Thursday, 17 January 2013

"Feck All Here." ("The View Won't Feed You".)

A picture taken last year of 'Bantry Bay' from our kitchen window.
I think it was 2003.  The year we built our little dwelling next to the sea.  It was an incredible year for fantastic weather.  A farmer roped me in to help him load his small bales of hay on to a tractor and trailer.  It was incredible hot and physical work.  But the manual work made us all have a laugh and a joke and have a really good talk.  You don't get that listening to modern farm machinery all day.

Any road (proper Northern English talk), me and this middle aged farmer are sat on these hay bales drinking bottles of Budweiser, eating sandwiches and he had a smoke or ten.  I remarked about there being a lack of infrastructure ("pubs and buses and job, repeat...) in rural Ireland, and I couldn't understand why rural houses are so expensive.  The farmer thought for a second and then he said:

"You're right boy.  There's Feck all here.  Feck, feck all."

I laughed, but he didn't.

Is that why the countryside is so beautiful, because there is nothing there?"

My grandmother used to say to people when they talked about the wonderful view from her farm:

"The view won't feed you."

My late father left Ireland in the 'Black' 1950's.  There was no paid labour any where, so he went to England.  In the 1980's it happened again and now it's repeating itself.  Ten thousand people are emigrating from Ireland every year.  There are no apprenticeships for the young.  I pray to God my children won't have to emigrate like their grandfather.  I'm nearly fifty and I have my cattle and little farm to pass my days.  When will the young get a chance and the countryside be full of jobs and communities?

Here's a song by 'The Seekers'.  It's one of my earliest memories of my parents records being played in  our house in the nineteen sixties.

See you.


  1. Yes, the little bales, sweet memories of the bands of hard skin on the palms of the hands from handling the bales by the strings, hairy it was then.
    And "mewing" as building the stack was called, a good stack was nice and square and plumb, it was a real skill.
    Then there was the lovely "hay-time" smell.
    "Bait" brought to the field usually home-made pies and tea in a big metal jug and eaten sitting on fresh bales.

    Reckon the old farmer got it right, "feck all" just about sums it up, and it hasn't got any better in the last 10 years, probably a lot worse.
    Your grandmother got it right as well, the view won't feed anybody. Wonder how many people have been beguiled into moving to the country looking at a lovely pamoramic view, only to go back when the harsh realities kick in?

    50s, 80s and now, looks like a 30-year pattern?

    The countryside will come back to life when the oil runs out and people realise you can't eat money. We won't see it, more's the pity, but our grandchildren might, maybe all those derelict cottages will be brought back to life.
    I think the writing's on the wall though, a lot of people, some younger ones as well, are seeing the unsustainability of our present consumerist lifestyle and starting, in a small way, on the path to self-reliance.

    Wish I had speakers on my pc, I like that song, The Seekers were one of my favourite bands and Morningtown was their best record (in my opinion) I haven't heard it for decades.

    Keeping cold, Raggy cat still sleeping.

  2. Hi Cumbrian. You paint a wonderful picture of "hay-time". I often think back to when I was little and my dad and his father, a neighbour, his brother and us (always in the way) would hand pike hay onto the horse and cart (with car tyre wheels) and take it to the haggard (farmyard) to stack it. My grandmother and my mother would bring us bottles of cold tea (incredibly refreshing) and her home made currant cake. Wonderful rural nostalgia, when the sun used to shine?

    You're so so right about people being beguiled into thinking they can make a rural living. Unless you have a much sought after skill or a dairy farmer. There is no way of making a living. Mechanization, the enclosures act and globalization are all major factors that make rural living so difficult.

    I hope you are right about the young moving back to the countryside. Most young people I know won't even use a pike or grow some vegetables. I believe it's different in England with the hundred thousand allotment waiting lists.

    Yes the Seekers were brilliant. My mother used to sing Morningtown when we set off on our journey to Ireland. It only took twenty hours back then. You could get to Australia to see the Seekers, in the same time.

