Shop News This Week!

You can order our delicious Waterfall Farm Lleyn lamb, raised on lush grass and clover in the fields around the Shop. Orders are taken for whole and half lamb through the Farm Shop or you can contact Hannah. Also in the Shop this week our “Flavour Of The Month” Kingfisher Tea promotion continues with the award winning Moroccan Mint Green Tea, packet and take-away tea on offer until the end of July. You can still get a half dozen fresh eggs free when you spend over €20 and don’t forget about the locally grown Peaches, Raspberries, garden Lettuce, Wexford Strawberries and delicious New Potatoes among all the other fantastic products.

Our Children’s Art Class for 6-12 year old’s is on next Saturday the 4th of August. The children enjoy painting and making crafts from 10am-12pm. Cost: €17/child or €15/child for 2 or more children. Other courses coming up are the Knitting & Crochet class on Sunday 11th of August and the Stain Glass Course on Saturday the 18th of August. Enquiries to Hannah or call into the Shop on Saturday or Sunday.

Don’t be shy, while you’re out enjoying the beautiful(!) weather this weekend drop in and see the farm and visit our farm animals. The goat kids Belle and The Bandit would love to see you!

 

 

What’s Happening on the Farm?

Well thank you to everyone who crossed their fingers and toes for good weather. Although it hasn’t exactly been blistering sunshine, at least it has stopped raining long enough to mow the silage! Now keep them digits crossed til we get it baled and wrapped!! Michael also got to dose the all lambs for worms and separate out the girls from the boys. He also gave them a foot bath, which helps prevent any foot infections or lameness and keeps them twinkle toes sparkling! Last week he had great fun giving a sheep herding demonstration for Xtreme and the dogs were super stars, naturally. I’ve put a link to the pictures on our Facebook page. They’re quite funny photo’s!

Jam Making Adventure…. Part Duh!!

After having so much fun making my maiden jam voyage when attempting Strawberry Jam recently I was keenly awaiting the fruit in our kitchen garden to hurry up and ripen. At my last check the blackcurrants were coming along nicely, as were the redcurrants on the bush beside them. “Great”, I thought, “I’ll pick them tomorrow and I can make my blackcurrant jam“. I cheerfully walked away listening to the blackbird whistling his tune, my head swimming with thoughts of delicious blackcurrant jam made by my own hand. Yum! The next day I confidently saunter over to the blackcurrant bush. As I approach a blackbird, startled, darts into the air and flies away. “Aw look at the lovely blackbird,” I think, naively, my fruit collecting container in hand. I reach the bush and see….. Oh no! No berries on that branch. Hmmm, I quickly check another. None on this branch either. Or this one, or this one or any one! All picked clean as a whistle. What’s going on? It was laden with fruit yesterday. Then, ping, it dawns on me. Blackbirds! No not the beautiful little sing song wonders of nature, but the jam ingredients thieves! I’ll have to make blackbird pie if I am to see any of my juicy blackcurrants. Oh well, there’s plenty of fruit on the redcurrant bush. I’ll leave that to ripen (again naivety rearing its innocent little head here too).

So I duly return to pick the redcurrant berries. Less of a confident saunter now and more of a cautiously optimistic walk. Oh no! Disaster! Not one berry left. I am crestfallen. My little heart has fallen out of my boots. Is my jam making adventure over?? Before it has even begun? Woe be tide, I’ll need therapy after this! It couldn’t be over so soon. I carefully scrutinize the bush. After turning over every leaf, I pick almost a pound of redcurrants that the birds, and I, missed on first inspection. Ah, all is not lost. It’s a bit of a leap for a total novice in the process of jam making, but I decide that I will make a summer fruits jam. Armed with my previously picked blackcurrants from the garden, and now the redcurrants,  Alan Conroy’s raspberries and Wexford Strawberries (both from the Shop) like Captain Luke Pickard, I boldly go where this jam making novice hasn’t gone before! Eek! As back up and defense against my naivety I call upon the expertise of Mum, and carefully position her at my elbow throughout the whole process. First I weigh the sugar and ‘warm’ it (I’m learning). Sterilize the jars and lids, and pop the testing dish into the fridge to cool. Then I prepare and weigh all the fruit and put it all into the pot. The fruit is now heated to the ‘setting point’ (I tell ya, I’m gettin’ good!) and tested for that all important wrinkle. It has to wrinkle if the jam is going to set successfully, something I didn’t really have on the Strawberry Jam attempt. But redcurrants and blackcurrants are full of pectin and this jam wrinkled away first time! So I quickly popped the jam into the prepared jars, scoffed the cooled stuff. Which was delicious!! Then I sat back and felt the waves of euphoric success washing over me! Ok, so that’s a little dramatic. I’m learning all the time, and did make a few whoopsies on the gardening end of things but still, I did it. Summer Fruits Jam. Woo hoo!! I’m loving this jammy business.

