Sunday, 24 September 2017

More Car Boot Sale Smallholding Treasure.

We went car-booting this morning in the rain.  The missus found me a John Seymour paperbook version of his Self Sufficiency bible.  I have two versions already.  I think I paid twenty eight Euros for the hardback version.  Its been worth every penny though.   I think John Seymour inspired me more than any other author.  I rented my first allotment after reading his book, many moons a go.  Which author inspired you more than anybody else to do do something?

 The missus bought herself a large Mrs Beeton's Cookery In Colour.  Both books cost a Euro each.  The next time I talk to somebody about the great JS I will let them read the paperback version instead of my hardback version.  We have a small paperback copy of Mrs Beeton's Cookery Book but there are no pictures and its a very poor font.  Hopefully we will get inspired for some great meals?  We went in Lidl in Clonakilty the other day and I showed her some baking tins.  She said to me:

"Are you hinting at something?"  

I also purchased this rubber garden trug for three Euros at the car boot sale.  Its got a broken handle but number one son said he will fix it with a pot rivet for me.   I usually use old paint buckets or large coleslaw buckets for weeding.  What do you use?  That path needs weeding, yet again!  I won't use weedkiller.

Have you found any  carboot smallholding bargains recently?  I think they are great for finding cheap books and tools.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Making Cuttings And Dividing Perennials In My Polytunnel.

For the last couple of weeks I have been making plant cuttings and dividing herbaceous ("pretty flowers") perennials in my polytunnel.   Even on wet days, you can garden if you have a polytunnel.  Do you make cuttings from your plants and shrubs?  September is a good time to make new plants.  Its very easy and very inexpensive.    

I don't buy expensive potting composts.  This last batch of plants were potted up with my own mixture of a bucket of grit sand I had left over from my recent paving project and a grow bag (one Euro) from my German garden centres (Lidl or Aldi).  You just mix the sand and grow bag together and you have your very own potting compost.  The grow bags are bit peaty and the sand makes good drainage.   There aren't many nutrients in the potting compost but it will do until you pot on your rooted new plants next spring.

One more very important thing you will need (not always) is a tub of hormone rooting powder.  Just get out your secateurs and cut yourself some cuttings.  I strip off most of their leaves and dip them in the rooting powder and place them in the pots filled with your homemade potting compost.  Then they go outside and get watered every morning.  But they won't be being watered today, its raining!  Just for a change.  

Perennials are even easy to make.  Just pull a plant in to pieces with the roots still attached and pot them on in the same way.  Do you make cuttings?  What's your potting compost recipe? 

 A myriad of cuttings: Hydrangea, Rugosa rose (great seaside hedge), Gristelina, Cornus (dogwood), Hebe, Hypericum (you will never get witches, if you plant one of them), Osteospernum....  I plant some cuttings in old baths and leave them to overwinter.  You can see the pallet side of my compost heap in the background.  
More cuttings and my cheap hose pipe that is always kinking on me.  The path is made of old concrete pig slats.  I should have put plastic bags or membrane under them to stop the weeds, but I never did and I hand weed it  every year.  I am off to water my polytunnel.

Monday, 11 September 2017

All From The Smallholding (well, except for the carrots!)

Boiled bacon, potatoes and cabbage is (was) the staple Irish meal.  Well it was when I use to visit  (go on holiday)my grandparents when I was so much younger than today.  This is starting to sound like a Carpenters song.  I have said it before.  I think they ate bacon and cabbage every single day of the week.  You use to see it served in pubs too.  Its quite rare to see it in our part of Ireland these days.

Once I remember one red hot summers day and there was a whale of a salmon on my diner plate along with the potatoes and cabbage and the 'nice cup' of Barry's tea.  This was before the EEC and every farm (yes every!) seemed to grow a field full of vegetables for themselves and the giant cow cabbages for the cattle and mangels for the horse.  

My late father use to tell me how his parents would kill the pig at home and it would be salted and put in a wooden barrel in ye olde kitchen.  There wasn't a need for a fridge in those days.  We have two freezers full of pork and bacon at the moment.  

