Monday, 21 May 2012

A Few Pictures From My Vegetable Plot in Rural Ireland. (Buttercups, Rush, Nettles, Brambles and a Thistle killer on the loose).

 Here are a few photographs of my vegetable plot in Southern Ireland.  The 'plastic' (slap hands) watering can (I really need that at the moment don't I folks?)  seems to be having a rest on the pile of FYM.  This will be spread by yours truly over some flat cardboard boxes(Lasagna gardening) in the Autumn.  Then the worms and rain and frost will make a wonderful friable soil for next years new potatoes.

 The wooden pallets near the tractor are one of my compost heaps.  I also seem to be collecting baths for growing my vegetables in.  The baths just have a few holes drilled in them, then some stones are carefully placed in them along with lots of soil and FYM.  Not the carrots though, because FYM makes them fork. The raised beds also keeps the carrot fly away.  Apparently old Mr and Mrs carrot fly don't fly above twelve inches or 30 centimetres if you work in Metric?

Everything seem to be growing well at the moment including the weeds.  My only problem at the moment is a bit of rust on my garlic in the bath.  Did you know that the rust that attacks vegetables is the same rust that corrodes metal?    Anyway.  You will notice I am an untidy gardener and I don't believe in using any chemicals on my piece of Eden - my veg plot. This week I am going to have a weeding blitz because the weather forecast is not so bad..

The rushes are growing again in the field and I will either strim them again or perhaps even spray them?  There are also quite a few clumps of buttercups, nettles and brambles.  Blackberry leaves are supposed to be a great tonic for farm animals.  You can get sprays like MCPA that are said to kill all the weeds but don't kill the grasses. I read the other day that there are even organic weed killers for sale  that you can spray on your fields????????????.

Organic farmers use tractors to keep topping the rushes.  Even this method surely must kill insects and news and toads and frogs...?  Also you're polluting the air and surrounding environment with diesel fumes.  What do you think readers?  Should weedkillers be banned, and is there any way of farming without spraying or
topping with tractor machinery?

Yes I have had a go with a scythe and goats don't (won't) eat rushes.  We also had a donkey that ate the thistles and then dispersed the seeds when he did his ablutions.  So now I wait until July then I go down the fields with my Machete type slasher and murder the thistle plants.  Who cares about a mad axeman when there's a thistle killer on the loose?


  1. That's a good one. A chemical spray that will kill the NEWS. Even Newts.

  2. Suppose chemicals are useful to some people (not killing news), the big farmers growing one crop, they seem to be incessantly spraying with something, dunno what though. Maybe I don't want to know, it might end up on my plate in a few months? I'll bet some of the soil they've got after years of growing the same crop doesn't even support worms any more?

    What happened to the 4 or 5-course rotation system, nobody seems to practice it now, except maybe the allotment-holders? Must be a subsidy on rape this year, a lot of the fields are in full yellow bloom.

    And the tractor approach to weeding is, as you've noticed, murderous for small wildlife, I sometimes follow a Council tractor and grass cutters when they go over biggish areas, you'll find all sorts of bodies, even halves of grass snakes. They've never heard of starting in the middle.

    Nice to see an allotment lookinmg lush and not over-gone on regimentation, the crop will be just as good, and a plot that won't grow good weeds won't grow good anything.
    Used to say about nettles - Cut in May, up the next day, Cut in June, up again soon, Cut in July then they'll die.

    I like the cardboard and FYM approach, wish I could get jhold of a few tons, but it's all slurry in my area, there used to be some stables that were happy to let you take the horse manure, very good it was as well, but the stables are gone now.

    Raggy cat just fetched us a little live bunny, tried to get it out of the mouth but couldn't except at great personal risk, then it escaped and ran into the spare bedroom (glory-hole) and got lost, raggy cat's been trying to find it, so just left door open and back door open, maybe it'll get out.

    Lovely bright day today, even warm.

  3. Hi Cumbrian, Thanks for that.

    I dread to think what is sprayed on the crops today. There's sprays to kill the weeds and pesticides and insecticides. DDT was very popular until a few years ago. I even heard of American research claiming that handling granulated fertilizer may cause Parkinsons disease.

    It's miserable here with lots of mizzle - mist and drizzle.


    One of the good reasons for buying organic vegetables is the thought that they may have employed somebody to hand weed them. I know this is often the case with the smallholders who sell them. However there are some bigger organic farmers that use tractor machinery to weed. I suppose its better than chemicals though.

