Goaty shenanigans

On 28th April we finally brought our pygmy goats home.  My dream had originally been to be fairly self sufficient in milk, butter, yoghurt and cheese through the milking of Nigerian Dwarf breed goats.  These are small in stature, but great milkers -perfect for our small bit of land an modest needs.


Pure Nigerian Dwarves no longer exist in Europe, and have been mixed too far with other pygmy breeds, originally bred for meat.  They are mostly kept as pets.  Over the past 6 months we have been researching, pondering, changing our minds, procrastinating and looking despairingly at our dwindling bank account.  I finally decided that although our dairy ideas were not going to be practical, I could not live without having goats here, and offered on a group, to re-home a couple that needed one.  Along came Annabel from Cork, whose pet herd had become a little large.  She offered us two little wethers to love and cherish.  They are perfect little guys!

The end of the cowshed was prepared with a cosy little bed/den, and we replaced the corrugated steel door panel with chicken wire for ventilation and sunlight.  All the wood was reclaimed timber and pallets, even the hay rack. The enclosure  was part woodland, where we had removed as much of the poisonous plants as we could, though by most accounts, goats are pretty savvy when it comes to avoiding that stuff.  We put up a 3 wire electric fence.  We had seen this working perfectly up in Mayo at a breeder’s place.  Well, it would, wouldn’t it?

NOT with Ted and Dougal!

We had seen where they lived in Cork.  Up a mountain, with 20-odd other goats, lots of goat company and wild forage.  Lovely!  We brought them home and they were terrified of us and no doubt in shock after their journey.  We decided to keep them in the shed and just sit quietly talking to them as we fed them for a few days until they got used to us.  After so much reading for months about how good goats are at escaping, I was terrified of losing the little fellows.  To cut a long story short, the first day in the enclosure, they got out, with dog collars and leads attached, fortunately.  After chasing up the hill and lying in the long grass pretending to be a Mama goat. “mehhhhh”ing, amongst other things, I every so slowly managed to get hold of the dog leads.

The next couple of days were spent on building a small enclosure attached to their shed.  For the past 10 days I have just been working on getting them used to me, and making sure they come running for the  rattling tin of food.  Ted will now allow a little tickle and back scratch whilst he is eating, but Dougal is still very skittish.  Watching them play is a real delight -head-butting, nuzzling, jumping and twisting in games of “fight off the rival” and “escape the predator”.  I guess more pets is the last thing we could afford, but how could we regret these little guys for even one second?


Video: “Munch munch”

Video: Settling in.



I am going to use these old chairs to make the perfect “Pagoata”  shelter for the lads.

IMG_1215This is where they can eventually browse to their hearts’ content in the woods, once they have sussed out the electric fence!

IMG_1211This is the small “nursery” area.  There are now 5 lines of fence but we haven’t tried them in it yet as we’re worried it may be too small.  They walked right between the wires of the first version.  The dogs and chickens are wise to it though.


IMG_1127On another positive note, Viv the duck has turned out to be a girl!  Yay, Vivienne can stay with the chickens and we’ll look forward to trying our first duck egg in the next few months.  Here she is, chilling with her foster mum, Sybil.  All is well in Fowlty Towers.IMG_1208


Permaculture zones for the procrastinator

For my family and friends who arewondering what all this permaculture talk is about, and perhaps why it is all taking so long.  Read on!

Zone 0 -the house, the centre of thinking, and sleeping, and thinking about thinking…maybe tomorrow.  Probably the most neglected of all zones, hence the lack of internal pictures.

IMG_1055Actually, it is described by experts as:

  • Zone 0: the centre of human activity, for example, the house.

  • Zone 1: close to the house, is the most controlled and intensively-used area containing the garden, work-shops, greenhouse, small animals, wood-pile, compost, etc.

The blocks in quotes in this blog refer to this article, which I recommend reading: http://permaculturenews.org/2008/11/08/what-is-%E2%80%98zone-zero%E2%80%99/

Workshop is all sorted, up and running.  I have a new table saw which I am pleased with for the price, and am starting to get odd jobs making bespoke furniture items.  Not enough for a business but you never know..

