Friday, December 30, 2011

End of the old year

I often wonder what Christmas means to many people, if you have children or family it is a wonderful time to get together and celebrate, if you have Christian faith then the celebration should be for Christ's birthday but to many people it is an excuse to over indulge. Each year we say we are skipping Christmas, so far we have not managed to do so but we came close this year. After having made all the preparations to celebrate with a friend she gave us just three days notice that she would not be coming. Unfortunately the turkey was ordered, all the food and drink had been bought so we had to carry on. The drink will still be there next year as neither of us really like drinking, and none of our other friends drink. Next year will be different,it is already cancelled, just the excuse I had been needing all these years. There was one highlight to our non Xmas, we have always loved Irish country music and we went to see Brendon Shine, a well known Irish singer, in our local town. He performed for two and a half hours non stop even though he is now getting on in years, all for a cost of just ten euros, that's what I call real value, it was the high light of our Xmas.

It has been a very mild winter so far, although quite wet, the weed seeds are already getting ahead of us so we will have a major job even before we start planting the veg, the seed catalogues are now out and it is a great way to spend a few hours planing what we will grow this coming year. Our lemon tree is feeling very sorry for it's self although it is in the tunnel we suspect it needs more light, hopefully it will revive with the longer days and once the sunroom is built it will live there.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Donkeys and Ducks

At last the donkeys arrived on Tuesday, we had thought of several names for them but as soon as they were in our field they looked like a Pippa and Pea, short for Sweet pea. These were our fist thought of names after we had gone to see them at the farm. The foal(Pea)is about seven weeks old and is the image of her mum and whatever mum does the foal has to follow suit. Although we went to great care to build a nice stable for them, so far, apart from food they seem determined to ignore it although we have had some heavy rain. Today is however bright and sunny although windy.We had been told that Pippa has been used to being handled but the lad for whom she had been bought had lost interest in her, so far we have not been able to handle her, she will come for a bucket although keeps her distance until she feels we are at a safe distance, we had been told that all donkeys will sell their souls to the devil for ginger biscuits, maybe we are the wrong sort of devil as that has not worked! although as soon as it was thrown on the ground, at a safe distance from the 'Human' she ate it with relish. I think we might be going through quite a few packets of ginger biscuits! Pippa seems to spend most of her time looking over the hedge, maybe looking for her elder daughter, unfortunately we didn't feel that we could take on three donkeys, after all we're not as young as we used to be, and we only have one and a half spare acres of land, the rest is for the veg and fruit growing plus the hens and ducks.
Yes, we now also have the ducks, we had planned on having just the three, one male and two females but the farmer gave us one for luck, well lucky for us maybe but not so lucky for the spare drake who will become a Sunday diner sometime.
So now we have the complete live stock entourage, hens for both meat and eggs, rabbits for meat, ducks for meat and some eggs, donkeys for the manure for the veg and fruit, the small orchard is planted so hopefully within the year we will as self sufficient as is possible with two acres of land.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


When we moved back here we had said that we would not have any four legged animals apart from the cats and dogs, although we have kept goats for the last twenty plus years, after all the upset with what had been our goats in Spain we just did not feel we could ever have them again, there is nothing more upsetting than seeing animals that you have loved and cared for met untimely deaths.
However, one of our neighbours suggested that we have a couple of donkeys, of course he just happened to have some for sale, they were lovely, but he was asking far too much for them so we said no. We then went to the donkey sanctuary and arrangements were made, however after waiting for nearly two months to be inspected we phoned to find out that the lady in charge is now working on her own and had no idea when she would be able to get to us, so a few phone calls to friends, we knew someone would know of donkeys somewhere, and at last we have found what we are looking for. Hopefully they will be delivered the early part of this week, a mare five years old and her six week old mare foal.
Although Simon had said we would not have ducks again the farm where the donkeys are happened to have Muscovy's for sale, so a house has been bought and more fencing ordered and more live stock.Not my idea this time!
Not content with the animals we already have I thought it might be nice to put up some bird feeders, it took a few days for the wild birds to suss them out but now it seems as though we are feeding a whole forest of birds, we have six type of small birds vying for the feeders and they are consuming half a kg a day of peanuts, I guess they know when they are onto a good thing.
The birds that feed with us are Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tits and the Marsh Tit, Chaffinch and Dunnock, we also have Wagtails but they don't go to the feeders, so far we have seen no Sparrows or Wrens.


It's always nice to have visitors it means we have to take time out and we get the chance without feeling guilty to revisit favourite places and to explore new ones. Carrowkeel in Co. Sligo is an ancient burial ground dating back to over 3000bc, throughout Ireland there are so many interesting ancient sites to visit but the West of Ireland is littered with passage tombs.
Then there is the coastline, beautiful sandy beaches, rocky ones and some great surfing beaches, one of our favourite places is Lissadel, again in Co.Sligo and now quite a distance to travel, it is known for it's mussel beds which are supplied to the better restaurants.Unfortunately on this visit it was getting late and I had no bags with us in which to collect mussels and I'm sure our friends would not have appreciated wet mussels in the boot of their posh car, so it calls for a further visit soon to collect a feast.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gardening from scratch

A few more pictures of the four month old garden, spring time it should look wonderful I have planted around three hundred spring bulbs so far.

