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 Heatwave

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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.

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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.

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

 

The First Day(s)

To me the first day was the day with all my animals around me and to me my animals are family (even the ones for eating). You can’t say, “ah the poor cratur has no one else”,  because I have felt like this all my life. I consider animals as part of my family and always have done. I grew up with animals and I cannot envisage a life without them.

Waking up and going out to feed the pigs and let the hens and ducks out on a lovely sunny autumn day in my new place was magical.

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Honky sunning herself

 

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Lady L loving all the grass and dry ground

Watching them stroll off to explore their new place with tails up is my abiding memory of that day. The ground was firm and dry. They had left a quagmire in Meath. The soil here is so much dryer and sandier.

I kept the poultry in the old shed for a day or two. It had been used as a pigsty in the past. There was the sleeping area and the feed trough that was fed from the outside (now blocked up with a sheet of corrugated iron) and presumably the “toilet” area. It is hard to imagine two fully grown sows in here but there was. Even back then pigs were treated abominably. I wouldn’t even put Parker the KuneKune in here to sleep and he’s a small pig.

Initially I had some fun with wandering hens but the funniest had to be the young duck who decided to fly into the neighbours late one evening around Halloween. I went looking for her and the kids all piled out to help in full Halloween costume. Picture me, the parents and three kids dressed up as ghosts and ghouls chasing a poor duck. The kids got a lesson that evening on how to catch an animal. We herded her into their porch and as she flew up I grabbed her. Various hens got out into the lane way between me and these neighbours but were relatively easy to shoo back. It doesn’t take long for them to realise where home is.

It took the cats a full month to explore outside. The fat cat hid in a hole in the lining in the bottom of one of the couches when anyone called in. He shot out the door one night after about three weeks as I was calling the dogs in. I was sure I’d never see him again and was distraught. But next morning he appeared and shot back in when I went out to feed the pigs. He didn’t go out again for about three weeks. Now I can’t get him in.  On the plus side when I first moved here I couldn’t keep up replacing poison. The place was overrun with mice. Once the cats went out, no more poison taken.

The dogs loved it from the beginning particularly the beach. I’m only five minutes from Duncannon and in the winter it’s MY beach, Now it’s full of day trippers and I hate it.

 

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I will never forget the first time I realised I was so close to the beach. The estate agent had muttered something about beaches when he first showed me the house. But it wasn’t until the second viewing when we drove down to Roche’s in Duncannon for lunch. When you come around the bend at the top of the hill,  the whole bay is there in front of you glistening seductively. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. The sea, the estuary, the Waterford coast, Duncannon Fort and the old lighthouse, now a private house. That view is good for the soul.

Every time I walked on the beach I felt the urge to pinch myself to wake up from a lovely dream. I also kept thinking about dad. Was he up there somewhere watching me and quietly pleased he had engineered the whole thing? I like to think he was. I don’t think I’ve ever been on the beach since where he hasn’t come into my head in some shape or form.

It was promising to be a lovely autumn and although there had been mutterings and forecasts about a dire winter I put them out of my head. There had been so many before and they’d always been wrong………