Wednesday 29 August 2012

A Cheap Shelter To Keep Our Smallholding Silage Dry (All About Eve:"In The Clouds")

That's 2 photographs of a new shelter we built this weekend to keep the Silage dry and the cattle quite like sticking their heads through the head-feeder and are quite oblivious to any incumbent weather.  The silage shelter is made from 2 metal gates, some box iron and a few corrugated iron sheets.  It cost me eighty Euros to make the shelter in total.  Since this picture was taken the top part above the head feeder is also closed in to stop the silage getting ruined.  We still lose some of it though, with the cattle pulling it and lying on it and once it gets oxygen, the silage seems to decompose very rapidly.  You just can't win can you?

There is still no chance of getting on the vegetable plot so things look very untidy at the moment and wweds are having a field day.  We are still managing to harvest some crops though and if the weather ever books up I will attack the plot with my trusty Azada.  

Talking of the weather or rather a song about it.  I thought I would mention one of my favourite rock bands of the 1980's:  All About Eve.  Think I saw them twice?  Once at Manchester Apollo and once at Glastonbury Festival in 1989.  Julianne Regan is one gorgeous lady. If you think Florence and the Machine is good, check out this lady.  Talk about gypsy Goth.  Here's a video of Julianne and the band  in action at the said Glastonbury Festival in 1989. Oh yeah, the song is: In The Clouds.  I knew there was a link somewhere to the weather.  

Saturday 25 August 2012

Meet Domino Our New Smallholding Mouse and Rat Control Officer.

This is our new cat or even kitten: Domino.  His Sunday name is Dominus.  Which means'Master' in Latin.  So Dominic is our new mouse master.  Regular readers (especially Cumbrian who named him Domino) will know that Alan the cat did a Jenny Agutter (went Walkabout) and he's never been seen for over a fornight.  If you're reading this Alan, please come back, we miss you very much.  There's milk in the fridge and we will give you a slap up feast and you can sleep all day on your favourite cushion like you used to do.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Avian Voices From My Smallholding Chimney.

That's a picture of my front room/lounge (computer room/study) taken this morning.  I built the fireplace myself when we built our dwelling in 2003.  The stones once belonged to an old stable that used to be on the site.  So I decided to recycle the stone and make myself a rustic fire place like you do.  The stone lintel came from one of our fields that I found lying on top of a crumbling wall.  The fireplace cost me nothing except for a bag of cement and some sand that I had left over.

The copper ornaments and horse brasses all came from countless car boot sales in England.  They could do with a polish couldn't they?  I only clean my copper and brass once a year.  I don't mind it looking tarnished and the ageing gives it character.  A very kind couple we know gave us the Stanley stove for nothing.  It was really kind of them.  The flowers in the picture are 'real' plastic.  They never fade like the real one's.

Any road.  We only seem to light the stove above when it's Winter or Christmas.  So it doesn't get used very much.  That's probably why we have got feathered friends chirping down the chimney at the moment.  So we won't be lighting the stove for a while. Anybody know how long I should wait until I can clean the chimney and remove the nest?  I believe that nests are great for carbon dioxide (is it monoxide?) poisoning.  There's always some creature taking up residence in one of the buildings.

Hopefully in my next post I will be showing you a picture of our new field mouse eradicator.  You see we are getting another cat because the field mice often decide to take up residence in the old farmhouse. This is not cricket when this happens and so beginneth a new chapter with another smallholding employee and feline friend.  A saucer of milk and a bit of cat food won't break the bank will it?

See you soon.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Animal, Mineral, Vegetable? Even a chemical free Dock weeder.


Greetings folks.  That's a photograph of one of my conversation pieces that I sometimes entertain visitors who visit Northsider Towers.  I bought it from a German gentleman who informed me that it was invented in Germany and Austria during the Second World War.  Mr Hitler and his pals decided to confiscate or even collect any chemicals from the German households and use them for ingredients to drop on the enemy.  

No longer could farmers use artificial fertilizers or weed-killers so they had to go organic or even chemical free.  I am told that smallholders went back to farming methods that most farmers had been using for thousands of years.  

I would love to be an organic smallholder but there is so much red tape and if you want to get any organic knowledge about vegetable growing or keeping organic livestock you have to pay to go on a course or something.  

