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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

Tuesday
Jul252017

25 JULY 2017

So follow me follow,

Down to the hollow,

And there we will wallow,

In glorious mud.

This big girl has just had her breakfast and is now attending to her beauty treatment. Just because she is due to farrow in about a week’s time, does not mean she allows herself any slipping of standards. When she emerges from her bath she looks like a primeval beast auditioning for a part in Game of Thrones. Her two sisters are in the paddocks beside her and have between them we now think 18 piglets. It’s difficult to tell because the piglets are small enough to melt through the stock fencing that is supposed to separate them. Besides which the grass in their paddocks is extremely long and until they emerge near the lane you can only hear them but not see them. 

There was an item on the news last week which caught my attention. Apparently the relentless increase of longevity in the UK seems to have stalled. My immediate reaction to this was ‘thank god for that.’ On the Today program however some hapless spokesperson was berated by the interviewer as if civilization itself was threatened by the news. It reminded me of the eruption of the Icelandic volcano bringing aviation to a halt, and a BBC journalist demanding of the geology professor ‘What’s to be done?’ The professor, for an instant non-plussed by the crassness of the question, then replied ‘It’s a volcano.’

The underlying premise of both journalists was that nature is something to be brought under control, dominated, brought to heel. This is not a view I subscribe to. I’m all for medical interventions if a quality of life can be maintained, but just as no pleasure in life is worth giving up for an extra two years in a nursing home, so if all greater longevity means is more suffering, what is the point? Can any agricultural production method be justified that permanently denies the livestock the right to exhibit natural behaviour. See above picture. (And don’t even think of telling me that we are morally obliged to produce more and more food to produce an infinitely large population.)

See you soon

Tom

Tuesday
Jul112017

10 July 2017

The calves in the picture arrived today from another organic farm, and are part of a long term experiment in cooperation with another producer whereby he will sell us surplus calves and we will finish them for sale in the butchery. These ones are twelve weeks old and should be ready in a couple of years.

The Hadza, or Hadzabe, are an indigenous ethnic group in north-central Tanzania, living around Lake Eyasi in the central Rift Valley and in the neighboring Serengeti Plateau. The Hadza number just under 1,000. They are one of the very few hunter gatherer peoples still in existence. This very existence is threatened by encroaching land clearance for farming, tourism and the lure of ‘civilization.’ They featured in Dan Saladino’s Food Programme over the last couple of weeks. Described as always hungry but never starving, scientists are becoming entranced by the sheer number of bugs that live in their guts. There is evidence that seems to suggest a connection between the huge variety of foods the Hadza eat and the complete absence of many western diseases that keep the NHS so busy. The obvious rejoinder to this is that the Hadza die so young from other things that they don’t have time to succumb to the diseases of Western excess. It was an interesting programme and asked more questions than it answered. Nevertheless, so many diseases seem to result to some extent from bad diet that I wished them well in their research – anything that leads to a realistic prospect of spending less money on the NHS has got to be a good thing. (Don’t forget that when the NHS was started, they forecast that the cost of it would diminish as the nation’s health improved.) I also wish the Hadza well – they seemed nice people.

Which brings me seamlessly onto the humble blackcurrant, of which we grow quite a few, but sell hardly any. Blackcurrants contain eight times the anti-oxidants contained in that bland American import the blueberry. They also make the most wonderful jam and are exquisite in blackcurrant crumble. Both of these delights contain sugar, which as such is unknown to the Hadza.  Sweetness however is something they crave and an important part of their diet is honey when they can get a hold of it. Apparently they will absolutely stuff themselves with up to 15000 calories at a sitting! They are certainly in no position to criticize me for eating jam or crumble. We also are harvesting gooseberries, and raspberries and possible red currants later in the week. It’s a short season – make the most of it.

Finally, in yet another incredible demonstration of synchronized birthing, two of the sows on the farm walk have produced piglets. It’ll probably be a week or two before they come close enough to the lane for you to actually see them, but in the meantime, Hein has posted a video on Facebook.

See you soon.

Tom