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Winter is Coming

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The activity levels here at The Store are cranking up now.  Colder weather followed by Atlantic storms has seen orders flood in and made it feel a lot like our busiest time of year!

If you are a regular customer you are by now aware of our switch to selling our traditional turf in our Mighty Turf Sacks.  We made the decision in early November to enhance our traditional turf offering in this way. So far the feedback has been brilliant.  Our Mighty Turf Sack contain more turf than the Turf Box plus get a ready made storage solution for the fireside with one of our traditional rustic hesssian sacks.  Mighty Turf Sacks looked very good on the fireplace, even if we do say so ourselves.

 

Black Friday has come and gone, it was our busiest day of the year this far.  Don’t worry if you missed the Black Friday discount, by way of consolation we are offering 10% off when you purchase a Mighty Turf Sack with this discount code: aroma.


On the horizon is Christmas and our deadline for festive orders will be Sunday 16th December.  Keep an eye on our website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for more details in due course. In addition we completed filming and production of our festive advert in just one day.  Take a look at it on our YouTube channel.

Keeping it Traditional

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I was recently at a presentation/discussion on how technology is changing how we work and that some jobs will in the near future be redundant due to automation.  Included in the list of jobs and professions under threat include accountants, marketeers, warehouse and distribution staff.

This got me thinking about this in the context of the turf bog.  In the bogland we operate from we are the only folk left cutting turf with a spade.  Over the last 50 years, the turf cutting machine pulled behind a tractor has displaced the age old spade cutting process.  One person driving a tractor with mechanical turf cutter attached can cut a seasons turf in a fraction of the time it would take a person armed only with a spade.


Likewise getting the turf extracted from the bog and home has moved on from the donkey and cart.  Tractors, quads and 4x4s have revolutionised this stage of the process.

That said, the cutting  and transporting of the turf are only two aspect of the overall turf havesting process.  To the best of my knowledge, there is no machine yet that has been developed and widely available to turn turf sods, foot them, clamp them and finally bag them.  These are all labour intensive and back breaking tasks.  It is also a childhood memory for a lot of Irish folk and not always fondly recalled!

Maybe in the future a Terminator-esque cyborg will displace the McAndrew Clan and other turf bog traditionalists.  A Terminator will definatley be immune to the midgies but I am not so sure that their circuit boards will handle the damp landscape and climate so well.


So the next time you burn some of our turf, you can rest assured that it still has had the human touch all the way from the turf bog to your fireside.

 

 

Ten Reasons to Burn Turf this Autumn

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Autumn is well and truly with us and turf fire season is just getting going.  If you still needed convincing that a turf fire is the best option for the long evenings, then the following 10 reasons will convince you to choose turf.


1. Turf is a non-sparking fuel so it is safe and wont startle family pets like our Bailey Dog who is gun shy and hates any form of loud bang.

2. A turf fire is high in emissions of nostalgia!  It can transport you to the Ireland of your memories.  Good for hearth and soul!

3. The Celtic people always loved a good fire, it’s a spiritual thing.  Keep the tradition going with a turf fire.

4. Being all cosy indoors by a turf fire whilst the rain batters off the window and the wind howls on a dark night is hard to beat.

5. That unmistakable aroma. Pop outside in to the dark and enjoy the aroma of the turf fire hanging in the night air.

6. Get 10% off a Mighty Turf Sack with this discount code: autumn

7. A turf fire is the perfect indulgence or as a unique gift for a birthday, anniversary or just to show you care.

8. There are currently great deals on bulk orders with our Dozen Deals on Bord na Mona, Turf Boxes and Mighty Turf Sacks – more details here

9. Sitting comfortably? A turf fire is the perfect accompaniment to a mug of tea (Lyon’s of course!), a glass of whiskey, Guinness or your favourite brew.

10. Support trade along the Fermanagh – Donegal frontier, who knows what Brexit may bring but fear not,we will find a way of getting the turf in from Europe!

Brexit & The Turf Bog

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Since the the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU in June 2016 produced a result in favour of leaving, Brexit has meant a lot of uncertainty on the island of Ireland.
Based here in Belleek just inside County Fermanagh and Northern Ireland, we are going to be leaving the EU along with England, Scotland and Wales.

