Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Rural Smallholders Wish List.

I have been thinking ("oh no!") today.  What would I like to improve my quality of life living in rural Ireland next to the sea.  Here's my wish list on a wild and windy January day:

1.  A Pub.  One of those friendly old fashioned pubs that serve 'real ales'.  Probably need to go to England for that!  A pub that served Irish alcohol would suffice.

2.  Public Transport.  Oh to jump on a bus and travel around.  Even if I met a nutter on the bus who said to me: "Eek as anybody seen my camel?"

3.  A shop and a post office.

4.  A community centre with lots of different groups who offer: gardening, smallholding, tractor mechanics, home brewing, creative writing, progressive rock music studies, English Literature...classes.

I have just been asked why women aren't catered for in the above classes?  They are if they like the above.

OK then: knitting, sewing, baking, painting, wood chip wallpaper hanging five pounds per roll...?  Yes I am joking!

5.  Local jobs.  Just part time jobs that you don't have to travel miles too.

6.  A new back.

7. Street Lights.

8.  Pavements.

9.  No Potholes.

10.  Local Football Club. That sold meat and potato pies and somewhere you can call the referee a "nincompoop".

What are we doing living in the countryside?

What would you add to my list?


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Cleaning Out The Barn And More Work For The Cider Mechanic.

I have been cleaning out the barn today.  We still had 7 big round bales of straw left over from last year.  I verbally bartered and sold the bales.  We no longer have loose bedding and the cattle now live on top of the slatted tank.  I saved one round bale of straw for beds for future pigs.  

There was quite a lot of spoilt straw so that got barrowed away to use for future compost projects.  I noticed the gnawed boards on the ground and got number one son to give it a run of the tractor spike, in case any ratty friends had decided to take up residence in the back of the barn.  

Then I did push my trusty (got that from John at Going Gently) wheelbarrow, and proceeded to shovel (long handle Celtic shovel - English one had a day off) and use the four prong pike to pick up the waste straw.  Fido the terrier was nowhere to be seen.  Typical mizzle day in Ireland.  Even your beloved tripe hound decides to have a lie down on top of the tiles, in the kitchen, over the warm pipes from the range.  

The barn is now swept clean and free of straw detritus and old ratty and his wife have hopefully left for foreign shores.  Never, (we will fight them on the beaches) will any big bales of straw or little bales ever live in the barn again.  

My back is killing me and the tractor clutch in the Ford 3000 looks like it is broken. It will cost about 150 Euro for a new one   At least number one son will fix it for a few tinnies of cider!   Anybody know how to make some cider with supermarket apples and any tips how to make it?  Ta very much!



Saturday, 24 January 2015

Cheap Smallholding Soup And Fruit Soda Bread.



We have been making some fruit soda bread and some leek, onion and parsnip soup this morning.  The soda bread MIX only cost 48 cents and the vegetable soup cost nothing, apart from the fuel in the range and the leccy to liquidize the soup.  Not bad hey?
I think we liquidized the soup too much.  But it filled an hole and I bet it's full of vitamins.  Do you make soup?  What's your favourite?  



Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Wall Wrecking And A New Fence And Hedge On The Smallholding, Pigs Tucking In And The Polytunnel Gets A Tidy Up.

We pulled down the garden wall on Monday afternoon.  It always stuck out and farm vehicles and lorries always had difficulty getting round it.  The concrete blocks will be broken up and used for hardcore or drain materials.  We replaced the cavity block wall with sheep wire and fence posts and a griselinia hedge.  I grew the hedging from cuttings and we already had the fencing materials.  So it didn't cost anything except for me having a terrible back pain.  Still have it, but we all have our war wounds don't we?  The lawn could do with a mow, but it's never dry enough to cut it.  Thinking of buying a couple of lambs to help with the gardening this year.  Plus it's more meat for us to eat.  There aren't many lawnmowers that you can eat are there?

