Tuesday 25 September 2012

Making Do And Mending On The Smallholding.

"Do you know there is somebody who takes photographs of  the silage feeder round here?  I bet  he also talks about the weather, yawn!"
Here is a photograph of 'Lazarus' my round silage feeder.  I called it Lazarus because it's been lying around minus its sides for the last couple of years and it's finally come back from the dead..  You see on Friday I finally got round to repairing it with some old corrugated and some of those text screws.  I had one of my yearly brainwaves.

The grass is getting very scarce now.  So I either let the cattle eat the silage in the yard or I leave to eat the grass and there will be no grass come turning out time next spring.  See what I mean?  Talk about a dilemma.

'Turning out time"' is one amazing sight.  I call it the: 'Cows Disco."  They jump about and dance and run backwards and forwards for what seems like ages.

 Any way my brainwave consisted of me thinking:

"If I fix that ring feeder the cattle will be able to stay in the fields for a few more weeks, maybe months."

Which means a lot less work for me, because I wouldn't need to 'muck out' every day.  We have loose housing which means the cattle eat outside but they can go in the cowshed and lie on the straw, rushes, shavings.  There is no slatted house for my cattle.  I do not like them.  do you?

It cost me NINE Euros to make it good again.  Moral of the story don't throw nowt away.  You should of seen me stood inside the upturned feeder, wheeling it along the boreen/lane.  Now I know what a hamster feels like.  Don't worry about the nettles.  The feed is going to be set and re-seeded next spring.  Guess what?  The cattle are still eating the grass and just nibbling now and again at the silage.  They will have to get used to it.
Bracken saying:

"Good Morning."

'Sooty' the heifer and the Bullocks; 'Dal boy and Lightning.'
Dal boy' got his name because he looks like a Dalmatian.  Yes all our animals have names along with their ear tags.

See you later.


  1. A full silage feeder with no cows eating from it, see what you mean about the nettles, they,ll cows) have them (nettles) trmpled down in a week or two. Nine euros well spent, never throw anything away, you'll use it eventually.

    Grass looks like it's past its best, but they must be finding something left there, they're looking in fine fettle.

    Really like the ear-rings as well, these girls and boys wren't going missing.
    Bracken also looking well, does he come in with the beasts?

    Still raining.

  2. "Where nettles grow, anything will grow". Well that's what they say Cumbrian. I was reading yesterday that you can even eat thistles and docks. I believe nettle hay is incredibly nutritious and nettles are fantastic for attracting pollinating insects like the bees and butterflies.

    The field is getting a bit tired and you can't spray every where can you? Just wish I could get some equipment to till the land. Contractors charge a fortune to power harrow or plough and re-seed. Perhaps we can get Bracken a harness and a and a plough?

    I am really pleased with our efforts renovating the feeder. Like you say, never throw anything away.

    Bracken does come in with them but normally he stays in the fields. The Shetland nibbles the grass a lot shorter. Cattle just rip at it.

    Trying to rain here.


  3. Have you considered introducing additional species of grasses into your grassland, to make it more resilient? Long term it is better than ploughing and re-seeding, and being able to keep the cattle out longer will save you a fortune in sileage.
    I don't know if you've ever seen 'A Farm for the Future', but here is part 3 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJQhRIKo5rA&feature=relmfu
    Worth a watch from the start, and it covers a lot of permaculture principles in later parts.

  4. And I've realised where I got the ash as a fodder crop from - Chris Dixon, in part 4. Met him at a planning meeting last year and what he's done with his not-so-good land is amazing..

  5. I watched the video Steve. Thanks a lot. It looks fascinating. Would love to know more about Permaculture.

    Let me tell you a little bit about our smallholding:

    We stopped buying chemical fertilizer 6 years a go because it was too expensive and also because we didn't believe in using man-made chemicals on the farm. We only keep a very small number of cattle (6 at the moment) on 14 acres of pasture. There is never a shortage of summer grass and some of the fields end up getting too long so we pay to make silage.

    Since 2004 the Irish summers have been getting wetter and wetter and every farm around here seems to have a rush problem. We have blamed it on the wet summers and the enormous tractors and enormous bales damaging old flag drains and the rye seed mixes in the fields that seems to only respond to nitrogen fertilizer...

    We have even contemplated going organic and paid 150 Euros for a organic expert to walk the farm and they never got back to us. Anyway we found there is too much red tape and a few things we don't agree with, so we never went through the organic conversion. I would love to know more about Permaculture and if you know of anybody who could help us, we would be very grateful.

    Will watch all the videos. Thanks again!!