Ava in Fermanagh, Darragh in Donegal

However, incredibly now 26 months on from the result of the referendum we are still no wiser as to how the issue of the Irish border will be dealt with. Talk of hard and soft Brexits leave me perplexed.  It has become apparent that the UK government cannot reach a consensus amongst themselves and that has left the populations of the UK, Ireland and wider EU uncertain.  The EU are awaiting a definitive proposal from the UK and the Irish government have a font row seat as the saga continues.
History has shown that decisions concerning a border on the island of Ireland have had negative impacts on the people, trade and freedom of movement.  I hope that the dealmakers are cognisant of this fact.  Peace on the island of Ireland was hard to achieve and in the interests of everyone its continuation  must be paramount when.  As Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek Finance Minister said “Borders are invisible from space”.

Callum & Darragh on bridge between Fermanagh and Donegal

Personally, I voted to remain in the EU.  The EU is by no means perfect but in my opinion it has done more good than harm on the Island of  Ireland.  The EU has provided a source of funding to the Border Regions which has reinforced the Peace Process.  Will the UK government pick up the shortfall and continue to provide such funding for building infrastructure and improving community relations in Northern Ireland? I am not convinced.
Since June 2016 we have regularly seen members of the UK government jockeying for position and talking up global trade deals post-Brexit.  That is understandable but if they cannot find a workable proposal for the Irish border then it does not bode well for their negotiations with potential trading partners and in particular a certain Mr. Donald Trump.

Turf ready for home

Theresa May the UK Prime Minister was here in Belleek two weeks ago.  A flying visit to Belleek Pottery was well choreographed with plenty of media coverage. Incredibly it was her first visit to the Irish Border since becoming Prime Minister. Unfortunately she was not available for one of our Turf Bog Tours.  Had she come along I would have asked for her vision on how we will get our turf home from the bog in County Donegal post Brexit.  Likewise, will Bailey (our sprocker spaniel) require a pet passport on her regular evening walk over the fields and across the border? These questions may appear flippant but they are good examples of the need for clarification on what form the border will take, trading arrangements and freedom of movement for people and goods.
October is the deadline for the UK withdrawal treaty deal to be agreed and 29th March is Brexit Day. We will watch on in hope.

Summer Results

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Summer 2018 has this far been the best in a very long time. Blistering heat in June meant that we got all our turf dried and home by 1st of July – a record for the Store!


This has left us with plenty time to go swimming in the sea (no wetsuit required) and plenty cycle runs.  When the weather in summer is good here in North West Ireland, daylight lasts from 4am to after 11pm.  That’s a lot of daylight to enjoy.


We have been shipping orders of turf to folks who have discovered that a turf fire on a chiminea or firepit is a magical way to stay outdoors until very late on a summers evening.  As a fuel, turf is very safe as it does not spark and it fends off midgies and other flying insects. All the while that unmistakable smoky aroma can transport you from anywhere in the world back to Ireland and a treat for your sense of nostalgia.

We have also recently launched our clothing label #burnit.  Available in navy blue or fuschia pink it is our first foray in to the world of high fashion.  It just goes to prove that in business nothing stands still and constant evolution is par for the course.  Turf bog fashion is here to stay!


With August almost upon us we are hopeful of more good summer weather, staying active and turf fires in the great outdoors whilst wearing #burnit t-shirts of course!

 

Choose a Turf Bog Tour

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The McAndrew’s Store story began back in 2005.  Then in 2015 we started cutting turf the traditional way with a spade.  It was this experience of cutting turf with a spade that provided us with the inspiration for our Turf Bog Tours.


What started out as a madcap idea  has since 2017 been very popular with our visitors.  Our clients are visitors to Ireland who want to see something of the real Ireland.  We deliver this in spades (sorry for the pun) when we take them far from the madding crowds to the wilderness of our turf bog.


Visitors from the USA, UK and France have sampled our tours and each one is unique.  Every tour provides visitors with the chance to learn more about the tradition and cultural significance of turf cutting.  Visitors learn that turf is much more than just a fuel but is the embodiment of Ireland much like Guinness or Tayto Crisps.


During the tour, visitors can experience for themselves cutting turf with a spade.  Whilst learning a range of terms including pairing, spreading, footing, clamping, bagging and saving.  This all takes place in a unique landscape full of flora, fauna and wildlife.  On the bog and depending on the time of year you can hear the cuckoo, spot deer, see geese fly overhead and the hen harrier.  At ground level you will encounter frogs and newts.  We wont say too much about the midgies!