 The pigs are very nearly ready to go to see the butcher.  They have grown really quick and we will get some weaners in a few week.  I don't know if we keep all the meat but we can always barter some of it.  I don't really like selling farm produce but perhaps we might sell or give some of it?  My grandparents use to (seemed) to eat bacon, cabbage and potatoes for every meal.  We had it for tea last night and it was a case of: "It's not what your body wants, it what it needs."  After a good days working outside, it's the perfect meal.
 We weeded and cleared out any old vegetables and I filled the wooden raised bed with well rotten fym for some early spuds.  Must get my seed potatoes.  Last year we bought them from Aldi because they were cheap.  We also buy our seeds from the two German supermarkets.  Seventy nine cents is very reasonable for a packet of vegetable seeds.  Must buy some big bags of compost to top up trays and for sowing seeds in.
Garlic growing in the metal tractor rims.  Home brew buckets used for carrying fym, homemade compost and weeds.  We gave up on trying to brew our own.  You can buy plenty of Newcy Brown Ale in Bantry these days along with Theakstons Old Peculier sometimes.  Gosh I love English ales, especially from the midlands and up north.
 One of the baths for growing veg in.  It needs topping up with compost and well rotten fym.  We use to keep coal in it when it was in the bathroom.  I am joking.
The last of the Mohicans/ parsnips even.  My lettuces are growing well in plant pots full of bought compost.  They are Lavendar cuttings, growing in the little pots.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Mucking Out And The Smallholding Inventor Makes More Projects.

 Who invented the myth that pigs don't pee and poo in their bed?  That's 4 wheelbarrows of strawy dung for the potato plot.  I wouldn't mind we made a slatted tank in their other room for them.
 Some of our mechanical pals.  The mini digger is parked next to the Ford 4600.  Number 1 son is making her a cab at the moment.  Besides her is the Fordson Dexta.  She was lovingly restored last year.  She's the same age as me.  For those of you are good at reckoning up.  She was made in 1963.  I wonder if she was made in Dagenham or Cork?

In front of the tractors are the home made log splitters.  The red one was his (number one son) first proto type.  The second one is designed for a compact tractor.  It's got wheels on it so that you can tow it to the tree.  Instead of taking the tree to the wood pile.  If you want one making leave a comment and we will give you my email.  Obviously we can't post it.  But we can find out how much a courier would charge.  You can always have an holiday here in West Cork and pick one up on the way home?
This is his latest project.  A tower ladder.  It's taller than the garage and guess who is typing this covered in red oxide paint ?  The wheel works to move the ladders.  It's got a brake attached to it!

 "Wish I was clever and could make Fings."

Friday, 16 January 2015

Day Out For The Cattle And A Look In The Polytunnel.



 We let the cattle have a day out in one of the fields today.  It was the usual 'cows disco'.  Jumping about and tails in the hair.  They really believed it was turn out time.  I used the opportunity of the empty stall and  cleaned the cows slats and collected two wheel barrows of dung for next years vegetables.

I noticed a puddle in ther field tonight.  Hope it's not a broken field drain.  Very soon the rushes will appear and show us where it is damp.  To quote Stan Laurel:

"We have had a lot of weather lately."
A picture of my Ford 3000 complete with fertilizer spreader.  She's parked next to the veg plot on the boreen that the cattle go up and down to the back field.  I used concrete pig slats for my veg plot paths.  Apart from the grass growing through them., they are very good and great when it's wet and for pushing a wheelbarrow along.
 The Nasturtiums to like the soil filled bath in the poly-tunnel.  I haven't got the heart to dump them yet.
Calendula.s flowering and general untidiness.  I think the wind upturned the watering can.  We left both doors open in the tunnel for the winter and so far it's survived the gales,  We made internal wind break doors to keep the rodents and birds out.
Signs of Spring.  Garlic shooting and sprouting in the compost filled tractor wheel ribs and wheel hubs.
Outside in the veg plot.  My winter onions ("Japs") are growing well despite the gales.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Snow In The Countryside Next To The Sea.