  6. We say "If it won't grow good nettles it won't grow good anything". Yes you might be able to eat them, but I think it would be a last resort.

    Good idea if you can get hold of some Bracken-sized harness and implements, but I think you might struggle. A little pram cart could be a possibitily though, I've seen some nice ones in Bulgaria, they still use them there in rural areas, usually with donkeys but I'm sure Bracken would fit them OK. Be dangerous on the roads though.

    Looks like some sound advice from Steve, permaculture sounds good to me as well, trying to enhance nature and not fight it.

    Rains stopped, wind died down and it feels a bit warmer; still grey and damp though.
    Raggy cat gone out under slight protest.

  7. Hi Cumbrian. Just watched all the video on You Tube: 'A Farm For The Future'and I the whole idea of Permaculture really intrigues me. Imagine if the countryside was full of allotments and sustainable communities instead of chemical farming?

    Thought for the day:

    "Annoy your neighbours, plant an orchard or a woodland".

    Well they don't own the view do they? That's an half joke isn't it?

    My late grandfather used to use the horse for everything, be it ploughing the fields, making the hay, spreading the dung, scuffling the weeds, harrowing..., and it was gentle on the land.

    Makes you think doesn't it?

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  8. Be nice to see a real countryside again, without all the huge machines and with a lot more people.

    Might annoy the neigbours, but planting orchards or woodlands makes a lot of sense, and the benefits for wildlife are emormous, as long as it's not conifers.

    The land would be much better for the lack of the weight of the machines that are used today, the compaction can't be doing any good to anything, I think I've mentioned it before, but look carefully at a crop of corn, you can see the track lines where the big tractor passed months ago.
    And I'm not convinced that monoculture using ever increasing doses of nitrogen etc is doing a lot of good either.
    A return to horsepower would be much kinder to the land, especially if there was no chemicals thrown at it.
    It would just mean a lot more smaller units, and a lot more variety of produce, we would see the re-introduction of crop rotation and mixed farming.

    Not raining this morning, still damp, bit of breeze and sky a mix of blue and streaky white cloud.
    Raggy cat in early, last of the shank fat, nap in front of fire, then gone out again.

  9. Morning Cumbrian,

    We all watched all the: 'AFarm For the Future' last night. Number one son connected his laptop to the 'big'television and we watched all the episodes. It was amazing wildlife photography and the people in the programme talked so much sense. The female presenter's (can't remember her name) explanation of the 'bought sandwich' was frightening. I would also have had a rant about the plastic packaging. Anyway, we all thought it was a brilliant and a thought provoking insight into Permaculture.

    If Israel attacks Iran (the Internet is full of it) and they close the major shipping canals there will be an oil crisis and Permaculture farming may be the only way forward?

    I am old enough to remember rural Ireland before the EEC and subsidies and dictation from Brussels, when people like my grandparents still used the horse and cart and grew a field of veg and made hay by hand and the neighbours helped each other. Lets go back to peasant farming instead of fossil fuel farming.

    The biggest downside to living on a smallholding is the rural isolation. Nearly everybody seems to have mortgages or they have to work in the big towns or city. It would be great to divide the farms into allotments and make rural communities. I see so much gorse and rushes and rock that could easily be used for dwellings or smallholdings.

    My mission is now to learn about Permaculture and to practice in on our little farm. Will let you know how I get on. Totally agree with you about the return of the horse. Crop rotation would be excellent instead of monoculture.

    Very cold here and we are going to have to light the range soon.

    Bottling the 'Scottish Heavy and making your 'Saki' today.


  10. Another oil crisis? Another excuse to increase prices?
    I wish I wasn't so dependant on oil-based things and energy, it's only taken 3 generations to become hooked on electricity, mechanisation, and computers. Sadly it's almost impossible to live without them in our modern fast-track throw-away world.

    I can understand the isolation, and I don't suppose it's gonna get easier as farm holdings become bigger, more specialised and with less manpower. Maybe your area is a bit like ours, the geography doesn't encourage huge fields or allow access to the massive machinesry. And most of the Lake District is managed and controlled by the National Trust.

    I don't know realistically how much space would be needed for complete self-supporting, it's probably impossible anyway, but sure 5 acres would allow some stock and enough land to grow feed for it and rotate other crops. I suppose you come fairly close, but as you say, there'll always be a need for some income, and that 5 acres wouldn't produce much in the way of cash crops which means somebody has to either make something to sell or go to work for wages.
    Of course, there would be the need for some of the old skills such as blacksmithing and farriery, maybe a butcher because nobody's going to eat a full stirk. And of course the local pub brewing their own ales would employ a few.
    A vision that might yet happen (or be re-born) in the future, we won't see it, but future generations could do.

