July brought our first proper harvest of the year, although it was very nearly a disaster – the sudden warm weather with bouts of heavy rain at night were perfect conditions for potato blight. The earlies were due to be harvested, so that didn’t cause a problem and the potatoes – Charlotte, were excellent but I had to cut down the vegetation from the maincrop potatoes well before they were ready. The new rhubarb planted this spring also had a burst of growth and provided us with several rhubarb crumbles. I’ve tried not to take too many stalks, as the plants are still young. The fruit bushes have treated us to fruit throughout most of June and July. The gooseberries were the most successful as the birds were more reluctant to take these because of their prickly spines, whereas the raspberries and blackcurrants were stripped by the bullfinches and the tree sparrows. Best of all the berries were the wild strawberries and the more we picked the more grew. These combined with the gooseberries made great fruity compote.
The swallows did decide to stay and two families were reared in the barn. Usually when they fledge the nest the mother bird lines the babies up along the rafters of the barn to practise flying, but this year they took to the washing line. For the whole day the parents were flying backwards and forwards feeding the babies. Then every now and again they would all take off, often leaving one poor nervous swallow swinging on the line waiting for his siblings to return. They were quick learners and the next day they were all swooping in the water meadow like miniature jet planes. It is amazing to think that soon they will be flying all the way to Africa.
We had two surprise visitors this month, firstly the lady who used to live in our cottage before us and she kindly sent us photos of the farmstead when she originally bought it, showing the Croft and an old stone outbuilding where the Gallery is now. We had guessed that there might have been a building there before, so it was interesting to have that confirmed. Then an American visitor stopped at the top of the drive to ask where Mary Sheehan’s cottage was. We were so thrilled to find out that his great grandmother, a Minihan, had lived in the Croft before emigrating to America. One of her descendants then built our cottage in about 1900. This explained where the enormous leather trunk that is in our bedroom had come from. It has been a mystery to us how it had got upstairs as it is too big to go up the stair well or through the windows – it must have been put up their when the house was being built in 1900. It was really special to have a descendant of the person who built our cottage visit Ballymacrown Homestead. It feels like we have completed a jigsaw, we knew bits and pieces about the history of the cottages from neighbours and the deeds and finally we have filled in the missing pieces.