The woodshed is complete with a temporaray reclaimed polytunnel plastic roof.

Last week saw the pallet fence completed, well except for the bit where we cheated and put chicken wire up -until tomorrow, or next month or maybe next year.  Grand total of about 4 Euros on screws, everything else was salvaged for free.  This is primarily the veggie garden with herbs and salads close to the door.


It is Nellie and Cleo proof so far.  Eric however, just hopped straight over.  Since he is more afraid of the chickens and duckling than they are of him, we’re not too worried.

IMG_1057IMG_1076IMG_1099Another trailer full of scrap timber someone wanted rid of from their yard.  It has to be sorted into useable, useable outdoor treated, rotten and needs drying out for fuel, screws and nails removed, stacking and so on.  Most people wouldn’t be bothered, but the one thing we do have plenty of, is time.  Time spent here in the outdoors with our animals is priceless.IMG_1116An almost ethereal figure in the distance looks like he could be…noo…surely not… scrubbing the caravan roof!  Are the parents coming or something?

So the barn, caravan, chicken coop, goat sleeping shed etc are all zone 1, which is more or less complete.

  • Zone 2: “has typically larger shrubs, small fruit and mixed orchard, windbreaks, poultry, ponds, terraces, etc.”

I have planted about 30 blackcurrant shoots, about 30 raspberry,  2 blueberry, a couple of redcurrant and whitecurrant in zone 2, along with 3 pear trees, two apple, two cherry, a quince and a plum tree so far.  I wonder how long before we see any fruit?  img_0957The pond is still not quite a pond due to all the wet weather making digging almost impossible.  The poultry will be free to roam this area and assist the frogs in keeping the slug population down.

Eventually here we plan to have a composting loo and solar heated shower, but hey, manyana.

At the edges of this area, in wetter ground, I have planted scores of willow slips and now some bamboo.  Hopefully this will provide more wind-break, material for construction and garden use, and fuel-eventually.

  • Zone 3: contains unpruned and unmulched orchard, larger pastures or ranges for meat animals or flocks, and main crops.

This is where it gets a bit messy due to the fact that we just have one acre had trouble with siting the polytunnel.  By rights this should be in zone 1, but this and the compost heap are in-between zones 2 and 3.  Due to the fact that the barn was already right in front of the house, we have no land at the back of the house to the north, and most of the rest was wooded, we had to lose a few sycamore trees last autumn to clear a space for the tunnel and let enough light get to it.  It seems to have worked, and we still have most of our beautiful trees.IMG_0976

Hmm, meat animals -nope, we thought about it, but the goats in zone 3 will definitely just be pets.  Not sustainable, not permaculture, but there we go…city folks in the country eh?  As my previous blog explained, the dairy thing just isn’t going to happen any time soon.

  • Zone 4: is semi-managed and semi-wild used for gathering, hardy foods, unpruned trees, and wildlife and forest management.

This is “the rest” of the woodland where I have dotted more saplings and fruit bushes around for general foraging and wildlife.  We have impregnated logs with edible fungi which hopefully will make their home here. When I finish procrastinating, I will make some bird and bat boxes perhaps.  Here we have the hedgehog house, piles of totting wood and lots of spring wildflowers.  I am determined to get wild garlic growing here!

  • Zone 5: is unmanaged wilderness – where we observe and learn; it is our essential place for meditation, where we are visitors, not managers.

The 6-10ft wide border around the perimeter consist of very tall trees of various species, both evergreen and deciduous, an ancient hedgerow, and on two sides, a ditch on the other side.  Apart from throwing a few more dead twigs and branches onto the hedgerow here and there, we are leaving it to the wildlife, just observing and admiring.  The other day I spotted a tree creeper for the first time, making its way up our large willow.  What a delight that was!






