When we moved to this part of Wales, we didn’t realise that we were following in the footsteps of so many other downsizers, diggers and dreamers, and back-to-the-landers in search of a more self-sufficient life.
If we had done even a smidgen of research we would have known that none other than John Seymour himself was based not far from here. It was only when rereading the barley section of the complete book of Self-Sufficiency that we properly noticed Barley Saturday an annual festival in Cardigan – John Seymour’s nearby town!– about 30 minutes drive.
One couple that have been smallholders in our village for the last 8 years are Andy and Quae. Very kindly they offered us a tour of their 8 acres, a week or so ago we went round. Impressively Quae was in her bee-keeping outfit when we arrived; she’d been checking that the bees in her hives had enough food.
After a quick cuppa underneath the strings of onions in the kitchen and a conversation that included so many good tips about where to go for what around the area we had difficulty keeping up, we headed out for the tour. First off the veggie garden which I didn’t take a photo of as winter is never the best time to capture the abundance of vegetable plots, but it was obviously well kept, productive (as the kitchen had shown) and sported a grapevine too (so hope for a châteaux Forest Garden yet).
Then to the kune kune pet pigs, Morpheus and Eunice. Now, I have never met any “teapot” pigs before and always imagined them sitting in tea cups, so meeting these two was a bit of a shock. They are over knee-high and would leave a fair dent in your welly should they step on your foot. But they are totally gorgeous and very friendly, Eunice even let me stroke her dense wire-haired back.
Andy and Quae keep a flock of Herdwick sheep for meat, wool and grass-mowing. Curious about people being on their field they showed some interest in us until, that is, they determined that we hadn’t brought food (a rare treat, as these girls are totally grass fed). Despite appearances none of them are pregnant, they are just very fluffy sheep. Also very hardy with few feet problems even though they are kept on the land all year round.
Water for the house and land is from a spring (treated appropriately for human consumption by various filters and technical kit in one of the outbuildings) very handy if you have one, especially if it, like this one, is high on your land. An ancient oak plug kept the water level of the pond in check (unfortunately covered in water so we couldn’t see it).
Back round towards the house we met the chickens, ducks and bantams. These ones are all kept for eggs. They are a beautiful motley crew that produce a wonderfully diverse range of eggs both in size and colour. Andy and Quae have a system for moving the hens about their fox-proof run which means that the grass is never over-grazed, and it was certainly looking lush.Turkeys, I haven’t mentioned them! Seasonal, errrm … visitors, they certainly grow to a good size here.
The evening was fast approaching, the hens had already put themselves to bed, it was pretty much time to go. Last stop the bees. A few bee hives are kept above visitor head height on a strip of garden within sight of the house so Quae can keep an eye on them.
The few hours we spent with Andy and Quae were an inspiration. They have certainly achieved a lot in their time here while also running a successful non-smallholding business. With the promise of raspberry canes and strawberry runners – you can bet we’ll be back!