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An itinerant observer and thinker about life in general, sharing some moments of wandering and wonderment.

Monday, 28 May 2012


A while ago now Shep and I had a discussion about colouration in sheep's wool ...

 Now mostly folks think of sheep as being white, or often with black faces. As I've mentioned before at this time of year the sheep in the heat are staring to rub off their hot fleeces and sometimes the colour is not what you'd expect ... red! The reason for this is quite simple really,
the farmer has marked the ewes that will soon be ready for market but in this case the wet weather meant that mam rubbed off her dye onto the lamb hence this sharing ...
of what looks rather gory colouration in the fleece. You can almost imagine the youngster checking out her coat as if to see if she really is a white fleeced ewe to be!
Then as they get dosed for blue tongue, worms and foot rot, other colours will appear.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

UP CLOSE & ...

Yesterday I mentioned noticing things at ground level, getting up close and photo-graphical.
I have the mickey taken out of me, as I am sometimes to be seen lying in contorted positions on the ground with my camera often at odd angles, or bent over getting a close up of tiny things. But it often amazes me how little people see as they walk around "loving the view."
I've gone back over several days for this little collection of close ups ...
Take this beautiful, heart shape >>> of newly emerged bracken with it's soft russety down. It's almost hard to believe that this will grow into such a strong pernicious weed. A curse of the commons, poisonous to cattle when young, but when harvested makes good bedding for cows in barns over winter. But then gets added to manure, rotted down and fed back to the land in a form that will not grow new dominating plants.
<<< Here's another curse of the commons, thistles! Their spiny stars are a problem for dogs paws. Ffin is very adapt at stepping around them. Sheep rarely eat them and their multiple seed heads, blown on the wind spread all over the grazing areas, so reducing the edible areas quite drastically.
But ... on the positive side, the flowers attract all sorts of insects including bees!
Now, last year I commented on the lack of bees during the height of summer and in the warmth of autumn. There were days out with the dog when I never saw a single one, but already this year I am seeing them in quite increased numbers daily, hopefully that is a good sign for the summer ahead. It's well known, but sad fact that our bee populations are in crisis. Let's hope this year sees an increase amongst all the different species of our native bees. Tiny dandelions can be seen everywhere, little bright suns in amongst the green growth across the moors. They have little problem increasing their numbers as their seeds travel on the slightest of breezes. Around here they are called "sugar stealer's" Despite many enquiries I cannot find out why. The only possible I can come up with is that it relates in some way to sugar rationing during the war.
The above is our tiny but vibrantly blue, native Speedwell. Now, this is one we all recognise but looking in my Francis Rose "Wildflower Key" there are at least 16 types of Speedwell, and surprisingly there is a Pink Water Speedwell. Why speed? Do they increase rapidly? You see once you start looking at words closely you start asking questions. 
But back to bracken, an invasive species and one that quite often gets ariely sprayed to prevent it becoming too dominant across the moors, partially due to ruination of grazing but also because when dying down, the dry brown stalks are tinder for moorland fires which can spread for miles with incredible speed, but the young shoots are beautiful.
It never ceases to amaze me that from all seeds the tiniest of dainty plants may grow or ... something as sturdy as an ancient oak or a giant redwood tree!

Saturday, 26 May 2012


 Well what a change in the weather over the last week as we have been hit with days of heat and swelteringly breeze-less days. Phew! Lots of red faces amongst our farmers who have been busy with sorting out young lambs as the ewes look on bemused by it all. More have been released onto the commons and there the grass is covered with drifts of patches of wool as sheep get hot and rub up against anything  to get rid of heat itches. Can't say as I blame them wanting to get rid of that warm weight of fleece.

