Sunday 29 April 2012

Hoping To Make Hay While The Sun Shines. (Don't laugh!)

Howdy Folks.   That's my haystack of loose hay from last year.  I got somebody to mow it and turn it, and we turned it with hand pikes and made enormous windrows, and we brought (piked again) it down from the field and placed it in a giant heap.  Praying that that there would not be any spontaneous combustion (spot the Ted Nugent track?) then it was all piked into the barn.

Before that.  The land got a good splattering of cow muck (piked again with tractor and box) and one bag of  Gran Lime.  The hay making operation took 5 days in total and I had several nights worrying if it would rain and ruin my hay.  You don't have the same worries with baled silage.

I reckon (not including my fuel of stout and ham sandwiches) that it cost me 120 Euro s (about £100) to get an acre or even a full barn of hay.  I started feeding it the new cattle in August and we still had some left until just after Christmas.  The great thing about loose hay is there is very little dust and the cattle thrive on it.  You can even get somebody to bale the hay if you want.  We can't put the baling string manufacturer's out of business can we?  Even that's made of plastic or even polypropylene these days.

Also when you grow hay it reseeds the field.  Lets pray that we can make another large crop this year.  If not I will be buying silage.   The construction to the right of the haystack is the duck pen.  It's covered in chicken mesh to keep the fox away.  Well that's the idea any way.

Here's a bit of nostalgia for you.  It was made in 1924.  If you ever get to see the OPEN ROAD don't miss it.  I love the labourer drinking his cider and the Oxen pulling the hay-carts.

If you click on to their titles you will find lots more incredible film footage of England's green and pleasant land.  Why can't we go back to those times?

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Trying To Be Chemical Free On My Irish Smallholding.

"Does it run on chip fat oil?"

Howdy Folks.  That's a photograph of me, myself and I (Joan Armatrading song title) trying to eradicate the rushes from one of my fields.  I try not to use man made chemicals around the farm.  Yes the strimmer works off fossil fuel (I run on cans of stout) but what are you supposed to do?  I don't buy chemical fertilizer any more it's too dear and I don't really agree with it.  So I spend hours nay days trying to stop the Furze  (Gorse)and Rushes from taking over.  I think the cattle help a bit?  However they turn their noses up at rushes.

I know a lot of organic farmers use tractor toppers to control the rushes but they are still polluting the air with the diesel fumes and probably killing frogs and newts and goodness knows what else aren't they?.  I suppose you just can't win can you?  I bet even the electricity used to power our computers is made in a nuclear power station in England or France?

My grandfather used to cut the rushes and pike them on to his cart and the cattle and the horse would use them for bedding.  I give my cattle straw and wood shavings but I might start harvesting the rushes.  Wouldn't it be great to see the horses return to work the land again?

Here's a question.  Who invented the seed drill?  

Yes you're quite right.  It was Jethro Tull.  I bet he would have known how to control the rushes.  Talking of Jethro Tull.  Here's one of favourite tracks: Heavy Horses.  

I have seen them four or five times and Ian Anderson is nothing short of a genius and poet.  His lyrics in Heavy Horses are indeed prophetic for these times:

"...And one day when the oil barons have all dripped dry and the nights are seen to grow colder

They'll beg you for your strength, your gentle power, your noble grace and your bearing

 and you'll strain once again to the sound of the gulls in the wake of the plough sharing."
What a brilliant band!!  They are on tour in the UK right now.  Why can't they visit Ireland?

Saturday 21 April 2012

A Walk in the Country.

Hi Folks,

Those of you who follow this post.  Will know that one of my biggest soap box rants is the lack of public transport in rural areas.  It really makes my blood boil that we have no bloody buses.  There you are.  I'm even swearing now.  Anyway I have decided to get myself fit and WALK everywhere.  Well at least four miles a day any way.  I started my fitness regime on Thursday.  One walked seven  and half miles along road, moor and mountain.  Then I washed it down with four cans of stout and I have never felt so good in donkey years.  The experts on the old T'web and T internet (that's for the Lancashire and Yorkshire readers like myself) reckon walking is good for your eyesight and depression (sounds like me) and your brain releases the endorphins that make you happy and feel good.  Yesterday I cycled (walked up a hill) four miles and today I rode four miles on my exercise bike listening to some good old heavy rock music.  I also walked to see my big cattle:  Toffee, Lucy Black and Yankee (he was born on the 4th of July).
"Shall we sing that Star of the County Down Song?"

"What again?"

