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Tuesday
Oct102017

10 OCTOBER 2017

The more observant of you may have noticed this rather magnificent wheelbarrow outside the shop. I came across a customer admiring it a couple of days ago:

‘When I served my time as an apprentice joiner, to make a wheelbarrow like this was a test piece. There’s a lot of skill required and if you could make a wheelbarrow you could make a cart. The same skills are in both.’ He pointed out the way our wheelbarrow was holding water, an indicator of particular quality. ‘Can you make a wheelbarrow?’ people would ask him when he was serving his time. ‘Yes, I can make a wheelbarrow,’ he would reply. But can you make a barrow that will hold water. ‘Of course I can make you a barrow that will hold water’  He smiled a little ruefully. ‘But I never could. I never could make a barrow that would hold water.’

This Autumn UK sheep farmers are facing some particularly knotty problems, for example, whether to send millions of ewe lambs to slaughter or retain them for breeding. If the latter, most of them will not be put to the ram until next year and wouldn’t actually lamb themselves until Spring 2019 – just as we leave the EU. 40% of British lamb currently is exported to the EU, but unless something is sorted by then, the 2019 lamb crop could expect to face a fairly massive sheep meat tariff and a consequent collapse of the price the farmer might achieve. Similar problems and decisions face cattle breeders. It’s difficult making decisions in a vacuum.

To celebrate our 6th Anniversary in the Tea Room we will be holding a supper night on Friday 3rd November. Limited availability. Further details to follow on Facebook.

See you soon.

Tom

Tuesday
Oct032017

03 OCTOBER 2017

The picture shows some of the Kuri squash we have been harvesting. Ideally after cutting them, you let them cure for a couple of weeks, during which time the flavour develops and the skin goes from banana yellow to deep orange. You can also see that Molly is looking quite recovered from here recent illness which was occasioned by her wicked owners feeding her onion soup.

The weather has not been favouring the farmers. A friend of mine lost half his cereal crop during flooding in Tyrone, and many farmers are still struggling to get their final silage cut in, as well as facing the loss of part or all of their cereal crop. Even if you do get a  few dry days, the ground is so wet that the heavy machinery carves up the fields. Many farmers who had planned Autumn reseeds and winter cereal crops are now on plan B. In the meantime cattle have been brought in early to save the land and are eating their way through what silage there is. We’ve been lucky this year, having taken all our silage and being fairly lightly stocked both by weight and by number, we still are able to keep our livestock out. In the meantime, the animal feed mills are working flat out to keep up with demand to feed all the housed livestock. Any farmer not on a contract price for his feed can expect his feed bills to be heading north.

Which brings me to the price of chickens and the recent expose in The Guardian as to how supermarkets supply some of their chickens at such phenomenally low prices – simply be taking stock that has passed its sell by date and repackaging it with a new date. Forgive me if I say it’s a case of déjà vu all over again. How many times and in how many ways do we have to be told that if something is too good to be true, then it almost certainly is too good to be true. We supply chickens from Mary Regan’s farm in Wexford, and they are anything but cheap. Sometimes Mary can’t supply us because she may not have enough birds, or perhaps in cold weather they may be slow to gain condition. But at least we know where they come from and that they are wholesome birds when they get here.

In the shop we’re trying to improve the availability of fresh bread and will be offering fresh white, wheaten and sourdough breads every Friday and Saturday henceforth.

Finally, we are having a minor eggbox crisis – if you have any clean empty egg boxes, please return them to the shop, where they will be greeted like long lost cousins.

See you soon.

Tom

Tuesday
Sep192017

19 SEPTEMBER 2017

William Butler Yeats

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.


I don’t know in what season Yeats wrote this, but I suspect it must have been in the Autumn, for there is something special about  the quality of the light at this time of year. Whenever I contemplate this view of the Guesthouse and Tea Room I remember with some remorse the way I used to tease my father about the conservatory he built at the front of the house. It was totally impracticable, uncomfortable, leaky and badly designed, its only virtue being that it was cheap. Visually it was a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a rather lovely house. That all said, whenever the sun came out my parents would clamber into it and stretch themselves out on equally hideous folding chairs.  Daddy, I would say, the first thing that goes after you and Mammy are buried, is that conservatory.  And that’s more or less what happened.

On more mundane topics, Patricia and I were pondering the legislation regarding the labelling of our ready meals, which as they say, are going down well. It’s a pain in the head having to list all the ingredients and we have been puzzled to see some ready meals from other outlets with no ingredients listed. Apparently if the meals are made on the premises from which they are sold, you are under no legal obligation to list the ingredients. Initially we thought – jolly good. Then we thought – we’re rather proud of our ingredients and have nothing to hide. And that’s why we will continue to put the ingredients on the labels.

Particularly on Saturdays we tend to get significant numbers of cyclists visiting the Tea Room. We approve of cyclists and as Doyle Lonnegan might have said, this sort of thing has got to be encouraged. To this end we have signed up to the Pedal Perks scheme which is organised by Sustrans – anybody who  arrives at the Tea Room on a bike will get 10% off their bill. (production of a cycle helmet at the checkout is insufficient evidence.)

Thank you all who expressed concern about Molly. At one point Jennifer had texted me to the effect that Molly’s cell count was up to 28%. I was appalled, assuming that anything less than 100% meant she was still ill. Jennifer assured me that a cell count of 100% would involve her blood solidifying. She is in fact almost totally better.

See you soon.

Tom

Tuesday
Sep122017

12 September 2017

Molly, who is not in the picture, has not been well. She was off her food and very lethargic. Jennifer took her in for tests and soon asked was there any possibility that Molly could have been eating onions. Raw potatoes and raw peas, certainly, but initially I couldn’t remember any onions. Then I remembered the onion soup left over from the tea room which had been providing a rich and tasty gravy for the dogs’ evening meal for the previous few days. Apparently onions can play havoc with a dog’s blood and lead to severe anaemia. Who knew? (Apparently, almost everyone bar me and Patricia).

Anyway, the reason I mention this, apart from the general edification of my readers, is that when I decided earlier today to go on a mushroom hunt, Molly insisted on coming with me and Gem. She was so excited at the prospect of the walk that she entirely forgot how easily she becomes tired. Against my better judgement, I let her come.

The only healthy looking fungi we saw were some rather lethal looking purple ones. The numerous penny buns had all been destroyed by, I assume slugs. One group of them was right by the entrance to a fox’s lair from which Gem had just startled the fox. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that foxes like penny buns as much as I do. Seeing a fox in the middle of the day is an unusual treat, so I was gladdened by the sight of a buzzard hovering stationary above me as I took this photograph – our breeding ewes and in the lower part of the field some fattening cattle, which have become lost against the background. Beyond that again the Six Mile Water Valley and the Ballyboley Hills.

More than a quarter of a century ago, I was on a similar walk with Matthew, who was then about three years old. As we contemplated the view from slightly further up the hill than this, I said it was time to go home and make the tea:

I’m tarred Daddy, he said,  I’m tarred.

I’ll carry you Matt. And when we got home, I too was tired.

Similarly, as I looked down at Molly, she looked up at me and said – I’m tarred Daddy, I’m tarred.

I’ll carry you Molly – but not all  the way. Because I’m tired too.


See you soon.
Tom