    Hope the saki turns out OK, I've never had a failure with that recipe.
    You seem to like ths Scottish Heavy, but there's a lot of other brews out there to try:-
    Leyland Home Brewers Supplies
    15 Chapel Brow, Leyland, Preston, PR25 2NH
    Telephone: 01772 431030
    Mail Order
    Comprehensive selection of Brupaks products
    E-mail: mailto:joe@leylandhomebrew.co.uk
    Web: http://www.leylandhomebrew.co.uk

    Might be worth a browse, dunno about delivery though.

    Sun's trying to get out, lots of white clouds turning grey, looks for more rain.
    Raggy cat back in, moved it off my nice comfy computer seat and the little sod made a nest on the sofa with my Guinness fleece.

  11. Hi Cumbrian,

    Think there will be an oil crisis very soon. Especially if all the rumours of war with Iran are correct. You're right we have all become to oil reliant and we have to change.

    The Amish way of life really appeals to me with there self reliance and keeping to traditional horse farming.

    I think the biggest problem with farming is that everything is private owned so their are no collective goals. Greenbelt planning restrictions also prevents people from living in the countryside. Yet they allow farmers to build animal housing that looks like factories.

    I don't know anybody 'hand on heart' who actually truly makes money from their farm these days. Even the dairy farmers wouldn't manage with out their subsidies.

    Think half an acre would give a family of 4 vegetables all the year round especially if they had a freezer for the gluts and famine.

    Don't think anybody can make a living in the countrsyside unless they have a craft. Even tourism is seasonal and if you don't get a summer it's not worthwhile.

    Had a problem sourcing 'round rice' today. Do you mean 'crushed rice what you eat not the rice pudding stuff?

    Thanks for the Leyland homebrew supplies.

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  12. That's the recipe as I was given it many years ago and round rice I could buy from an old-fashioned grocer in a brown paper bag, long since gone the way of the dodo. Now I just use ordinary rice, not pudding rice; sorry I didn't mention this in case you could get the round rice there.

    Leyland Homebrew have a very good selection, all top drawer stuff, at least any I get from them has been. Free delivery over an amount I can't remember, but Ireland you might struggle with delivery, it's heavy stuff and comes to me by one of the courier companies.

    Yes, I think the Amish (the plain people as they call them) have it right, or the Mennonites who are not quite as strict but still practice self-supporting and have their own religion. It must be a very good way to live, but in America they do have a lot more land.

    You make a good point about everything being privaetly owned, but that's the capitalist system as practiced in the Western world, and increasingly in the Eastern. Suppose the alternative is communism, nice in theory but doesn't seem to work well in practice.
    And Planning rules are another of my soap boxes, I know we wouldn't like to see a concrete countryside, but fail to comprehend how some of the Atcost aircraft hangar type monstrosities that seem to be springing up everywhere in the fields are preferable to a traditional farmyard and outbuildings in local materials.

    Half an acre perhaps might allow a few poultry and rabbits, maybe even a couple of porkers, but we'd still need buildings to live in and electircity to run the freezers; back to banging your head against the green belt planning rules. It would be good to see the countryside coming back to life though, I never see anybody in the fields except at harvest, and I never see men, only machines. And very little wildlife either.

    Still fair, feels a bit warmer as well. Raggy cat gone out again.

  13. Do you want a laugh Cumbrian? We used 'Gem' pearl rice. This is finer than pudding rice but I think you use it in desserts. I was told to wait and ask you before we made it. But you know what my patience is like? Do you think it will still work? It only cost 7 Euro so I am not bothered one bit. Should I feed it the livestock or shall we wait and see? I was amazed there seemed so little (1 gallon) after making forty pints every week.

    They have never heard of 'round rice' here. They also call a cupboard a 'press' and the airing cupboard is the 'hot press'.

    Will have a look at Leyland Homebrew tonight - thanks!

    There are Mennonites over here who drive cars and sell garden furniture. Think they are in Waterford or Wexford? Would love to go to Pennsylvania to see the Amish. I love how they build the barns collectively and still use horses for farming and transport.

    I am not talking communism, I am talking Distributism (it's in the Paul Peacock 'A Good Life' book) or even government owned farms that rent land to tenants. Maybe even communities could buy farms together? it's all very difficult isn't it?

