Thursday 25 December 2014

How Margaret's farm animals are tickled pink

All things eventually lead to food for blogger Margaret Griffin

THE GOOD LIFE: Margaret Griffin with Little Pig and Rasher, whom she has raised by hand in Co Meath.

'The abattoir is a small one and he had almost finished a consignment of pigs when we arrived. The smell was all embracing – it seemed to settle in a gelatinous layer on me. The screams of the pigs were blood curdling and I glanced at 'Sausage' who had shrunk down into the corner of the trailer, fear in her eyes. She was unloaded and pushed into the shoot. I was heartbroken."

So wrote Margaret Griffin of her experience on taking the first of two pigs she had raised for the table to be slaughtered. It was strong stuff and not for the faint of heart. I know sending stock off to market is an everyday experience for farmers, but I wondered what turns a city girl from Foxrock into a real Co Meath huntin' shootin' fishin' type.

Margaret Griffin has a food blog, 'Foodborn and Bred', and is also an avid tweeter under the username @fiestyfoodie. Through these social media forums, she voices her opinions and arguments on everything from hunting to bread-making, intensive farming to her abhorrence of GM foods.

She had also set up a Twitter account @rasherandsausag for the porky duo, whom she called Rasher and Sausage, so people were following their somewhat humourous progress before Sausage became bacon!

I first came across @fiestyfoodie when she tweeted, over a year ago, looking for a home for an abandoned donkey. A farmer friend, Michael Browne, rode in to the rescue with horsebox, and brought the animal to the green fields of east Cork where he is now renamed Sarkozy and residing in state between the farm and the Green Barn Lifestyle Store & Garden Centre near Youghal, where he featured in the crib this Christmas.

Margaret says she lives food. She cooks, bakes, preserves, grows it, eats, and talks incessantly about it.

"I do have other interests but eventually everything leads back to food," she says. Living in a very pretty rural area of Meath, Margaret enjoys a River Cottage lifestyle. Horses have been a big thing in her life, and she keeps her Twitter and blog followers briefed on her dogs, Piaf, Oly and Loubie Lou, and on the constant battle between the foxes and her chickens and ducks.

She is a qualified landscape designer, and also has a professional qualification in food science, and has worked in both the meat and bakery food sectors.

"I wasn't from the posh end of Foxrock, I was from the Dublin 18 end, that they called Foxrock to sell the houses," Margaret quips with her usual frankness.

"I went to an Opus Dei School – that's why I'm not religious! However, I had some great teachers there. My friend used always say to me, 'if somebody tells you to do something, you do the exact opposite'. If someone tells me to behave in a certain way, I go off the other way," says Margaret.

"I then went to UCD and did a degree in agriculture, but specialised in landscape design. I had a ball there. I was in a faculty with 100 men and 14 women so I was like a child in a sweet shop.

"It was a four-year degree course with a year out for practical experience, so I went to America for 18 months working in landscape design in San Diego Zoo, which was amazing. I met my ex-husband in UCD during that period but, in 1986 when we both qualified, there was no work here so we went to England where we had our children, Patrick [now 24] and a chef, and Sadb [now 22] before coming back here in 1992," she says.

"When we drove into Navan in March 1992, it was a beautiful day, the daffodils were out and I remember thinking, I don't want to be living out in the sticks, I want to be back in Dublin. That was 21 years ago and I am still here!

"I got into horses first, I grew up with them and I always had a thing about animals. I started off getting my kids riding, and then I asked the instructor if I could go back to riding. She said, 'we'll have you out hunting this season' – and she did.

"Unfortunately, my husband's business was down at the back of the field, and they used be down there and someone ran over the gosling. There was devastation with the kids. Then the fox got the goose, and then the gander was on his own.

"One day I went out and I found him paralysed, so I took him to the vet, who probably thought I was mad. He diagnosed a virus but said I would have to keep him moving, so I got a child's toy deckchair and cut the seat out of it and put the gander down in it and he used to flap his legs back and forth. I rehabilitated him and he lived for a number of years, before the fox eventually got him."

Margaret wanted to get back into working outside the home but says she didn't like landscape design and always wanted to do something with food. She saw an ad for food science course and embarked down that road.

Sunday Independent

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