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.


  1. Your Montbretia is our Golden Rod, and as you say, some people like it as a flower and some people consider it a nusiance. I know from having some in a previos garden, it can spread if you let it, and at least it looks a lot better than ragwort.
    A friend of mine used to make wine with it.

    Forgot to mention the fields and motorway verges in the Southern counties, some of them had so much ragwort in full glorious bloom it looked like a field of rapeseed.

    Bottles look good, colour and clarity seem to be about right, the plastic ones (PFP is it called?) are good, they expand as the second ferment takes place you should feel them tightening up, and throwing a bit of sediment. Careful opening needed so as not to disturb the sediment.
    I forgot to prime the 5 or 6 bottles from the last brew, there's nothing wrong with the taste, just flat, but I pour one into my big jug then top it up with some from the keg to give it a head. It's going down really nice, especially sitting on the decking with a King Edward.

    Dunno if the Old Peculiar bottles have the swing tops, but if not, try the plastic re-useable wine bottle tops, they seem to fit just nice with a bit of persuasion (mallet) in beer bottles as well. I get them from Wilkinsons for the wine and use them for the few bottles that won't go in the 18-litre keg from a 21-litre batch.
    The Scottish Heavy sounds good, I seem to remember making one many years ago. There's some realy nice brews available now, we're spoilt for choice. My next one's by Woodfordes, Nelsons Real Ale, a 36-pint all malt kit, should be good, maybe 6%.
    Have a look at this site, a comprehensive seletion.

    Raggy cat gone out now, it was sitting on the drive waiting for me to come home fron shopping, to see what I'd bought.
    I'm including Alan the cat in my prayers tonight, let's hope he turns up.

  2. Hi Cumbrian.

    I Opened a bottle of the Yorkshire bitter last night. It was very flat. We only put one teaspoon of sugar when we bottled it on Friday. Can I add another teaspoon of sugar ("makes the medicine go down") today? If so will I be able to drink it tomorrow evening? See why I haver never made wine - very little patience!!

    There is a noxious weed act but nobody seems to enforce it these days. I think county councils are a law until them selves. Like you we say: 1 years seed, 7 years weed. I have read about Ragwort being baled and young cattle dying from poisoning. Think it destroys the liver?

    The Old Peculiar doesn't have swing tops, but my local shop sells a corker that fits metal caps onto the bottles.

    The brew kits here are all around the twenty Euros mark. So I reckon it's going to cost us about 60 cents a pint including the sugar.

    It rained again last night. Seriously thinking of bringing the cattle in for a few weeks. Very little grass growth - unbelievable!

    Still no sign of Alan. Thanks for your prayers Cumbrian.

  3. Dunno about adding more sugar, might be worth trying it on a couple of bottles as an experiment though.
    It's usual to leave it in the bottles for 10 days or so, and I've noticed it does seem to get better with maturity; maybe it's not quite ready?
    I know it's hard to leave it for much longer, but the best I ever tasted was a Barley Wine (beer) kit that I forgot about a dozen bottles under the stairs and found them almost a year later; this was a very strong brew, and it's generally reckoned the stronger the brew the longer it needs / the better it keeps.
    Applies to wine as well, but the times are longer, usually a year from making to drinking, but I've got some 3-year-old bramble that's still improving, the rule seems to be, the heavier the wine the longer it takes.

    Dunno what part of the body ragwort attacks, I was told many years ago how poisonous it was by a lady who had horses and bought baled hay (small bales), she opened every one up and checked mecticulously for ragwort.
    Our local council isn't too bad, they keep most of it down, but there's still too much of it left, especially in the odd corners where the machines can't reach. I seem to be winning in my garden, there's no sign of any at the moment. I'll bet half the population doesn't even understand what it is?

    My grass still growing, it's looking very green as well; can't understand why yours isn't, it's ideal conditions for it?

    Bright this morning but not sunny; mixed blue sky and clouds; breezy; warm; not raining.

    Raggy cat waiting on back kitchen window cill this morning.
    Hope Alan the cat turns up today.

  4. Thanks for the advice about the home brew. I will leave it until next weekend. Plus it gives me an excuse to collect some more Theakstons bottles, full one's that is.

    I have read that the our skin is not waterproof and you should always wear gloves when pulling Ragwort. Wild Parsnip is another deadly weed and it often kills young cattle. Too much clover causes bloat and there is blackleg and Warble fly is another, shall I go on?

    The cattle are grazing the land that the bales came from. The ground is saturated with all the rain and I know a dairy farmer who is feeding bales to his cattle because there is no grass.

    Showery weather here. No sign of Alan the cat. Perhaps he's gone to London to watch the Olympics closing ceremony tonight?


  5. Good idea to accumulate lots of bottles, once you've got a full set just recycle them indefinitely. Hope the Yorkshire bitter comes out OK next week, although it isn't the end of the world if it's a bit flat, as long as the taste is OK just pour into a big jug and mix with Old Peculiar, pour into glass from a good height to froth up. Another couple of glasses of Old English last night on the decking with a King Edward, it's going down well. If you lived a bit nearer you could come and join me every other night and I could come to yours the alternate ones, then brewing would be a weekly event?

