31887

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Along by the farm garden these ruby red ‘wild’ escapees caught our eye.

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We spotted some Pink Campion that were still in flower . A Myrid bug was perched atop one, waving its antennae as we passed by.

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Grypocoris stysi

All along the roadside  pungent Cow Parsnip was in full bloom, its frothy blooms attracting flies and insects galore.

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On some plants the flower heads were tied together with a tangle of gossamer threads. Peeling these apart revealed a little black headed caterpillar of the Parsnip moth. It emerged from its hide away, flip flopping  its body about in a rather disgruntled fashion.

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Within seconds all of this flora and fauna had been obliterated. Shredded. Chomped and spat back out by the churning, gobbling blades of the trimmer. I rushed out to survey the hedges once the tractor had passed. The cutting had been confined to the tangle of grasses and plants making up the verge, and the actual ‘hedgerow’ itself had been left virtually unscathed. The ‘roadside maintenance’ had caused a bit of devastation, with the snail population taking a definite hit. The caterpillars too had disappeared. I managed to rescue a few of those from the mangled remains of the Cow Parsnip plants along the edges of the tarmac.

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Now the ‘clean up’ of vegetation had finished, the rubbish caught up amongst the plants was much clearer to see. I followed a trail of Crisp packets, coffee cups, beer bottles, take away cartons and coffee cups back towards the farm house. All flung out of passing vehicle windows, discarded without a backward glance. Pretty disgusting.

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Despite my bemoaning the ‘evil’ hedge topper, I can understand the need to keep the verges cut back. When spring and summer vegetation crowds in towards the centre of roads barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass, visibility becomes much poorer. I just wish I’d had the chance to collect and transport some of the snails and caterpillars beforehand!

Seashore detritus.

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Crash of wave upon the shore,

Lift shell to ear and hear sea roar

Warm wind gust out from far inland ,

Whipping, whirling, grains of sand.

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Gulls scream loud, wheel and cry,

Soar like Icarus up on high.

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Toe tip I along the tideline alone ,

leave soft footprints amongst the foam,

Pick amongst the wave washed treasure,

Man made and nature born in equal measure,

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 Sea glass shard, pebbles, rocks,

sponge, anemone, seaweed locks,

Plastic, clam, tangled net,

barnacles ,crab carapace soaking wet,

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Lift up cans, straws, fishing line,

Odds and ends, all are mine.

Claim my prizes from the tide,

Amongst the waves no more to ride.

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Inspired by a #2minutebeachclean along Newgale beach, Pembrokeshire.

If you have 2 minutes to spare whilst on your favourite beach, give it a go! The aim is to pick up as much litter as you can find in the space of just 2 minutes (although if you want to keep going for longer, I don’t think anyone will stop you!). Once you’ve gathered your waste recycle or dispose of it appropriately. Et voila, you have done your bit to help keep our seas and oceans rubbish free! Head to the official beach clean website for tips on what to do and how to stay safe whilst doing it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 25- Mapping it out.

I have wanted to map out the fields for a while now.  I have only lived here for 3 years and have not yet become acquainted with the farm’s nooks and crannies. Today’s  Random Act of Wildness offered me the perfect chance to do just that. Not exactly OS standard of map drawing, and it is most definitely NOT to scale, but hey ho…it’ll do!

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F is always saying ‘I’m going to move the fence in such and such field’ and I nod along as if I know exactly where he is headed. In reality I only ever remember about 3 of the fields by name.

 

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The Cow Park is a great expanse (in my mind anyway) of relatively flat ground, which proves how plant life can still coexist with modern farming methods. On a quiet evening walk around the perimeter I have encountered Docks, nettles, bramble, clover, gorse, Chickweed, thistle, buttercup,Blackthorn, Hawthorn, ash, sycamore, Red Campion, Dandelion, vetch, speedwell…the list goes on.

The farmyard itself provides homes for many wild beast and fowl. We live on a farm….rodents are everywhere! Brown rat , field and house mice are often spotted dashing from hiding spot to hiding spot, trying not to be seen. Bats roost in the 200 year old barns and whizz around the yard at dusk, snapping up insects that multiply in the manure pile.  Pheasants stalk in the grass behind the heifer shed. A flock of wild pigeons settle down noisily each night on the roof of the cow shed. Occasionally a Sparrowhawk takes a pigeon , which is amusing to watch as they are much bigger than him!

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Summertime sees the Swallows return, the air filling with their clicking and whirring calls. Starlings arrive in late October, gorging themselves on the barley used to feed the cows. Buzzard and red kite are frequently seen soaring overhead, especially over winter months and after hay is cut.  Little owls during the Spring to screech outside the farmhouse in the small hours. We suspect they nest in the old ash trees that occupy the Meadow and Ox Park hedges. Barn owls are also seen later in the summer, hunting along the hedgerows and calling to each other across the fields. Their shrill cry sends a shiver down my spine.

