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Tuesday
Sep052017

05 September 2017

For reasons I have never fully understood, I am secretary of the Straid Village and District Community Group. The Group was formed almost a year ago, initially to try and take advantage of funding to tidy up and improve the village.  We have put together a nice plan, and are awaiting the result of our application for funds, which will probably take another few months. Back in early Spring, the committee became concerned that after two public meetings, at both of which strong feelings were aired, we still hadn’t achieved anything as a group, apart from a ‘litter pick’ around the local roads. Fears were raised that the people of the village would become cynical about the value of having a community group. It was suggested that we should have a ‘Fun Day’ to keep the community spirit alive and optimistic. I have to say, I was appalled at this idea, as I was very much aware of the amount of work in the organization of such an event. Mercifully the rest of the committee did all the work, and the Fun Day took place very successfully on Saturday.
 
The issues that Straid faces are much the same as villages everywhere . They say there are four things that keep a village community alive: a school (every village school feels threatened), a pub (we don’t have one), a church (declining numbers so I’m told), and a shop (now closed). This all despite the construction of two new housing developments since we moved here in 1990. Hopefully the success of our Fun Day, will lead to more community based activity and the strengthening our community spirit. (I’m pretty sure we’ll be having another ‘Fun Day’ this time next year.)
 
It’s Organic September ad we’re starting off with some strong special offers – note particularly that if you buy any three Suma Soups, the fourth one comes free – be amazed!

See you soon.

Tom

Thursday
Aug172017

15 AUGUST 2017

If you went down the farm walk today, you might have had a big surprise. Hein, Jennifer, Patricia and I moved these young ladies across the road and up the hill to pastures new this afternoon. Even to my untutored eye they are a particularly handsome group of young ewes. These are a completely different group to those featured in last week’s email. I asked Jennifer to explain what’s in store for this group :

These are our replacement ewes.

Come October the main sheep flock will once again be brought in and each ewe checked over.  Those with unresolvable problems involving feet, teats or poor body condition will be culled and the flock will diminish in size.  To take their place, we have picked the cream of the crop from our homebred lambs born in March and they will meet a ram once fully grown next year.  We make improvements to our management routine regularly and I must say we're particularly proud of this bunch!

See you soon.

Tom

Thursday
Aug172017

08 AUGUST 2017

As you can see these lambs are  rapidly approaching slaughter weight. The reason I mention this is that we still have some of last year’s hoggets in our freezer and we need to clear space for this seasons lamb. To help us do this we are putting together a special offer freezer pack which will be available later this week at 33% discount off our normal price. Details will be posted on facebook on Tuesday.

Has anyone else been aware of the profusion of rose bay willow herb growing in the hedgerows and field margins, where none grew before. Another thing I have noticed in profusion this year is goose grass, that weird clinging weed that attaches itself to your clothes. In years gone by, some doctors used it as a cure  for cancer. I imagine if it worked we would still be using it.

For some reason I associate a good blackberry crop with particularly cold winters to follow. If the enormous numbers of blackberries I see just starting to ripen are anything to go by, we are in  for the coldest winter of the century. Remember – you heard it first here, from the sage of Ballylagan. (The last time I made a prediction like this, we had an unusually mild winter.) In any case I’m looking forward to making industrial quantities of bramble jelly this year

We have decided to delist our jams from our Organic licence. The jams are still made with only organic fruit and sugar (and water in some cases) –  we just don’t use the word organic on the labels any more. We decided to do this to reduce the burden of record keeping require to satisfy the organic inspectors. Homemade raspberry, strawberry and blackcurrant jam (and marmalade) available in the shop now.

Visitors to the shop will notice that we have had to put all the soft fruits under mesh – this is to protect it from  the wasps – a perennial problem. For the first time we have home grown plums for sale and though I say it myself they are delicious.

See you soon.
Tom

Thursday
Aug172017

31 JULY 2017

You may remember a photograph a few weeks ago of the ducklings swimming across the dam in a very orderly file, and my asking how the photographer managed to persuade them to be so disciplined. Similarly, any time I attempt to photograph butterflies, they disobligingly fold their wings. Hein took this photo of what I am told is a common small tortoiseshell, and very beautiful it is, though I suspect its antenna is made out of an old wire coat hanger. Common it may be, but I don’t see many of them and certainly not as many as I see of the beastly cabbage white – of which there are legion, laying their wretched eggs all over my brassicas.

The third sow (the wallower in last week’s photo) across the road finally popped. Unfortunately it was not an easy birthing and only three of the piglets survived. They remain out of sight until she gets her strength back.

When Jennifer and Matthew were young, in the best traditions of Ulster farming they were expected to contribute to the business by doing some unpaid work on the farm or in the garden. A lot of the time they were less than enthusiastic about their chores and I swear I can remember Jennifer assuring me that when she achieved her independence she would never again so much as lift a trowel. Last night I was shown round her garden – an astonishing array of colour made up of exclusively nectar rich, bee friendly flowers. Almost all of them grown from seed. It’s funny how things turn out.

Our weather seems to be reverting to type. Yesterday afternoon we had a deluge that lasted about half an hour – enough to send the turbine into overdrive. In fact there  was no increase in output at all. I went up the hill to make sure the intake wasn’t blocked and it was as if there had been no rain at all. It really is weird how localized the weather is.

See you soon.
Tom