Goaty business

The goat saga is almost at an end.   I really really wanted to have goat’s milk.  It would have been organic, it COULD have made us almost self sufficient in milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter.  Plus, I just love goats!   We wrangled with all the issues for so long –  amount and type of land needed, fencing needed, shelter, feed, vet bills, timescales, breeds and much more.  Nigerian dwarf goats would have been perfect for our modest needs, as well as being a dairy breed, they are small, fun and manageable.  Alas, none are readily available in Ireland, the UK or even Europe.  We would have to bring them from the USA!  On a £400 a month total spending budget, that just wasn’t going to happen.

We have changed our minds again and again between buying pygmy does, larger breeds or none at all.  Economically, none of the options made sense and we were about to give up completely.  I was devastated.  It seemed what I just needed was goats in my life SOMEHOW.  That is when Annabel (my apparent fairy godmother) came along and responded to my Facebook plea, offering a good home to any pygmy goats requiring one, which she just happened to have!

So it seems that my need will soon be fufilled, and these two little wether chaps will be joining us at the beginning of May!  They already have been named Kunte and Kinte. Shaun felt that shouting these names across a field may be misinterpreted by some Clare farmers, so it is likely we will be calling them Ted and Dougal!



Nice weather for ducks

In one of my more impulsive moments this week, I offered a new home to a duckling in distress.  A friend on Facebook was concerned that s/he was getting bullied by a drake.  Poor wee ducky had been hatched out of a stray duck egg by a broody hen, who later decided he wasn’t her offspring after all and started ignoring him.  Understandably at this point, ducky thinks he or she is a chicken, so after a day or two of running around “Fowlty Towers” after the girls, they finally accepted him as one of the gang.



YAY!  or not?

We are fervently hoping that ducky if a girl, but won’t know yet for a couple of weeks, either by his curly tail feather and absence of quack, or her  definitive quack.  I never knew before that only female ducks actually quack.  Neither did I know that males are very aggressive in their mating.  They can actually injure and even kill a female, and the situation is even worse if they try to mate with a chicken, whose reproductive organs are entirely different.  I won’t go  into it, but here is the link if you are interested (WARNING:  It is pretty graphic).


Pallet fence

IMG_0975.JPG Is it my wild imagination, or did the return of Gardener’s World last night trigger such a joy amongst our “kind” that it actually affected the weather?

I have been dancing in the polytunnel, wiggling in the woodshed, bouncing through the barn and shimmying through the chicken run today.  The sky was blue.  It was actually HOT in our little sun-trap as we dug holes and cut pallets up to make our little budget-busting  fence.  We have no plans to paint or preserve it, as it will be replaced gradually by a living willow fence.  The idea is that the willow will provide a suitable dog-barrier, as well as goat nibbles,  mulching material (shredded), fuel and whips for willow hurdles and basketry.

I took quite a few photos on our walk today.  I am really disappointed lately with the results from my Canon D550.  The pics all seem over-exposed and kind of washed-out.  I am just using auto mode as I am far too lazy to learn all the settings.  Looks like I will need to read up if I hope to fix the problem -I suppose it could just be a menu setting.IMG_0976IMG_0977IMG_0978IMG_0980IMG_0982IMG_0984IMG_0986IMG_0999IMG_1001IMG_1002IMG_1008

Wet weather jobs

Its cold, wet, windy.  There is tons to do outdoors but the ground is waterlogged.  The river has burst its banks and the ditches are full.  There are mundane household  chores to do, but that’s just not part of the adventure is it?  So I brought the sander in, sealed off the hallway, and am now wondering what I have started.  The woodwork was all stained in that awful 1980s mahogany stain/varnish stuff, on top of a rough sanded finish.  I have been pondering what to do with this.  I usually go for the quickest solution that will look ok -invariably painting it.  But that just didn’t seem right.  I started playing with the sander.  I kind of like it half-sanded.  Am I losing the plot?img_0965img_0966img_0967 St Paddy is not impressed!  “Down with this sort o thing!”


There was a gaping hole we had to cut in the plasterboard to get to the bathroom tap connectors (another story)  so I got a bit carried away patching it up by making a little door.  At least if we ever need to get at the taps, we won’t have to cut a chunk out of the wall again.

The sun has just come out! Time to run outside and soak it up before the next three weeks of rain!  Bye for now!

