Wednesday 31 October 2012

Meet One Of The Smallholding Staff: Domino.

"Any chance of  a saucer of milk please?"
This is Domino our new mouser and insect catcher.  Regular readers will know that we got Domino from the post lady because 'Alan the cat' our other rodent control assistant, decided to go walk about.  There are always official smallholding residents and non-official smallholding residents on a farm.  I don't like using poisons, so we employ a Jack Russell terrier and Domino to tell help us encourage the lads with the long tails to go elsewhere.  Domino also seems to be a dab hand at paw swatting insects.

Here's a list of cat songs that I have found for your enjoyment.

1.  Cat Scratch Fever - Ted Nugent.  I actually once saw the great guitar hero at Manchester Apollo.
2.  Al Stewart - Year Of The Cat.
3.  Cool For Cats - The Squeeze.
4.  Stray Cat Strut - The Stray Cats.
5.  What's New Pussy Cat - Tom Jones.
6.   Look What The Cat Dragged In - Poison.
7.  Love Cats - The Cure.
8.  Mean Eyed Cat - Johnny Cash.

Seeing that I seem to be having a sixties early seventies music theme on here this week.  I will leave you with a video from that great English group:  The Kinks.  Here's Phenomenal Cat.  I only discovered this track this week.


Monday 29 October 2012

Smallholding Cajun Pot Roast .

Here's a recipe we have ate more times than we have had hot dinners.  Sirloin is on offer today (Bank Holiday Monday, Ireland) so we thought we would make the following.



This is a recipe from Louisiana in North America.  The place that's full of swamps, Alligators, great food and great music.

What You Do And What You Need:

One an a half tsp of salt.  1 tsp of mustard.  Tsp of Paprika.  Half a tsp of Thyme.  Half a ground RED pepper or Capsicum if you're posh.  Half a tsp of black pepper.

Get a joint of topside beef or Sirloin if it's on offer!  One tbsp of vegetable oil.  Two onions cut into wedges. Two Celery stalks.  One GREEN pepper.  One tin of tomatoes.  One bay leaf.  One garlic clove - chopped.

Mix everything together into a paste (except the veg) and rub two and half tsp's of it over the meat in a casserole dish.  Brown the meat - add the onions, pepper, toms... Cover it with a. lid and put it in the oven and cook it for a few hours until it's really tender.

About four hours cooking time in total.

Hope you enjoy it and let me know if you like it.  That's  a Creedence Clearwater Revival, song: Bad Moon Rising, to play along with your meal.  You probably know it from the soundtrack of that fantastic British film:  American Werewolf In London.  Must do a blog post about it some time!   Don't forget to wash it down with some home brew.

See you later in the week.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Eric Bell Band Brings The Blues To Bantry.

There's a little West Cork town famous for its blues, the: Bantry Blues.  They are a Gaelic football club.  On Saturday night (last night) I ventured out  to Bantry to see Eric Bell, the legendary guitarist and founder of Irelands' greatest rock group:  Thin Lizzy.

I had seen Thin Lizzy in 1981 in Manchester, but alas, not with Eric Bell.  In 1986 I saw Gary Moore at Milton Keynes Bowl, along with Magnum, Mamas Boys, Jethro Tull and Marillion.  Last night I finally got to see the legend that is Eric Bell.

How many times had the kids and me and the wife travelled over the tunnel road from Glengarriff to Kerry, singing 'Whiskey in the Jar'?

It was one of my rare nights going  out for a drink last night, and me and the missus walked through the door at nine o'clock, half an hour before we should of done.  Well, we had been brought up to be punctual in England, hadn't we?  Anyway we walked up the stairs and walked into a bar with a wooden dance floor and a small stage.  We purchased a couple of drinks and noticed the great man (Eric Bell) setting up and tuning and doing the old:

"One two,  One two."

Mr Bell was deadly serious and he tuned his two guitars and his fuzz box and all the other P.A equipment for at least half an hour.  I know - I timed it.  We realised we were watching a professional.  The room filled up a bit more and the drummer talked to us about Neil Peart, Neil Young and working with the legend that is Eric Bell.

Something passed ten.  The Eric Bell band came on stage.  They played lots of blues, the Shadows and Rory Gallagher and of course, 'Whiskey In the Jar'.  I was in my rock and roll heaven.  The blues reminded me of the guitar duel in the fantastic film:  Crossroads.  Wasn't it Steve Vai who played the devil playing guitarist?  Coincidentally my old friend Pat, who regular leaves comments on here, is going to see Steve Vai tonight in Warsaw.  Small world eh?

Pat always says the small venues are best.  I couldn't agree more.  If you're ever in West Cork check out: The Mariner and it's down stairs restaurant:  The Brick Oven. It's a great venue,  and the natives are really friendly and it was FREE to get in  You never know you may see a legend like Eric Bell.  There is a great video of him and the late, great Gary Moore playing 'Whiskey in the Jar in Dublin.    Check him out on You Tube or better still go and see him and the band!

