Cead Mile Failte !

A 'hundred thousand welcomes' to friends of all things Irish, organic, and environmentally friendly. I hope you enjoy my anecdotes and little vignettes. I appreciate comments. If you like it, why not become a follower? Click on Archive and then scroll down to the very bottom for the beginning of our story. Or see: http://Ioncehadafarminireland.blogspot.com/

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Never say never....

My last blog was barely posted (Never again will I ....)when a friend gave me a basket of little peaches from her garden.You can't let anything go to waste is still written on my brain matter, so I spent Saturday night making peach preserve.Yum! With a drop of rum. Grand Marnier was always good for strawberries, and Slivovic for black-berries.
Another thing I thought I had left behind years ago:scraping a tree from lichen. Then it was in our Irish orchard and I was 7 month pregnant. Maybe you remember that story? Today I scraped an oak tree. I did it in my bikini in front of my house this Sunday morning in 90 F heat. Didn't have the right triangular scraper but wielded a long spade-like sharp blade.
On a more serious note, something else I haven't done in 14 years: clean organic eggs fresh from the hen. They are not as clean as you may think judging from what you can buy as organic in the store. They have small amounts of crap on them in spite of exchanging the straw they live, lie and lay on it. Unavoidable. However, by the time they make it to the shops they must have been washed somehow.
And herein lies the crux. An article last week by Dr. Merola brought threw me into action. He claimed grocery store organic eggs are being washed in a chlorine solution, waxed- sometimes by petroleum jelly and candled.I investigated...and they are. At least here in the USA, this is regulated by law, organic that is. Here is the link to the full unsavory, totally disconcerting story:http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/163360
I spoke to the woman farmer at yesterday's market about the cleaning of eggs in chlorine. She knew about that procedure and pointed out that cancer patients come to buy her healthy untreated products. She had goats milk and cheese, too.
So back at home, I bit my tongue, cleaned the crap off before putting the eggs into the fridge. I've done worse. More of that some other time.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Elderflowers in Bloom

Elderflowers are in full bloom here. I guess in Ireland too? Whenever and wherever I see them -since I left the farm- a big sigh of relief escapes me; accompanied by a sense of freedom: "These days are long over, never do I have to make elderflower champagne and elderberry jam again,ever!" Or any other jam or any other wine for that matter, if I chose not to. Maybe you don't know the sensation of feeling obliged to make use of what is given to you for free,i.e. here by Mother Nature. Berries in abundance along hedgerows compelled me for almost 10 years to avail of the bounty that was given to me. In the end, there was always a huge supply of preserves etc. in the larder. But to get there...the work can't be underestimated.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Raising geese into Christmas dinners

We were lucky that first year and had 7 eggs. The most our couple ever produced was 9 and one unfortunately died that year. They are bigger than chicken eggs. Either Mother Goose or Father Goose will take turns and watch and sit on them until they hatch. During that period the parents, understandably, were most aggressive. We never let the kids go into that patch and feed them then. Trying to lock the sentinel parent into the hut at night was more difficult than ushering in the 2 together. He or she would chase the dog and you all around the hut and grassy patch until they eventually relented. Or we got lucky.
The average time for a goose egg to hatch is about 30 days. During that time, the parents do alternating shifts keeping the eggs warm. Little goslings are cute, yellow fluffy balls like chickens. After about a month they start to pin out, i.e. their pin feathers are growing. These are feathers that are shafted almost to the end, with a just a bit of fluff at the ends. Their tails look like feather dusters. Fast forward another month and you can hardly differentiate them from their parents. I lost my fear of them. Always wearing wellies and taking your dog helps. I didn’t particularly like having them in my orchard where also the washing line was situated. Why? They are messy creatures. And by that I mean: very messy. Impossible to go in there in your normal shoes. Being very environmentally conscious, I only used the tumble drier when the inclement Irish weather left me no other choice in the winter. Laundry that is flapping in the damp garden for more than 3 days and constantly rained upon is a nuisance and not very clean by the time you take it to the closest. Particularly when the lambs also roam that patch; for them it becomes a toy. It is also a nuisance to scamper for your wellies at the first sign of rain, run down the garden, open the gate and make your way through whatever animals are in pasture and collect your linen. After the second year, I put my foot down and insisted I would mow the grass and do without these free mowing helpers. Mac had suffered a childhood trauma having to mow their little city lawn and was reluctant to do it. Hooray, I eventually got an electric lawn mower and trimmer for my birthday. I was really grateful for that thoughtful present. A battle had been won.
Never sit a gosling in a big bath tub. While they enjoy the experience on a hot day, they will get tired and drown.
Preparing the geese for Christmas dinner,ie killing and plucking them is another story.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Goosey, Goosey, Gander

