Hayes Farm, Sully, 1800s


These papers, from 1967, describe the extraordinarily advanced ideas on agriculture and social services practiced by Henry Evan Thomas at Hayes Farm, Sully, Vale of Glamorgan.

From staff welfare to combustion mill engines to agricultural land management, this remarkable man was 150 years ahead of his time.



Funny ol’ day

I used to keep diaries. Lots of diaries. Then Mum died & I stopped. Now I use Twitter & Facebook instead. I still hope that one day I will be famous & all this stuff will be useful. Until then…

Today was a funny ol’ day.

Fed animals in the dark, wished the bees a good morning & trekked off to Spar to buy cat food. It’s 0705, still dark & I am wearing the very latest in smallholder gear: filthy waterproofs, filthy boots & gloves, topped off with unbrushed hair & pjs underneath. I have never worn pjs to a shop before. Of course, as I walk in, having left the boots outside, I walk straight into someone I know. Of course. I am hilarious apparently. I have to agree but draw the line at having my photo taken for the Spar hall of fame.

Next stop, give or take loading a pig or two (would’ve been 4 but one got away), is Maddocks at Maesteg. This is where I learn that abbatoir workers & the nice lady from Animal Health don’t get many laughs in their job. Thinking the coast was clear, I stripped off the waterproofs to reveal a short wool dress, black tights & then slipped on a pair of shoes. In the car park. In what is now daylight.

What are we here for but to entertain our neighbours.

The rest of the day included the joys of waiting for Big Pig to farrow (still we wait), thanking Jane Bissett profusely for pig-sitting when I was at work, cooking a very mediocre supper & getting the escapee boy pig back in with the other boars.

It also inluded 2 parcels in the post: a beautiful, cross-stitch Valerie Chicken cushion cover from Tracey & a beautiful cross-stitch GOS pigs cushion cover from Ros.

And now, back to the tax return. Nos da.

2017 Goals ~ Let’s go with Healthy, Wealthy and Wise… and a couple donkeys

Check this out – delightful! #livingthedream

Pumpjack & Piddlewick

I absolutely adore that the advent of the New Year gives one a sense of renewal, a chance to reflect and consequently focus on ones short and long term goals.  We have lots of changes planned for 2017 and, I must say, yes, I must, that we are very, very excited (and a teeny bit scared).  We will be putting all our eggs into our  entrepreneurial basket and focusing our time specifically ~ Pumpjack’s to our new wine business Terroir au Verre and me, Piddlewick, to my Pumpjack & Piddlewick  Shop and the life that goes on behind it, so our blog will get a bit of a face lift too this year.

Welcome 2017! It’s make or break time.
(Hmmm, maybe not a good euphemism when talking about entrepreneurial eggs.)

Our Plans? If all goes well, the immediate goal will be  to buy our own place for ourselves and…

View original post 394 more words

Ivo’s Blog, Star Date Dec 27th, in the year 2016

Ok, so this is my new life.

One minute I am happily parading around the hay field at Swanbridge with my 4 girlies and the next, bam, I’m being trailered off to god knows where with that scary shepherd woman, Jane.

You Jane, me, Ivo..

Now that dopey one, Helen, she’s a piece of cake to control. This Jane, she’s a whole different piece of skirt in waterproofs.

So, here I was, couple of days ago, stuck in a barn. Not having that, I thought. So, while no bugger’s looking, it’s break out time and off to see a load of fluffy white fat-assed sheep in a nearby field. Christmas!!!!

Well, what a time I had! See, girls like a good-looking lump of big-horned manliness.. treat em mean, keep em keen, I say. I am having the time of my life and I’m pretty confident they are too judging by all the bleating.

Anyway, all is going to plan when Jane realises I’m not where I should be and comes looking. Caught red-hooved and forced to walk the lane of shame back to the barn.

Now, she then has the bright idea of caging me whilst all the other rams are just behind hurdles. It was time to keep quiet and behave.

Until nightfall.

In the quiet of the still frosty starlit night, we boys broke free. Ok, so it may have taken me longer than the others to escape but boy, what’s the point of having a giant pair of tin-openers on your head if you don’t use em, huh?

Right. First things first. We beat the s..t out of each other. Blood, wool and tears everywhere. Boys on tour. We had a blast! We trash the barn.

Now, what do we want? Girls… we want ewe…

So this is where there’s a flaw in our plan. We can’t get out of the barn. And what looks like a ewe, smells like a ewe but ain’t gonna complain? A big bag of fleeces… My kinda girl. Come here, Dolly, ewe look lovely to me..

Ah, what a night!

I have no idea why Jane was so cross this morning.

ivo sketch.JPG

Savour Kilkenny


Wonderful to get a mention in Country Smallholding magazine for our trip to Kilkenny; even more wonderful to be invited in the first place!

What a remarkable year – given talks at food festivals, shown sheep, judged a novelty dog show, written a play & seen it performed; published in 3 magazines – and made some more quite remarkable friends too.

And now, back to work.

Snout, A Play about Pigs & Feminism

thumbnail_img_8713This is a tricky one. The write up says that this is a play which examines ethical farm practices and may put you off your pie.  This is not quite what we get. It is not ‘Fun’ but it is ‘Food, Drink and Drama’. Or did I miss something?