It is a family effort, Martin leads each and every tour.  Callum demonstrates the art of turf cutting and helps visitors get to grips with a turf spade.  Darragh is our resident wildlife expert and can produce frogs on demand.  This year, Ava the youngest family member has joined the tour guiding scene.  Plus Bailey our sprocker spaniel tags along, she will take any excuse to visit the turf bog.
Being located on the Fermanagh – Donegal border our visitors are always keen to discuss the issue of Brexit.  Perhaps Theresa, Boris, Leo and Michel might join us for a tour and solve the Border issue once and for all?  Likewise we enjoy hearing about the homelands of our visitors.  It’s great to get a world view and become a bit wiser.

As part of the tour we divert to a lough hidden by a pine forest, at present the black peaty water is festooned with lillies. We also take in a WW2 plane crash site which was a huge event in these parts back in May 1944.


We can also adapt our itinerary to take in local crafts and arts such as Camlake Canvas.  We have also included visits to Lough Navar viewpoint, which offers amazing views of this region.  We have operated Turf Bog Tours in the depths of winter to the height of summer.


Each tour includes a mug of tea or coffee and home made bread out on the bog.  If the weather is kind we even light a turf fire to let visitors sample the unique smoky aroma.


In this only our second year of operation enquiries and bookings are increasing.  This is all helped by referrals, a Trip Advisor page, feature on Discover Ireland website plus our own website coupled with our social media efforts across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
So if 2018 is your year to visit Ireland be sure to contact us to arrange your very own Turf Bog Tour.

All Systems Go

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Last weekend we finished cutting this years turf.  We started back in April and we were glad to reach the finish of that process.  We purposefully never work for more than 4 hours at a time in the bog.  Anything over that time and I find that efficiency drops.


Along the way we drained a bog hole.  A very deep bog hole indeed.  We achieved this feat of engineering thanks to the expert guidance of a local veteran turf cutter, Sean O’Loughlin.  Another valuable lesson learned in our turf bog education.  After four years at the turf cutting with a spade we have a formed a good knowledge through experience, but getting pearls of wisdom from the seasoned turf cutters like Sean  is always helpful.  Like I said, we were glad to reach the end of the cutting process as it now means we get a short break from the bog as this years turf sods start to dry.  The fine weather this week and forecast to continue in to next week will be a huge help in the drying process.


Talking of good weather, these longer evening are just perfect for a turf fire in a firepit, chiminea or a camp fire.  There’s nothing nicer than staying outdoors till late with the warming glow from a turf fire coupled with that unmistakable aroma.  Try it for yourself, as an incentive, enjoy 10% off a Mighty Turf Sack with this discount code: May18


Earlier in the month we had another Turf Bog Tour and it was great to welcome back a previous Turf Bog Tourist in the form of Kathy from Texas.  She enjoyed her Tour in 2017 so much that she came back for another experience in the turf bog.  On the day, Callum provided a turf cutting demonstration, Darragh produced bugs from the dark boggy water and Ava (making her debut as a Turf Bog Guide) certainly talked a good game.  We also showed Kathy the hidden gem that is Lough Navar viewpoint which commands amazing views across Lough Erne, the Atlantic Ocean and Counties Fermanagh, Donegal, Tyrone, Leitrim and Sligo.  It goes without saying that the great weather on the day helped.


In business nothing stands still and this Friday 25th May is the day when the new EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come in to effect.  In preparing for this we have developed a GDPR policy for The Store.  In terms of actions, we now have to get all our Newsletter subscribers to re-subscribe to comply with the legislation.  It is really simple to do so, and will ensure that you will always receive our regular updates via e-mail.  The form is here

So all in all May has been a very busy month here at The Store, here’s to more good weather as we head in to June and the start of Summer!

Turf Bog Ops

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As we enter the final week of April I am happy to report that Season 2018 turf cutting operations are proceeding nicely.

After a very long winter and a delayed start to Spring season, we have in the past couple of weeks enjoyed some drier and sunnier weather.  This has enabled us to get turf cutting process under way.  The bonuses are that I am topping up my turf bog tan and getting some great workouts too.

As ever our objective is to cut all the turf by end of May at the latest.  This will ensure that any June sunshine should accelerate the drying process.  Plus it means we should limit our  encounters with the curse of the bog, midgies! It’s a short window in which to get the turf cut but it’s good to make progress now and then the pressure is off to a degree going in to the summer months.

 


This year is our fourth year of cutting turf the traditional way with a spade.  It’s amazing how much more efficient we have become since 2015.  Getting hands on with a turf spade, learning from our mistakes and from listening to seasoned turf bog experts we have become much slicker out on the bog.  Our turf bank is even a bit straighter this year!

