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The B&B season that is.  For us here at Oldfarm, it officially kicked off for 2019 a couple of weeks back, and we’ve just been through a couple of busy weekends.  And, of course, are looking forward to many more busy days and nights.

In the period between Christmas and the beginning of March we took time to re-evaluate at various levels.

We tried out new recipes.  As we had dinner ourselves, or shared with others, if a new dish received approval, it was always followed with ‘could we serve this to guests’?   Lots of new dishes have been added to the repertoire.  We’ve added Keto-friendly recipes, vegetarian and even mastered a few new vegan options. There have even been a few dairy, nut and gluten free desserts added to the mix.  I may even share a few recipes on here.

We have worked hard on your behalf!

Another task that was undertaken during the ‘quiet’ months, was a bit of a revamp. We’ve added a ‘new’ room to the mix.  What used to be my study, is now available as the Library Room, and I must admit I love the look of it.  It has received a major thumbs up from those who’ve already stayed there.

Libraryroom

The Library Room

The twin room (should we think of a more special name for this room?) has also had a bit of a make over.  We hope you like the look.

Twinroom

Twin room

All this revamping means that we can now accommodate 6 people.

In other behind the scenes news…. planting season has also arrived, so we are feverishly working in the tunnel and outside in the garden, to guarantee fresh produce for your visit.

So, I guess, the question is…. when are you coming to visit?  Just in case you want to come… you can book directly (with no hidden fees) right here.

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce

January is generally our ‘quiet’ month, so it is the month we try to do some catch up on maintenance jobs and also take time to try out new recipes.  For whatever reason we’ve kind of got an “Asian” theme going on with lots of the recent recipes… I promise I will share them with you over time.

This hoisin sauce came about because we’d had one of our own ducks for Christmas dinner and leftovers were in the fridge.  I mentioned to Alfie that it would be fun to try to recreate the Peking Duck that you see in most Chinese restaurants here.  So, fair play, off he went on the search for recipes.  He found a recipe for Chinese pancakes so we made our own, and he also found this recipe for hoisin sauce.

We found the sauce a bit sweet for our tastes on the first making, so second time around we adjusted the sweetness.

With Chinese New Year just around the corner (5th February), you have plenty of time to give it a go.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. Crunchy Peanut Butter (we are using the one from Aldi that doesn’t contain palm oil)
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. black strap molasses (if you prefer sweeter, use honey)
  • 2 tsp. Rice Vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Chilli paste
  • 1/2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tbsp water

Method:

Blend all ingredients (except cornflour and water) together to make a smooth(ish) paste.

Place in saucepan and heat gently.  Add in the cornflour and water stirring constantly to mix through, if the sauce starts to get too thick add a little boiling water.

Let us know if you try it, and how you like it.

 

 

 

A Close Shave

Well actually it was more than a close shave…. it was a very scary experience.  So much so that I had to calm down before recounting the story to you all.

On the Saturday before Christmas we were late heading into Portumna (our closest town).  It was about 3.45 pm by the time we were all cleaned up, in the clean clothes and ready to go.  It was one of those mid-winter dull days, and a storm was due.

We’d only got a few miles along the main road (R439) when on-coming cars started to flash their lights at us.  Alfie was driving, so he slowed down to see what the problem was.  Well, guys, it was 3 young cattle walking the road!  And, yes, of course, they were black with just white faces.  We reckoned afterwards that they were perhaps 1 year old.

It was dusk and getting dark rapidly.  This was not a safe situation.

We did the only thing we could think of… there was no way you could leave them there.  They were a danger to themselves and to human traffic.  We put on the hazard lights, Alfie got out with torch (no idea how come that was in the car), I switched over to being the driver.  Alfie managed to turn cattle around and started to herd them towards a gate about 500 m away.

This road is quite narrow and very busy.

The cattle were so terrified.

Eventually Alfie signalled to me to get ahead of him, and open the gate.  I parked the car where it was in full view of oncoming traffic…. lights on, and hazards going.  Oh, and by the way, the storm had now arrived and it was suddenly dark although only 4.15 pm, and the rain was torrential (and no I did not have a jacket with a hood!!!).

Alfie is very slowly moving the cattle towards the gate.  They were so frightened, they kept stopping.  Alfie was able to walk right up to them and touch them to move them on.

