Report on June meeting

June’s talk came from Terry Harrison and was on the subject of small farm equipment. Born in Whitland on a small farm he never wanted to go to school but was fascinated by machinery and now runs his own business supplying small farm , wood processing and ground maintenance kit. We were shown video clips of alpine tractors suitable for smallholdings. These machines are perfectly suited for operation on steep and rough land and can have 4 wheel drive and bi-directional steering where the seat and steering column may be faced forward or reverse to suit direction of travel. Available from 23 to 90 HP.

Suromer tractors come as flat packs with better instructions than Ikea. Available as 20 HP with switchable 4WD and capable of lifting big bale hay on its bespoke front loader and a new 35HP ready assembled model is now available. Priced at £6k and £8K. These machines are simple design so no need for a laptop to service them. Terry also supplies mini round balers and corresponding electric/petrol powered
wrappers. Back acters which mount on the three point linkage to make a mini digger and various small tractor toppers.

For firewood production there is a range of log-splitters driven by either electric,petrol or PTO. These are more sophisticated than British made splitters with features such as fast return rams. If you want to process tree trunks Terry has a range of timber processing machines.For ground maintenance we were shown a range of mowers from sit on brush cutters to posh mowers for bowling greens and golf greens. Also now coming on the market are rechargeable machines with the capacity for a days work

Report on May meeting

The wild landscapes of West Wales, by Dr Lizzie Wilberforce of South & West Wales Wildlife Trust.

May’s talk came from Dr Lizzie Wilberforce of the South & West Wales Wildlife Trust. Wales has an incredibly varied mosaic of habitats, all of which the Wildlife Trust are involved in the care of. The Wildlife Trusts are a national network of independent charities whose function is the conservation and protection of the local environment flora and fauna. Local Trusts both fund raise and spend locally, meaning they are more able to respond to local need and the unique habitats they support.

Whilst it may seem that Wales has plenty of forests and Woodlands, this is not the case. Late in the 19th Century, Wales only had 3% of woodland cover. Since then, this has risen gradually to 14%, in part at least to the Welsh government’s recovery plan, but this is still a low figure; as a comparison, 70% of Scandinavia is covered by forest. Many of our trees were felled during the world wars to provide for the mines, they were replanted as their importance was recognised, however this has resulted in woodland with trees all of a similar age., rather than a natural range to support a greater diversity of wildlife.

Whilst Wales doesn’t have a great deal of woodland, the woodland it does have is very important. 31% of all Wales’ woods are ancient woodland. This means that the area has been continuously wooded for at least 400 years. Dinefwr is home to trees over 600 years old! Other woodlands particularly important in Wales are upland Oak woodland, and upland Ash woodland. Many of our scarce wildlife species depend on ancient woodland, they have poor mobility, so face a special threat through deforestation. Even if woodlands are re-planted such species will be lost from that area, and are slow to return. There is a different value for new vs ancient woodland.

The plants and trees tell a story of the landscape, not only the rock formation, mineral quantity or soil quality, but also the history of agriculture and land use. Ash is often found where the soil is rich In iron. Undergrowth of bilberry or heather reflect a history of sheep grazing in the area. Steep land typically has think, poor soil meaning it is not useful as farming land, so Upland Oak woodland is often found in these areas.

Although the percentage of woodland in Wales is increasing there are serious threats to our trees. As well as diseases which have been around for many years such as Dutch Elm Disease, newer diseases have been making the news recently, such as Ash die-back, and Sudden Oak Death. These diseases show the importance of maintaining the biodiversity in our woods. Lizzie explained that they are not encouraging people to clear out ash trees, as it is recognised that Ash die-back is present in the UK, and removing them may prevent the development of natural resistance. There is a restriction on moving ash trees or wood. An increased genetic diversity will increase a species resilience to disease.

