Friday, 23 July 2010

I can see clearly now...

.... because the horrid windows have gone!


Actually this is a 'during' not a 'before' because the window on the left has already been replaced. The others are the old windows in their full, opaque glory. Windows are for seeing through right? Not these ones. The double glazing units failed years ago and the sills were rotten. One of them is UPVC and the others the most useless and softest of soft woods. The two to the right are the kitchen windows and I couldn't see through them to watch my children playing in the garden. They had to go.


Hurrah! Windows so clear you can see through them. (Ignore the rotten red door - the replacement for that is a lovely hardwood one.) All of of the ground floor windows have now been replaced - nine in total - and the door on the front of the house too. We've had the roof repaired and the chimney fixed which means we are fully weatherproof for the first time since we moved back here eight years ago. Bad weather is going to be a whole lot less exciting in the future. Now we need to paint the house!

The bulk of the windows were done on Wednesday when the girls went over to spend the day in the hot tub with H8's friend G8, but on Thursday the kitchen was still out of bounds so we went out for lunch at Ocean Lab at Fishguard Harbour. Afterwards we ran down the breakwater.

Then it was time for some serious shell hunting on Goodwick beach including this little beauty and some lovely sea glass.

Time for a spot of fishing from the beach with nets.

Hannah was delighted to catch this little chap.

So, now the man who installed the windows has driven down our drive in his van for the last time, the holidays can officially begin.

Half marathon training - week two of 14: Easy run on Tuesday, then 5.1 miles on Thursday including two blocks of speedwork. Ow. Ow. OW! This is when I wish I didn't live in the Preseli Hills. The name is a clue to the reason why. My five mile run is a festival of pain. Hills so steep they are marked on the map with those little black arrows. Turns so tight they attract bonkers people in rally cars once a year. This week's mantra: No pain, no gain. Repeat until you finish climbing then run gladly along the flat grinning like an idiot. Then a downhill. Ahhhh.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Hearts and minds

The USA first used the phrase 'hearts and minds' during the Vietnam war and it has fallen into regular use since to foster trust in communities, particularly during wartime.

The phrase came to mind last night when I attended a meeting in Crymych about proposals for the Plas Dwbl biodymanic farm at Mynachlogddu. This farm has for decades been educating students from around the world in the processes of biodynamic farming and the ethos of Rudolph Steiner. Now, however, it faces difficult financial times and its new owners, the Responsive Earth Trust, are looking for ways to make the 100 acre farm sustainable in the 21st century.

Unfortunately this is where they have lost the hearts and minds of the local community. Rumours were rife that Plas Dwbl was to become an open prison and the room was packed with around 400 people who wanted reassurance that their quiet crime-free community wasn't going to be spoiled by the arrival of groups of vulnerable, possibly dangerous, people.

Representatives of the Trust - Jane and Shaun - explained that what they would be doing at the farm is using farming projects to help adults with learning difficulties, school children and people referred by the probation service to learn new skills and play a better part in society.

Their aim is backed by the Ruskin Mill Educational Trust and its founder and director, Aonghus Gordon, had flown back from a trip to the USA to explain how the trust's work helps vulnerable youngsters. He did have the hearts and minds of the people at the meeting; Ruskin Mill's work was worthy and impressive. He explained the problems caused in youngsters by food poverty and the ways in which working in food production and simple farming methods could help these youngsters.

But there was unease in the room, most of it focussed on Shuan and Jane of the Responsive Earth Trust. A neighbour of Plas Dwbl stood up and told the meeting that she had been visited by Jane White who had told her that prisoners would be coming to Plas Dwbl. Her voice cracked with emotion as she explained that she was afraid, living in such close proximity to Plas Dwbl. Her claims were refuted by the Trust.

Then Shaun, asked if he had been talking to prisons about the possibility of bringing prisoners to Plas Dwbl said: "No comment." Qualifying it by adding: "People are entitled to their privacy."

Well yes they are, but people living near by are also entitled to know if a former peaceable biodynamic farm is to house people who have been put into prison for a reason.

Then, when asked about the educational side, Shaun said local school children had visited Plas Dwbl, implying that it was part of the scheme. He even named the school, completely unaware that the head of special needs of that school was in front of him in the audience. She was furious that his comments implied that those children had visited as part of the scheme. They had not. Their day trips - small groups of children with special needs - had happened before the formation of the Responsive Earth Trust when Plas Dwbl was still being run by the previous caretakers.

So the members of the Responsive Earth Trust lost the hearts and minds of their audience by failing to be open and clear about their plans, past and present; they also tried to claim kudos for work with local children that wasn't theirs to claim.

Ultimately it seemed like a cynical money-grabbing opportunity. Plas Dwbl is facing hard times, as are all farmers. It seems they have been considering various ways of solving those problems by taking on difficult cases; cases that would attract large amounts of grant aid.

But who, at the end of the day, pays the bill? Taxpayers, local and national, fund these resource-hungry schemes. Yes they have benefits for the wider community in helping vulnerable people find their place in society, but such people are already well catered for in Pembrokeshire.

Plas Dwbl is in a very isolated area. The roads are narrow, it is difficult to find. Ruskin Mill projects can get quite big, Aonghus Gordon spoke of creating 200 jobs without realising, perhaps, the impact that such a huge set-up - almost a college - would have on such a tiny rural community.

I would like to think that there is a future for Plas Dwbl, but I think first the Responsive Earth Trust has to win back the hearts and minds of the community and, going by the evidence of last night's meeting, that is going to be a tough hill to climb.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Shorn the sheep

A day in the life of Chops, a pet  Charollais crossbreed sheep

Today: Shearing.

BEFORE: Hot and bothered (but quite cuddly).

DURING: It can be a humiliating process.

AFTER: What a handsome chap!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

New blog

My friend Jo and I have decided to walk the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

Read about our antics here.