The Honks

img_36972

Anyone familiar with my story up to this will know that I’m potty about pigs but extra specially potty about one. Honky is a pig I reared from birth. She was completely bottle fed by me having got severe scour and almost dying. Then when I tried to reintroduce her to her siblings they bullied her so she effectively became a member of the household.

Eventually she was moved out and socialised with her own sort but she still has a big part of my heart. The fact that she’s an utter wagon is neither here nor there. She’s grumpy, touchy, easily irritated but also when she feels like it and entirely on her terms – affectionate and loving. She also gives me a huge welcome if she hasn’t seen me for a few days and she demonstrates extreme happiness.

From birth she’s had foot problems. The vet where I lived before said she had laminitis and so I fed her special food for horses who suffer the same. She tends to get bouts particularly when she’s in season and there’s been times she wouldn’t get out of bed even to eat. I’ve seen her walk on her elbows when it’s been very severe.

However, recently I noticed her front feet were very long and in need of a trim. Then I discovered one hoof was split. I spoke to the vets in Wellingtonbridge and I also enquired with a man who pared cattle’s feet. He said straight away that she wouldn’t fit in the crush he uses to hold the cows as he had difficulty even holding weanlings. So the vets decided the only option was sedation. You can’t just lift a pig’s foot like a horse and you can’t just do anything to her Honkyness. She is super sensitive to any interference on her person.

The vet practice rang me to say they were having difficulty sourcing the sedation for pigs and over a week went by. I called in one day to see what the problem was and was told they had got it and would be out the next day. I got a brainwave and asked my neighbour who is a blacksmith if he would be here as well to advise. He agreed.

During the summer one of the weaners had cut her foot very badly probably on some glass or barbed wire or rusty barrels that had been dumped and buried on the land here by the previous owners. I had spent ages picking up anything I had come across but pigs being pigs had obviously rooted up more. It was a really nasty gash but I figured out that it couldn’t be stitched but it needed a deep clean and she probably needed an antibiotic shot. A young slight woman had come out and to say she rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in is an understatement. Most vets have very little experience of pigs and are even scared of them. She asked me to try to hold the pig and she dived in and began cleaning the wound. Holding a 65kg squirming, squealing pig is not easy and it took us all our strength to get the wound cleaned. She was marvellous so I asked for her to come out to sedate Honky.

They rang me to say they were on their way and I rang my neighbour. Another vet had come along, a young man who also was really impressive. You might wonder why I am commenting like this but I’ve had experience of calling vets in the past to come to treat a horse who were patently scared of horses and vets who were totally useless with pigs. Just like any profession there are many more average than excellent.

They had a look at Honky and estimated her weight. I suggested in the region of 300 kg and they thought it was in the ball park. Mary drew up a syringe of the sedative and said that she reckoned it would be more than enough. I grabbed a bucket of food and gave it to Honky then got the other two out with their food. She got the needle in behind her ear easily and we waited and we waited. I asked how long it would take to act and she said about 5 minutes. After about 10 she appeared a bit shaky on her feet but then she can often appear like that. They kept saying any minute now. She started to shake her head and make strange noises but showed no sign of going down. It was like she was trying to clear a fog from her brain. I said I don’t think that is going to work and they decided to give her another dose. This time she was much more irritated by the injection and they just about managed to get it in. And then we waited and waited and waited.

She started to go down but fought it tooth and nail. Then eventually she keeled over.  But she had managed to stagger back up and over to the only place in the shed that wasn’t bedded and she began to slam her head down on the hard ground as if she was rocking to get back on her feet. My immediate instinct was to rush over to stop her hurting herself. They all screamed at me to stay away from her. She could crush and kill me. So we could do nothing but stand and watch this horror hoping the sedation would take enough effect and she would stop. But it didn’t. Larry my neighbour shouted that she was going to do herself serious injury and jumped over the fence to grab a rope. He knotted it in such a way that he was able to get it in her mouth and behind her tusks and he pulled her down. Immediately Thomas lay across her head and Mary set to work with a very blunt set of clippers. At this stage it was getting dark and they had to work with only light from a head torch and fast to get the job done before the sedation began to wear off. Mary said to me to get more straw to surround her with and as I squeezed behind Larry he released tension on the rope and she began to move. Even with two doses that would floor an elephant she wasn’t fully sedated.

