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Folks, I got invited on my first ever bloggers trip last month.  Needless to say, I was excited and delighted to accept the invitation.

Now before you all think I was whisked off to an exotic beach…. you could be right.  However, the truth is I was invited to attend the Taste of Carlow event, which was even better than a day at the beach.

Yes, another Midlands county that kind of gets by-passed by all the tours and tour operators.  It is a fate that befalls pretty much all the Midland counties of Ireland. Tourists land in Shannon, or Dublin, and off they go…. all around the coast.  Now I am not saying that our coastline isn’t wonderful…. in fact, I think the Wild Atlantic Way is a wonderful initiative, and I just love some of the promotional stuff…. but could we maybe have a Meander the Magical Midlands initiative?

(I just thought that up now…. it isn’t half bad…. should I patent it?)

Anyway back to my trip to Carlow.

We were blessed with a beautiful day.  I had an early start, out of here at 8 a.m., leaving Alfie in charge of our AirBnB guests – Martha and Emmet – who were very understanding of my rude early departure.

Our bloggers day consisted of history, scenery, food (lots of it), gardens… really a mix of everything…. something to suit all tastes.

We did so much I could be posting forever…. but let me tell you about my highlights… which are in no particular order.

Our Carlow Guide :

Bianka of Carlow Tours

Bianka of Carlow Tours

 

Bianka of Carlow Tours….. what a treasure.  She told us so much about each place we visited, and had such interesting snippets to share, to make the stories more real.  Seriously, if you are heading to Carlow make sure to book a tour with Bianka.

Historical Carlow :

I just loved Duckett’s Grove Castle.  The Castle suddenly seems to appear before you, with a magnificent drive up to it.  We walked around the Castle and Gardens, and, of course, stopped at The Tea Rooms for tea and the most delicious scones ever.

Duckett's Grove Castle

Duckett’s Grove Castle

Browneshill Dolmen…. now how on earth did they arrange those stones without modern day lifting equipment?

Browneshill Dolmen

Huntington Castle…. this place is totally amazing!  We had a quick ramble around the beautiful gardens, walked along the Yew Walk, before doing the tour of the Castle.  We were also shown some of the more private rooms…. believe me this is an amazing family home.  Then, of course, it was time to stop for more tea…. this time in the magnificent courtyard.

Huntington Castle - Yew Walk

 

Loved the colours and vibrancy of these flowers on display from The Flowerfield at Huntington Castle.

The Flowerfield display

Scenic Carlow:

A little detour was arranged to take us to Mount Leinster.  In typical Irish weather fashion, having had glorious sunshine all day as soon as we got to the top the rain came down…. but we could still all imagine the magnificent views.

The rain came down :(

The rain came down 😦

Taste of Carlow:

What can I say about the food we had throughout the day?  There were those delicious scones at Duckett’s Grove, the magnificent picnic lunch arranged for us by Carlow Farmers Market, the treats bought at the market, the trip to Malone’s Fruit Farm where I was completely taken by the Smoked Garlic, sips of Elderflower Champagne and Sloe Gin from Mary of Blackstairs Eco Trails – there was a danger that Lisa of Isle Magazine and myself might have stayed there for the afternoon! The day culminated in an absolutely delicious meal at The Step House in Borris where Chef Alan Foley truly pulled out all stops.  My personal favourites of our tasting menu?  The Salmon, the pork and the duck were so so good.

Dinner at The Step House

Dinner at The Step House

 

Major, major thank you to Dee and Susan from Green & Vibrant for organising such a magnificent day….. they’ve kind of thrown down the gauntlet for me to figure out a way to invite them over this side of the Midlands 🙂  And thanks must also go to fellow bloggers who made the day such an enjoyable one – Lorna (Irish Farmerette), David (Beyond the Wild Garden), and Sophia and Lisa from Isle Magazine.

 

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See how big they’ve got?  The baby chicks in their new home 🙂

Chicks

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This past Easter weekend was all about family here at Oldfarm.

I had volunteered some months back to take care of my nephew and two nieces…. and in the end it was decided that rather than me stay in Dublin with them, I would bring them here.

That got Easter off to an early start with me travelling up to Dublin on Thursday and spending the evening with my brother and his family.  We went to Soulful Bistro – their neighbourhood hangout – for a lovely dinner.  I loved the quotes that were written on the walls and recesses of this place.

As luck would have it my sister (who lives in L.A.) happened to be in Dublin for a few days, so as Friday was such a glorious day, myself and the two nieces headed off to meet with her.  We wandered into the Battle of Clontarf Event which was still in the ‘being set up’ stage, but we were in time to watch some of the rehearsals of the battle! The nieces did wonder why the event wasn’t being celebrated on Good Friday as that was the actual anniversary???