It feels like spring

The weather continues to be great, tomorrow the forecast is 17c, not too sure what that is in old money, 60 plus anyway. The birds seem to think it is spring time and this week I saw rooks arguing about whose nest was whose, they appeared to be doing some nest repair work.
Our new fruit trees arrived and seem to be very strong and healthy,Simon spent today getting them planted and staked, we have some chestnut saplings also waiting to be planted, we are not too sure how they will do here although a friend had planted a small woodland area with them and they seem to be fine although I doubt they will fruit for us, which is fine as neither of us are that keen on the nut, the main use for them will be, hopefully coppicing,I should say pollarding as this is how they are normally treated.
The newly created flower beds are now completed all at the back of the cottage,it's hard to remember how the land looked before we arrived, basically two fields either side of the house, one side is now producing veg and of course we have the poly tunnel there and now the newly planted orchard.The other field is the same apart from the stable for the donkeys who have yet to arrive.The back of the house was just stoned, it's amazing what a difference a few flower beds can make.
All our roses are doing well and are still blooming, even roses in the hedge row has had a second flush of flowers.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Autum Time

The last week has been beautiful, a couple of light frosts and apart from one day and mild, this has enabled us to get quite a lot of work done outside, more garden area created, wind break fencing erected and a donkey stable completed. Next job will be planting the fruit trees which are now on their way from the nursery, so we are hoping that the next few days stay dry so we can get them planted.
We have been debating the best way to protect all our soft fruit from birds, the latest plan being to erect a home made tunnel frame and cover this with bird netting, this should give us the hight as well as protection. The other thing that we will have to give consideration to is protection from carrot root fly next year, apparently it is a problem in our area, still I have a few months to think about this one.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Home is where the heart is.

Although we lived in Spain for nearly eight years it was never home, it was interesting, and we met some lovely people, but Ireland never left our hearts which is why we have returned.The only thing that we miss are some good friends that we made during our extended holiday, which is what Spain rather felt like although we never stopped working, first building a house from scratch and then a major renovation job.
We have now completed everything that we wanted to do to the inside of our new home so we are now free to develop the veg garden and create an orchard. We had already planted some fruit trees, plus soft fruit and now I am waiting for a delivery of more fruit trees, including a peach, yes you can grow peaches in Ireland, I was inspired by another Irish blogger who has had a wonderful crop in her polytunnel, which is where we will plant ours.
All the veg that we had planted back in May before we returned for good has done well, once again we can feed ourselves from the garden, with enough potatoes for the winter months, all the green veg did well for us as well with plenty of cabbage and perpetual spinach to last through the winter months, so once again we are back on the road of self-sufficiency.
We have bought a pair of large breed meat rabbits who will be ready for mating in the next couple of weeks, and our hens are now laying so come the spring I will set some eggs in the incubator and rear the young for the table.
For things that we can't or don't want to produce ourselves we can buy from local organic friends, we have beef on order and our turkey is coming from another friend. Pork for a while gave us a bit of a problem as we knew of no one who was producing pork, we were then told of 'The Real Meat Shop' in Roscommon town where we can by free range pork and pork products. Unlike Spain it is easy to find all we need organically, mostly in our local village.
We have had our first visitors over from Spain but the weather let us down a bit, although we still managed to have a couple of picnics and take them to places of interest, hopefully the next time they come the weather will be a little kinder to us.

Back in Ireland

Settling In

September 8, 2011 · Filed under Uncategorized · Edit

Well we at last returned to Ireland, the journey did not go as planned due to the vets in Galicia not doing the pet passports correctly,resulting in an additional two day stop over in France, an brilliant French vet put right everything that was wrong, but we had to travel via the UK instead of directly from Brittany to Cork, all in all we were delayed by three days, not much fun for the poor animals, ten cats and three dogs, they however seemed less stressed by the whole thing than the humans.

We arrived to find the garden was doing well, no sign of blight on the potatoes. Since then we have lifted the first of the potatoes and are trying to find time to lift the rest. We now have our hens, three Jersey Giants, three Buff Orpington and a couple of Goldline who are now laying. The veg garden is doing well, we planted lots of cabbage type plants given to us by friends, the swede and parsnips are doing fine, the only failure has been the carrots. We brought with us in May some raspberry cane and blackcurrant cutting, both are doing well and the raspberries even gave us some fruit. We even had two Victoria plums from the tree that we had planted in May.

The house is lovely, we have now had the loft space insulated and a woodburning range installed, this does all the hot water and central heating plus the cooking, there is very little else that we have to do here, no more renovations thank goodness, just basic stuff, like book shelves, fitted wardrobes and a sun room. Hopefully giving us time to enjoy ourselves.