img_3678

After about half an hour of paring her feet and cleaning out an infection in one they were almost finished. Larry once again released the tension on the rope and she began the head slamming again. He had to tighten it as they sprayed blue spray and gave her injections of anti-inflammatory and antibiotics. Then they told me it “should” wear off in an hour. Four hours later I was still beside her shoving straw under her head to prevent her bashing her brains in. I couldn’t leave her for a minute. I had let the others back in as they were going crazy at the door wanting to go to bed. They of course wanted to investigate what was up with her.

I sat beside her stroking her head and shoving straw under it for ages. At one point she began grinding her teeth and it was so severe I was really worried she would bite her tongue and choke on the blood. Then she began frothing at the mouth. At this stage I was completely terrified and too scared to leave her for a second. I had put my phone in the house to charge or I would have rung the vets to come back out. She began to vomit a huge amount of green bile that smelt horrendous and I had to try and clear that out from under her head. Eventually the head slamming began to slow down to just periodic bouts and I was able to get up. I banked up straw all around her, left her but came back out to check her every half hour. At about 10 pm she had moved into a normal lying position with her head up. To say I was relieved was a massive understatement.

img_36841
Finally the head slamming stopped and she appeared to be sleeping

I checked her a few more times before going to bed and considered checking her during the night but figured out what she needed was sleep and peace and quiet.

Next morning she looked up when I went into feed the others but didn’t get up. I carried her food over to her and she took a mouthful but seemed to find chewing painful. I’d say she had bitten her tongue. I tried her with a bowl of watered down cream as I had some in the fridge but she wouldn’t even take that. I had to go into the vets to get more antibiotics and copper sulphate for a footbath, so got a brainwave and bought yoghurt and bananas. She delicately ate a whole bunch of peeled bananas (she’d normally eat the skin as well). I couldn’t get any fluid into her but was relieved she had eaten the fruit. She never ventured out of bed all that day or the next.

img_3685
Sick, groggy and disoriented the next day

On Sunday morning she refused her food again but ate the bananas and yoghurt and this time I managed to get some kefir into her. She had got up on Saturday but was very distressed and agitated. She would lie down then get up again on repeat. I put the radio on and it appeared to settle her. I left it on for two days.

img_36901
Listening to LyricFM

During this time my neighbour was popping in to check on her (and me) and he said he reckoned it was a big mistake to sedate her. The vets had said that pigs aren’t like other animals and you can’t reverse the sedation. It was a miracle that she didn’t have a heart attack during it or do herself a serious injury. I don’t think I could watch any animal go through what she did again and certainly not her.

It was such a relief on the Sunday evening when she was actively shouting for her food because I had to begin the antibiotic powders then (the injection they had given her was only good for two days).

Then on Monday when I discovered her outside,  I was overjoyed. If anything had happened to her because of the sedation I don’t think I would ever have forgiven myself. I know she had to have her feet treated but sedation must be extremely hard on pigs. The whole thing was an absolute nightmare and I was fit for nothing after the stress of it.

They say you should never get too fond of animals you rear for food but Honky was given a pardon days after her birth and she’s the very same to me now as a dog, a cat or a horse. I love her and in her own way I know she loves me.

The Guests

 

img_3243

I decided around the same time I was going to host Woofers that I would set up as an AirBnB as well. I have two spare rooms, one ensuite and figured since I’m nearly always around it would be a nice little earner. From the off virtually everything that could go wrong, did. But the biggest nightmare was shortage of water due to the drought.

