>A little bit sad

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“When loved ones die, you have to live on their behalf. See things as though with their eyes. Remember how they used to say things, and use those words oneself. Be thankful that you can do things that they cannot, and also feel the sadness of it” Louis de Berniere, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
Helen’s father died at the end of October. He had helped us at every stage of Lough Bishop House’s development. From the septic tank to the roof he was there with practical assistance and good humour.
He was diagnosed with cancer in February of this year and asked us if we would plant a tree for him. He particularly wanted a Wellingtonia and after much searching O’Mearas Garden Centre just outside Mullingar managed to source one for us.
We brought the tree home in October.

And in December we finally got around to planting “Graham’s Tree”. All who come to visit us at Lough Bishop House will now be met at our entrance by a Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron Giganteum). As its name suggests this tree will grow to be very big and I suppose we won’t get to see that either.
John McCabe, from McCabe Contracters, was coming to do a little digger work, so we took advantage of the opportunity and got the machine to dig the hole for  us. Christopher mixed in a bag of compost to the loosened soil and the job was complete.
In a few hundred years time it will look like this, and will probably be blocking the avenue if not the road!

>Broken Fence Posts

>It’s about fifteen years since this fence was put up, and some of the post have started to rot and break off which means the fence is sagging, and cannot be relied upon to contain livestock. Replacing intermediate post is not a big problem it’s just a case of removing staples taking out the old post and banging in a new one either by hand or by machine.

King posts on the other hand, which have to take the strain of the entire fence, are a different story altogether
And it’s a king post I’m replacing today, which has rotted off at the base!
It’s been in the ground about 15 years which is good going for a tanalised post which is guaranteed for 10.
I used to go to all the trouble of removing every staple and untying all the wire, which is very time consuming and not worth it, so now I just cut the broken post out.
I’m replacing it with a new pressure creosoted king post which should last at least twenty years. If it’s good enough for a telegraph pole it’s good enough for me!
Mind you they are expensive but they do last, so for any new fence creosoted posts all round are best, but if you want to save money use creostoted kings and tanalised intermediates.
For high tensile fencing the king posts need to be driven in by machine.
To see more photos of this machine action click HERE for a link to an earlier post.
A new section of wire is then joined in using these ingenious joiners from Gripple, and the fence pulled tight.
As good as new and stock proof once again!
I’ve done 3 articles on fencing and never mentioned…. ‘The American’.
An essential tool for fencing, the american fencing pliers is used to remove staples, cut wire, pull wire and if badly stuck can even be used as a hammer.
Basically if you don’t have one you can’t go fencing! Just what a farmer needs for Christmas, or in our case a wedding present!

>Irish Beef

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Marvelous piece in the Farmers Journal this week entitled ‘Where’s the beef?’ by Imen McDonnell about the quality and taste of Irish beef and how she has come to appreciate the taste and flavour of our grass fed beef.

From our own point of view, for quality and taste the traditional breeds are best whether it be Angus, Hereford, Irish Moiled etc.. We of course would be rather partial to the Irish Moiled, but basically if you want top quality beef  buy Irish, buy it from your local butcher and preferably from a butcher who has his own abbatoir. They need our support and our beef needs them!

And speaking of local butchers, we have just come back from Flood’s of Oldcastle where we went to see our Moile bullock which has been hanging in their fridge for the past 3 weeks. It was a great opportunity to see it on the hook and to discuss with Johnny, Declan and Martin Flood the different cuts and options to make the best use of it from our freezer!


If you’re ever in Oldcastle be sure to call in, or alternatively look out for their market stall on Saturdays at Sheridan’s Cheesemongers warehouse in Carnaross.
The four quarters ageing nicely in the fridge, and a good covering of fat too, essential for flavour. I was relieved to see the carcass looking so well as I was worried he wasn’t finished properly, but Declan assures me that it’s looking really good.
Our own organic rare breed beef, butchered locally and into our freezer: a total of 25 miles from ‘field to fork’!
We will be using this Moile beef through our B&B, and may have small amounts for sale but essentially we envisage using most of it here, however we sold 2 bullocks to Clanwood Farm who own and operate The Organic Kitchen, which you may have seen at shows and festivals round the country.

As part of their business they also sell their organic beef to specialist shops in the Dublin area: Cavistons, the Organic Supermarket and Thomas’s of Foxrock to name a few. So keep your eye out for Irish Moiled beef in these establishments and better still, create a demand by asking for it!