Battle of Clontarf Rehearsals

Battle of Clontarf Rehearsals

Then rather than suggest a ‘walk’ to a 10 and 11 year old, we went for a beach photoshoot!  The schemes!  It was fun though – and 160+ photos later we’d had a lovely time on Portmarnock beach and had had a walk too! 🙂

Portmarnock Beach

Portmarnock Beach

Next up was lunch in Malahide with Dad, aka Gaga, in Cafe Provence.  Gosh was it busy for a Good Friday – queues out the door!

Finally at 4.30 it was time to get into the car and head to Tipperary.

Fair play to the kids…. they prepared sushi for us for dinner.  Another good plan as I wasn’t sure I had the energy left at this stage to cook dinner.

Sushi

Sushi

Saturday was nominated as baking day…… the 15 year old boy even wanted to get involved in this.  The baking list changed a few times, but final decision was….

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nutella Cookies with Smarties

Chocolate Brownies with raspberries

Nutella Cookies

Nutella Cookies

Reckon there was a bit of a theme going on there 🙂

I have to admit I’d never had Nutella before…. it was interesting chocolate and nut combination

Easter Sunday was a beautiful day so the girls helped me in the polytunnel planting peas and beans.  Then it was weeding in the garden. While the boy helped Alfie with more manly tasks.

Their parents arrived on Sunday evening in time for dinner.  For the first time this year we were able to sit outside (even if it was with the chiminea lit).  It was just lovely to be able to sit, chill and chat while dinner cooked on the Big Green Egg.

It was also lovely to spend quality time with the nieces and nephew….. there were lots and lots of silly jokes and giggles.

How did you spend your Easter?

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Bet you’re all expecting this to be a totally romantic post?  Well, sorry to disappoint – it ain’t!

For those not living on this island, we’ve had the worst winter for storms and winds in a very very long time.  We are sinking in mud here at Oldfarm.  You cannot walk on the lawn – it is just like a sponge.  The pigs are totally fed up of the mud, as are the dogs, cats and hens.  The only ones enjoying it all are the ducks – and boy, they are loving it.

Two of the Khaki Campbells enjoying the flooded lawn

Two of the Khaki Campbells enjoying the flooded lawn

So far we have lost 6 Rowan trees, our last Crab Apple tree, a really old Victoria Plum tree, the roof off the fuel shed and a pig ark!

Last Wednesday we had possibly the worst storm yet.  It seemed to come out of nowhere at 2.20 pm – I remember the time as we were just moving an injured piglet into the ‘nursery’.  Once the job was done, we could hardly open the door to get back into the house, the winds had grown in such intensity.

As I stood in the kitchen looking out at the polytunnel, I was sure we were going to loose it.  The roof seemed to be lifting off it.  Thankfully it survived.

The storm howled about us until about 7 pm and then disappeared just as quickly as it had arrived.

Then, just when you think everything is good, the electricity went.  So it was early to bed on Wednesday night.

The electricity was still gone on Thursday morning when we got up.  The skies were still dark and ominous….. so in order to see what we were doing, yes, we had breakfast by candlelight!

Besides not having any light, a power cut means that we have no water!  Our well is 100 feet deep and needs power to pump it up to get it to the house.

It is very hard to plan your day when you’ve no power, but we did get jobs done.

When the power eventually came back on at 5.30 pm we were chatting about the worst bits, and what we would have done if it had lasted longer.

  • We were lucky that the freezer was packed to the brim, and we did not open it during the outage, and had been offered a small generator from a neighbour if it had continued.
  • We must stock up on rechargeable batteries – and have them charged!
  • Being without internet and phone was strange but doable!
  • Water was our biggest issue.  Thankfully we have a rainwater barrel that was full, but we must invest in another.
  • We kept the stove in the kitchen going at a low level and decided in a ‘worst case’ scenario we could have brought a mattress down and slept in the kitchen!  And we also have open fireplaces in most rooms.
  • The Big Green Egg came into its own!  Alfie made a pile of bread on it, and dinner was also cooked on it.  We need to keep stocked up on charcoal 🙂
Brown soda bread

Brown soda bread

White loaves

White loaves

There are still some 4/5,000 people still without power a week later.

So I guess the lesson learned is we should be like the boy scouts and be prepared. How do you manage when you have a power failure?

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I don’t often get to go off on a little mini-break to the city…. but last weekend I did. My brother had a spare ticket to the Ireland v Scotland match and offered it to me. I did not hesitate!!!