<<< On this photo the brown and white wool matched with the colours of the lichen on an old stone on the moorland. Meanwhile, the in-bye fields are being given a chance to rest and recuperate after months of grazing and following the weeks of rain and now warm sun, the fields are flourishing.
Now ... on May 22nd I promised you photo's of 18 petalled buttercups ... and yesterday I found just two in their normal patch of pasture. The only place I've found to bear 18 petalled buttercups out of all the places I visit.
A few years ago I read about some research that claimed that the more petals found on a normally five petalled buttercup was an indication of the age of agricultural land, possibly going back hundreds of years. So far I have counted ... 5, ... 18! But not yet found the numbers in-between. Now local folk think I'm mad for counting petals but it means I also notice other things at ground level too. It makes things interesting.
Anyway, just today I also saw another wonderful yellow flower, our native Welsh poppy.
Yes, they are yellow! I just love the contrast of colour with the old churchyard stone wall.
And for those of you who think I am only interested in sheep ... the pasture just below the church had cattle quietly grazing in the shade of the newly greening beech trees ...

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Yo! Dafad is back with visuals but with a lot to catch up on for various reasons. Having had to sort out an MOT for the car, after ... loss of wallet with cards and cash ... i.e mega hassle sorting everything out and having had some horrible bug that has left me feeling a bit below par to say the least and ...
<<<  as you can see somewhat fed up with the last few weeks.
Meanwhile the rainy days have turned into hot sunny dry ones. The sudden change as the earth has warmed up has been quite amazing.  The wellies are no longer daily footwear but there are still lots of watery puddles to be avoided by me, if not the dog who insists on getting as wet and muddy as he can. Yesterday he went swimming in a recently renewed pond and having dived into heaps of last years sun dried beech leaves, returned smelling less grunge scented.

Meanwhile the beech trees are donning their new greenery and their branches are filled with the sounds of excited bird chatter as beneath their fresh green canopies the lambs are bouncing about exploring their brave new world with all the excitement of the young & youthfully  adventurous bounciness. The rams, their job for the year done  are resting ...
They seem to look on as if saying ... "The youth of today!" just like any old men in the pub who remember their youth as something better than these modern lot. Meanwhile concerned ewes look are on alert ... wondering what a young, curious lamb is up to ... 

but that lamb is watching me ... who ... is taking photographs of more fascinating things .... such as this buttercup. Over the last few years I have been interested in buttercup petal numbers. The standard petal count is five ... but count these ... 

 Yes .. eight petals ... I have also found plants with eighteen petals and hopefully later in the year I will be able to capture for you photographs of these multiple petalled oddities. It comes to something when one goes around counting petals of buttercups but  apparently it shows the (possible) age of farm managed fields. Will keep you posted.

Thursday, 17 May 2012


 Hello again those who follow in Dafad's tracks. I still haven't solved the photograph problem and have had other things to deal with. But looking on the brighter side of life, the weather has improved and for these last few days, wellies have not been needed, yahoo!
  The mountain, being covered in sphagnum moss and rushes has soaked up the days of rain like a sponge and ... the weather has been slightly warmer if rather breezy to say the least. But these last few days have seen a dramatic change in the scenery. It's almost as if nature has been patiently waiting in the wings for the curtains of rain and mist before going on stage. Suddenly she has burst into a grand display of new growth with new, fresh green foliage appearing and flowers raising their heads out of spring shy buds. The change has been quite amazing. Our native Welsh bluebells are starting to create a beautiful carpet of colour under the pale green leaves of young beech leaves. Tiny milkworts are adding their blue hues too and the sphagnum mosses are bearing golden rust heads above their emerald cushions. This year Ladies Smock have bloomed in abundance and the buttercups have opened their sunny faces to embrace the suns warm rays. Cuckoos are calling and swallows are flashing through the air catching the emerging insects. Yesterday I watched a crow and a buzzard in conflict with each other, trying to see who could outsmart the other in flying skills. Skylarks and Meadow Pipits are in full song above the moorland which is now being grazed by sheep released from the in-bye pasture onto the commons.
   Sadly the last few months have seen the loss of yet more farmers who have "retired" from life. It was a sad minutes silence at the Commoners Meeting the other night when we showed our respects to those that had passed away. Those that are left are mostly beyond beyond retirement age and yet still struggle on. I was talking to one the other day as we looked over the valley to see that the farms we could see had all been taken over by folk who have no interest in farming and the land they have bought is purely for "recreational" purposes. Almost a whole hillside is now without sheep or cattle. Our farmers are having a tough time and for those that simply see the pre-packed meat on the supermarket shelves have no idea about the many hours our farmers put into raising their stock. Over the last months I have witnessed farmers (past retirement age) worn out with calving and lambing and the recent price wars have seen dairy farmers give up, unable to provide our daily milk for a fair price. An often spoken phrase ... "You never see a poor farmer." is absolute nonsense. Framers are giving up almost daily as they are squeezed out of business. None of us can live without food, yet it seems that folk are willing to pay for the latest mobile phone or electronic gizmo's (seen as a "Can't do without.")  yet are oblivious to where our food comes from. Sadly, more and more from abroad. I constantly hear talk about slave labour overseas, it's happening here  in our own country!
  Anyway, enough rant and rave, summer is on it's way, all be it slowly.