I haven't used any chemicals on my garden vegetables for nearly twenty years now and never will.  But when it comes to the farming side I'm afraid I have to use some chemicals.  The cattle need dosing for Fluke and Lice and stomach worms.., and the soft rushes seem to be everywhere this year.  So it looks like the chemicals are going to have to be poured into the knapsack sprayer.  You just can't win can you?  

Why is the sun  always shining when I watch England play at Lords?  

See you.

Friday 17 August 2012

Smallholders Trip To Killarney Part 2 (Wildlife Park visit and poignant thoughts in the supermarket).

The trip to Killarney involved a bit of retail therapy, looking at books, cheap cd's in Tesco and a visit to a Wildlife Park.  One good thing about the bigger towns like Killarney or the city Cork.  You can always purchase most things you want (12 tins of Ravioli, can't get it in West Cork, much too exotic what?) and they are usually cheaper.  You also spend a lot more going in several stores.

We walked in one store and the Irish army (not all of them) was standing outside watching the security vans delivering or collecting money.  It used to worry me when I first came to Ireland and saw real live soldiers carrying real live rifles.  I have often met frightened American tourists looking at the soldiers and saying something like:

"Gee Thelma they've got real shooters and there loaded."

I used to get quite worried myself.  Now all I think is:

"Don't the soldiers look young?"

Must be getting old.

We went in Aldi and stocked up on ground coffee (we won't drink instant) and the like. I walked along the centre aisles looking at paint, fishing tackle etc.  I think the cheap supermarkets are the kind of place that some body pays twenty cents for a can of baked beans and 500 Euros for a 50 inch television or a speedboat.  Not quite but you know what I mean don't you?

I noticed the cheap 'organic' veg flown in from the middle east and a far.  Talk about carbon footprints.  Then I walked passed the body products or what ever they call the shelves where they stock stuff for looking after your body, no not the drinks bit.  My eyes locked on to the hair dye which we used to always bring back for my mum along with the Hovis (a bit of England) and I started welling up inside.  You see my mum passed away in January and I realised the other day shopping, that she will never need the hair dye or Hovis bread again.  It's strange how the little things become so big.  Miss you mum.


We decided to go on a busman's holiday.  We got in the car and set off to see some animals:  Coolwood Wildlife Park.  It's situated a couple miles just along the N22 to Cork.  We found it easily and paid our admission fee. We saw all kinds of animals and they all seemed to be very healthy and very well looked after.

My only complaint or even suggestion would be some kind of transport to take you from the cafe/ ticket office to the wildlife park?  This was a good five or ten minutes walk and not very enjoyable for me because I was wearing a pair of trainers (they call them 'runners' in Ireland) that are a bit too small (I thought I was getting a bargain) and I endured a very  badly blistered heel.  So may I suggest a tractor and trailer with seats or even a horse and cart with seats?  Apart from that it was very good and I would recommend it to other people to take a trip there.

Here's some photographs for you:

See you next week.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Smallholders Trip to Killarney. "Whisky in the Jar." Part 1.

We decided to take half a day off from the smallholding and go over the Cork and Kerry mountains (are you singing Whiskey in the Jar?) and visit : The Kingdom - Kerry and Killarney.  We drove through Glengarriff passed the Eccles hotel (Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw use to have their jollies) there along with lots of other famous literary people like William Wordsworth.  It really is a beautiful place West Cork.

We then proceeded to drive along the famous N71 tunnel road and on to Kenmare.  Yes of course we sung the famous Irish ballad and Thin Lizzy song when we drove through the stone tunnels and into Kerry.  Cork and Kerry county councils have improved the road surface and crash barriers a lot in the last few years.  You have to be careful though with sheep browse grazing the roadside verges and tourists stopping their (hire cars) vehicles to take pictures of beautiful Bantry bay and the Caha mountains and beyond.  This part of the world reminds me of the English Lake district but with far fewer people.

From Kenmare we took the lesser known road to Killarney missing the winding lanes and coaches that take you down to Muckross and into Killarney.  We drove through Kilgarvan and I noticed a lot of the fields had very livestock in them.  Perhaps the farmers had done well and sold them?

