Sunday 29 July 2012

Is It Town Or Country (Is it time for a heated debate Mrs Merton?)

It's eleven years (Saturday) yesterday (28th of July) since we moved to live on my ancestors farm in rural southern Ireland, very close to the sea.  So I thought today I would (HOPEFULLY) start a debate about the town versus country.  I really welcome your thoughts.  Do you dream of living in the countryside or do you prefer the neon (even street) lights of the town and city?  Have you lived in the countryside and give it a whirl and chose to live back in the town? 
6 Reasons FOR Living in the Countryside:

1:  Peaceful.  You can say that all right.  No noisy neighbours, detached property.  Can go a week without speaking to anybody.  Lots of people drive along the roads and wave though.   

2:  We live in a house in the countryside overlooking the sea and mountains.  Some times I feel like we live in a beautiful oil painting.  My late grandmother used to say:

"The view won't feed you."

3:  We own our own property and have no mortgage and nobody will build in front of us because we own the land.  We hope so any way.

4:  I farm for sentiment.  It was my great, great grandparents farm and I feel that I am a tenant carrying it on to pass down to future generations.  I always wanted to live here, but holidays and permanent residence is a different story.

5:  We have livestock and grow vegetables and I wouldn't want anything else but a smallholding.

6:  We have contentment, clean air and amazing sunsets and scenery.


6 Reasons for NOT living in the countryside.

1:  Ireland and the UK are far too expensive.  Compare our countries to Eastern Europe and see that we are being ripped off!

2:  Remote.  There is no public transport, community centre, shop, jobs, pub....for miles.  Car dependent.  Some times the roads are sheets of ice and there are no pavements to walk on or street lights.

3:  We have very few friends near us.  Thank God for television, books and the Internet.

4:  The weather is very changeable and every body seems to be full of aches and pains.  Never seem to get the seasons in the right order any more.  More likely to get them all in one day.

5:  Unaffordable Property.  Most people can't afford to purchase property in the countryside and they have to move to the towns and cities for work and accommodation.  The young grow up and move away.  Cycle after cycle of emigration.

6:  Rural Isolation:  The smallholder often feels like they have a Sisyphus complex forever pushing that boulder up that hill for eternity.  You get older and get tired of struggling against the elements and wish that some times somebody would help you without having to wait for ever for them to turn up and charge you the earth.


There are some of my thoughts.  Like I say my situation could be unique?  Sorry to say that even the photographs aren't real farms.  They are re-constructions of times gone past.  Is there really a Rural Idyll?

Any thoughts please?

Sunday 22 July 2012

Don't Let Your Onions Rot On The Allotment, Get Them In The Freezer.

Saturday was a brilliant day here in Southern Ireland.  Some of my onions have started to look sorry for themselves and I thought there is no point waiting for the sun to shine, so we decided to harvest them.  This involved us digging and pulling and topping and tailing and peeling and chopping them into banana shapes and pushing them down the chute into the 'carboot sale special' (a fiver twelve years ago) food processor.  Then we placed the shredded onions in 'seal it' bags and dropped them in the freezer.  The one who must be obeyed invented this method.  She (who is she, the cat's mother?") informs me that you don't even need to blanch them.  We have about thirty bags of onions ready for the winter stews and curries.

Then I dug over the soil and we planted leeks (dibber makes holes and drop the leek plants in) and sowed some Autumn King carrots. So don't wait for the onions to rot in your allotment/kitchen garden.  Have a 'kitchen day' and make loads of ready made onions for all those autumn and winter feasts.  Do you think this is how Marks and Sparks began their 'ready washed and peeled vegetables' food empire?  This time next year we will be millionaires.  Is there anyway I can bottle 'Irish Mizzle - mist and drizzle?'

Next week Allotment and Smallholding comrades.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

A Cardboard and FYM Lasagna Mulch For Next Years Potatoes.

Some recent  photos from my little smallholding in Southern Ireland, Europe, good old planet Earth.   The last picture is my 'silage bale' boreen.  It's just big enough for the moo cows to walk through and hopefully not sample their Winter forage.

The picture above that is some of my bales looking rather formidable and incredibly heavy - like my music, eh rock folks?

