A life or death situation

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Early on a Sunday afternoon, one of my girls and I decided to have a look at the animals. Since our first lamb was born we have been and still are in constant suspense about the next births, whether these be lambs or calves.

In one of the more sheltered fields we could see something and decided to investigate. One of the cows lying down and as we came closer we could see two legs of a calf in mid birth. It was time to get the only person with experience, so we ran back to the house to get Kevin. My daughter easily left me behind and ran into the house panting “calf…cow…field!”

Calmly and well used to the situation, Kevin asked me to get a rope and he brought an armful of hay. The cow was lying on her side and caught in some brambles, we could see the two front legs of the calf sticking out. Grabbing a handful of hay we took hold of the slippery legs of the calf and pulled. When this wasn’t enough, Kevin tied the rope around the legs and pulled, while I pulled at the legs. Suddenly the calf slipped out and our first calf was born.

The poor thing looked wrecked but healthy. Once we got the cow out of the brambles she vigorously started licking her calf. We stayed with them for a while and felt some worry that the calf seemed weak and was not suckling immediately, as other things needed our attention we left them for a while in the sheltered and sunny field.

Later that afternoon I went over to check on the calf, but there had been very little improvement. As Kevin was out, a neighbour helped me and advised me to get the calf and cow into the shed. We loaded the calf into a wheelbarrow and tempted the cow with a bucket of beef nuts (cow food that looks similar to dry dog food).

The tongue of the calf had been sticking out since she was born and looked a bit swollen, we later realised that this was part of the problem with the inability to suck. As she had not stood up for long, she was also cold. She was weaker now than when she had been born. My neighbour generously lent us his infra-red heating lamp, which did wonders for the calf.

Once Kevin was home, he milked the cow and we force fed the calf with an empty half-pint Jameson whiskey bottle. The neck needed to be long enough to reach far down the throat as the calf was not suckling, not even your fingers when you stuck them into her mouth and tickled her palate.

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The shed became a calf ICU as we all checked on the calf regularly. Another neighbour, a very experienced cattle farmer, came over with a feeding tube. We got electrolytes to mix with the milk, which is a re-hydration solution, and had to tube her through her mouth into her stomach to give her milk. She also developed a fever and pneumonia, and we had to give her antibiotics. As she improved every time she got a bit of milk, when she looked at her worse I got up in the middle of the night to feed her.

I cannot explain the fear we had a few mornings when we woke, wondering if the calf would still be alive. What was I going to say to my girls? And how had I suddenly developed so much fondness for this cow and calf?

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Such a delight to finally see her suckling!

You might have read my post on my very strained relationship with our bullocks, my frenemies on the farm. Well, I had hoped to get a better experience with the females of the species, and I can now say I am converted. Cows, particularly these three cows we have, are lovely, calm, easy to work with and even friendly. They are still lumbering hippopotamuses, drooly and poopy, but their calm nature makes me forgive all that.

In a slow but steady pace the calf improved and finally recovered. She is a beautiful calf, a golden brown with a blond crown of curly hair on the top of her head. Once we felt secure that she was out of the woods, it was the most natural thing to call her Goldie.

There is no direct connection or symbolic meaning in the name, but we thought it would such a cool name to call a cow (not insult intended, rather a lot of admiration) that we named her mother Oprah.

Now Goldie and Oprah spend the days out in the fields and the nights in the shed. I know, I’m being a bit of a mother hen, but I dote on my girls and want the best for them. I also hand milk Oprah each morning and she generously supplies plenty for both the calf and the house.

Who would have thought it, that I would feel such affection for Oprah and Goldie. It is barely a chore to care for them, as they both recognise my voice and know what needs to be done. I also truly enjoy these few farming tasks I have each morning and evening.

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Goldie is getting an unwanted cleanup from her mum.

 

 

 

We have more than one little lamb

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A few weeks ago you might have seen the picture of me with our first born lamb, posted on the Casa Ceoil Instagram page (make sure to follow!). Well, we now have more than one little lamb!

We have always been lucky with our lambing and never had any real problems, touch wood! This year we had one lamb born seemingly a bit premature, that’s the one on the picture. But it was on a fairly sunny day and I found lamb and ewe just after the birth. They were brought into the shed and away from the elements, to be able to rest and bond in peace.

The next three lambs were a bit harder to get into the shed. One of the ewes was understandably aggressive and tried headbutting anyone picking up the lamb; the other, being our most shy ewe, had twins and didn’t want to leave the birthplace of the lambs. In a very slow pace, with plenty of breaks and ewe-bullying, we finally got them down to the shed. As the weather turned and the night temperatures fell, we were very happy to have our newborns snug and warm with their mothers, resting on fresh straw and with plenty of food and water.