And since people are coming in to the Shop to get their raspberries and strawberries for jam making as well as just general eating we’ll have sugar with added pectin in the shop this weekend.

My Knitting Progress….. hmmm

When we ran the first Knitting & Crochet class at Waterfall Farm on the 30th of June I thought I’d join in. For the crack, like! Knitting isn’t something I really thought I’d get into. But, lo and behold, I have. Martha (the knitting instructor) taught us how to cast on (get started) and do the knitting/stitches. And its not clackedy clack, whiz up a jumper in 5 minutes like my Mum does. It takes a bit of work. Why does your tongue stick out when you’re concentrating!?! I’m delighted though, I don’t have much spare time but I’ve been getting on well. I thought I was knitting a scarf, but Martha tells me I can make it into a bag. I’ve managed not to drop any stitches (so far) and at our next knitting class, details below, Martha will show me how to make the finishing touches, sow on buttons, knit a strap and cast off. Much to my surprise, and delight, I can’t wait!

If you want to join in we start at 10am – 12.30pm and you can contact Hannah for more information. Classes are on this Saturday 21st of July and Saturday 11th of August. There are group discounts available.

On The Farm This Week

It’s July, well the calendar says it’s July but the weather is questionable! Every year in July Michael weans the lambs. You can wean a lamb anytime from twelve weeks old onward. The process that we use is quite simple. All the sheep come into the yard in batches. The ewes are separated from the lambs and they are turned out on pasture with a lean pick of grass and the lambs are moved onto fields of after-grass. After-grass is the grass that grows after the meadow has been cut for silage. It’s very nutritious and putting the lambs on it helps them to thrive now that they’re out in the big bad world without Mammy! All the ewes have to go on to a less nutritious pick of grass so they won’t develop mastitis. It’s important to make sure that the fields are securely fenced, especially the ones that the lambs get turned out in. They are little divils and will try and find Mammy for the first couple of days. After spending a day or two baaing for her (if you listen carefully you’ll actually hear them say “Maa, Maa, come back Maaaaaaaaaa”) and then they realize that life is much cooler without her watching and they can up to all sorts of tricks with their mates!!

Also this week Michael will be giving a sheep herding demonstration for Xtreme which is a Team Building and Adventure Centre in north Dublin. He’ll be using Mist and Nell, the two working collies here. By my estimation they are great dogs, very intelligent. Mist often takes pity on me when I’m helping Michael move sheep. A stubborn ewe or two will be oblivious to my waving hands, jumping and shouting, so Mist kindly nips over, moves them along and looks at me as if to say “don’t worry, they just know you a weakling, I’ll move them for you”. Which is very kind of her really!!

Michael also hopes to be making silage……. soon. So everybody cross your fingers and toes for good weather!

Sheep’s Wool. A Layperson’s View.

You could be forgiven if, like me, you considered sheep to be fluffy white clouds with legs that ate grass and had cute lambs dotted about the fields in the Irish countryside. Well that’s what I used to think, before I dated a sheep farmer! I don’t claim to be a knowledgeable sheep expert, but I have picked up a thing or two, and I find the some aspects of the sheep industry very interesting. Like wool!

Many non-farming people know sheep get shorn and logically assume it happens in the summer or just prior to it. But it also happens in the winter. Why says you (and me too)? Here at Waterfall Farm we shear the sheep in the winter when they come into the shed to have their lambs, around Christmas time. I know what you’re thinking. The winter? They’ll freeze! No, not so. With so many sheep in the shed they can actually get too warm in their full winter fleece and loose condition, which is not good for them or the lambs growing inside them. So they all get a short back and sides. This lack of wool encourages the ewes to eat vigorously which is great for their unborn lambs and ensures the ewes are in prime condition before launching into motherhood. Also the lack of wool makes more room in the shed for the ewes to move around each other and get at the feed trough more easily. As wool grows continuously, like hair, the ewes will have a nice comfortable covering of wool in no time.

Other reasons for shearing sheep are to prevent fly strike or maggots, which happens mainly in the summer. This is not pleasant! Flies lay their eggs in a damp patch of wool and these eggs then hatch into maggots. The horrible little maggots then eat into the sheep’s flesh and cause septicaemia and if left untreated can lead to death. Yuck, I know. But farmers are conscientious people, always having the well-being of their stock in mind and are quick to treat any fly strike.

If Michael doesn’t shear our Lleyn sheep George Graham, a champion sheep shearer, will shear them. He is very skilled, setting an Irish record in 1997 by shearing 483 sheep in nine hours! Sheep shearing is amazing to watch, I’d consider it an art really. It takes a lot of practice, concentration and skill to shear a sheep like George can. To start with you must have the sheep correctly positioned and make clean smooth strokes with the shears, which are extremely sharp. The sheep can be cut in the blink of an eye, even so you must get the blades in close to the skin. Its important to get the second wool (the wool underneath) with the first stroke so all the wool comes away on the fleece. The method takes a bit of explaining, the in’s and out’s of it are quite intricate. Later in the year Waterfall Farm will have a Sheep Shearing Demonstration, keep an eye on the blog for further details. To keep the wool clean the sheep are normally shorn on a wooden board or clean concrete floor. Any dirty wool will lower the fleece’s quality and value. An assistant will roll up the wool and put it into a large bale to be taken away by the buyer.

