Sunday, 30 November 2014

A Make Shift Smallholding Hospital.

I haven't been sleeping very well the last couple of nights.  So I woke up yesterday morning about five thirty and couldn't get back to sleep.  So I decided to take a couple of Paracetamol with a glass of water and the next thing I know, it's 9.30!  That is so unlike me.

So I got dressed and made a quick brew (ground coffee in the cafetiere) and looked at the blogs and emails and made my way to the cowshed.  One of the heifer calves was lying down on the slats and the others were mooing for their barley and calf nuts.  The calf didn't get up and one of them stood on her.  I suspected there was something wrong with her.

I don't know why the cow slats don't have grips on them.  Perhaps it's because it would make it difficult to clean them? A lot of farmers buy rubber mats to go over the slats to stop cattle slipping.  It's 40 Euro for a good rubber mat.  So it would cost me 400 Euros to cover our slats.  Apparently slips and broken legs are very common in slatted houses.  You try to make life easier, not mucking out.  But there is also the animals welfare to think about.

By this time the missus had walked in the cowshed and I told her to get number one son to help me try to stand up.  We deduced she had slipped on the concrete slats and banged her leg.  Her cloven hooves wouldn't allow her to get a grip.  We rang a farmer up the road who told us to drag her outside and she will be able to stick her hooves into the grass paddock.  We also gave her an injection of antibiotics and put the calves out with her for the day.

Every twenty minutes or so we would check her.  Sure enough.  She got up and had the pick of grass.  Then lay down for a few hours and got up again.  We decided to make her a pen in the cowshed with a straw covering over the solid concrete and we tied a farm gate to make the pen.  Then we put in a feeding trough, gave her some hay and a tub of water to drink.

This morning she got up to eat the nuts in the trough and she seems to be limping a bit.  But she's had four plops (experts say they leave twelve cow pats a day) and she's chewing her cud.  You can't afford to call for the vet every day.  I am pleased to say I think she will be OK.  Do you try and cure your animals when they are ill or get hurt?

Friday, 28 November 2014

An Interloper In The Silage Bale.

If my old literary hero Thomas Hardy was still writing tales about his magical and fictional Wessex.  He may of used the title of this blog for one of his compositions.  May be not?

Number one son got a  mobile phone call yesterday from a farmer up the road.  He had collected three round bales from our haggard (where the moo cows  and the tractors and silage live) and we duly loaded them with the Ford 4000 and thought no more about them.

It appears though that he had taken a creature belonging to us with him.  Not one of the lads and lasses with the ear tags.  No it was one of those creatures with the long tail - rattus norvegicus, to be precise.  Apparently it had tunnelled under the silage bales,, chewed through the plastic and tunnelled up into the silage.  Making a 'des res' for it'self for the winter.  The bar steward!

The farmer had noticed the rat jump out when he picked it up to feed his cattle.  The rat disappeared over the hill and the bale was completely rotten.  Lets hope the rat makes a new home somewhere else.  The silage contractor told me in the summer to place old silage plastic and lorry tarps under the bales.  Then when it rains.  There will be smallholding PUDDLES.  Yes we are talking about them again.  Apparently rats don't have wellingtons or "the rubber boots" and they won't make homes in your silage bales.

It's the same old adage isn't it?  "Never throw anything away".  Unless it's a rat of course and you can send it on it's holidays to another farm.  We will replace the bale with a fresh rat free bale - hopefully!

Do you get unwanted rodent visitors?

UB40 had a number 12 (I looked it up!) with "Rat In The Kitchen.."  I wonder if I could get an hit with "Rat In My Silage"?"

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Naming Of A Rural Puddle.

It's about ten feet long and three feet wide
It's not very deep but I may have lied

It's only been there for seven long years
A drinking stop for heifers and steers?

I am talking of our puddle. It's not somewhere to cuddle,  
It will leave you in a muddle.  The county council won't fix our puddle!  

I have not got sunshine on a cloudy day, I have nothing else to say....

Repeat 700 times and sing to the tune of "My Girl": The Temptations..


Do you think it will make it to the number one in the charts?  You didn't know I could write poem/songs did you?  What are your roads like - lots of potholes?  The joys of rural living hey!