Here's the guitar duel from Crossroads featuring Steve Vai.

See you later!

Saturday 27 October 2012

Uncle Mort (I Didn't Know You Cared.) Allotment Gardener.

Continuining (now and again) with my thoughts about television from many moons a go, whilst trying to stick with an allotment/smallholding theme.  Today I would like to talk about 'I Didn't Know You Cared'.  The late , great, Peter Tinniswood (born in Liverpool, grew up in Sale) penned this classic  1980 northern sit com.  Uncle Mort was played by the sadly, late Robin Bailey.

Uncle Mort was the head of a downbeat northern family who only seemed happy unless they where unhappy.  Uncle Mort used to rent a vegetable allotment and he even had his own 'Lancashire and Yorkshire' railway carriage for a shed complete with its own flagpole.  Probably the most memorable catchphrase came from Uncle Stavely, who used to carry his best friends ashes around with him in a cardboard box was:

"I heard that!  Pardon."

Peter Tinniswood is my humour writer hero.  He was also mad on cricket and penned:  Tales From A Long Room.  Is there anything more noble or English than the sound of a ball hitting willow?  I leave you with a You Tube video of Uncle Mort's Ideal Woman.  Absolute classic.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Latest Pictures From My Smallholding In Ireland.

Japs.  My Winter onions finally planted in a bath.  There are holes drilled in the bottom and a few stones thrown in for drainage.  Nothing warms the cockles of my heart,  more than when I see my 'Japs' growing through the snow, that's if we get any?  I always thought a bath was for keeping the coal in!
That's Fido my trusted Jack Russell and tripe hound.  She's stood on top a pile of old corrugated sheets that I recently acquired   Behind the dog is a Fuchsia hedge.  This seems to be native to Ireland.  Yet in fact it really comes from Chile.  Perhaps the Spanish brought it with the potato?  More likely it came in the last Ice Age.  
Made the compost heap today.  The posts and the six inch nails are brand new.  The corrugated sheets aren't!  You can see the silage bales in the background.  Only until end of March/April and the bales will be gone.  That means that the cattle are in almost 6 months of the year.  At least they provide us with lots of compost and weeds!

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Village Idiots On The Telly. ("I'm naturally mad. I don't use any chemicals").

And now for something completely different.

Continuing with my great British television theme.  Today I would like to talk about the 'Village Idiot'.  The fantastic Monty Python team made us laugh and think outside of the box.  I loved Monty Python's Flying Circus.  Some of the sketches made me fall about laughing and some of them went straight over my head.

My Python  favourite joke/sketch is:  

A man walks into a shop and says to the shop keeper:

"I'd like to buy a wasp please"


"Sorry sir, we don't sell wasps."


"Yes you do you have got one in the window!"

Absolute genius.  

I have been looking up the role of the village idiot on Google and good old Wikipedia- the free encyclopaedia 

Apparently the village idiot was considered an acceptable social role, a unique individual who was dependent yet contributed to the social fabric of his community.  You don't hear of any lady village idiots do you?  Any road.  The role of the'village savant or 'village genius'  is often tied to the concept of pre-industrial anti-intellectualism   The court jester is another character in English folklore who was both a subject of picture and derision.

In the following sketch.  We see the 'village idiot' from a completely different perspective   Thanks to the person who uploaded the Monty Python sketch to You Tube.  I don't think we will ever see the likes of the Pythons again on television, do you?

Sunday 21 October 2012

Robinson Crusoe? Pukha or Kutcha? And Parsley the Lion.

That's a photograph of the book that set me on the way to getting an allotment and eventually living on a smallholding.  It's the original 'Self Sufficiency' by John Seymour.  The man who inspired millions to become self reliant and to get back to the land.  I call the book my 'smallholding bible'.  I also have the NEW complete book of self sufficiency which is a fantastic book and the diagrams are superb.

How ever in the new version I don't see the first chapter:  What is it?  Why do it?  JS asks the question what does self supporting mean?  Should we be like Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe got his inspiration from the Scottish explorer: Alexander Selkirk).   JS says that he lived in African and Indian villages and he saw an high degree of self sufficiency in both, and also a very high degree of happiness and true contentment.  In one Indian village there's a man who goes into the countryside and cuts down a pipal tree.  He uses it to make a plough to sell to his neighbour in return for rice or wheat...There is a miller, a dhobi (washerman), a tonga-wallah (driver of a hackney cart), carpenter, blacksmith, potter and a weaver.   If somebody wants to build a house,  The neighbours help you.  Except at harvest time, nobody works very hard.

