The Deadline

For most of the last two weeks it’s been a race. A race to get stuff done that should have been done or at least organised weeks ago.

The sheep should have been long gone but finally the withdrawal period was up and I rang the abattoir to book them in. I got asked could I bring them in that evening because they had an inspection on their normal killing day.

I had to jump to it, hook up the trailer, get it into the field, lock up the nosy goats etc etc. Except when I went out to the fields there was no sign of goats or sheep or pigs.

I found the goats lying down in the middle paddock with the pigs but no sign of the sheep. I called them. Nothing. Bear in mind the sheep have never gone missing, ever. Panic began to well. I ran around like a mad woman calling them. Then went to check the third paddock where they were only ever let into. Low and behold they ambled up to the gate followed by a stray pony….. The relief.

Did they have some sixth sense? I don’t know because I didn’t even know they were going. But for a couple of weeks beforehand they’d become a right pain. This always happens with pigs and pig keepers often use it as justification to make the deed easier. But, they were constantly knocking me over when I went to feed them or getting in my way and I was beginning to lose patience with them.

Anyway I got them back and locked the goats in and was just about to try and get them into the trailer when my neighbour pulled up at my field gate to have a chat with a passing tractor. I called him to ask would he give me a hand. Luckily I did because otherwise it would have taken me ages to get them in. We had them loaded in a few minutes.

I had my shiny new triplicate Dept of Ag. sheep movement book and it needed ear tag numbers which are about 24 letters and digits. How the hell do you hold a sheep long enough to read that melee? I told the abattoir I couldn’t manage this on my own and they said don’t worry they’d read them there.

When I arrived they opened a pen for me and two men helped me unload them and then calmly and gently held each one so we could get the numbers. I have to say I was really impressed at how gentle they were. The sheep were relaxed and were occupied looking at a couple of pigs in the pen beside them. THE most important thing to me is that animals I rear are not stressed or badly treated at the end. If they are it totally undoes all my work.

I had to drive back up the next day for the skins. I had decided I would get them back and send them to a tannery in Wales. I made several phone calls to the veterinary department in Wexford and they were helpful but, what they wanted me to do was beyond ridiculous. Pack them effectively in a coffin sealed for no leakages. Traipse back to the abattoir with them in said coffin for them to open and inspect and slap a Category 3 label on it to scare the bejaysus out of a courier who had to collect them from there and take them to Wales.

I thought to myself what a load of nonsense. I know they have to be careful but honestly they go so over the top here they drive people underground so it utterly defeats the purpose.

I decided to ask my Scottish neighbours to take them over and send them by courier from Glasgow but on my way home began to think about doing them myself.

I started today by salting them and removing some of the fat and tissue.

Then as luck would have it got sent a video which makes it seem unbelievably easy. I just had to order oxalic acid on line which I’ve done on ebay.

Honestly all this sort of stuff was done years ago by every small farmer before Internet or YouTube so how difficult can it be? Well I’ll soon find out.

I asked the abattoir to send me the weights because yesterday Betty, the owner took me into the chiller to show me the carcasses. She was amazed at how big they were but yet not a scrap of fat. She told me a very good weight for a lamb is 29kgs. Mine were 36.6 and 36.7kg respectively. She didn’t believe that they had never had a single sheep nut.

New trees

Before this I’d actually done what I’d been procrastinating about for over a year and ordered some trees from Future Forests for planting in my third paddock. I planted 28 native whips including birch, hornbeam, willow, oak, crab apple, hawthorn, hazel and cherry. I was so thrilled when literally every sod I turned had at least one earthworm and some several. A sign of really healthy soil.

Then I ordered fruit trees from Heritage Nurseries and today planted 5 different apple varieties, 2 different plum and 2 pear varieties. It’s so easy now ordering trees from these sites and Heritage in particular I found really brilliant to deal with. He rang me and asked me all about my location then sent me a list of suggestions of species suitable for wind.

I also ordered a proper polytunnel. So no more Mickey Mouse tunnel which had my heart in my mouth every time there was wind which is basically 350 days a year here. I had to put him off until February 12th because I wanted to get posts put in for a fence first. The posts are in now and then my neighbour who had been promising horse manure all last summer arrived this evening and dumped several loads by tractor. So I am all set now for when they come to put up the tunnel.

