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.


  1. There's about as many picallili recipies as people who make picalilli, just google it for ideas. This is the easy one:-

    Liverpool recipe
    675 cauliflower
    450 small onions
    350 french beans
    1 teaspoon turmeric
    1 teaspoon mustard powder
    2 teaspoons cornflower
    600 vinegar

    Put turmeric, mustard, cornflower in a pan, pour in vinegar
    Stir, boil for 10 mins
    Add veg, simmer for 45 mins
    Jar and seal

    But I don't follow it slavishly, this batch had cauliflower, small onions chopped coarse, spring onions just the white ends, runner beans and cucumber. But all sorts of veg can be used, just experiment, the essentials are the turmeric and mustard powder, cauliflower and onions; white vinegar's best for a bright yellow, but brown vinegar works OK but it comes out a dark yellowish colour.
    Suppose originally it was all about preserving perishable stuff, so any vegetable glut would be utilised. They didn't have freezers to pop stuff into. My gluts come from the supersheds, last-minute reduced stuff, often loads of it for pennies if you're lucky. I have to pay full price vinegar, mustard and turmeric, but these last a long time.

    Here's another one I make a lot of:-
    Cucumber pickle
    • Cucumbers, unpeeled and cut into thin slices ( a mandolin slicer works great)
    • 1 or 2 small onions, sliced and separated into rings
    • 3 cups white sugar
    • 2 cups white vinegar
    • 1/4 cup pickling salt
    • 1 teaspoon turmeric
    • 1 teaspoon celery seed
    • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
    1. Fill an empty 1 gallon bucket with cucumber and onion slices.
    2. Combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for several minutes.
    3. Pour over cucumbers and onions.
    4. Stir and let cool.
    5. Cover and store in refrigerator. (Will keep for months, if they last that long!)
    6. They are ready to eat when they change colour.

    This is the original recipe, I never use the celery seed or mustard seed, but it seems OK without, I just jar it in recycled jars and keep it in the cupboard. Goes really well on cold meat or cheese sandwiches, lasts quite a while.

    Lemon Curd Microwave

    • 200g caster sugar
    • 3 eggs
    • 3 lemons, zested
    • 100g unsalted butter, melted

    Preparation method
    Prep:10 mins | Cook:6 mins
    In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth. Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest and butter. Cook in the microwave for one minute intervals, stirring after each minute until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from the microwave, and pour into small sterile jars. Store for up to three weeks in the refrigerator.

    This is my easy lemon curd, I just use the juice from the lemons. It always turns out good, says 3 weeks but it lasts longer. Tried a batch with limes today, did just the same method looks and smells OK, resting in the fridge just now, report to follow when it's been sampled.

    That's been my kitchen day, as well as setting a batch of blueberry wine off, which doesn't seem to want to start ferment, if it hasn't started tomorrow I'll have to try warming it up a bit.
    And making dinner, lamb chops, Scottish new potatoes, baby carrots, runner beans and brussels.

    Weather dry but windy today, didn't get to the market, Mrs back too painful, maybe next week.

  2. Thanks Cumbrian for the picallili and lemon curd recipes. I have been looking on Wikipedia and it seems that picallili is another British favourite found on the colonial trail. IPA is another one along with snooker, which was invented during the Indian monsoon season. Think my mother used to call it mustard pickle. No doubt a Lancastrian name. She also used to chop up onions, place them in a bowl of vinegar and called them 'poorman's pickles.'

    The supersheds sound brilliant. We are working on filling both the freezers with our home grown produce and what ever we can get hold of from the supermarket relatively cheap, especially if it's organic veg that's been hand weeded and had no chemical fertilizers or weedkillers sprayed on them. However I will used conventional veg if there is nothing else available.

    Your dinner sounds delicious. We have started placing our vegetables and meat in dishes and serving it up in a buffet format. That way nobody say:

    "I don't like cabbage."

    Cabbage is also in the freezer. This gets blanched first for a couple of minutes. Some say freezing it makes it soggy and bland. I don't think it's so bad and it saves the old cabbage white butterfly and snails from devouring it this very year.

    Sorry to hear about Mrs Cumbrian's painful back. I suffer myself and it's only when you suffer pain that you have sympathy for other people. Would love to go somewhere warm for a week or ten.

    Been mizzle again today. It's so different to yesterday which was absolutely wonderful.