Monday, 24 November 2014

Views From Our Smallholding Kitchen Window.


 Hedge man came today with his New Holland tractor and hedge cutting attachment.  He spent a couple of hours knocking the roadside hedges (Blackthorn & Fuchsia) into shape.  The agricultural labourer with his bill hook is no more.  I use to cut the roadside hedges but it's too dangerous on the main road with cars hurtling past at 80 KPH.  Never understood the need for such high speeds in the countryside.  People could be walking on the roads (no pavements or street lights) or cattle could be on the road.
 A picture of a cruiser that came into Bantry Bay in the summer.  They usually dock in Glengarriff and launches take them to the mainland to visit Garnish Island, Glengarriff and coaches take the tourists to Bantry and Killarney.  Glengarriff use to be the holiday destination for literary luminaries including, Thackery, Wordsworth, Shaw and Virginia Woolfe.
 Here's a tall ship that came in recently.  She was like something out of the Onedin Line when she sailed out of the bay with her sails up.  Some times we see oil tankers and other times we look at the fishing boats, yachts and the life boat.  Even the Queen Mary sailed into Bantry bay.  I believe it use to take five days to sail  Ireland or Blighty to America.  Then the jets were invented and the liners are no more. Sad isn't it really?

There you are.  A few pictures of our smallholding and the bay.  Hope you enjoyed them?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Christmas Shopping And The Hibernating Cat.

We went up to Kerry for some turf (peat) and our 'half an hour' Christmas shopping.  Yep half an hour.  There is nothing like going shopping when you know what you are looking for,  is there?  The number of times I have been queuing up with biblical multitudes for a jumper, Catherine Cookson book or a bottle of whisky on Christmas eve?   The presents are bought and number one and number two son's are getting money for the January sales.  Things are always so much cheaper then!

All we need to do now is start our 'Christmas Cupboard'.  We started this years a go when we rented a little house, had little money and kept seeing adverts on the television for Christmas Hampers.  So we decided to make our own.  All you need is an empty cupboard or a big cardboard box.  Then start collecting extra food tins and jam and sauce bottles and Christmas puddings, sugar, bottles of wine, cans of beer... Before you know it you will have your own Christmas Hamper/Cupboard.

There won't be any of that "lets buy everything in the supermarket" on Christmas Eve.  How do people manage with the supermarkets being shut for ONE day?

You can raid it if you get bad weather and can't get to town.  Especially if you live in a rural area and they don't grit the roads.  Like they say:

"How do the salt gritter people get to work?"

Saw this sign yesterday.  I had to buy it for the blog and the kitchen.  None Irish residents if you don't get it, I will try to explain.  Just ask!  


Domino copies the sign.  

Friday, 21 November 2014

"Electricity, Electricity, EEEE..."

Woke up this morning.  I should write country and western Songs.  They call it "Country and Irish" over here.  Any way.  I thought I would check the blogs, emails and see how the "Nasty Nigel" (The tory SDP)  party had done in the by election.  The electricity goes off and I begin to curse.

Everything seems to be dependent on electricity on our farm.  The pump from the well.  The pump from the solid fuel range.  The computer and television.  The electric cooker.  The hair dryer. The microwave...?    I have heard years a go that people told the electricity companies that they didn't want electricity because they didn't want a bill. Dairy farmers hand milked cows or they used diesel Lister engines to run their milking machines.

It must have been wonderful years a go with no electricity.  Just a paraffin or oil Tilley lamp or candles and a "nice cup of tea" to look forward to.  Maybe even a game of "monsters in the dark" with the wife if it was your birthday?  Perhaps she could darn some socks and you could chew tobacco and spit in the fire and get told off.  There must have been lots of cabin fever in the days without electricity and television.  You might have even got somebody calling and hoping you would get the beer and whisky out?

Any road the electricity is back on and I am an happy bunny again.  Thanks to electricity and that clever English invention -T'web and t internet.  We have communication with the outside world.  I wish I had my own wind turbine.  Does anybody make their own electricity.  No not the static kind.  I mean proper electricity.

Remember this song from the Eighties?




Thursday, 20 November 2014

Video Of An Allotment Artist.

