Our farm consists of 800 acres of biodiverse landscape, comprising ancient forest, pine woods, grassland, mountain, scrubland and tillage fields. We keep cows, pigs, chickens and sheep. We rear pheasants for a shoot and we grow vegetables, all of which get stocked seasonally in our Farm Shop. Our partner, Olly keeps honey bees on our estate. Alive Outside run obstacle courses and Squirrel Scramble run a tree-top climb. We host one of Ireland’s first outdoor Kindergartens and other activities crop up too!
Anthony Ardee is owner of the Farm and Tom Jenkinson is the third-generation livestock farmer.
On the Farm with Anthony Ardee April 2021
Finally we’ve got a bit of rain. Things have been very dry recently and getting a bit serious with grass growth and soil temperature. Grass will only grow when soil temperatures are over 5°, and it needs water and sun, and all three of those haven’t quite been playing together nicely over the last month or so.
Last year’s weanings (year-old calves) were sold in the market yesterday in Blessington and we got a good price. It was interesting to see the online mart for the first time – it’s quite novel watching it on the computer in the office, but I do worry that a lot of older farmers aren’t getting their weekly chat with their buddies down in the local cafe. If you want to see a mart in action, head to www.marteye.ie.
This year’s calves are doing well in the field. The farm shed is nearly empty, which is great. There’s a few triplets left in there and they’ll be going out next week, then we’ll clean out the sheds and reset it for the winter. We’ve started supplying pork to the shop every Thursday. There’s no lamb left and we won’t have any more until the end of July.
Potatoes have been planted, and there are still a few left to go in the ground. This year we have planted Sante, Connect Queens and Sevilla.
We are greasing and fixing the mower, getting ready to top the fields, but that’s a bit premature at the moment with the temperature being so low.
There’s a bit more fencing to go in, and in the next few weeks the pigs will leave the front fields, where they’ve been entertaining everyone over the last year. The baby boys will be separated from the baby girls and the mums will go back to Buster the boar, and the process starts all over again.
We have fixed the Ace of Club pond (near the back gate into the garden) which was losing water and stagnating, reducing its relevance to wildlife. You should see an improvement in it over the next few weeks.
The human race has been farming since 10,000 BC, and over the years there’ve been many different mini-agricultural revolutions. For every farmer in Ireland there are 20 people who are able to work in a different job. Humans no longer need to run around spending most of their time trying to find or grow food. So if you want to be an airline pilot – although maybe that’s a bad example at this time – you can. For most of the humanity’s existence on the earth (actually 99.996%), finding food has been the main occupation. Food for thought…
On the Farm with Anthony Ardee March 2021
March has arrived and the age-old saying has reared itself in conversation: “In like a lamb, out like a lion” – meaning the weather for March has started calm but it will go out a bit wilder. Judging by the weather forecast, I think this will be true.
March is the busiest month on any livestock farm, with lambing at full tilt and calving up on the mountain. Tom with the help of Filip, Volodymyr and Emma (who’s here doing work experience), have put in a lot of hours and hard work. It’s gone well and you’ll see lots of lambs above the Middle Lodge and lots of calves on the mountain. We have Suffolk, Bluebell and Leghorn Hen eggs in an incubator, two of whom have hatched this afternoon and fingers crossed we will have some more hatch later this evening, much to the excitement of the children (and me, to be honest).
We have planted lots of trees over the last two months, mostly filling in old burnt patches and a couple of places where big mother trees falling have left a clearing in the forest. Dad (Earl of Meath – A forester) has been busy weeding around the smaller trees.
The tillage fields have been ploughed and rolled, if your a member who walks the estate, please stay out of them until harvest time. This year we are mostly growing barley. We have planted another acre and a half of potatoes and we’ll be putting in some onions and spring Cut Flower bulbs in the fields soon as well.
In the shop, there is fresh lamb every Wednesday and fresh green leavy vegetables from the garden. We still haven’t got around to moving the pigs but we really have to do that in the next week or so, expect to see less pigs in the front avenues in the next few weeks.
