self sufficiency ireland

Eco Tour of Ireland Day 10 Part 3

BlueBerry Hill Activity Farm Kerry

As I was making my way from Tralee to Cork I had decided to fit in a visit to the area of Sneem Co Kerry, having heard much about it from a 1980’s band trip my sister had made in her late teens. The memory of her ‘I love Sneem’ hat stays with me to this day!
Not since the beautiful drive through Leitrim and Sligo had I experienced such incredible vistas and landscapes. Seriously folks, if you have never driven through the ‘Cork and Kerry Mountains’ a la Thin Lizzy then now is the time to do so – (well maybe in the spring..)
I had arranged to visit the very cute sounding Blueberry Hill Farm, an activity farm where visitors get to interact with a number of farm animals including goats, pigs, cows, geese, hens and more.
Sigi and Yvonne met me upon my arrival and we began our interactive tour with a bit of bottle feeding the goats! What fun! I can imagine the squeals of excitement that children would make from the enjoyment of being able to literally touch and feed the animals.

A Way of Life!

Chatting with Sigi it became apparent that this is more than a way to make a living – this is their way of life. Indeed Sigi and Yvonne decided to sell their house and travel around  Europe before discovering and falling in love with Sneem and have worked hard building Blueberry Hill Farm from scratch.
The farm has goats, piglets, a beautiful cow (it’s rare I call cows beautiful trust me) and lots of very amusing fowl – (see the dinnertime video below to see what I mean) which visitors get to meet, touch and feed whilst Sigi explains a bit about them and promotes choosing free range meat over intensively farmed animals reared for meat only.

Candlemaking & Scone Making Fun!

The farm also has a very cool barn which is the venue for a spot of candlemaking where children from a very young age to adults all get to make a lovely keepsake that will actually be useful – a candle! Sigi and Yvonne originally had a candle making business where they created beautiful mutli coloured and multi shaped candles which they sold at markets and to craft shops throughout Ireland and it was from this business that they were able to finance the purchase of the land many years ago.

Activity Tours

There is a choice of tours and the full tour includes the preparation of scones where the children are shown how butter is made and they use the buttermilk and cream on the scones which are devoured afterwards!
Blueberry Hill Farm also offer lot’s of workshops throughout the year for adults interested in self sufficiency.

Self Sufficiency Workshops

One in particular that really interested me was the Home Dairy workshop where you can learn to transform milk into delicious yoghurt, soft cheeses, hard cheeses and real butter. This workshop will give you knowledge and skills which you can put into practice at home afterwards. They also offer Blacksmithing and Candle Making for adults.

Unique Hen & Stag Events!

Blueberry hill farm have some great ideas for Hen and Stag parties looking for something a little unusual – for eg the hens can create a beautiful horseshoe shaped ‘Good Luck’ candle with engravings on it which the bride can have at her wedding, whilst the stags can build a raft to sail across the lake in order to find the hidden whiskey! Or vice versa! no gender stereotypes here- many stags enjoy getting the groom to experience married life earlier by learning how to prepare and bake scones – pink apron supplied!
A freshly prepared lunch using their own homegrown organic veg and salads is included in the hen and stag packages.
Pre booking is essential for blueberry farm tours and events and they are open all year round so do give them a call on 087 3647371 to avoid disappointment!
Listen to our EcoTour Audio Here:
Visit Blueberry Hill Farms’ Profile Page Here >>
Dinnertime for those naughty Geese:

Plum and Custard Tart Recipe

HomeGrown Plums and Free Range Eggs

self sufficiency perksIt’s days like this that I remember why I decided not to move back to Dublin in 1999!
Living in the Countryside has it’s challenges ( social life, transport, jobs) but the positives are space, land, nature and the ability to become self sufficient!
Anyway, As many of you know I grow a variety of my own veg inc plums which I bought from Lidl about 5 years ago… This is only the second year that they have been so fruitful so I like to make the most of them when I can.
Thus this fabulous Plum and Custard Tart recipe which I would like to share with you now.

Plum and Custard Tart Recipe:

halving plumsIngredients:
450g plums
110g plain flour
55g butter
300 ml milk
2 eggs
55g caster sugar
few drops vanilla essence ( you can also use almond but be wary of too many drops as is very strong)
All inMethod:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  • Half the plums (cut round then twist apart) and de-stone them – set aside
  • Mix flour and butter in bowl to resemble breadcrumbs
  • Add enough water to make a soft dough
  • Butter a tart dish and roll pastry out to fit.
  • Place in tart dish
  • Bake blind in oven for ten minutes ( I cover with greaseproof paper then fill that with risotto rice as baking beans – this stops base from rising)
  • Meantime mix milk, sugar and eggs together with vanilla or almond essence
  • Take out of oven and place plums on bottom face down
  • Pour liquid over plums
  • Bake in oven for 45 mins


Is keeping Chickens Hard?

