Posts Tagged ‘Oldfarm’

We’ve had a busy July of AirBnB visitors here at Oldfarm which has been wonderful and fun.  Some have asked me to share some of our recipes with them.

So here’s the first sharing – this one is for Lauren.

When Lauren and Josh stayed with us the hens were on a bit of a ‘go slow’ so I had to think up a dessert that did not involve eggs.  I hadn’t made this posset in years…. I think the original recipe came from an old book of my Mum’s.

Lemon Posset

Lemon Posset


  • 450 ml cream
  • 125 gr. caster sugar
  • 1.5 lemons juiced.


Bring the cream and caster sugar slowly to the boil, stirring gently until sugar dissolves.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the lemon juice.

Allow to cool slightly before pouring into glasses.  Leave to set in the fridge for a few hours.

A great ‘make ahead’ dessert, and really refreshing.  This quantity made 5 portions in the glasses I was using.

Enjoy 🙂



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Any of you who have received a delivery of Oldfarm Pork will be familiar with our insulated delivery boxes.  While the boxes work extremely well for delivery, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve deliberated over the fact that they aren’t very ‘environmentally’ friendly.

delivery boxes ready to go

delivery boxes ready to go


We’ve tried to work out a system where they could be returned…. but have always drawn a blank on that.

We’ve done research into biodegradable boxes, and, yes, they are available, but folks the cost!!!  Not just the cost of each individual box but the cost to us as you have to buy hundreds of boxes at a time and where would we store them???

It was fun then last week to get the following email from a customer:

 I’ve always wanted to try ‘sous-vide’ cooking, but not enough to pay five hundred euros to buy a proper sous-vide cooker. So I experimented. 

Using the insulated box you sent me my pork in, and a meat thermometer with a sharp probe, and a fillet steak already vacuum packed from Lidl. I heated water in a pan to 60 degrees C, poured it into your insulated box, popped in the steak still sealed in the pack from the shop, and poked the thermometer in through the  side of the box so that it reached into the water. Temperature was fifty seven or so and stayed at that temperature for an hour or so, long enough to cook my steak. Then I seasoned it and flash fried it to get a nice brown outside. Perfect, perhaps the best steak I ever ate.

Mike, I love your ingenuity.

Then I remembered another customer telling me they had used one of their boxes as a flower pot.  Look at this photo Maja sent me – she has a cape goose berry and flowers growing in hers.

Cape Gooseberry flourishing in an insulated box

Cape Gooseberry flourishing in an insulated box

So have any of our other customers found interesting ways of recycling/upcycling our delivery boxes?

We’d love to hear …. and it would certainly to partially salve our conscious about the environmental impact.

Thank you!




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When I initially thought about sharing details of some of the wonderful producers we have right on our doorstep here…. I think I counted 15 within a few minutes. That list has got longer and longer. I’ve neglected sharing details of any of them with you for too long.

And, of course, in that list I never thought about telling you about our own product. Doh!

So, today, as I kick-start this part of the blog, I am letting Alfie tell you about how we came to be pig farmers and pork producers.


Can you tell me about the background to Oldfarm Pork?  How did it all start?

Oldfarm Pork started by accident and necessity. Due to redundancies and lack of employment in our locality another source of income had to be found. As we were already rearing pigs for our own and family members table, it seemed like a logical thing to try to find markets for the type of pork that we were raising.

It was a rapid learning curve, when I mixed some young boars with young gilts [informed that pregnancy was not possible at their age.. WRONG] 52 piglets born in less than a week certainly focuses one’s mind on “what do I do now’. So we started a web site to promote the meat and I suppose the type of lifestyle we lead.

People seemed to be impressed with our ethos and care regarding clean food and its provenance.

What are you main business areas?

Raising and selling our pork and bacon products, and as a side to this running training courses on raising your own pigs. There are more and more people considering the option of raising their own food. Isn’t it wonderful to see this?

Who do you supply to? How can customers get your products?

Our customers are mainly private households who buy direct from us online, then we organize delivery via a courier service. A small number of restaurants order from us as well.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

Mud, lack of cash flow, not enough land.