I take three friends with me –we are all women, all farmers and two of us keep pigs. We discuss the play we have seen and the pie we have eaten a lot. In fact, we talk about it over chips later on Penarth Pier and again in the week. It has made us think. But perhaps not in the way Jones would like us to.

It is a play about 3 little pigs, 3 women acting as pigs and as women. They are in a trailer heading for the slaughter house. Their actions and conversations are an odd mixture of supposed pig talk and young women chatter. They grunt occasionally. One is a cross carrying faithful type who misses her sister, one is a punky type who misses her lover and the other is a party going good time girl. A bit stereotypical. They work out that they are not going to a show but to the abattoir and so forth.

Now here’s a problem. Facts. Anyone who knows anything about pigs, knows that they don’t carry hairbrushes or wear crosses. They also don’t get electric shocks for bad behaviour when they squeal in a trailer. They might wander into a shed to watch a farmer, er, enjoy himself but we are pretty sure that we don’t know anyone who finds pigs that attractive.

When they talk about life, death and the lack of control over their lives, something resonates with me. Do they contemplate the meaning of life? Do we, as owners, play God?

Pigs are fun to be around precisely because they are calculating, funny and usually, miles ahead of their keepers. But we keep them also because they can be eaten. The speech at the end, before they trot out to their doom, is tediously predictable and aimed at converting the audience to vegetarianism, I think. My colleagues are not impressed and feel that this last scene spoils an otherwise interesting and thought-provoking play.

Then we have the after-show discussion. Lots of people have stayed behind for this and we are keen to debate the ideas raised in the performance.

But there is a surprise. Jones take an unexpected stance. She tells us about tattooed pigs and cruelty. She then explains that the play is actually about feminism; she uses the pigs to slaughter as metaphor for seeing women as meat, as bodies to be cut up into pieces, as porn, as without control. Oh. I see now. This makes sense of scenes previously lost to me.

We discuss life and end of life, self-determinism, women’s rights, farming practices and eating meat. The audience is enthusiastic and picks up a particular thread with zeal: why have a play about killing animals and then give us a meat pie? Where does that meat come from, asks another. But it’s about women, not pigs, really.

We get it.

It makes even more sense when Jones explains to me that she had taken a 1hr40min play and made it into a 40min production. Sometimes, we need to rewrite not just slash and edit or we lose the meaning of a piece.  The playwright cannot attend every production to explain. The metaphor is clever, her idea is sound and with tweaking, would make an outstanding work.

I looked up the use of tattooed pigs for handbags – can’t be true, we said, but it was: art as an excuse for profit. Deeply shocking. I can see where she is coming from and Jones definitely is on to something here.


Enjoyed:          10th November, 2016 at The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Playwright:      Kelly Jones

Director:          Kenny Miller

Actors:             Coco Clare Cage

Lacey Michele Gallagher

Viv Sally Reid



Country Smallholding Magazine


It is thanks to #twitter that I have made some excellent connections and friends.

Affording endless entertainment, company & information, I have also been invited to tweet for @smallholdersUK & @smallholdersIRL this year.

Not only a baptism of twittering fire but a welcome to the world of publishing (in a very minor capacity). Country Smalholding Magazine was kind enough to print something about me & my menagerie earlier this year and this month, am included in a feature on establishing a smallholding.

Sharing what we do and how we do it, in all professions, is hugely important & for many reasons. Personally, I want other people to learn from my mistakes & from the things I think I may have got right for once! Why endlessly reinvent the wheel? I want to learn from everyone else, too.

I also, like many like me, want to share my bonkers journey in this complex world of farm-to-plate & to show that ethical farming practices can be sustainable & enjoyable; & that high welfare stock produces high quality, healthier food.

Come & meet me & the #swanbridgesafari on Sunday mornings, 11 0’clock at the field gate (but only when it’s dry). DM @HelenJoy20 or PM Swanbridge Porkers or Swanbridge Flockers on Facebook for details.


Abergavenny Food Festival

SATURDAY MORNING, mid September, and Jane and I are in full waterproofs, headtorches and wellies laying face down in the garden in the pitch black being towed by a pig. And so it continued… It wasn’t the start we’d anticipated.

Half an hour later and two Berkshire weaners are settled in the trailer and we head off to Abergavenny. We arrive in glorious sunshine and are directed into the farm event where the pigs have a nice big pen, fresh straw and water and are looking bright and well. We, however, look like nothing on earth – Wurzul Gummidge & Stig of the Dump combined. A quick scrub in the Wetherspoons loos & a bit of lipstick and we are ready for the show. This is the first Farm Event Abergavenny has hosted and I was enormously proud to be their first guest speaker.

The tent was fun – seating arrangements were bales of straw, as was the sofa on the stage! There was the most interesting series of presenters and a good debate about farm to plate at the end. Jane sat at the back of the arena, knitting; and like all good audience members, she asked everyone questions and helped prompt conversation.

It was also an exciting opportunity to meet not only other food producers and retailers but to meet friends made on social media for real. Twitter Pigpal Martha, organiser and presenter, bounced over to greet us; as did others keen to say hello and see the pigs.

The whole event was welcoming in fact and it was a privilege, as always, to chat to the public about our farming practices and answer any questions as best we could.

Huge thanks to Jane Bissett of The Kennixton Flock for riding shotgun; to Martha Roberts and the team for making us so welcome; and to Abergavenny Food Festival for having us.