 

You can’t accept paying guests and expect them to do a rain dance every time they wanted a shower. I had to turn down a good number of bookings. AirBnB frown on this and make your property virtually invisible. It’s hard enough to get queries anyway when you’re starting out but this made it impossible. I couldn’t figure out why no matter what area I put in to search properties around about, one place kept showing at the top of the list. And it isn’t anything special, believe me. Plus it wasn’t anywhere near the places it said it was. Frustrating to say the least. It also depends on reviews and it’s so disheartening when you bust a gut for very little money and you get none.

 

However, I decided I was in it for the long haul and slowly I would build up a reputation. Their website is really really badly set up. It’s beyond confusing and making a change to a price invariably causes confusion and mistakes. I’m not the only one who says this. I’ve heard it from other hosts and guests. I had decided to give a second guest sharing one room a small discount but when bookings were made they applied it regardless. This meant I hosted three Germans in the summer in two rooms for a pittance. My most recent guests the same. So I removed the discount and inadvertently made every guest after the first free…….

I then got a query from a couple and their brother staying one night in two rooms with breakfast for €31.66. She had even messaged me to say how much she was looking forward to breakfast. When I replied it was a mistake on my part. She replied “ I thought it was too good to be true”.

During the summer some of my Woofers went off at the weekend and booked hostels. They told me the prices ranged from €25-50 in a dorm with up to twelve and no breakfast. In an air bnb around here you don’t pay much more. Compare that to a regular B&B where you’d pay at least double or a three star hotel where it would probably be double again. And I can guarantee that the cooked breakfast will be the cheapest quality pork on the market.

I had decided I was going to feed guests the way I eat. There was no way I was going to buy intensively produced breakfast meats, or sliced pans or instant coffee. Guests here get homemade granola, organic yoghurt, my own sourdough, free range eggs from the hens outside the window, a selection of my jams and marmalades, real tea (not bags) and freshly ground and brewed organic coffee. I also put that I had my own bacon, sausage when available. When available and also not when AirBnB has applied a discount across the board.

So imagine how I felt to get complaints about the breakfast. The complainants also had asked if I had Earl Grey tea (which I had). They had had all of the above minus the bacon and sausage because I had made a decision I wasn’t going to give away my hard work for nothing.

This hard work was from April to September. Feeding pigs twice a day, not using commercial meal with pesticide laden GM soy. This meant that if I’m not around I have to pay someone to come in twice a day. This meant that I haul heavy bags of feed around myself. This meant that during the drought I lugged water out to them that my neighbour kindly provided when mine ran out. I also drive to the beach and collect seaweed and haul it back. I’m not writing this looking for sympathy. It is my decision to do it but it would be nice if your guests recognised this and the fact they are getting a breakfast better than any I’ve ever had in a 5 star hotel.

I also provide an evening meal if they request one. The quality of the food again is what I buy and cook for myself. For €25 a head they get two courses and a glass of wine. There are very nice places to eat locally and some are quite reasonable but guests have said I’m one of the few AirBnBs that offer this and they really appreciated it.

So I’m now at the point of should I just do away with the B supplying only the bed (and the air.) Or should I persevere and hope that I get a reputation as a quality AirBnB. Not supplying breakfast means a lot less work. You don’t have to get up an hour earlier than they say they’d like breakfast because you’ve still got to get all the animals fed first.

I think I will make a decision next summer when business (hopefully) picks up again.

 

But a small request? When you do stay in an AirBnB, particularly one starting out, please leave a review.  And please appreciate the little extras provided (the fresh towels, the slippers, the carafe of lovely well water, the hot water bottle service, the toiletries in case you’ve forgotten your own). Most of these you do not get as standard in a 4 star hotel. How often I’ve had to beg a grumpy bartender for water for my room.

 

The First Anniversary

img_7688
Photograph by El

This day last year repeated over and over in my head. Crippled by grief, by regret, by guilt. Wishing I had an hour, a measly hour to talk to you before that bastard disease took your brain.