Over the years there have been many different hurdles thrown our way.

While we grow our pigs in a totally organic way, using locally sourced, ethically grown feed… the cost of registering as ‘organic’ would add tremendously to our costs, which would then add to the cost of the meat. We have opted to stay with ‘free-range’. We were delighted to be the first (and I believe still the only) pork producers to attain ‘free-range’ approval from Bord Bia – The Irish Food Board for our pork.

We also used to do all the deliveries ourselves which was a great way to meet our customers, but with the constant increases in fuel costs this had to be reviewed. So for the past 18 months we have been using a courier service which has it’s ups and downs but overall works quite well.

Alfie & Pigs
What is the next challenge? New range, location change etc…

Increase our customer base, obtain more land, more added value products.

I am sure there is some other challenge just around the corner that we will have to overcome. It is the nature of business.

How important is social media to your organisation?

Vital.. as its direct access to customers, at a personnel level. We use our website, this blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. Some platforms we use more than others, but they all help to raise our profile and increase awareness of what we do.

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The McCaws

You are not going to believe it folks, but we have new residents here at Oldfarm, Redwood.

And you all thought that pigs were noisy????  Forget it.  Pigs are such quiet things compared to our new residents, who we hope will turn out to be guests…. and will leave soon.

Meet the McCaws.

Mr. and Mrs. McCaw

Mr. and Mrs. McCaw

Yes, we have 2 rooks staying with us.

They fell from their nests in a really bad storm a couple of weeks back.  We rescued them from being decimated by the dogs.

We had heard that rooks are intelligent birds, and these two certainly have proven that theory to be correct.  They come looking for us when they are hungry.  They sit at the kitchen door, making a rumpus when they want food.  (Watch feeding time )  They’ve been known to peck at the window to draw our attention to them.


As we work around the grounds, they fly and land nearby.

They have mastered flying.  Landing was the bigger problem, but they are getting better at it.  It is fun to watch them ‘talk’ to each other… they seem to have different ‘tones’ that they use.

I will be expecting the ‘men in white coats’ to come to the door after I type this next bit….. but, yes, we can tell their call as distinct from the other hundred rooks that live in the trees about us.

Did you know that it is supposedly very bad luck to get rid of a rookery?  At last count we have over 60 nests in the trees at the front of the house.

The feeding thing is the next hurdle to overcome…. we are trying to teach them to peck at the ground.

You see, you now have confirmation.  This is a total mad house.

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We have new babies here at Oldfarm…. born yesterday morning 🙂

Piglets (Bonhams)

Piglets (Bonhams)

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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.



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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Our participants on Saturday’s pig-rearing course were another great bunch….. and among them was a fellow-blogger.  I hadn’t come across Matt’s blog – Deefer Dawg – before, but I have to admit I spent quite a bit of time yesterday morning, reading back through some of his stories.   So, of course, I had to ask Matt if I could share his post about his experience on our course…..  so over to Matt

Course Participants - April 2014

Course Participants – April 2014

Yesterday, saw me up early again (OK, not quite so early) for my own education, my Pig Rearing (one day) Course all the way down in Tipperary, almost a 2 hour drive. This proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable and brilliant day in which we all learned a huge amount and, in my case, finally got to get hands-on with live pigs; we’d been feeling a bit like ‘book experts’ with both pigs and the bees – a wealth of ‘book-learning’ but zero practical experience!

