Charis really does have exercise-intolerant, pea-sized lungs, and the less said about the size of her muscles the better. She does have a spare stomach just for popcorn, however, which, though undeniably interesting, has never ever proved useful on the farm. Beyond her extraordinary ability to eat popcorn, Charis likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. Wait, no, she prefers mojitos and not getting caught in the rain. Either way she definitely doesn't like spiders; often are the times she can be found hoovering the ceiling in her relentless pursuit of a spider-free house. Unless, that is, they attempt one last abseil to freedom while she's hoovering. Then she can be found galloping down the stairs waving her arms around like a puppet in a tumble dryer.
MATTHEW (the 'h' is not silent)
Matthew is many things but a helicopter pilot isn't one of them. He isn't a chef either, or a catwalk model, but we'll be here all day if we have to list everything he isn't for goodness sake! He was a paperboy when he was little, a vet when he was a bit bigger and an extra in a Bond movie when he couldn't face either of those anymore. Right now he's a chicken farmer with hardly any chickens who really hates those pasta packets that split vertically when you try to open them so the pasta can't be poured into anything without most of it ending up on the floor. He likes upcycling rubbish, pretty sunsets, rugby union, 'Kanye the Tank Engine' and the Eurovision Song Contest and his hobbies include firewalking in paper-mâché wellies and skydiving in a cling film parachute and concrete underpants.
ELSA (there's no 'h' so don't worry about it)
Elsa was made in Pembrokeshire out of polished seashells and puffin beaks. She was crowned Pipe Smoker of the Year at her local playgroup before her first birthday and can blow a raspberry like no one else on Earth. Whether she'll be able to make a living doing it remains to be seen but, either way, she knows more about dragons than St. George himself and can complete a dinosaur sticker book in less than four minutes.
BILLY (I'm teething so I hate 'h's, and you!)
When Billy isn't teething (or ill) he likes impersonating animals and being buried in sand. When Billy is teething (or ill) he doesn't like anything at all and is best handled as if he was a rabid porcupine that had just stubbed its toe (protective clothing, a quiet, calm voice and, most importantly of all, no sudden movements). He was actually born in a semi-liquid state (Billy the ooze/Crumplestiltskin) but solidified fairly quickly and now oozes mainly from his nose (Bilbo Bogeys). His favourite food is 20 kilos of blueberries and his primary talent at this stage is making your heart explode by calling bumblebees "bubblebees".
Wobbly was hit by a car when he was a kitten and is now completely deaf and slightly incoordinated. He’s also known as Sir Wobblington (in polite company), Wobbles-When-Walks (when meeting native American Indians), Snuckleberry Finn (after the noise he makes while grooming), The Croissant (because of the posture he assumes while waiting for us to get up each morning) and You Little B@$t@rd (when he pulls the bin over in search of empty tuna fish cans). He is no help whatsoever on the farm.
Let's be honest: these guys are the hardest workers on the farm. We may think it's hard work sitting next to them admiring the sea view and watching them coming in and going out again, but deep down we know that the bees are the real workers. We're trying to ensure the relationship is symbiotic, but it's hard not to conclude that we're freeloading a little bit.
We love chickens. They're just fanstastic. They're also a fundamental component of our food production efforts, firstly because they lay eggs and secondly because they also lay sh!te, and lots of it. When mixed in with their bedding (made of bracken and rush grass from site) sh!te makes great compost for our tractor tyre raised beds and helps us make this as productive a farm as possible.
The various ducks of Beeview Farm were drafted in to help with the Great Slug Plague of 2012. Unfortunately, however, none of the various ducks of Beeview Farm seem even remotely interested in slugs. Instead they spend almost all their free time swimming in their pond. To be fair to them, they are extremely talented swimmers, but, to be fair to us, we can't really harvest and sell swimming talent. Or slugs for that matter. We can sell their eggs, but we'd really like to grow and sell a few vegetables at some point so it would be really nice if they could leave the water for five minutes and go and round up a few slugs!
Old IBC tanks are insanely useful. We have used them to make staircases, shower cubicles, solar wood kilns, firewood stores, reed beds, compost bins, a hot tub and, last but not least, Biff the biodigester.
(Biodigesters work by converting organic waste into biogas (methane). The biogas is then burnt (as cooking gas) and converted into carbon dioxide and water, which is exactly what is produced naturally when organic matter decomposes. We produce no more carbon dioxide burning biogas than nature would have produced during natural decomposition of the same organic material. It is totally carbon neutral.)
As well as old IBC tanks we also love making stuff out of other junk. We have made paths and raised beds out of old tractor tyres, feed silos and duckweed factories (and a washing machine) out of old barrels, bird boxes out of old wellies and even a greenhouse and a spare bedroom out of old cars. The main structure of our house is made out of old vehicles that were destined for the scrapheap (an ancient horse lorry, a dying campervan and two large rusty bale trailers) and the roof is made of a reject pond liner and some offcut firewood. We make cladding out of old pallets, patios out of old tyre rims and letters and decorations out of old cans. In fact, we now have so much fun upcycling "rubbish" that nothing gets thrown away until we have conclusively proved we can't use it to make something, and even then it gets a few months grace.
NETTLES (and other "weeds")
If you want to spend hours nurturing weak ass snowflake plants that crumple at the mere thought of having to grow in anything other than bare soil, be our guest. We like plants that can look after themselves and chief amongst them are plants like nettles, which are so full of nutrients they make supermarket greens look as nutritious as sawdust. There's a reason this plant invests so many resources in defending itself, but with a good pair of gloves and some hot water you can make nettle beer or cordial (both exquisite) or all manner of savoury dishes (Nettle bhajis are particularly good, especially with a good handful of wild garlic). They are delicious and we have to work much harder keeping them under control than we do coaxing them gently into life.
PUFFINS (and other seabirds)
Ok, so there are obviously no seabirds on Beeview Farm, but the Pembrokeshire coast has loads of them and they are a source of peace when the challenge of living a one planet life in a town with so many people that don't want us starts to get a bit much. In fact, it's always worth remembering that no matter how bad you think your problems are, the puffins on Skomer don't really give a shit.
They will let you take a few pictures though and photographing puffins et al is a great way to distract the mind and refresh the spirit. Indeed, other than an annual pilgrimage to the Natural History Museum in London, Skomer Island is as far as we ever want to travel these days. We hope we'll be able to take the kids to Africa one day, but we haven't flown since 2013 and hope never to do so again. We'd like them to see the world but we definitely don't want to fly to do it (even if Jane 'I love British Airways' Goodall somehow reckons flying is actually harmless).
(NB - A portfolio of Matthew's wildlife photographs can be found at www.mostlypuffins.com - he has had images commended in the British Wildlife Photography Awards and shortlisted in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards so they're not all garbage).