Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Smallholders' Show

In our part of Wales some people have sheep the way that others have dogs....

And what a variety we've seen today - all buffed, brushed, shorn, shampooed and titivated for the show ring at the Smallholders' Show held this weekend at Builth Wells. For the most part these are not the sheep we see in quantity on our hills, those commercial cross-breds which convert food to flesh quickly and efficiently and go on to fill our supermarket shelves and freezers, but breeds whose existence is reliant on the enthusiasm of small farmers and hobbyists. They're doing a great thing - keeping alive this element of local identity.
The Suffolks and the Charolais - part of the commercial mix - were there today but so were, amongst other less common breeds, the Devon Long Wool, the Kerry Hill, the Welsh Badger Face and the Welsh Mountain Sheep. Such diversity shouldn't be lost.
And look at this lot. Aren't they gorgeous?

Cattle were less well represented than sheep, goats and poultry - they're the stalwarts of small holding life I guess. There were a handful llamas and alpacas - a tad incongruous I think and somehow lacking in purpose. There were some miniature horses too. A bit weird.

There was machinery as well, mostly small scale or vintage models. Not the mighty prairie busters loved by the agro-baron but tough multi-taskers
for the small scale farmer. There was, as there is usually is, a line of stationary engines. I know what they do. (They go 'phut.....pop.....phut.....pop.....phut.....pop.....phu..phut' ad infinitum. Sometimes the engine lights up a light bulb for added value.) But I don't know why. There is always a man with an oily rag, a folding chair, a camper van and a resigned woman.

We're not smallholders but it was a good day out in the sunshine with a good natured crowd. We came home with an odd assortment of things - 3 Laced Wyandot Bantams, a Choizo sausage and a geranium - and the inevitable fistful of leaflets full of 'useful' information.

I've a feeling that tonight my dreams will be loud with the sound of sheep song. Baa!