A day at the mart

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I missed posting on the blog the last two weeks, this is because of all the farming activities we have been tied up with. This farming craic can be pretty intense, let me tell you. On the upside, apart from all that I have learned and experienced, I now have enough blog material for a good few weeks.

The best news is that we finally sold our bullocks and just in time. The last two day’s they were at the farm they were making a right nuisance of themselves. They broke out a good few times and we had to go hunting for them in all kinds of terrain. It was an easy decision for all to decide it was time to bring them to the next cattle mart in Ennis.

We got up at day break, to make sure we would have plenty of time for any eventualities, both on the farm and in the mart, we got them smoothly into the trailer and could take it handy as the mart was almost empty when we got there. In the almost empty car park we were hailed by the hay and straw salesmen, wishing us good luck at the auction. Now came the part where a bit of knowledge and experience comes handy.

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Unloading the bullocks at the mart.

How do you sell the bullocks? One by one? All of them together. In separate groups? Which ones go together? Because in the end it is about getting the best possible price at the auction.

Kevin decided they would be sold in two groups and handed me tags for two and three. He went off to get a few things and I was left to pair them up, never mind that they pretty much look all the same to me. Lucky me, the early start gave the lads in the mart plenty of time to kindly help me and the girls out. The two angus bullocks were paired, and the three mixed breeds left where grouped for the auction.

We wandered around the empty mart making sure we knew where our bullocks had been penned, then it was time to go home as we would later receive a text letting us know their placement in the auction and approximate time of the sale.

The text came through within a couple of hours and we headed back in excitement. By now the mart was packed, both the car park and cattle pens. There were two rings doing non-stop auctions, one ring for milk cows and one for bullocks. There were a good few groups of cattle to be auctioned out before ours, so we took the opportunity to have a good solid lunch in the restaurant canteen in place.

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Early morning Ennis cattle mart


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Full mart in the afternoon

There were a couple of things about the whole procedure that made an impression on me. The obvious one and most expected, was the fact that there were hardly any women at the auctions. The few women I saw were accompanying their husbands or partners, they were in the restaurant and in the offices, and there were no women working with the cattle on the floor.

Another thing that truly astounded me was that all eyes were on the auctions, the cattle being sold, the weight and the sale. There were no bored farmers passing time looking at their smart phones, in fact there were few smart phones to be seen and during the 3-4 hours we spent there I hardly saw anyone using a mobile phone at all and it felt like stepping back in time.

In the mart, you get the distinct impression that this is the way things have been done for a long long time, it is an Ireland of old. If you ever get the chance to experience it I would tell you to go for it, unless you grew up in a farming environment this is another world altogether. I can tell you for sure you will feel lost as it’s not easy to figure out.

To be honest it is hard to understand the process of how the bids are being done. The cattle auction ring is surrounded by farmers, there are no show of hands and as a spectator is difficult to see who is bidding. If you pay very close attention, you will every so often see someone flick a finger and the price goes up. I was duly impressed by the skill of the auctioneer, that not only continuously belts out the current price, encourages buyers by name, knows who is bidding for what and can also say something sales worthy of each group of cattle being auctioned, but does this endlessly for hours.

Our bullocks may had looked big and lumbering in our fields, but in the mart they looked small compared to the truly large breeds. At 450 and 410 kg, they didn’t do bad compared to the 600+ kg of the other breeds. They were also a rare breed in the mart that day, while we were there we saw no other Angus cattle being sold. I still don’t know if it was a good or a bad thing.

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A warning for the unwary.

As they were finally ushered off, we saw the last of Blackie, Brownie, Calypso, Sparrow and Hercules. Our proud girls could go to the office and sign them away, get praised by a lovely lady there and be promised that the cheque would be in the post by next week.

You might think we had a party with the sale, which was substantial enough, but alas no…the money is going directly to pay for the three cows in calf we have bought. But that is another story.

Can’t get enough of markets

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I don’t know about you, but I just love markets. When I travel, it is always something I look for and love browsing through. There is something exciting about seeing non-mass-produced items that more often than not are in a pretty raw state or are at least a very personal choice of the seller.

I once visited the huge Chatuchak market in Bangkok; football fields upon football fields of items, each section dedicated to its own niche. You would find everything from clothes, souvenirs, ceramic wares, garden plants, art, antiques, vegetables, edible critters (which were mound of things like fried cockroaches, dried worms or grilled grasshoppers), antiques, food, pets (a very sad section) and so much more.

The markets in Ennis may not be as exotic as in Bangkok, but they are interesting non-the-same and will give you a view of life in Clare beyond the standard shops, also interests and hobbies people nurture in their own homes. The markets are on every week and you can’t help to buy something, anything, when you see the sellers brave all kinds of weather. Rain or shine, the markets will be on.

 

Ennis Farmers Market

On Fridays on the edge of town you will find the Ennis Farmers Market from morning to about 2-3 pm. These are locals that sell their own produce, most of it organic. You will find home baked goods, both sweet and savoury. There is often a stand with gluten-free foods and baked desserts and bread.

Today when I visited the market and got some lovely readymade salads from Quinoa & Kale, which I had for lunch. I also got a selection of some home baked mini-muffins from the Sunflower Bakery, these were a welcome gift for the holiday home guests that arrived this afternoon at Casa Ceoil.

The market also has foods, plants and today a stand with very tasty homemade pates from the Knockara Pates. Later in spring there will be plants, flowers and vegetable seedlings. As a curious gardener, I try to stay away, but if my Seed Frenzy can get out of hand I do try my best to curb my seedling cravings.

 

Ennis Town Market

On Saturdays, there are two markets in the town centre. The normal Ennis market, in Lower Market Street, is on from morning until mid-afternoon. Here you can get a good bit of basic veg from local farms, they sell cabbage, carrots, onions and such. There are a few garden plant stands and clothes, but there is one stall I never miss.

The Real Olive company is a Mediterranean food specialist that supplies to markets in the west and Dublin. They have a good selection of olives, hummus, pickled vegetables, cheeses and so much more. My girls’ love our Saturday evening tapas night, which is literally a selection of everything from The Real Olive stand, plus bread.

 

Chapel Lane Market

The last market I need to mention is the Chapel Lane Market, also on Saturdays. This is a craft market with some regular sellers, but also new talent that showcase their homemade goods. You will find home baked cakes, homemade soaps, but also craft candles, bags, hand knitted items and a good few surprises as well.

This is the perfect market for unique gifts. The handmade soaps and other beauty products from Athenry Soaps smell wonderful and you will be able to find a perfect match for yourself or a friend. For something that is a bigger statement, have a look at the Atlantic Artiques craft candles, some with such intricate decorations you will not want to light them or others with colourful patterns. A new seller last week was Onnagh Herbert, with beautiful handmade flowers using recycled plastic bottles, Secret Life of Plastic.

The lovely thing with markets, is that you never know what you will find. You may visit them every week and there will always be a small surprise waiting for you.

 

More markets in Clare