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We have a drought

I know, a drought is not what anyone would think of in relation to Ireland.  Having had the longest, wettest Winter anyone can remember, we had about a week of Spring, then straight to Summer.

Not just any old Summer though.

The temperatures have been crazy.  Many days here in Tipperary have been over 30 degrees Celsius. It was lovely to have that beautiful sunshine, and to be able to just pull on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.

Weeks into it and things are looking very serious.

There is a ‘hose’ ban in place for the entire country until at least the end of July.

We are so very glad we stuck with the plan and maintained our own well.

We, thankfully, have sufficient water.

You’d be astonished at how much water hens and ducks drink.  Pigs need water to drink but also to wallow.  Pigs roll in wet mud to protect themselves from the sun – pig sunscreen!

Our 1,000 litre rain barrel is almost empty, but we have 2 smaller ones on standby.

We’ve watched our neighbours hauling 10+ tonnes of water for their cattle every day!  They are pumping water from a stream/spring to supplement their mains supply.  Can you imagine the effort involved in that?  Can you imagine the extra costs they are incurring?

The grass isn’t growing, and is in fact parched.

Our soft fruits harvest is way down on previous years.  Last year I harvested 6 lbs of raspberries in one day.  This year I’ve only managed to get 2 lbs over the past week!

In conversations recently with city folk, there does seem to be a complete disconnect to just how critical water is to our food supply.  Plants and animals need both sunshine and water to survive.

I am no economist, but I would suggest that fruit and vegetables, in fact all food is going to increase in price, and is going to be in short supply – both for animals and for humans.

Worrying times ahead.

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Heaven help us!

Yes, a rant is coming up.

We have our own well.  We paid dearly to have the water diviner come and identify the best spot to dig the well.  We paid for the people to come drill many many feet down and connect the pumping system.  We installed the water filtration system.  We have lived happily with our lovely fresh water for 12 years.

Bath time

Then the filtration system packed up.  It seems that most things these days only have a life span of 10 years!  Lots of ‘stuff’ has needed replacing this year.

I digress.

Back to the water system….

Did you know there is a grant of 75% available to install/upgrade water filtration systems?

We did not know this, but discovered this gem of information when talking to one company.  Happy days.

We downloaded the relevant application form for Tipperary, and started going through the various processes.  Tedious but not onerous.

  • get water tested…. tick
  • complete application form ….. tick
  • get quotes from 3 different companies ….. tick
  • get water tested again after fitting of new system …..

We were told that there can be a 6 week delay in getting approval, but if you hand deliver your application it can be processed quicker.

So yesterday morning Alfie drove to Nenagh, handed over the documentation.  Person on counter said that we should get immediate approval, but she’d have colleague call us to confirm.

And here it is folks…..

The colleague called and said we don’t qualify for the grant.

Why?

We are too close to the road, and should connect up to mains water!

Now here’s the thing…. our neighbours are often on ‘boil’ notices for their water.  When this happens where do they go for their water????

They come here for our well water, and are most welcome to.  We have an outside tap and they help themselves.

So now the County Council wants us to use mains water?  And, by the way, the cost (to us) would be treble what a water filtration system will cost us.

As I say heaven help us!  We are willing to look after and maintain our own water system.

And then today it is announced that the government is giving Irish Water millions to upgrade/repair/clean the Irish  water supply system which is in a disgraceful state.

There is so much more that could be said …

but for now rant over.

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You are all probably fed up of hearing about the ups and downs that have been part of life here at Oldfarm.  And sorry for that.

Life keeps throwing stuff at us, and we have to re-assess and re-imagine.  Does this happen to you?

In my previous life I was a secretary, PA, self-employed (so wore many hats), sold houses, ran a shop, Business Advisor, mentor, trainer, and now I don’t know what I’d call myself!

