Sunday, 27 June 2010


I remember my Dad incinerating wasps with the ‘jerrycan’, gingerly pouring petrol into the mouth of a nest, stuffing in tubes of newspaper and setting it alight. Back in those days this was probably bona fide military surplus. Then he upgraded to a paraffin powered flamethrower, designed for weed control. With a flame of 3 feet, splayed out by a hood at the front, the wasps stood little chance as he advanced.

Roll on 50 years and I’ve developed into a bit of a softie, referring to weeds as wild flowers and unlikely to kill or poison anything. When I saw the beautifully formed nest just above our front door I was thrilled – busy wasps welding wood pulp and saliva into layers of a paper-like semisphere. The hole in the middle looked a bit like a nipple on an ever expanding breast.

My inclination was to leave it be, until the colony died out in the winter and the queen moved on, but this was midsummer and alarm bells were sounding. They couldn’t have chosen a more threatening site, directly above the front door, where people pull on the bell and visitors are greeted.

It doubled in size in the space of a week. One of the pest control websites warned that ‘by the time September comes the nest can be as large as a small armchair with 10,000 wasps using it’!

During summer the wasps are busy chasing food and rearing the young but come autumn, their life’s work complete, they retire and binge on fermenting fruit. The thought of aggressive, drunken wasps falling down the back of a shirt didn’t bear contemplation. A single sting to my forehead last year had sealed one eye for several days – children would run away from me.

Decision made, the killer product was researched and selected. An aerosol for amateur use, spraying a sticky foam 3 metres and enveloping the nest. Thick jeans into wellies, belted jumper, gauntlets with elastic round the cuffs, foreign legion peaked cap with hood covered in fine mesh tucked into the zipped-up jumper – beads of sweat were forming, in part from the anticipation.

A few steps up the ladder at dusk and a blast of foam was all it took. Later, from an upstairs window, I watched a squadron of returning workers buzzing round the nest. Some blobs of foam fell to the ground but no wasps could get in and none could get out. I hate to think what it must have been like inside the nest.

What would St Francis have done, in this, the international year of biodiversity?

Huw - 27th June 2010

Friday, 25 June 2010

Strawberry Season

Who does not love strawberries...well just right now it is probably Haydn. When will they stop he moans? The season started in earnest about 2 weeks ago. At first it was fun picking some for supper, some for our lucky guests, leaving a few for the wild life, the chickens and ducks. Then we realised we had to go further. Our guests got a punnet a day, our farmer likewise and his shearing friends, then the postman, then other farmers in the lane, then friends, then the dentist. Each delivery would bring a smile to people’s faces. Sometimes we were able to exchange for onions, mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, coriander and basil. Some we were able to sell to those enthusiastic jam makers (I still have some of last year’s jam in the cupboard)

We still have more than we need to so have resorted to purees, and preserving them in Sherry and more recently vodka. There is little time in the day to do anything else but pick strawberries, about 6 kilos a day. So if you have any suggestions what to do with them next..let us know.

Monday, 21 June 2010

The Re-appearance of Beryl

Sorry for the delay in posting a new post.

For those of you that were left in unbearable suspense due to the disappearance of Beryl, we have good news. She was found late evening the day after we lost her.

However the finding of her was not so straight forward. Around 4 in the afternoon the farmer came up to do some gathering of the sheep. He told us that he had spotted a strange white bird by Tal-y-Bont in the land between the two roads. (At the end of the road by Dol-y-Moch). Mum and I rushed down with a fishing net.

We drove to Tal-y-Bont but saw nothing. Then we went on the main road back to the start of the road by the Oakeley Arms and did a lap of the road again. No luck. We stopped at Tal-Y-Bont to talk to Dennis a neighbour to ask if he had seen the bird. He had. Brilliant I thought. It was a chicken he said. Not so brilliant I thought.

We travelled back home up the road seriously querying the sanity of the farmer. How could a farmer mistake a chicken for a duck. Yes a farmer. It was a bit of a wild goose chase you could say. No let me re-phrase that- a wild duck chase.

Later that night in the lounge we were relaxing to an Inspector Frost mystery when the phone rang. It was the local farmer (Dewi) again he had spotted a white bird in his fields. Although we were dubious about his identification skills due to our last expedition we were on action stations immediately.

