Towards the end of the afternoon yesterday there was a rap on the door. Heather stood outside.
'No,' she said. She wouldn't come in right now: 'Dirty boots see.'
She'd come down to see to the cattle in the shed; there are some cows and calves and a wheezing bull - which may or may not be impotent - in there for the winter. Over the next few months they'll munch their way through the bales of hay which are stacked in an adjacent barn - feed which is supplemented by an eagerly awaited daily ration of nuts.
'Could you keep your eyes and ears open' she asked, nodding towards the barn ominously - 'and if you were to smell smoke.....loose out the cattle straight away. Straight away - just let 'em go.'
She made an expansive gesture. 'Just loose 'em all out, it doesn't matter where.' Her arm indicated that anywhere in Powys would be better than a blazing barn.
Our farmers are worried; a fourth farm blaze has got them rattled. The Fire Service cagily recommend vigilance and urge landowners to keep an eye on their property and to check the temperature of stored hay. Hay, if stored with the moisture levels too high, can spontaneously combust - this year a lot of grass was cut late and in less than ideal conditions. This is a plausible explanation. However, our neighbours suspect a more sinister cause: arson.
What a terrible and terrifying act, especially senseless and cruel when livestock is involved. We will, of course, 'loose 'em out' if the worst comes to the worst. I make a mental note to work out in advance how best to do this - bearing in mind that it will undoubtably be dark, raining and we would be dealing with frightened large animals.
Heather leaves to go up to Fir House to pass on her message there and we contemplate what an uphill struggle farming must be at times; the battle with the elements, the escalating costs of feed and fuel, the low prices at market, the endless bureaucracy...the devastation that was Foot and Mouth and the threat of Blue Tongue which is omnipresent. The list is a long one. They cope.
.....then out of the blue comes a fool with a box of matches.