This morning walking the fields with the pigs and the dogs. The sun shining in a deep blue sky. You would have loved it here. You loved being outside.

Dad, I woke this morning before 4am, about the time I left you last year, to get some sleep. I didn’t think you were going to go so soon, but you did. You never woke up. You never had that lucid few moments you hear some people have. You took your last breath with your youngest children holding your hands.

I got the call before 7am and we raced back down to the nursing home. If I could now have that hour with you I would tell you…….

There isn’t a day or a part of a day that I don’t think about you.

I see you on the beach every time I see the sun’s long shadows on shells.

I think of you when the wind is onshore or offshore or rippling on the tide racing in on sinking sands.

I saw you in the stars last night through the bathroom velux and then this morning I read the poem on your memorial “I am the soft starlight at night”…….

I think of you on cold frosty nights. “It’s perishing”, you would say as you felt the radiator.

I think of you when I see old men with their backs to me wearing beige coats and flat caps.

I think of you every time I walk the dogs. “Let them off the lead to have a run”…..

I think of you every time I see some “dirty looking eijit” driving on the beach. You’d have gone mad at that.

img_3307

I ask myself so often – where are you? Can you see us? Do you know what we are all doing?

Do you know we miss you? And.

Does this get any easier?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wwoofers

img_2582
Walking on Hook Head in evening sun

I decided to get Wwoofers (officially stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). I had heard of the organisation before I moved here but assumed I wasn’t “farm” or “organic” enough. However, turns out as long as you practice a mostly organic ethos you qualify and it doesn’t matter how tiny you are. So one night in the depths of winter I took out membership to be a host.

I had loads of queries. But one thing I learned very quickly is; you tell them – yes, they can come and then you never hear from them again. I accepted three Israeli girls who sent me a long apologetic message that they appreciated most places wouldn’t take the three of them but they really, really wanted to stay together. Close to the time I emailed them did they want directions. They replied “oh sorry, we’re not coming, we thought we had told you…..”.

So then I told them all they could come. Most I never heard from again but I ended up with a crossover of two serious ones. More of that anon but the funniest had to be the message from two German guys driving around Ireland. Hi, we are two German guys who love the look of your farm. We would love to come stay with you for a week but don’t worry you don’t need to pick us up…..!” Read that as we’d like free accommodation at your place because it’s close to the sea….!!

My first Woofer didn’t come through WWOOF. I had worked in the US as a student on my year out. Somehow being deeply persuasive I had convinced the dean of my faculty that a year out in California would really be good for experience in temperate climate plants…….! I told you I was persuasive. He okay’d it despite his better judgement. Anyway to cut a long story short, as my dad used say; I ended up in California in the Los Angeles Arboretum, San Diego Zoo and a National Trust equivalent – Filoli (famed as the location for Dynasty, The Fall Guy and Fantasy Island where I met and had a photo taken with Pierce Brosnan long before he became famous, amongst others.) I met the first woofer’s mother at work there and subsequently his father when they were just boyfriend and girlfriend. I later attended their wedding and then we kept in touch for years only to lose contact but get reacquainted by Facebook – as you do!

She messaged me one night that he wanted to come to Ireland Woofing. I said he could come here and that was it. He began the lengthy process of painting all my outbuildings to match the startling white of my house.

img_21411

Conor from Seattle turned out to be ace at painting having the patience to dabble pebbledash to within an inch of it’s life. Here he is in blistering heat painting the pebbledash gable end of the shed. I was at the field side scraping off the loose grey paint from years ago. I almost got sunstroke because I never thought to put a hat on. My neck got fried.