Castle Wood a reserve owned by the Trust was badly affected by Dutch Elm disease, however 30 years on there is regeneration. Sycamore has grown up in many of the elm’s place, many species dependant on elm have switched to live on the sycamore as the bark chemistry is similar. We were all please to hear that sycamore has its uses! Whilst sycamore doesn’t host the greatest number of species (oak does) it does host the highest biomass; it’s great for aphids, which is a favourite of the dormouse (one of our favourites!) Coniferous woodland have an important role for protecting red squirrels who find it easier to not be out-competed in such woodland. The Red Squirrel Project was started in 2002, and a Red Squirrel Officer has recently been appointed to support landowners to improve the chances of this pretty native mammal.

Grassland is probably our most abundant habitat, but unfortunately in many cases the green fields that surround us are not the most diverse. Animals need good grass to grow successfully, and these dominant grasses tend to out-compete other species. Similar spraying to remove pest or invasive weeds will tend to cause significant damage to wildlife.

There are other grassland habitats which are very valuable to wildlife such as marshy grassland, and upland calcareous grassland. Unfortunately these are under-threat due to our ever-increasing demand for grazing. The Wildlife Trust supports a number of unique sites with lowland acidic soil, or calcareous (limestone) soil which host a range of rare species including bee orchids, and marsh fritillary butterflies. The Wildlife Trust are using highland cattle to graze for marsh orchids.

The pressures on our countryside to be productive are huge, this makes the work of the wildlife even more important.

She encouraged us to visit the sites, or find out more on www.welshwildlife.org

Report on April Meeting

April’s talk on Cottage gardens by Carrie Thomas was obviously of great interest to many of our members. The talk covered a wide variety of subjects, starting with the design of the garden which is often dictating by its purpose.Carrie looked at the common elements of many cottage gardens. These include structural elements such as trellis, arches, stone walls, paths etc. Carrie gave a huge amount of advice about the sort of plants found in many cottage gardens, particularly focusing on aquilegia, as she currently holds both of the Welsh National collections of these plants. Many thanks to Carrie for a very detailed talk.

April Meeting: Cottage Gardening by Carrie Thomas, 09/04/14 @ 8PM

This month’s talk comes from Carrie Thomas, who will be telling us about the construction, planting, and growing of typical cottage garden plants.

talk kidweli333IMG_0135Carrie is a keen plantswoman, particularly interested in sowing seeds of unusual, gardenworthy plants, sowing several hundred types each year. Her seed company supplies seeds of cottage garden favourites as well as rarely offered items.   A gardener since a young child, her passion for plants really took off when she had her first house and garden.  Carrie is a qualified teacher, and has an honours degree in Botany and Zoology from Swansea University.

The talk will take place at the normal time & place, The Gremlin Club, Carmarthen 8pm on Wed 9th of April. See you there.

Time to get involved?

This year, there are a number of opportunities to get involved in the Association. Remember the DSA is what its members make it, so if you think you might be able to help out with any of these things, then please do get in touch with us. You can do this through the contact page.

1. Farm Walks. All of us tend to be a little bit nosey about how other people do things on their holdings, and the DSA farm walks are a great way to find out more. The process relies on members being good enough to host an event, but it’s easy, and something that each one of us can do. At this point, you’re probably thinking to yourself “Oh no, I don’t have anything to show other people.” or “The place is a tip! I’d be embarrassed for anyone else to see it!” Guess what: pretty much everyone of us feels like that. Our holdings tend to be works in very slow, painful progress. So don’t panic, all you have to do is provide tea and coffee, and let people have a look around. As well as being a change to meet other people, it can be a really useful opportunity for you to get some advice or ideas about what you could do with those tricky little problem areas that all of us have. So come on, why not? Host a farm walk for us!

2. Not going to hold a farm walk? Okay, how about a workshop? Right, we get the point. You don’t want to hold a farm walk. OK then, why not hold a workshop? Each one of us has different skills and abilities (Yes, this includes you), and it would be great if we could share them. Can you weld? Do you know about fencing? Pasture management? House renovation? Ditching? Streams? Conservation? You get the idea, if you’ve got a skill, and you’d like to help people learn about it, then let us know!