Saturday, 12 May 2012


  Apologies to all those who follow Dafad's Days, but I'm having a few "technical" problems here. I know posts are less interesting without the visuals to accompany them but hopefully one way or another, normal Dafad daftness will be restored, please be patient. Meanwhile we are still having adventures and the camera is a constant companion as we trog about. Today was lovely, clear skies, warm air, yet still very soggy under hoof! Daft dog went swimming today and cleaned off all the sheep squelchy "mud"  in the Canyon. If you go back to the 16th April, in the post "LOW LEVELS" I recorded that the water had dropped four foot below it's natural level. Due to all the recent rain, that level has risen over five feet at least, to the point that even the normal path was below the water surface. 

Diving dog found all this great fun, but trying to navigate a new way was to say the least treacherous due to the rain causing landslip down the sides of the canyon. 
In the forestry the wind damage was quite awesome, big pines toppled over and branches and fresh greenery blocking some of the paths. The whole area had been changed by the storms of this last week but due to the "slightly" warmer weather the insects were foraging and new growth can be seen everywhere and the birds were busy filling the air with newly invigorated energy.
   Another sound heard today was rare ... as a rally for 57 classic vehicles passed up and over the mountain. The throaty sound of old gear boxes being put to the test, reverberated all around (bringing back memories) as the now classic cars from my youth navigated the set course. It was a lovely sight to see elderly MG's, Fords and other makes, driven by owners enjoying a run out in decent weather, it made a change from tractors and Landrovers.
  The rest of the day was spent washing and air drying, dog towels, bedding and other mud splattered clothing, no doubt that clean state of affairs won't last long. Now that there are many more sheep out on the commons there is a certain aroma that seems to become part of dog and owner, the scent of Ovine O'dure! A very penetrative perfume. C'est la vie!

Thursday, 10 May 2012


  O.K so it's a quote from Arthur Ransome's book Swallows & Amazons. I wasn't sailing around some lake up North or afloat at sea. I simply took Ffin's limousine for it's MOT. 
Having already got soaked to the skin taking him out this morning, I left him at home to guard the (dry) fort, before heading off via waterways to the garage and I mean waterways in the flooding road sense of the word. At one stage I drove through a "puddle" so deep that it deterred less able drivers from navigating through it. This is a road that only last year was finally repaired and relaid by our local council, who ... knew that this spot was a particular flooding hazard and has been for years, claiming quite a few unwary, or low profile vehicles.  Did they provide a suitable soak away to avoid this hazard? Well ... NO  is the simple two letter answer! Still looking on the positive side the car had a really thorough wash underneath, getting rid of winter salt grit and mud so the MOT guys could see clearly underneath and as I splodged around the garage in my currently constant outdoor footwear (wellies) and made tea for the hard working guys, I was glad that for once I hadn't taken the dog with me. The rain was torrential! The noise on the corrugated rooves of the garage bays made conversation necessarily loud to be heard  above the timpani of tin being drummed by a heavenly Ginger Baker. Yes ... it was very loud and needless to say wet. At one point the garage owner had to strip off having been out on a recovery and put on yet another set of dry clothing,
   Anyway, the good news was that I was able to arrive home soaking wet, to a very dry dog with a new MOT certificate, so the old car is legally roadworthy for another year.
Mad mutt unimpressed with the fact that ... having stripped off and got into dry clothes, I was not prepared to go out in monsoon conditions yet again. At least his limo is road legal and neither did it get water ingested into various intakes like some more modern vehicles might have done, so the old girl has another years grace of road worthiness. Little does the daft dog realise these "minor" practicalities of human endeavour ... he's still sulking.