We are expecting more lambs from the ewes born last year, but when these will arrive is unsure. I am sure that a very experience shepherd could tell you exactly when, we instead rely on keeping them under regular supervision. Fingers crossed that all will go as easy with them; there is a bit of worry as these will be first time mums.

The ewes and lambs have until recently been separated from the larger flock, and we have been bringing them in into the shed for the night. The maternity ward has been our back garden, where they have been keeping the grass low. As the weather has improved they are now with the rest of the flock and staying out at night.

Apart from their love of decorative bushes and flowers, sheep are better than a lawnmower and leave the lawns beautiful. In the back garden the lambs take shelter from the rain by getting in under the girl’s trampoline. I am just waiting for one of them to climb up on it and have the time of her life.

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Finding shelter under the trampoline. They haven’t discovered the stair yet!

The flock is currently visiting our neighbour’s back field and are slowly making a lawn out of it. Just yesterday, as I went to feed them I discovered another newborn lamb. This one, unlike the previous lambs, has been born in smashing weather and was left out as the nights are mild and the days are beautiful and sunny.

Seeing a newborn makes you realise how fast they grow, as the older lambs look now very healthy and strong. Right bullies as well, as they push the little one around. Thankfully it still has the strong instinct of staying around her mum.

Lambs are lovely little creatures, inquisitive, playful, energetic and resilient. Just watching them playing and jumping, all white and fluffy, would make anyone smile.

The Beauty of Co. Clare

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We have a tour we do with or recommend to all our visitors, as it really passes through many of the best-known places in County Clare. When you’ve done this main route, you will either want to come back to spend more time in each place or see more of Clare.

From Casa Ceoil you drive towards Corofin through to Killnaboy, here you may can turn off to see Father Ted’s house , or climb up Mullaghmore for a light to medium trek. If not, you keep going until you get to Leamaneh Castle  from the late 15th century. At the castle cross you turn off towards Carron and the heart of the Burren.

In Carron you can visitThe Burren Perfumery which sells handmade perfumes and soaps, has a lovely little coffee shop and shows a short documentary of the unique flora of the Burren landscape. By Carron you will also find the Caherconnell Ring Fort, which at times also has sheepdog demostrations. Artefacts have been found in the fort that date back to the early Bronze Age, about 2000-1500 BC.

Continuing on you have to stop at the most iconic archaeological monuments in the Burren, it is also the oldest megalithic monument in Ireland, the Poulnabrone Dolmen.

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Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Burren.

The name means “The hole of sorrows”, being a tomb the name is no surprise. It was built and in use about 3800 BC and in the tomb archaeologist have found the remains of 16 adults, six children and a newborn.

Keep going through the austere and impressive landscape of the Burren towards the sea. You will pass the Aillwee Cave, which is one of the oldest caves in Ireland. Here there is also a fascinating centre for Birds of Prey where they have flying displays, birds of prey from different parts of the world and the centre also works with raptor conservation. Don’t miss the cheese shop that not only sells unique cheese such as firm Gouda style cheese with garlic and nettle, but also has fabulous toffee. The caves are a great outing for all, but we would particularly recommend it for families.

From here you keep driving towards the coast and pass through Ballyvaughan. Turn left in the village and follow the Wild Atlantic Way coast towards Fanore. On the way, there are a few places suitable to stop. Get out of the car and do a small walk with the steep Burren hills on one side and flat stony landscape that abruptly clashes with the Atlantic on the other. Depending on where you are, you will either see Galway or the Aran Islands across the water. Fanore beach is wild, long, beautiful and literally in the middle of nowhere.

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The Sweater Shop in Doolin.

Keep going and turn off towards Doolin, here I always recommend you get yourself a nice warm chowder in one of the pubs. Have a look around the shops and then continue towards the Cliffs of Moher. Come back to Doolin another day if you want to visit the Aran islands, you take the ferry here. If you keep hugging the coast, and dare up the steep hill by Doolin you will pass Doonagore Castle, which is a must for anyone that wants a great view or picture of a castle by the Atlantic.

There’s no way you can miss the Cliffs, although I’ll be honest, on a bad day you just might not see much. Most of it is very safe to walk, although we that have been here long remember the wild days where you could hang your legs over the edge.

Once you’ve seen the cliffs the route will take you by the Moher Hill Open Farm. This is a good outing for families but don’t forget that you can get a close up experience with farms animals any day if you are staying in our holiday home, Casa Ceoil. Keep going and you will pass  by St. Brigid’s shrine with its holy well, continue through Liscannor and the Rock Shop, and on to Lahich.

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The Cliffs of Moher, from another angle.

