Saturday, 25 October 2014

Haircut For The Swedes On Our Smallholding. Mechanical Mini Digger or Luddite Smallholder?

I gave part of  the veg plot a good tidy up the other day.  The remaining Swedes were given an haircut to tidy up their leaves and remove any dead ones.  Apparently you can eat their leaves unlike Rhubarb and Potato stalks.  So you can make yourselves Swede leaf soup if you wish.  I feed them to the cattle.  They love them and there coat always seems to shine after all those vitamins.  Then I dug it over and found hidden treasure - more potatoes and weed roots.

Swedes after their haircut.  I made the paths from old concrete pig slats.  Number one son made the gate and the logs need cutting and splitting.  Yours truly stacked them!
The plot looks a bit bare now.  So I will probably transfer some Leeks there.  Leeks are very good at being moved to a new home.  Just dig an hole and 'heel' them in.  Then I'll start the weeding and digging the muck in for next years early potatoes.  The last couple of years I have been spreading rotten farm yard manure on the surface and letting the worms and Winter rains take it down.  This year I plan to dig it over and dig trenches and fill it with well rotten manure, old straw and home made compost.  I find cow muck to be a 'cold' manure and it's full of weed seeds.  Perhaps I should get some well rotted horse muck?

Number one son wants to spread and dig the plot with the mini digger.  It doesn't leave a compacted pan under the soil and it saves my poor back a lot of work.  The other day he cleared a lot of encroaching shrubs, brambles and a big pile of compost that had nettles growing on it.

What would you do?  Use the mini digger or dig it over with a shovel, fork or a four prong pike?



28 comments:

  1. Even though we're old and grey we still dig over anything that is not raised beds although we have a rotovator,but you have a better chance of getting out the weed roots this way, if you bury them with a digger or by rotovating they still come up. We then spread the manure or compost and cover with a silage cover, this gives a warm environment for the worms to work in, and helps to break down the manure, it also allows you to weed strike when you remove the cover as it is around 3c warmer under the cover so the weeds geminate quickly before you need to plant.
    Something that might be of interest to you Dave, do you need to increase the clover content in your fields? If so, add a small handful of clover seed to the cattle's feed when they are to go out grazing, the clover seeds will be deposited around your fields and germinate so you don't need to stitch in clover, the cows have done it for you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Anne. How big is your vegetable plot? We scrape the weeds off with the wide bucket. Then I usually attack with my Azada and dig it over with pike or shovel. The silage cover sounds a brilliant idea.

    I have read about farmers sprinkling clover seeds on old cow pats. It's hard to keep clover if you us 'bag manure' (fertiliser) on your fields and a lot of the modern grass mixes are full of Rye grass which needs the fertiliser to survive. We get our slurry spread on the fields and this means we will hopefully buy less man made fertiliser. Although there is still a big cost paying somebody to agitate and put out slurry. Many thanks for the advice Anne.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dave about 400sq.m for the veg plot then there is the fruit garden plus the tunnel and then the ornamental gardens. Quite a bit of hard graft.
      We have never used chemical fertilisers but we did an experiment many years ago with sea weed meal which we applied to our hay meadow field at the same rate as you would use the p.n.k fertiliser cost was about the same but the meadow one year one grew to 4ft, year two with no additional input was the same as was year three, we then sold the farm but I am guessing that there was no further input for at least a couple of years. seaweed meal is slow release and the soil does not become a chemical junky.

      Delete
    2. 400 Square Metres? Gosh that is a lot of ground, Anne. There's an wholesaler down here called Fruit Hill Farm that sells seaweed meal. Can you use it for grazing pasture?

      I have heard of people buying organic fym because the normal stuff from farms like mine could have drugs in them?

      The mechanical digger and dumper are great for moving dung around the plot. I don't use chemicals knowingly in the veg plot but I dose my cattle and get the rushes sprayed in the fields and spread 'bag manure' for grass. Thanks!

      Delete
    3. Hi Dave yes you can use it for grazing cattle you can also feed it directly to them, Fruit Hill farm mention the dosage for feeding rates. His price per sack is good, the same price as we paid for it three years ago from our local supplier. Apart from any compost or manure that we use on the veg we also use seaweed collected from the beach, seaweed meal and Blood Fish and Bone which is available from most garden shops. A little goes a long way. The only things that get no additional feeds are roots, carrots and parsnips in particular should never be planted where there fresh compost or manure, it is too rich and causes forking of the roots.
      The reason people buy Organic fym is A. drug residues but more importantly GMO's. Growmore and similar products are all artificial PNK of varying degrees and a product of the Agro chemical industry, they are designed to feed the plants and not the soil.