"Well we do have Bantry Bay in the background don't we?"
Here's  a much better version for you.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Alan the Tennis Ball Snooker Cat.

Hi Folks,

Gosh we've had a lot of weather lately haven't we?  Last night we got one of those Atlantic gales that make you very very afraid.  You wouldn't put a milk bottle out in that weather, even the rats were wearing fur coats. Yes the old ones are the best!!

Talking of fur coats.  We employed a new worker in the farm the other week.  He's the white lad in the photograph.  We got him to live in the farmhouse and to eradicate a few stray field mice.  His real name his Sugar but I Christened him with his first name Alan.  Everybody on the smallholding calls it him now.

Anyway folks he's also clearly a cat of leisure.  I have attempted to explain that he's not got the right snooker equipment and he should really wear a waistcoat.   Alan doesn't care though.  Hope he's paying for the light?  

Alan dreaming at the Whiskas world tennis-ball snooker championship in Sheffield or would it be Catford?

I'm off to town this week to the post office to see if I can get him a CAT LICENCE.  Well they used to ask for them on Monty Python didn't they?

Monday 16 April 2012

Our Stanley Stove: The Poor Smallholders Aga.

Hi Folks.  I spend a lot of my weekends watching the football ('Soccer' in Ireland and America) on the television.  All the pundits are crying out for the use of technology due to some terrible referee mistakes.  Can't say I disagree.  Rugby League, Cricket and Tennis have been using technology for years.   It won't help the little clubs though.  Perhaps there should just be another two officials situated behind the nets?  Or maybe they should insist that all match officials go to Spec Savers?  I am only joking.

Talking of technology.  Thought I'd show show a photograph of our Stanley Mourne (number 8) Range.  We bought it for 1800 Euros brand new.  They say:

"Span new"

In Ireland.

 It burns coal, solid fuel and wood.  We do all the cooking on it and it heats 3 radiators and provides hot water.  Some people dream of a Rayburn or an Aga stove.  We are more than happy with our Stanley:  The poor smallholders Aga.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Rhododendrons: Flower of the Orient and in Flower in Ireland

  It rained for about six months in Ireland from September until March.  We cursed and called it and cursed and called the rain again.  The last few weeks haven't been so bad (brilliant at times) and the Rhododendrons seem to have used all the nutrients (rain is like bitter.  It's full of vitamins!) to make an amazing amount of flowers this year.
 The old Rhododendron Ponticum seems to like the Irish climate it very much.  Lots of rain and very mild temperatures.  The peat soils make excellent soil for the plants to thrive. I believe the first Rhodies came to Britain and Ireland in the late eighteenth century.  They were thought to be ideal for game birds to shelter under and they put on a spectacular show.  Some people say that they are a nuisance and poison the ground and smother all the native foliage.  I am not saying they are wrong but?  They do put on a pretty spectacular show for us don't they?

Sunday 8 April 2012

Allotments Available Up At Big House!

Hi Folks,

I thought I would show you a few pictures of allotments and working kitchen gardens at big houses in County Cork.  The allotments at Bantry House have been made available for members of the public to rent.  Perhaps this is the way forward for people who can't get a council allotment?  I believe that the National Trust in Britain has created a thousand new allotments for people to cultivate the vegetables and fruit.  You can also make yourself a garden with flower beds and a lawn and a shed and your very own piece of Eden.

A great site for you to peruse is you want to live the good life on a smallholding or an allotment:  Land  Go on get yourself an allotment.

Allotments at Bantry House.   County Cork, Eire.
Overgrown Allotment in need of TLC at Bantry House.
Working Kitchen Garden.  Lisselan Estate  Clonakilty , County Cork.
Old Hot Bed: Lisselan Estate Clonakilty,  County Cork, Eire.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Mr and Mrs Self Sufficient. (Part Two.)

The very first job is for Mrs Self Sufficient to decide on where the ideal place is to situate the vegetable plot - Potage.  Mr Self Sufficient's first job is to clear the jungle.  He can be heard to be cursing and swearing and saying:

"I think we (him) will tackle the overgrown acre of brambles, rushes, rose-bay willow herb, couch grass ('Twitch') and fifty years of the previous owners very own personal land fill site.  Anybody want an old gas mask, Anderson air raid shelter and ten dozens tins of powdered egg?  We won't use any fertilizers, pesticides or man-made chemicals.  Just good old manual labour, blood sweat and tears, 8 cans of strong ale (strictly medicinal of course) and a sack of Mars Bars for the missus.