An early start on Sunday catching the 8.30 am bus from the cross-roads just a mile from the house. At €15 return trip to Dublin you can’t beat our local bus service. The brother picked me up from bus in Dublin, a quick lunch and off to Aviva.  And the sun shone!

I will always refer to it as Lansdowne Road :)

I will always refer to it as Lansdowne Road 🙂

The match was slow to start, but when the lads got into their stride it was a good match.

As luck would have it I’d also received an invitation to the launch of the new ‘Italiamo’ range from Lidl on Monday.  Living in the country it is very seldom I get to attend any of these launches so I accepted this one!

My friend, Mary, met me and we headed to 25 Fitzwilliam Place.  The first thing that struck us was the beautiful entry way to the venue, and once inside the door, the elegance of the place is immediately obvious.

We just loved the way the tulips were displayed in bowls around the house.  Isn’t it an excellent idea…. tulips tend to be so ‘floppy’ in a vase.

Tulips

Upstairs we met Claire and the rest of the charming team from Lidl Ireland who made us most welcome.

I was sorry I hadn’t brought my camera…. but here are some photos taken with my phone.

Food Display

The Rustic Bread and the Coppa totally delicious

Mozzarella

This Buffalo Mozzarella was delicious

We tasted almost everything!!!  We didn’t venture for the desserts, but everything else was tried and tested.  Our verdict…. while the olives, focaccia and pestos were very nice.  And there was such a huge range to choose from.  We finally decided that we absolutely loved the Coppa, the Rustic Bread, the sundried tomatoes, the Buffalo Mozzarella and the prosciutto… they were voted our absolute favourites.

The Italiamo range will be available in Lidl stores nationwide from 24th February…. make sure to go check them out.

All in all I nice break in the city.

Disclosure:  I was invited to attend the launch of the Italiamo range but was not paid to do so, nor was I requested or paid to write the above post. The views expressed are my own.

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Friday Photo

Following on from last week’s Friday Photo I thought I’d share some of the projects that the stone from the cottage has been used in…. it is forming the base for the clay oven, it has been used to build walls and steps, it is featured in our wall – which has still to be painted…. and we have our own yellow-brick road! 🙂

Stonework

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To introduce you to my next Local Food Hero I had to be careful to make sure it was a Tipperary based hero!  Trust me living in the country, county borders are of grave significance – especially at this time of year when we are in the thick of the All Ireland Hurling and Football finals.  I would surely run the risk of excommunication if I did not introduce you to a Tipperary Food Hero.

Michael Seymour of Sheepwalk Farm was probably one of the first local producers we met when we moved here 10 years ago.  Michael sells organic beef and lamb at Nenagh Market and directly to customers.

The first thing that strikes you when you arrive at Michael and Olive Seymour’s farm is the fact that it right in the centre of town.  Literally – right smack bang in the middle of Borrisokane.  Walk less than 100 yards and you are on Main Street!

Sheepwalk Farm

Sheepwalk Farm

I spent a couple of hours with Michael recently, and he explained to me that originally (and when he was growing up) the farm house was on Main Street!  A number of years back he sold the house on Main Street and built a more modern home for his own family just behind  the original house.  The farmland still runs from the back of Main Street down to the river and beyond, which as Michael said “makes life very easy, if you’re out fencing and realise you’ve run out of nails – you just have to walk a few hundred yards to get some more”.  So true!  We’ve been there ourselves when it has meant a 10 mile round trip into town!

Slevin's Callow

Slevin’s Callow

Walking the farm is almost like a ‘who’s who’ history of Borrisokane.  I loved listening to Michael give me the names of the different fields – there’s Slevin’s Callow, Gannon’s Callow, Mikey’s field and oh, and this one is ‘our’ field!   That’s the Ballyfinboy River over there…. and there’s the Millrace that was constructed in the late 1800’s….. we built this bridge last year, it makes it much easier to move the lambs and sheep.

Michael’s great-grandfather (who originally came from our  own neighbourhood village, Lorrha) bought the farm on his return for America in the 1800’s.  It is so unusual to hear of people returning, but he did and the land has been farmed in a traditional way by Michael and his ancestors, ever since.

The farm has been fully organic since 1999, Michael explained that he didn’t like what he was seeing with the sprays and chemicals that were being used, and felt it just couldn’t be good for either the land or humanity.  He has often been asked why he doesn’t have a denser stocking level, but he works with nature and knows what his farm will sustain.  As part of the farm is ‘callow’ land it is not suitable to be used in certain weather.  Michael has 20 suckler cows, 80 ewes and their respective offsprings on his 130 acres.

