Oak logs burned in the living room fire on a damp day as Jennet Llewellyn, 72, looked out the window of her remote farmhouse onto a hillside dotted with moss-covered rocks and bleating Welsh mountain sheep. She said she remembered only two big changes in the way of life here since World War II: She got a telephone hookup in 1976 and electricity about a week ago.
"Just touch a button and you get light!" said Llewellyn, marveling as she sat in her tidy, stone-floored kitchen.
Power in this house has long come from a diesel generator. But because of the high cost of fuel, Llewellyn used it only in the evenings to run her four appliances: a television to watch weather reports, and a vacuum, iron and washing machine to help with the cleaning. She has no refrigerator or freezer and keeps her milk in a larder.
For as long as she can remember, she turned off the generator each evening and found her way to bed with a flashlight.
The change came a week ago Friday, when Llewellyn and Eifion Davies, who lives on a nearby farm in this Welsh valley 180 miles west of London, were finally hooked up to the national electric power grid. Their new connection -- and that of two neighbors scheduled to be hooked up Monday -- has drawn attention to the hundreds of homes in isolated parts of the British Isles, largely in Wales and Scotland, that still rely on generators and candles for light.
Some of the people are long-standing families like the Llewellyns. Others are city folk renovating old barns who are keen to escape the pace, if not the lights, of the city.
In Llewellyn's four-farm community there are wild boar but no BlackBerrys. The main hobby is playing cards. The closest village is Ystradfellte, a cluster of whitewashed homes and St. Mary's Church that boasts 76 people.
"I live a quiet but happy life," said Llewellyn, a widow and mother of seven. She said she used to read and sew "but now my eyes have gone so bad I just sit and ponder."
Her daughter, Jean, 41, lives with her and tends to their cattle and sheep, as the family has done for six generations. Wales has far more sheep than its 3 million people, and the animals seem particularly suited for the rocky hills of this valley crisscrossed by ancient stone walls.
Ironically, Llewellyn said, her sudden step into modernity has reminded her of her childhood. Because for years she has relied on a generator that runs as loud as a tractor, the new silence means she can again hear the lapwings, wagtails and other birds outside the home where she was born: "It takes me back to when I was a young girl."
A 15-minute walk down a narrow muddy path, Davies helped himself to a cup of tea, no longer bothered by questions of how many appliances he had running simultaneously. His generator, or "genny," as he called it, wasn't strong enough to support a washing machine, which was a major headache for his family. The fluctuations in power would ruin any computer, so he didn't bother to get one.
It gets dark at 4 on these December days, and now instead of worrying about diesel freezing and having no power at all, he said, his two boys can count on light.
His older son, Wyn, 6, attends a primary school five miles away; its student body consists of 22 children. Davies, 36, has never been to a movie theater, saying, "I am not particularly interested." He runs a major annual event, the agricultural show, where sheep win beauty contests and children square off in handwriting competitions.
"I suppose we are behind the times but I wouldn't want our children to be brought up in London; they are more innocent here," he said. He plays cards and sometimes drives three miles to a local pub, which has power but is open only Friday and Saturday evenings. There, he said, the talk this week will be, "How's it going with electricity?"
It takes some getting used to, he said, noting he no longer rises by candlelight to get breakfast.
It has been a costly change. The four families had to split the hookup fee, more than $135,000. The region's electric company, Western Power Distribution, said that new developments do the same.
Davies, Llewellyn and the two other families live within the Brecon Beacons National Park, a 520-square-mile area known for sweeping mountains, deep caves and impressive waterfalls.
Davies said that he, like many people, was worried that power lines would mar his picturesque valley, 1,000 feet above sea level, where the clouds seem to nearly touch the green pastures. "But now I don't even notice them," he said.
Another neighbor, Rhian Collins, whose farm raises boar and pigs along with sheep, is set to get power on Monday. She said she has been surprised by how bright the lights are on Davies's and Llewellyn's farms; she visited them for a champagne toast to the new electricity. When the power starts flowing at her house, she said, her three children, the oldest of whom is 13, will likely celebrate by playing CDs for hours.
Llewellyn, whose first language is Welsh, has been outside Wales for only three days in her life. In 1981, she went to London to see a display of gifts for the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana -- the prince and princess of Wales. "The speed of life is too fast," she said. "No one walks in London. I couldn't stand it."
So she returned to her valley, where shrews and badgers run among the ash and oak trees, and homes are spotted at a distance by their chimney smoke. This year it might be a little easier to see Llewellyn's farmhouse: She and her daughter are going to string up a display of white Christmas lights.