  3. No problem, hope you try them and they work OK for you.
    Batch made with limes turned out well, it's set nicely in the fridge. Blueberry wine also started ferment, it seemed a bit reluctant, probably a little cool.
    Mustard pickle sounds about right for Lancashire, as you say it's a colonial thing, but I like it. I first tried making it a couple of years ago, every batch comes out just a bit different, one was so salty it was inedible and I only followed the recipe that said salt ingredients overnight; I don't do that now.
    I'm sure there'll be all sorts of uses for frozen onion, but nver heard of frozen cabbage; suppose it's better than feeding slugs.
    I only have a small freezer, and it's full of meats and fish, not a lot of room for much else.

    Yes, Mrs back is as she describes it "like toothache all the time", and since my own back does occasionally play me up, I can appreciate what it must be like.
    The warm dry weather helps a bit, but this year we don't seem to have had a lot of warm or dry weather.

    More rain today, and a lot of your mizzle, but the wind's started now and blown it away, feels like more rain on the way. River's running high and brown, what we call a "worm beck", all the worms washed out of the banks seem to send the trout into a frenzy of feeding.

    Raggy cat came in soaked, been out again and back in pretty quick.

  4. John Seymour, Mrs Beeton and Mr Birdseye would be proud of your kitchen preserving and beer and wine making skills Cumbrian.

    You can freeze most vegetables and you soon fill the freezer in no time. We have two chest freezers, one large and one small. Frozen cabbage isn't that bad and like you say it's better than feeding the slugs. Our ducks get all the leftover vegetables scraps, then they process it and it goes back on the vegetable garden.

    It's been blight mizzle weather today. Not a lot you can do unleess you want to be wet and full of aches and pains. The days of making hay are become just memories. Watched England at the Oval and noticed all those lucky people drinking ale and getting sun tans. I think London is the sunniest place in the British Isles.

    Alan the cat's been sleeping all day to on his chair. The Jack Russell slept next to the range until the pipes under the tiles became too hot and she moved to the rug on the side of the kitchen. They're not daft.

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  5. More kitchen work this morning, last night Asda donated a load of last-minute strawberries at 10p for a 1lb punnet, so 5 of them came home, 4 for wine and 1 to eat with yoghurt. And a bag of 4 big lemons for 10p more, add 2lbs of sugar and a teaspoon of wine yeast and there's another batch of wine started; the cherries can a couple of days wait till the stock-pot's empty; they'll keep a few days, strawberries won't.

    Lucky you have something to process the kitchen scraps (and slugs?) into compost activator. Providing a nice carcase at the end and some lovely eggs along the way, isn't nature bountiful if you work with it. Can't remember the last time I had a duck egg, used to get them from an old chap in a little village pub I drank in.

    Today Mrs decide she wants shepherds pie, so that's todays dinner sorted easy.

    Did you get the home brew kit and is it as easy as brewing tea? Still waiting for the keg to settle, shouldn't be long now, one of the things age gives you is patience.

    Still raining this morning, seems to have stopped for the minute, but the sky's full of it, and keeping windy. We were threatened with some decent weather this week as well.

    Raggy cat in early this morning, wet it was, it's sleeping again.
    Daft? More sense than a lot of people.

  6. Your kitchen sounds a real hive of industry Cumbrian. Asda used to be great for tomato crisps. Yet another item on my list from dear old Blighty that I miss so much along with proper chipshops, public transport (here we go again) and northern English bitter...,

    You seem to be able to find some great bargains Cumbrian. Yesterday afternoon we blanched and froze Brocolli and carrots. I also bought two piglets (large whites) for thirty Euros each. Already they are eating fresh duck eggs (minus the shells) pig ration and picking at the straw. They are great characters and omnivores like us humans.

    We also take turns and google BBC Recipes... for the evening meal menu. Yesterday it was organic beef (beef) stew with Paprika, tinned toms and our own Orla potatoes freshly dug from the veg plot, and we used one of the onions from the freezer, now up to 40, even 39 because we used one yesterday.

    Getting the beer kit tomorrow. Think we will go for a cider kit. So that we both can drink it.

    Everywhere is damp and miserable here but the silage fields are greening up and the cattle have a nice pick. Think I can sell my surplus bales. They want to pay me when they use them in 'penny numbers' (another one of my mother's expressions), I'm not greedy and it helps the other farmer not having to find a lot of money in one go.

    Alan came in full of blood and scratches this morning. He seems to be meeting the other cats in the neighbourhood and wandering on their territory. He's fast asleep now. Just seen a young rat walking on the carpet I am using to cover up the plot. Hope it's not a sign of heavy rain with them feeding in the day time. Think Alan and the Jack Russell terrier have work to do.