    I agree with you about traditional farm buildings. I have even heard the Barn Owl is becoming extinct because of the conversion of barns to dwelling houses for the rich. Rural Ireland is full of ruined and derelict houses that could easily be sites or brought back to life and rented out or sold.

    Half an acre for vegetable production should be satisfactory and small houses with traditional facades for dwellings and out buildings would be my plan.

    Stayed dry but keeps trying to rain here. Cattle never stop eating. Still not scoffing the silage in great amounts. Looks like I will have to throw a bucket of yellow meal on it -it usually does the trick.


  14. Don't see why it won't work, as long as it ferments OK, and it should do that same as the beer as long as there's yeast, sugar and the right temperature.
    A lot of my offerings are tweaked with a substitute or without some ingredient I haven't got to hand.
    Never know, it might turn out really good; worst that can happen is the pigs get it, and they're probably going to get the mush that's left anyway.
    Just wait and see, it's in the bucket now and not going to do any harm.
    Yes I know, doesn't seem much after brewing in 40 pints lots; it could probably be scaled up, but 1 gallon (6 bottles) is the standard wine-making unit.

    Have a look at Leyland Homebrew (I'm not on commission) and the 3kg kits, just 2 cans of malt extract, no sugar needed. Expensive but really nice drinking and still a lot cheaper than pub or off-licence cans.

    Be difficult to set up a fair system of land ownership and usage, every idea has pros and cons, I doubt if we'll ever come up with the perfect system. But lots of small units, to my mind, would be so much better than a few huge ones, as you said, even the biggest probably couldn't survive without subsidies.

    Still dry, blue sky and sunshine, wind dropped, pleasant afternoon.

  15. Thanks for that Cumbrian, I thought it would be OK. We just have to wait fifteen weeks now don't we?

    Do you know any more quick (15 weeks or less) recipes. Suppose we could make another Saki next week. Would we use long grain rice this time? I suppose it's the gallon that gives the wine it strength?

    Will look at the malt extract kits, thanks?

    I have often toyed with the idea of renting the farmhouse and a plot of land but I am not really sure. They would have to be into self supporting and not mind farm animals and us forever working in the haggard, chopping wood, tending veg, feeding animals etc. I think it would be easy if the house's were not so near, maybe within a hundred yards or so?

    Imagine if 2 couples bought a smallholding together and they fell out. How would they sell it if the others didn't want? I still think either 'Eco villages or living in a village with your own allotment would be better than the isolation of a smallholding.

    Subsidies talk is a great way to fall out with your neighbours. Farm subsidies - the farmer's Faux Pass. The EEC is even stopping paying farm payments to smallholders who have less than 4 acres. What it be next - 20 acres?

    Still dry here but it's getting darker 5 minutes earlier every night.


  16. Not the end of the world if it doesn't, all you need is another bucket to start another batch off with a different rice, it's quick and easy.

    I always use the malt extract kits, nothing wrong with the sugar added ones, but I seem to get better results using the 2 tins of malt.

    Good idea to try and find a tenant and rent them a bit of land, dunno your set-up, but there must be a lot of people who would just love the chance to live the self reliant life, it's very difficult to buy anywhere, and anybody who can afford it doesn't usually want the land, just the house to renovate. (I've seen a lot of this in our area) So the offer of a rental with a suitable little would appeal to a lot of people. It would take a lot of time to ensure you get the right people, there's a lot of dreamers as well. And they'd need some sort of small income (or enough capital) to pay rent and utilities. But anybody wanting to have a go wouldn't mind your activities, they'd be doing similar things themselves, and there'd always be someone handy to give each other a lift with bigger projects.
    I wish I was 30 years younger (and know what I know now)

    Nights cutting in fast, a bit warmer tonight and no rain.

  17. Good to see that Jimmy and the lads did you proud with the silage, Dave.

  18. Hi Cumbrian,

    No it's not the end of the world if the Saki doesn't turn out right.

    I don't think I will find a tenant because we live to close to the farmhouse and I feel deep down that it wouldn't work out. Perhaps that why smallholdings are so isolated? The farmhouse is great for storage, Domino the cat and for when friends visit.

    It would be good to get help and have a laugh and a joke though. I hate going days on end without seeing anybody but family. That's why I think living on the edge of a village with allotments, pubs, public transport, infrastructure... Is far better for you mental health.

    Yes we miss the street lights that towns have.

    Dry at the moment.


  19. Hi Pat,

    How are you? Did you know it was the saving hay that allowed people like the Greeks and Romans to conquer the world? People often say it's the invention of the wheel that brought it all about but saving fodder was just as important. Yes the lads did us proud with the silage.



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