Some of our Irish Moiled Cattle

>Eco Label

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Stealing the phrase of a certain motoring journalist I suppose we have always been ‘Ecomentalists’, and now we have the certificate to prove it!
During the summer we did an Eco-Tourism course which was organised by Westmeath Community Development and facilitated by Neil Faulkner. 
To find out more please click on the following link: www.greenhospitality.ie
 From left to right: Maurice Bergin of Green Hospitality Ireland, Christopher, Helen and Joe Potter of Westmeath Community Development.
Nine businesses took part, all from Westmeath and all still committed.
A special thanks to  Westmeath Community Development who ran the Eco Tourism Training Project which was funded under the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013

>Autumn

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I’m not sure what happened to summer but it seems as if autumn is with us in the form of conkers at least.

The damsons and the crab apples are the last of the fruit to ripen, and while the recent windy weather and the birds have had their share there was still plenty for us to pick.
After much teetering on ladders we can return to the house and start processing the haul!
More jellies and jams – lets hope our guests, family and friends enjoy them as much as we do. 

>Poppies in the Barley

>The barley will be harvested any day now, all it needs is for the rain to hold off. But in the meantime, is it possible to have too many photographs of poppies?

>Westmeath Tasting Plate

>We are members of the Westmeath Slow Food Convivium, and on Friday last at the Hilltown New Music Festival we put put together a Westmeath Tasting Plate to showcase some of the local produce and producers in the County.

Beef from Joe Brady of Lough Owel Organic Farm
Smoked Mackerel from John Rogan of Rogan’s Real Smoked Fish. Tel: 043 76264
Gouda from Mary & Gerry Kelly of Moonshine Organic Cheese
Salad from Kevin Harmon (Castlepollard on Fridays, and Mullingar Farmers Market)
Breads from ‘Just Baked’ 29 Pearse St. Mullingar
All served with a delicious glass of Prosecco from Wines Direct in Mullingar
The Tasting Plates looked really well going out and we served over 70 music goers!
We were very fortunate with the weather, and everyone was able to sit outside and enjoy the atmosphere.
The music got underway later in the evening.
The courtyard or castle keep to the rear of Hilltown House made a fantastic venue for the whole event.

>Elderflowers

>As part of Westmeath Slow Food we hosted an elderflower workshop on Saturday. Luck was with us and the weather held for the day.

The flowers are truly beautiful when looked at closely.
We walked down the fields and picked some of the high growing elderflowers from a ladder. Helen wanted to save the bushes nearer the house so that we can pick the elderberries in the autumn to make Elderberry Jelly.
A trug full of blossom.
It was nice to be able to take time to enjoy the view after picking some flowers.
Returning to the house we decided to make an elderflower syrup. I think this is the easiest of the many recipes we looked at. 
700 g granulated sugar
18 elderflowers
1 lemon
Measure the sugar and grate the lemon zest into a saucepan. Add 600 ml cold water. Heat slowly until the sugar melts and bring to the boil. Add the elderblossoms to the pan. Push the florets down into the liquid and bring back to the boil. Cover and set aside until the contents are cold. Squeeze the lemon juice and stir into the syrup. Strain through a sieve and bottle. Store in a fridge. This will keep for eleven months and can be used as  the base for elderflower cordial and to flavour batters, milk puddings, mousses, custards, creams and ice creams.
Elderflower vinegar was also made by bringing cider vinegar to the boil and pouring over the elderflowers. This was set aside to mature for a fortnight.
Another elderflower vinegar recipe just asked for the vinegar to be warmed gently with 2 or 3 elderblossoms in the vinegar and then removed and bottled when cold. Both will be a delicious addition to a summer salad dressing.
More information on the event can be found at the links below:
With the Elder still in flower and inspired by Ella’s McSweeney’s blog we are off to pick some more to make Elderflower Champagne!

>’Snip’s’ Big day Out

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We know that some of you do not use Facebook, so we thought we had better post this news on the blog as well……
Snip and Helen went to the local Fete in Castlepollard and entered the dog show.
Snip is now 14 weeks old. Leaving her mother and grandmother behind and wearing her brand new lead she conquered the hearts of many who met her.
When we got home with her second prize and all her winnings, she thought she should eat them.
Maybe red’s more her colour!!

>Stormy weather

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Cold, wet and windy. Not ideal weather for shearing, bees, or gardening and sadly all the storms have done damage to some of the trees.
The only upside is that after a morning spent with the chainsaw clearing up the fallen branches we have a trailer load of firewood to put away to season.

Most of the trees to lose branches were sycamore and ash. One damson tree split in two and another was damaged by branches falling from a sycamore.

There are lots of lichens on the branches as you can see from the above photos.
They are great bio-indicators of air purity and only grow profusely where there is no air pollution. Good, clean Westmeath air!

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