    There seems to be a lot of monoculture (just grass) here also. In fact the EEC don't encourage it with penalizing people who aren't growing grass when they fill their single farm payment forms.

    Turnip Townsend (wasn't it?) who invented the 4 or 5 course rotation system. It also kept the land in good heart and the perimeters well maintained.

    The Lasagne gardening is an American idea. You don't need to spend time clearing grass and weeds. You are making a cardboard mulch - Lasagne gardening. It's imitating the forests with their leaves decomposing and making really rich soil. Full of juicy and healthy worms.

    I only know of three farmers in a 4 mile radius (me included) who don't have a slatted house and a slurry tanker.

    Ragwort is another curse. I pull it by hand, unlike the councils who let it spread. I found out recently that you should always wear a glove because Ragwort damages the liver and your skin is not waterproof - frightening.

    I have bought organic pellet poultry manure for my vegetables like carrots that fork if I put FYM on them. You can get a really big tub from Aldi for less than a tenner and it lasts the vegetable growing season. You can't beat a compost area also. I make mine with a few pallets tied together and throw anything the ducks don't want. Then I clean the ducks out and it all goes back in the compost heap.

  4. Be nice to eat only organic, but as well as the difficulty in buying much of it, I'm never 100% convinced it's really what I would consider organic, I think the only way to be sure is to grow it yourself.
    Look at the confusing system of labelling eggs. Much as I dislike battery egg production, as long as people want to buy cheap eggs, and the Tescos and Asdas of this world dominate the market, battery hens will be a fact of life.
    Same with rabbits, pork and veal, even salmon; lambs don't lend themselves to factory methods, but they probably get injected with something?

    Yeah, ragwort, it flourishes in this area, I was under the impression the Local Authority was supposed to keep their areas clear of it, but I don't think anybody told our lot, or many others either, it seems to be winning big time.
    It keeps appearing in my garden, and I pull it out by hand when it's big enough to grasp, at least it comes out easy, doesn't seem to root very deep. Dunno where it comes from, I never let it flower, let alone seed, and all the neigbours seem to be free of it, so it must be from surrounding fields.
    Knew it was poisonous, but never heard about it getting in through the skin, I've never worn gloves.

    Raggy cat continued the saga of the live bunny by catching it again, and Mrs was so upset I had to lock them in the kitchen so she couldn't hear it being eaten. Messy little sod eat the front half and left the back half with the entrails hanging out. It went in the wheelie bin (general waste) and raggy cat was a bit confused when it went looking for it.

    Lovely morning here, bright sun, blue sky, a bit warmer as well.

  5. Thanks Cumbrian.

    We also have had difficulty sourcing organic meat until recently, when they (supermarket) have started selling some chopped up beef pre-packed in plastic. It really annoys me when 'organic vegetables' come ready wrapped or in plastic bags.

    Totally agree with you that you only know its truly organic if you grow it yourself. Saying that though. I would imagine the Lakeland mountain sheep that graze only on the chemical free (they can't spread fertiliser on a mountain)Cumbrian mountains are the nearest thing to organic?

    Why can't we have other labels like: Man-made chemicals free, Natural, Hand Weeded and Fresh Today?

    Farming seems very cruel at times. Lambs are less than 4 months old when they are killed and veal calves even less. I would imagine the lambs get worming injections.

    There was a noxious weed act in England but I don't think they enforce it much. Saying that the councils are a law unto themselves everywhere. I heard last night on the news (I know you told me to stop watching it!) that they are going to start fining people if they have untidy gardens. Think its only for local authority tenants though? It's a shame they can't fine the councils for not pulling the Ragwort.

    Raggy cat is a domesticated wild animal, I wish I had it around my farm to keep the rats and mice away.

    Mizzle again here and it feels like potato blight weather.