3. No Farm Walk? No Workshop? We have speakers on a variety of subjects at our meetings, but perhaps we don’t really make the most of our very knowledgeable members. If you’ve got a topic that you care about, or think should be raised then why not join in with our short talk evening? We’re planning a meeting where several members can tell us about a subject they’re passionate about, even if only for five minutes. So come on, get in touch!

Forthcoming events – Eco Tour

An Eco Tour has been arranged for Sunday June 15th 10-4pm. It will involve visiting 7 houses or communities in the Newport Pembs. area to view various form of eco-power and heating. Cost £10. Places are limited so don’t delay phone Pam Willey for details on 01269 870976

Report on March Meeting

March’s talk came from Kristian Lloyd Davies & Tony Salini of Thermal Earth. Thermal Earth is a Heating and Electrical Engineering company established in 2006, based in Ammanford, which specialises in renewable energy.

In Wales wood boilers are the most popular option as there is more standing wood in the country now than at any time in the last 100years. The choice is between log biomass or pellet boilers. Log biomass boilers obviously require logs to burn which maybe either soft or hardwood which has been seasoned, i.e. split and stored bark side down, to a moisture value of less than 20%, moisture meter supplied with boiler. These boilers come in a range of sizes, 25kW to 95kw and run at 95% efficiency and are connected to a large,1500L to 5000L, accumulator tank from which heating and DHW are derived.

Pellet boilers burn preformed wooden pellets and are auto lighting and cleaning with automatic temperature control. The pellets are usually stored in a large hopper but may be supplied in small bags. They will burn approximately 1 tonne /month. The majority of the pellets produced are exported due to insufficient domestic demand. Both these types of boiler are usually installed in a separate building with ducted supplies to the home.

Other options include heat pumps which extract a small percentage of heat from a large thermal mass such as the earth, a large volume of water e.g. lake or river or from the air into a piped water supply to the heat pump. This energy is then transferred by the heat pump to the domestic heating and hot water system. This process uses electricity but in a well designed system can give a fourfold return. The Renewable Heat Initiative is a Government Scheme, (so expect red tape!) that enables people to move away from fossil fuels and use sustainable resources. It is part of the Green Deal so the property will require an energy assessment. Payments are then made over 28 quarters, 7 years, so that the costs of installation will be recovered. The tariff paid varies with the circumstances of the installation but Tony and his team excel at this. Rather crazily the RHI also applies to business but in this case payment is made over 20 years and the more you burn the more you get??!! Farms can be classified as businesses if they fit a fairly broad template. Unfortunately wood burners and multi-fuel stoves are not covered by the scheme.

Many thanks to Thermal Earth for this very informative talk.

 

We need your help!

During our January Meeting , The Amphbian & Reptile Conservation Trust asked for our members’ help in recording the presence (or absence) of amphibians and reptiles in West Wales. The current level of data is very poor, but it is vital to effective monitoring species. If you’ve seen amphibians or reptiles in your area, then we need to let the ARC Trust know.

To record your sightings, go to arc.cofnod.org.uk, or http://www.recordpool.org.uk/ and fill in the online card. Alternatively, because some of our members don’t have great internet access, we’ve decided to print out some sighting recording cards and bring them along to meetings, you can fill in your sighting, and the committee will make sure they get passed along to the ARC Trust.

You’ll need the following information:

1. What species you’ve seen, ideally it would be good to know: age, (adult, juvenile, spawn/egg, dead), sex, number of specimens at any one time. If you’re not sure what you’ve seen then the ARC trust have put together identification guides which can be downloaded.

The Amphibian guide is available here:

http://www.arc-trust.org/advice/species-id/amphibians

The Reptile guides are available here:

http://www.arc-trust.org/advice/species-id/reptiles

2. Where you saw it, this doesn’t need to be accurate to within half an inch, but a postcode or grid reference is useful.