Thanks for the comments about allotments on my blog yesterday.  I really believe they are exhibitions of working class art.  The tools are the paintbrushes and the soil is the canvas.

I have been interested in Chris Cyprus and his paintings for a few years now after I first saw him on Gardeners World.  He reminds me of a modern day LS Lowry.  Quite a few of his paintings subjects are allotments.

Any way.  Enough about what I think.  Have a watch of his video I found on You Tube.  If this doesn't inspire you then nothing will.  

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

I Miss My Allotment.

About twenty years or so. I told my work mates that I was going to get my name down for an allotment.  One lad piped up:

"When are you getting your purple rinse Dave?"

I laughed.  It was great to have banter and a laugh and a joke.  Things have changed so much since then.  For one thing I believe there are waiting lists for allotments now in dear old Blighty.  I suppose wonderful ideas like GIY, Landshare and the National trust have made people able to grown their own and, build their allotment shed - "escape from the missus" - castle.  Also councils selling them off to build houses that are nothing more than designer rabbit hutches.  Not every body wants to buy their vegetables from Aldi for 39p.

No I miss my allotment.  You would always meet people to talk to, tell you what you are doing wrong, extract the urine and it was even somewhere to grow your vegetables.  Today I have a smallholding in County Cork, Ireland.  We have a vegetable plot and we keep some cattle and a couple pigs.  We can do what we want and grow what we want and there is nobody telling us what we can or can't do.  But some how it's too isolated and you never see anybody to put the world to rights and have a laugh and a joke.

I have even toyed with ploughing a field and making a few allotments for rent for people who wanted one.  But we are several miles from town and there is no public transport.  Plus they would probably use weekiller or use it for their own private tip and top soil collection service.  I dunno?

I am starting to think smallholding is too isolated. I need to talk to people not just cattle.  Do you think smallholding life is far too isolated?  Do you have allotment waiting lists near you?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Polishing Our Copper And Brasses During The Long Dark Nights.

Here's one of our myriad of brass and copper ornaments that we have collected over the last twenty years.  That's my brass Spitfire model.  It's six inches long by six inches wide and mounted on a brass plinth.  These were sold to commemorate the Battle Of Britain.

I have always been a collector: old bottles, matchboxes, copper kettles, brass bells, cattle and even vintage tractors.  Trouble with brass is it always needs cleaning.  So I have decided to clean something every night while I am watching the television.  I am not very keen on Brasso.  It's smelly and I get covered in it.  Do you know of an home-made metal polisher?  Somebody suggested tomato ketchup, coke or even rubbing it with fur.  Where can I find some fur?  Hmm..

Somebody suggested that we should lacquer them after we have cleaned them.  Apparently you just paint the clear lacquer on them with a brush.  It's also said to be very easy to remove it if you want to do so?

You can tell your middle age when your night involves sitting down and cleaning the brasses.  Well we do live five miles from the nearest beer token exchange and we have no street lamps so we can't walk to town or catch a bus.  We haven't got a net big enough for one thing and there aren't any round here.

Altogether now:

"Shine your buttons with Brasso.."

Sunday, 16 November 2014

"I Looked Out This Morning And The Sun Was Gone"....

I don't know why the clocks have changed.  I looked out this morning and it was pitch black outside.  The days are getting shorter and then it will be the shortest (December 21st) day.  Then the days start stretching and we look forward to the spring and summer.

Time for another of my classic rock tracks.  Today it's Boston: "More Than a Feeling."  It reached number 22 in the UK pop charts.  There must have been some good music around to knock this track off the top spot.

I remember going to parties around 1980 when I was about 17 or 18.  This track was always played.  People still wore cheese cloths, drank lager and blackcurrant, Watney's Party Seven, smelled of  Brut or Patchouli oil and there was always a cheese cake to eat - happy days!  Well at least it was better music than today, wasn't it?

You can imagine it in say twenty years time and I go to the Old Age Pensioner's club and they start playing and putting some music on and I'll be shouting:

"Put 'Paranoid' on by Black Sabbath".

Do you remember this?


Garlic Planting And Lifting Beetroot In The Poly-tunnel.