    Wet and windy last night. See it's snowing in Blighty. Hope it soon goes. Hope Raggy cat keeps warm.

  3. Can't remember the loose hay-making and building ricks, it was the red McCormick balers and little grey Massey-Ferguson tractors and trailers, don't they look so small beside the modern monsters? The baler sometimes dragged a metal sled with a slot dowm the middle, 8 bales in a stack then stick a crow-bar into the ground in the slot and run the stack off the back of the sled.
    But the little tractors led the hay-bales home OK, if a bit slowly. If memory serves me correctly, the trailer held about 8 bales long, 2 bales wide and 6 bales high, a full crew was one stacking, two throwing up and one driving the tractor (usually a boy). The top row took some throwing up, there was a knack to lifting with the pitch-fork. Same with the mewing, as it got higher it got harder to throw up, no escalators then. The bales were about a hundredweight, but some seemed to be a bit heavier. The mewing was reckoned to be a young mans job. Not allowed to lift anything over 25kg now, everything seemed to come in hundredweights then.
    And the weather always seemed to be warm and sunny, or is that nostalgia kicking in again? But there must have been some decent dry sunny spells, it took a few days and a couple of turnings to get the hay ready for baling.

    Know what you mean about some of the youngsters now, if it hasn't got a screen (TV, Computer, Mobile phone) they don't understand it; food is something that is magically produced by people who own McDonalds, chippies, and ethnic take-aways, or can be delivered by calling the local pizza palace.

    I don't know if even the dairy farmers are making a fortune today, milk in Asda is £1 for 4 pints, take away distribution, processing, bottling, stores profit, etc, and there's not that much left for the actual producer, and he makes all the investment and takes all the risk. I remember, probably up to the 70s, a few farms still had a milk round, but I think rules, regulations and EEC nonsense has killed thar enterprise for ever.

    No snow here, just a little bit on the fell-tops, unusual, they're generally a lot whiter at this time of year.
    Raggy cat sleeping on my Chesterfield, it came in front door earlier.

  4. That sounds like it would be a good chapter on farming in your memoir, Cumbrian. Old tractors are like steam trains (even diesel), you become nostalgic about them. I think if I won the lottery. I could spend my time collecting old tractors and keeping rare breed cattle.

    The Dexter was another beaut of a tractor. I have a Ford 3000. She's about forty years old. Only last week somebody asked me if I would trade her in or sell her, but I won't. She was my first tractor that I owned and she's a pal. Wouldn't it be great to go back to those old farming times? No silage or monster tractors. Fields full of laughing labourers and flagons of strong ale or cider. I would love to go back to pre EEC rural peasant Ireland. A place where nobody had a mortgage and you grew your own vegetables and crops and helped your neighbours for free. It sounds like fantasy, but it was true. Because like you, I remember it.

    The dairy farmers over here seem to be making money. They are always building new slatted houses, driving new tractors and wanting to buy or rent the smallholders small farms. They won't get mine though. I suppose that's why I carry on. We farm for sentiment not just profit.

    Glad to hear you have had no snow. Goat outside eating brambles and cattle in yard eating silage and straw. Terrier asleep on sheepskin rug. Bracken grazing in field happily.

  5. Yes, I love to see the old tractors as well, there's a vintage show at Silloth every year about June, lots of old tractors, stationary engines from anything up to 100 years ago, cars and trucks, army vehicles, rosd rollers, bikes and motor bikes, all running and polished up to the nines, free admission, it's on the big green there. Beer tent and craft show as well. They seem to have such a majestic preccence. I missed it last year, must have been away somewhere, but actually got sunburned the year before.
    I see all the cars I remember owning in my younger days, they mostly finished up in the breakers yard, worth a fortune now.

    There's not many dairy farms left locally, the few there are have what to me seem to have huge herds, big sheds and mechanised milking systems, collected by bulk tankers. Far cry from the Alfa Lavel buckets and cooler into 10-gallon churns that needed put out every morning.
    Cider or ale weren't usually consumed during the working day, suppose it was too dangerous with the machinery. But the thirst could be slaked in the pub after work with a few pints of locally-brewed ale.