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  7. Feeding fresh duck eggs to piglets? Wish I lived near you. Sounds like you're gonna have a lot of prime pork in the not-too-distant future.
    Nice to hear you've got the pigs though, and 30 euros sounds reasonable to me. I don't know so much about stock prices, just what I can read in the local auction reports.
    Large whites as well, a rare animal, at least here. Our very own Cumberland pigs have been extinct since 1969, the last one was called Sally, they still had names in those days. They were a huge pig, given to fat, and normally kept till bacon weight.

    How old are they? You got the castrating bit to do? Do they come with numbered ear decorations as well?
    I'd really love to have a couple of porkers, but don't have a suitable place for them; and 2 full porkers would need a huge freezer, we'd be totally sick of pork by the time we finished them.
    Then I'd have the problems of getting to the abbotoir and back, it's 20 miles away.

    Bargains are getting a bit harder to find, not only are the supersheds tightening up on stock control, but there's more people looking for them in these poverty-stricken times. It's just luck being in the right place at the right time and having a use for the stuff, it's only the perishables that come on offer; bakery, butchery, fish, fruit & veg, but not predictable, and no good getting a bargain if it's got to be thrown because it's gone rotten. But a 10p a lb, it's probably worth feeding piglets on strawberries.

    The cider kit should be OK, I don't make it, it's not a drink I like much. Made a batch of cider & lager combined a long time ago, ready-made snakebite in bottles, absolute loony juice it was.

    Wouldn't have a clue what a big bale of silage is worth? Suppose if you've got too much it's worth taking penny numbers, gets rid of it and hopefully generates a bit of goodwill, you might need a favour returned.

    Either Alan's trespassing or they are.

  8. Hi Cumbrian.

    Thanks for that. We usually have half a pig of bacon and half a pig of pork. It usually costs about 120 to kill them or 60 if you have just pork. Plus it costs 8 Euro a week for the meal (no vat on animal foods) plus straw, plus paying some body to take them in their trailer (that's a laugh loading them) then we travel say 15 mile for the pork (diesel) then a week or so later we collect the bacon, leaving us well out of pocket but with tons of delicious pork and bacon. We also try to sell one of them to pay some of the cost.

    Sheep farmers are losing loads at the moment, can't compete with New Zealand the country that doesn't get farm subsidies. It's all mad the global farm market. How can meat imported from thousands of miles away be cheaper than European subsidized meat?

    We always buy females so we don't have to castrate and I think the females taste nicer. Saying that. I am informed that all bulls, sows, boars end up in the pre-packed section of the supermarket. Makes you want to grow (fatten) your own, no matter the cost. There used to be a slaughter premium but the powers that be (yet again) scrapped it.

    The supersheds sound amazing Cumbrian. I would certainly fatten something for 10p a lb.

    I have drank snakebites and horrible loony juice like 'White Lightning'. It's great if you want to wreck the place. I prefer to stick to more sensible stuff. Scrumpy is great.

    Some farmer's are charging thirty Euro's a bale in the field. Sayinng that, the enormous bales last a week (depending on how many cattle), I sell mine between 15 and 20.

    Yeah cat's are very territorial. Alan is like Clint Eastwood's western characters, he's neither good nor bad and writes his own agenda. Good job cat's never had a say in the American constitution.


  9. So a couple of porkers isn't a particularly profitable enterprise, but at least you've got good meat and know where it comes from. Pork chops last night in Tesco were £4 per kg, dunno if that's an average price for the whole carcase. They did used to say the only part of a pig you don't use is the squeal, but I doubt if that's true now.

    Like you, I'm confused as to how they send lamb from New Zealand cheaper than we can produce it? Fat lambs were average £1.98 per kg at auction last week, I don't know the exact dressing-out weight percentage, but at 50% that makes approx £4 per kg. finished cost. It's in the supersheds at up to £15 per kg, a huge mark-up. I suppose that's with with transport, slaughter, more transport, cutting, more transport, packaging, and everybody's pfofit alomg the way.
    And lambs are fairly easy to kill, skin, gut and butch.

    The supersheds are amazing, so amazing they pay our dairy farmers less than the cost of producing milk, the farmers get about 29p per lt, and the cheapest milk in the sheds is 59p per lt.
    I was talking to a lady in Asda who said she was an egg producer, and quoted the price Asda paid them for eggs, I can't remember th exact figure, but it was minscule compared to what they sold them for; and they must be perfect in every way.
    So who's making the money out of agriculture?