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As I found out by doing the bioblitz that our garden and the sheds around the farmhouse are home to many creatures. We have seen great tits, blue tits, chaffinches, robin and sparrows on the feeders. Dunnock and wren fight over the spillage from the bird table. Collared doves are currently nesting in the hedge behind the immature oak.Thanks to our first attempt with the camera trap we know that there is a family of magpie, with two fledglings, here too.

 

Jackdaw are everywhere on the farm at the moment, the nest in the feathering loft has fledged at long last.

The log pile is our mini beast ‘Hilton hotel’. The meadow patch is wilder than ever at the moment, thanks to the recent wet and humid weather.

Business at the bee café is swift, and the ‘menu’ has expanded since the Scabious has finally flowered. Over the past month I have also become aware of (and showered curses upon) the large slug and snail populations residing in the garden.

Thanks to the 30 Days Wild project, I have finally had a chance to take stock of what coexists with us on the farm. It has also made me realise I know the farmland a lot less intimately than I would like to! Hopefully this will be the start of getting well acquainted with the rhythms of the wildlife that live on our patch of Wales.

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Day 24- Escapism.

Ever have one of those days when you want the world to stop rotating just long enough for you to escape the madness? Or when you wish Narnia was really at the back of your wardrobe so you could slip through the fur coats and stay there (the good time Narnia, not the Narnia that is always winter, that would suck.) Today was one of those days.

 

As neither of these two things are likely to happen anytime soon, I decided to take a walk along the cow track, down to the stream, just to escape the endless torent of political rhetoric coming from the radio, TV and internet. ‘Switch off and tune out’ said the #30DaysWild random act card. So I did.

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It would have been easier to ‘tune out’ if I didn’t have a 22 pound baby strapped to my back, pulling my hair, whilst a toddler swung off my wrist. We made our way slowly down the track, C moaning that she had mud on her wellies (yes, that is what wellies are for) and that the track was too ‘sloppy’ (This is word of the week, apparently). I paused to take a quick photo. Bramble blossoms have suddenly exploded out, along with Dog roses, both scrambling along the hedgerow adding a new layer of wildness. Flies droned about the hawthorn, which is still covered in pungent white flowers.  Bees buzzed passed us, as we meandered down to meet the stream.

Half way down, our path was blocked by this little creature. ‘Oh look, a beeeeuuuuatiful Caterpillar Mummy’, exclaimed C. And it really was. Orange and yellow speckles adorned a thick, black sausage shaped abdomen. Short orange fuzz covered its whole body, with tufts of white hairs between the legs (Or prolegs, if we are being anatomically correct).

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I later discovered that it will eventually become one of these;

The Drinker Euthrix potatoria

The Drinker Euthrix potatoria

Drinker moth (Euthrix potatoria), photos from UK moths.org

We inspected the moth caterpillar before gently scooping it onto the jam jar lid and placing it safely in amongst the brambles, lest it got squashed under ‘muddy’ toddler wellies.

A few more steps down the track and I spied this beauty, dangling from a leaf.

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Daring to pause to photograph said creature elicited much screaming, wailing and pulling of (my) hair by JoJo. Off we went again.

The stream nestles at the bottom of a small valley created by the farms ‘Near property’ field and the ‘Cow’s field’. The slope down is a gradual gradient, until the very last few metres when it drops sharply. C decide that this was the perfect spot to ‘Practice running Mummy’. Not ideal. Sure enough the inevitable toddler face plant soon followed, with more screaming and wailing.

I picked her up, dusted her down and we set off again. Now, finally we were at our destination. The stream bubbled along peacefully, washing away my worries from the mornings political turmoil. Sunlight dappled down upon us through the greenery. The water was crystal clear, though I expect this is not the case when the cows are traipsing through. In the soft silt around the water I noticed tracks. Distinctly Vulpine tracks.

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C’s complaining had now reached fever pitch. She had become hysterical as her left boot was ‘full of mud and soaking’. This was entirely due to the fact that she had deliberately kicked it off, mid stream, and was now standing ankle deep in the water. Tears and snot were flowing liberally. I picked her up, hoicked her under my arm and set off back up the slope. You would think by now I would have twigged that suitable footwear should be worn at all times. Crocs are not suitable footwear when crossing fields full of cow manure. Especially not gates where the mud is calf deep (my calf, not a bovine calf, that would be serious.) . Most definitely when you are liable to loose said crocs when trying to unhook the electric fence, and end up going barefoot. Sigh. Ah well, it distracted me from Brexit for a bit anyway!

Day 23 – Mr Phes.