    My last keg just ran out, but the latest Norfolk Werry is about ready, it's going down nicely with a couple of brown bread rolls with French creamy blue cheese and a King Edward. Time to put a new brew on, project for tomorrow.

    Tried making cheese today, first time, came out OK as well, it's in the fridge now, tasting tomorrow.

    Queso Blanco

    I used 4 litres of milk.
    Heat the milk in a non aluminum pan until just before it boils.
    Then add 1/4 cup of white vinegar.
    The curds will separate from the whey.
    Let simmer for a couple of minutes.
    Then put curds into a muslin lined colander, drain for a bit, then gather up the muslin and hang to drain for a few hours. If you want to add herbs do it before you gather up the muslin. You can also add salt here if you want.

    Your animals seem to be having a good life.

    Very cold today, trying to snow.
    Raggy cat in front of fire again.

  6. Thanks for that Cumbrian, The Silloth vintage show sounds wonderful. There are quite a few magazines like 'Classic Tractor' for sale. I suppose it's easy to be a bit of an 'Anorak", obsessed with old tractors, engines and cars? But why not have an interest? Number one son wants a Ford 4000 to renovate. Supposed to be going looking at one today. Not trading Anna Ford (my Ford 3000) in though. Apparently the Ford 4000 and 5000 and the bigger Massey Ferguson's are getting shipped to the developing third world. They are so easy to fix and make new parts for. It's a shame Ford and Massey don't start making the small tractors again.

    We used to take the churns to the old stone and concrete milk stand on the side of the main road by horse and cart, when we used to come to Ireland for a fortnight's holiday on my grandparents farm.

    It was mainly bottles of 'Bass and Guinness' that the men drank here in rural Ireland. Wonderful times.

    We have made Cottage cheese, using lemon juice for a starter. I think most cheese is made with Rennet. This comes from the stomach of a calf. Your recipe sounds good and worth a go. Please let us know how it turns out, Cumbrian.

    The farm animals keep us going. Wouldn't like to live any where that didn't have a few farm animals. For all my rants about the lack of infrastructure and a way of making a living. I could only live on a smallholding now. Does that mean I am content? May be!


  7. Yes, I'm sure there would be a demand for the smaller tractors, a farmer once told me they were in demand for using with a scraper attachment to shove slurrey into the pit, they're small enough to work inside the modern sheds.
    I was wanting one to use for setting nets on the shore at low tide, ideal with a little transporter box, but the demand kept them out of by bracket of affordability.
    The only choice now seems to be the little mini garden tractors or the massive agricultutal monsters.
    I don't think manufacturers want easily-repaired machines, they'd soon be making more spares than new machines, not so profitable. Such is the accountant-driven world we live in.
    A horse might be slower, but at least a horse could produce another horse to replace itself, and the day a tactor does that pigs will fly.

    I hope No 1 son gets his renovation project, be good to see the before and after pics.

    Cheese came out well, pure white, set OK, consistecy like hard putty, not sodlid but not like cottage cheese, press a finger in and it springs back. The 4 litres made 600 grm cheese, I make it about a pound and a half per gallon in English. I guess it could be pressed to finish up with something a bit harder if you could get hold of a small press or devise sometging to shape and weight it.
    Report on tasting to follow in due course.

    Still no snow here, sky looks quite bright this morning, and cold, just a little breeze.
    Raggy cat in front door, on my Chesterfield, the fire's not lit.

  8. And my spelling's getting worse.

  9. Do you make the cottage cheese for Fido, Dave?

  10. Hi Cumbrian. I spent all morning looking around a scrapyard full of old farming implements (architectural pub salvage items needing a brush of paint) and a few dead tractors. A tractor mechanic told me that there's a Polish chap who buys all the old Zetor tractors and ships them to Poland.