  6. Herdwicks our mountain sheep, a study all on their own. Dunno how much you know about the system of hill sheep farming, don't want to try and teach my grandma to suck eggs as they say.
    They're territorial animals, never stray from the patch of fell where they're born, and all the fells are owned by the National Trust and most of the tennanted fell farms as well, they dictate how many ewes on each patch to maintain a natural balance.
    They live wild in the summer and back end, get fetched down to the kinder bottom fields for tupping and spring lambing, the lambs stay there till their date with the butcher. At present they're looking just about at the delicious stage, a few weeks to go. Suppose they're as close as you'll get to organic, but they're not much of a butchers animal, they were preferred as mutton in years gone by.
    Wild they are, and fetched in on foot with the help of a couple of good dogs, I've sweet memories of the blisters from all the walking, they probably use those little 4x4 buggy things now, i see them on the by-ways with the dog on the back. Good jumpers as well, just try and catch one on the fell.
    Used to be highly valued for their fleece, very tough and wiry, was used in high quality carpets. Not so much now, carpets usually synthetic, so the fleeces are not worth much, they're used to make organic insulation quilt.

    Yeah, cruel in some ways, but at least the lambs usually get a chance to play on the grass in the sun, I've seen calf boxes where they must struggle to turn round, probably to stop them running any calories off, maximum meat for minimum input.
    I sometimes think the cruelest bit is the way they get sent to the butcher, herded into a transporter, then into a sale ring, then into another transporter to the abbatoir, probably terrified all the time. Well within my memory are the village butchers who kept (or bought locally) their animals, and had small slaughter houses on their premises. My own village had 3, they specialised one each in pork, lamb and beef, I used to watch the lambs and pigs getting cut up, those guys were artists. No Health & Hygeine inspectors then.
    I still contend this was a better way, seeing reality made me aware of what was on my plate and where it came from. Not wrapped in plastic either.

    Raggy cat stretched out in the sun, it's warm and dry here, no blight weather.

  7. Thanks for that Cumbrian. I have just been looking at Herdwicks on You Tube and Google. It says Beatrix Potter is responsible for them still existing today and she left her property to the National Trust.

    It's great that they are using their fleeces for organic roof insulation. I know Irish sheep farmers who get nothing for the ir wool. I bet the Foot and mouth outbreak was terrible near you. Thankfully it never got to Soouthern Ireland.

    I remember moving here over in 2001 and the police asking us if we had a LAWNMOWER! They said the lawnmowers can spread the disease. You couldn't make it up.

    Totally agree with you about the local slaughter houses. Or better still let a licensed slaughter man come round and shoot them while their eating. No stress and no trying to load them in a box trailer.

    I would love for all the traditional breeds to be available in the supermarkets. We have very little knowledge today of what breed of meat or vegetable variety we are eating.

    Raggy cat obviously likes his siesta in the sun.

    Thanks for that Cumbrian.

  8. Dunno about Beatrix Potter saving them, but she did promote them a lot, I thought they were just a native breed, they reckon without them the fells would revert to forest and scrub, not forgetting the ferns that colonise the slopes too steep for the sheep.

    I don't think they get very much for the fleeces but it's better than burning then.

    Foot & Mouth, we were right in the middle of it, they started burning carcases, fires all over, then when it got out of control they dug a huge hole near Great Orton and buried them, dunno how many, but it was a lot.
    When they found an infected farm, they drew a 3 mile radius and slaughtered eveything in the circle, there wasn't much escaped. Minor roads had carpets of straw with disinfectant to drive over supposedly to stop spread, it didn't seen to work. And visiting the continent they had baths to drive through when you got off the ferry. areally sad time, I wouldn't like to guess how much it all cost.

    Be good to see the return of the travelling slaughterman, a much better way I agree. But I doubt it, the powers that be have too much control and vested interest in making the animals end as horrible, expensive and documented as possible. I don't beleive it makes the meat taste any better either.

    Raggy was waiting for me coming back from shopping, sun-bathing on the window cill, came in, leisurly ate a few biccies and sauntered out again.

    Wish I had your patio here, a lovely evening to sit outside with a nice cigar and a pint of stout. I've got the stout, last but one bottle from my most recent brew, very nice it is too.

  9. Thanks Cumbrian. Yes cattle and sheep have made the countryside what it is, and you're right they prevent the scrub and native trees from taking over.

    The great stately home garden designer, Capability Brown. Often used sheep to look after the gardens. Also before the enclosures everybody used the common lands to keep sheep and grow vegetables. Been reading a book about the Diggers. The enclosure acts drove people to the city and now ninety percent of the population live in one. People from Cumbria and Lancashire originally belonged to a Celtic tribe called the Brigantes.

    The Foot and Mouth crisis sounds like it was Hell on Earth. The powers that be still won't vaccinate for it or TB. There's even talk of vaccinating the wildlife like Badgers?

