Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Making Cuttings And Dividing Perennials In My Polytunnel.

For the last couple of weeks I have been making plant cuttings and dividing herbaceous ("pretty flowers") perennials in my polytunnel.   Even on wet days, you can garden if you have a polytunnel.  Do you make cuttings from your plants and shrubs?  September is a good time to make new plants.  Its very easy and very inexpensive.    

I don't buy expensive potting composts.  This last batch of plants were potted up with my own mixture of a bucket of grit sand I had left over from my recent paving project and a grow bag (one Euro) from my German garden centres (Lidl or Aldi).  You just mix the sand and grow bag together and you have your very own potting compost.  The grow bags are bit peaty and the sand makes good drainage.   There aren't many nutrients in the potting compost but it will do until you pot on your rooted new plants next spring.

One more very important thing you will need (not always) is a tub of hormone rooting powder.  Just get out your secateurs and cut yourself some cuttings.  I strip off most of their leaves and dip them in the rooting powder and place them in the pots filled with your homemade potting compost.  Then they go outside and get watered every morning.  But they won't be being watered today, its raining!  Just for a change.  

Perennials are even easy to make.  Just pull a plant in to pieces with the roots still attached and pot them on in the same way.  Do you make cuttings?  What's your potting compost recipe? 

 A myriad of cuttings: Hydrangea, Rugosa rose (great seaside hedge), Gristelina, Cornus (dogwood), Hebe, Hypericum (you will never get witches, if you plant one of them), Osteospernum....  I plant some cuttings in old baths and leave them to overwinter.  You can see the pallet side of my compost heap in the background.  
More cuttings and my cheap hose pipe that is always kinking on me.  The path is made of old concrete pig slats.  I should have put plastic bags or membrane under them to stop the weeds, but I never did and I hand weed it  every year.  I am off to water my polytunnel.

Monday, 11 September 2017

All From The Smallholding (well, except for the carrots!)




Boiled bacon, potatoes and cabbage is (was) the staple Irish meal.  Well it was when I use to visit  (go on holiday)my grandparents when I was so much younger than today.  This is starting to sound like a Carpenters song.  I have said it before.  I think they ate bacon and cabbage every single day of the week.  You use to see it served in pubs too.  Its quite rare to see it in our part of Ireland these days.

Once I remember one red hot summers day and there was a whale of a salmon on my diner plate along with the potatoes and cabbage and the 'nice cup' of Barry's tea.  This was before the EEC and every farm (yes every!) seemed to grow a field full of vegetables for themselves and the giant cow cabbages for the cattle and mangels for the horse.  

My late father use to tell me how his parents would kill the pig at home and it would be salted and put in a wooden barrel in ye olde kitchen.  There wasn't a need for a fridge in those days.  We have two freezers full of pork and bacon at the moment.  

Today I dug some potatoes and cut a cabbage and my wife boiled some of our newly butchered Tamworth cross pigs.  You boil it on top of the Stanley range (solid fuel) for twenty minutes to the pound.  So our was boiled for two and half hours.  Twenty minutes before the cooking is finished.  The boiled bacon is removed and the cabbage is thrown in the bacon water in the pan.  

You can see our tea in the picture.  Verdict the potatoes and cabbage was very - especially the salty bacon.  We thought the rare breed cross meat is a bit fatty.  Perhaps its because they are free range?  Our butcher told us to stick to Large Whites in future.  I think he is right.   Do you prefer rare breeds to the Large Whites?

When you weigh up the cost of purchasing, feeding and butchering the pigs.  Its a very costly exercise.  Isn't that the story of any smallholding? But you can't beat homegrown and home cooked food.  At least the freezers are full.  

I am sure my self sufficient hero: John Seymour would of approved of our meal being produced on the smallholding.  The supermarket bought carrots were nothing to write home about though.   Still it was a pretty wholesome meal for a Monday night.  

No microwaves pinged in the making of the above meal!

What traditional food do you not see much of these days?

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Weeding, Green Manures And Transplanting My Leeks.

I have been a busy bee this week weeding the old veg plot and transplanting my leeks.  


 Me weeding.  A wheelbarrow full of weeds and my trusty Azada having a rest.  Its an amazing tool.  It blades away the weeds unlike spades and shovels that bring the topsoil with them.  