He painted most of my outbuildings while he was here. I had been persuaded to leave the goddamn yellow front door so I wanted to paint the shed doors with something that would match. I settled on this lime green that I think has done the job.

img_2113
These little sheds on a hot evening reminded me of a Greek taverna

Conor left to go on a jolly around Ireland and I had Elio the French student next. Somehow I’d got it into my head he was 19 (He was 25). I had to pick him up at the bus outside SuperValu, New Ross. I arrived and parked in the car park along the quays opposite and sat waiting. I had decided I’d wait and see what he looked like before making myself known. If he looked scary I’d just drive off. Thankfully he looked like someone I’d be happy to have. I did tell him all this later and we had a laugh. I’m so glad I didn’t drive off because he was a pleasure to have. He was a superb worker as well as mannerly and all the animals loved him.

img_2343
Pigs at his feet

He had asked to stay for a month but I really didn’t want to commit to that length of time in case we didn’t get on or he was useless. I like my own company and independence and the thoughts of having anyone in my space for that length of time horrified me. However, he did stay a month and it flew and I was sad to see him go. He went off at weekends which gave me breathing space which helped too.

The first day he was here I asked him to stack the rest of the wood that had been split and was thrown all over the hayshed floor. I thought it would take him the morning. He had it done in an hour and I had a panic attack that I would never have enough work for him. But needless to say in an old place like this, there is always something to do. He finished off the painting so that everything is now a gleaming white and can probably be seen from space.

I had been making mutterings about the old stone shed and had begun to chip off the grey paint that was flaking off. It had been painted over lime wash years ago and in winter I noticed that when I leaned against the inside wall to pull on or off my wellies, the wall was wet. This was because the paint was preventing the old building from breathing as lime mortar and wash traditionally did. I spoke to several people who all sucked in between their teeth and looked at me like I was somewhat touched. Then they all muttered about “big money”. Read that as they didn’t want to be bothered to do it but if I insisted they would charge me handsomely. How hard can it be to do it myself I wondered. And as always, thought if people with little or no equipment, access to the internet etc could do it years ago, why couldn’t I? I began trawling through Google and just got completely confused by all the technical terms for lime – hydrated lime, slaked lime, lime putty etc.

I went down to the big Homevalue place in Wellingtonbridge to ask. They were totally honest and said they hadn’t a clue but called a man over. He turned out to be the owner. He asked for my phone number, there was someone he knew who had done a job for the OPW and by coincidence he had been in earlier. He would give him a call and then let me know what he said. He also told me ring Byrne’s in Carlow. They turned out to be The Traditional Lime Company. I rang and the man I spoke to told me he’d ring me back, I had disturbed his morning cup of tea………

The long and short of it was I convinced Elio to have a go. He didn’t do that Gallic shrug thing the French are wont to do, so that was encouraging. He didn’t look thrilled though. What had been his downfall was showing me photos of the stone wall he had built in the last place he had been on the Cork/Waterford border. He understood stone and that was nine tenths of the battle as far as I was concerned. I was sitting at the table outside on the patio with him and Michelle, the German Woofer (the crossover) having lunch when I suddenly decided; as I do a lot, to jump in the car and drive to Tullow in Carlow to buy the NHL 3.5 lime, the 0.5ml sand and the lime putty. Michelle on hearing it would probably take me most of the afternoon to drive there and back asked how far it was. She burst out laughing when I told her 60km odd. Twisty turny roads and up over Mount Leinster doesn’t make for much speed. I got it and the next day we set about mixing the mortar. Once more Larry the neighbour came to the rescue. I reckon I’m providing endless entertainment here because a neighbour can rarely pass the gate without having to stop to see what’s going on. He offered his drill and a mixer attachment to mix the mortar.

Elio and myself set to it but it became apparent that he was a natural and I was just annoying him. He told me to go away. He got half the front done in no time and then was itching to lime wash it. We probably should have waited another day or two but I was dying to see what it would look like as well. He put on the first coat and stood scratching his head. Is it supposed to be so watery and all running down the wall? We thickened up the mix and applied a second coat. Then stood back to admire the gleaming white. He headed off to Dublin to run the Half Marathon for the weekend and myself and Michelle stood looking at it in horror the next morning. Drizzley rain overnight had washed most of it off.

img_2504

However, when he came back on Monday he applied several more coats and this time they stuck. He finished the back and then showed Michelle how to do it. She’s out there now slowly and forensically finishing it off. She does everything slowly and forensically including surgically removing weeds which is a skill that should be on her cv! She was one of the others I said yes to when she requested to come and then promptly forgot all about her. That was why I had a crossover for a couple of weeks.

