Friday, December 12, 2008

New Website, Google mapping and a calf named Paddy

14 months and many drafts since it was first discussed with the developers, the new version of has been launched. There are a few small errors, but these will be fixed today, I hope! It is much more interactive than the older version, which served us well for the last few years. The search facility is much improved and the graphics are better.

The big bonus is the addition of mapping, which should make it much easier for prospective viewers to find the rural properties (and some of the town ones also!). I am one of the worst offenders in this office for getting lost. I blame years away in school and college, together with travel abroad, but a lot of my friends had a similar life history and they can find their way to any part of the county (or country for that matter) without the need of a GPS or map. So maybe it is just me.

When I am in the car, if I get lost I can make the time up again. If I go 10 miles out of the way, it is not the end of the world. Getting lost while cycling, is another matter altogether. Even if you know the road in a car, it is very different on a bike. You notice much more about the road, the countryside and particularly the hills, that you do not see while driving. Junctions to side roads look totally different at 17-20 mph than they do at 50mph. Road signs on rural roads are few or none, sometimes they are turned the wrong way!

I once got lost near Drangan or at least I thought I was near Drangan! Beautiful country, but hilly country. As I sped down a hill, I wondered if the climb on the other side was before or after the next junction. When I got to the junction, there was only a turn in the wrong direction, so it was onwards and upwards, literally speaking. After going around in circles for 30 minutes, not recognising any part of the road I was on, I eventually decided that I should ask at the next house. I arrived at a roadside cottage, clicked out and walked to the door. I knocked but got no reply. As I turned to go, a voice came from the small field nearby, asking me if I was alright. The owner of the voice came around the corner, an elderly but sprightly man I knew to see (names are another of my weak points!). He occasionally visits our cattle mart in Fethard. “Jaysus, Pat” (he obviously knew me!),”what sort of get up is that” he asked referring to my “fancy” cycling clothes. “As you are here, I need someone to hunt in that heifer with me” he said, pointing to an excitable looking Limousin, steaming around the paddock,” she is trying to calve. I called the vet, but he won’t be here for half an hour. Will you help me?” Somewhat reluctantly, but sounding as enthusiastic as I could, I agreed. I still could not remember his name, but knew I was now in Curraheen, remembering his address (Why is that?).

“I’d better give you some boots” he said and from the out-house he brought an old pair of wellingtons. I took of my shoes and put them on after tipping them upside down to remove spiders and debris. As I stood in the mud, the right boot leaked immediately. “I’m not sure why I put them in the out-house, they look like a grand pair of boots” said my still-unnamed friend. I did not tell him why.

We went to the paddock, where the heifer looked at both of us with a mixture of suspicion and hostility. “Easy now, girl” he said, too loudly. The heifer ran to the far ditch with her head held high in the air. I was thinking this will not be easy. The cattle crush was along the side ditch, with no holding pen other than 2 old gates tied together with twine. There were 2 other cattle in the field which was approx. 1 acre and both were also a bit excited. I was already late having gotten lost. I was now going to be very late, would probably have to stay until the vet came and worse still, had no mobile signal to call anyone. The only phone was in the house, but we were now in the field, trying to shepherd 3 wild young heifers, one with calf’s legs sticking out of her rear-end into a makeshift pen. God knows how we were supposed to keep her in it with only twine to secure the two gates and no barrier at all on the ditch side. I put all these thoughts out of my mind as we inched forwards, slowly “pushing” the cattle by our presence. Although they say cattle are colour-blind, they must have been spooked by my bright yellow rain-proof jacket, because they went into the pen first time. I was thinking that my friend’s name might be Jimmy, when he said, “There you go Pat, that was easy” too loudly and they bolted out before either of us got to the gates.

We brought them around that field 6-8 times, I lost count in the end, but finally, we got them in and I managed to get the gates closed without being charged by the 3 of them. We got the right heifer up the crush and put a bar behind her. Just then, the vet arrived. I knew him well. He looked at me and asked “What are you doing here... and dressed like that?” No words would have sufficed so I grunted back. He turned and said “Well Johnny” (I would have been wrong!). He walked to the crush, “She looks small, we might have to do a Caesarean.”

He tried to pull the calf first. He put ropes on the 2 protruding legs and gave one to me. We pulled and the calf came a bit, but not enough. “We’ll have to use the calving jack” he said, “Hold on to those ropes while I set up. The calf was duly pulled out, while I got a good covering of afterbirth on my jacket and leggings. “A fine bull calf” said Johnny, “I’ll have to call him Paddy, after you” he said. The calf was soon up and attempting to suckle. He would be fine, as would his mother. I was still lost, late, covered in afterbirth and a long way from home. As we were washing up at the outside tap, I asked the vet where he was going next. “Back to Fethard” he said. “That’s the best news I heard all day, will you run me in?” I asked. We took the front wheel of the bike and put it in the back of the jeep on top of his equipment, said goodbye to Johnny and set off for Fethard which is only 5 miles from my home. “How did you end up there?” the vet asked me as we left. I told him the story and he laughed as we drove less than a mile to the main road to Fethard. “You should invest in a GPS for the bike" he said.

Later that week, we were finalising the layout and design of the new version of the site. There were lots of decisions to be made, all coming with a cost-factor. We sell a lot of rural property, sites, houses and farms. “The most important feature is a working mapping system” was my mantra that day. Today it is a reality. I hope when driving around, searching for property that you see on that you will benefit from the mapping tool.

Just remember, if you get lost, be careful who you ask for directions!

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