Sunday, September 6, 2015

Visit to the sheep farm...and scones!

Well one of the things I was most looking forward to was the CIE Tour visit to a working sheep farm!  I wanted to see the sheep dogs in action!

First a little about our group tour.  There are 47 of us on our couple from Canada, one couple from Australia, and all the rest from the USA.  We are not the only "group" within our addition to our Hunt group, there are 6 women from New Jersey,  and a family of seven that are from all over the USA.  This family consists of the mother Elizabeth, her 3 grown children and their spouses.  What makes this family interesting is that Elizabeth has terminal lung cancerand she has decided not to fight this last battle, rather, she would like to spend time with her family in the country of their ancestors. It is really nice to see this family interacting, laughing, and treating their mom with such love and compassion. 

Like any group of people that are thrown together, there are some annoying people on the bus, and some very pleasant ones.  In fact, one woman from Denver is now known as "Rons girlfriend"...they keep ending up in each other's pictures!!!!  Here is Ron with Kerri...his bus girlfriend!  
Our driver/guide is a young Irish guy named Dennis O'Connor!  He is charming and definitely has the gift of gab!  He's quite entertaining...all kinds of little stories, history lessons, sports info (hurling lessons anybody!?). I'm sure he has some great stories to tell about driving tour coaches (as they are called here) for 5 years!  He is very patient, because keeping track of this group of 47 tourists is a bit like herding cats!  There is one lady who is crazy...always lugging her blanket and 2 pillows onto the bus so she can "be comfortable". We call her the Wing Nut...because she is more than a little nutty.  There is the mother of a grown son who has a pint of Guinness or two, every chance she gets...morning stop, lunch doesn't matter, we call her Vala because she looks a little like one of Lenore's friends by that name. I'm sure they have names for us...mostly because we are laughing the most!  

*just a little side bar here...we are currently driving home from The Dingle Penninsula.  Right now there is a HUGE hurling championship being played and our driver's team, Gallway, is playing.  It is akin to our Superbowl - the whole newspaper is filled with stats, player profiles, injury reports, etc.  Dennis has just put some Irish folk music on for us to listen to ...while he has his headphones on with the game on!  We are all laughing, because we are convinced that when the game get exciting, he gets a little heavier on the accelerator!  Sure hope we survive this trip!!

Anyway, back to the sheep farm.  We drove to this delightful farm between Dublin and Killarney.  As we stood by a pasture with sheep, and a dog lying at the farmers feet, the farmer explained a bit about raising sheep.  Ireland raise NO sheep for their wool.  There is just not enough money in that.  The Aussies have a lock on the merino wool and it is much more valuable, so they can make a living on it, but in Ireland, all the sheep that are raised are for eating...lamb!  Sheep usually have twins...that is by far the most common, but a few have singles and a few have triplets. Ewes have only 2 teets, so can only feed 2 babies.  What about the triplets?!  They take one of the triplets away from its mom as soon as it is born and take it to a ewe that is about to deliver a single (ultrasound helps them here!)   They let this foster mom lick the newborn clean, then deliver her own baby...and she will almost always successfully raise 2 babies!!!  The sheep all have spots of colored ink on them.  The farmers mark them for all kinds of things...vaccinations, whether they have been on a "date" with the ram (!), whether they are pregnant, etc.

Now for the herding demo!  The farmer very quietly said something that sounded like "bring them here" and that dog took off running toward the sheep that were all at the far end of the pasture. Sure enough they all ran into a the dog ch asked them, they ran in unison!  

Do you see the one black sheep in the bunch?!

They kept trying to run away, but that 9 year old border collie got them to all run in a clump right up to the fence where we stood!  The farmer said something else, and the dog just walked over to the shade of a tree and lay down...her job was done!  The farmer told us a good sheepdog can cost upward of $1,500!!  

We headed into the farm house where the farmer and his family live.  The run the big house as a bed and breakfast.  There are no big factory farms here in Ireland...just small family farms. Sadly there is not enough money in farming, so the farmers typically have to have a second source of income...driving a bus, working in the local museum, running a bed and breakfast, etc.  well, we were in for a treat when we say down.  We were served warm homemade scones, with homemade jam and Devonshire cream and tea!  It was lovely!

No comments:

Post a Comment