Germans love their goose for Christmas. So it was only natural for us to enlarge our zoo by a pair of these big birds. We once had kept geese before in Germany while living in a cottage in the countryside. When they were ready around St. Martin’s Day for the roasting pot, I took them in our Toyota Landcruiser to a place where they were killed humanely. The method of one of our neighbors was to grab them by the neck and put them in front of a chainsaw. We still owned the same Toyota which is padded in the back area with carpet. What eejit of a car designer puts a fitted carpet into the area where you are likely to transport stuff and not have it lined by plastic sheeting or metal container that can easily hosed down? Anyway, I didn’t want to relive the experience. The card board box I had put them in then was soaked through in no time by their constant flow of smelly green excrements. Maybe they were nervous too and knew what was coming?
We found a pair of geese for sale in the Nenagh Guardian that often advertises agricultural goods, hay, or animals. We set out to pick them up somewhere near Terryglass, on the other side of Lough Derg, a mere hour away. Our preferred means of transport for them was our big horse trailer, the envy of all our neighbors. The geese were a mature couple that had hatched goslings before, we were assured. The drive home must have been like a rollercoaster for them. We had put some straw in for them to sit on, but a horsebox that is big enough for 2 grown horses proved to be a big merry-go-round for them. On each bend in the curvy country road they slithered all over the place. When we arrived home, they must have been so relieved to be shown to their new abode, a hut similar to what we had built for our broilers. A slanted roof structure made of Creosote-doused timber to withstand the Irish weather all year round. We put them in a field nearest to the back of the kitchen that was fenced partially and had wall and gate for easy access from the yard. Hoping for some goslings the same year, they would keep the weeds and grass low in that patch of yard. Later we alternated them with the sheep in our proper garden and orchard which was also surrounded by a strong fence.
Geese take a bit of getting used to. They are not very sociable and make hell of a noise if someone approaches them. Remember the story of them saving Rome with their noise from assaulting marauders? They also try to bite you or at least nip you when you go near them, especially when they have eggs to guard. Then they can get outright aggressive. Mac was bitten through his jeans several times over the years.
We let them out in the morning and ushered them back in at night before a fox could get to them. When you open the door in the morning, you want to step behind the door and have it between you and the geese who will scamper out immediately , ready for some foraging in the grass. At night, it’s a different story. More often than not they didn’t agree with what we considered bedtime. Just like our kids. Luckily Brandy, our fist dog, had turned out to be useful at herding up animals. She had to overcome her initial fear of geese which was proven justified often enough. Brandy was faster than the geese however, and that often saved her hind legs and butt. In order to put the geese to bed, both an adult and Brandy had to use all their tricks to drive them into the hut. We would stand behind the door ready to pounce and Brandy would chase them and direct them in. Depending on the weather or their mood, it could take several circling trips when they overshot the target before heading for their nice bed of straw for the night.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It'll be nice when it's all done....

We had loads of visitors in the first few years. Friends who wanted to see Ireland and even my doctor who wanted to check up on us. We gave them a warm welcome, took them on sightseeing trips which became boring after a while. How many times do you want to visit Bunratty Castle? For the first bunch I had even whitewashed the outbuildings on the yard. I had unpacked tons of removal crates to get the house into respectable order while working in the garden and cooking, making jams and baking breads and cakes. This couple, admittedly well-heeled, showed up in their blue suede Gucci loafers, looked around, and she said to me, “How can you bear it and not be running away screaming?” After one night, she deplored the lack of water pressure in the shower for her thick hair. “We should have stayed at Ashford Castle.” Needless to say, that friendship didn’t last much longer.
We, the blow-ins, were often asked by the natives,” Are you happy?” While Mac wholeheartedly answered in the affirmative, I hummed and hawed a bit, “Well, it’ s very nice here.” In a consoling tone, people remarked, “ It’ll be nice when it’s all done.”
And that became my leitmotif for the next few years while on the farm.