Rural Reflections

Graham Smith has lived on his St Mabyn smallholding for more than 30 years - and is still trying to get the hang of it.  His weekly diary filled a column in the Cornish Guardian from 2015-16, and continues here.  The archive entries will be added as and when time permits.




Not for sale

Among the many things they get up to at County Hall, one operation which I can unhesitatingly single out for praise (yes, you did read that correctly) is the...

My Blue Remembered Hills

Lots of clever people with much better qualifications than me have written about the importance of landscape to memory.  All I can say is that I agree with them....

Wildlife policy in an environment free of facts

A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting the then Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson, at the...

Harvest home

It’s official – summer ends today.  And once again I have failed to harvest nature’s bounty from the garden: the redcurrants and blackcurrants remain unpicked, the birds ate all...

Revolutionaries in green wellies

You have to wade through a fair amount of fertiliser in this game (journalism, I mean) but this weekend’s government announcement that it would guarantee European Union farm subsidies...

An apple a day

It looks like it’s going to be an excellent year for my apples. I got the trees pruned hard last year – for the first time in decades –...

Betting our hedges

I think that if there is one element of the countryside which defines rural Cornwall, it is our hedges. They mark ownership boundaries. They stop livestock escaping from fields....

Too easily ensnared by ignorance

When I moved into this house 30 years ago, one of the first curios which I noticed the previous owners had left behind, hanging on a shed wall, was...

Be careful out there

Life in rural Cornwall, particularly for anyone involved in agriculture, is often portrayed as a battle against wild animals. Any beast which competes with us for space and resources,...

Let us (s)pray that nothing goes wrong…

Something you might think I would have learned by now is that almost every initiative I try to take on running this place has some unintended consequence. For example,...

Brexit and brown flags

So far, very few of the millions of words written about last week’s Brexit have touched on the environment. It is a sobering thought that many of the reasons...

Always going the extra mile

The patch of oil on my garage floor is now so large I’m thinking of joining OPEC. Unfortunately the oil comes not from a deep well of latent riches,...

Economics of the real world

Another year, another show over. By the time you read this, planning for 2017 will be well underway. For me, the stand-out story of last week’s Royal Cornwall Show...

The last 10 seconds

As scholarly readers of the Cornish Guardian, and William Shakespeare, will know, Hamlet was not talking about chickens when he said “I must be cruel only to be kind.”...

Skinning knuckles or drinking beer

Hard to believe, but once upon a time I might have been an engineer. This weekend I had good reason to wish that 45 years ago, history had taken...

Show time

Only two weeks to go. There’s an eerie calm about Wadebridge right now, as if people know what’s coming and they know how to deal with it. The show...

Knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing

You can’t walk very far along a country lane in North Cornwall at this time of year without noticing the riot of wild flowers in the hedgerows. The smell...

Life is too short for all the paperwork

A young chap called last week to ask if he could look at my trees. He was from Western Power, and as the company had not looked at the...

The perils of chicken shit

If there’s one aspect to poultry-keeping which I really dislike more than any other, it’s cleaning out the chicken shed. It’s one of those jobs which I can always...

I’m a believer

  In 1999 I made a television documentary about The Beast of Bodmin Moor. Armed with only a video camera, I spent two weeks in a tent, near Bolventor,...

When the owl sings, the night is silent

They say that the pen is mightier than the sword, which sadly turned out not to be true for the 71 journalists killed last year for trying to do...

Putting the fox in charge of the chicken coup

It is often said that as a nation, we care more about animals than we do about children.  A small and very subtle change to the way we approach...

I have now joined the Holy Order of Bee Keepers

Einstein seems to have been right about most things

Exciting times up in the orchard, where my first colony of Cornish black bees arrived this week.   There can be few people more ignorant about bees than me.  Until...

Weeding without tears

When it comes to gardening, I am what could only be described as a reluctant participant. I think it was Rudyard Kipling who said: “Gardens are not made by...

Finders keepers

One of the many curious aspects of living in an old house is the bizarre stuff you can just find, and then ponder what secrets it holds.   Rarely...

The new Jerusalem

A full-page, anonymous, advert last week condemned Cornwall as a “developers’ paradise” because of the perceived rush to build new houses on green fields wherever they become available. Cornwall...

Notes from the new frontier

I have never been to the village of Miserden, in Gloucestershire, but I am in no doubt that it must be hell on Earth. Miserden this week won the...

Counting my chickens

It’s official – spring arrives next week. The Met Office tells me that March 1 is the key date on which spring starts. The weather forecasters say it will...

Badgers

Once, entirely by accident, I caught a badger. We’d been having problems with foxes, and the badger had wandered into the live trap up in the orchard, no doubt...

The pub

One of the first things that every journo learns is that “dog bites man” is not a story. “Man bites dog” is much more interesting. Similarly, “village pub not...

Gene genie

One of the disadvantages of having a Y-chromosome is the tendency to make lists of things which need fixing (a pair of X-chromosomes would of course allow me simply...

Welcome to Royston Vasey

A tough decision to make last weekend – whether to join village friends at the local cider farm for the annual Wassail, or stay in and watch the latest...

Wanted: a minister for mud

  I was amused to read this week that there are no fewer than 30 government ministers entitled to attend Cabinet meetings – but that not one of them...

Ram-a-lamb-a-ding-dong

I’m sure we’ve all heard the one about the small child, gazing in wonder at a new-born lamb, who turns to his father and asks “where do lambs come...

Chop chop

I recently ticked off something that’s been on my to-do list for 25 years, and installed a couple of wood-burning stoves. The house had two empty spaces (a little-used...

The uninvited

It’s that time of year when my routine now has to include a daily check of the mouse trap. Most days in January, the “Little Nipper” – now nearly...

Shooting rabbits

When I was about six years old, my father taught me how to shoot. No doubt this was an act of gross irresponsibility on his part. I’m sure that...

Busy doing nothing

About a year ago the government promised us it was on a mission to create a “paradise” for bees. Next weekend I plan to join in with this national...

Bringing home the bacon

I said goodbye to my pigs last week. They were back within days, enjoying an even-more-carefree space, in the freezer.The pigs had spent five months helping clear my overgrown...