Friday, 21 October 2016

A Taste and A Picture of Cornwall On Our Irish Smallholding.

Brr... It's getting rather chilly in the mornings in the Irish countryside next to the sea (Bantry Bay) where we live.  The range is lit and we are really getting into baking and cooking at the moment.  Yesterday we decided to make Cornish pasties.  You can buy them in the shops but they are don't taste like the one's made at home.  

It's along time since we visited Cornwall.  Seventeen years to be precise.  We spent and idyllic holiday there with my two your old son and my late parents.  They were then in their mid sixties and still active.  We went to midweek car-boot sales, pubs, donkey sanctuaries, art shops, beaches and best of all: The Lost Gardens Of Heligan.  

My poor mother had bad arthritic legs so stayed near Heligan House with our two year old while they had an ice cream and my wife and my dad and me went to explore the Jungle.  We weren't disappointed and nor was our son with his ice cream on our return up the slope.  He looked like he been shaving with it!  They were wonderful memories.  

I think the 2 places I would like to live in England would be Hereford-shire or Cornwall.  You could buy a farm in Ireland for what you would pay for an holiday home in Cornwall.  Well going off watching Escape To The Country that is.  I suppose we could always visit there again.  I believe you can fly from Dublin to Newquay.  Any way I digress here's the pasties:

 They are made with beef skirt but you can use mince.  You can spice them up with chili beans and you could put whatever filling in them you like.  We (the wife) found these pastry moulds (sometimes called Chinese Dumpling Moulds) in a charity shop recently.  They are made of plastic and the cut the round circles in the pastry and even crimp them.  You can get them on Geek, Ebay or a charity shop like we did.  They were only 2 Euros.  They were thrown in the dishwasher and there's nothing wrong with them.  

Talking of bargains.  Many moons a go I bought this oil painting from a car boot sale in Cheshire.  I paid a fiver for it.  We have passed that same tin mine Pump House near Marazion several times.  I wonder who the painter was?  Do you have any oil painting bargains?  

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Fried Bread In A Frying Pan And Whole Mushrooms Cooked On Top Of The Range.

I have featured our Stanley (Mourne) range before on other blog posts.  It's solid fuel (coal, logs, turf -peat..) and it runs seven radiators, gives us hot water and we cook on top of it and in the oven.  It uses electricity to pump the hot water to the radiators.  A plumber told us to get a pump fitted because it's the same principle of a steam engine and potentially the heat and steam pressure could blow the gable off our little rural dwelling - "Yikes Scooby!"

This morning we cooked our breakfast with it.  We placed bread in the frying pan to make fried bread and placed whole mushrooms on top of the range.  My wife remembers her mother cooking them this way when they visited her grandparents in Galway.  It prevents them from going soggy, keeps the juices and the flavour and it was a very cheap and enjoyable meal.  

Any body else cook on top of the range?  In Poland they cook sausages on top of the radiators.  I wonder what other ways there are to cook?  Anybody ever made or seen an hay box cooker?  

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Tidying Up The Vegetable Plots And An Allotment Tale..

Anybody want a bad back?  Here's a photograph of one of my vegetable plots.  It's been dug over trenched and had many dollops (wheelbarrows) of home made compost distributed and deposited on the plot.  A tidy plot makes the gardener happy and the Robins like the worms.

I miss my allotments that I use to rent back in Blighty.  There was always somebody to have a laugh and joke with and tell you how you weren't doing your plot right.  I remember one man in particular who use to give all the new allotment holders his "perfect allotment"  advice.  

Then one day the penny dropped in my head.  I decided to go and have a butcher's at allotment guru's plot.  It was all over grown apart from a couple of slug laced cabbages, supermarket trolley's (onion dryer), council 'men at work' signs and a mighty home made shed with an old front door (22 Acacia Avenue - Iron Maiden song!) attached to it with six hinge (inch) nails in the hinges.  The allotment castle was obviously somewhere to escape from the missus and sup your cans of cheap German supermarket beer.  It's sounds like Heaven doesn't it?  Well apart from the cheap beer.

Who is that red and grey striped creature with the Azada?  Why it is me of course.  These pictures were taken last week.  Today it's throwing it down, for a change.   

Do you think smallholding life can be very isolated?  Perhaps I could make some of the land into allotments instead of fields?  It really annoys me that you get people in towns and cities on allotment waiting lists and the countryside is just full of mono-culture - grass!  What do you think?