Monday, 7 May 2012


  Bank Holiday Monday ... what can I say ... and by wet and dry I don't mean grades of sandpaper! Luckily we caught a pause in the pluvial today and walked under a low hanging mist, so low that little could be seen, even the sheep seemed like bedraggled ghosts as they splodged through the sludge. The mad mutt loved it ... bouncing around in the muddy pools and pouncing on things in the rushes. I sometimes wish I had the energy and freedom of a dog, no thermal underwear, no onion layers of warm and weatherproof clothing ... Bliss! A quick rub off with a towel when we return, a bone shaped biscuit and he's a totally contented collie. That is until later in the day when even the garden steps look like an unintended water feature and he feels  that exploring the garden is just too boring. That is when I get downcast looks and heavy sighs because I can't face donning water repellent clothes ... yet again. Wellies are a daily given at the moment, it's all the rest of the clobber that I have to wear. Oh to be a dog, with just one coat and a collar!
  Yesterday, I found a Meadow Pipit nest that had been blown across the moor. It was clearly this years as it had strands of green sphagnum moss and fibres of sheep's wool woven in with the grass. A beautiful little thing that fitted in the palm of my hand. It was sad to think of all the effort that had gone into its making only to be snatched away by the wind. I wondered if the Pipit has started weaving another nest in the hope of better weather, I hope so and that this time it will be a success.
  But as I write this it is raining heavily again, not that I'm complaining, we need the water to top up our reservoirs and rivers. A bit of warmth in the weather and then the spring can turn happily into summer and drier adventures with photo's to show you. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 5 May 2012


   Well ... it's rather ironic that I called my last post "Taking a break." because I quite literally have to take a break from uploading photo's to give you all visuals to break up the jottings. Why? Because it seems I have run out of "storage space" and until I can get that sorted out there will be no more illustrative oddities to accompany my script. Botheration! (& worse,) It seems I have to buy storage space for a monthly fee, to be paid in dollars and of course this is bank holiday weekend, so no-one available to ask advice about the best way to move forward with Dafad's Days. Meanwhile some small updates from these last few days of weather soaked Welsh wanderings.
  Cuckoos, were first heard last week and are becoming more numerous as they arrive back from their hot winter holidays in Africa, I have heard them mid April in previous years and we are lucky that we get quite substantial numbers around here.
   The swallows also started arriving back on the 13th April, that's the earliest anyone I know says they saw them flying around locally. It is a lovely sight to see them swooping low over the heather, diving under the hovering skylarks and giving the lambs a bit of a start as they fly past their noses. I imagine during last weeks torrential, wind battering weather, they wondered why they had bothered to return here, hungry after flying all that way, only to find all the flying insects sheltering as best they could. At least over these last few days they have been able to recharge their energies after a good soaking.
   The ground on the moors is sodden as the sphagnum moss has absorbed much of the rain and there are ale dark pools everywhere, so wellies are still the required footwear. Yesterday, the daft dog did something he has never done in all his five years, I caught him rolling in what looked like cushions of moss (not unusual) he loves the big shagnum cushion like mounds when they're wet ...until I saw the look on his face ... cheekily defiant! Why? He had, I discovered by the new scent he was wearing, rolled in a small rotting carcass!!! Now luckily sphagnum has several worthwhile properties ... it makes a good sponge and has antibacterial properties. He was not so cheekily amused after I had rolled him in a deep puddle, gave him good soaking and then sponged him off vigorously with moss. I stood well out of his way as he shook the excess off and bounded away to get air dried in the blustery wind, he seemed quite defiantly happy, I had the last laugh though, because on our return, he got very lightly sprayed with fabric freshener and thoroughly towel dried. His facial expression of disgust, probably matched mine earlier!
   Today he has been even better behaved than usual, a good lesson in who's the boss.
Today has been breezily dry and tomorrow the same, Monday's forecast, back to getting a few more days of soaking again. At least my wellies and wet gear are temporarily dry!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