      Delete
    4. Hi Anne. Will look at the seaweed meal for feeding the cattle. Currently buying big bags of oats (6.50 a bag) and mixing them with calf nuts (just less than a tenner) and their forage is big round bales of hay. Injected them yesterday for worms and internal parasites.

      Yes I never feed the carrots with manure. I know they fork. Didn't know fresh compost made them fork.

      Do you sell vegetables to the general public? Often thought of starting a market garden business but we live on the coast and you know what bad weather we get here in Ireland.

      Thanks for all the advice, Anne.

      Delete
    5. We used to sell veg and herbs Dave, when we lived in Wales we farmed snails quail and the veg, then we moved here got our Organic Certification, main income was from the Organic Eggs but we also did veg boxes, (far too much work) so we supplied local stores with seasonal veg and herbs plus blackcurrants, they were mainly sold to health food stores and Stately homes that did B&B. We also kept geese, goats and jersey cows and sheep.( don't think about sheep Dave, they wake up each morning planning new ways to commit suicide.) and pigs on occasions. Currently we are paying 6euros for 25kg of whole oats and the organic hen feed has just come down from 17.50 to 15.50 for 25 kg.
      Do you have any comfrey growing? We use stinging nettles as a liquid feed for leafy plants and comfrey for fruiting things such as tomatoes cucumbers etc. Stinging nettle juice sprayed on potatoes helps prevent blight as does fresh seaweed, stinging nettle juice also gets rid of greenfly as well as strengthening the plants.
      I expect you have found out that most things do grow well in Ireland why so much is imported is beyond me, except people are so disconnected from their food and want everything available all year round.

      Delete
    6. Sounds like you know what you're talking about, Anne. I once enquired about us going organic and it wasn't possible because of the red tape, no demand down here (most end up at conventional cattle marts) lack of finance for a conversion plan and because we couldn't afford to buy organic cattle..?

      We once bought 10 male sheep and fed them all winter and made 10 Euros per head on the price we originally paid for them. I think it also helps if you get a good farm payment like bigger farmers get.

      I have grown Comfrey or "knit-bone" (they use to mend fractures with the leaves in bandages). Nettles attract butterflies and they use to make army uniforms and ropes from nettles.

      Didn't know about using nettles for blight. I have used them for a garden tea for the plants.

      I have seen organic food in supermarkets, wrapped in plastic and flown in from Israel.

      Thanks Anne.

      Delete
    7. The whole thing on Organics is they now have it arse about face. At one time one of the opening statements from the EU regulations stated that Organic 'was ideally suited to marginal lands' well that gone by the by, it used to be fairly easy to convert to Organics providing you followed the rules, now they are making it so hard for people to enter the sector but at the same time the standards have been lowered so much to fulfil the needs of the big producers, many who are not interested in the principals of organics just the extra premium they command. The standards as they are now are unrecognisable compared to how they were when we first became certified. It was the main reason we sold up as we had become so disheartened by it. We still grow veg , produce our eggs and poultry to the standards that used to be. I know several people who were there at the start who are no longer certified for exactly the same reasons as ourselves although most of us would have been making a reasonable living from it.
      I can see nothing Organic about flying in veg and fruit wrapped in plastic, all use fossil fuels. We have even seen 'Organic Swede' from New Zealand as though we cant grow it here!

      Delete
    8. Thanks Anne for your thoughts about Organics. I would like to know what date all farming will be Organic? I think the principles and animal welfare of Organic farming is excellent but I think a lot of people think the products are expensive and not organic at all. A lot of Organic farmers use Diesel engines for tractors and rotovators.

      I try to be chemical free on my veg plot and I am fed up with cattle farming at the moment. All the factories and marts seem to want is expensive continental cattle with lean meat. Yet you never see this meat for sale in the supermarket or butchers. I can only buy dairy cross cattle and there is no demand for them because of this.

      Thanks!