Four hours later.  You're walking around doing a wonderful impersonation of the 'hunchback of self sufficient kingdom'.  You've broken your British manufactured spade ('made in Taiwan') and you have decided that you're going through a St John of the cross: 'Dark night of the soul' experience.

The vicar's wife won't be visiting you again either, because she was having a wonderful conversation with Mrs Self Sufficient, inviting you both to church and for a 'nice cup of tea' afterwards, and to look at all the parishioners latest holiday snaps, because she heard you call her something and it sounded like 'punt,' but it wasn't and you were really calling a blackberry root.  She's gone and you flop to the ground and crack open another tin of foaming ale ("Tish") and you look all around a your wonderful potage.  It looks like hens having been scratching around in your desert bowl wasteland.

Oh the joys of being Mr and Mrs Self Sufficient and their little smallholding!

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Mr and Mrs Self Sufficient.

Continuing with my rather 'interesting' fictional characters (I sent this to one of those specialist niche magazines in England and they emailed me back saying: "It's not our kind of thing.") that help to make the world go round.  I give you the following creature:  Mr and Mrs Self Sufficient.

You're middle aged and totally fed up living in suburbia, the rat race and having so called relatively ordinary things like:  a corner shop (those were the days), pub, milkman, FRIENDS, libraries, kebab houses, DIY shops, restaurants, public transport ("here we go again"), newsagents who deliver your newspapers, football teams, footpaths, mains water and mains sewers, street lights, telephone boxes, green grocers ("grow your own"), off licences, JOBS....?  Shall I go on?

You decide to take the plunge and buy or rent your very own little smallholding in the countryside.  You think you've done the right thing moving to the sticks and hear yourself say:

"Wouldn't it be great to have goats and sheep and a Shetland pony and a cow and your own vegetables and brew your own wine and ale and...?"

You know that you have all the necessary knowledge to 'downsize'.  After all you have read John Seymour's: New book of self sufficiency, The natural ways of farming: Masanobu Fukuoka (try saying that when you have had a few pint of home brew) and Enid Blyton's: Famous Five.

"Where's Timmy the dog?"

Well what more is there to know?

To be continued!

Monday 2 April 2012

Some New Additions To The Ranch.

Howdy Folks!!

These are four of the new lads to the ranch (smallholding) in West Cork, Southern Ireland.  Shall I introduce you to them?

OK.  Top left:  Lightning.  Top right:  Bambi.    The other two are:  Dal boy (looks like a Dalmatian) and Archie: The British Friesian.  Even though he moos with a West Cork accent.

We will be back to some more of the fictional allotment and smallholding characters on Wednesday.  Maybe tomorrow if it rains!


Sunday 1 April 2012

Mr and Mrs "Right On's" Allotment.

All characters in the following blog post are entirely fictitious but I have met a few like them!  You might even say they are exaggerations of allotment characters I have met?  Shall I get on with it?

Mr and Mrs 'Right On.'

This is a middle class, Barbour jacket wearing couple.  They decide to get themselves a municipal allotment and grow 'Organic' vegetables and worship Mother Earth and:

"Do one's bit".

The great day arrives and they go to see their new potage and can't believe their eyes:


They cry.

"Vegetables don't come washed and diced in plastic bags (biodegradable of course) like the one's we get at Marks and Spencer's?"

Mr and Mrs Right on decide that their allotmenteering efforts will prevent global warming and the depletion of the Amazon rainforests all because THEY are growing 'Organic' vegetables.

Mr Right On does not believe in digging or weeding his allotment.  He doesn't want to upset the ecosphere and anaerobic digestion of some endangered worm species ("Lesser Spotted Tunbridge Wells Elasticicus") and decides he will find an extra few hours a week for their gardener Mr Commonplace.

"Yes sir, Yes sir."

Doffing cap, tugging forelock.

Mr and Mrs 'Right On' drive an enormous gas guzzling Volvo estate.  This is however only for transportation and for carrying the 'Organic' produce and gardening equipment to the allotment shed.

Mr 'Right On' is tired of Mrs 'Right On' complaining of the allotment earth on the car carpets.

"Must get a shed for the allotment."

"Yes dear.  What kind?"

"Oh only a small thingamajig.  I think they call them Gatekeepers cottages.  Must have a look in the classifieds for one."

"Time for tea."

"With a lemon slice".

A Bus man's Holiday To See Some Pigs At Balmoral Show.

You know what a bus man's holiday is don't you?  It means going on holiday and doing the same thing that you do at work.  Or on the ...