Feeds:
Posts
Comments

A very busy summer

How have you all been?  Has your summer been good?

We’ve had a crazy busy time here in Redwood. In May, and even into June, I was convinced that we would have a very quiet bed and breakfast season.  BUT suddenly it all kicked off, bookings came rushing in.  And while it was all a bit manic for a time, we are extremely grateful to all who came and stayed.

It was fun to meet so many wonderful people.

Our guests came from all corners of the world.  This year we had our first guests from Norway, Romania and Finland.  We love hearing about the home lives of folks, and why they make the decision to come to Ireland.

Earlier in the year we had been contemplating renovating an old farmhand cottage, but in the end decided that that there was too much red tape and expenditure.  Instead we’ve converted what used to be my ‘study’ and is now what we refer to as the Library Room.  This has been the most popular room of this season.  It also means that we can now accommodate six people at once.

The Library Room

We’ve had some ‘hairy’ and some funny moments over the past few months.

  • Lots of guests had to be roped into sheepherding duties. We’ve the two greatest escape artists ever this year, no matter which field we put them in they find a way out.  We do our best to provide an ‘authentic’ experience!
  • There were the guests who requested an early book in… then never showed up at all ….. not a happy camper that day.
  • Then guests who arrived with their cocker spaniel … without warning us! Thankfully, I was outside on their arrival and was able to (almost) roar at them to put dog on lead before he spotted the hens!
  • The guests who did so much shopping on their trip, they needed an extra suitcase… we were able to donate a suitcase to the cause!  Did you know charity shops won’t take suitcases???
  • Lots of guests have given us unexpected gifts…. homegrown chillies from their garden in Canada, a beautiful plate from Cincinnati, wine, maple syrup… I reckon they know us well even before they arrive!
  • I got quite a few opportunities to practice my French.
  • We had our first ‘kosher’ guests… we like challenges.
  • We had many boys and girls who were willing to throw sticks endlessly and tire Ross out… can they come back soon, please, he needs more running about??
  • We had the guest who asked if there were sheets on the bed???
  • And the one who brought his own toilet paper???

As the season slows down, we still have bookings between now and Christmas, and even have had a booking for next year (from a guest that stayed this year)!

Fingers and toes crossed for a good 2020.

Maybe you might decide to come stay in 2020?

Tex-Mex Beef

We spend a lot of time trying new recipes, especially in the winter months.  Some, but not all, are with a view to providing guests with new experiences, sometimes though you just need to spice up the regular ‘go to’ dinners that we have ourselves.

This beef dish has been made many times in recent weeks, partially, because we really like but also because I’ve had a damned hard time getting a decent photograph to share with you.  See the suffering we do on your behalf!  i’ve finally got a couple that are good enough to share.

It is cooked in two stages, which I find handy… I can prep it ahead and then do the final stage when outdoor jobs are done.

I promised our friend, Lily, over at Picado Mexico, that I would not refer to it as Mexican food… it isn’t.  It is more akin to what I remember as Tex Mex from a couple of visits to California.

Ingredients:

  • 450 gr minced beef
  • Vegetable or Olive Oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (or chilli powder)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 400 g tin of tomatoes
  • Cheddar
  • Pickled Jalapeños

Method:

In a saucepan heat oil and cook onions gently for a few minutes, add in garlic, then beef.  Continue to cook until beef is nicely browned.

Add the various spices and seasoning.  Mix well.

Add tin of tomatoes, and continue to cook for about 20/25 minutes.

When you re ready to move onto next stage grease a casserole dish and add in your beef mixture.  Grate cheddar on top, and sprinkle over the Pickled Jalapeños (our local Aldi has jars of these at the moment or you can get them from Picado Mexico on line).

Bake in oven for c. 25 minutes, until cheese is golden.

Serve with sour cream and guacamole.

Enjoy!

 

 

B&B standards

We had an interesting conversation recently with BnB guests.

Our guests were travelling for business which they do a lot to the more rural parts of Ireland.  This means that they stay in many Bed and Breakfast establishments, as hotels are often not an option.

The highlight of their stay here…. cotton sheets, real coffee and wild flowers in the bedrooms!

They told us that normally they get poly sheets and instant coffee!  This, of course, makes me think that the tea would probably be TEA BAGS!!!!!

Good grief… what is happening out there?

We don’t get away too often, but seriously, this just brought me back to 1980’s B&Bs.

We’ve never joined any of the B&B associations, or gone for any accolades.  Since starting this journey we’ve just gone with our own instinct and how we’d like to be treated.  Sometimes, of course, it does mean a lot of work.  I know not everyone is into ironing sheets (and towels), but I LOVE freshly ironed sheets on my bed, so why wouldn’t a guest like that?  Ironing sheets also gives me an excuse to indulge in my guilty pleasure…… watching quiz shows/cookery programmes on TV.

Another guest also commented recently that our orange juice was the best.  Guys, I just squeeze fresh oranges… not difficult at all.

What has been your best, or indeed, worst B&B experience?  Or is there something that you would love to see Bed & Breakfasts provide?

The Field

Once we decided to scale back on the number of pigs we keep, we wondered what to do with our ‘larger’ field.  It had been well ‘rotovated’ by the pigs over the years!

Our dream would be to have a beautiful meadow in there, but when we started researching the cost it was going to be astronomically high!  One guy suggested we use Round-up to clear the field first and then pay him thousands to come and spread meadow seed.  Now, here, we’ve been here almost 16 years and never used any chemicals and that was his best suggestion.  That is not going to happen.

Buttercup

Eventually we got to speak to a guy who made such wonderful sense!  Don’t you love when you meet someone who understands what you’re at?

His suggestion was to just let the field lie for a year, and to take photographs once a month, of what is growing there.  He believes that the pigs will have disturbed some dormant old seeds and plants, and the fact that we hadn’t used chemicals should mean there will be a lovely selection of wild herbs and flowers growing there.

I’ve decided to use the blog as my recording device, so here is a selection of the early May flowers.

Seems to be related to the ‘pea’ family?

 

Some of these I recognise…. others I don’t…. feel free to enlighten me!

We will do another tour during June, and keep you posted with what is growing in the field!

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.