      Delete
    9. May be your last sentence is the reason that beef prices here are £350 per animal cheaper than in the UK, UK supermarket are by and large buying Angus and Hereford animals as the consumer wants some fat on their meat and marbling. I wonder where does the continental meat end up? Certainly our local butcher does not sell it, I don't know about supermarkets, do they even label what breed of animal it is?
      I have no doubts about the validity of an organic product, the inspection system is very strict, I was on the board of 'Organic Trust' management for some time and have had consultations with the Soil Association, so yes, if a product carries their symbol and the EU symbol I have faith in it.
      It is the standards in general that I have a problem with especially when it comes to eggs and poultry.

      Delete
    10. I love the Whitehead dairy cross animals because of their temperament, meat and because I can afford to buy them, Anne. I also like traditional breeds because they have fat and marbling on the meat like you say. Yet cattle dealers tell me all the factories want is the lean meat from animals like the Charolais. These make big money and yet most them are born out of a whitehead cow. I couldn't afford to buy Charolais weanlings at 500 Euro up words.

      My wife often asks the local dsupermarket what meat it is? The meat sellers often don't know? I lost money this year like a lot of farmers have. When you don't even make 300 Euros profit on an heifer or bullock. It makes you want to give up.

      I am sure the validity of organic products are excellent. I just wish I could afford to buy them.

      Thanks!

      Delete
    11. As you have probably gathered Dave we only buy organic, what little we have to buy, milk 99cent per lt, bananas 1.59 kg coffee cant remember the price, things like tea, flour, baked beans dried fruit, yeast, spices, sea salt, we buy from a whole food co-op in bulk, the extra price paid buy this way is marginal over conventional. If we buy beef ( twice a year) the price for topside or rib is 16 euros a kilo as is lamb from our Farmers Market.
      Pork as you probably know from our blog we did ourselves, it worked out to just under 2.10 per kg feeding organically.
      Have you ever thought about directed marketing? Hind quarters or fore quarters of beef ready for the freezer, or even Free Range pork? When we first moved back here because we wont eat factory farmed pork we travelled to Tipperary to buy free range pork direct from a producer, his price was 5 euros per kg, not feed organically, it was excellent, he is probably making well over three euro per kg profit so kill out at 80 kg X 3 profit 240 euros per animal. This of course means you have to have freezer space. We have a friend who sells her organic lamb directly to customers, it's the only way she makes a profit.

      Delete
    12. Good on you for having organic values and principles, Anne. We sent one of our heifers to butcher last year for our own use. It cost 200 Euro to get it killed and cut up and wrapped. It wasn't organic but we knew how old it was , what drugs it had and how long they had been with drawn and how long it was hung for. The animal was a Limousine/ whitehead cross and we are still eating her.

      We use to keep pigs (2 Large Whites for company) at at time. These cost 25 Euro to buy and the ration is now nearly 12 Euro a bag. We fed them a bag a week and gave them all the vegetable waste and scraps (no meat of course) and paid 100 Euro each to kill them and make them half pork and half bacon. We didn't make any money from them. But they were delicious.

      Use to keep hens and ducks. They cost far more than what we would pay for eggs.

      We didn't make any profit but we had some very good meals and we eat very well.

      I will look on the internet for organic meat sellers here in Ireland.

      Thanks Anne.

      Delete
    13. Done deal have several adverts for free range pork price seems to be 5euro kg, for conventional. Old Farm Pork.ie is 15euros a kg!!
      I think the IOFGA web site gives a list of producers that would also cover people doing from farm sales.
      Yes, you paid the same for slaughtering as we did, ours were done by a local butcher, we did the butchering ourselves so saved 50 euros and did all our own bacon including smoking.
      They were with us for 16 weeks, ^ bags of Organic pig nuts at 18 euro, 8 bags of barley 6 euros a bag cost of piglets 35 each cost of slaughter 100 for the two, total cost 326 meat produced just over 160kg. Most of their food was free! You would be amazed just how much supermarkets throw out. like wise out local fruit and veg shop. we had pre-arranged with both stores that they would supply us with their waste, they did not let us down.

      Delete
    14. Hi Anne. Been reading some of your blog posts for this year. It's very good and I have wrote similar posts about plastic packaging. We have collected free fruit and veg for our animals from the supermarket.

      What breeds do you keep? I like the 'large white' because they are cheap to purchase. Have you kept one on its own? I was thinking about buying a bigger one and finishing it inside for Christmas. We recently made a shed with second had concrete pig slats (three feet deep) and a hard concrete area for straw. I would love to smoke our bacon. You should run courses Anne.

