Category Archives: Family

3 Years On

Orlin Dusk and Monty reducedIt has been almost three years since my last post and rather a lot hasOld Dairy before happened. Things all went a little crazy when we took over a vegetarian café in Carmarthen in November 2014, then had another baby in July 2015 and Dusk had a litter of puppies in December 2015 (of which we kept Monty, who is in the photos). After that we embarked on converting our old barn into a self contained granny Old Dairy duringannex (where my 92 year old gran will move into in June). So it haOld Dairy afters been go go go as always!

We have continued breeding Oxford Sandy & Black Pigs and have now had over 100 born here at Penybanc. We had a little foray into sheep for one year, but we realised that sheep might be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, so even though we did love the sheep and learnt a lot, we had to sell them on.

jack2zwartbles ewes

Spring has rolled around again and everything is blooming, we are busily getting seeds sown and bracing ourselves for all the mowing that is about to kick-off. We had so much going on for the last three years that the veg growing suffered a little, so after being almost completely self-sufficient for veg, we took a little step backwards, but we are hopefully back on track now.


If you read this, please do leave a post so that I know it is worth while. I will try and do more regular posts from now on.

Orlin and MontyMelinka and Orlin


Washable Nappies

nappiesOur life now revolves around baby stuff so we thought it was appropriate to do a very short post about nappies. This will be very boring to most people!

We have opted for washable nappies most of the time (we sometimes use biodegradable disposable ones, but worryingly there are no 100% biodegradable nappies, so we try to avoid them). There are about a million types of washable nappy on the market and we did a LOT of research before investing a few hundred pounds in these bad boys. Our requirements were: 1) fast drying above all else; 2) one size from birth to potty in order to keep the cost down; and 3) that they be easy to use and reliable. We ended up buying Nature Babies Big Softies in cotton, which also have the advantage of being made in England so they haven’t been shipped around the world. The nappies have to be used with a waterproof outer layer (a wrap). The ones we use are the Nature Babies Essential Wraps. We also use washable wipes rather than the usual baby wipes and a flushable liner so you can just drop the poo in the loo!

It is all actually very easy once you get used to doing a load of washing every other day. It is not only better for the environment but they also cause less nappy rash and we’ve heard that it is easier to toilet train babies that use these as they can actually feel when they have wet themselves since they don’t have those gel balls that suck the moisture up.

There really is no excuse for using non-biodegradable nappies that take 200 to 500 years to decompose….


Life and Death

As usual, we have not been very good at keeping our blog up-to-date, so apologies to any Penybanc followers. This is a short update going to the very root of what we feel smallholding is all about: Life, Death and Sex (well Reproduction really, but it doesn’t sound as rock n roll….).


Starting with Life. 4 September was an auspicious day as our gilt gave birth to her first litter of eight super cute piglets, thus coming of age and becoming a sow. Barbara (the pig) has always had a lovely temperament, but we were warned by people and literature that, when in labour, she might become aggressive and that she might eat the piglets once they were born. Whether because she is an Oxford Sandy and Black (OSB) orsuckling-piglets just her particular personality, but she was a delight throughout the whole process. Barbara started showing signs that she might farrow the day before and started making a nest. We gave her rushes and straw, all of which she used. She also decided to add clods of earth and nettles, to make a rather untidy looking nest in her house. At 3a.m. I checked on her and she was still making her nest in an almost trance like state, not seeming to even notice me with my torch until I was right next to her peering into her house. By 8a.m. piglets-in-the-housethere were four piglets and we thought she must have finished as she was showing no symptoms of labour and stopped to eat breakfast. After eating she returned to her house and duly popped out another four piglets, while grunting gently and seeming very relaxed that I was in the house with her, catching and drying the piglets as they came out. Unfortunately, the runt did not survive, but the other six gilts and one boar are now strong and very inquisitive. They have already started eating solids and learnt some valuable lessons about electric fencing. There are more photos of the pigs in our GALLERY and a little video of them HERE.

On the chicken front there has been both Life and Death (which actually, thinking about it, was also the case with the piglets). We continued to pursue our ambition to keep Australorp chickens and finally managed to hatch eight chicks out of 36 eggs we incubated in total. Every single one of these had to be helped out of their shells, which is controversial in itself. We were extremely happy, though, as finally we were sure we should get at least a couple of hens. Seven of those chicks survived (one died just a couple of days after hatching) and, after several weeks in a box in the kitchen, went outside into a little run within our main chicken run in July. Sadly, one night the electric fence was not on as the battery ran down in the night and a fox (our first experience of one since being here) got in and killed six of the chicks and left one in a very sorry state. We nursed that one back to health against the odds. We knew he had recovered when he appeared

in our living room and hopped up onto the sofa! We then finally found someone who could sell us more mature Australorp pullets and so bought two. We didn’t think we could have any more bad luck but one of the Australorps, on the second night she was with us, escaped from her enclosure as well as the outer electric fence and all that remained of her in the morning was evidence that there had been a struggle in the orchard. It has all been a bit upsetting and we are in the process of upgrading our chicken housing and fencing before making any more purchases, not least because all the comings and goings of various chickens seems to have upset the pecking order.

On the Sex front, being a smallholding on such a small scale, we can’t justify keeping males of most species. So only the chickens have actual sex and the rest only ever meet a human with a straw of semen! All the action has left the chickens needing saddles to protect them when they are mounted by the cockerel and Barbara

didn’t seem to mind being inexpertly artificially inseminated by us. So next up was our little Jersey Cow, Dimple. We had an experienced technician come and artificially inseminate her with semen from Sparky the Jersey Bull  when she was bulling (which we could tell because of her loud and constant lowing). Dimple should have been bulling again yesterday, but as she wasn’t it seems that she may be pregnant. Arrrghhh! That means that in nine months time, there will be a calf and, more importantly, I will have to learn how to milk a cow and do it twice a day every day!!!

On that note, I need to sit down for a cup of tea. But before I go, here are a couple of recent photos of Melinka and Dusk for those of you who are interested. Ta ra!

Baby and Dog

A smallholder is born

Melinka Judith Hartley was born at Penybanc on 15 July 2012 weighing 7lbs 3oz (3.25 kg). We were really glad we managed to have a home birth and that (despite her being a week early) we managed to finish the bedroom in time so that at least one room is no longer a building site. Melinka is now one month old and doing really well – she will be weeding the garden and chopping logs in no time!