The two boys and even youngest daughter have ventured to the Bog.  Callum our resident engineer,  is a great worker and a good sounding board when it comes to turf bog strategy.  Darragh announced in advance of his first venture that he wouldn’t be working, he would rather go hunting frogs and checking on the welfare of the local tadpole population.  Ava helped spread two barrow loads of turf sods and then took off with Darragh hunting wildlife.  Ever present is Bailey Dog, the turf bog with it’s array of birdlife, hares and landscape is like Disneyland to a sprocker spaniel.


The cuckoo has returned to the bog landscape and is calling from first to last light.  The last of the geese who winter here seem to be ready for take off to Iceland.  Add in the lesser spotted McAndrew Clan and the bog is definitely coming to life this April.


Of all the times of year to take one of our Turf Bog Tours, this time when cutting operations are at full speed is perfect.  We will even let you cut the turf, barrow it away for tipping and then spread the turf sods.  You will definitely earn the mug of tea and homemade bread!

March-ing On

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More than half way through March and it’s been a cold month this far in Belleek.  We dodged the worst of the snow from the “Beast from the East” and the follow up cold spell on St. Patrick’s Weekend.

The East Coast and South East of Ireland have had a good covering of snow on both occasions.  Once this latest spell ends we might get some Spring-like weather?!

Anyhow March has been a busy month here at The Store.  We  took delivery of a new batch of our ever popular Mighty Turf Sacks and we are well chuffed with them.  This new batch even features smoke coming from the cottage chimney.  They are sure to add a touch of Ireland to fireplaces.  We also updated our gift tags which come with each Mighty Turf Sack and our Breesy Mountain postcard was re-printed for 2018 too.  We are currently offering 10% off each purchase of a Mighty Turf Sack, just enter the following code in the discount code box on our Checkout page: spring

 

 

We have also upgraded our computer system, if truth be told I was getting a bit frustrated with the lack of speed of our computer.  This is a consequence of our business getting ever busier.  So in order to maintain our quality of customer care and speed of order processing we went for the the upgrade.  Big thanks are due  to Callum our in-house IT Specialist who did a superb job.

With Spring coming we also made some changes to our turf store with installation of a new floor.  It helps maximise the space we now need to store stock and have it ready for despatch.  Both Callum and Darragh helped implement these changes.

Next Sunday, 25th March, morning the clocks will go forward by one hour.  The longer evenings will be with us then and before long we will be maximising the longer days with the commencement of turf cutting operations 2018.  Of course you will be welcome to join us out on the Bog by taking one of of our Turf Bog Tours.
Now for some of that Spring-like weather……

Enjoy The Silence

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We were delighted to host our first Turf Bog Tour of 2018 earlier this month.  Our intrepid tourists, Maria and Kevin, came from New Jersey in the USA.  On the day we were fortunate with great weather, clear blue skies, sunshine and no wind.


Bailey Dog came along too for the experience.  One of the best things about Turf Bog Tours is that both the boys and myself learn as much about other cultures from our Turf Bog Tourists.  There are always a wide range of topics discussed and it helps us form a world view.  Just to demonstrate this,  topics discussed included Brexit, the high dependency on the  motor car in Ireland, World War 2 and how many chickens you can keep in your backyard in suburban USA!
Our Turf Bog Tourists were blown away by the tranquility of the landscape.  This was particularly true down on the shore of Lough Finn where it was perfectly still.  It made me realise that many folk rarely get to experience an escape from the modern noisy world.


It begs the question, that in this world of wi-fi, mobile technology, do we ever really get a chance to truly switch off and re-connect with Mother Nature?
It once again made me aware of how lucky I am (apart from the rainfall!) to live in this part of the world.  There have been, and no doubt will be times again, when I have just needed to escape for a while from the every day pressures and challenges of modern life.  My solution is to indulge in some landscape therapy with a visit on foot or on the bike to the wilderness of the turf bog.  This connection to nature helps the human condition greatly with  fresh air, combined with exercise, fantastic scenery and the sound of silence.  It is a great way to take some time out and recharge the energy and spirit.  Even an hour of this landscape therapy is a tonic.

The Dog in the Turf Bog

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One of our team members here at The Store loves the turf bog more than the rest of us put together.  That member is none other than Bailey Dog.  Bailey just loves the freedom of the turf bog and whilst we toil in the bog she plays.