    How's the beef coming along? if it's 60 euros just to kill a porker, I daren't ask how much to knock a stirk down? Prime stirks were averaging £2.20 per kg last week, I haven't noticed how much average in the sheds, but the best steak is up to £25 per kg.

    Not raining this morning, might even get a bit of grass-cutting done if it keeps fine.
    Raggy cat in its usual comfy sleeping place.

  10. Thanks Cumbrian for that. The New Zealand farmers don't get subsidies yet they can produce meat cheaper than Europe. I don't understand any of it.

    Cattle are still making good money although the store cattle (finished) are down one hundred Euros. I never thought cattle would make good money during a recession. I honestly wonder if there are people who control the prices and decide when livestock should be dear and when they should be cheap? Here in Ireland a lot of farmers could avail of stocking loans. They gave you money to purchase animals and then you paid the bank when you sold them eight or twen months down the line. Today though nobody knows what they will get when they sell them.

    It seems to be only the dairy farmers who can use their monthly milk money for security when applying for loans. At least we have credit unions here in Ireland. They are run by very caring people and if they can help you they will. Last year they loaned me money for a new well. The banks won't touch smallholders with a barge pole.

    It costs two hundred Euros to kill a beef animal plus you have to pay somebody to take it for you if you haven't got a trailer. You get two sides of meat for that, no internal organs or the pelt. The powers that be did away with the 'slaughter premium' which used to be paid out a few months after the slaughter.

    I have lots of grass to strim and tons of weeding to do. The ducks will get the raked grass and some of the weeds. It's actually fine at the moment.


  11. 200 euros, and they keep the pelt and internal organs and no slaughter premium.
    Wonder what happens to all the hearts, livers, kidneys, tongues, tails, etc. Liver & kidney, mashed potato and onion gravy is one of my favourite meals. And the thick end of an oxtail is ideal for a hot-pot in the slow cooker, lovely sweet meat. Don't suppose anybody bothers with tripe any more, although there used to be a tripe shop in Workington, sold different types of tripe, and a popular budget dish it was, served with onions. I still see it in France.

    Used to watch tne lads in the knacker yard doing the fallen stuff, and occasionally a live one came in. Doesn't take them long to skin it with the winch thing, and all the internals went into a big mincer, came out like sausage meat and sold as dog food, it was very popular with the greyhound lads. Big beast (freisan) came in one day and was found to have twin calves inside, they skinned them as well, so the skins must be worth something.
    And sheep they blew up with an airline up the rectum to make skinning easier.
    Quite a grisly job and not for the faint-hearted.
    The yard shut about 20 years ago, dunno where they all go to, but I have seen a big mobile incinerator being towed about, does fallen stock just get burned now?

    Difficult to predict agricultural income in these uncertain times, I guess it's never been easy though. I suppose the powers-that-be might have some input in deciding prices, but bottom line it's down to supply and demand; if there isn't any to be had through the normal channels, the black market will supply it; it doesn't matter what it is. And at least you have a helpful credit unuon.

    There is a real good case for "regressing" to some of the traditional established systems of small farms having lots of different produce selling direct to local people; and a degree of trading without cash. There must be loads of people who would trade a sack of spuds for a decent joint of meat, some butter for a few bottles of home brew, the old lady baking or making jams and preseves to trade for eggs and milk or a load of logs, the fisherman with a few cod for a chicken, the old guy making the poachers net for a share of his catch? Even a big bale of silage for some sacks of corn?
    And an awful lot less "food miles"
    But, to quote John Seymour, this wouldn't suit the tax collectors (he had a name for them, I can't remember it) very well, there wouldn't be much to collect, if anything. And I think we've gone too far down the road of comsumerism to turn the clock back; but who knows when the oil runs out?

    Sun's still shining but the clouds are moving in, rain has been threatened for later..
    Our mail's just arrived, delivered by the modern postperson, a young girl who doesn't look old enough to be out on her own, wearing a bright red polo shirt. She's brought me a litre of 2-stroke oil, £14 locally, £6 deliverd ordered on-line. Used to get our mail at about 7:30 - 8:00 am, then they "streamlined" and "improved" it, now we get it after dinner.
    My No 2 son works for a hydraulic hose company, they couldn't stock it because of some franchise locally, but since the owner bought a 2-stroke scrambling bike last week, they've scourced it somewhere else, £3 + VAT. Sods law.

    Raggy cat's gone out.

  12. Thanks for the information Cumbrian. There's a great blog site that I have recently started following: Offally Good. They believe in using all those internal and external organs that you talk about.