"Me with no head on": is the picture of me resting (not between jobs) after spreading barrow loads of FYM and worms over outstretched cardboard boxes lay over annual weeds.  Our American friends call it Lasagna Gardening.  The secret is to 'try' to imitate nature or even a forest floor.

For the last twenty years or so, I have been clearing and digging and 'bastard trenching' (no I'm not swearing) and scratching around like some demented hen or  even working like a Minotaur who spends it's spare time working every God given hour on it's allotment.  When really there was no need.  We no longer seem to get the seasons at the right time and so I do my mulching when ever I can.

Just lay cardboard on top of your grass or annual weeds and cover with compost and leaves and good old FYM. Next Spring you will have soil to die for, even to plant your Spudatoes in.

Picture 3 is the cardboard box that the silage plastic came in.  5 and 6 are pictures of cardboard boxes, my carrots growing in my plastic raised baths.  Well it's better than just putting the coal in it, isn't it?

I have been taking the Sellotape off and apparently there is no need because it is made from wood pulp and naturally decomposes.  There is some debate about the ingredients used to make cardboard.  Some even contain inks that could be deemed poisonous.  Any thoughts please.

Next week Internet pals.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

A Great Year For Silage, Spuds And Onions. ("All good gifts around us..")

And yay the rain gods did send deluges and the grass decideth it was time to grow and grow and grow.  Even the sun did shineth and 2012 had a bountiful harvest.

The the silage lads did phone and tell me they were on the way.  The silage contractors came to harvest my fields of very long grass.  It's only a couple of months ago the cattle were grazing it.  Yesterday they did harvest 72 (SEVENTY TWO) bales of silage for ye bovine creatures to eat during the Winter.   That's absolutely incredible, to say not one bit of fertiliser ("the bag manure")was spread.  Only thing is I only need about thirty.  So I am going to have to sell forty of them?  God is in his heaven and the moo cows have got food and we may even make some money from the smallholding for a change.  

"Psst.  Want to buy some West Cork Silage?  You'll have to collect it though. " 

See you next week!!

Wednesday 4 July 2012

A Shetland Pony Arrives On Our Smallholding In Southern Ireland.

This is Bracken our new addition to the smallholding.  I was going to call him Arthur Scargill because his relations once worked down the coal mines in the UK.  He tells me there's still two hundred years of coal left in England but for some reason the powers that be we would rather have gas, nuclear and oil for fuel.  Says he much prefers working (eating our grass) than working down those pits.  However he doesn't half miss all the great real ale and pasties and pies.  Can't say he's wrong!  Anybody want to start exporting English bitter (preferably northern with an head on it) to Southern Ireland?

Sunday 1 July 2012

Talking Japanese ( a blog post about my fantastic Winter onions).

Gosh what a week.  Well it's now official June was the wettest on record.  Think it's time to take off the old welly bobs and socks and see if our feet are webbed.  Unless you are a duck or an umbrella seller that is! There's not a lot to be cheerful on the allotment/smallholding front.

The weeds have decided to take over and my strimmer is being kept very busy trying to beat the encroaching grass and vegetation.  We seem to have great crop of nettles this year.  They are supposed to attract birds and insects, so they should be very happy on my vegetable plot.

It's not all doom and gloom though.  My early potatoes are the size of maincrop spuds and my Japanese (Winter)  onions could win a prize at an horticultural show.

If I say so myself.  I can grow spudatoes, Leeks and onions.  Give them lots of farmyard manure, wood ash and keep them weed free and Mother Nature will do the rest.  I plant the Jap sets in September and they grow right through Winter.  They really are an excellent onion and quite strong.  

My 'Japs' displaying themselves between the Redina lettuces.  Sorry about the weeds!

Me in my anorak (instead of being an Anorak) holding the Alliums.  Sorry once again for the weeds, long grass and delicious food for my ducks!   I have just gave myself a verbal warning to weed my veg plot.  Next time it's a written one.  One good thing about owning a smallholding is that you can be a very untidy gardener.

See you next week.  Hopefully I will be telling you about my silage getting cut.

Two Charity Shop Vases Full Of Feverfew.

"The 18th Century Aspirin Plant." I have this plant growing in my veg garden at the moment.  It is supposed to be brilliant for al...