The turf bog and it’s wide array of wildlife complete with scents, ease of access to a pine forest and numerous water sources is a perfect playground for a sprocker spaniel with boundless energy.
Bailey is first in the jeep on trips to the bog, I am sure she is worried that she wont get to go.  I’ve recently invested in front seat covers so that she can ride in her favourite position on the front passenger seat.  That will save the interior upholstery at least!  She even manages to position her head and nose next to the gear stick so every time I change gear she nuzzles my hand.


She’s great company in the turf bog.  She belts off in pursuit of birds, rabbits and deer.  Often you hear her yelps as part of a high speed chase.  Afterwards she returns to check in with us.
Last May at the peak of the turf cutting season, with blue skies overhead and rising temperatures, I reached the end of my energy for turf cutting and sat down on the edge of the turf bank.  Bailey must have been similarly played out and joined me for a moment that that affirmed that special connection between us humans and canines. She also shared my lunch!
Our plans for 2018 include bringing Bailey along on our Turf Bog Tours.  Obviously we will check beforehand that our visitors will be happy with this.  We reckon that Bailey will be a great addition to the Turf Bog Tour experience!
We are lucky to have Bailey in our lives.  She started life with friends of ours, she was to be a hunting dog.  However, Bailey was gun shy and was made redundant!  When we were offered the chance to adopt Bailey we did not hesitate.
Despite her working dog hardiness, Bailey likes her comforts.  In addition to travelling up front in the jeep she “moved” in to the back hall in our house and takes any opportunity to get in to the sitting room.  Plus she has gravy on her food.  She is worth it though, she has a gentle disposition (even getting on well with our two cats) and is a great companion.  She is always on good form and pleased to see you, the perfect tonic if you haven’t had a good day.


Bailey even graces our social media posts from time to time ,when she stands still long enough for a photo that is.  Posts  featuring Bailey are amongst the most popular.


Over these winter months, Bailey and I take a nightly walk without fail, in the rain, hail, sleet, snow or gale and always in the dark.  I think we are both looking forward to the lengthening of the days and the Spring and the return of regular trips to the turf bog!

 

2017 Review

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In this blog post, we take a nostalgic look back at 2017 with 10 highlights from throughout the year.

1. Turf Bog Tours
Our latest venture and diversification was to introduce our Turf Bog Tours in March 2017.  Since then we have operated a number of tours showing out Turf Bog to visitors from France, USA and England.  Turf Bog Tours are now on Trip Advisor and also featured on the Discover Ireland website for 2018.

2. Website
Our website was revamped by Tick Tock Design towards the end of 2016 and with improved functionality including a slicker e-commerce facility we really saw the benefits in 2017.

McAndrew's Store

3. Orders
Our business continued to grow in 2017, our mainstay of the business, turf sales,  increased again. December 2017 has been the busiest month ever in the history of the Store.

4. Bog Endeavours
2017 was the third year we had cut turf in the traditional way with a spade.  We definitely operated well getting all the years turf cut in the dry spring weather.  Our roles became more established, Callum wields the turf spade, I push/pull the loaded barrow and Darragh is the spreader in chief.  Whilst the weather broke in late July we were lucky enough to have had our turf all home by then.

 

5. Social Media
In 2017 we continued to use Facebook, Twitter and Instgram to good effect to connect with customers and followers.  We spend a lot of time and energy on this area and it continues to be effective.

 

6. Videos
We started producing our own unique brand of video adverts for the Store in 2017.  From April Fool’s Day to Halloween from Russian Submarine Commanders to Conor McGregor we have produced some memorable adverts!  Check out our Youtube channel.

 

7. Sunsets
At various points in 2017 we chased and captured many spectacular sunsets.  A brilliant way to spend the end of a day in some of Ireland’s most scenic locations.  Here’s to catching more in 2018.

Little Dog Forest

 

8. Exploring
We like to escape the turf bog once in a while and in 2017 we ventured to Cliffoney Beach, Fort Dunree, Maghera Beach & Caves and An Grianan Aileach.  All these attractions are within close proximity to us and visits linger long in the mind.

 

An Grianan Aileach

9. FEAR
In October I undertook the endurance race here in Fermanagh known as FEAR.  Featuring gruelling trail running and road cycling, it was a real physical challenge.  I plan to do it again in 2018 as doing all the training is a great way to get fit.

10. Operations
From the work on the turf bog to making videos to packing orders, McAndrew’s Store is a real clan effort.  Big thanks to Callum who can edit videos as well as cut and pack turf.  Credit also to Darragh more than often the star of our videos and an expert in locating wildlife on Turf Bog Tours.

 

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