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Posts Tagged ‘Oldfarm’

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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Growing pigs outdoors in Ireland, ain’t easy.  However, having said that we have been growing pigs outdoors for almost 15 years, so I guess we know a thing or two about it.

Our land is not ideally suited to it – heavy, clay soil – but you do the best you can.

In reality nowhere in Ireland is perfect for growing pigs outdoors.  There are areas of southern England where they have chalk soil that is good.

We have managed to keep our pigs outdoors all year round ever since we started to keep them.  You’ve heard it before – pigs are smart.  If it is too wet, too cold, snowing – they will stay indoors in a bed of straw.

Outdoor raised pigs produce a completely different meat to that of those raised in ‘factory’, or indoors.  Outdoor raised pigs obviously will have greater muscle tone.  While outdoors they are rooting about picking up various trace elements that occur naturally in the ground.

 

We’ve heard many say that there is no ‘standard’ for free-range pork.  Well there is.  Alfie is on the Bord Bia Technical Committee for Pig Meat, and it was Alfie that devised the standard.

Freerange Farmed:  a type of animal husbandry where pigs have free access to fields/woodland with defined boundaries for all or most of their natural life.  They receive their nutritional needs from prepared natural feed or from pasture or forage depending on the season.

We were the first pork producers to achieve ‘free-range status’.  However, and here is the rub…..it means nothing!  Yes, that is true.

The reason it means nothing is that most small producers use small abattoirs and small butchers, and none of these are registered with Bord Bia.  Only the big abattoirs and butchers are registered.  It is not cost effective for the small guys to pay the annual fees to be on the list of registered slaughter houses with Bord Bia.  Similarly, it is not feasible for small producers to take a couple of animals to one of the large processors.

As a consumer you have to ask yourself “what is important to you”?

Do you want to eat meat that has led a natural and healthy life outdoors, being fed organic feed?

Do you want to eat meat that has lead a natural and healthy life outdoors, being fed commercial pig meal which contains GMO soy and maize?

Do you want to eat meat that has been confined to a concrete building all its life, being fed commercial pig meal with  again GMO soy and maize, and I won’t mention antibiotic use?

The decision is yours.

You have the power to change how meat is reared in this country.

Will you vote with your fork?

 

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Home-made Yoghurt

I first posted this recipe up here way back in 2011.  I’ve simplified the system since… thus reducing the amount of wash-up!

There have been quite a few discussions lately with various bloggers about making yoghurt and whether it works with raw milk v pasteurised milk.  I’ve made it, using this method, with both raw and pasteurised, and it works!

To start with you will need to buy some yoghurt, but after that just remember to save a teaspoon to carry on your ‘culture’.

Oldfarm Yoghurt

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pt. Milk
  • 1 teasp. of natural yoghurt as a starter.

Equipment needed:

  • Wide saucepan
  • Milk Saver – I used upturned saucer!  See explanation following.
  • Thermometer
  • Wide necked flask.
  • Wide bowl/basin.

Method:

Put your milk in a wide saucepan with a ‘milk saver’. I use an upturned saucer!  Seemingly the ‘milk saver’ is to prevent the milk boiling over!

Bring your milk to the boil.  Then let it simmer for about 30 minutes until it has reduced to about two-thirds of the original amount.

Place saucepan in basin of cold water.  Wait for temperature to drop to 49 deg. F.   This takes about 5 minutes.

Add a teaspoon of natural yoghurt to your flask.  Pour in a little of the now cool milk and stir well.  Add the rest of the milk, stirring continually.

Seal flask and leave for a least 6 hours!

And then enjoy it for breakfast with some banana pancakes!

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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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This year I felt unsure about producing our calendar.

Do folks still use calendars?  Has everyone gone totally digital?

I am old-fashioned enough to use a wall calendar in the kitchen, and I also have one in the study, but that’s really only for reference.  The one in the kitchen has every appointment, booking, etc. filled in on it.

Still I debated.

We asked the question over on Facebook, and I was amazed by the number of responses.  All saying yes, despite the convenience of digital, people still love to have a kitchen calendar!

So I got to work…. trawled through all my photographs from 2017…. there are a lot!

With 24 photos of our life here in North Tipperary, the 2018 calendar has become a reality.  I know some of those who follow along here are from this part of Tipp – I think you will like this little montage of our life.

There are photographs of the animals and ‘the birds’.  There are some recipes.  And there are some photographs of places to visit in the area.  All the photos will be new to you… they’ve not been used on social media, or here on the blog.

Even if you’re not from North Tipperary you will enjoy the quirkiness of our life in photos!  They might even make a nice stocking filler!

If you’d like one (there is a limited number), you can book yours right here.

Oldfarm Calendar 2018

 

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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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Most of you who follow on Facebook etc. will be aware that these past few months have been challenging on the health front here.

Alfie had a heart attack at the end of September which among many other factors hit us with regard to supplying hams to our usual Christmas customers. When we realised that we were faced with possibly disappointing our regular customers, I contacted them all, explained the situation to try to establish what their needs were.

Everyone was so understanding, and for once luck was on our side… a lot of our regulars were travelling for Christmas and would not need hams. Therefore, what little hams we had we could share among those staying at home.

We chatted with some other producers to see how they were fixed for supplies, because we knew we would have calls all the way up to Christmas.

One producer came up trumps and said he had plenty and would be delighted to supply.

We duly recommended him to many ….. mostly new to us, so we were going to miss out on possibly supplying them beyond Christmas  He was being handed new customers on a plate as such.

Then, we got the call from family (we’d forgotten to ask them if they needed ham!!!). Yes, they wanted a ham….. and ‘NO’ we did not have one.

Rather than disappoint family, we contacted said producer, explained that it was for family and could he help? He’d be delighted to…. no problem…. although delivery would be Christmas week.

Oldfarm Christmas Ham

Sorted.

Money paid …. full price paid.

And, yes, you’ve guessed it….. NO HAM ARRIVED.

Despite endless text messages, phone calls, emails, over several days ….. this chap did not answer a single call.

Now what would you think?

Alfie suggested that maybe he’s been in an awful car crash or something?

I feel…. he’s excuse better be along those lines.

He has disappointed me as a customer.

He has embarrased me to my family.

He has totally embarrassed us to potential customers…… did they get their hams? Do they think we operate our business like this?

What would you think?

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