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

An Helping Hand (Paw) In The Polytunnel!

I noticed Domino our smallholding cat relaxing in our poly-tunnel the other day.  I was busy barrowing and weeding and trenching and he was relaxing looking for insects.  Like the Only Fools And Horses theme goes: "Only fools and horses work!"

Do you like the organised chaos of my poly-tunnel?  There are even a few nettles growing at the back of the tunnel.  They have pushed themselves up through the joints of the Mypex (landscape fabric) and you can see potting compost covering the floor.  I don't have a potting bench.  I just sit on the green kneeling seat and make my trays up and cuttings on the ground.  I think it's time I gave it a good tidy up and started making space for some delicate cuttings.  I love the tunnel. You can always go inside even when it's raining outside.  Even Domino likes the tunnel.

I attacked my home made compost heap the other day.  It consists of 3 pallets stood vertically and held together with twine.  It's full of all manner of farmyard manure, plant tops, leaves and hedge and crass clippings.  You can see the Nasturtiums like it too.  So do the worms.  The worms are lovely red juicy brandlings.  

If I was an an angler I would have a good supply of worms.  I use do a lot of Coarse fishing when I was young.  Would love to own my own fishing lake/pond and spend my days catching Tench, Carp, Trout, Perch, Roach... 

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Trench Composting Annual Weeds For A Green Manure

Part of the vegetable plot was badly neglected over the last four or five months.  Due mainly to a family crisis (brother had a stroke), the wet summer and me being depressed because of the crisis.   Or in the words of Yul Bryner in the King and I: 
"Excetera, excetera."...  

Any way.  It's dryish today and I have decided to tackle the overgrown part of the veg plot.  This involved getting my spade and digging a foot deep trench and filling my wheelbarrow with the soil and taking it the other end of the plot to fill in the last trench,  I decided it was silly to just dump or compost the annual weeds.  So I hand weeded and filled an old plastic paint (very strong) bucket with annual weeds, vegetable peelings, grass and nettle tops, but not potato peelings because their eyes will sprout and you will end up with rogue potato plants next year.  
  Trenches filled with weeds..Overgrown area waiting to be trenched and hand weeding.  You can dig them off with your Azada grubbing hoe or just with the blade of the spade.  I prefer to hand weed them and pull out any perennial weeds roots like docks and nettles.
  If you want to do job really thoroughly.  When you dig out the first foot of soil in the trench.  Get a fork or pike and break up the compacted 'pan' of subsoil and clay.  New houses are prone to hard pans from site traffic compacting the soil.  It also helps drainage and to bring air and oxygen into the soil.  

If you read any old gardening books.  You will read about 'bastard' trenching.  Lots of double digging and a walk like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  Nowadays it's common to see no digging being practiced on vegetable plots.  You spread your compost out on top of the surface and the worms and rain take the compost down under the soil.  I think it's a good system if your compost is well decomposed.  But if it's not it will grow out on top of the soil.  Anybody like trench composting?

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

A Song That Makes Me Cry.

I haven't cried much since my parents died in 2012.  You realize there's not much point.  It's rather like praying for somebody with a terminal illness.  Gosh how I prayed that God would make my dear mother recover from dying in the hospital.  But even God can't answer some prayers.  Two days before she died she just waved goodbye and I knew the end was near.  Two days later she was sat in Heaven talking to her parents and we had lost a mother and grandmother.  

The day of the funeral came and the vicar let me write a Eulogy which she read out and said they would play the music:  hymns and songs of our request.  Just before the (five minutes) service stated the vicar said:  

"Did you bring the tape David?"

I was dumb struck.  I presumed that the church would provide the music.  It was too late.

Not to worry.  Less than 12 months later my father passed away.  If you like euphemisms?  This time the vicar ensured that he had the right music prepared.  Again the hymns were sung and Eva Cassidy's  (she died herself aged 33) voice sung this tune while we carried my father's coffin out of the church to his final resting place also next to the sea.  

Here's the song that she sang and breaks my heart.  What song makes you cry? 

Friday, 30 September 2016

Hay Bales Turning Back To Grass

I took this photograph of these  square hay bales this morning.  They have been waiting in the field since we made hay in July.  They were made up of rushes and hay.  Then they got rained (just for a change hey?) on and a farmer friend said he would have them to use for his ducks and hens for bedding.  He must have forgot about them and now they have turned back to green grass.  Isn't nature funny?