Today I dug some potatoes and cut a cabbage and my wife boiled some of our newly butchered Tamworth cross pigs.  You boil it on top of the Stanley range (solid fuel) for twenty minutes to the pound.  So our was boiled for two and half hours.  Twenty minutes before the cooking is finished.  The boiled bacon is removed and the cabbage is thrown in the bacon water in the pan.  

You can see our tea in the picture.  Verdict the potatoes and cabbage was very - especially the salty bacon.  We thought the rare breed cross meat is a bit fatty.  Perhaps its because they are free range?  Our butcher told us to stick to Large Whites in future.  I think he is right.   Do you prefer rare breeds to the Large Whites?

When you weigh up the cost of purchasing, feeding and butchering the pigs.  Its a very costly exercise.  Isn't that the story of any smallholding? But you can't beat homegrown and home cooked food.  At least the freezers are full.  

I am sure my self sufficient hero: John Seymour would of approved of our meal being produced on the smallholding.  The supermarket bought carrots were nothing to write home about though.   Still it was a pretty wholesome meal for a Monday night.  

No microwaves pinged in the making of the above meal!

What traditional food do you not see much of these days?

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Weeding, Green Manures And Transplanting My Leeks.

I have been a busy bee this week weeding the old veg plot and transplanting my leeks.  

 Me weeding.  A wheelbarrow full of weeds and my trusty Azada having a rest.  Its an amazing tool.  It blades away the weeds unlike spades and shovels that bring the topsoil with them.  

I once weeded an old ladies garden and she stood over me telling me to shake the soil from every weed I removed.  The weeds all get composted.  Do you compost your weeds?  The nettle, couch grass   and dock roots get disgarded.  Some people burn them or compost them under black plastic

Do you like my nettle hedge?

Leeks transplanted and feeling a bit forlorn and sorry for them selves.  Most of the plot is weeded now and I have ordered some Winter Tares for a green manure.  I will sow it on the vacant patches and then strim it and dig it in next Spring.  We have grown Mustard in the past.  Its a member of the Brassica family.  So you can't (shouldn't)plant Brassicas after it.  Have you ever grown green manures?   

Mustard is good for clearing wire-worm in  veg plots made from of old pasture.  I bought a plastic wheel barrow because my old metal one was full of iron worm.  The old ones are the best!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

I Thought I Saw The Amish Shopping At An Irish Farm Store.

We noticed this unusual sight at our local Drinagh store the other day.  We usually go there for lamb nuts and coal... The coal is for us, the sheep have fur coats to keep warm.  

You don't see many horses and carts these days, sadly.  When I use to come to West Cork on my holidays in the sixties and early seventies.  You still saw the carts carrying churns and loose hay..  My grandfather had an horse and cart with rubber car wheels.  It was wonderful to go down the fields on the horse and cart and along the roads dropping the milk churns off at the concrete churn stands.  

When we emigrated (moved from England) to Ireland in 2001.  There was still a local farmer who still went to town with his horse and cart.  One day he had the sow sat beside him on the cart going up the Cork road from Bantry.  My four year old son noticed this incredible sight while we travelled in the car.  He said to his mum:  

"Where is the farmer taking the sow?"  

My wife replied:

"For a ride out."  

The farmer was taking it to see the boar!  

When was the last time you saw an horse and cart?  I think we all have a bit of cowboy or cow girl in our blood.  It must have been all those Western films from childhood.  I use to sit on the back of the couch and watch the Virginians and Champion The Wonder Horse.."  Happy Days!

Here's a video by my favourite Irish band, good old Thin Lizzy.  I was lucky enough to see them way back in 1981 at Manchester Apollo on their Renegade Tour.  I saw one of their members Snowy White, again in 2013.  He played guitar on Roger Waters The Wall tour in Warsaw.  Enjoy the song.

I think Live And Dangerous is probably the greatest live album ever.  Did you ever see Thin Lizzy?

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Reaping Oats.