    I believe a lot of the East Europeans ask the Irish butchers for the sweetbreads etc. We seem to have become rather squeamish and only eat what we are told to or even allowed to. Ox tail and fish and bone meal for the garden are classic examples.

    I know a farmer who pays two Euro to have a sheep sheared and he gets two Euro for the wool. It's not all bad new though. There is a UK company that is selling sheeps wool loft insulation.

    A lot of fallen stock gets incinerated. I know this because obviously animals die from time to time on every farm, especially calves. You phone a licenced agent who comes with a big open truck and places the hiab cable around the deceased animals leg and winches on top of the other animals. They then take them to Limerick to have their brains removed and the rest of the animal gets shipped to Germany and Belgium and is used to fire some power stations. You pay 150 Euro if its a cow and twenty for a calf. Not forgetting the 5 minutes or so filling in the paper work.

    I really like your paragraph on "regressing" Cumbrian. Even though the cost both physically and financially, is high producing food and drink on a smallholding/allotment/kitchen/kitchen garden. There is no substitute or comparison or quality of the meal or drink that gets served up. I suppose it's the old adage:

    "You can't making something good, cheap."

    Hope you like using your new grass strimmer Cumbrian. You suprise me with the late post delivery, it sounds like here in rural Ireland and we don't get a delivery on a Saturday. I suppose it's why snail mail is called snail mail? If only we could transport goods by email?

    Alan the cat is fast asleep and so is the terrier.

    Going to pretend to be posh tonight and we are having steak, our own Orla potatoes, our carrots, broccoli, white turnip and all washed down with a bottle of South African red. Just moved and piked ten barrows of fym ans spread it on my lasagne/cardboard boxes. So I think I deserve it.

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  13. Had a look at Offally Good, pigs ears was one I noticed, never heard of anybody eating these. Most unusual thing I was presented with were testicles, served from a long sword which was full of them, the sharp end placed on the plate and two of them slid down onto it. It was in Dominica, so I don't know what they were off, about the size of a pullet egg.

    Can't see the reasoning behind exporting carcases, don't our power stations burn them? And don't the continental ones burn brains?

    Yes, the post arrived on time again about 1:30 pm. a letter from United Utilities telling me I was £49 in credit and my standing order would be remaining the same. Wonder if they'd leave it thesame if I was in debit?

    New strimmer had its maiden voyage today, after a sunny day yesterday and a dry start this morning. Started 3rd pull, ticking over great but wouldn't accept any revs. After consulting the manual I discovered I had the choke the wrong way round, it doesn't like revs on choke. Worked great after that.
    Grass still a bit wet but waiting for it to dry completely will be like teaching pigs to fly. 4 hours saw the back garden looking a bit more civilised, raked up and heaped in a corner.
    Still needs a cut with the mower, but I'm pleased to get it done, the rain tried, just a bit of drizzle, then cleared.

    Raggy cat seemed mildly curious, watched proceedings from the patio table, it's sleeping there now.

  14. Hi Cumbrian. Yes it's amazing what we can eat but we choose not. I recently found a recipe for rhubarb and mackerel.

    I suppose it's all down to emissions and which power stations got the most sophisticated equipment? There even talking about trying to shut crematoriums because of air pollution.

    I even read a tale about the plastic wrapping that goes around the bales of silage, being shipped to Saudi Arabia then they process it and ship it back to Germany who make it into garden furniture which is then shipped back to the UK and Ireland.

    The global market sounds crazy. I went in one of the German supermarkets recently and they were selling really cheap'organic' vegetables (in real plastic) from Isreal. Talk about 'air miles' and carbon footprint. How times have changed. My parents used to tell me that nobody had seen a banana or a coconut until the 1950's in England.

    Forgot to talk about rare breeds and organic animals. You can pay eighty to a hundred Euros or Pounds for a sheep or pig. Then you have to pay £25+ for organic meal. It's no wonder organic meat is so expensive.

    Have you ever asked United Utilities to send you a cheque instead of the credit? Don't think they would write one though?

    Glad the strimmer came through it's maiden voyage. I have tons to do myself but the old back is killing me today. Been looking at small farmhouses in Portugal on the Internet for less than £30,000. We can all dream I suppose?

    Alan the cat's slept all day today. The range is alsolit and we are making Turkish kebabs with a carrot salad. Good old BBC recipes yet again.

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  15. Mackeral about due to show up here, last week July & first week August are peak weeks. Used to fill a big bag in no time, hauling them in 3 and 4 at a time on a 6-feather rig. Not any more, in an afternoons fishing I'll be pleased to fetch 4 or 5 home. I only ever grill them, but mackeral pate seems popular.

