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Tuesday
Jul042017

04 July 2017

Thanks to the customer who sent me this picture of the ducklings on the dam – I’ve no idea how he marshalled them into such a disciplined line. I rarely see more than one at a time. He took several more photos while out on the farm walk – all of which demonstrate that even on mizzly July afternoon, there’s a lot of interesting things to see.
 
On a recent visit to London Patricia and I visited the Whole Food Store, an American owned outlet which (amongst other things) sells a lot of organic product. We were seriously impressed – the variety and volume of lines was amazing. It turns out that we weren’t the only ones to be impressed – Amazon have just announced their intention of buying out the Wholefoods chain (460 stores for £10.8 billion). A few years ago Amazon sold only books, and those at a loss. Now you can scarcely buy anything anywhere without the feeling that Amazon have been involved somewhere in the transaction. The Grocer magazine recently featured our farm shop describing us as one of the very few truly independent shops left in the country. It was a flattering article – but it’s a bit like being the last of the Mohicans.  Sometimes you feel the tide of history is against you.
 
That said, we constantly try to evolve – hardly a week goes by without some new product gracing our shelves or appearing on our menu. And the changing seasons bring constant change to the farm walk. We hope it makes a visit to Ballylagan a unique experience.

See you soon.

Tom.

Tuesday
Jul042017

26 June 2017

Not separating the sheep from the goats, but weaning the lambs from their mothers.
 
I don’t know at what time Jennifer and Hein got up on Sunday morning, but by the time I was fully conscious and stepped outside the door, I was already getting the sounds of cross (that is ‘displeased’ not ‘cross bred’) sheep in glorious stereo. For the first 24 hours after lambs are separated from their mothers, both parent and child are inevitably agitated, and to try and limit the possibility of their breaking out of their respective fields we put them as far apart as the farm allows – roughly 100 metres from our house in either direction. They can probably scarcely hear each other, but we in the middle can hear both. At the time of writing this, more than a day later, both parents and children are calming down and once again concentrating on what sheep do best – eating grass.

See you soon.

Tom.

Tuesday
Jul042017

20 June 2017

It seems to me that the agricultural machinery used by contractors each year grows bigger and bigger, while our fields remain stubbornly the same size. I was listening to Adam Henson on Countryfile talking about using drones on his farm to identify the exact amounts of inputs to be used on his crops and at what intensity – thus preventing pointless over use and minimizing the impact of pesticides on nature. The things you can do with technology never cease to amaze me, but they assume and demand a scale of farming that foretells the future – Henson farms 650 hectares, more than ten times the amount of land we have. Since farming began, smaller farms have been driven out of business, and like the machinery that works the land, the size of farms has grown relentlessly. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I know that If somebody offered to increase the size of this farm tenfold, I would be delighted. I’m not so sure how I would feel about dispossessing families of land they had occupied for centuries.

See you soon.

Tom.

Tuesday
Jul042017

12 June 2017

Last week the Guest House was taken over by a group of American Harley ‘there is no substitute for cubic inches’  Davidson bikers – and a small prize to the first person who can name the 70s film from which I quote. You could tell that they were on their way about five minutes before they arrived home from one of their excursions  – the whole house would start to vibrate to the low bass thrum of their engines. I was chatting with them before they set off to do the Antrim Coastal Route – ‘supposed to be one of the top 5 bike rides in the World, according to the guide,’  I was told. We sometimes forget the magnificence of what is on our own doorstep. ‘It’s the best drive on the Planet’ I assured them.

See you soon.

Tom.