The course happened at Old Farm, near Portumna in North County Tipperary which is a lovely small holding centred around a beautiful old house and with a goodly rambling collection of outbuildings and ‘Pop Larkin’ style piles of “stuff” which are all works in progress and projects which will get completed “when there is time”. The people were a superb couple, Alfie and Margaret, friendly and welcoming but obviously capable, practical and very knowledgeable, him a stockily built former off-shore commercial diver (North Sea Oil Platforms etc) and later diving instructor all around the world, a natural speaker and presenter with a fascinating style of training which had us all gripped, engaged and amused throughout. Margaret took more of a support role, on this course anyway, and looked after the admin and catering side of things but she is an award winning Blog Writer with a very enjoyable ‘voice’ (by her own admission sometimes given to rants against officialdom in the food industry). Her ‘A Year in Redwood’ blog (https://ayearinredwood.com/) has won “Best Blog of an Artisan Producer (Ireland and UK) 2014” and Best Lifestyle Blog 2012. She served up scones and coffee as we arrived and a superb lunch which gave us a choice of pork meatballs in tomato-y sauce or casserole of sausages and chick peas, all their own pork, naturally.

They are both driven advocates of all things organic, welfare, free range, low food-miles, Transition-Town and non GMO and were a big part in establishing a Free Range outdoor pig Quality standard mark (Q-Mark) within the Irish ‘Bord Bia’ food production quality standards people. Prior to that Bord Bia officials were almost entirely interested in meat for export and pigs by the tens of thousands from “nice clean, healthy” factories, all pink and free from mud, but who never see the daylight or (gasp!) dirt from which they might catch disease. Old Farm had quite a task on their hands trying to get Bord Bia to even come and have a look at their small production set-up, which was interested more in local markets and where pigs went (another gasp!) OUTSIDE and got muddy! Alfie raves against their rules which do not allow him to use brewers grains from the local organic micro-brewery or whey from the local organic cheese maker in his feeds. He despairs that he can sell pork mince but not as meat balls or burgers – for us the lunch had meat balls with (fresh) chopped onion and herbs in and their own eggs to bind them, where commercially he’d have to use sterile, dried onion and herb and some kind of chemical gloop to bind.

The pigs were an obviously happy, healthy collection which he keeps as full families. One enormous Saddleback sow was showing off 4 remaining youngsters in one pen, and we rousted another whole gang out of their siesta during our walk-about – a massive cross-bred boar, 2 huge sows, one pregnant and the other with 8 4-month old piglets ‘at foot’. Further round still were a group of market-ready boys and girls who we could scratch, tickle and get to know a bit better; the piglets with sow and the big old boar we had to just admire over the fence. I was amused to find that the 8 piglets were not some kind of blurry mix of all the breeds of pig in their make up, but were all different and all close to one or another of them, so you had recognise-able black and white “nearly Saddlebacks”, Gloucester Old Spots, Duroc and so on.

I could see immediately what is meant by pigs being like rotovators, rooting up the ground and clearing any brambles and weeds. The pig pens were finally reasonably dry after a very wet winter and were now a grass-less, dark brown/black crumbly tilth which you could have raked smooth and planted veg straight into. There was not a weed or leaf anywhere. Old Farm keep quite a few pigs and have them all year round, so they rest fields regularly and even have doors both ends of their pig arks so that they can split fields with electric fencing and the pigs get access to the ark from either half.

All in all an excellent, enjoyable day and a superb course. Thank you Alfie and Margaret and the menagerie at Old Farm, and also to my co-students who were all a great bunch, all beginners like us. Good luck with your own pigs; I think we were all going to go ahead with pigs; even those who were a bit undecided to start with and were on the course to see if they still thought it was a good plan. My only ‘negative outcome’ (as they say) was that Old Farm are firm advocates of electric fencing throughout, and Alfie was a bit doubtful (though politely and nicely so) whether my style of fencing would do the job, but we’ll see. If Mapp and Lucia manage a breakout and we find them picking up their own windfall apples, we can always add electric fence strands at a later date.


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Have you ever considered how fresh eggs are in the supermarket?  We are told that eggs have a shelf life of 5 to 6 weeks – mine never last that long, so I can’t confirm or deny this fact.  So, how old are eggs when they land in the supermarket?

I’ve tried to do some research on your behalf but have in fact run into a blank wall for details on Irish eggs.

From what I can gather in the UK, US and Canada eggs can be defined as ‘fresh’ when arriving in supermarkets 10 days after being laid.  I am told that if you count back 28 days from the Best Before date it will give you an indication of when the egg was laid.