    Are your large whites a rare breed?

    Pleased my grass is lying down, it's raining again, what I call quiet rain, no breeze, just a steady downpour. But it's still wet.

    Farmhouse in Portugal sounds really good. I wanted to buy one many years ago, a place called Val Vigura (Vale of Figs) a few miles inland from Albuferia. Guy selling just wanted out, it was un-inhabited but furnished with some really good solid furniture, I guess it had been built in the house. It had the village oven, a round stone structure built onto the side, that the locals used to bake their bread once a week, he got a sack full of those lovely traditional Portugese heavy mis-shaped loaves. His fields were on a flat bit in the valley bottom, the locals cultivated it and deposited his share of the harvest on his doorstep. Complete with well and pig sty £25,000. The then wife wouldn't entertain it.
    The guy took me into the local bar / cafe / store / post office / bus stop that served the village, it was a very spread-out rural area, no streets just small farms. He introduced me to "madronniya" (dunno how to spell it, that's how it's said) which is the Portugese equivalent of potcheen, real fire-water served in very small shot glasses out of a demi-john type container and made from figs.

    Dream on as you say.

    Have a look at Bulgaria as well for rural properties, we were hoping to buy one there until Mrs developed spondylitis. Last time I was there was about 7 years ago, get back a few miles from the tourist beaches, and it was like UK pre-war, grass roads with donkey & cart. Stacks of logs as the main fuel. Village houses with field-sized gardens. Working horses. And quiet. And so cheap, but that's changing now with EU membership and the threat of the Euro.

    Raggy cat's come in since the rain started.

  16. Do I just sign on the dotted line Cumbrian? Gosh you don't half wax lyrically (told you could write) about the farmhouse's in Portugal and Bulgaria.

    They sound fantastic and must be far too good to be true. I have seen houses for sale in Bulgaria for £6000. Could certainly do with some sun instead of this wet Irish climate.

    There are two important factors that I would have to consider before purchasing a property in either of those two perfect places. Firstly would it be just for a holiday home or would we be able to make a living? Secondly. I have a sentimental connection to West Cork (Ireland)and wouldn't want to sell my ancestors farm.

    Yes I am really tempted and perhaps the best thing would be to rent somewhere first (like I tell anybody thinking of living on a smallholding) and see if you can make a do (northern English speech) and hopefully you won't fall head over heels with the place. We have only one life and it sounds amazing.

    Anybody interested in smallholding living should have a look at these two sites: Diggers and Dreamers and Permaculture Magazine Classifieds.

    No I don't think the Large Whites are a rare breed Cumbrian.

    My father tells me he used to catch mackerel with red rags on safety pins hooks during his school dinner break. There also used to be pilchard and herring fishermen and the women worked all day filleting the fish.

    The story of the Euro sounds like it's making everywhere so expensive.

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  17. I don't think the places aren't perfect, they're just the same as everywhere else, only the weather and the language are different.
    Portugal's one of my favourite places, the weather tends to be better than UK but a bit too hot maybe in summer. They do like the English, apparently Portugal and England have been allies for centuries. They make port, some of the better ones seem to stay in Portugal; and green wine, served cold and young, very nice with seafood, especially fresh sardines sitting on the fishing harbour at Portamao, the sardine capitol of the country.
    It must be possible to make a living there, but the big barrier is the language, and knowing the local rules.

    Bulgaria's different, no spring or autumn, just a sudden change to winter or summer. Very hot summer (53 deg one day when I was there about 7 years ago) but cold and snow-bound in winter, it's standard practice to be snowed in for weeks in some villages, that's the down-side of the grass roads.
    They lived under the Russians for decades, and nothing happened to maintain anything during those years, so the whole infrastruture was crumbling when they pulled out. Now they're trying to drag it into the 21st century, kicking and screaming.
    The language barrier and silly rules are even worse than UK. They're half in the EU but not fully adopted the Euro yet.
    The local potcheen is called rakia.
    Biggest down-side to the cheaper end of the market is the derelict state of the properties, and lack of reliable facilities we take for granted like mains water, sewers, telephone, gas and electric.

    I can understand your attachment to your ancestors property, I'd probably be the same.
    Might be worth having a holiday somethere you fancy and seeing it for yourself, everybody has their own ideas of what they want and where they are prepared to live.