We took these photographs the other day.  The Combine Harvester cut a circuit round a field of Oats.  To allow for a David Brown Tractor and Reaper to come into the field and reap the Oats.

Its a two man operation.  One to drive the tractor and one to release the sheaves.  They will be threshed later.  These threshing events show people how crops were harvested before the Leviathian machines of today were invented.  The threshing events also raise money for charities.  Do you have any vintage threshing events near you?

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Gardening Help With A Farm Ratter and A Mouser.

I often talk about rural isolation on my blog.  Two white furred helpers decided to help me with new garden today.

 Domino attacking the Nepeta (Catmint).  Apparently there is a chemical in the scent of the plants that make cats high and say"Groovy man."

Domino and Fido watching the sheep.  I had to put the fence up because the sheep kept climbing up the small cliff into the garden. 

New solar lights and a solar lighthouse.  The lighhouse light spins around at night and the bats fly around the lights.  
Domino decides to use my new lawn for his outdoor cat litter tray.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Solanum Tuberosum .

Two pans of freshly dug potatoes waiting to be washed.  

Its been a mixed summer weather wise.  But we have still managed to grow something.  Yes the weeds and slugs are having a field day on the veg plot but there is nothing to beat home grown vegetables.  The potatoes are Duke Of York.  

For the rest of the year I will spend many hours preparing for next years produce.  Lots of digging and trenching and adding home made compost.  We never use chemicals and always find we are chasing after the weeds.  My late dad use to tell me it only takes three months for a vegetable plot to become fully overgrown.  He was right and its easy to beat yourself up mentally when the plot looks scruffy.  But you can live with the weeds and still have some great meals.

I still miss my allotments I rented in England.  Its good to have a smallholding but you miss the camaraderie of the allotments.  What are you growing next year.  Have you thought about getting and allotment or perhaps a smallholding?  

Monday, 21 August 2017

More Ornament Collecting.

I found these two adorable creatures in a antique shop the other day.  They are made of resin and have a nail hole in the back to be hung on pub walls.  I don't know if you can still buy Black and White Scotch whisky? Do you?  Do you have any advertisement ornaments?

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

A Day Out To Kings John's Castle Limerick.

I said on my last post that we went to King John's Castle in Limerick one day last week.  Here are some pictures of the 800 years old castle.

I think the double yellow lines are a modern addition to the road?  I don't think any body would have booked knights in armour and damsels in distress.
Canons in the courtyard and a modern building housing the cafe, souvenir shop and an exhibition of architectural finds.

King John.  He's often been called a villian in Robin Hood and Richard The Lionheart tales.  But his greatest work is said to be the signing of the Magna Carta.

King John never actually visited his castle in Limerick.  

Setting up for a concert.
The remains of the Great Hall and you can see the magnificent river Shannon.
A model of Limerick.

It was a good trip and we learned that even then the world was always crazy like today and Normans, Irish, English and Vikings all played a part in the history of Limerick castle.  

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Tea Pot Cottage Hunting

We went to King John's Castle in Limerick (will post a blog about our vist) the other day.  On the way there we looked in a bric a brac shop and a antique shop.  

We ended up buying three Beswick teapot cottages and a cheeseboard and a biscuit barrel cottage.    They now sit proudly under our painting of a ancient Hereford cow.

I could never be a antique dealer because I only buy what I like.  Then I don't want to sell them.  Perhaps we put the stuff on the shelf in a box and make room for some more teapot houses.  What do you collect?

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Toys From Childhood.

I found these toys when I was digging off the old lawn the other week.  They are all toys belonging to our two lads when they played there during their childhood.  

There is a plastic cow, plastic hay bales, a gun, cars, tea spoons and a plastic horse.  I placed them on the downstairs bathroom window sill.  The window frames them in a way.  Modern art or sentimental items from childhood past?  

I once knew a man who kept all his children's old bicycles, toy tractors, prams under his conifer hedge.  Said he hadn't got the heart to throw them away.  Now I know what he means.  Childhood is so very short.  Perhaps the Tate Modern will buy my display?  What do you think?

