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Tales from an Anglesey Smallholding No 6 – Watch for Blackthorn ! Ouch !

Tales from an Anglesey Smallholding No 6 – Watch for Blackthorn ! Ouch !
25th July 2020 Admin

Hi there, everyone.

Welcome to my blog. I’ve really enjoyed writing it. I hope you enjoy reading it. If you are one of my ‘regulars’ (there are about 300 of you now), you will know that, over time, I cover about five or six themes. This week, I’m reflecting on the theme of risk. Of taking the risk of changing lifestyle, of changing profession, of changing direction in life. What do you think of this quote……..  ? Need to frame it and hang it on my wall !

When you play it too safe, you’re taking the biggest risk of your life. Time is the only wealth we’re given. – Barbara Sher

Some of us change jobs from time to time, seeing it as positive progression. Some of us move house feeling little stress. Some of us stay in the same job or profession all of our lives, content with the familiarity of the same town or village, year after year. Changing jobs and relocating to another area are risks some of us take……… We did when we moved to Anglesey. When you counted up the stress points…… the dial on the stressometer must have been in the red….. but it was worth it !

If you are interested in reading more about this week’s theme, click on the links at the end of the blog !

Personally, I have never considered it a risk to move from one part of the country to live in another. To me, it’s exciting. An adventure. The opportunity to get to know new people, new places. However, leaving teaching and becoming a smallholder. WELL THAT WAS A RISK! When you have followed one line of work, risen through the ranks, you feel confident, knowledgeable about what you are doing. Answers to questions come naturally. You are the one colleagues come to for advice. Not anymore. Now, I’m a smallholder, I’m a relative newbie on the block.

Sometimes, when I’m out and about on our smallholding, it feels like I am starring in the comedy series “The Last of the Summer Wine”. Events take on a surreal, dream-like quality… characters are larger than life. Life can be a bizarre and I just have to laugh at myself……. And I did last Sunday morning……

It was extremely warm. As usual, I casually walked through a couple of fields with our dogs to check our ewes.

There should have been nine ewes in this particular field. There were none. Don’t PANIC.

Now, immediately, my blood pressure started to rise. Already in my mind, I can see nine ewes trotting up the lane, grabbing at grass from the hedge on the way………… to the main road !!!!

No. They couldn’t have got out. The square field is edged on one side by the AFON GOCH (Red River) and by fields on two other sides. A single-track side road runs along the fourth side of the field. All fenced.

But ………… there is one place they could be hiding………

In one corner of the field there is a large patch of gorse and blackthorn (ouch!), which we call Bunny Hill (for obvious reasons). They could be enjoying the shade in there !!

Trying not to run, I headed towards Bunny Hill. By now, it was very warm and very sunny. I bend down ……  The shards of sunlight and leaves trembling in the breeze made it difficult to see through the undergrowth  …… but ……yup…. There’s one, two, three, four ………… FOUR !!!! Where are the other five ? It’s my worst nightmare – our animals playing with the traffic !!!

I count again……… one, two, three, four …………. FOUR !!!

I call their names. Four ewes gaze back at me as they sit, chewing and blinking, behind bushes. I send Bell into the undergrowth to chase the ewes out. She reappears without them !

I count again. Still four. My blood pressure rises further. By now the ewes could be half way to Bangor!

I decide to try and crawl through the gorse and blackthorn to see if I could find the other ewes ….. not a good idea in your pyjamas.  Ouch ! Yes, I forgot to tell you that. On warm mornings, it’s easy just to do the morning round in jimjams.

Not a good idea to crawl through blackthorn whatever you are wearing. Ouch !

I count again. Four. I shout again. No reaction. Ouch !

I decide to go out onto the lane. I might be able to find out how five ewes have escaped and where they are now.

I walk back to the house and further on to the main gate. Then down the lane to where it edges the field.

Not able to see any damaged fencing, I decide to look for sheep droppings on the road – this would lead me to them ! Brilliant idea !

So, I’m walking down the middle of the lane, in my pyjamas, looking down at the tarmac,with scratches all over my arms, when the local farmer speeds down the lane towards me in his field buggy, two collies hanging out of one side, as he leans towards me out of the other side.

“Everything alright ?”

“I’m looking for sheep poo”.

“Best off looking in a field”.

He sped off, almost leaving the dogs behind him. The buggy swaying from side to side.

Of course, there was no sheep poo on the road, because all of the ewes were hiding in Bunny Hill. If I had stopped to think for a moment, I would have known they were there and that if I wanted to see them all, I just had to shake a bucket of feed and they would all charge towards me. But did I think of that, last Sunday. No. Changing your lifestyle is a risky business……. and can be stressful….. but also hilarious ….. Never a dull moment at Bryn Celyn !

Everyone has a ‘risk muscle.’ You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don’t, it atrophies. Make a point of using it at least once a day. – Roger von Oech

Follow these links to read more about the place of risk in our lives:

“The Power of Gentleness – Meditation” by Anne Dufourmantelle

“Risk” by Michael E Tennenbaum

“The Fear Bubble” by Ant Middleton

Oh, and also there is RISK, the video, too ! A fascinating film !

Bye for now, Margaret xxxxx


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  1. NEIL WRENCH 6 months ago

    Hi Margaret, We so miss coming to see you and Ron at the Farm Shop and Cafe.
    Have you any more news, have you appealed?
    In hindsight it would have been great if you had bought the Cafe at Trethbychan.
    We are hoping to come back to Island for September.
    We can’t wait.
    Neil & Julie

    • Author
      Admin 6 months ago

      Hi Neil, the local MP took up our case, but the council are still wanting us to apply (and pay for) change of use planning permission. I’ll be posting again next week with a more detailed update. We’ve had so much support but it doesn’t look like the council are interested in helping businesses x

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