    The Euro is making everything expensive, it's not very popular anywhere I've been; I was in Holland the day it changed, and handing Guilders in you got Euro change, all very confusing for a bit. They still refer to it as "the fxxxing Euro", or did last time I was ther about 2 years ago.

    Rain's stopped, nice sunny evening. Raggy cat gone out.

  18. Thanks for that Cumbrian. I am fascinated with rural places overseas. Suppose you're right that nowhere is perfect, but some places have to be better than others? I suppose it's the lack of modern facilities that makes us want to live there? In my next blog (probably Sunday) I am going to hopefully start a debate about the for's and against against for town against country living.

    Watched a programme about the Amish community in America the other night. They set such a peaceful,spiritual and agricultural example to us.

    Absolutely beautiful morning here today. May get some work down on the farm. The weeds and grass and hedges seem to never stop growing.

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  19. Yes, I suppose the perfect place doesn't exist, and everybody has different ideas of perfection anyway.
    And I agree that a lot of the attraction to rural areas is the rustic lack of modernity.
    Not too much on the subject, let's save it for the town / countryside debate.

    Smoked haddock today, baby new potatoes (not freshly dug, just a reduced bag by Tesco) and mushy peas.

    Latest ale's ready, I took a bit of pressure out of the keg, it needs some to carbonate the ale for a good head, but it's a bottom pick-up and too much pressure forces the sediment into the pipe. Really nice, thick lasting head sticking to the sides of the glass, I was told many years ago by more experienced drinkers that this is a sign of a good pint.

    Blueberry wine bubbling happily in dj, strawberry and cherry wines started, kitchen smells nice.

    Amish, I've read a lot about this culture, sounds really idyllic, but not for everybody, and maybe a bit too rigid in their approach. I think the Mennonite people seem to have a better balance of traditional and some modern values.

    Watery sun here today, but everything's still growing. Too fast.
    Raggy cat sleeping again, what a wonderful life that cat leads.

  20. Thanks Cumbrian. You're absolutely right, everybody has different ideas ideas of perfection anyway. Think the designer of the Mini (can't remember his name) got it in one when he told the story of the clever committee who designed a racehorse and they came up with a camel.

    It's quite worrying really that we all work on different agendas. Suppose it's what makes the world go round. I know people who function in mundane jobs and never seem to complain. Then you can find some people like myself who finds a down side to everything and I need to go to the city now and again to appreciate what I have got and achieved. Is one's glass half full or half empty?

    Yes I have heard that the sign of a good drink is is the head sticking to the sides of the glass. My cans of Murphy's seem to do that. I opened up a can the other day to look at the widget that contains the c02. It's just like a table tennis ball. I was also once told that you should always keep the same spirits glass all evening because the vapours remain in the glass and enhance the taste. Scottish malts are another thing I miss from Blighty.

    Amish people don't cause wars, pray to god for sunshine and a harvest (perhaps we should all go to church again?) and work the land with the horse. I really admire how they help each other build barns and believe in the faith of their ancestors. It seems that modern man is spiritually lost. We have all the social media and technology yet we are so isolated from our creator. Perhaps it's two world wars and rock and roll that's changed our views? There's a good debate.

    Home-made fish chips and peas tonight. Then I'm going to watch the Olympics opening ceremony which hopefully will give me ideas for the rural idyll/town debate? It's supposed to have the rural England theme? Hope they play Jerusalem. William Blake is one of my heroes.

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  21. Half full or half empty, I suppose it's both really, depending on your outlook on life or any particular subject, and can even vary according to your own mood or perspective. Everything has up-sides and down-sides.
    Our idea of rural idyllic, for example, would probably be some peoples idea of purgatory, like the person you mention, quite happy to plod through a lifetime of mundane existance, living 10 miles inland and never seen the sea.

    The old English ale went down a treat, got a bit of real taste, not like some of the fizzy dishwater they serve as keg bitter.
    Never heard of the spirits glass, but I'm not a big spirit drinker; must admit to a liking for some of the single malts though, in common with the real ales, they all have some individual taste.
    How's the cider coming?

    Got to admit I can only admire the way the Amish people have remained faithful to their beliefs and lifestyle, I think they could teach us a lot about co-operation and sharing. Not to mention peaceful living, self-sufficiency and community values. I believe that way of life would be immensley satisfying.

    I think it's greed and jealousy that changed our views. Although two world wars, the swinging sixties and grasping politicians might have had some influence. A debate that could go on for a long time.