Saturday, 5 August 2017

A Murmuration Of Starlings.

There are over seventy four or seventy five Starlings perched on this electricity overhead cable the other day.  I think Starlings are one of the few creatures that can make the pylons attractive.  I always wonder about the spatial proximity between the birds and do they believe in the old saying: there is safety in numbers?

Friday, 4 August 2017

I Can See Clearly Now The Weeds Have Gone.

The sun decided to play today and Fido our ancient terrier decided to saunter around the new border and meanderingpath I created a few weeks a go behind the old farmhouse.  The weeds have come back with a vengeance.  So this morning we weeded the new border and Fido supervised our weeding.

 The view that Fido is looking at from behind the farmhouse.

 Fido sniffing flowers and I think she suggested planting a 'dog' rose?  Sorry I couldn't resist that one!

The new lawn area could do with a good weeding and these concrete edgings need moving out of the way.

I promised you another video of a concert I recently attended.  I found this great You Tube video recording of the Hothouse Flowers concert in Killarney last month.  It was a great night and I have never known acoustic (semi acoustic even?) guitars could sound so heavy.  I last saw the Hothouse Flowers back in 1989 at Glastonbury Festival.  The three day festival only cost 28 quid.  The very first Glastonbury admission price was a Pound and they gave a free bottle of milk!

Hope you enjoy the video.  The songs been covered many times and I think this is a very good version.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Bitter Sweet Song.

I have developed a bit of a new hobby when I watch good old You Tube.  I type in concerts that I have been to in the past and sometimes there was somebody there who recorded it and put it on You Tube.  I will give you a few new and old examples over the next week.

Do you ever get songs stuck in your head playing along?  I had Roar by  Katie Perry playing in my head last week.  I think Psychologists must rewrite the songs or either that I just have the knack of remembering some really strange songs.

Any way.  For years I have had a song stuck in my head.  I first heard at a Christian musical festival called Greenbelt in about 1979  or 1983.   It was in the grounds of Knebworth House.  The same very place that  Led Zeppelin had played there not to forget Mr Charles Dickens often visited Knebworth House, but not for the rock god concerts.

So last month I was looking up this song that I remembered and guess what I found it.  It wasn't "Bitter sweet wine" like me myself and I thought it was: "Bitter sweet song. "

Here goes:

Have you ever found a song that you couldn't remember the title?  

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

A Day Out To The Aran Isles.

We went to Inishmor the other week for the day.  This was an early start because the ferry leaves for the Aran Isles at ten sharp.  We paid our thirty Euros (each!) for the hour and a quarter sail to the largest island in the Aran Isles.  Also the wife wanted to know what the Aran knitting patterns mean.  Like you do!

The sail was a bit choppy in places and we were freezing when we arrived at the pier.  After being asked by countless mini cab drivers if we wanted to pay fifteen Euros to go on the tour of the island.  We found a Spar and queued up for coffee and breakfast rolls.  

My wife being like most women.  Soon found herself engaged in a conversation with an American lady.  It went something like the following:

American Lady:

What's that you are ordering?


A breakfast roll.

American Lady:

Whats in a breakfast roll?

The wife then explained the contents of the breakfast roll..  


A fed up donkey who didn't want to talk to me.  Perhaps he only spoke donkey Gaelic?
Some very brave tourists peering over the edge of the 300 foot cliffs.  I didn't look down!  

I did have a conversation with one of people who supervised the visitors.  I said there should be a fence put up.  He said:

"A few people have said the same".

There is no health and safety in Ireland.  Or very little.  It is a beautiful place to visit though.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Been A Long Time Since I Rock And Rolled Or Even Blogged For that Matter!

Well, well, well, my Michelle!  Yes its May since I last posted anything on the old Tweb and Tinternet gizmo, thingamajig..  I hope you're all well and I look forward to reading your blogs and comments.  So what have you been up to?  