 Been clearing some of the vegetables from the poly-tunnel this morning.  Here's me holding a stainless steel bowl of beetroot.  We also pulled some carrots.  Some of the beetroot's are being roasted with some beef (our heifer) and some of our garlic cloves.  The tougher and bigger beets are going to be boiled on top of the range and then they will be left to go cold and they will be fed to the weanling heifers and pigs in the morning.  I gave the pigs and heifers the carrot thinning's and leaves before. We never give them beetroot leaves though.  Nor do we ever feed them rhubarb leaves.  They are both poisonous and contain oxalic acid.

Pulling beetroot and parsnips always makes me feel down these days.  It's because we use to grow them for my mother and father.   Think I might stop growing them now my parents are no longer in the land of the living.  No I won't.  It's strange how vegetables can make you feel sad.

It's like that joke (very old!) about two women talking over the garden fence:

"Oh I am sorry to hear about your Bert dying.  What ever happened!"

"He went down the garden to pick a cabbage and dropped dead on top of it."

"What ever did you do?"

Well I had to open a tin of peas instead!"

Quickly moving on.
Here's some garlic cloves in my old Ford 3000 and Ford 4000 tractor wheel rims and the blue tractor wheel hub.  They were growing carrots in them earlier this morning.  So we pulled the carrots and topped them up with compost and planted some of this years garlic cloves in them.  See the snail trails on the polythene?





Saturday, 15 November 2014

"Once Every Thousand Years Or So..."

That's a line from the Tenacious D song: "The Best Song In The World."  I thought today I would start an occasional series of some of the best rock songs in the world.  I don't want my blog to look like I am a one trick pony that only talks about Smallholdings and growing vegetables.

No pop pickers - remember that famous phrase?  There are rumours a foot for some absolutely barn storming concerts in 2015.  Have you heard the rumours for Glastonbury 2015:  KATE BUSH, ACDC, MORRISSEY and FLEETWOOD MAC!  No wonder it sold out already.  It's a lot better than that stuff called the X Factor - that I have to endure every Saturday night.  Why don't they have classic rock bands instead of cheap Karaoke music?  I think we need a new vaudeville show for Saturday nights.

Fear not though.  Fleetwood Mac and ACDC are also touring places near you - even Ireland!

Yesterday I found out Lynyrd Skynyrd are touring next year.  They are playing Blighty.  I am planning seeing them in an Eastern European city.  Toying with Warsaw or Pilsen in the Czech Republic.

Any road.  Here's one of their (it's 13 minutes long) songs which I think is probably one of the "best songs in the world."  Do you agree?  It's called "Free-bird"  The lyrics are superb.  Oh to be a bird and just fly away to somewhere warmer hey?

Thanks to the people who post these great concerts.  Special thanks to You Tube for making bands tour again instead of just living off their record sales.  

Friday, 14 November 2014

Domino The Smallholding Cat Prepares For Winter.

Our Domino decided to start wearing his hat now it's coming to Winter.  It says: X treme HP.  Think it means : Horse Power not the 'Houses of Parliament' sauce.  Suppose he should be wearing a CAT hat?  You know the one's who make the diggers and plant machinery.
 We even have pot farm animals in the cabinet behind Domino.  There are sheep, pigs and cattle.  They cost a lot less to keep and you never need to muck them out.   You have to dust them though.
Here's a blurry picture of Domino sat on the dumper wheel in the barn.  He's not waiting for a bus (we don't have them) though, he's probably waiting for a mouse!  He caught one yesterday.  He's doing a good job around the smallholding.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

New Arrivals And A New Hotel For The Smallholding.

A more cheerful post today.  Number one son decided to buy 2 pigs with some of his birthday money.  So we finally finished the pig shed.  We have been using the pig shed for storing tools and tractor parts.  We went to see the pig man who we usually buy them from he.  He sold us 2 bigger pigs than we usually get.  He also sold us a nipple drinker.

 New pigs arrive in the pick up.  Guess who got covered in the proverbial picking them up?
 Exploring the new home/hotel/  We made a slatted house for them and they have a sleeping quarters with straw.  The piece of timber (hopefully) stops them dragging their bedding into the slats.  The slat tank is only three foot deep.  I bought the pig slats second hand.  Half of them were used for paths on the veg plot.
 "Which side of the bed do you want?"
The nipple drinker.  They just suck and the water flows.  Do you like their UPVC door with window?

