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I’ve told you before about how some members of our community are fighting back, and doing their very best to stop the ebb of activity in rural Ireland.  Our community shop continues to thrive and is open for even longer hours these days.

Well, I’m delighted to tell you that another local group have come together and are hosting a variety of events at Redwood Castle.  They started the whole process on Sunday last with Afternoon Tea.  I popped along to take some photos that I could post here and hopefully, encourage you all to come along and visit.

 

Tea in a china tea cup

Lots and lots of home baking

 

Is there anything nicer that whiling away a few hours with copious amounts of tea and cake, in front of a roaring fire?

Woodburning stove in great hall at Redwood Castle

Numbers are restricted at the moment, so you definitely need to book well in advance.  Contact them via email redwoodcastleireland@gmail.com or call 00 353 89 480 1888.

I could go into a ton of detail on the history of the Castle, but I’d rather just say you should try to incorporate a guided tour with your afternoon tea.  Ger, the guide, is brilliant at telling the history of the Castle.

Stunning views across Co. Tipperary

Other forthcoming events planned for the Castle are an upholstery class in November (which I believe is already booked out), and then on 8th and 9th December there will be an artisan craft and food Christmas fair.. you could make a weekend of it!  And, of course, don’t forget we can do bed and breakfast for you, either before or after your visit to the Castle.

Cosy Alcove from which to admire the view

There are also major plans for various events in 2019…. watch this space.

We wish Coleesa and the team at the Castle, all the best with this new venture.

Isn’t it wonderful to see rural Ireland fighting back, and bringing more people into the area?

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It’s on the bucket list.  In fact it has been on the bucket list for way too long.

I want to go up in a hot air balloon.  That is all.

I stood in awe for hours a couple of weeks ago as the Irish Hot Air Balloon Championships were held in Birr.  I was fascinated watching the weather along with them, waiting to hear if it was going to be a ‘Fly’ or ‘No Fly’ decision.  It was all quite technical but fascinating at the same time.

We were lucky that Monday evening was a beautiful evening, the winds were right, so it was a ‘FLY’ decision. We dropped everything and raced into Birr.

Aren’t they just magical?

There was a very enthusiastic chap who jumped out and parachuted back down!

And then I was lucky enough to be able to capture them on an early morning flight rom our kitchen.

Early morning flight over Tipperary countryside.

 

Early morning flight in the mist.

Someday that bucket list ‘tick’ will be marked.

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We offer guests the option of joining us for dinner when they come stay.  If they decide to take up this offer I ask about food likes and dislikes.

The most usual answer to that question would be that they don’t eat ‘offal’.  Now we do, but I don’t think I would ever randomly serve it up to guests.

Then there are the people who don’t eat fish. Those who only eat ‘white’ meat …. pork seemingly comes under that classification!!! (What kind of pork are they used to???)

We’ve had some interesting challenges in the food department.  There’s been the nut, dairy and egg free challenge.  The latest was dairy, sugar, salt and red meat free diet… that was somewhat of a challenge but we managed it.

More and more people are saying that they’d like something ‘traditional’.  Now here’s a question for you…

  • If you are Irish what do you classify as a ‘traditional’ Irish dinner?
  • If you are not Irish, but travelling to Ireland, what would your expectation of a traditional Irish dinner be?

I think it is fair to say that Alfie and I really don’t do much that is ‘traditional’ Irish food. We have on occasion done ham (usually finished on the bbq!) with the potatoes and vegetables.  I’ve also done stuffed pork steak with vegetables as a ‘traditional’ option.

As Irish as it gets here

Summertime traditional?  I don’t know.  My childhood memories would be of salad plates with lettuce, ham, tomato and probably a hard-boiled egg.

Give us your answers….

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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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