I said yes to a big hairy Spanish chap who says he’s an electrician and carpenter but although he initially replied, I’ve had no definite confirmation from him. So when Michelle leaves next month I may not get anyone else.

The little shed is looking mighty fine now like the grand old dame she is. A neighbour thinks it may have been the original farmhouse on the property as it’s got a mezzanine. There is also has the remnants of the old milking machine and pressure guage inside plus the little annexe they put the calves into when they were milking the cows. I keep my feed in here and for now my new hens are in it until they get accepted by the existing bullies.

Having Woofers turned out to be a very positive experience and one that I will definitely do again. I think we all gained from it. And once you get over the horror of someone in your house long term, it’s absolutely fine.

img_2613
Job done

 

The Heatwave

img_2068

Hard to believe looking back at this that Irish fields resembled Tuscan ones. After the worst winter in 72 years, we had the hottest one in 42. Ten weeks of drought where 40 shades of green turned to 40 shades of yellow and burnt umber. The pigs struggled with the heat and spent most of the day in the hayshed or out behind the mound of building rubble in a shady nook created by it and overhanging trees. The poultry were the same hardly venturing out of the hayshed during the hottest part of the day. We got used to waking up to blue skies and intense heat.

What’s rare is wonderful but with everything there has to be a downside and mine was water. The old well was running really low and I was worried. I contacted the council to see was there a grant to connect the deep well sunk in 1990, 200 feet deep and costing £750! How did I know all this? It was written on a piece of cardboard hanging on the back wall of the big shed. We had cleared it of all it’s junk and the sign was there.

The previous owners for some reason had emptied the contents of the house into it during renovation. It was a huge higgeldy piggeldy mess. I had asked an antiques shop owner from New Ross if he wanted to take a look in it. To be honest it was difficult to see anything in it. For all I knew there could be some gem hidden in there that would pay for all the work I had to do. Wishful thinking. It was rubbish and falling assunder from woodworm. The antiques guy valiently climbed over it all and found two wooden boxes he was interested in. He offered me €100. I bit the hand off him wondering was he slightly touched. He dragged them out and I’m still convinced he was. Actually he promised he would let me know when he’d done them up so I could see he wasn’t……… !

But back to the well. I was approved for the grant and I found a company to give me a price. Pump experts I was told. After weeks of pestering he arrived one really hot evening to sink a submersible pump, pump out the water for a few days then get it tested.

img_2084
Curious onlookers

He connected the pump, connected the power and sailed off telling me to run the water for 15-20 minutes every day. Unfortunately he had barely cut the cable to reach the socket in the shed and I had to pig proof it outside from a pair of nibbling terrorists. So it had to be extended using an extension lead. It ran for a few minutes then cut out. Great. The excitement at finally having water was short-lived.

Up to this I had been sparingly using my own water for absolute necessities like toilets and showers. I had stopped using the washing machine and dishwasher, trawling up to the washing machines in the village and washing up in a small bowl in the sink. My neighbour had connected me by a series of pipes running from the well in his stable yard, down his fields and under the road in a drain. These pipes were all connected using connection pieces that in the intense heat burst apart so I had no water. I had assumed he had switched me off for some reason. When I finally got desperate I rang him and he said to my utter horror that this must have happened and that the water was running down the hill. We went to investigate and it was. He put something over all the connections to keep them cool and I ran the water at intervals so that the heat didn’t build up. The water coming through the black piping was warm enough to wash up with!

This water was then filled into two barrels which I used for watering the animals, the tunnel and the flowers in the containers I had nurtured before the poultry ate most of them. They were desperate for greens.