Meanwhile I’m standing in front of the car lights, both ‘stopping the gap – so cattle wouldn’t get past and waving frantically at cars coming along to slow down.  First one slowed and then moved slowly on.  Second one did…. I turned my back on her for a second to see where Alfie was with the cattle…. and guys, next thing she put her foot to the floor and drove straight at me!  It was the sound of the engine that made me turn just in time to be able to jump out of the way!

I cursed very loudly.

Alfie has admitted that if he had not been there, and I told him the story he would have said I was exaggerating…. but he heard and saw what happened.

We eventually got the poor animals safely into the field before a catastrophic accident was caused.

So did this woman think I was going to try to abduct her?  What was she thinking?  It really was the most bizarre and dangerous behaviour ever.

 

 

Be Aware

As we head into the madness that is the shopping before Christmas, I thought I’d share some observations.  Even if you have all your grocery shopping done for now, it might be worth considering for a ‘resolution’ for 2019.

How many of you check the ‘per kg’ weight on items?  And it is not just the ‘kilo’ weight, often I have seen where the 6 pack is more costly than buying individual bottles!

I’ve had discussions with various friends recently, and it seems some do check and others don’t.

Well let me tell you you should.  I recently was on my way to the check-out with my ‘special offer’ on dog food… when I realised I was paying close to 50% more than buying the regular stuff!

Here are two recent examples.

In one supermarket recently they had a 90 g packet of prosciutto at €2.49. Similarly they had the ‘Christmas’ party pack with 150 g….. and the cost of that was €4.99!  So in other words you could buy 180g (in 2 packs) for €4.98!!!

This is the best one though from Aldi, and it features regularly in our local store.

You can buy a 1.5 lt bottle of Malbec for €16.99…. or, wait for it ….. you can buy a 75 cl bottle for €7.99…. exactly the same vintage, producer, etc.

Argentinian Malbec 1.5 lt

 

Argentinian Malbec 75 cl

Obviously they don’t think we read the labels…. and obviously some of us don’t!

My advice …. look twice at what is on offer, and have a wonderful Christmas.

Christmas Markets

We like to do things a bit differently here in Redwood!

You know the way so many people head off to Europe, especially Germany, for the Christmas Markets?  Well, we do the opposite!  Today, we took our German guest to two local Christmas Markets.  To say, she was surprised is probably a bit of an understatement.  Her comment was ‘the Irish are always thought of as always drinking’… yet, at these markets today there was no drink.

We’ve never been to a German Christmas Market but we are told they are all about mulled wine and food.

There are so many markets on in the neighbourhood this year.  Today, we visited Terryglass and Lorrha for their markets.  We finished off our tour of North Tipperary with afternoon tea at Redwood Castle where we got a preview of what’s in store for next weekend’s inaugural Christmas Market that will run over two days 8th and 9th.  They are promising a marvellous selection of craft and artisan producers from all over the country.

Birr Christmas Market is also on next weekend.  It is different opening times to Redwood Castle, so we should be able to get to both!

On Sunday 16th we will have another market in Lorrha.

Huge selection of crafts

Who needs to rack up the air miles, when you can drive a mile or two down the road to enjoy a market?

We are only an hour from Galway or Limerick if you fancy coming to markets with a difference.  And I should of course mention that we have limited bed and breakfast availability for these weekends too!

Giving Thanks

With this past weekend having been Thanksgiving, I thought it appropriate to say ‘thank you’ to someone I met briefly and don’t even know his name.

I was reminded of this incident over the summer when we had our first guest visit us from Wales.  Geraldine was from Cardiff, and her stay reminded me of a wonderful weekend I had there once, many many many years ago.

Those who know me, know I love rugby.

There was a time when I was leading my city life, and able to ‘get away’ and fund such things that I would have travelled for the rugby internationals.  I went to Twickenham (London) and Murrayfield (Edinburgh) many times, but only once got to go to Cardiff.  Back then the stadium in Cardiff was still known as Cardiff Arms Park.

I had travelled to Cardiff with my sister and her then boyfriend.  We had no tickets but had been assured that was not a problem…. “you’ll get tickets, no problem”.

Well 5 minutes before kick-off none of us had a ticket.

Angel Hotel, Cardiff

Photo courtesy of The Angel Hotel, Cardiff website.

I remember standing in what I can only describe as an inside porch in the Angel Hotel which is directly opposite the stadium, with hundreds of people milling past me heading to the match.  I was feebly asking the crowd if ‘anyone had a spare ticket’.

