Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Shouldn't You Two Be Ratting?

Came into Northsider Towers this morning from out of the rain.  Guess who I found having forty winks on number 2 son's bed?  Only Domino the cat and Fido the terrier.  I think they have taken over.  

Monday, 23 February 2015

Boats In The Bay. Looking Out From Our Smallholding Kitchen Window.








 One of the myriad of oil tankers that come in and out of Bantry Bay.  They go to and fro from Whiddy Island oil terminal.  This picture was taken a couple of weeks a go.  You always know it's going to rain when the houses on the Beara peninsula look close.  Cloud caps on top of Hungry Hill are another indicator  that it's going to rain.  Shiny rocks and the terrier eating grass are also certain indicators that it's going to rain.  I always wonder how much oil the tankers use transporting the oil.

Boats fishing this very morning after the storm last night.  Perhaps the local chip-shop will have some Cod tonight?  Every time we go in they want to sell us Hake or Haddock.  They call the chip-shop the "Chipper" in Ireland.  You can't get pies or baked beans though!

I think the fishermen are heroes.  They are the farmers of the sea!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Brownie The Heifer Who Thought She Was A Dog. . (Some Tales About Some Of The Livestock Characters Who Have Lived On Our Smallholding. Part Two.)

I thought I was a tough country type smallholder until "Brownie" came along.   She was a brown ("never") and white heifer that I bought when she was a 2 week old 'dropped' calf.  I bought her with a bovine comrade called "Fawnie".

All our farm animals usually end up with names along with their ear tag numbers.  It's much easier to understand when some one runs into the house and says:

"Blackie has just fecked off down the boreen."

It's OK to say Feck in Ireland.

I have also heard mothers calling their children the T word.  I don't mean twit either!

The late and great author Pete McCarthy (read McCarthy's Bar) said that the Irish taught the world to swear.  I think he had a point.

Any road.  Brownie was more like a dog than an heifer.  She used to walk up to you in the field and rub her head into your belly.  Until you stroked her back.  She would stand there all day if you let her.  Brownie was a bovine pal and I she was well liked by quite a few of the farmers who visited the farm.

I wanted her to become a cow and rear her own calves.  Brownie grew bigger and bigger (very large and fat) but she never went to dairy.  She never mounted other cattle or showed visible signs of coming onto heat.  I explained my concerns about Brownie to my uncle and to a few other farmers.  They said that Brownie must be a Free Martin.  No she didn't give strange bovine handshakes or even milk shakes!  Their explanation was clear as mud to me.

One day I showed her to a cattle dealer.  He looked at her 'lady garden' and he thought it wasn't quite the right shape.

"Hmm...?"

Then he explained that Brownie was a free martin.  Apparently if twin calves are born and one of them is a bull calf.  The female will take on physical male characteristics, internally.  So outwardly Brownie looked like a cow.  But she was barren!

Poor old Brownie grew bigger and bigger and fatter and fatter.   A local butcher said she would pop if we didn't (to use his words):

 "Get her sorted."

So one day after much heart searching and an empty wallet.  We decided to sell her to the butcher.

Brownie killed well and I got paid six hundred and forty Euros for her.  Then I went out and bought 2 more calves.  That's farming for you!


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Some Tales About Some Of The Livestock Characters Who Have Lived On Our Smallholding. Part One.

Did I tell you about "Bar Room Brawler" the Aberdeen Angus bull calf?  He was a character.  A local farmer delivered him in his little calf box one spring morning.  

Instead of holding his tail and head and walking him to the cowshed. I decided to pick him and carry him (like you do) to the cowshed.  The bull calf was not impressed and duly headbutted me in my face.  A 'Glasgow kiss' from a bull calf!  So we christened him: "Bar room brawler."  I only had a bit of face bruising but he didn't knock any sense into me.