The pigs are "Large Whites" and we are feeding them oats and vegetables.  Anybody else thinking of getting pigs?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Three Meanings For November The Eleventh.

Firstly today is Armistice Day.  It's the day that marked the end of the great war: 1914-1918.  It was the war to end all wars.  Sadly this was not true.  Even today wars are being fought.  It's a day to reflect and thank those people who gave their lives for freedom.

Secondly:  Today is Martin Mass.  This is the saint day of St Martin of Tours.  Traditionally animals were slaughtered on this day.  I suppose mainly because they wouldn't have the hay and feeding for the long Winter a head.   In Ireland no wheels were to be turned on this day, because St Martin was killed by a wheel when he fell into a river.

Thirdly:  It's 'Number one' son's 18th birthday today.  I honestly don't know where the time goes.  I remember watching the television the night he was born in the hospital while my wife was giving birth.  Five minutes after he was born.  I rang my mother and greeted her with:

"Hello grandma!"

She was over the moon.

My mother always vowed that she would live long enough to be the first one to buy him a pint on his 18Th birthday.  Sadly, she died nearly three years ago.  We'll raise a glass and toast our missing loved one's tonight.  Let's all raise a glass tonight for those who gave us our freedom.

I found it cathartic writing this post.
Here's a song by the great and much missed Sandy Denny:  "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?"

The lyrics say it all.

Do you like Sandy Denny?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Domino The Smallholding Cat. Is He Hunting Or Composing Poetry?


It's a busy time being a smallholding cat at the moment.  The field mice and rats are heading to the nearest buildings to keep warm and feed.  They ("who are they?") say that rats and mice will eat ANYTHING that is organic.  Domino is worth his weight in gold keeping the vermin away.  He keeps leaving me dead presents around the house.  Guess who gets the job of disposing of the headless mice and horrible rats?  Yes.  It's yours truly, me!

There's a robin red breast that helps me in the vegetable garden.  It perches on my four prong pike and pinches the odd juicy worm or two.  I have noticed Domino eyeing up the Robin.  I hope he doesn't get it?  The terrier also does her bit diving into the hay when I shout:

"Rats".

And when I make hissing sounds.

We always give them a good meal and praise them when they catch a rat.  I have only seen one DEAD one this year.  So they must be doing their job.  I don't like poison or traps.  You can't beat a good cat and a terrier on a smallholding.

How do you get rid of rats and mice?

Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Nice Single Malt For The Long Winter Nights On The Smallholding. "Am I going Through A Smallholding Middle Age Crisis?"

A kind friend phoned the wife saying they had just returned from an holiday in Scotland and they had picked up a 15 year old bottle of Dalwhinnie ("my favourite") whisky.  We could have it for x amount of Euros if we wanted it? Wanted it?  Was George Best called Best because he was the best?  Of course he was.  Does anybody else have a favourite tipple?  We are supposed to be saving it for Christmas.  Unfortunately the bottle is now half empty.

At least we can get Newcastle Brown Ale and bottles of Vimto in Ireland, these days.  Perhaps some one will open an English pub serving regional grub and pints of real ale?  I have been in plenty of "Oirish " pubs in France and Portugal.  So why not a few English pubs in Ireland?  I read somewhere that Wetherspoons were supposed to be opening a few pubs in Dublin and Cork.

I would also like a Ox red Chesterfield three piece suite to go with the whisky.  Perhaps I could get one of those Basil Rathbone "Smoking" jackets too?  Not that I smoke any more.  I haven't smoked for over twenty years and I still miss them.  Do you?  The amount of people I have got talking to just because somebody said:

"Have you got a light?"

Perhaps I should get a pipe?  Do smallholders go through middle age crisis in the countryside?  If you lived in another country what English/British food or drink would you miss the most?  Bill Wyman missed Piccalilli when he lived in France.  I miss real ales and public transport!  I haven't mentioned that for a few weeks, have I?


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Spicy Parsnip And Onion Soup. Gas Mask Wanted For Peeling Onions On Smallholding..