As you know we changed the ‘business model’ last year, and just grew pigs to order.  That worked reasonably well in that we had 10 happy customers at the end of the year, who were enjoying delicious free-range pork and ham.  Unfortunately, when we sat down and did the sums, it really was not a good financial outcome.

Piglets/Bonhams

A very very small return for a lot of work.

We decided to give it another year.  We thought if we upped the number of pigs/customers we might have a better result.

Sows were pregnant.

Customers were lined up – double the number from 2017.

All was looking good.

Then, disaster struck.  One sow ‘self-aborted’…. yes, pigs can do this.  It can be caused by stress, or they just don’t like being pregnant… anything at all can bring it on.  We suspect that she just didn’t like that we had gone away overnight and a neighbour had fed her!

Second older sow continued with her pregnancy, and gave birth to 4 piglets.  We needed over 20, and had been hoping each sow would at least have 8 each.

Back to doing the sums, and facing the reality that buying in that many bonhams was just not viable.

Another decision had to be made, and we have made it.  After over 12 years of being in the free-range pork business, we are cutting back.

We will continue to keep pigs.  There is no way we could go back to eating ‘shop’ pork and bacon.  Just no way.

We will run our pig-rearing courses where we will continue to share the knowledge we have gained – sometimes the hard way – over the years.  However, now we will just be growing pigs for ourselves and family.

Thank you to all who have supported us.  Thank you to all our loyal customers over the years.

It has not been an easy decision to reach, but we are comfortable with it.

 

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That’s what the weather of the past week has been christened.  We don’t get much snow in Ireland.  Sometimes we get a sprinkling that is gone in a few hours, or at worst overnight.

This week, however, we were on lockdown!  On Tuesday we had a sprinkling, that had all but disappeared by Wednesday morning.  The weather forecasters were predicting that Thursday and Friday would be very bad.  Our first job on Wednesday was to head to the mill to get grain for animals, and stock up on tea. Yes, tea!  I had made the discovery that we only had a half pack of tea left…. now, if we were going to be housebound for days, I will not survive without tea!

We spent 20 minutes in the grocery store, and came out to blizzard conditions.

It was quite a frightening drive home I can tell you.  The so-called ‘Beast from the East’ had arrived 24 hours early.

While shops and businesses throughout the country closed down from Thursday afternoon, we did not have that luxury.  We were in and out to the animals constantly.  The poor hens did not know what was going on.  We did keep them in til much later in the day, and tried to get them back into bed earlier.

The whole weather situation was made so much worse by the Beast being followed immediately by Storm Emma which caused major snow drifts.

Whenever something like this happens it does cause you to reflect.

Our highs:

  • We were thankful for a fully stocked freezer and dry goods cupboard.  We had plenty of meat, fruit, vegetables and milk in the freezers.
  • Bless them… despite the weather the hens continued to lay, so there was no shortage of eggs for both us and the neighbours.

    Confused hens

  • We are also grateful to our farming neighbours who cleared a pathway through the snow so we could (if we wanted to) get out.

    Just enough room to drive through

  • And as a little chuckle for you all…. our Big Green Egg chiminea … came to the rescue in our neighbours milking parlour… keeping everyone (animal and humans) warm!

    Photo credit : My Appliance Source

  • And, lastly, we have often wondered exactly what kind of a breed mix, our Ross, is…. well snow dog is definitely in there.  He was in his element!

    Happy Snow Dog

We didn’t really have any ‘lows’ to speak of.  You just got used to piling on the multiple layers every time you went out, so now there will be a lot of laundry to be done now that that’s over.

After 4 days the snow is all but gone.  Roads are still bad with high banks of snow at either side, and only room for one car at a time.  We are back to sinking in mud again.  The crunch of snow underfoot is becoming a memory.

How do you all survive such dramatic weather?

 

 

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And the winner is

DRUMROLL

The winner of the William Morris eCoffee Cup is

eCoffee Cup Winner

Sharon Leavy… congratulations Sharon…. send me your address, please.