We have been restoring the farmhouse (square pegs don't go into round holes, dial a nightmare..) and we spent some days in Kerry and visited the Aran Isles and I did go on a Ryan Air plane to Frankfurt Hahn and went to a rock festival in my fifties.  That's one off my bucket list for sure.

Our dream home in the Sun never came off.  The vendors wanted us to pay for electricity to be connected.  So after a month of negotiations (3 different prices in a day!) we decided to pull out and paid the solicitor 1500 Euros for very little really!  Any way we have spent the money doing up the old farmhouse now.  So we will have to think again.  Its still a dream though.  

Here's a German band called Eyevory from the festival at Night Of The Prog 2017. To quote Max Boyce:

"I know, I was there."

They reminded me of a female led Jethro Tull type of band.  I hope you enjoy them.  Thanks to the people who post these excellent videos on You Tube.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

" Four Legs Good. Two Leg Bad." New Arrivals Down On The Smallholding.

We haven't had any livestock on the smallholding for a while.  Cattle prices are crazy at the moment. It's only a few days from the single farm payment application form-deadline.  So farmers are mad for cattle and sheep to make up their numbers before the 15th of May.  We decided to buy some sheep.  Five Suffolk cross ewes and six lambs to be precise.

Some photographs for the sheep.  You can see the bay (Bantry) in the background.

"I'm the king of the castle, bucket."
Makes you want to play "Sheep" by Pink Floyd doesn't it?

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Weeding Thoughts?

Apparently the term "weed" has no botanical significance.  It's a plant in the wrong place.  I am lucky really that I have any pernicious weeds like Japanese Knot-weed or Ground Elder.  Both introduced from foreign shores.  Apparently Mr and Mrs Roman Empire are said to have introduced Ground Elder to northern Britain because there weren't much fresh greens in those days, yawn!  

Japanese Knot-weed is said to have come with the Rhododendrons from Asia and purposely planted in the sixties for ornamental purposes.  The Edwardians planted it for game cover.  Is there an organic cure to eradicate it?  I have even read that it can be fed to livestock.  Don't fancy it though, do you? We are just troubled with Montbretia, Creeping Buttercup, Brambles, Chickweed, Docks...?

I have been weeding with hand, bucket and trowel all week, weeding the paths and flower and veg gardens.  I was wondering  (weeding) if somebody could invent an organic spray weedkiller?  

Do you use weedkiller?  We some times spray the rushes in the fields.  But we wouldn't use chemicals near the veg plot. I have read that Glyphosphates are rendered harmless when they make contact with the soil, but I don't like them do you?

We don't use weed killers.  Not even on the paths around the houses.  I know the Victorian  gardeners at Heligan use to spread  and sweep sand on to the paths.  The sea salt kept the weeds away.  

I have read about vinegar being used for a natural weedkiller.  A lot of the commercial vegetable growers use weedkillers.  I was once in a farm centre in West Cork and a man asked for weedkiller to put on the weeds on his potato rows.  Would you use weed killer?  Am I being paranoid and could I be saving myself a lot of work?  

Please share your thoughts on using weed killers.  

In the words of Mrs Merton:  "Lets have a heated debate!"

Seriously: what do you think about using weedkiller?

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

A Bank Holiday Monday Trip To Valentia Island County Kerry.

Hi every body.  We went to Valentia Island in Kerry yesterday.  It was a lovely day with a lovely South Westerly breeze from the Gulf stream.  

We found the Tetrapod trackway and walked down the steep stone stone slope to the find the tracks.  They only discovered them in 1992.  

 Tetra Pod tracks.  Its said to have existed about 300 Million Years a go.  It could also have happened when Noah built his ark ("the animals came in two by two") and Mr or Mrs Tetra-pod was said to be only about a Metre long.  It's said to be the first creature that walked on Earth.  Instead of being fish the creature was a mammal.  Charles Darwin would have loved this place.  I still like to think God made the Earth in 7 days though.  
 Dinosaur view.
 The tail and the leg tracks - probably!

An incredible thatched house with butterflies and Fuchsia painted on the walls.  I love this house don't you?

Did you go any where?