Is wool useful? What can be done with it? Well, many things, the obvious one is the Aran sweater! Wool is used for knitting, crochet, attic and acoustic insulation. You can make sportswear, suits, luxury clothes and tough outdoor wear, blankets, textiles and upholstery items out of it. I’ve seen footstools fashioned like little sheep and tourist trinkets and Christmas decorations made out of wool.  Different breeds of sheep, obvious as it sounds, have different types of wool and some breeds are more popular for their wool than others. For example Merino wool is found in loads of different items in shops all over New Zealand, and now the world. That is just one example, there are many more. Wool is a valuable commodity. When Michael’s grandfather, Charlie Keegan, was a young farmer he bought a car with his first ‘wool cheque’. Subsequent wool cheques were used to pay a farm labourer for the whole summer AND pay the household bills for the year! Then in more recent years in Ireland wool lost its value. The price that farmers received for the wool did not always cover the cost of paying someone to shear the sheep. But the sheep still have to be shorn. A catch twenty-two as they say. The good news is that prices have risen since about 2009, although they have taken a dip in 2012, I am an optimist and with so many uses for wool hopefully its value will continue to be recognised.

Children’s Art Class

The Children’s Art Class on Saturday 4th August is a very popular class that is much in demand! Running from 10am to 12pm the children have great fun painting and doing crafts and really enjoy their day. At a cost of €17/child or €15/child for 2 or more children. All materials are provided and suitable clothing and footwear is advised. Parental consent is required. For bookings or more information contact Hannah or call into the shop on Saturday or Sunday. Early booking is advised!

Knitting & Crochet Class

Knitting and crochet are becoming increasing popular and here at Waterfall Farm we offer an enjoyable fun class where you will learn how to cast on, knit/crochet a tension square. Each class costs €25/person or avail of our group discount of €45/ 2 people booking together or only €65 for 3 people booking together! All basic materials are provided. Learn a new skill or improve an existing one. Improvers and children are welcome but children must be accompanied by a fee paying adult. Classes take place on Saturday 21st of July and Saturday 11th of August, from 10am to 12.30pm. To book contact Hannah or call into the shop on Saturday or Sunday.

In the Shop this weekend….

This weekend, the 14th & 15th of July, in the shop we have locally grown raspberries from Alan Conroy’s farm just down the road in Stilebawn. Yes, you’re right, it is a bit late for the first appearance of these deliciously juicy berries. You can blame the bad weather for that! Another neighbour kindly gave me some Bramley cooking apples during the week and I will be turning then into homemade apple tarts. Yum! Don’t forget about our ‘Flavour of the Month’ tea promotion. This month it is the delicious and refreshing Kingfisher Tea’s Moroccan Mint Green Tea. Of course there will be the usual fresh eggs, bread and vegetables, some of which are from our own kitchen garden. We are also taking orders for our grass reared pedigree Lleyn lamb in the shop or by contacting hannah@waterfallfarm.ie

Jam Making Adventures!!

  • For the avid gardeners among you, you will be acutely aware how slow the growth has been this year. June was incredibly wet and unseasonally cold. As a neighbouring farmer wryly remarked to me “it’s a very mild winter we’re havin’!”. But finally the plants are producing and ripening their fruit and vegetables. So, as those of you who have been following @waterfallfarm on Twitter will know, I have been out in our garden picking the lovely ripe and juicy redcurrants and blackcurrants. Although I’m sure I would have had a much bigger haul had more ended up in the basket and not in my mouth!! All this wonderous fruit leads on to an exciting new culinary adventure for me. Jam making! My first foray into jam making was just last week when I ordered extra Irish Wexford strawberries for the Shop and made, if I do say so myself, delicious strawberry jam. It was very tasty, if a little bit runny. I was reassured by my Mum, jam making expert, that strawberry jam is very hard to make as strawberries are low in pectin, the essential ingredient in setting jam. Although I did give myself every chance of a set as these were fresh strawberries picked that morning, so their pectin level was at its highest. I suppose I could have used jam sugar, which has added pectin, but that’s kinda cheating, right? So I rolled up my jam making sleeves and, like Rocky Balboa, faced the challenge and came out feeling like a winner! This little jam making exercise has spurred me on to at least attempting to make more jams and jellies and maybe even cordials! My next jam, or jelly, adventure will be with the blackcurrants. These are high in pectin and so I confidently look forward to euphoric success!! At present the previously picked blackcurrants are in the freezer waiting to be joined by more of their friends who are ripening on the bush. I just have to get them before the blackbirds and in between the rain showers. I look forward to updating the blog with my next jam adventure.