    He also told me that the exporters only want to ship the Ford 5000 because she's got 4 cylinders unlike the 3000 and 4000 which only have 3 cylinders. Then he took us to a farm and we looked at 3 Fords. One of them we bought. The owner also showed me a Ford Dexter from 1963 - the year I was born. She was sky blue and like a new car in a showroom. Think I was in tractor heaven. The tractor mechanic gave ours a good looking over and said he would have bought her. He's going to deliver for us and sell us some parts and Ford stickers. Missus is not impressed though. She says all she hears about is :

    "Bloody tractors".

    Number one son very happy. We are now a two tractor farm. Even if they are old. Will show you some pics when it comes in this week. I also took a few pictures in the scrapyard. Will post them tomorrow.

    The cheese sounds excellent. Suppose you could experiment with different flavours? Look forward to read your tasting report.

    Dry here, for a change.


  11. Hi Pat, Fido is like a canine dustbin. She even eats curry. Are there any good Polish cheeses? I believe they drink quite a bit of mead. Ours turned out excellent. I think Fido misses you giving her your cottage cheese, midnight feasts.

  12. Pleased you and No 1 son got sorted, sounds like he's got a renovation project.
    Women don't understand really, I suppose the battle of the sexes is on-going and likely to be for a long time yet.
    Looking forward to seeing a few pics.

    Cheese tasting under way, it's living in the fridge in a bowl, just as it set when it was dripping, looka a bit like a califlower on top. Came out of bowl cleanly, slices no promlem, just a bit crumbly, that's probably due to transferring it in bits with a slotted spoon. Texture's a bit like a hard putty, but slightly crumbly. Colour pure snow white. Bland taste, perhaps a bit like cottage cheese, very slightly sour tang, but not an unpleasant sourness.
    Goes well on toasted crumpets.

    Something I'll make again if I get full cream milk on the reduced shelf, this lot was last day of shelf life, 29p each for 2 x 2-litre bottles, plus a tiny bit of white vinegar, 41 cents a litre from France, so it didn't cost a lot to experiment.

    Flavour could be added at the transfer stage, something to experiment with, chives perhaps.

    Keeping cold but still no snow.
    Raggy cat asleep in front of fire.

  13. Hi Cumbrian, I will blog about our day out searching for tractors later this morning.

    Is the cheese like a Cheddar? We used to get Lancashire 'crumbly' in England. There's quite a few local cheeses here in West Cork. Durrus is very popular. I prefer the English cheeses along with good old fashioned English northern bitter. Have you ever made crumpets?

    If you can master the cheese and flavour, you could sell it. 'Cumbrian' cheese?

    Mizzle weather here. But dry at the moment.

    Terrier asleep on the tiles over the hot water pipes.

  14. Caerphilly or Wensleydale maybe, or as you say perhaps a not-too-crumbly Lancashire. Further experiments will be carried out both in flavouring (salted, chives, spring onions spring to mind) to be layered in when transferring to the cloth, and presentation (cheese on toast, fried, and with pickled onions). All to tried when last-minute-reduced milk presents itself.

    Don't think it's a marketable one in the small way I'm playing at it. But if I could get a reliable source of cheap milk and perfect a flavour together with perhaps some sort of shaping / light pressing device, and a suitable packaging, might be a small cottage industry for high quality speciality cheese, similar size (about 200gr) to the French Bries and Camemberts.
    But then if it took off, it would become commercial and probably stop being fun.

    Overcast, cool and dry, light breeze.
    Raggy cat on my Chesterfield throne, bit like your terrier it always finds the best (warmest) place.

  15. "Blessed are the cheese makers".

    That's a quote from The Life Of Brian. Have a look at 'smallholders suppliers', Cumbrian. They sell all the gear for home preserving and cheese making. People like Pataks and Sharwoods started off in their kitchens making 'ethnic' foods. I think you would sell it easily enough to friends and neighbours if you can master it. There are also farmers markets and carboot sales in the summer time. You could be on to something there.

    Still dry here. The forecast for the week is wet. Don't think Ireland will get much snow. Famous last words.

  16. Famous last words - Don't worry, they couldn't hit an elephant at this distan..................


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