 We woke up to these snowy scenes from our kitchen window overlooking Bantry Bay in West Cork.  There is a sprinkling of snow on Sugar loaf and Hungry Hill and the rest of the Caha mountain range over on the Beara Peninsula.

 I think the overhead power lines and telegraph poles are a blot on the rural landscape.  There is supposed to be a big storm tomorrow night.  No doubt we will have our usual power cuts due to the wires overhead being blown down.   Do you think they should be buried underground?
Fido the terrier doesn't worry about the weather outside.  She would much rather roll on her back and have her photograph taken.   That's our Stanley range in the background.  It runs off solid fuel: wood and turf and smokeless fuel and coal.  It runs 7 radiators and we cook our meals on it.  What I like best is we don't have fuel bills and there is always constant heat because the radiators never go off, unlike oil and gas central heating.  If we fill it up with fuel before we go to bed, it's still hot in the morning and the house is warm and it's easy to revive with some dry kindling.


Monday, 12 January 2015

" I Don't Think You Will Get Bored of That View." "I Doubt It!" (RiverCottage Australia.)

We watched the first episode of River Cottage Australia last night with Paul West.   It showed him rabbiting with ferrets and a Dalmation ("Currant Cake") dog.  Paul also introduced us to his Collie cross called "Digger".  The dog was a loveable rogue and full of devilment and adventure.  

Paul then showed us how to make: 'Cow Pat brew'.  Sounds like one of my attempts at making homebrew bitter.  Apparently his liquid fertilizer contains iron, magnesium and sulphur.  I think the stinging nettles will have helped with a lot of the ingredients.  Years a go they use to make ropes and army uniforms from nettles - itchy!

Also in the programme we saw sausage making, cheese making. crab apple relish, cheese cake making and hand milking a cow.  We really enjoyed the first episode and can't wait for the next.  The only downside is the wife would like a veranda!  Roll on summer and sitting outside.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Latest Pics Of The Smallholding Livestock.

"Have you got anything to eat please?"

"We are still waiting!"

3 big cattle, 3 little cattle.  Number one son came up with the poles and tractor exhaust brackets to stop them climbing through the headfeeder bars.  


For some reason these 3 are smaller than the other 3.  I am sure they will catch up!

One of the calve-ens (the Irish is rubbing off)  sampling a buck of mineral lick.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Three Big Cattle. Three Little Cattle. "You Just Can't Win On A Smallholding!"

"You never buy a pig in a poke"

That was one of my dad's sayings.  Yet when ever we buy some dropped calves or weanlings.  The 4 of us always offer our opinion on which cattle will do best.  We are usually proved wrong and cattle grow like humans in fits and bursts.  Some times you think:

"Was she out of an old cow or a first calfer?"

Any road.  We have 3 very nice heifers in one pen in the slatted house and 2 "Okish" to one who looks she is a runt.  Hmm m?.

"What do you do when shoes let water in?"

That was one of my mum's quotes.

We (number one son) rang the man from Osmonds (animal medicine man not the Mormon pop band: "Crazy horses.") who lives and works in West Cork.  He keeps Dairy cattle and there isn't much he doesn't know about them.  He told us to get them a bucket of mineral lick and inject them with one of his drugs.  This is said to kill stomach worms, fluke, mange and biting flies.

So we put them in the crush and gave them all an injection, just under the skin.  Lets hope they all start growing to the size we want them to be.  Keeping cattle is like growing vegetables.  You can feed them and nurture them but they always never grow the same.    Even the two pigs are different in size.  One is a fat pig and one is a slim pig.  One is a very greedy pig and one looks like it gets it's nose pushed out.  

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Day Trip To Cobh (Queenstown).



Titanic memorial.  


Lusitania memorial.  The torpedoing of this ship off the Old Head of Kinsale and the massive loss of life (1,192) brought the USA into the First World war.    150 of the victims are buried in Cobh cemetery in mass graves.  