We parked in the 'Euro an hour' car park in Killarney.  Which I thought was very reasonable and it only took a couple of minutes to find somewhere to park.  This is so different to some many little towns in Ireland, where you can't find anywhere to park or you have to walk miles.  Killarney council must raise quite a bit of revenue also.  Just don't understand why Ireland doesn't make money from toll roads and car parking.  It would help to pay for infrastructure like (yes regular readers you're right) public transport and may even get rid of some of the cars and pollution and we go back to getting the seasons in the right order?  Rant over.  More about the Killarney trip in the next few days.

Anybody been on the new toll M6 motorway in England?  What's it like?

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Smallholding First Brew And The Cattle Sample Their First Bale Of Silage.

 We sampled our first smallholding brewed bitter last night.  That's my smallholding 'bible' in the background: John Seymour's The New Complete book of Self Sufficiency, The classic guide for realists and dreamers.  The original  book: Self Sufficiency, inspired me many moons ago to get an allotment and set off on my self supporting journey.  The bitter tasted like bitter ("no?") and  it was a bit flat but there was absolutely nothing wrong with it.  John Seymour says in the book that you should leave the bottles for about ten days to fizz up.  I waited for 3 days.  Hmm....

 That's Ruby and Sooty my two Limousin cross heifers and 2 of the bullocks looking at the camera taken this Tuesday morn.  The grass is not growing and they seem to be poaching (no they don't eat eggs) and cutting everywhere up.  So one of my kind neighbours helped me bring them up to the yard and they followed a bucket of beef nuts.  The silage is like haylage and smells like cider.  Don't know if they are in for the winter but at they have got grass (71 and a bit bales) to scoff and leave me lots of country pancakes which will eventually feed my vegetable plot.
We managed to get 2 more brews on the go yesterday.  There's forty pints of Scottish Heavy and forty pints of  Young's  Cider brewing in the kitchen.  So we have 120 pints in total.  Please let me know if I am brewing it wrong or even right?


Saturday 11 August 2012

Montbretia In Flower and Some Yorkshire Bitter Brewed On Our Irish Smallholding.

 The Montbretia is in flower at the moment.  It's an Irish wildflower that seems to be everywhere in the West Cork countryside.  We even have it in our herbaceous borders.  Some people say its a nasty invasive weed.  I don't mind it along with nettles, daisies, buttercups, fox gloves and all the other wild flowers that invade our garden in the countryside next to the sea.  
 The Montbretia like the Fuchsia hedges (they come from Chile)or potato (South America)is not a native and it is originally from South Africa.  It would be nice to think that one of those swallows ancestors, that nests in our cow shed, brought a bulb or two back in it's beak and dropped it in our garden.  Seriously folks. It does make you wonder how it got here though.  Perhaps it came along the Gulf Stream and got washed up on the Irish shores and some planted it?
That's 'Lucifer' Crocosmia coming into flower in our garden.  It's a cultivated species of the wild Montbretia. Saw some for sale for 'cut flowers' the other day - 2 Euros a bunch.  Wonder if anybody wants to buy some lovely yellow Ragwort (the council is great at growing them along the roads)or some soft rushes?  Is there only St Brigid who could find a use for the flipping things?

Well folks.  We finally brewed some Young's Yorkshire Bitter here in Ireland.  I can't wait to drink it but it's only nine days old.  How long before I can drink it folks?

In the meantime I have been purchasing bottles of Theakston's Old Peculiar so I can use use the empty bottles for my next batch of home brewed bitter.  I can't get any English bitter in the Irish pubs around these parts. So I have decided to make my own.  Going to brew some Scottish Heavy next.  All advice much greatly appreciated.

See you next week.

Sunday 5 August 2012

The Milk Of Smallholding Animals Kindness.

Here's one of those rare pictures that you get once in a while.  Both my ratting and mouse contractors decided to share breakfast.  If you could speak dog or cat you would probably hear them saying to each other:

"After you."

The picture was taken in our 'Utility Room' or the 'Boot Room' if you're posh and you present Escape To The Country.  We still use it for storing the old welly flobs (my saying) for wellingtons.  Here in West Cork quite a lot of the natives call them the:

"The Rubber Boots".

I haven't complained this week about my vegetable garden looking like Morticia Addams garden (no rose heads to prune) or that I found some wire worm in my potatoes.  No it's a happy post this week.

See you next week.

PS.  For those of you who love Idioms, the Milk of Human Kindness comes from the 'Witches Play' by Mr Shakespeare.  Think his family make fishing tackle these days.  May be not.

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 ...