Here’s another great stop for a walk by the beach and a coffee in one of the cafes or pubs. Look at the surfers that brave the cold waters and weather at all times of the year, and see everyone and anyone on the promenade on a sunny day.

My favourite food spot in Lahinch is Kenny’s Bar. We have been going to Kenny’s since before our girls could walk and love the friendly atmosphere and  the good food. It is always a must for us when we have family visiting.

By now you will be wrecked, even if you didn’t stop at half of the places mentioned on this tour. On the way back to Ennis and Casa Ceoil, you will pass by Ennistymon and note that it is another village you have to come back to.

I can almost feel the tiredness of a full day of impressions, wild landscapes and exploration. Even in the worst of weather the landscape is so impressive and with an almost savage beauty,  the sea looks beautiful when wild and the pubs are never more welcoming than on a rainy and cold day.

There is so much more to see, as this tour is shows only a small corner of County Clare…but we’ll leave the other bits for another day.

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Lahinch beach in the evening as the tide is coming in.

A farrier’s visit

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We have a visitor that has been with us for over a year, Sheila the pony. She belongs to a family member that is currently working abroad and we agreed to mind her for the period.

To be perfectly honest, we know pretty much nothing about horses or ponies, but Sheila is a very placid pony, easy to mind and requires very little attention. My riding skills leaves much to be desired, but with help of horse aficionado neighbours and friends, we have learned a lot.

I have learned to lunge her, which has amazed me. Tied to a long rope I get to play the circus tamer and exercise her in circles, making her walk, trot and canter, while also changing direction and speed. To able horse lovers this is probably small potatoes, to me it was incredible that I could have such control over a big animal and see her enjoy the attention and exercise.

The last year has been quiet for Sheila and she has kept company with our bullocks.  Sheila minds herself most of the time, and needs very little supervision. She has unfortunately gained too much weight while hanging out with our cattle, and has had to be separated to a field with less grass. There are regular visits and plenty of attention from our kids, myself and our horse friendly friends and neighbours. On one such visit we were very worried to see that she had developed a severe lameness.
A visit from a vet and the farrier was arranged.

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Farrier visit to pare Sheila’s hooves.

 The farrier, Darren Howard, had a good look at her and noted the extra weight. Sheila patiently stood by as he gave her a horsey manicure and paired her hooves back.  Darren showed us the cause of the lameness, which resulted in a small gap by her hoof where possibly a stone had dug through the hoof and found an outlet in the soft part where the hoof ends and the leg begins.

“There’s nothing you can really do about it. It just happens” Darren said.

So, with pretty hooves, Sheila was put into on a diet and again in a field with very little grass growing. This has not been enough and her sensitive hooves have caused her a lot of pain. She is now stabled in a very kindly neighbours farm, and very well looked after.

I never knew that horses where such sensitive animals, and while it at times has given us a lot of worry it has also been so rewarding to learn about these fantastic animals. What is true is that you truly have to love it, as they require a lot of your time and there are no half measures when you want to have a well behaved pony.

 One last note, in case someone wonders. No, we do not do pony treks at Casa Ceoil holiday home. We will bring you over to pet Sheila, who is as placid as the day is long as we are a long cry from experienced horse riders. On the other hand, there are plenty of horse trek centers in the vicinity we can recommend.

Living the dream

As everything, it all started with an idea, a vague vision of the future and an abundance of hope and optimism, which probably seemed like slight case of insanity to many. What once was a rundown cottage and some rough land, has slowly become a place that captures all our dreams.living-the-dream-instg-1

Don’t think that we are by any means done yet! There are plenty of new challenges and ideas to realise. We are often asked “When do you think you will be finished?”. Ever a person with projects to finish, Kevin most often answers “A few weeks will make a lot of difference to the place” and my more straight forward answer is often “Never”.

This blog will let you follow a few of the additional projects we constantly work on, but also the day to day life in our small farmstead and events in the area. While not truly a working farm, we do all the farm activities of a larger commercial farm, just in smaller doses.

We are also passionate about Irish trad music, gardening, home-made crafts, diy, cooking, travelling and so much more.

We currently have a small flock of 11 sheep, 5 bullocks, 3 cows in calf, a pony on loan  and our lovely dog Bella. We also have a large polytunnel and an outdoor vegetable garden. Visitors to our holiday home, Casa Ceoil, will always be welcome to participate in any of the activities around the farm.

This time of year is quiet; there is preparation to do and projects to plan for. Will there be chickens before Easter? Will we have bees this spring? What vegetables will we be planting? When will the lambing and calving start?

Originally a city person, I am always astounded at the amount of work required of country life. There is seldom a dull moment and there are always things to start, to fix and to finish. We are now moving from the quiet time into the busiest time of the year, and we can’t wait.