I decided to harvest one of my Parsnips today.  So I pulled it and peeled and chopped it up.  Then I got a Spanish onion (purchased in Lidl) and attempted to peel and chop it and the onion got me.  I wrote few posts a go that I wanted an Anderson shelter for the gales.  Now I could do with a gas mask.  I tried putting the onion under running water, but they still got me.  You would have thought I was a member of RADA.  The way the tears were running down my cheeks.

Any road.  If you want to make some Spicy Onion And Parsnip soup.  Just peel and chop them into centimetres squares.  Then throw them into a pan and add a vegetable stock cube and some water. I threw in a teaspoon of chopped red chillies.  Then we let it cook on the range until the veg was soft.

Then we liquidized the soup and ate it with some home cooked bread.  It was different and very filling.
Me attempting to pull my parsnip out of an old ride on mower grass box in the polytunnel.  

In the end I stood in the box and pulled the Parsnip out.

Oh what a beauty.  If you want big Parsnips or Carrots.  Grow them like this.  

My poor parsnip being peeled and chopped for the soup.

The soup looked like a cross between rice pudding and custard.

Monday, 3 November 2014

In Memory Of A Great Poet.

Today is the 4th of November.  It's the day that the great First World War poet Wilfred Owen was killed.  Just a week before the Armistice on the 11th.  I have been interested in Wilfred Owen  since I was at school.  We once went to his home town of Oswestry and visited his memorial and a tourist lady told us where his house was.  Plas Wilmot is a grand old house and I felt honoured to have found the place where one of my poetry heroes grew up.

'What Passing Bells' - a BBC drama is being shown every night on BBC1, this week.  The title is taken from Wilfred Owen's poem: Anthem For Doomed Youth'.  Last night showed the outbreak of the First World War and two young lads (one German, one English) joining up.   They believed the war would be over by Christmas and it would be the war to end all wars.  The characters are just ordinary lads who believe they are doing their bit for their country.

Anthem For Doomed Youth.


The Green Shoots Of Recovery On The Smallholding. "Well I don't know. I saw some grass growing through the pavements today."

I made some Cotoneaster cuttings about a month a go.  We just cut made a few dozen cuttings.  Dipped half of the cuttings in hormone powder and stuck them into the soil in one of the raised beds in the old vegetable plot.  I decided to check them this morning to see if they had got roots.  Guess what?  The one's which didn't get the rooting powder treatment have roots too?  Isn't mother nature brilliant?

Time for a song.  One of my rock albums is 'Songs From The Woods' by Jethro Tull.  Not the seed drill inventor - the band.  I have seen them four times.  One of my favourite tracks on the album is 'Jack In The Green'.  It's about the spirit in the woods that makes green life.  It's really talking about Spring.  It's good to know that Spring isn't too far away.  Last night seemed to last for ever.  Anybody got any hibernation tips?

Jack In The Green.







Saturday, 1 November 2014

A Wet Day And A CookedBreakfast In Bed For The Smallholders Wife.

I woke up this morning at five.  Couldn't sleep and it was raining cats and dogs outside Northsider Towers.  So I got up and turned on the computer and checked me emails and the blogs.  Heron had put a comment about the people from Somerset eating snails.  So I replied and started looking for an E card for the wife's birthday.

The trouble with these amazingly free cards. Is that you have to play them out loud to see if you like them.  So I picked this funny cartoon about this cat using the toilet to wash its hair.  All of sudden the cat starts screaming and meowing and screaming and meowing again.  Next minute the light goes on in the hall and the wife storms into the room and screams:

"What's all the bloody noise about at half passed five in the morning?"

I didn't have the heart to explain I was sending her an E birthday card.  I just turned off the computer and crawled back into bed.  I got up again and quickly made her a 'cooked' breakfast.  Well it wasn't actually cooked.  The black coffe was 'real' coffee 'cooked' in the cafetiere and I woke her and said:

"Happy birthday.  I have made you a cooked breakfast."

What's wrong with a cup of black coffee and a chocolate Wagon Wheel for your birthday breakfast?

You can't say romance is dead, can you?  Is it me or have Wagon Wheels got smaller?