He turned out to be a fine bullock and he wasn't that bad a lad really.  Well except from always escaping from (wait for it) UNDER the fences.  Yes BRB had a knack of getting down on his knees and tunneling his way under the sheep/barbed wire.  

He wouldn't go away from the other cattle though.  He would just stand in the middle of the boreen eating the grass growing up the middle of the roads.  So we would have to run up and down the field, climb over the ("ouch") barbed wire to block him off at both ends of the boreen, open the field gate and lead him back  into to the field, fix the fence and wait for his next escape.  Perhaps we should have called him:  

"Houdini"?

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Mizzle, Plant Dividing, Holiday Planning And A New Path That Cost NothIng!



It's been a damp and Mizzle day here in South West Ireland.  We put the cattle out in one of the fields and then I set about dividing my Oesteospermums in the poly-tunnel.  We had some bad frosts a couple of years a go and it completely killed off most of them.  I had ten new plants in September.  Today we have twenty.  We also divided a fern up into new plants.  You know the gardeners mathematical equation:

"The old way to multiply is to divide." 

 Hey?










 New ferns.
 Garlic growing in the old tractor wheel trims.  The lavender cuttings all took in the little pots.  

 Calendula's still flowering.
My new path.  Made from the coping stones from the wall we demolished a few weeks a go. 
 Domino using the polytunnel door for a scratching post.
 Is it a garden path or a cat walk?
Domino inspecting the Japanese onions.  I placed the paving stone there for weeding purposes.  

We have also finally decided that we are going to have a sun holiday this year.  Probably when we sell the cattle or something?  Cattle prices have gone mad at the moment.  Why didn't we buy some when they were cheap before Christmas?  Apparently it's because America is starting to buy Irish beef again.  Trouble is when we sell the cattle. We probably won't be able to replace them.  There's an old Irish saying:

"The day you buy is the day you sell."  

The Irish milk quotas end in April so Dairy farms will expand their stock.  So hopefully there will be glut of cheap heifer calves?

Looks like we are going to Portugal again,  This time we are going to Lisbon and the seaside resorts near by.    Last time we went to Portugal, we went to the Algarve.  I love Portugal.  My ambition is to live there one day.   Where are you going on your holidays?


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Another Walk Along The North Side Of The Sheep's Head Peninsula.


 Do you have a similar sign on your main road?
Four heifers watching us go for our four mile saunter.  They are Aberdeen Angus ("Black Polly") and a White Head.  

It's the start of the slurry spreading season here in West Cork.  
 
 Some rooks waiting on the electricity wires.

 The old gate entrance to the old Anglican church.  It's for sale.  Think it would make a restaurant or a great holiday home.

 The church was built for the Cornish tin and lead mine workers and their families.  You can still see their traditional 'herring bone' weave pattern in some of the dry-stone walls.  The church closed in the eighties and there is no longer any Anglican churches on our side of the peninsula.  I remember visiting the church with my father's relatives when we were little.

 The church from the West side.  Curiously some of it is made of brick.  I wonder if they made the brick from the clay they extracted when mining or they imported them from Blighty?  Most dwellings and buildings are made of stone or concrete and rendered and painted these days.  Notice the fenced off sheep dip?


One of the old empty dwellings that I told you about last week.



 See the old horse shoes placed in the corners of the gable?
 A friendly donkey poses for it's photograph.
 A ruined fishermen's/farmstead.  My mother used to tell me about this house when we went on walks when I was little.  Apparently one fateful night.  A young girl went outside during a storm. She was swept off the rocks and was never seen again!  The buildings were covered in ivy until recently and the land owner cleared the vegetation.  Leaving it like it was when I was a youngster.


We noticed this wonderful dry-stone wall bridge.  It carries a private road and the stream drains into the bay.  My dad use to catch eels in it when he was young.  The bridge made me think of "Billy Goat Gruff" and the troll that lived under the bridge.


Pussy willow starting to bud.  I told you Spring was on it's way.  

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Spring Is On Its Way.