The Indians have 2 useful words: pukha and kutcha.  Pukha means to have a civilized finish on it.  Kutcha means rough - made in the village without outside help.  The man who has learnt to read, and been to town, comes back and wants a pukha house-one that makes use of cement and glass, mill sawn timber and other materials that aren't made in the village.  His old kutcha house is no longer good enough for him.  He also decides that he wants white sugar instead of gorr, tea instead of buttermilk, white flour instead of wholemeal. He - and eventually his whole village with him -are forced into a money economy, crops are grown for sale and not for use, the village becomes part of the great world-wide system of trade, finance...

Makes you think doesn't it?  Have we all become slaves to oil and the global system of trade and finance?

Any road.  Another one of my hobbies is looking back at great television programmes from the past.  Staying (kind of) with a agrarian theme.  Here's Parsley the Lion.  Remember when quarter to six was a special time just before the BBC six O'clock news?

Thanks to the kind person who uploaded it to You Tube.

Friday 19 October 2012

Smallholding Made Beef Curry.

Sorry the pictures are a bit dark, but we have already ate the meal.  Sorry!
Here's a good beef curry recipe for you.  It's really easy and you can saves yourself a fortune not having to go in a curry house or take away.  You also can eat in in your scruffs without having to get dressed up.  How ever there is no reason why you can't be presentable dining at home.  Shall we begin?

What you need for Smallholding Beef Curry.  I am writing this in pounds and ounces.  Who needs metric eh?

1 lb 4 oz (500g) (go then I will write it in both) of stewing beef.
1 clove of garlic.
10 g (half an ounce) of curry powder.
10 g (half an ounce) tomato purée.
25 g (1 ounce) chopped chutney.
Salt.  (it's up to you how much.)
25 g (1 oz)  dripping.
200g or 8 oz onions.
10 g (half an ounce) flour.
5 g (quarter of an ounce) of dessicated coconut.
10g  (half an ounce) sultanas.
50g (2 ounces) chopped apple.
100g (4 ounces) of rice.
One and a half litres of water.  Or 3 pints if you're not sure.  I thought a litre was what a Scottish person lit their cigarette with - think about it!

Any road.
1.  Trim the meat and get rid of any unwelcome fat and cut with scissors into even pieces.
2.  Throw it in a pan and season and colour it quickly in hot fat.
3.  Throw in the chopped onion and chopped garlic, cover with a lid and let it sweat for a few minutes or so.
4.  Now is the time to drain off any surplus fat.
5.  Get your curry powder and flour and mix it all in and cook it out.
6.  Mix the tomato purée,  gradually add your hot stock, stirring thoroughly, bring to the boil, season and skim.
7.  Let it simmer and add the rest of the ingredients like apple, sultanas and dessicated coconut....?
8.  Cover your pan/skillet with a lid and simmer in the oven or on top of the oven until it's cooked.
9.  Now is the time to correct the seasoning and consistency and skim off any unwanted fat.  If you want to be really posh.  You can can add some cream.
10.  Serve it up on a nice big plate with some rice.

I would also recommend you open a bottle or ten of your home-made real ale or Jeddah Gin.  Did I tell you I can make Jeddah Gin?  The Mead is looking good also.

The only downside is your house will smell like an Indian restaurant.  But it's better than an old folks home smelling of boiled cabbage and potatoes.  Hey that smells like our house.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Smallholding Gin With A Middle East Connection.

Smallholding  Jeddah Gin.
Here's my latest attempt at brewing wine.  My Internet friend Cumbrian, who regular posts comments on this blog, gave me the following recipe:  Jeddah Gin.

Apparently it was devised by some British ex pats  who couldn't get a drink or ten.  It's dead easy to make and if you make it this week, you will have lots to drink at Christmas (can we still call it that?) time.  Also we made all the above for the princely sum of 8 Euros.  Which is about 6 quid.  If you go to one of the cheap German supermarkets, you will make it for even less.

Here goes:  JEDDAH GIN.

You will need:

A couple of Limes (optional).
12 Oranges.
12 Lemons.
3  KG of Potatoes.
5  KG Sugar.
10 Litres of Water.
1 tsp Yeast.


Wash (no nasty chemicals or weed-killers pesticides please!) and slice the fruit and veg.  Remember to leave the skins on.  Place them in your fermenting bin.  Dissolve the sugar in some of the water and add to the fruit.  Add the remainder of water and Yeast.  Cover it with a tea towel to prevent the fruit flies having a drink and to keep away any nasties.  Stir it occasionally and leave for 7 days.  Then leave it to settle for 3 days.  Now is the time to remove the solids and leave 2 more days.  Rack it until its clear, then bottle.  I bottled some today and of course I had to sample a glass (can a duck swim?) and it was rather "super and reminded me of old fashioned lemonade.