 

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Let’s get this out of the way…. this is not a sponsored post… it is, however, a family promotion.

You see my brother and his wife have just recently been awarded the franchise for the Ecoffee Cup in Ireland.

The airwaves seem to be completely filled with details in the past month of how the ‘single use’ cup, which was 30 years in use last year, is destroying the planet.   In three short decades, it is estimated that over 2 trillion of them have ended up in landfill – oh, in case you’re wondering, that’s 2,000,000,000,000.

I have commented before on trips to the city that everyone is walking with a coffee cup in one hand and the mobile phone in the other.  I left the city life before that became such a thing!

It is great to see so many businesses becoming more waste conscious.  I heard recently that Cork City Council has banned the use of ‘single use’ cups in their office… a great move!  I’ve also read that many cafes and take-aways are offering discounts to customers who bring their own cup…. that’s extra good news for your pocket too!

To tell you about the Ecoffee Cup…. it is re-usable.  Not only is it re-usable though, it is made from bamboo fibre which is naturally organic.  Yes, ORGANIC.   Over 1,000 farmers in China have been contracted to grow bamboo to make these cups. Bamboo fibre is also naturally sterile, and free from BPA and phthalate (nasty chemicals in plastics that can leach into your tea or coffee!).  Even the cup’s silicone lid and wrap are biodegradable.

For all the world, the cup feels like cardboard, and it looks really good too.  There are so many designs and colours to choose from.  A personal favourite would be the William Morris range.  The entire cup is also dishwasher safe, and with care should last you years.

William Morris eCoffee Cup

If you want to be a environmental hero, you can rush straight over to John’s (my brother) website = The Coffee Lady and purchase your mug.  They are available both on a retail and wholesale level.  As an aside… they’d make a great Valentine’s gift too!

OR you could leave a comment below as John has given me a beautiful William Morris cup to give to one lucky reader …. only available to post within the island of Ireland (sorry!).  The winner will be drawn next Sunday 11th February… so you could have your eCoffee Cup in time for Valentine’s Day!

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Yes, it is a bit of self-promotion!  Sorry!

We were chatting here last night, and I just realised I’ve never done this.  I have never blatantly promoted any of what we do here as ‘Oldfarm’.  So why not?  Why not break the rules and tell you what we have and do.

You don’t have to read, but I think you will find some of our ideas funky and interesting.

  1. Pork & Bacon   –  this is the main stay of our smallholding.  Some of you will be aware that this year we’ve had to review how we do business.  In olden times we used to just sell the pork/bacon in small lots.  However, due to Alfie’s heart issues we’ve changed the business model and now ‘grow to order’.  Those who booked their half or full pig for 2017 have started to come and collect their meat.  Why not indulge someone with a gift voucher that will last a whole year long!

    Half butchered pig. Photo courtesy of @DayDreamFoodie

  2. Lamb  … well hogget really.  Just like above we will grow a half or full lamb and have it butchered to your instruction, ready to pop in the freezer next October/November.
  3. Pig-rearing Courses … gift certificates for pig rearing are always popular.  Santa has brought lots of day courses to people over the past few years…. and they’ve always been appreciated. (€90.00)
  4. Hand-knit piggies … these are a new addition to the repertoire.  Great stocking fillers for the big or little person. (€12.50)

    A Knitted replica of our first boar, Clarence!

  5. Calendar 2018… this is the fourth year we have produced a calendar.  I have taken all photographs which are of our life here.  We’ve also included a couple of recipes. (€10.00)
  6. Bread making Course … this is a new course we introduced in 2017, and is very popular with our B&B guests.  In 2 hours, you will learn how to make at least 3 different breads.
  7. Overnight Stay …. treat yourself and/or someone else to a weekend in the country.  We can do a package to include bed and breakfast and dinner… come and relax in Tipperary.

So, plenty to think of as ‘alternative’ Christmas gifts.  Comment below or send me an email if you’d like more detail.

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