    Didn't know about the skin not being waterproof, I never wear gloves, maybe need to get a pair. Sounds like cattle have a lot of ailments / parasites, let's hope yours keep healthy. Still don't understand why your grass isn't growing, I can't keep on top of mine, it's looking very green and healthy as well. Sorry can't send you some. At least you've got a good supply of big bales, how many will 4 stirks and a Shetland eat in a week?

    Weather back to normal here, grey and damp this morning but still warm.

    Maybe Alan the cat will be home now the Olympics have finished, I hope so.
    Raggy cat not appeared this morning, must have urgent business somewhere.

  6. Thanks Cumbrian for the encouragement with the bitter brewing. I am determined to make my own and become more self supporting than we are. We grow vegetables and keep livestock for money and food, so John Seymour will be hopefully smiling down on our little smallholding?

    Been reading a lot about Donald Campbell over the last few days. I believe there is a Blue bird bitter. Have you ever sampled it? Are there lots of Micro breweries in Cumbria? I have drank Jennings.

    I have read that the skin is not waterproof and Wiels disease is easily caught especially if you have a cut. I have also read that cattle can catch TB if a badger's urinated on some grass and they eat it. We dose our cattle for fluke (snails carry it), stomach worms, mange, internal parasites and blackleg also called blue quarter.

    We have 6 cattle at the moment. Recently bought a couple of heifers along with the pony. Our housing is only big enough for 7 cows and it's very labour intensive. Just been putting a bale in to the head feeder because the ground is saturated and the grass will be poached. So we are going to rest the land for a few weeks and bring the cattle up to the farm yard (Haggard) tonight. We have the silage so why not use it?

    Dry at the moment but the ground is saturated. The slugs and snails are having a field day with the vegetables. Must get some slug pubs, organic slug pellets (do no harm to animals) or even order some nematodes.

    It's a pity people can't sell home brewed alcohol. I would gladly order a few pints of 'properly' brewed stuff like yours Cumbrian.

    Think I will sample my Yorkshire bitter tonight with a Theakstons top up. Still no sign of Alan the cat.


  7. Sure you're trying hard to emulate the guru (John Seymour) who I beleive spent some time living in Western Ireland before returning to Wales to die at his daughters farm? And I think he lived to be over 90, so he must have done something right?

    Might be a good subject, "what I do to be self-reliant", and all the things we've tried over the years, some work well and some not so. Could be a vast subject.

    The home brewing is a good part of it, with wine-making and potcheen manufacture playing a part. Strangely though, he also advocated late nights in the local pub, but I suppose that was before the tax man and anti-smokers killed off the local pubs.

    Good idea to sample like you say, I normally pour the home bottle into the jug first, slowly to leave the sediment behind (although a small amount accidentally won't cause any harm) then the frothy keg (your Theakstons) after, from a height to areate it and hopefully form a decent head.

    Don't waste the sediment either, ideal for slug traps, I've used them to great effect; don't suppose we'll ever completely eradicate slugs, but beer traps (slug pubs) seem to be a very effective way of reducing them. Organic as well? I'm not over-enthusiastic on pellets, I beleive they kill other things apart from slugs; dunno about the organic ones, never heard of them. What's nematodes?
    What about a few ducks, I know they're messy creatures, but they like to eat slugs; with a few nice eggs and a good-sized Sunday dinner carcases to boot.

    Badgers are thin on the ground in our area, I've never actually seen one, but I have heard about badgers spreading TB. I've seen them at night in the Southern counties, and as road-kill victims, they're bigger than I thought.

    Heifers? You going into milk?

    Sorry I can't send you a few pints, don't think it would travel that well. If we ever get over there, I'll stick a few bottles in the car for you and a few King Edwards (filter cigarellos) to go with them; we might even get a nice day to sit on your patio and enjoy them.

    Still not raining but damp. Raggy cat appeared on kitchen window cill, now sleeping.

  8. Yeah John Seymour lived in New Ross in Wexford. Think theyey still do self sufficiency courses there at Killowen. Keep saying I will visit the area. I have a copy of: Blessed Isle: One Man's Ireland. Like you say he loved the folk music and late night drinking sessions. It's on Ebay for a very good price. I have just placed an order for another of his books: The Countryside Explained. Paul Peacock's: A Good Life, is also excellent. That's also on Ebay Cumbrian. Go on treat yourself to two fascinating books.

    Your blog posts idea "what I do to be self-reliant" sounds a good one. I once made chips from a tin of new potatoes. Just to see if it could be done. They were grand. Nothing wrong with them.

    Great idea for the sediment. We do have ducks but I have to keep them in a meshed off area because of the foxes. Organic slug pellets are said to be harmless to pets and just naturally decompose. Nematodes are a kind of unsegmented worm that feeds on slugs and predators. You purchase them through the post and release them to work.

    I often see road kill. There are books with road kill recipes. Can't say I like the idea my self. I think the badger is the scapegoat and probably all wildlife carry TB. Yet they only test the cattle. Never understood why sheep and even the farmer's dog and cat (come back Alan) don't get tested.

    If you're ever in West Cork. I'll take you up on your kind bottles and cigar offer. Thanks.

    Jack Russell fast asleep next to my computer chair. She inspires me.


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