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A couple of weeks back we had Irish guests staying… not often that we have homegrown guests.  However, one of the guests past a comment about the fact that as we grow much of our own food, we don’t really contribute to the local economy!

His comment kind of floored me.  It really stopped me in my tracks.  I suppose without going into a deep analysis of it, I would have considered us to be good at supporting ‘local’.

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Home grown tomatoes

I was prompted to analyse our shopping.

If I’m truthful, no we don’t buy from the nearest local shop.  There are a few reasons – they don’t stock what I’d want to buy food-wise.  I gave up buying newspapers years ago … and they don’t stock my preferred read anyway.  Yes, they do stock nice gift items.  I, however, tend to bake/gift home-made food items.

So here’s how our shopping breaks down:

Meat : we grow pigs and sheep too – so we never, ever buy pork, bacon or lamb. We also raise our own duck meat.  Chicken : we have a certain supply, but do buy free-range on occasion.  Beef which is considered a luxury in this house is bought from a local butcher, who now rings me when he kills and saves the cuts I like  – now, that’s customer service!  We plan to get a few turkeys this year too, just to add to the mix of meat choices.

Fruit and vegetables : again we grow a lot.  We try to eat seasonally, but sometimes you get a glut of vegetables coming at you so fast that you cannot eat another carrot or pea – so we freeze them to have later in the year.  Right now I’m busy preserving all sorts.  When we moved here there was a local vegetable shop, that’s now gone.  Our local country market which was another great resource closed down earlier this year, so we are left with the ‘multiples’ as our only choice.  However, even then I do aim for Irish and /or organic/fairtrade (thinking bananas and exotics).

Eggs : we have our own and if I do need more, I buy from our neighbour.

Fish : there are no local fish shops, so we shop in Barna (Co. Galway) for our fish when we can.  Not quite local to us, but it is a small independent fish shop that does great fresh fish.  We’ve also been known to swap pork for line caught tuna. Nice!

Flour:  we buy organic in 25kg bags from a local bakery.

Cleaning products : we do refills from our local independent Organic Store.  They are also a great spot for nice cheese, chocolate and seasonal vegetables.  (I just don’t get there every week.)

Animal Feed : We buy Tipperary grown grain from our local mill, and organic pig feed from “Robins Glen“.

Butchery : We are lucky to have a neighbour who does the necessary dispatching on hens and ducks.  And, we have two local butchers who take care of our pigs and sheep for us.

Yes, unfortunately, we do buy the staples from the ‘multinationals’…. tea, butter, etc.

So are we contributing to the local economy?  I think so.  We are bringing guests into this part of the country that would not otherwise visit.  We recommend local attractions.  Friday night guests are often encouraged to attend the dance at our local GAA Club.

So, yes, I do believe we are contributing in our own small way to our local community.

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I’m still here

If you’ve moved on from following the blog…. I wouldn’t blame you.  Life really has got in the way of blogging the past few months.

However, I am still here.  Still doing things and rushing about trying to keep head above water.

We’ve had a busy summer again.

Alfie was in and out of hospital quite a bit.  The last stint was 2 weeks from 16th August, which, of course, clashed with one of our busiest times with AirBnB.  Alfie is feeling a lot better now, so fingers and toes crossed that we have reached the end of that journey.

View from the Cliffs of Moher

We did manage a couple of days off at the beginning of August to spend time with friends and to do the ‘tourist’ thing for ourselves.

I shall write about some of those experiences as well as the many topics spinning around in my head that I want to share with you.  So over the coming weeks, I may be having a rant or two!!!  And I guess, it is a good sign when guests want me to share recipes with them, so you can look forward to some recipes too!

How have you all been?

How has your summer gone?

Did you get to have holidays?

 

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It is often hard to fathom that I lived in Dublin… and loved the city life while there.

Now a trip to Dublin is greeted with a groan!  Maybe I’ve become an old curmudgeon?

We had reason to go to Dublin last week, and here are my observations of the day trip.