How hard is it to keep chickens

Lately I have been asked how hard is it to keep chickens by a number of people. My answer: Easy!
Keeping chickens is massively rewarding not only for the eggs but to see them wandering about and enjoying dust baths whilst making those country sounds is a delight. As many of you know I like to bake and the cost of this is reduced enormously by keeping chickens and having fresh gorgeous eggs daily.
When we started keeping hens we got a few fancy looking ones – bluebells, sussex and of course a few of the reds – now we have mostly reds ( they are the best layers)  with one or two others that grew up with us.
That’s the best part you see, once you have hens it’s likely that at least one will be broody every year (won’t come out , sits on eggs) giving you to the chance to replenish your stock with chicks! There are lot’s of great books available for keeping hens – One in particular that I like is ‘Keeping Chickens and other poultry’ by Vivian Head.
So to give you an idea of cost etc:
We built our own hen hut with a door we could easily open to rake out the straw when cleaning – we clean it out a few times a week. Total Cost: €100 -€150 inc posts,wire,hinges.Wood was re-cycled wood – we paid carpenter mate 50 quid.
Our neighbour – a farmer,  gives us a bale of straw every year which we keep in our rather ramshackle shed – I think you can buy same though for about 50 quid. Try your local farmers co-op noticeboard.
lost eggs
It’s important to get them into a routine of laying in the hut otherwise you will wander across a lost nest of eggs and have no idea how old they are. We only let ours out to roam after 11am.
We get 4-6 eggs per day allowing us plenty for brekkie and baking plus enabling us to give visitors a lovely gift of fresh free range eggs when they leave.
hens like friendsMost of our neighbours’ fowl were killed by foxes last winter- they are wondering how us ‘city folk’ have managed to keep them at bay – we ll we do have dogs but they are on the other side of the house..
When we built a small pond we used extra tough metal sheets (for reinforcing the concrete yet allowing it to bend) and we had leftover sheets ( they were about €8 each) which we used for the bottom of the hen coup perimeter, then we just used normal chicken wire for the rest.
One tip- when we had chicks we attracted hawks, magpies and buzzards looking for an easy snack so we put a light green netting over the top (at head height) so they cannot get into the hens.
hens-freerangeWe have a rooster – a total gentleman- he allows the girls to eat before him but then he does have 7 super  ladies so why wouldn’t he?
Some of our chicks have been male so we have had to give them away – we don’t like to kill them – there is always someone who will take them so ask around.
feederFoodwise we spend about 10-12 euro per month on layers pellets which supplements their free range diet of worms, insects etc..
Tip: We hang the feeder off the ground under the hut which keeps the food dry and away from mice.
Chickens are social creatures and enjoy being around humans. If You have a small space consider 3 hens rather than 2 as it makes it a bit more social for them to. You do not need a rooster for hens to lay eggs.
snipe-henhutWe did of course have to train our dogs not to be interested in the hens- my other half is excellent at dog training- as you can see! They no longer even look twice at the hens.
All animals get sick occasionally and we have lost a few over the years to egg binding ( hen produces an egg but cannot lay it – we took her to the vet but she didn’t make it) some were taken by other animals and there’s the odd unexplained death.
One thing we do keep at hand is medicine for a cough-like affection that can happen to them if their water gets contaminated with for eg mice peeing in it. Do not be deterred. It is rare and fixed easily. It’s important to keep the ground they live on clean/rotated so parasites cannot build up.
sociable-creaturesThere are regular fowl markets in places like Gorey, Enniscorthy and some garden centres ( like Springmount) hold a family fun day with fowl for sale every so often. If in doubt ask your local garden centre as they usually know the same people who keep chickens, or your local co-op or check out the local newspaper ads. (It is hard to get this info online still).
 So is hard to keep chickens? No. Is it rewarding – very much so! 

Events at a glance

Lot’s of fun events this Summer!

Foraging Events in IrelandForaging Events:

Gold Panning

  • gold-panning-01Pan for Gold in Beautiful Avoca –  Every Saturday 10am
    View details >>

Food Tours

  • From Grain to Bottle – the Slane Castle Whiskey Walking Tour – Monday 4th August 2014
    View details >>

Walks & Hiking

irish-survivalists-Canoeing and Wild Camping

Surf Camps