One thing I’ve really noticed recently is the amount of pheasants on the estate. Due to lockdown, the gun club didn’t get their shooting days in and that’s resulted in a huge population of pheasants moving into the breeding season. Although pheasants are not native to Ireland, they do manage to breed, they have a tough enough time bringing up chicks in this climate and it will be interesting to see how many manage to rear their clutches this year.
With all the new animals on the farm, we hope that the temperature will rise and grass will spring into action. The cold snap forecast for the weekend is a slight concern but hopefully just a blip, and with temperatures rising grass should come quickly – and good grass means good milk, which is just what all the little animals need these next few months.
On the Farm with Anthony Ardee February 2021
It’s been quite a tough year on the farm, not least because everything’s so wet. Our silage crop from last summer wasn’t optimum, as it was cut during unforeseen rainy weather, so we’ve had to buy 100 silage bales. As the lowlands are so wet, the cows are up on the mountain and are calving up there now, which is not ideal. We’ve had to put in a new fence to separate the main area of the mountain into two smaller paddocks. If you’re a Killruddery member and are walking around the estate at the moment, there is a well-signposted area of about 70 hectares which you cannot access because the cows are potentially dangerous. They get angered easily while calving (especially cow number 157) so please steer clear. You may come across a new gate, at which you should take a sharp right, and that brings you up to the top road on the mountain; from there you can access the summit and also our neighbours’ Belmont walk.
Our sheep are in their shed now as it’s getting near their lambing, which will begin in a week or two. You may have noticed, through tall green metal gates, the sheep chilling on beds of straw – we play classical music as it seems to relax them! Thank you if you’ve heeded signs not to go in past the gates: like all maternity wards, it’s best to keep the area quiet and free from people they don’t know.
If you are local, you may have seen our pigs in the front fields looking properly mucky. Our next big operation is separating the male from female piglets and weaning them from their mothers, then putting all three groups into their own paddocks. They will either be kept for breeding or else will live a good life as they move towards being ready to go to the butchers. If anyone saw the Instagram story about the little piggy with the big abscess, he has just been to the vet today and is on a course of antibiotics for next five days, so hopefully he’ll be fine.
Over the past 10 years we have regenerated our Kitchen Garden, where we grow lots of veg for our Farm Shop shelves and our Grain Store Cafe. This year we added potato fields to the farm, and although we ran low on garden greens, we do still have a good stock of last year’s potatoes on offer. We just ploughed the potato field, taking into account the three-year rotation. Our potato man Cillian Burke has moved down the field somewhat, and he will plant Carlos and Orla seed potatoes well in advance of St Patrick’s Day, as per tradition!
In the tillage fields we did not plant winter crops this year. We will plant barley in the spring, which will be malted for beer or end up in feed for animals.
In the Walled Garden our chickens have been allowed to run free for the winter as their runs had gotten low in grass. This allows the grass to recover, and the lovely grass and weeds they’ve been eating is why their eggs taste so good! We sell these in the Farm Shop on a Saturday morning, and those in the know turn up at opening time to ensure they get them! As the grass recovers and our visitors return to the Gardens on the 1st of April we will put them back into their smaller pens under the apple trees.
So for the next couple of months we knuckle down to pretty hardcore hours on the farm, dealing with all those births, and from the second week in March you should start seeing little lambs in the Lime Avenue Field (that’s the big one with the view into the Gardens + ponds towards the house). If you’re a member and you’re walking around the estate, those gates will be locked, so do look in but please don’t walk into any fields with livestock.
Finally I just want to alert everyone that Meg the sheep dog is enjoying running out of the lambing shed and ambushing people. I think it’s unfair to chain her up when she’s not out working on the farm with Tom, and as the shed door is very heavy it’s not viable to keep it shut all the time. Meg is not there to attack you, she’s just there to say stay away from her lambs and sheep.
That’s it from the farm for the moment, I hope you’re all doing well, staying safe and enjoying the very wet and muddy roads. If you’re beyond our 5km, we hope this update brings our Farm a little closer to mind. It has been enjoyable telling our Farm Story this week on Instagram, Facebook, and now here on a monthly blog!
Thank you for reading,
Opportunity: We do like helping hands with the lambing – if there is anyone who wants some experience with lambing then please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This opportunity is suitable for people who think they might want to be or are in training to be vets or farmers aged 16+.