  1. The traffic!  Guys how do you cope?  Such aggression.  No-one waits, no-one lets you in.  You really have to get into aggressive mode to survive!
  2. The new incinerator!  OMG it is huge.  I was so dumbfounded by the size I forgot to take a picture.  I used to sneak down to a lovely little beach down by the Pigeon House when I worked in Ringsend… don’t think you’d be doing that now?
  3. We saw the biggest cruise ship EVER!  The Caribbean Princess…. take a look at the size of this thing.  I do not want to go there.  If the city is crowded, I can only imagine how confining a ship this size would be.  Yep… that’s the cruise ship in the background, dwarfing the freight ships.
  4. Customer Service!!!!  We stopped in Malahide to pick up a couple of take away sandwiches.  Went into the posh/gourmet deli…. the staff could not tell if any of the bread was organic or gluten free?  “The girl who looks after that is on lunch and can’t be disturbed” …. seriously????  Thank you @SuperValuMalahide for coming to the rescue.
  5. Black and grey.  Why is everyone confined to wearing black and grey?  Men and women.  All looking hot and sticky on a sunny summer’s day (except for no. 6).
  6. Worst sight of all?  Warm, balmy day driving through the city and spotted a middle-aged gentleman striding along looking very ‘cool’ in his shorts, ear-phones in, back-pack…. and NO T-SHIRT!!!!  AND there was a belly overhang!!!!  Way too much!

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Some of you will know that the past 6 months have been to say the least traumatic here.  Alfie had a major heart attack back at the beginning of October.  The recovery process has not been totally smooth, with many set backs along the way.  He had his most recent heart surgery just 2 weeks ago, and so far this seems to have worked, but we won’t know for certain until mid-May.

As you can imagine all of this has played havoc with pig farming and pork sales.

We ran out of pork supplies around Christmas.

Thankfully we had been in the process of re-stocking and introducing new stock when the first heart attack struck, so had reduced stock to just 2 sows.

All of this has led us to re-evaluate our lives and examine how we can best continue doing something we enjoy, but with a lower stress level!

We are sharing our thoughts here, and hoping you will give us your input, please!

Our plan is to restructure how we sell the pork, rather than selling pork boxes in 4 kg. boxes.

Our questions to you…

Would you pre-order a full or half of a pig?  A full pig would be approx. 60 kgs.

Would you commit to doing so in advance?  You would be given a date – in October/November – when your meat would be ready.

We would grow the pig ethically, organically and free-range for you.  You would receive your meat butchered and freezer ready.

We would love to hear your opinion and thoughts as to whether this is something you would consider.

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Fowl Play

We’ve had an absolutely horrible week here at Oldfarm.

It all started quite early last Tuesday when I let the hens and ducks out way earlier than usual.  The ducks all seemed a bit quiet and ‘wet’.  When I looked closer some of them appeared to be cut and bruised.  I stupidly presumed that the drakes had been fighting over the girls!

We had 6 hens – 2 rather old Khaki Campbells and then 4 others younger hens of mixed breed.

We also had two beautiful drakes who were a gift from our neighbour.

Tom and Jerry

Back to last week, I was home alone as Alfie was back in hospital, so I kept a close eye on things during the day.  It was that bitterly cold day – pre-snow – so I was worried they’d catch cold.  No amount of coaxing would bring them back off the pond for food.  When it came to lock up time, 5 remained on the pond (drake and 4 girls).  The other drake and 2 girls were missing… I presumed hiding somewhere.

Next morning, the five on the pond were safe but no amount of searching revealed where the other 3 were.  They’ve never returned – presumably taken by a fox.

Wednesday evening 5 came off the pond, fed and went to bed.  Thursday was fine.  Friday all was well.

Saturday morning I opened the shed to find 3 of the girls decapitated.  The drake and surviving hen were very battered and bruised.  I felt so bad about the 3 girls.  I had coaxed them back into the shed and ultimately to their death.

Something had attacked them overnight.  We presumed mink.

Saturday was spent trying to find entry points and secure the shed.

I should mention our regular hens were in same shed, but, of course, they were on the roosts.  Also, our large Muscovy drake looked like he’d been attacked but he had won.

We nursed and hand fed the remaining two, and by the end of the day they seemed a bit more ‘perky’.  Every tiny hole that we could see was now stuffed with chicken wire.  We thought we had the shed secure.

However, yesterday morning I opened the shed to find them both decapitated. I could have cried.  Again the birds trusted us to put them somewhere safe and this is what happened to them.  By ‘securing’ the shed we had obviously trapped the predator in there!

We pulled sheds apart and let the dogs in (they’re not usually allowed in).  Both dogs were very excited about something they could ‘smell’ in there.  We borrowed traps from neighbours and friends and set them up.

We secured an alternative shed and set up roosts.  Of course, the birds didn’t realise they were expected to move house…. so at dusk last night we had to go out and hand lift them from one house to another.  Not an entirely easy process with large Muscovy drakes!!  Thankfully, Zack, our rooster is much more amenable to being lifted about.