      Delete
    15. We went for Tamworth X Sadleback, very easy and a pleasure to keep. Years ago we had one breeding sow on her own, Penny Pig, she was a large white and very naughty, she used to listen for the pulses on the electric fence then make a dash for it, always heading down to the hen paddocks which she went straight through, her return to the house always involved cambering over my rockery's and destroying them, we spent many hours repairing fencing which in those days was poultry fencing not the electric fencing we have used since, and re-building my gardens.
      You can no longer keep one pig on it's own as they are social animals.
      It is easy to dry cure and smoke your own bacon, even if you don't have an old boiler shed like we do you can make a smoker from an old upright fridge or a large upright wooden crate, you are cold smoking so the heat is outside whatever container you are using. We have used a garden incinerator with aluminium ducting pipe running from it to a hole in the old boiler room which is about 4x4 by 6 ft high, it works a dream.

      Delete
    16. Hi Anne. I think I will get a couple of little pigs again, Looked up an Organic pork seller on the Internet. They wanted over five hundred Euros for a full pig.

      Pigs are characters aren't they? They like their meals to be on time and not a second late.

      Watched River Cottage Autumn last night. Hugh made a smoker out of and old enamel BREAD bin, put some oak shavings in and smoked it on top of the range. You should post a blog of your smoker it sounds brilliant - thanks!

      Delete
    17. I thought I had done a post on the smoker, I will have to check.

      Delete
    18. Yes I read about you using an old fridge. Anne. I don't think I saw any photographs of it?

      Delete
    19. 500 euro for a whole organic pig does not sound bad, assuming the pig is 75-80 kg that's only just over 6.70 a kg, I'm sure it is more than that in a supermarket for conventional pork and certainly much cheaper the Old Farm pork.

      Delete
    20. I have known a full pig (not organic) for 120 Euros. I have sold cattle and get paid dead weight. Which is half the weight of it alive. Saying that. When you break it down to 6.70 a kg. It doesn't sound that bad.

      I was talking to a sheep farmer and he told me he buys a frozen New Zealand leg of lamb from Lidl. It's come from the other side of the world, their farmers don't get any subsidies and it's cheaper than what he can produce it for. It's crazy!

      Delete
  3. Mini digger sounds good, and it'll make easy work of the trenches if you've got a small bucket.
    Horse manure I liked to use, collected free from local stables, it grew the best onions ever, but sometimes comes with corn seed in. Also a layer of seaweed, takes some collecting though.
    And I've been told a sprinkling of chicken droppings can do a lot of good, but not fresh.
    Never heard of spreading silage, but it sounds like a good idea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cumbrian. Yes horse manure is considered to be an hot manure compared to cow manure. I have read you get less weed seeds in horse manure because of the heat when it's rotting. I buy pellet poultry manure for the carrots and giving the other vegetables a boost. Some folk use 'Growmore' which gives good results. But I am not sure what it's made of. Butchers use to give fish, blood and bonemeal but I think that's been banned because of BSE? I think Anne means using Silage plastic to cover the dung when it's spread on the veg plot.

      Wet and windy today. Typical Irish October Bank holiday weekend!

      Thanks!

      Delete
  4. They don't let diggers into Lidl's where I pick up my swedes!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Mr Heron. Our mini digger would fit through the door of Lidl or Aldi. They do sell some incredibly cheap vegetables and fruit. I am after some more apple trees from them. Will use mini digger to dig the holes to plant them. Do you grow much yourselves? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cow manure (our own), spread on the veg plot, left, then rotovated in whenever there is a window of opportunity in late winter / early spring. Tamworth pigs soon going out on to a couple of small paddocks. Hopefully they will get the ground dug over and manured, then we can take over with the mini tractor in spring. Well that's the plan! Ought to get the fields fertilized next year. Good idea about the clover seeds. Might just follow that idea through! And that mini digger sounds like a jolly useful bit of farm kit........

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Vera. Hope its nice over there in France? Wet and windy here today. Do you rotovate with a tractor or a garden rotovator? I believe pigs and poultry are great at clearing and rotovating land too.

    Number one son made a log splitter (with car wheels) to go on back of my brother's mini tractor this week.

    The mini digger is great for scraping away any brambles and old weeds like nettles. It also doesn't compact the ground and spreads the big pile of last years cow dung. Have you ever grown green manures? Mustard is brilliant for putting nitrogen in the soil and it's supposed to help discourage wire-worm that lives in old pasture. You can't use it if your going to plant Brassica's in it because its a brassica itself. Cheers Vera!

    ReplyDelete