I sowed some tomatoes, cucumber, chilli and spring salad yesterday. I can’t wait to get growing and there is already a real feel of spring in the air.

In a couple of weeks I’ll have my lamb back. Believe it or not they are still considered lamb because they are under one year of age, just.

The Extension

For someone who lives for light and cooking I had managed to buy a house with the darkest most depressing kitchen on the planet. I did overlook this fact at the time because the rest of the house was perfect. I had finally re-done my kitchen in my old house after years and although it was “only” an Ikea kitchen, it was perfect and I loved it. The kitchen come dining area was south facing and was filled with sunlight. Now I was faced with walking into a cave every morning. The sense of gloom that enveloped me was unreal. I found myself spending less time in it and was disinclined to cook which was really unusual for me.

There was no light entering at all on the west facing wall. The back door was solid. I decided one of the first things I absolutely had to do was replace the entire door with a glass panel. I ordered it and waited and waited. Finally they rang to tell me they would be out to fit it.

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Not only was I happy to be able to see out, the duck liked seeing in

The difference that made was unreal. Then I got a bee in my bonnet about the oh-so-shiny kitchen that did not suit the house at all and decided I had to change it. However, sense took over and I put that further down the list.

I debated extending the kitchen out to make a kitchen dining area but I had a small cosy dining room anyway and a small sitting room. I got a great tip from my builder friend who had come house hunting with me. He told me lay out wood on the ground in the shape and size you think you will need and mark windows and doors to get a feel for the size of the area. I did this but then I was out walking one day where I do a lot of my thinking,  I remembered friends who live in Tipperary and how I had always envied their covered deck which they call the stoop. That was it. I was going to do something similar with a partial roof. The reason not to roof the whole area was it would have meant losing a window in my bedroom (which is a floor window). The windows in this house are in short supply and for the most part are small sash windows so that was not an option. Plus there was little point putting a window in the dining room then sticking a roof over it.

I have to say that I am the kind of person that wants to do everything yesterday. There were the usual delays but the longest was the 8 week lead in time to get the new double doors and window from Rationel. The builder had costed them from Munster Joinery but they were horrible. So because he had to wait for the doors and window before he could lay the patio, the work stopped. Eventually it got finished a full two months after it should have been.

All the time it was being built I was getting comments to the effect that I was mad; I would never be able to sit out here, that the wind would skin you, there will never be sun ever again, you’ll freeze, it’s a waste of money. But come the end of April when the sun finally did appear I was justified and so glad I stuck to my guns. Because I have lived on it ever since. I haven’t sat in my dining room or sitting room since because they are dark and cold so the television hasn’t been switched on either. The kitchen is now filled with warm evening sun and even on a dull day is immeasurably brighter.

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Now that this job is finished every other job to do with the house has been shoved very far down the list and I am itching to get working on the old out buildings. So far I’ve got doors put on the little sheds in the field the weaner pigs are in. I also pulled all the ivy off the roof.

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All the trees have been cut down. Sacrilege I hear you cry but it really isn’t. They were for the most part self-seeded sycamore and ash growing in the most difficult locations and a danger to all the buildings. How they stayed upright during Hurricane Ophelia I will never know. The boys cutting them down couldn’t understand why they hadn’t been removed before the house was renovated. They had a point because if the one a couple of meters from the kitchen window had fallen, the entire house would have been flattened.

I am so grateful though that the old farm buildings weren’t demolished. If I had a penny for everyone who said to me “it’s an awful pity the whole place wasn’t razed to the ground and started again.” We have no respect for our architectural heritage here. All around are beautiful old farm houses and outbuildings standing derelict beside a horrible new house that doesn’t suit the terrain, the area or the landscape. Houses built from non-indigenous material like red brick or non-local stone. Why there aren’t grants to encourage people to restore old buildings is a crying shame. When you drive around our nearest neighbour Wales – particularly in the Snowdonia National Park, they have kept all their old farm buildings and houses and you never see a big tasteless red brick house stuck up on a hill side.

Next on the never-ending list is restore the hay shed (repair, clean and paint), clear out the junk out of the old sheds and paint them and the doors and finally clear an area to make a garden. I think this is going to be a very long project.