We now have the polytunnel frame work up and are waiting for a calm day so we can get the cover on, hopefully I can get some stuff planted in there to over winter.

I do wish we could say that we are missing some aspect of Spanish life, but apart from the friends we have left behind we don’t miss it at all. Being back here is rather as though we have had an extended holiday and are now home.

We have immediately become involved with an anti- fracking campaign, which although probable will not affect us in our area certainly will affect a number of our friends, and if allowed to go ahead will destroy some of the most beautiful parts of Ireland. Once again it seems as though money is the master of all politicians, they seem unable or unwilling to use their brains

Time goes slowly

Marking Time

June 22, 2011 · Filed under Uncategorized · Edit

We are now on our final countdown before our return to Ireland, it is quite strange still living in our old house seeing most of our hard work in the garden being neglected. We had been offered a flat to rent for the last five months of our time in Spain but turned it down as we hadn’t wanted to disrupt the cats and dogs and when the new owners offered to rent us the apartment that we had created we said yes. On reflection we should have left. It gets very upsetting when animals die due to lack of care, so far two goats have met untimely deaths, and soft fruit for the large part remains unpicked.

Many people dream of a self sufficient life style, but any one who thinks it’s easy, is living in a dream world.

So we sit here, planing all the things we need to do when we get back to Ireland. We have already made a start on the veg garden and hope that blight does not strike the potatoes before we return. One of the first jobs will be planting more veg. Onions, french beans and cabbages will still have time to grow before the autumn sets in, then it will be tree planting time. We are planing to grow a small woodland area , just over one acre for coppicing in time, my husband plans to incorporate a maize into this area, which should be fun.

Other immediate jobs are clearing out the old Dutch barn for two years supply of winter fuel, in the form of turf and wood. We are hoping to divided this barn into three areas, one as a garage, one for a work shop and the final one for winter fuel.

We are hoping that within the first couple of weeks of our return to get some stock, this will be hens for eggs and the table and rabbits, again for the table. It is very doubtful if we will go back to keeping either goats of sheep. We hope to be able to make time to explore the wonderful island of Ireland, something we never had time to do properly before. Also to make time for some craft work and archaeology.

A little help from our friends

Starting from scratch

May 31, 2011 · Filed under Uncategorized · Edit

A little help from our friends.

We are not due to move back to Ireland permanently until the middle of July, we have however been over for two weeks to get the garden started as we did not want to lose a complete growing season.

Being self sufficient has always been our number one priority and in Spain we achieved this to about 90% with fruit and veg, we also kept goats , rabbits and chicken for meat ,[See our blog from Spain.] we will continue with the rabbits and poultry but have promised ourselves that we will not keep either goats or sheep. We would like to keep our life simple and allow ourselves time to explore Ireland properly, something we never had time to do in the past.

The area we are moving to is quite close to where we had lived before and we have friends in the area, one of these arranged to come over to our new house with her family and helper and made a good start on digging the virgin soil to start the veg garden . At one time, long ago there would have been a garden but we have found no sign of it. So far we have planted some apple trees, a plum, blackcurrants bushes and raspberry canes, I have also made a start on creating a flower garden.

Future garden plans include a pond, more fruit trees/bushes, expand the veg garden, poly-tunnel and of course the hens. Being an impatient soul I hope for all this to be done this year.

Moving on

Searching for a home

May 29, 2011 · Filed under Uncategorized · Edit

After seven years in Spain the opportunity to return to Ireland came from an unexpected source. We had planned on returning but not until we had finished the renovation on our farmhouse in N.W Spain. We had a helper staying with us and at dinner one evening we mentioned that we would like to move back to Ireland one day, it so happened that she had friends that were looking for a small holding to buy in our area. Well they came and looked, then came again and stayed with us for a few days, at the end of their stay they decided that they wanted to buy our place. Given the state of the property markets and the worsening world economic situation we would have been stupid not to say yes.

So began the search for the next part of our life.

Most people when they want to move put their house on the market but we had not reached this stage, we had been keeping an eye on the Irish property market for some time, and had a list of saved ads, but that was it. We have a number of pets, who to us are the family, none of the pets had their passports, a process that takes seven months. So this was the first thing that we had to get started even before the people wanting to buy had paid a deposit. We had this feeling that even if this sale did not go ahead the forces were at work for our return to Ireland.

We decided that we would not go to Ireland until the sale was completed here which was not until March, but we knew that we would have no problems in finding what we wanted when we did go looking. It in fact turned out to be even easier than that, the last place to be put on our viewing list happened to be the first one that we looked at, we knew even from the drive way that this was the one.

We had arranged to stay with a friend and use her as our home base for the property hunt, we ended up having a great two week holiday without the hassle of house hunting. We did look at five of the other properties, but none came close to our first one. So the decision was made.