For the first time, a man won the National Brown Bread Baking Competition while a woman from America was at the wheel of a tractor in the finals of the World Ploughing Championships.
he winds of change were blowing on the final day of the National Ploughing Championships – and that can be no bad thing.
Atrocious weather in the morning brought mudbaths and, inevitably, reduced the numbers who travelled to Ratheniska, Co Laois, for the event – with 70,000 people on site yesterday, and 277,000 in total over the three days.
The rain forced some to huddle in tents – and there was an ominous warning over the Tannoy for the driver of a grey Land Rover in car park 18 who had left the window open and came back to puddles on the seats, no doubt.
Others were literally dancing in the rain, with a country music-style shindig held to Galway Girl and The Hills of Donegal.
Organisers described it as “one of the most successful Ploughing Championships of all time”, with managing director Anna May McHugh saying the overall mood has been “incredibly buoyant and positive”.
Surveyor Daragh O’Brien (36) from Kildare was delighted when he walked off with the top prize in the Aldi-sponsored national brown bread contest.
And he had a scientific top tip for anyone who may find their crust lacking in the crunch department.
“I put a cap of water in the oven and I find that really helps,” he said. “In France they spray water in the oven – I think that the wholemeal molecules attach to the water and make it crispier.”
Baking was not just a lockdown habit for Mr O’Brien whose maternal grandfather from Kilcock, Co Kildare, was a gifted baker.
He followed in those flour-dusted footsteps.
His wife Carol said she was the one who told Mr O’Brien about the competition, but he had initially said: “Oh no, isn’t that only for women?”
With a prize of €15,000, the couple hope to take a holiday.
“He does all the baking and cooking in the house – cakes, buns, cookies, everything,” proud wife Carol said.
“But I do the cleaning,” she added, although, unfortunately, he tends to cook “like a man”, using every dish and plate in the house.
“It’s worth it,” she said.
Their nine-month-old son, Will, is a big fan of Daddy’s bread – although he does tend to lick the butter off first.
Amongst the former winners of the prestigious prize in the Aldi tent was 2015 winner, Margaret Sexton.
She used her earlier win as a “platform” to set up her very own cookery school in her native Roscommon town and has also had a new purpose-built building for the enterprise completed, she told the Irish Independent.
“I started out in my kitchen and it grew beyond the capacity,” she explained, adding: “I’ve never advertised – it’s all word of mouth.”
Earlier, the persistent and driving rain was leading to major problems for the World Ploughing Championship contestants, with tractors lurching precariously on the edge of their ridges and furrows.
Germany’s Florian Hoops was having engine trouble – having been ploughing in the open cab of his tractor with an umbrella over his head.
Alistair Rutherford, from South Island, New Zealand, supporting Bob Mehrtens and Ian Woolley, said the climate back home was similar and so the soft ground didn’t pose a problem.
“We were slow getting out of the bus this morning though because we didn’t want to be out in the rain,” said Mr Rutherford.
From Kenya, Sammy Chespsiror and Erick Nyamburi from the Kenyan Seed Company were there to support Mark Kurui, who appeared to be struggling on his patch during the deluges.
“It should be drier,” said Mr Nyamburi. “The ground is like slurry.” It was their first time in Ireland and they admitted they were finding the weather cold.
On the other hand, they were highly impressed with the warm welcome they had received since their arrival, as well as the quality of Irish food. They were also particularly impressed by our President Michael D Higgins. “He is a very serious speaker,” Mr Nyamburi added.
As a mechanical engineering student, USA contestant, Hailey Gruber (19) from Minnesota was absorbed in carving out her precise furrows.
She had been tipped as a strong contender, having won the US title in 2017 at the age of just 15, and her coach is her father Gene, himself a former world champion.
He previously explained that the idea is to plough “so straight, and throw your furrows so neatly, that you could chase a mouse down the row and it couldn’t find a place to hide”.
Hailey had a fan in Alice O’Connor (12) from near Castleisland, Co Kerry.
“I hope she wins – well, I hope Ireland wins but I hope she comes second,” she said.
But while the tractors were struggling in the mud, the horse ploughmen were having a better time of it, with any problems fixed with a command like “Come on out” or “Paddy, get up”.
John Flood from Johnstown, Co Kilkenny, was there to cheer on Eamonn Treacy – the star of the plough.
“You’ve got Katie Taylor in the ring and Eamonn Treacy in the fields too,” Mr Flood said.
Treacy was triumphant in the overall Conventional class, while Wexford man John Whelan won the Reversible Ploughing competition.
Both will represent Ireland at the World Ploughing Championships when it returns here again next year.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/ploughing-championships/those-half-baked-ideas-of-cooking-being-only-for-women-are-brown-bread-at-ploughing-2022-42011162.html Those half-baked ideas of cooking being ‘only for women’ are brown bread at Ploughing 2022