Eventually we figured out why the new well was cutting out. The extension lead had a safety cut out as it couldn’t cope with the power required for the pump. However, it soon became apparent that the water was absolutely manky in the well. The tests came back high in manganese and iron (explained the brown colour), and high in coliforms. He connected the UV filter installed previously and said the water wouldn’t kill me. Good to know. Even looking that unappealing the smell of hydrogen sulphide was the deal breaker. I decided it wasn’t even fit for the pigs.

Then I had to go back to the council and ask could the grant cover a filtration system. I was told the grant was just over €2000 so it would cover connection and half the cost of the filtration installation. Better than a kick in the arse anyway. Now I’m waiting for him to come back to finish the job. To date I’m using that well for the house but not for drinking or even cooking with. Thank God for Larry’s well.

The rain finally returned. All around the country people were saying it was raining but there was no sign of any here. I was watching weather charts and it would look as if we would get it but we seemed to keep missing it. It was really disheartening. But then it did eventually. Even now coming up to the end of August the fields are still bone dry. It will take a good few weeks more of heavy rain to improve the situation and traditionally September and October are when the water table is lowest even after a normal summer.

The heatwave is well and truly over and it suddenly began to feel very autumnal a couple of weeks ago. The summer and drought of 2018 will forever be etched in my mind though just as the past winter is.

img_1961
Sitting out on the new patio until 10.30 watching the sun set

 

The Food

img_1948

I know I “may” have waxed lyrical about the food since I moved here. I know also that the food in Ireland has improved immeasurably in recent years but holy cow – the fish in Wexford. Not only the fish, the tomatoes, the strawberries and the spuds. The spuds, namely Wexford Queens bring terroir to a whole new level. Put that in yer pipe Frogs, and smoke it. Wexford Queens grown in sandy soil with sea breezes sweeping over them. There is nothing to compare. Nothing as good. Nothing on the planet.

Did I mention the fish? The fish. Oh my God. I live down the road from Mickey the Winch in Arthurstown. He was the owner of the Pere Charles that sank with the loss of five men. Since then he’s never gone to sea but started a smokehouse, Ballyhack Smokehouse smoking wild and farmed salmon. He also sells fish weekly in my local village but if you miss that, you can pop down to his house.

img_1713
Poached wild salmon, Wexford new season Queens, Kilmore asparagus
img_1827
Monkfish wrapped in pancetta, olives, local tomatoes from Campile, courgette fettuccine and Queens Wexford
img_1810
Moules Mariniere

Moving to Wexford from Meath where the only place to get good fish was in a super little but wholly inaccessible fish shop in Navan. It was a brilliant shop but it was a hike and parking was a nightmare. So much so that I only went a couple of times a month and stocked up. Here, I can get fish daily almost and it’s only a 5 min drive.

img_1407
Kilmore asparagus with my own duck egg and sourdough

I get local, seasonal and mostly chemical-free veg from Ronan’s Farm Shop in New Ross. I also get Wexford free range pork and bacon (sadly not organic)  and organic chicken. The chicken is from Regan Organics and is second to none. They do duck eggs as good as my own. That’s always my marker. Do they do it as good as I do? Few do, but they do.

The Nutshell café and health food store  in New Ross are terrific for all the other organic dry goods. They order me in 5kg bags of organic strong flour. I make all my own bread because the only decent bakery is in Tramore (Seagull Bakery). I also make my own focaccia and brioche burger buns that I keep in the freezer.

img_1835
Homemade free range pork and beef burger, brioche bun

I often take a spin up to Gorey on a Saturday to the market there where they always have a great selection of in season vegetables. Then pop into Partridge’s for a coffee and an almond scone with the mammy.  After that a potter around the shops. Gorey has to be one of the best shopping towns in the country.