 Today was a mixed day in many ways. It started off slowly after a very noisy night with the wind and rain battering the house again. The body was reluctant to get into gear this morning and it was nearly midday before the patient pooch got to prounce around out on the mountain whilst I mainly stayed still and let him run free. Today, I heard my first cuckoo, late for this area, I normally hear them in April. We did stop by to watch a local farmer sorting out his new lambs, gathering them in for sorting out, with the males getting castrating rings and all getting ear marked with that farmers unique signature. It makes each sheep easy to identify from just yards away, even if one cannot get close enough to read the ear tags. When he'd done, we got talking about how changed the landscape has become since his youth on this mountain. Coal mining of course altered the face of the land dramatically and although now nature has healed over a lot of those deep dark scars, there are still signs, such as the slim, blackness of the bare areas that is not just peat.
Also there are other indications, take the above. This line that you can see is the edge of the extreme of the coal seam and forms what is locally called " a break". In just the last five years that I've had the dog, this break has grown bigger with subsidence and is a danger to those who do not intimately know the landscape. Luckily, some innate sense that Ffin has, he avoids this line, but I worry about others walking their dogs in this area.
Just a few years ago a walker lost his terrier down just such a break. Mining rescue were called out and worked all night but sadly the little dog had fallen so deeply into a cavernous  void that all the rescue efforts were hopeless. A sad day for the owner.
But ... on a lighter note ... this afternoon having been to the bank, we stopped off for a short walk in another old mining area and one that is much safer  for us to explore.
The recent heavy rains have seen these old 
and well designed water courses absolutely overflowing.
 Willows are all sprouting new leafery and the gorse is bursting with fresh,  yellow bloom.
A sign that maybe all too soon, summer will be around the next corner.
How fast the year disappears as we reach our "more mature years".

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


 And by "Misty eyed" I mean not just me, but the camera's eye also got misted over. After a particularly noisy, wind battered night, which kept us awake, we were lucky to finally arise to calmer skies, whilst outside the night's work was clear to see,
though at times vision was occluded with a heavy, low hung, very damp fogginess.

But, as the 
wind blew the blanket of gloom away, things started to brighten and dry enough for the results of the nights work to be seen more clearly. Water running off the fields, through gates and down the mountain road. Even the farmers had been taking a break from the conditions ... with tractors at a stand still and few people to be seen as we parked up for a very brief excursion. 

But then there was a brief window of opportunity as sunlight filtered through the blanket of gloom, highlighting the damage of the night.
The wind had blown beech tree branches and twigs everywhere. Stones on the road were travelling down hill in the runnels of water and masses of Sitka cones, branch tips and and new buds were strewn all across the road and verges, and in this case been quite artistically arranged, reminding me of one of our national emblems. A bit like a tea bag, we had started out dry, got soaking wet and were starting to dry out again. Then just to add to the Welsh wetness, I spotted this lone flower, another national emblem. As I was taking the photo ... a small yellow dung fly crawled out of it's shelter from the rain. (Scathophaga strecoraria) what a long Latin name for such a minuscule but not so insignificant critter.
But ... without such tiny creatures as these ... well ... we'd be up to our knees in dung!