3. When you saw it (Again, this doesn’t need to be exact, if you saw a palmate newt in 1964, then that’s great, as the ARC Trust can report this as an historic sighting. If this is the case, please email the Arc Trust directly: mark.barber@arc-trust.org. Thanks in advance!

Report on January Meeting

Our January meeting featured a talk by Mark Barber of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust. The ARC Trust exists to champion the cause of amphibians and reptiles across the UK through education programmes, species recording, and habitat creation. Mark and his colleague Peter started a major project in 2012, which covers all of Wales, and aims to encourage a sense of ownership and responsibility for welsh biodiversity and provide opportunities for people to engage with amphibians and reptiles as part of the shared natural heritage in Wales.

West Wales has a variety of native amphibians and reptiles, including the common frog, common toad, palmate newt, smooth newt, common lizard, slow worm, grass snake, and adders. The decrease in numbers of many of these previously fairly common animals is causing concern to conservationists. This is, unfortunately, largely due to human activity. The construction of housing, draining of ponds, and road building programmes have all led to a fragmented landscape which these animals are not well equipped to deal with, or travel through.

This then, is where we as smallholders, may be well-qualified to help out. We tend to live in rural areas which aren’t heavily developed, and we tend to have the odd bit of space that could be put to good use for the sort of specialist habitats that our amphibians and reptiles so desperately need. So what can we do?

Firstly we need to record our sightings! Mark has been putting together a map of amphibian and reptile sightings across Wales and there is very, very little data for West Wales. So, if you’ve seen any amphibians and reptiles then the ARC trust want to know. To do this, go to arc.cofnod.org.uk, or http://www.recordpool.org.uk/ and fill in the online card. Alternatively, because some of our members don’t have great internet access, we’ve decided to print out some sighting recording cards and bring them along to meetings, you can fill in your sighting, and the committee will make sure they get passed along to the ARC Trust.

You’ll need the following information:

1. What species you’ve seen, ideally it would be good to know: age, (adult, juvenile, spawn/egg, dead), sex, number of specimens at any one time. If you’re not sure what you’ve seen then the ARC trust have put together identification guides which can be downloaded.

The Amphibian guide is available here:

http://www.arc-trust.org/advice/species-id/amphibians

The Reptile guides are available here:

http://www.arc-trust.org/advice/species-id/reptiles

2. Where you saw it, this doesn’t need to be accurate to within half an inch, but a postcode or grid reference is useful.

3. When you saw it (Again, this doesn’t need to be exact, if you saw a palmate newt in 1964, then that’s great, as the ARC Trust can report this as an historic sighting.

Perhaps more important is the management and creation of habitats for amphibians and reptiles
Because this is so important, the ARC Trust has put together a handbook for anyone interested. You can either buy a hard copy from their online shop, or download a free copy from

http://www.arc-trust.org/advice/habitat-management/for-amphibians/AHMH.htm

Specialist advice about pond creation can be found at the Freshwater Habitats Trust, their website can be found here: http://www.freshwaterhabitats.org.uk

If this is a subject you’re interested in, you might also want to go ahead and join the South West Wales Amphibian and Reptile Conservation group, their website can be found here:

http://groups.arguk.org/SWWARG/ or on facebook https://www.facebook.com/SWWARG

Report on faecal egg count workshop

FE1

This was held on Saturday 23rd November at Doug and Wendy,s holding in Henllan Amgoed. Peat Gleed held the workshop, bringing along microscopes and everything else necessary for us to examine the poo samples we had all brought. We looked at calf, sheep, goat, horse and even chicken poo samples. Nobody had a cause for concern with an overwhelming worm burden. The most common eggs to be seen were Strongyles, but none of us, it seemed needed to reach for the wormer on getting home.

FE2

It is important when doing these faecal egg counts that the samples are as fresh as possible ie. they are picked up as soon as excreted. Those that attended found it extremely interesting and big thanks go out to Peat for giving his time, expertise and equipment, and also to Doug and Wendy for providing us with a venue.

By Claire Beddoes