The empty bandstand waiting for tourists and brass bands.

Navigator sculpture with Cobh Cathedral in the background.





The old wooden pier from the White Star  Line ticket offices.  This is where the Queenstown passengers boarded the launches to the Titanic.   First class was from sixty pounds to two hundred and sixty pounds.  Second class fares ranged from thirteen pound to seventy nine pounds.  Third Class was around seven pounds!  One hundred and twenty three people boarded the launches to the Titanic from this eerie looking pier.  Only 44 survived!

Time and the elements are removing parts of the pier.  






Imagine being sad and joyful at the same time?  

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Another Day Walking Around The Sheeps Head Peninsula.

This picture was taken from a viewing point high above
Bantry bay looking down onto Bantry town.
Sheep graze nonchalantly.  Totally not interested in us taking pictures and walking passed them.  It you want peace and serenity and to embrace total isolation.  Then a visit to the Sheeps Head Peninsula is a must.  That will be ten Euros please Irish Tourist Board!

Night falls on Dunmanus bay.  You can just see the silhouette  of St James church , Durrus in the 
fading light.  My parents and my dad's family are interred there.  Many years a go when my wife first visited my grandparents grave.  She said:

"They lived by the sea and they are buried by the sea." 

 It's a wonderful peaceful place.  It's most famous grave belongs to the Booker prize author:  Jg Farrell.
Old ruin of a grain store built during the Napoleon wars.  It was also used for an auxiliary workhouse during the potato famines in the 19th century.  Locals have told me it was once a leper colony.  But I have never seen this wrote down.  It looks highly possible though.  Especially with the door entrance right on to Dunmanus bay.  

Mussel boats tied up at Durrus pier.


Back on the north side of the Sheeps Head peninsula.  The evening tide coming in on Bantry bay.
It was good to have a few good walks the last week.  It makes me feel very grateful for living in such a beautiful and peaceful place.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Walking, Digging And A New Years Eve in A Village In Kerry

We met an old friend at Cork Airport last weekend.  Here's a photograph of a bronze statue of Jack Charlton we saw at the airport.


I think the statue is incredible and it's made of bronze.  I use to do a lot of Coarse fishing when I was a lot younger.  I think the bronze encapsulates the joy of catching a fish.

On Monday and Tuesday we went walking along parts of the Sheeps Head Peninsula.  The road sections were relatively easy going.  Rather like the passing motorists.  They always wave to passing motorists and walkers in Cork and Kerry.  The hilly paths away from the tarmac were a different kind of fish?  They were hard going and we slipped a few times on the peaty grass paths.

We walked 17 miles in two days and I managed to damage the back of my knee slipping and sliding.  At least I remembered to take my Buplex tablets with me and they helped to take down the swelling and relieve the pain.

I have started to dig over the veg plot for next years spuds and swedes.  This time I am digging a foot deep trench and removing the soil and filling it with strawy farmyard manure.  It's hard work.  So I just do a ten foot section at a time.  It's fine today so I will do a bit more it the ground is dry enough.  If the soil is sticky.  I will have to leave it.   Last year I just spread the manure on top of the soil.  But the worms didn't take it down quick enough.  So some of the straw started growing and gave me a weed problem.  I think cow manure is a cold manure and a lot of weed seeds don't get killed off.  My dad used to say it only takes 3 months for a veg plot to become overgrown.

We went up to Kerry for New Years Eve and stayed in a little village off the tourist map.  It was the first time we had been in any of the pubs and the landlord of the first one made us very welcome and shook our hands.  Such a nice gesture and it's nice to be made welcome.    We had a few pints and listened to a one man band playing a keyboard and an electric guitar and singing Country And Irish songs like Johny Cash: '"Walk The Line" and old favourites like the "Wild Rover."  A good night was had by all and it was good to get away from the emotional baggage of the family farm.  Hope you had a great New Year!