A Christmas Carroll
Posted by Laura Caffrey in: Christmas time, Christmas Tree, Glenealy, Irish Farming
Over the years I have bought my Christmas tree from a variety of places, a shopping centre car park, from the scouts and from the side of a road. The experience at Glenealy Christmas Tree farm in Co. Wicklow is a whole other story. James Carroll and his brothers Dave and Andrew have created a really special experience on the plot of land they took over from Coillte a few years ago.
Just outside the tiny village of Glenealy there are about ten acres of randomly planted Noble and Nordmann Fir trees, where young and old can ramble between large overgrown trees and tiny two year old ones to find their perfect Christmas Tree. On arrival, James, who's furniture we have been stocking since 2010, welcomed us and introduced us to the three skittish Shropshire sheep (Sunday, Hazard and no.3) who are a new addition, hired to keep the grass tidy between the trees, as this particular breed has no interest in fir trees. We then went on a tour of the shed where we met James' brother Dave who offered to post our letters to Santa and gave us a bit of a tune on the old grand piano next to a model sleigh.
The highlight of the day was the stroll through the land, where James talked us through the wildlife that roams the land, a friendly fawn had eaten the bulk of the Willow he had planted earlier this year. The brothers have great plans for how to use the land outside of Christmas time - Easter egg hunts and Halloween hauntings are among the ideas currently being hashed out.
Delighted with our choice of tree, James swiftly cut it down, drilled it, wrapped it up, and stuck it in the back of the car. On the way out Deirdre, a neighbour of the Carroll's reminded us to take some of her holly with us in return for a donation towards one of the four charities she is supporting.
You can buy a selection of James' work in our shop on Drury Street.
Gobble Gobble Gobble....
Posted by Clare Grennan in: Christmas dinner, Christmas time, Christmas turkey, Hells Kettle Farm
On announcing that we were going to visit our Christmas turkeys, we were met with mixed reactions from friends and family. ‘Why would you want to do that? Surely that would put you off eating turkey, watching 200 carefree birds unaware of their imminent fate?’. Firstly, this is the very point, we visited a flock of very happy, curious turkeys roaming a hazelnut orchard, grazing, foraging, basically, utterly content. In an age of intensive farming methods, it is encouraging to see a rise in farms focusing on organic, sustainable farming methods, with an emphasis on providing excellent animal welfare (which results in some pretty tasty meat).
Nestled in the picturesque Wicklow countryside, at the Northern end of the Glen of Imaal lies Hell’s Kettle Farm. On a crisp, Autumnal morning, we called into this family run, organic farm to have a chat with Gavin and Linda over a cup of tea and some tasty cakes. Gavin’s family have been farming on this land for generations. Named after the river and bridge which runs alongside the farm, Hell’s kettle focuses on high quality, low impact, sustainable farming. Gavin and Linda (the resident vegetarian) maintain these principles under the guidance of ‘wise older farmer’ Pat Lynch. Specialising in Organic Wicklow beef, free range organic bronze turkeys, fruit and hazelnuts, Hells Kettle focus on traditional farming methods, ensuring their produce and animals grow in the best possible environment. In addition, all slaughtering and butchery takes place on the farm, minimising stress for the animals.
Gavin and Linda’s bronze turkeys are reared for approx 140 days. This is double the lifespan of a non organic, supermarket turkey. Displaying natural behaviour in their orchard environment, they spend their days dust bathing, perching & playing. They are a curious, nosey breed who act as a group (they were very taken with my yellow shoelaces!), wandering into their cosy shed at nightfall. Focusing for so long on keeping these birds happy, healthy and comfortable, it can be difficult come slaughter, particularly for Linda, who makes herself scarce on that fateful day in mid December. As mentioned, slaughtering takes place in the most humane way possible, on Hells Kettle farm. ‘Plucking day’ follows slaughter, which involves family, friends & neighbours lending Gavin and Pat a helping hand. (Linda’s role is preparing an end of day feast for the hungry pluckers). Linda’s granny is an expert in the art of ‘pin feathering’ and looks forward to the day with great enthusiasm. (Pin feathering is removing the smaller, stubborn feathers with a tweezers. It is done more so for aesthetic reasons). Once all some 200 turkeys are plucked, they are hung for a week, gutted and oven ready for a Christmas Day feast.
A Hell’s Kettle turkey is as far removed from an intensively reared bird as it gets. From the care and attention given to every aspect of rearing, slaughtering and butchering, to the respect for traditional farming methods. ‘Everything is done as nature intended. Some call it organic, we just call it common sense’-Gavin.
To order your Hells Kettle organic bronze turkey, contact Linda and Gavin directly.
Alternatively, visit their stand at this years Christmas on the Square.