Down behind the cow shed, in amongst the tall grass and gorse bushes lives a pheasant and his mate. I have affectionately (and imaginatively) named them Mr and Mrs Phes.

Mr Phes is a loud and gaudy specimen. I have to admit, with a bright red wattle, bottle green head feathers and a white ‘collar’ he does look very fine. He struts and shouts across the fields, ‘chuck chucking’ and squawking as he patrols his territory. Mrs Phes is a much shyer creature, her subtle gold and brown plumage affording her excellent camouflage as she slinks amongst the grass.

 

Pheasants are quite common in the fields and woodland around us, and they are often to be found running along the country lanes, usually into the path of oncoming vehicles. I thought pheasants were a rather recent introduction to the UK, but it turns out that they came over with the Romans. Its ‘original’ homeland is 2000 miles away, in eastern Asia. Over the centuries they have spread across farmland and woodland habitats, becoming a ‘quintessential’ member of countryside fauna. Pheasants are also farmed for shoots, with necessary management practices playing a role in shaping the landscape.

Pheasant - male

Pheasant - female

The RSPB illustrations for male and female pheasant.

 

Despite all his showiness my Mr Phes is rather camera shy. If I dare to get too close with my camera he explodes into the air in a flurry of feathers, madly beating his wings and clucking angrily until he can reach the safety of a hedge. Tonight, however, would be different. I had a cunning plan.

I decided to take a wander down to the cow shed in the evening, just as dusk was settling over the farm. I had planned on making a ‘surprise visit’ to Mr Phes, via the ‘back entrance’ to his abode. However, the large flock of wild pigeons that roost in one of the barns had other ideas. As soon as they saw me coming they rose into the air as one , and flew laps over the yard. They passed so close I could hear the whirring of their wing beats.

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The heifers in the shed were pleased to see me, and bounded over to the fence in an expectant fashion. Human means food. Once they realised I had nothing on me except my camera they went back to snoozing and mooching about in the straw.

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I sidled round the end of the shed, and paused, camera at the ready. Sure enough I could here a ‘chuck chuck chuck’ call  coming from the vegetation. Mr Phes had noticed me, and was trying to make a run for it. In pheasant terms, ‘making a run for it’ appears to mean ‘ walk as slowly as possible and pretend that everything is perfectly normal’.

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I followed Mr Phes at a respectful distance, as he retreated behind a trailer. He led me straight to his mate, who promptly shot into the undergrowth and disappeared from view. Mr Phes then continued his slow walk into the ‘Meadow’ field, where he stood crowing and beating his wings in a display of masculinity.  I decided to leave him to it. The dark was encroaching and the temperature was dropping, so I headed back into the farmhouse.

 

 

 

Day 15- #2minutebeachclean

DSC_0013Do you ever have days when it seems like the sea is calling to you? Sometimes I can feel the waves pulling me to the beach. On days when my head is mush and the darkness is creeping in I find the crash of surf on the shore incredibly calming. I will go in rain, wind, sun, even at night, if I feel the need to. The ability to drop everything and head to the beach has become harder with two small children in tow, but I still follow that feeling when I am able.

Today we had an hours gap in our schedule so I decided to answer the shorelines siren call. We headed off along the stretch of the A487 that curls around the coast between Haverfordwest and St. Davids.This is one of my favourite bits of road. It has some amazing views, my favourite being the descent to Newgale beach.

 

The tide was going out, exposing a wide strip of golden sand. Some paddle boarders were in the turquoise waters, along with a handful of surfers. Dog walkers  strolled along the beach with their furry charges cavorting and bounding around them. Newgale is the kind of place that absorbs people. There always seems to be plenty of room, no matter how full the car park is.

It isn’t the most accessible beach as it is bordered by a pebble bank. I left the buggy in the car and carried JoJo in her wrap, making the short journey to the sand alot easier.

Once on the sand I picked out a good spot and settled down to eat lunch. JoJo had other ideas .She promptly sprawled out and started shovelling sand into her mouth, pausing every now and then to sit up and grin and squeal with glee.

Whilst she was busy playing, I decided to do a 2 minute beach clean. On first glances, Newhall didn’t strike me as messy. Once I actively started looking it soon became clear that there was ALOT of man made waste lying in amongst the rocks, seaweed and sand.Without moving more than a few feet from where JoJo sat I managed to pick up enough litter to spell out the first words of my challenge. Most of it was pieces of polystyrene, fishing wire and bits of coloured plastic.

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We sat for a few minutes and soaked up the sunshine. I tried to be in the moment as much as possible, feeling the grains of sand slipping under my toes and listening to the gentle ebb and flow of the tide. Soon JoJo had had enough and it was time to move on. We headed on to pick up C. from nursery, bringing our ‘finds’ to recycle and dispose of appropriately.

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