The 2nd Autumn

New chicks

The summer slithered into autumn as it always does but somehow it seems to do so earlier and earlier every year. It’s not even September but already there’s a definite morning chill even on a glorious sunny day. The work outside has somewhat stalled due in part to the rapid and early departure of the last woofers. But I was glad to see the back of them. I’m getting another for a month on 23rd September and already wondering if it’s a mistake. I think the key with woofers is to have somewhere for them to stay away from your house so everyone has their own space. A lot of these young kids are very clueless and don’t seem to have grasped the concept of personal space. Plus I will never take a couple again. Suffice to say you don’t get twice the work but you get twice the food bill.

The Airbnb ramped up a pace after a very slow summer. I discovered my place wasn’t coming up on searches for the area and got onto their helpline. They admitted there was a problem and worked to sort it. It’s still not at a level where it’s worth my while so I decided to up my prices. I don’t want clientele coming down here for a weekend drinking. I don’t want the budget traveller who just wants a bed for the night. Funnily enough when I raised my prices, much to Airbnb’s consternation (“you are now so many % more than similar accommodation” ) I got more bookings. I also decided to offer a cooked breakfast rather than the inclusive continental one, at an extra charge and got customers for it.

However, despite providing a better breakfast than most 5 star hotels I don’t think they are impressed. (And I have to say in my defence I judge hotels (for an award) for many categories, breakfast included. I know if I got a breakfast anywhere of even half the quality, I’d award full marks.

So now I’m wordering is Airbnb the right fit for here or should I try and get on a “farm stay” site. I think there are so many places around doing Airbnb already, it’s a scrabble for the visitor who hasn’t come to rent a holiday home or is in their own camper van or tent.

In the midst if all this, I decided to set up a business. Myself and another baking-loving woman bought a wonky black van to sell coffee and cakes from, at markets, festivals and events.

Cake Dames

We have officially set up the company, registered for tax and been cleared to start baking by the EHO. But there’s a lot of stuff still to do including lots of recipe testing, costings, sourcing environmentally friendly packaging, finding a coffee supplier, a coffee machine, a generator, sign writers. The list is endless. But all going well we’re looking at a launch date beginning of October with prosecco on tap, jazz and of course cake.

The pigs have grown so much that they’re almost ready for the off. They’re getting to that annoying stage now. They’re big and strong and very greedy and will run straight through me for food. Yesterday one even attempted to vault the electric fencing like she sees the goats doing. The goats are like grade A showjumpers, the pigs like a badly-mounted cob out hunting.

Long and lean

The sheep will probably stay here until early November although they too have grown and have taken to head butting me to make me move faster to the trough. One has even shoved between my legs and carried me backwards and I’m not light.

Wooly bums

And so inevitably autumn will slide into winter and my freezers will once again be full. The circle of life will continue and next spring begin again.

In the meantime I’m loving the 5 chicks scurrying around after their mother who clucks continuously to keep them in line and tell them where she is. The limpy hen who I found with a broken/dislocated leg and splinted is making a great recovery and everyone is enjoying the Indian summer.

Chicks
Limpy

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.