I remember watching a documentary on TV many years ago about egg producers in Ireland.  Did you know they don’t necessarily ‘grow’ all the eggs themselves? They have a number of smaller producers who grow the eggs.  The big companies send out their trucks a couple of times a week to collect eggs from growers.  The eggs are brought back to base, graded and probably stamped and then shipped out to the supermarket.  This, of course, all takes time.

Freshly Poached Egg

Freshly Poached Egg

And the whole reason for this research is that I recently had  some comments from customers.

Why are eggs ‘cloudy’?

Well, folks, the reason eggs are ‘cloudy’ is because they are so fresh.

The white, or albumen, of a very fresh egg contains dissolved carbon dioxide, which makes it look ‘cloudy’.  As the egg ages, the carbon dioxide escapes, so that the white becomes more transparent.  This does not mean that there is a problem with transparent white, it is just not as fresh as ‘cloudy’ white.

I am guessing here, but I imagine that carbon dioxide in the white is why truly fresh eggs are so easy to poach and keep their shape without any fussing about with swirls and vinegar etc.

What causes ‘blood’ spots in eggs?

Again this is a sign of the freshness of the egg.  Regular readers will know that I have been known to follow hens about to keep a supply of eggs at the Honesty Table!

Blood spots occur when blood or a bit of tissue is released along with a yolk.  As an egg ages, the blood spot becomes paler, so a bright blood spot is a sign that the egg is fresh.

Eggs are bad for those with cholesterol?

This has now been proven to be a fallacy!  Eggs are one of the super foods – just generally really good for you.  Check out Joanna Blythman in yesterday’s Guardian – Why almost everything you’ve been told about unhealthy foods is wrong

It wasn’t so long ago that we were spoon-fed the unimpeachable “fact” that we should eat no more than two eggs a week because they contained heart-stopping cholesterol, but that gem of nutritional wisdom had to be quietly erased from history when research showing that cholesterol in eggs had almost no effect on blood cholesterol became too glaringly obvious to ignore.

Or this article from 3 years ago by Alex Renton – Just how Fresh is Fresh – I find this totally scary!

Those who have visited us here at Oldfarm will know that I have a kind of ‘filing’ system for my eggs, and that I pencil the date they were laid on the shell.  It leaves my customers in no doubt as to how fresh our eggs are.

I wonder why major egg producers don’t just stamp eggs this way too?  It would surely make life much easier for the consumer.

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I’ve been planning this post for months, and for some reason never got around to sharing it!

However, what better time to do so than during National Tree Week.

National Tree Week is when we in Ireland celebrate our trees, something we should probably have thought about doing a long time ago.  Only 11% of this island is planted with trees, compared to an average of 40% in the rest of Europe.

A mix of trees line our driveway

A mix of trees line our driveway

One of the things that sold this house to us in the first place was the trees.  We are so lucky to have such beautiful trees around the house.  The Grandad of the previous owners was very forward thinking for his day, and planted lots of trees.  We have no photographs of how the house looked, but have been told there was an arbour at the back of the house, and that there was lots of bamboo planted on the southern side to protect from the wind.

My favourite tree... a lovely cool place to have a swing in hot weather :)

My favourite tree… a lovely cool place to have a swing in hot weather 🙂

We have continued the tradition planting trees every year…. and boy were we glad that we have been doing so this winter, as so far we’ve lost 6 rowan trees, our last crab apple tree and a really old plum tree.  We weren’t the only ones that lost trees in the area… the wonderful poplar in the grounds of Birr Castle that had been nominated for European Tree of the Year succumbed to the weather too.


This Linden Tree we’ve had to have pollarded.  There is a huge split in the trunk, but hopefully if we can continue to have it pollarded regularly it will last for a good few years.  It is a beauty.

Last year we took part in the Plant a Million Trees in a Day initiative….and hope to do so again this year.

Back trees

The view from my kitchen sink 🙂

We all need to cherish our trees.  They are such an integral and critical part of the eco system, without trees we are nothing.  They are our lungs.

Do you have a favourite tree?



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