This all happened in the days before we had such phrases as ‘paying forward’ or ‘random acts of kindness’.

Suddenly a man stopped in front of me, asked me would I promise to use the ticket myself… which, of course, I said I would.  He handed me a ticket, refused to take money, and disappeared into the crowd!  I hardly had time to take in his features… I would not have recognised him five minutes later.  He had given me a ticket to sit with all the Welsh Rugby referees …. basically one of the best seats in the house!

I doubt if he reads my blog, but anyway this is my way of saying ‘thank you’…. your kind gesture has never been forgotten.

Ireland lost that day …. but it is still a fond memory.

The content for this post has been racing around in my head for months.  I just haven’t had time to sit down and write it, and to be perfectly honest, I suppose I was also unsure of how to approach it.  Today the light dawned!

As you know we joined AirBnB way back in 2013.  Earlier this year, we felt that the bookings were slower to come in so we asked over on our Facebook page what booking platforms people used?  We rarely get to go away so we don’t get to use these platforms ourselves.

Well, my word, I never knew there were so many!!  We had joined various platforms since 2013, but even still the response to my question stumped me at how many others there were out there.

I thought I’d share our feelings and thoughts on the platforms we’ve used and/or tried to use.

Oldfarm – book now

AirBnB

Our first foray into the bed and breakfast world was with AirBnB.  To put it simply, we love it.  We have met some wonderful people.  The couple of times we’ve had any difficulties the staff at AirBnB HQ have been extremely helpful and had things sorted in jig time.  The website/platform is easy to use.  The guest/host review system works and is a great way to assess who is coming to stay.  The payment system is efficient and trouble-free.

Booking.com

This was the platform that was the second most popular response. We had always avoided Booking.com because of their fee structure.  However, with it getting so many votes we thought we had to give it a try.  We signed up in May and almost immediately bookings started to roll in.  Our thoughts?  It is definitely a different ‘type’ of person that uses this system…. don’t get me wrong, still lovely people, but the pre-visit communication is not the same.  Guests can review us, but we can’t review guests.  The ‘extranet’ (that’s what they call their website?) is a bit cumbersome to use. We have to collect the payment ourselves.  On the plus side, we have been invited by Booking.com to trial a new app they are developing and we are excited to be part of this process.

TripAdviser

A disaster.  Again it was one that was recommended.  We went through the process, but failed to get anywhere as we didn’t have a ‘staff’ list for housecleaning….. it is me and him!!!

Wimdu

I cannot remember how we found this app, but we signed up to it many years ago. I think about 5 years ago.  In that time we’ve just had one booking.  It works in a very similar ay to AirBnB, and for that one booking everything worked seamlessly. And, just now, as I tried to find a link to share with you, I’ve discovered Wimdu actually redirects you to Booking.com!

FreeBirdClub

This is an interesting new platform.  It is Irish.  I think about 2 years old, and is aimed at people over 50 hosting people over 50.  A pretty cool idea.  I can’t give any further comment on it as we haven’t had a single booking through it yet.

HomeStay

Again, I believe, this was developed in Ireland.  We’ve been on this platform for about 4 or 5 years.  We’ve only had one booking in that time.  The way HomeStay works is that they take a commission as the booking deposit, and then it is up to the host to collect money on departure.

HomeAway

What can I say about this?  I’m sure it probably works well for some, but it was nothing but trouble for us.  We signed up earlier this year, got bookings, met lovely people.  However, payment was very slow to come through.  When we tried to chase it, we were told we shouldn’t even be on their platform as it is only for ‘entire’ properties!  Why then do you have a B&B category listed? In the end I just removed our listing… the staff were not helpful at all.

 

In conclusion, AirBnB is still our number one.  It gets so much bad press.  For those outside of Ireland, AirBnB is being blamed here in Ireland for causing the ‘housing crisis’.  Now let’s make it clear, I am quite sure there are greedy landlords going for the short-term let rather than long term.  However, to put our side of the argument… here in rural Tipperary what few people we bring into the area, spend money locally and are helping to sustain and improve this little patch.

We are enjoying the process of working with Booking.com on their new applications.  Check out the new ‘book now’ button that they’ve initiated on our Facebook page … more I am sure will follow on this.

We are always open to suggestions.

Are there other platforms we should be using?