This morning all were safe in their new house.

And, a pine marten was caught in one trap… we think he was living in the cavity bricks partitioning part of a shed.

Pine Marten

Traps are still in place ‘just in case’ there are any more predators.

To end on a ‘good news’ story…. one of our hens has gone broody and is sitting on eggs!  Fingers crossed!

 

 

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Politics is something I’ve never written about here. Not that I am not interested, it is just that I really do feel it is such a personal choice and decision.

My earliest ‘political’ memory is when I was just over 16 years of age being taken to a political meeting by my Mum.  If I recall correctly I was home from school because of toothache.  The meeting was a morning coffee type of thing, with lots of housewives and Mums there… and 16 year old me!  The guest speaker was the late, Garret FitzGerald.  He was a gentleman and a politician. I honestly have no recollection (and I wasn’t probably interested much) as to what he spoke about.

However, I do remember him singling me out after his talk, and sitting chatting to me about politics. I guess I stuck out in the crowd!  He’s advice was so sound…. I had no idea who/what/if I would ever vote when I got to 18.  He said ‘forget about party politics, and just vote for someone who has the same believes as you.’

the late Garret FitzGerald - photo courtesy of RTE Stills Library

the late Garret FitzGerald – both a gentleman and a politician  – photo courtesy of RTE Stills Library

And that’s the way I have voted since.

I can’t claim to fully understand the voting system in the USA.  Like everyone else outside of USA, I am watching wide-eyed as events unfold.

I naively posted something about the current goings on in USA on Facebook the other evening.  The replies and comments were interesting.  They came from both American and European followers.  So now I am taking this opportunity to air my thoughts.  It would be way too long a post on Facebook!

  • I get it that Donald Trump won the election.
  • I feel sorry for the American voters that they were reduced to a choice of one of two people that polarised them to such an extent.
  • I don’t get that so many ‘sane’ people, and in particular, women, voted for such a despicable and uncouth person.
  • I don’t get that he can enact laws without Congress’ approval.  This screams dictatorship to me.
  • I don’t get that he has surrounded himself with such offensive people.  Mr. Bannon’s stated goal is to infiltrate the Republican party, destroy it and cause national chaos.
  • I don’t get that people can be stopped at the airport from entering the USA because of their country of birth/religion.  What next?  You can’t come here cos you’ve got green eyes/drive a blue car?
  • I don’t get the deafening silence from Capitol Hill.  Where are the senators – both Republican and Democratic?  Are they not allowed to speak out?  Is their role not to legislate?

Looking on from over here…. and, yes, I trust the media reporting on this side of the Atlantic…. all I can think is God help America.

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Our neighbourhood is not a natural tourist destination, nor is it promoted as a tourist destination.  It is quite a hidden gem… almost a secret gem.  So we are delighted to receive the guests who do come our way.

our home

We have met some really lovely people… as has been said so often by guests “we came as strangers and left as friends”.  Perhaps, it is our listing, our reviews, or our location that attracts like-minded people!  We’ve had people from all parts of the world come stay, and many the lively conversation that’s been had over the kitchen table at dinner.

We often wish we could both persuade more people to come, and persuade those who do come to stay for longer.  The #MagicalMidlands has so much to offer – magnificent historical destinations; activities like cycling, hiking, fishing and walking; and, of course, beautiful scenery.

We like to think that by being hosts we are helping our community, bringing tourists to this wonderful part of Ireland, boosting the local economy just a little bit… and, of course, introducing guests to the ‘social dancing’ on Friday nights – always a big hit.

If you are planning a trip to middle Ireland, do stay a while.

We are delighted and thankful that bookings have started to come in for this year.  And, now Minister Heather Humphries, has launched a new Action Plan for Rural Ireland that promises a 12% increase in tourism for 2017…. well, we’ll see…..

As St. Patrick’s Day will give us a long weekend this year, we thought we’d do a special offer to encourage you all to come and visit the #MagicalMidlands.  As we are quite remote, we give guests the option of joining us in the kitchen for dinner.   You will see from our listing that we’re not bad cooks, so good food is guaranteed!

  • Option 1:  2 nights bed and breakfast, and dinner on both evenings at €120 per person – and a bottle of wine with dinner each evening.
  • Option 2:  2 nights bed and breakfast, and dinner on one evening at €95 per person – and a bottle of wine.

There you go folks…. 2 rooms available…. who’s coming?

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