    Morrisons donated a gammon (Morrisons way of saying ham) shank last night, condemned shelf 45p, been soaking overnight now in slow cooker for a few hours till dinner time; then a big pan of pea soup with the stock, got a packet of dried split yellow peas to use, with onion, potato and carrot.

    Mrs watched the Olympics ceremonials last night, I caught a few glances at it, must admit it looked pretty impressive; my ever practical mind just converted the cost into pints of Guinness, and came up with the answer that it would probably keep several hard-drinking regiments drunk for a couple of decades; or build a brewery; or pay off most of the National Debt.

    Raggy cat spending a lot of time outside, been in for breakfast and back out; must be some pressing business.

  22. Totally agree with you about the outlook on life. Everything depends on the weather, mood, environment, circumstances..., even luck.

    Yes I never believed in luck until I came to Ireland. Some people are blessed with brains, looks, money, humour, health, relatives, friends, talent... It seems to be the luck of the draw or the roll of the dice?

    I totally admire the Amish people. Don't want their haircuts or clothes but I would certainly like their lifestyle and beliefs. Perhaps if we all started to believe in God again the world would be a better place? The Amish don't live for credit cards or start wars. Think the Kibbutz system in Israel must be very similar?

    I love the Scottish malts,not keen on Irish one's seem to have a tangy taste of their own. Cider is being made this afternoon.

    Ham and tomato sandwiches tonight for us with good old English mustard. The ham sounds wonderful.

    I also watched the Olympics last night. Nobody can put on a show like the English. Really getting annoyed with commentators keep saying:

    "The GB team".

    Can they not say:


    Been reading a book about the Diggers. Last night reminded of the 'Enclosure' acts. Apart from the trains and canals don't think there is a lot to be said for the Industrial Revolution. It was good last night when they featured Tim Berners Lee: English inventor of the world wide web. That man is a genius and I would buy him a pint along with John Seymour and George Best.

    You made me smile with your cost conversion Cumbrian. Eleven billion it's supposed to have cost. How many smallholdings could have been bought, new hospitals and houses for poor people be built, jobs created, even pay off the national debt? It really is crazy. Especially when you look back to the English Victorians who invented the modern Olympics. The aim of the competition was for everybody and you got prizes for knitting and growing the longest pea pod.

    Been strimming this morning and run out of fuel. There's a lot to be said for living in a town near a shop or petrol station. More tomorrow on that debate.

    Thanks for making me laugh Cumbrian and your great thoughts.

  23. I've heard it said there's 2 kinds of luck, the luck you get and the luck you make.
    Like the snooker pro when an interviewer mentioned to him after winning some championship that he'd been lucky, he replied "Yes, and I notice the more I practice the luckier I get"
    So you're right that we do get some luck like brains, looks, health, talent, relatives, wealth.
    But we can make some of our own to a certain extent "faint heart never won fair maid" as they say.
    And there are some people who say that luck is spelt w-o-r-k.
    I suppose you got the luck to have an Irish smallholding to move to, but you make the luck spelt work to keep it?

    Never looked at the Olympics, call me cynical if you like, but I beleive it's just become one big commercial excercise, accountant-driven like most other things in our modern world; human values seem to take second place to monetary considerations, everything must have a price tag.
    I think the produce and craft tents at the Cumbrian (and no doubt other county) country shows are about the limit of my interest in competitions.

    Hope the cider making went well, the ale's going down a treat, and last years mead and saki is just about right for drinking; my cup runneth over. Strawberry to get into the dj today, cherry to strain and start ferment, and apple to set off.

    Raggy cat not in yet. Dirty stop-out.

  24. I think life is a lottery. We never know what's round the corner, some people have luck and some seem to have none.

    Every big sporting and musical event seems to be one big commercial money making exercise these days. I really miss not seeing a live football or cricket match and if I want to see a famous band it's a trip to the city and a over nights stay in a hotel or B&B.

    Once entered my vegetables in a Irish agricultural shows horticultural produce section. Thought I would get a prize ause for my beetroots which looked really excellent specimens and even one of the winning competitors said my veg was much bigger than hers. Perhaps it was beause I was new to the area, not one of the locals. This is starting to sound like the shopkeepers in Royston Vasey:

    "This is a shop for local people".

    I never entered my veg again. Once knew somebody who won first prize at the local alltment society show, with one of my cabbages. I have also heard tales of people buying winning exhibits from their local market. It makes you laugh really how people how become competitive doesn't it?

    The cider turned out to be Young's Harvest Yorkshire Bitter. They wanted 24 Euro for cider. Going to make today, we forgot the caster (see I remember what you said) sugar yesterday.



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