A History of Corraige/ Corrgrigg

Before anyone reads this, please let me say that it is a draft, not meant to be in any way full or accurate.  I am hoping that people will get in touch to correct any mistakes, fill in details, and expand on what we Do know about Ryan’s cottage and the other buildings and families of Corraige/Corrgrigg.  I have just pieced together information from Dermot Ryan, from the excellent Kilmihil website, from neighbours and friends round about,  a few of the documents involved in the purchase of the place, and old photos from Clare County Library Archives.  Thanks to everyone who has helped so far and to everyone who will help in the future.  I hope to update this blog soon with lots of new information, and hopefully images.

Corraige or Corrgrigg?

Thanks to a link from Kilrush Historical Society, we have now learnt the Corraige is indeed the English form of An Chorrghráig”   genitive: na Corrghráige (Irish)


corr round hill, pointed hill, hollow; pointed, conspicuous, odd

gráig hamlet; cattle-steading?


 I think I will have to get some lessons in the Irish Language!

This is the the only old picture we have of our cottage, from somewhere between the 1950s and 1980s.  We don’t know when it was built, but we do know that it was lived in by one of the first Ryans to come from Tipperary in about 1850.


We bought the cottage from Dermot Ryan, the American born nephew of “Johnsie” Ryan, who had no children, and was by local accounts, quite a character!

Dermot’s great great great grandfather left Tipperary and ended up in Knockalough. In about 1850 he moved into the cottage.  We don’t know if it was already there or he built it.  Some locals have reported that he was running from some sort of trouble, though we don’t know what that could mean.  This was close to the famine.  Things were pretty bad in Clare at the time.

In 1869 Martin Ryan, Dermot’s great grandfather, married Margaret Normile and moved into the Cottage.

This could be their marriage:

Ryan Martin Margaret Normoyle 31 January 1871


In 1871 John Ryan, Dermot’s grandfather was born there. in 1871

Ryan John Martin Margt Normile 27 December 1871


Followed by 8 siblings.  It is likely that the first Michael died very young, and same for poor little Joe.

Ryan John 27 December 1871
Ryan Mary 26 September 1873
Ryan Bridget 16 February 1875
Ryan Michael 22 January 1877
Ryan Michael 28 February 1879
Ryan Tom 15 April 1881
Ryan Joe 13 July 1883
Ryan Dan 15 February 1886
Ryan Joe 1 May 1891


In 1900 approx John Ryan, now 29 years old, married Bridget Curry/Corry

1903 Martin (Dermot’s father) was born

Ryan Martin 9 January 1903


Martin later emigrated to the USA and settled there, starting a new branch of the Ryan family across the Atlantic.

1904 John (Johnsie) was born.

Ryan John 18 April 1904


Michael Brendan Ryan is also on the records, though we are not sure if this is a younger sibling or not:

Ryan Michael Brendan 1 December 1905

In 1948 Johnsie married Mary Anne Ayers. They had no children.  We believe that the tiny figure in the photo above could well be Mary Anne, who was very short.

Here is a picture of the women of Corraige, taken in 1947 by Sean Kelly at the Kelly’s cottage, also at Corraige. Mrs Dorothy Crowley, now 87, grew up at Corraige, as did her nephew, John. John still runs the farm there, and maintains the cottage. I am hoping they can fill us in on more details and memories of years past!

Corraige women 1947.JPG

In 1949 Johnsie (45) and Mary Ann Ayres married and took over the cottage and farm from Johnsie’s parents. Mary Anne’s father, Michael, of  Glencanane, Kildysart, paid “a sum of £175 as fortune” for his daughter to marry. They had 6 cows, 4 yearlings, 2 calves, a donkey and a pony.  In the agreement which settles this, it states that “John Ryan and Bridget Ryan (his wife) and the survivor of them to have the use of the donkey and car whenever same is required and the seat in the pony and trap to mass each Sunday and Holyday”

In 1956 John Ryan (senior) died, aged 84

Ryan John Corgrigg 25 1 1956 84 Martin Ryan Margaret Normoyle 27 1 1956 Kilmihil

1965 Bridget Corry Ryan died at the ripe old age of 94.

Ryan Bridget Corgrigg 9 3 1965 94 Corry 11 3 1965 Kilmihil

We are not sure of the relationship to this lady, if any, but she was in the township, and lived to a remarkable age of 103!