    Totally agree with you about the travelling slaughter-man. I don't like the ritual slaughter of animals either, especially Halal meat where an animal gets its throat slit and the blood drained.

    It's mist, fog and drizzle here again today. They say there is a grass shortage and cattle prices are starting to fall because of it. Yet everywhere there are fields full of silage. I have far too much grass to cope with my small herd. Probably end up paying for some silage to be made? More plastic to get rid of.

    You should write a home brew blog Cumbrian. I would really like to know how to make my own ale or stout. There is talk of making the patio in to a summer house pergola type structure. Probably use green oak or European Larch? Will have to get the cattle tested first and sell them.


  10. Don't think I've ever heard of the Brigantes, a lot of place names in Cumbria or at least what used to be Cumberland, and some of the local dialect, are of Norwegian origin.

    F & M wasn't a nice time, load-alls filling covered wagons all day and most of the night. Some local lads earned big money for a few months working silly hours 7 days a week. Not a lot of badgers in this area.

    Shortage of grass in the Emerald Isle? Mine's growing faster than I can cut it. You not going to make hay this year?

    Home brewing's easy now, the kits are very good. I go for top of the range kits, no sugar to add, just 2 tins of malt, pay about £20 per kit which produces about 40 pints.
    I invested in 2 professional kegs (google cornelius keg) and proper pub CO2 bottle, lines, valves and taps. Expensive but I won't wear them out, the more brews the cheaper per brew, and with the price of a pub pint soon pays its way. Kegs hold 18 lts, so I usually get a couple of Grolsh bottles as well, just for when the keg runs out.
    I've had some really good results, some of them better than pub offerings, especially stouts and ales in our soft water area.
    Be happy to forward suppliers details if you're interested, or look at Jims beer kit, a good home brewers site (don't mention distilling on the site)

    Wine-making's another nice thing to do, doesn't cost much, just a few demi-johns (mine came from freecycle and car boots) a bit of sugar and foraged or surplus ingredients in season. I often get the super stores last-minute produce very cheap, I've even made it fron runner beans.

    And purely academic (because it's illegal) have a look at easystill or smartstill, for distilled water of course.

    Summer house sounds good, I think natural timber is the way to go, anything else wouldn't look right?

    Raggy cat off out for the night looking well-fed, had the fat from the dinner-time lamb chops.

    Funny day weather-wise, foggy cool and damp on the shore, but in our village only about a mile in but 300' above sea level, it's been sun-bathing weather.

  11. Yes we are made up of lots of different nationalities. I have English, Irish and a great grandmother who came from Wrexham in Wales. Also my mothers maiden name is said to be of German origin.

    There are over 10000 forts and stone circles here in Ireland. I believe you have quite a few in Cumbria? The Celts who built these fled from Spain before Jesus or the pyramids were constructed.

    There are a lot of badgers here and they always get blamed when somebody gets TB.

    I have far too much grass that's why I will probably have to make silage or my next favourite to hay - haylage. The farmers say they have a grass shortage yet they have fields full of grass growing for silage. I have a field close to house that's being saved for loose hay though.

    Didn't know you you lived in a soft water area. Burton on Trent is the same. Think I will get into making my own beer because Murphy's stoutis now 2.32 a can. That's £1.86 when converted. Ouch! Drinking cider at a Euro a can at the moment. Well no t at this moment!

    Thanks for the advice Cumbrian. How long does it take before you can drink your wine? Don't think I have the patience to wait.

    The Pergola/Summer House is going to be made with Oak and European Larch and probably slates. We will also use it for a log store in Winter because of it's open sides and front. I will take some photographs if it actually gets off the ground.

    Talking of natural materials. Have you seen the Artisan gardens at Chelsea Flower Show? My favourite is the Yorkshire Bronte garden with the millstone grit ruin that looks like Top Withins (the house) they claim was the inspiration for Wuthering Heights. There's also a William Wordsworth inspired garden.

    The weather is gorgeous today and I hope to get some weeding done. My ducks will be pleased because they sort through the weeds via the compost heap!


  12. Beer - 4/5 days in the bucket then about 14 days in the keg, leave it longer and it seems to get better (within limits)

    Wine - usually about 7/14 days in the ferment, a few weeks in the demi-john to clear then about 6 months in the bottle, it gets better at a year old or more.