I buy chips of jam strawberries from Green’s and make pots of strawberry jam. It’s become a summer tradition. I’ve since discovered a local strawberry grower – Danescastle.

img_20072
Green’s strawberries
img_2040
Strawberry jam

But it’s not only great ingredients, the local restaurants and pubs are pretty great too. Such a joy when you don’t feel like cooking or have unexpected visitors.

img_1163
Beer battered fish and chips

I’m pretty spoiled by having Roche’s of Duncannon who do the best fish and chips and Yellowbelly beers down the road.

img_2171

I’ve spoken about The Hollow Bar up the road as well that do great fish and have a gin and tonic menu to die for. Not to mention Aldridge Lodge and Dunbrody (which I’ve yet to sample).

Wexford has pretty great food. It doesn’t have the fame of Cork or even West Cork but that’s because no one is shouting loudly. I aim to change that.

The Now

It’s almost mid-summer. I’m now here going on 8 months but I feel like I’m here so much longer. The feeling of unfamiliarity has almost gone. I had to ask initially where everything was. The feed supplier, hardware, recycle centre, health food shop, butcher (non-existent), the baker, the candlestick maker. I’m sure I drove my neighbour daft texting her, asking stuff. The drive home from Dublin, Meath and elsewhere is now familiar and I have reference points to know how much longer it will take. It’s very disconcerting in the beginning when you have no idea.

img_1806

The animals have all taken to it like ducks to water. Indeed the very first ducks were born here the other day. And hopefully in a week or so there will be chicks to join them. Will I breed pigs again? I’m tempted to but not with the present stock. I think the way to go is breed pure bred rare breeds. I’m waiting for my inspection for my new herd number. I didn’t realise the old one was related to Meath. The vet rang me last week and said they’ve a big backlog and he will be out towards the end of next week.

I have decided I will grow a few sheep next year because I have way too much grass. The end paddock is the biggest one and I didn’t use it in the winter and now the grass is waist height in it. My neighbour is cutting it every day but that day hasn’t actually arrived. Probably for dock and other weed control it would be an idea to stick a few goats on it but the thoughts of them escaping…………. Sheep don’t thrill me either apart from eating them. From listening to other sheep farmers they seem to have one aim only and that is to find ways to kill themselves.

Who knows what the future will bring? Would I do it all again? Definitely. I never loved Meath. When I moved there initially, I said “six weeks and I’m gone”. Not sure where to but I found it really backward and insular. We had moved home from living in England for 6 years with two small children. It drove me crazy how limited the shops were. I used drive to SuperQuinn in Blanchardstown once a week to do my grocery shopping and then later in Blackrock on my way home from visiting my parents and that was before the Clonee bypass never mind the motorway.

I suppose I gradually just got used to it but I do remember when the kids were small driving back after being in Wexford with them, how much I hated going back. There is an invisible line at Clonee where the weather changes. You leave Wexford or Dublin in glorious sunshine, hit that line and the sky darkens, without fail. When I was house hunting last summer it happened every single time. I would leave my house and the wind and rain and drive to Bray or Ashford depending on who was coming with me and the sun would come out. For the 10 houses I viewed (some of them twice) it only rained for two but it was grey and dreary on leaving, every single trip.

The locals laugh here when I tell them the weather is miles better in the sunny southeast. They don’t think it is, but they haven’t lived in Meath.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day and it’s the first without dad. In truth he hadn’t a clue what it was for quite a number of years. Dementia had robbed him of everything. We all wished him dead. Sounds an awful thing to say but to watch someone you love go through that dreadful illness is the worst form of torture for you and for them. If an animal had that poor a quality of life you would be accused of cruelty not to humanely end it. Humanely? We treat animals humanely. We treat people abominably.

I’m so glad I decided to write all this down before I forget, because at the back of my mind is the dread that dementia is genetic and I will go the same way. I hope if they can’t find a cure they at least find a way to put people out of their misery if they make a decision in advance that is what they wish.

For now, that’s the end of this chapter. But I’m sure there will be many more.