Date of Death Fathers Mothers Burial Date
Surname First Name Address Day Month Year Age First Name Surname First Name Surname Day Month Year Graveyard
Ryan Margaret Corgrigg 18 11 1976 103 James McAuliffe Mary Glynn 20 11 1976 Kilmihil

In 1986 Mary Anne died.

Ryan Mary Anne Corgrigg 8 8 1986 74 10 4 1986 Kilmihil

In 1993 Johnsie died, aged 89. His nephew Dermot inherited the cottage.

Ryan John Knockalough 24 11 1993 John Ryan Mary Ayres 26 11 1993 Kilmihil


The cottage originally had a thatched roof and in the  1960s a new roof was put on. We found that there was no insulation in the roof, so it must have been quite difficult to heat for a long time!  Johnsie and Mary-Anne must have missed the thatch!

In the 1980s, the government had a scheme to provide grants for refurbishing old cottages. The family took advantage of that and the bedroom was converted to a bathroom and small kitchen, a small bedroom was added on, water was piped from a well, a septic tank was added in 1986, rewiring done, kitchen modernised etc. Later overnight storage heaters were installed, the rooms were dry lined except for the new room. The large open fireplace was enclosed and the chimney lined. New windows were put in, some double glazed.

I would love to know when the old stone exterior of the cottage was rendered over, and what it looked like before.  I would love to know what the fireplace looked like -it is extremely deep, and we still have the crane in place, with the 3 legged pot and cast iron kettle.  I often sit and try and picture what was going on this room 100 or 150 years ago.  Though it must have been draughty, the combined heat of the fire, all those children, grandparents, and possibly some of the precious animals, it was probably quite warm.

The windows of the cottage are quite tall for a cottage of this age.  I wonder whether the original owner was fairly well off, to afford the larger windows, or whether the place was modified at some point?  Friends with similar places tell me that at one time it was common to have the windows heightened and a couple of rows of more modern bricks/blocks added to the height of the walls.  Perhaps this was done when the old thatched roofs were removed?

I hope Clare county Library is OK with my pasting their photos in here.  They are stock photos, but help in visualising what these type of cottages may have looked like.

There is a fireplace in the big bedroom, which backs onto the chimney of the main room.  I wonder whether this was once open between the two rooms, to share the heat?4748871584_9ec7286d6f_b13912480_10208637187779362_2152032945489969549_n

I notice that in the photo above, the window behind the lady is the same height and proportions as the windows in our cow shed.


Can you tell us anything about this place? Any stories, memories, facts?  Please get in touch!  My number is 089 967 5393, email judevine59@gmail.com or find me on Facebook

Below is the up to date land registry map with Ryan’s cottage land outlined in red.  It once comprised of many more acres, but this land was sold by the previous owner and is now used by neighbouring farmers for cattle grazing and hay.


The map below shows the area in 1837, the first OS map.  There is certainly a building on the site then, but we can’t be sure if it the cottage we live in today.  Map courtesy of the addictive Geohive.


Census records for Corraige prior to 1901 don’t appear to be available online, but there is quite a clear picture of what was going on in 1901.  Ryan’s cottage appears as dwelling number 1.   The original document snapshot is below.



The snap shot below is from Geohive, 6 inch cassini, 1845.  It clearly shows Ryan’s cottage and outbuildings, Kelly’s and Glynn’s (now derelict).  The river now called the Greygrove according to Google maps, was labelled the Ballyduneen River.  The stepping stones labelled can still be seen.  They are huge boulders across the fast flowing waters!   We did wonder about this whilst walking the dogs. Who put them there, and when? Was there a bridge for the donkeys and horses to cross?  Its a fairly long walk round!

geohive cassis corraige 1845.png