I once weeded an old ladies garden and she stood over me telling me to shake the soil from every weed I removed.  The weeds all get composted.  Do you compost your weeds?  The nettle, couch grass   and dock roots get disgarded.  Some people burn them or compost them under black plastic

Do you like my nettle hedge?


Leeks transplanted and feeling a bit forlorn and sorry for them selves.  Most of the plot is weeded now and I have ordered some Winter Tares for a green manure.  I will sow it on the vacant patches and then strim it and dig it in next Spring.  We have grown Mustard in the past.  Its a member of the Brassica family.  So you can't (shouldn't)plant Brassicas after it.  Have you ever grown green manures?   

Mustard is good for clearing wire-worm in  veg plots made from of old pasture.  I bought a plastic wheel barrow because my old metal one was full of iron worm.  The old ones are the best!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

I Thought I Saw The Amish Shopping At An Irish Farm Store.







We noticed this unusual sight at our local Drinagh store the other day.  We usually go there for lamb nuts and coal... The coal is for us, the sheep have fur coats to keep warm.  

You don't see many horses and carts these days, sadly.  When I use to come to West Cork on my holidays in the sixties and early seventies.  You still saw the carts carrying churns and loose hay..  My grandfather had an horse and cart with rubber car wheels.  It was wonderful to go down the fields on the horse and cart and along the roads dropping the milk churns off at the concrete churn stands.  

When we emigrated (moved from England) to Ireland in 2001.  There was still a local farmer who still went to town with his horse and cart.  One day he had the sow sat beside him on the cart going up the Cork road from Bantry.  My four year old son noticed this incredible sight while we travelled in the car.  He said to his mum:  

"Where is the farmer taking the sow?"  

My wife replied:

"For a ride out."  

The farmer was taking it to see the boar!  

When was the last time you saw an horse and cart?  I think we all have a bit of cowboy or cow girl in our blood.  It must have been all those Western films from childhood.  I use to sit on the back of the couch and watch the Virginians and Champion The Wonder Horse.."  Happy Days!

Here's a video by my favourite Irish band, good old Thin Lizzy.  I was lucky enough to see them way back in 1981 at Manchester Apollo on their Renegade Tour.  I saw one of their members Snowy White, again in 2013.  He played guitar on Roger Waters The Wall tour in Warsaw.  Enjoy the song.



I think Live And Dangerous is probably the greatest live album ever.  Did you ever see Thin Lizzy?

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Reaping Oats.


We took these photographs the other day.  The Combine Harvester cut a circuit round a field of Oats.  To allow for a David Brown Tractor and Reaper to come into the field and reap the Oats.







Its a two man operation.  One to drive the tractor and one to release the sheaves.  They will be threshed later.  These threshing events show people how crops were harvested before the Leviathian machines of today were invented.  The threshing events also raise money for charities.  Do you have any vintage threshing events near you?

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Gardening Help With A Farm Ratter and A Mouser.

I often talk about rural isolation on my blog.  Two white furred helpers decided to help me with new garden today.



 Domino attacking the Nepeta (Catmint).  Apparently there is a chemical in the scent of the plants that make cats high and say"Groovy man."










Domino and Fido watching the sheep.  I had to put the fence up because the sheep kept climbing up the small cliff into the garden. 



New solar lights and a solar lighthouse.  The lighhouse light spins around at night and the bats fly around the lights.  
Domino decides to use my new lawn for his outdoor cat litter tray.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Solanum Tuberosum .

Two pans of freshly dug potatoes waiting to be washed.  



Its been a mixed summer weather wise.  But we have still managed to grow something.  Yes the weeds and slugs are having a field day on the veg plot but there is nothing to beat home grown vegetables.  The potatoes are Duke Of York.  

For the rest of the year I will spend many hours preparing for next years produce.  Lots of digging and trenching and adding home made compost.  We never use chemicals and always find we are chasing after the weeds.  My late dad use to tell me it only takes three months for a vegetable plot to become fully overgrown.  He was right and its easy to beat yourself up mentally when the plot looks scruffy.  But you can live with the weeds and still have some great meals.

I still miss my allotments I rented in England.  Its good to have a smallholding but you miss the camaraderie of the allotments.  What are you growing next year.  Have you thought about getting and allotment or perhaps a smallholding?