Illus. By Rob Davies

A day in the life of a smallholder

This diarist describes her smallholding as:

. . . a 35 acre (14 hectare) farm which was built in 1952, and used very successfully until 1986. It is now smaller than it was, and we have lived here since 1992, very happily. All the original buildings are still here and most are used regularly. It pays for our farm expenses and sometimes earns a small profit but mainly it is for our interest and enjoment.

Overslept again, being very deaf I had a special alarm clock. The battery was very expensive and lasted only a week or so. Must take it to the Social Services, who supplied it.

Rushed to get dressed, feed three cats, two dogs and myself. It's a beautiful sunny morning. There are puffs of mist in the valleys but the hills, eight miles away are clear. Dress for feeding the outdoor animals. It's quite cold, need gloves; wellies too, the dew is heavy.

The old retired pony has come into the barn, hoping for breakfast. Her feed is ready, prepared last night, like all the feeds. She waffles with delight and eats steadily. Next I examine the lamb who has been ill. He seems ready to go outside and he is longing for some grass. He rejoins the other twenty sheep in the field nearest the big barn. They had to be moved because the flies were so bad in their other field. I feed them, just enough to keep them still while I look to check all are well. After this lovely summer and early autumn we have too much grass. It is difficult to decide how best to use it and keep the stock well.

Illus. By Rob Davies

In the ponies four acre field there are eight sheep to be fed, ram lambs soon ready to be sold, a cow and her calf as I thought they'd like a change and some company, and the mare and her yearling colt. Spread out three separate feeds after letting the ponies into their enclosure for the day, to stop them getting too fat.

The day is sparkling and fills me with energy. I remember the hen and chicks in the barn and feed them. Someone asked me for some chicks and the hen has been broody, sitting on wooden pallets for a month or so. I felt she deserved some real chicks.

Take two bags of sheep feed and the main hen food and feed the Silkie hens first, then the big layers, about 25 in all. Next I go to the other side of the farm and feed my replacement pullets, and a small group of sheep with a lovely ram who has to have a new home as he should not be with his daughters and grand-daughters. Wonder once again who might want him. Very difficult to send him for slaughter.

Now feed the main flock. Bronnie, my collie, drives the sheep into the next field as fifty odd ewes and their ram tend to knock me off my feet in their enthusiasm. One or two are limping. I must watch them. It always happens when the hedges are cut this time of year. There are always some thorns dropped. The sheep come hurrying back and I count them and look them over while they eat. I greatly enjoy just standing and watching the animals, especially the ponies.

The things that I have used must now be put away and any bits of tidying up seen to, then I need to change into more presentable clothes and drive three and a half miles to Newtown for the shopping. My husband is up now and gets his won cereal breakfast. He has recently had a hip operation and still gets tired easily.

Papers are not delivered to us so I pick up the daily paper, some dog food, cat food and some fruit for us. It's market day so I wander round but don't see anything I want. We have our own lamb and beef in the freezer, and when our family visit, from at least 100 miles away, they usually go home with something to cover the cost of the petrol.

Home again, I pick up the remainder of the potatoes I have lifted in the vegetable garden, and pick a handful of runner beans to go with our evening meal. I try to grow as much fruit and vegetables as ai can, and keep the flower garden pretty. That's my favourite job, though I am happy tending the animals too.

A short rest feels needed after we have had a light lunch. Read my library book for a little while, then go out to give the ponies their midday feeds, as they are all on a slimming diet, but I don't feel happy with them going too long without food. It's just any suitable fruit or vegetables I have with chaff. There are plenty of windfall apples just now.

Illus. By Rob Davies

It is hard work for most of the afternoon. I am breaking up the two worn out and unsafe chicken coops to burn them. I can't think of any other way to get rid of them. They turn out tougher than I thought. Do eventually manage to drag the remains into a suitable spot, with many paper sacks to get the bonfire going. Everything is so dry it burns quickly. Next day I find the bullock asleep in the warm ashes. He seems perfectly all right, thank goodness.

Mid afternoon - I have a reviving cup of tea and a biscuit before I prepare the feeds for tomorrow, and the pony's and hen's evening feeds. The ponies are all loosed for the night, as it has been found that at night the grass is not so rich for horses. There is time for a job I've been putting off, cleaning out our three sheds too small for a modern tractor to work in. I stick to two barrow loads a day as it is heavy work and I am conscious of an evening meal to cook. One shed is now clean and another is half way done, then it will be time to ask a contractor to spread the muck heap onto one of the fields.

Say goodnight to the stock and shut in hens and chickens. Have a thankful sit down before I start cooking again, and try to watch at least some of the programme on TV I find interesting. I did tidy the house a bit and put a load in the washing machine, which dried well in the sunshine sometime in the day. I don't exactly remember when. I rarely iron anything, which saves time. Give dogs their supper, and any cats which appear hungry, and go to bed, hopefully by ten thirty.


Click here to read a day in the life of a farmer, a farmers wife and a market gardener