With endless patience, Michael explained how his rotational system works.  Lambs are grazed from March to July on same fields  but from then on they graze on different fields, where lambs have not grazed before.  As lambs graze fields the worm population grows but moving to fields not grazed previously by lambs should be clean grazing, that’s usually after grass.

The sheep on Sheepwalk Farm

The sheep on Sheepwalk Farm

The cattle are generally moved indoors onto straw bedding by mid-November where they are fed farm cut silage.  The sheep stay out most of the year  only being brought indoors for lambing.   However, their grazing is supplemented with organic nuts and silage over the winter.

Fields are cut and grazed on alternate years, using a rotation system like this helps to naturally build up the soil fertility which in turn contributes to the preservation of the traditional grasses, clovers and herbs.

As we walked and chatted, I was struck by the array of gorgeous sloes, blackberries, crab apples and haws in the hedges.  There were tons of mushrooms and Michael said there are lots of damsons in the hedgerows on the farm too.

I asked about challenges, like all other farmers, Michael said buying in feed and fodder this past year was extremely costly.  He balked when he totted up the total!!!  However, when I asked would he have chosen another life other than farming – his answer was a very definite No!

We also chatted about ‘social media’.  I know Michael uses Twitter.  Why?  Well, as Michael said, you have to know about these things – everyone else is at it so you need to keep abreast.

I asked if he thought people’s shopping had changed in recent times?  No, was Michael’s answer, he felt the shopping pattern changed seasonally….. more burgers and chops in the summer, more traditionally roasts and stews in the winter…. but business is generally remaining the same.

Michael and his delicious organic lamb and beef can be found at Nenagh Market in Quintin’s Way, Nenagh on Friday afternoons and Saturdays 10 – 3 pm, or just give him a call to arrange delivery.

We came home from our visit to Sheepwalk Farm with some lamb and beef…. we’ve had the roast lamb – it is delicious…. the beef is being saved for a special occasion.

Contact details:

Seymour Organics,  Sheepwalk Farm, Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary.

Tel:   Michael on 086 400 0680

web:  www.sheepwalkfarm.com

email: seymourorganic@gmail.com

Twitter: @SeymourOrganic

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Gosh, I cannot believe I’d been a bit remiss about posting in recent weeks…. and then this week I’ve posted everyday! 🙂

So if you missed all the excitement I was on the SodShow yesterday.  My 15 minutes of fame!

The Sod Show

The Sod Show

The lovely Caitriona from Wholesome Ireland was here for a pig-rearing course and interviewed me for the programme.  We talk about pigs, pork and blogging….  go on have a listen in here….

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As the crow flies Meelick is only a few miles from us…. but that River Shannon gets in the way (unless you fancy crossing the river by boat), so it takes us about half an hour or so to get there.

Last Saturday, the sun shone, the skies were blue and Spring was in the air, so we went on a mission to bring you some photos of Meelick.

Although I don’t really like boats, in fact if truth be told, I hate them…. I have enjoyed some boating trips on the Shannon, so it was interesting to go the land route and visit sites I had only ever seen from the river.

We stopped at Meelick Weir which is reputedly a great spot for salmon fishing… and I’ve also seen crazy people in canoes going through their paces there!

Meelick Weir

Then it was on to along tiny by-roads, mostly only one car wide, to Meelick Village.  A tiny hamlet rather than a village with a few houses on the way up to the church.  It must have been a busy enough place at one time… you could make out which house was the shop and which one was the pub.  Sad to see villages like this all closed up.

The Medieval St. Francis church was built in 1414 with Papal Permission – and is still in use today.  It is a hugely popular destination for weddings – and you can see why.

Church Stone

The church sitting proudly overlooking the village originally formed part of a Franciscan Abbey.  Meelick Church

However, there are no residents there now but the church and its grounds are still beautifully maintained.  Look at that lawn!

Parish House

We had a quiet wander inside the church.  The light was kind of surreal and eerie all at the same time.Eerie Light on Church altar

As I left the church I spotted this on the notice board.  The church may be medieval but hey how’s about this for moving with the times – QR code and all! 🙂

Church notice with QR code

If you are around the East Galway area, you should definitely take a little detour to Meelick – bring a picnic lunch and sit and watch the world pass by on the river.

I had to share this final photo with you.  Spotted on the ground around the back of the church on a cold bright day in April.  It was real, with a long stem and just slightly wilted.  I wonder what the story is to this? Had it just fallen there?  Had someone dumped it there?

Pink Rose

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Friday Foto

Have been a bit under the weather this week, and not had much time or energy to go taking photographs…. but never fear!  Here’s one of the harvest moon last year!

Harvest Moon

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