The last weeks weather has been incredible and we have got lots done outside on the smallholding.  I made a compost heap from pallets, posts and tied together with rope.  Then I filled it with fym, grass clippings (actually mowed my lawns), cardboard, weeds, soil and lots of old straw from when we cleaned the barn out.


I decided to mow the long grass with an old mower that doesn't have a grass box.  I raised the height of cut to the highest setting and duly mowed the grass.  Over the next few weeks I will take the cutting height down a notch, every time I cut.  The frost should also knock the growth back a bit.  Who says you can't mow wet grass eh?


The top half  (Brassed Off  film quote: "Top half only") of the plot was dug over with my trusty four prong pike with the long handle and any small stones and weeds were duly removed.  Jack Frost painted the earth and he is doing an excellent job, breaking the soil down and making it friable.  Hopefully it will also kill off any nasties in the soil too.  I also spread some lime on the plot to sweeten it a bit.





The cattle having a day out on the pasture.  They are growing like mad now and of course they treated to their cow disco: legs and tails up in the air and jump and generally run around and be daft.






Now we all like to find uses for stuff that's broken or we don't want no more, don't we?  We use pallets for the sides of the compost heap, wellington boots for gate hinges..., and now I have found a use for an old couch.  Closing a gap.  There is a barbed wire fence behind it.  We are going to observe the couch over ("yawn") next twelve months.  Seeing how mother nature weathers and grows over the couch.  Some creatures might even take up residence in it?  Hope it's not any of the lads and lasses with the long tails.  It was that cold last night.  Even the rats were wearing fur coats!  The old one's are the best, aren't they?



The weather forecast is dry and sunny for next week.  So I reckon the veg plot should look hunky dory and ready for the growing season.  Have you heard the sound of the first lawnmower yet?  Are you busy digging your plot over?  Have a good week!

Friday, 6 February 2015

A Walk In The Country.

We went for a four mile walk along the main road on our side of the peninsula the other day.  Already the Suffolk sheep are giving birth to new lambs.  In one field we saw six sheep and ten lambs.  

 The strand.  There's an old ruined farmstead/fisherman's cottage on the other side of the water.  Ireland is full of derelict farmsteads.  The thatch roofs dropped in and decayed many moons ago.  All is left is the ghostly shells of the old dwellings.  Stone constructions with packed earth instead of mortar.  It must have been an incredibly hard life way back then.
'Hungry Hill' over on the Beara Peninsula.  Daphne Du Maurier wrote a book and they made a film starring Margaret Lockwood about the Cornish tin miners who worked there.  The green thing in the middle of the bay is a salmon net which probably contains thousands of farm Salmon.  We took the picture from where the county council store piles of stone chippings for the roads.  Talking of roads.  They came round and filled some of the potholes the other day.  It looks like an incontinent herd of tar cows have just walked down the road.
 Another look over to Beara.  We have 3 peninsulas right next to each other; Beara, Sheepshead (us) and Mizen.  It's a beautiful place to live, especially when it's not raining!

It was a lovely walk and the old mental juke box started playing the following:

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Seed Potatoes Sticking Their Fingers Up To The Winter.

Gosh it's been a long autumn and winter.  I think it's because the nights draw in so early here in the countryside.  Oh to have some lamp posts and pavements and be able to go for a walk at night.  We live four miles from the nearest street lights.  

Many thanks for comments on my last post.  I think every-bodies situation is different and we don't all live in the back of beyond do we?  I can understand why people move to the suburbs and villages because they want a social life and for work, rock concerts, real ale, public transport, meet people...?

Here is a picture of our 'Duke Of York' seed potatoes.  They are in the'Computer/Front Room' chitting away.  I am going to plant them in the polytunnel and hopefully we will have spudatoes by the end of April.  I often think it's too hot for eating them when our outside potatoes are ready.  


Have you got your potatoes 'chitting'  in the 'front room' and what varieties are you growing this year?