    Potcheen - follow instructions on easystill (academic only)

    Brewing set-up is cheap, a 5-gallon bucket to ferment, a syphon tube, and someting to keep it in (bottles or keg) And some steralising powder, it's cheap enough in Wilkos or any on-line home-brew stockist. Best bottles are Grolsh with the swing top and rubber seal, infinitely re-cyclable, but I've used plastic ones that had fizzy drinks in when I ran out of glass bottles, it tasted OK. Don't recomment the plastic kegs, they need constant pressurising with a (very expensive) gas bottle and valve.

    Patience is only required for the first batch of anything, then you just keep brewing / fermenting / distilling (your water) as often as required to keep up with consumption.

    A few stone circles, not particularly well-known or visited much, probably used by sun-worshippers centuries ago, or places of sacrifice if you like the gory ideas.

    Yes, our local Jennings brewery is renowned for its real ales, brewed using their own soft water well, it's said the quality of the water makes the quality of the brew. Of course our tap water's probably laced with chemicals we don't know about, but I know it makes good stouts and ales. And Jennings don't do lagers, which I've been told need a hard water to acheive good results.

    Hope the summer house project goes OK, sounds like a good idea for the wood-shed as well, and somewhere sheltered to saw a bit on rainy days.

    William (and Dorothy) Wordsworth had their house in Cockermouth, it's now a museum type place, with a small garden at the front. Never been in it, but it seems a popular place to visit.

    Weather started foggy but lovely day now, best of luck with the weeding, sounds like a good way to work up a 4-can thirst.

    Raggy cat sun-bathing.

  13. Thanks for the brewing information Cumbrian. I will get a kit this week and I will post a blog telling everybody how it turns out.

    Easy still sounds brilliant!

    Sounds like you have got it off to a fine art. I bet you save a fortune and you have no cans to take to the can banks. The Wasps love them over here!

    I have drank many a pint of Jennings and Ruddles (was it?) on my trips to the Lakes. I love Coniston and Grasmere. I live on a peninsula and often think it could be like Cumbria or Cornwall. We have so few jobs and there are tales of village schools and police stations closing. Why can't the powers that be give rural dwellers infrastructure like public transport?

    Been doing a Time Team clearing a old dry-stone wall of ferns and Fuschia today. Going to sit outside on the bench on the patio tonight and have at least 6 cans of cider. It's only a Euro a can and its 5 percent.

    Raggy cat isn't daft!


  14. Hello Dave and Cumbrian! Just nosey-poleing yr. discussions (sorry!) but they're fascinating to me cos it's such a different life to the one I lead here! Oh, by the by, in re Badgers and TB. I reckon that's a load of old rubbish, well, at least concering humans and TB. There's loads of TB back in London and not one bloody badger in sight!! My little niece (aged 2) just had to have her TB injection cos it's really rampant in SW London!!! p.s. in re nettles - I know a really nice lady at who is always cooking with nettles!!!

  15. Thanks Carol for reading the blog. I also keep reading your great blog. Thanks for making me laugh every week. We all could do with a laugh with all this Euro doom and gloom nonsense. I can't understand why Mr ("call me Dave") Cameron keeps commenting on the Euro when England doesn't even use the Euro.


  16. Good evening Carol, don't mind in the least about you noseying into our discussions / rants / reminicences, they're on open web, it's nice to know somebody actually reads them.
    No need to be sorry at all.

    Why not give us an insight into your urban lifestyle, must be so much different to Daves rural and my village way of living.
    I'm sure you could tell us about the differences, and similarities if there are any?

    Didn't know that TB was rampant in London for example, so I've learned something fom you today.

    Nettles, as well as cooking, were (and still can) also be used to make a beer, I tried it once many years ago, but the modern kits are so good I never try anything else.

    I think Dave will echo my thoughts.

  17. Of course I echo your thoughts Cumbrian. You are always telling us something new or amusing.

    I would also love to know what goes on in London town Carol? I didn't know TB was rampant either.

    All I know about Nettles are: where nettles grow, anything will grow , they are said to be full of nitrogen, you can make a soup, clothes dye, a pour on liquid fertilizer and a really strong rope.

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  18. Good morning, from bright and sunny West Cumbria.

    Off down the road for a few days, should be back by Thursday.

  19. Hi Cumbrian. It's a gorgeous day here in West Cork. I hope you enjoy your travels down the road. Good luck!!


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