I rushed to the shed and retrieved 2 long sticks and a fishing net. While Mum and Dad got some other cunning devices to try and trap this tricky customer. We loaded up the jeep and raced down the hill. We drove over the bridge and onto the maze of fields.

We drove across to the other side where the farmer was and parked up next to him. He led us to the birds location and amazingly it was not a chicken, not a seagull, or a deformed lamb it was Beryl.

I got out my fishing net and we attempted to corner Beryl. Luckily for us she's a little chunky and therefore can't take off on flat ground. But that did not mean she was easy to catch, far from it. It took us about half an hour. The farmer even got his dog out to help.

Eventually dad managed to throw the net over her and jump on the net so she couldn't get out. We kept her in the net all the way home as we did not want her flying about in the jeep.

When we put her back in her house with the near suicidal Boris, he was over the moon. I have never seen such a happy animal his excitement was indescribable. He was practically dancing while wagging his tail just like a dog looking at a huge plate of sausages. However she didn't seem so happy to see him she went and hid in a corner.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Disappearance of Beryl

I am very sorry to inform you that one of the Muscovy Ducks has disappeared. Her name was Beryl she was the long suffering wife of Boris. She was last seen flying west down the drive at mid-day.

Mum sent me out on a search to try and find her. I spent over an hour trudging through soaking bracken, but no luck she was nowhere to be found. I checked the road the waterfall path, the bluebell meadow, the garden and the immediate area around the house. We had hoped that she would return just before dusk but to ours and Boris's disappointment she didn't.

Our thoughts and feelings are with Boris who seemed incredibly sad and depressed today, he hasn't touched his food and seemed a lot less lively. At least tonight nobody will complain about his snoring.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Boris and Beryl

Yesterday we received 2 new recruits to our mini farm. 2 Muscovy ducks that used to belong to Huw’s Welsh teacher. After many arguments and we named them Boris and Beryl. Before the re-naming they were called George and Chloe but we thought these names didn’t quite suit their fierce appearance.

Today was their first day outside in Campbell’s Cottage, and they loved it. Before today they didn’t know what a pond was. However they spent half the day bathing in the cool waters of the lower pond. Poor Beryl however was not a very confident swimmer. She was flapping her legs quick enough but she didn’t seem to be travelling any where fast as if treading water. Boris on the other hand would perch on a rock and duck his head in and out of the pond as if washing his face.

Boris enjoyed himself so much that he didn’t want to go bed. Just like a toddler he threw a huge strop just before bed. It took 3 of us 30 minutes to get him to bed. And I’m not exaggerating, we tried everything, we tried to catch him with an ambush, we tried to herd him in close formation, in loose formation, high speed, low speed nothing worked.

Eventually we managed to herd him close to his bed then sort of funnelled him in with a long piece of cardboard.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The New Residents

Those of you that have visited the cottage recently will most probably be aware that we have another type animal on site. You may have spotted them outside of the cottage garden bathing in their brand new pond.

We have now got 4 Indian Runner ducks. We got the first pair about a month ago they are named 'The Captain' and 'Agatha'. The captain is quite an eager 'fella' if you know what I meen. He is often seen on top of Agatha while pushing her head down underwater. Quite the gentleman you could say.

However when purchasing the first pair of ducks we also ordered a pair of Khaki Campbell ducks. But I'm afraid to announce they have gone to a better place.........don't worry they're not dead they just flew off at the first opportunity they got and never returned. However we have heard reports from the local farmer that there are some strange looking ducks lurking round the river. So while driving past please keep your eyes peeled out of the window.

About a week ago we invested in another pair of Indian runners who are recently hatched (9weeks old). They are named 'Homer' and 'Marge'. They were born in a small-holding farm near Bala. Both are still very young at the moment and have not developed their waterproof coats therefore they are kept separated from the other pair. As there is a danger that while swimming in the pond their feathers may become waterlogged and they could drown.

So for now Homer and Marge are kept in the vegetable garden and have a much smaller pond made out of an old plastic drawer.

In the next few days we are expecting another 2 additions one of whom looks quite ferocious but is a softy at heart.


This blog will help keep you up to date with all that is happening at Plas Y Dduallt. We will be posting often about most things that happen here.

If you've enjoyed your stay at Campbell's Cottage this is the blog for you.