You will notice in the above picture.  That I try to recycle my old wine, whisky and vodka bottles.  One of the bottles (third from the right) was a bottle of Zubrowka Bison Grass Polish Vodka.  My friend Pat brought me a bottle of this over to Ireland last year.  It actually contains a long piece of grass.  This gives the vodka a really distinctive flavour.  Think you can get it in most supermarkets in the UK and Ireland..

Don't think it will be long before I crack open a bottle.  I'm not waiting until Christmas.  Anybody had a go at making one of those 7 day wine kits?  Are they any good?

Friday 12 October 2012

Do Smallholders Have A Voice?

The Irish Farmers Association held a big demonstration in Dublin the other day.  Over twenty thousand farmers and country dwellers protested about the proposed changes to C.A.P.  I personally think that farm payments should be a lot more equitable and the smallholder/small farmer, should have a bigger share of the EEC farm subsidycake.  Some farmers get kings ransoms farm payments and some  small farmers and smallholders get a few hundred or even nothing.  Why is this so?

Mainly because C.A.P is based on the animal census of each holding in 2004.  Why should a farmers income be determined by an historical  record that paid more to somebody who had more livestock?  We live in 2012 not 2004.  The countryside needs jobs, infrastructure and hope.  Surely distributing EEC payments more equal would create more jobs, public transport and keep the pubs open?  Ninety pubs closed in county Cork last year.

Time for a song.  One of my rock heroes Neil Young.  Neil organizes a concert every year in America called Farm Aid.  Famous artists raise money for the Farm Aid charity, which helps farmers financially.  Perhaps  there could be Farm Aid concerts in Britain and Ireland for small farmers and allotment holders?

Monday 8 October 2012

Some Of Our Smallholding Characters Having Their Picture Taken..

The lads (Bullocks) and Sooty (Heifer) posing at the Head-Feeder.  
Domino looking rather inquisitive.
Domino wrecking my model ships.  Hope he doesn't start singing a certain Rod Stewart song?

"I am sailing....."
The 'lads' still eating silage and Sooty  the black heifer still looking on.

Talking of 'the lads'.  A group of women can walk in to a  pub in Ireland and they are often greeted with  the following:

"Right lads.  What can I get ye?"

Surely it should be:

"Right lasses?"

Friday 5 October 2012

Smallholding Apple Pie And Smallholding Jeddah Gin, Mead, Saki And Some Real Ale.

The cattle came in for Winter on Monday night.  So it's smelly silage time.  There is nothing like fermented silage aromas on your hands and clothes if you want to get strange looks in the shops.  It's like  being dressed from head to toe in sweaty socks, if you follow my strange line of thought.  Only 6 months folks, before us smallholders stop smelling of fermented grass and whiff of cow..    You can't beat the countryside can you?

There are also some pleasant smells in the 'Northsider Towers' kitchen at the moment.  We have been making pork pies, apple pies, bread, bangers and mash, Jeddah gin, Saki, Mead and forty pints of good old fashioned English bitter.   Here's some pictures of our self supporting efforts.

Pork Pie Pastry.

Pork Pie: (when it's cooked.)

Mead.  Like they used to drink in merry old England.
Bitter and Jeddah Gin.


Apple Pie.
(Guess who cracked it trying to remove the silver foil tray?)

 It's a good time this weekend to brew some ale for Christmas.  Go on get down to Wilkinson's or a home brew shop near you, and invest in your own 'self supporters brewery' .  You will make pints of bitter, cider, lager, stout..., for about ten bob a pint and you don't need to get dressed up to drink it.  See you soon.

Monday 1 October 2012

Smallholding Potato Pie.

3 hours later.  Meat and potato pie  
One thing you can't seem to get around these parts is a 'proper' meat and potato pie.  You can get chicken and mushroom and steak and kidney and minced and onion and chicken curry, but not meat and potato pie.  So like the great punk philosophy:  "Do It Yourself."  Here's how we made the meal in the picture.

Get one pound of stewing steak and place it in a pan with water (cover meat), add a chopped onion and leave it to simmer for about an hour and a half and meat is tender.  Peel and dice 4 large potatoes and add to pan, cook until soft.  Add 2 OXO cubes and place in a large pie/casserole dish (like the one in the picture), make pastry with 8 ounces of sieved flour, a pinch of salt, 2 ounces of butter and 2 ounces of lard.  Your mixture should resemble bread crumbs with no lumpy bits.  (You can always substitute this with bought frozen pastry.) Make a well in the middle of your mixture (pastry) and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of cold water.  Mix together using a knife until you get a firm paste.  Roll out on a floured surface.  Cover the pie dish and brush with a egg wash (1 beaten egg and a little bit of milk).  Put in the oven and cook until it's golden brown.  Serve with mushy peas and red cabbage.

Wash it down with a few pints of home brewed bitter.

See you later.

Carboot Sale Plants Selling.

We drove over to nearby West Cork  town to a carboot sale on Sunday morning. The online info said we could set up from nine.  I am one of th...